Got my first real six-string
Bought it at the five-and-dime
Played it till my fingers bled
It was the Summer of '69

I was reading some big-company, holier-than-thou music mag a few months ago, and I was reading about how, from the mid-90's on, Bryan Adams has been sort of grinding his own initially-respected musical career into the ground. There's a grain of truth to this. Go ahead and google the vapid lyrics of the song "The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You," and there we go: not exactly the heights of artistic brilliance. Further, the magazine went on to refer to Mr. Adams' music as "aw shucks" rock, which is absurdly appropriate. Let's not quibble over the minutiae, though: he's a guy who's sold fifty million albums or so. Not bad for a guy from Kingston, Ontario.

That makes him a Canadian artist from Kingston, Ontario, who has sold about fifty million albums of "aw shucks" songs. Just so we're clear. Who is a member of the Order of Canada.

He was born on 5 November, 1959, and started coughing up the demo tapes to the bigger names when he was eighteen years old. A&M Records signed him, and in 1980, a mere three years after he started sending demos, his first album (self-titled) hit the shelves. It did okay, but mostly in Canada. Ditto his sophomore effort, 1981's You Want It You Got It.

The way I understand it, his third album, the most excellent Cuts Like a Knife was basically mailed to everyone's house, thrown into open car windows, and given away free with carnauba wax purchases. In short, many, many copies of this album were sold. Sez my mom: "Everyone had that album. Reckless, too. I still have them on cassette somewhere around here." Reckless came along in 1985, and it included the exceptionally fine track "Summer of '69" (although, according to wikipedia.org, the less-good-but-not-bad single "Heaven" charted higher, hitting #1 in the US for two weeks).

After that, came 1987's Into the Fire, and after that, another huge album: 1990's Waking Up The Neighbors. The single "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You," which appeared also on the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Alan Rickman, woo!), was also on this album. A string of subsequent hit singles also spawned off this album, and if you're a fan, you should have this one. Listen to it again: it's pretty tight.

He kept on with the album-making during the 90's. There was a greatest hits compilation package called So Far So Good, but basically, the albums were not as highly thought-of, but the singles remained big. More singles on movie soundtracks, too: "All for Love", with Sting and Rod Stewart, on the The Three Musketeers soundtrack, and "Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman", on the Don Juan Demarco soundtrack. A few years later, in 1999, there was a single called "When You're Gone"*, which featured former Spice Girl Mel C (the sporty one).

So, what we've got here in an honest-to-God Canadian icon, a freakin' institution, an artist who writes songs which are neither complex and cerebral (like, say, Tool), nor bland and angsty (like, say, Three Days Grace). He's just kind of...hell, he's excellent, straight-up pop-rock goodness. Aside from songs by Nirvana and a heap of classic rock tunes, the basic three-chordish songs like "Cuts Like a Knife" and "Summer of '69" are some of the first songs I ever learned to play on guitar. I still play them. I'll probably go play "'69" after I'm done writing this.

All told, he's supposed to be a really nice guy, too, and fancies himself something of a photographer. He has worked with so many charitable organizations and things that the list would probably be another writeup. Look, I'm not going to tell you to go out and buy all Bryan Adams albums right now! But, you could do worse than to pick up the album Anthology, which is to be released October 18, 2005.


* So get this: As I was searching around for additional info, I find that he re-recorded this song with Pamela Anderson doing the female vocal part. HA HA HA! All told, it's okay, I suppose. She does not have a great voice, sort of indifferent really. If you're interested, check it out at http://www.allaccess.com/mail/eblasts/bryanAdams/index.htm. For a limited time only, probably.

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