In the 30 years since the release of “Reckless“, tracks like “Run to You,” “Heaven”, “Somebody” and ‘Summer of ’69” still inspire us to sing like no one’s watching. (Trust me, even if the windows are up while you are belting any one of these at a red light, someone is watching).Bryan Adams was not the prototypical rock star, even by ’80s standards. The slight, unassuming Canadian didn’t fit the mold of guitar hero but he had the chops and knew how to craft a riff so catchy that three decades later, we are still guilty of playing a mean air guitar as soon as the story of the first real six-string begins to unfold.
According to Adams, the components of a great rock song are easy – “Three chords and a rockin’ back beat,” he says. But the story is the real hook. In 1984, “Reckless” contained more than simple chord progressions. It contained snippets of our lives; friendships, romance and even a little wink wink.
Bryan Adams performs June 28 at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre (www.staugamphitheatre.com) In an interview with EU Jacksonville, the 55-year-old Adams says he attributes familiarity to the staying power of his iconic album. “People know the songs because they got played and still do,” he says. “In the end, it’s all about the music.”
One of the most recognizable tracks from “Reckless” is the feel-good anthem “Summer of ’69”. The story is familiar as a faded pair of jeans. The song tells the story of a young high school musician buying his first guitar at the Five and Dime but it’s also a love song about personal exploration that contains one of the cheekiest lines in 80’s rock. Adams says the impromptu ad lib not only changed the original name “Best Days of Our Lives” but the entire course of the song.
“The song was about making love and the broken promise of youth,” he says of his decision to incorporate the numerical position at the song’s end. “And partially because it rhymed with “five and dime”.”
“Reckless” was the follow-up to Adams’ successful 1983 album, “Cuts Like a Knife.” He had no idea it would become such an iconic release. He was just trying to break even. “My feeling was just to try and make an album that was as good as the previous album “Cuts Like A Knife”, so I aimed high on the rock and roll,” Adams says. “That’s what my band is all about.”
Music videos were critical to the success of a song in the late 80’s and early 90’s. There was a symbiotic relationship between the music and the videos that forced artists in the dual role of musician and filmmaker. Videos were a moving storyboard that offered fans a visual representation of the music.
“MTV was just coming around at the same time I was, and they played videos to make friends with record companies so they could expand their empire. The whole thing worked for everyone,” Adams says. “And then the internet came along and that was the end of MTV and record companies
Post-“Reckless,” Adams forged a relationship with film composer Michael Kamen and became the sort of the unofficial poster boy for movie scores. “We had some hits together with his films,” says Adams. His ventures into film produced memorable hits for such films as “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, “Don Juan DeMarco,” “Three Musketeers,” “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” and “The Guardian“. “I’d still be doing it with him today, but for the very sad fact that he passed away.”
For his contributions to music, Adams has earned 20 Juno Awards with a staggering total of 56 nominations, 15 Grammy Award nominations, including a win for Best Song for a Motion Picture or Television. He also received nods from the Golden Globes and Academy Awards for his songwriting contributions in film.
He also cultivated a successful second career in photography, shooting such contemporaries as The Who, Lana Del Ray, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Peter Gabriel, Arcade Fire, Robert Plant, Joss Stone, Ray Charles, Moby and Morrissey. He photographed wounded soldiers to create his stunning collection, “Wounded – The Legacy of War.” Many of his works are exhibited in Canada, England, Berlin, Moscow, Paris, New York, Dallas, Spain, Austria and Brazil.
If “Reckless” had not achieved such critical success, Adams says he would still be artist through he admits his career trajectory may have been a bit different. With Adams’ touch, even “doing mail order art from jail” would turn to gold.