Bryan Adams – Still Rockin’ and Reckless (Interview)

Bryan Adams – Still Rockin’ and Reckless (Interview)

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Rock Cellar Magazine: From the comprehensive Reckless 30th anniversary liner notes to your interviews with Jim Vallance and mastering engineer Bob Ludwig along with the generous array of images and ephemera, this is the manner in which every deluxe edition should be created.

Bryan Adams: It was a really incredible journey trying to put it all together because everything’s gone.

Everything’s lost. There’s nothing from 1984; my label lost everything. They lost the artwork, they lost the negatives and they lost the fucking tapes.

They lost every single original thing form that album so I had to go back and scramble around and try and find everything all over again.

You can’t master from a CD; you’ve got to master from an original tape. And so did they have any tapes? No, they had nothing. So I called (Bob) Clearmountain and asked if he had anything and he didn’t have any tapes. I called all the studios that were still around and they didn’t have anything. I’ve got a room that’s probably sized 12 foot by 20 foot and it’s literally wall to wall tapes with everything from the mid ‘70s forward.

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I dug around and I found a copy of the master mixes for Reckless. I sent it to (Bob) Ludwig and said, “Bob, what do you think”? and he said, “Well, it says copy on it but it sounds really fucking good. Let me try it and see what happens.” We didn’t really have any choice now because the master tapes are gone.

Then Bob came back and said, “This is gonna be incredible. Don’t worry, we got it. This is gonna be fine.” Okay, so tapes are sorted, next thing is trying to find artwork. During the course of making Tracks of My Years with David Foster in L.A., he happened to be in the same building as the Universal archive. So I called the guy there and said, “Look, can I come down?” And he said, “Well I’m sorry Bryan but we don’t have anything.”

But I said, “Let me come down and sniff around.” So I sniffed around and spent an afternoon there and found one significant thing which was a ten by eight transparency of the album cover photographed by Hiro. I thought,” Holy shit, this is it, I found the cover!” It was inside a folder that said something like “Video Outtake.”

So okay, boom, I’ve got the album cover now. So from there, it was all about digging up everything else. I went into my archive and found all the photographs that I had taken at the time. I also contacted all the photographers that I knew around that period and got them to send me their negatives and we managed to scramble it together and I’m really proud of it now. It’s worth every second of beating everybody else up trying to find stuff. Man, it was a real chore.

Rock Cellar Magazine: There was a debate about the direction of the recording of Reckless in general?

Bryan Adams: I was never really paying attention to anybody else. I was so tormented during the making of this record because I knew I had good stuff. The songwriting process gets to a certain place and then it’s about making a record. I already had the best engineer in the world at the helm, Bob Clearmountain and he’s making it sound great. It’s down to me to get the performances and for me to make sure I’m happy with every single thing that’s happening.

You ask anybody who made this record with me—they’ve probably forgotten about it now—but I drove everybody crazy. If you look at some of the notes on the record you can see my handwritten notes for the drum takes where I would go through four, five, six takes of a song and literally edit out sections and jigsaw a performance together. But there are one take performances on the record.

One example is Run to You the first take of the song is the track you hear on the album.  No edits, nothing. And then of course I overdubbed my guitar and my vocal afterwards. But the performance of the actual bass, drums and rhythm guitar is what you hear. But then you get to a song like Summer of ’69, which was recorded in its entirety twice; it was demoed three times. Now looking back I don’t know what the hell we were worried about because it was good. But when you’re in deep and when you’re in the trenches you don’t know what’s over the top until you look and you don’t look over the top until you’re sure the some has cleared.

And that’s what I feel like when I hear some of these songs now. I’m like, “What was I thinking? Why was I so concerned about it?” But it’s part of the process. When you’re make a record and you’re really close to it and passionate about it and this is your life’s work, you want it to be as good as it can be.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Tell me more about the Run to You/Blue Oyster Cult connection.

Bryan Adams: Simply put, I was trying to write a song for Blue Oyster Cult that had that Don’t Fear the Reaper vibe, even though Run to You doesn’t sound anything like it. I came up with something in a similarly sort of arpeggiated vein.

Rock Cellar Magazine: So they heard the song and turned it down?

Bryan Adams: Yeah, they heard and turned it down and I’m happy they turned it down. But to be fair, if you’re a band and you have an outside song coming in you probably didn’t want to do that. They were doing perfectly well without anybody writing their songs.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Tina Turner famously sings on It’s Only Love. When you and Jim were writing it, did you have it in the back of your mind that it needed a female vocalist?

Bryan Adams: I knew that song needed something else and that it would never stand up on its own. Obviously I thought it would be fantastic if Tina would do it. It just so happened that she was in Vancouver around the last week of recording. This is before Private Dancer had come out and before she had her resurgence. So I managed to bet backstage to see her.

I’d sent the song ahead of time. I just remember a lot of people backstage. She was opening up for Lionel Richie and there were people everywhere and all I could see was this really large mane of hair coming down the hallway in the backstage of the coliseum. I heard her saying, “Where is he? Which one is he?” Then someone said, “He’s over here!” And she came over and said (imitates Tina’s voice) “Bryan Adams! I love this song!” and the next day we recorded it.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Is there a song on Reckless that wasn’t a hit that deserves reappraisal?

Bryan Adams: I think the best songs on the album were released as singles. Maybe One Night Love Affair could have been a single but that would have been the last one. Kids Wanna Rock got lots of airplay on FM radio but it wasn’t a single.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Tell me about the bonus cuts on Reckless. Were any of these songs worked up for Reckless or were these mainly songs you and Jim were writing for other artists?

Bryan Adams: These songs were all written for the album. They all ended up being on other people’s records except for a couple of them; a lot of them got covered by other people. There’s a song on there called Let Me Down Easy and we wrote that for Stevie Nicks but she never recorded it.

.38 Special recorded Teacher, Teacher. Reckless was recorded by Loverboy but they used a different title for it. They changed the title because they didn’t want to be associated with me. Too Hot to Handle was never recorded by anyone. I can’t wait for you to hear the song; I think you’re gonna love ‘em.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Having dreamt of achieving major success as a kid like most aspiring musicians, what was that like for you when it finally happened?

Bryan Adams:

I gotta say, I wasn’t ready for it to be that big because nobody really is. When things really kick off you’re never ready for how much it’s gonna affect your life.

There’s no instruction manual for success. Some people take it and flip out, other people go inside and never come out of their room again, other people revel in it and get expensive cars and arrive around and other people try and have a laugh. I tried to have a laugh.

Luckily I had a really great girlfriend at the time; her name was Vicki Russell and she’d already been a teen star because her father was a director. She was able to keep things in a really beautiful place for us. She just kept making sure we had a laugh. She was my girlfriend and she would go out into the crowd and pull four girls and have them all topless waiting for us when we got off stage.

She made it so much fun to be on tour and it was such a giggle and such a laugh that at the end of the day it was really hard to get serious because she wouldn’t let it happen.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Can you recall when you first heard Reckless hit number one?

Bryan Adams: I was in New York City and I got a telegram delivered to my hotel room. They didn’t tell me it was gonna happen. So I got a telegram from the record company saying, “Congratulations, you’re number one in America.”  It was an amazing feeling.

Rock Cellar Magazine: On your new covers album, Tracks of My Years, you cover one of my favorite Beatles songs, Anytime at All, a lesser known cut from their Hard Days Night album. What inspired you to tackle that number?

Bryan Adams: With the whole covers record it was hard to do songs that were super unknown because a lot of them are untouchable. I wanted to record a Beatles song and Anytime at All is one of those songs that I trued: I tried a few different ones. It reminded me of Back to You, which is one of my songs from the MTV Unplugged album. So I thought by giving it that approach it might be a good direction for that song.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Speaking of the Beatles, you had the opportunity to play at the Prince’s Trust with Paul McCartney on a few Beatle numbers, what was that experience like?

Bryan Adams: It was a mind blower. There are no words for it other than that. That was just ridiculous. I don’t think I slept for two days after that. I knew he was gonna come out but nothing prepares you for when McCartney hits the stage. I was having fun and loving it and I think he was like, “Who the hell is this guy?” (laughs)

Rock Cellar Magazine: You tackle one of those untouchable songs on Tracks of My Years, The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows. But to your credit, you nail it with your intimate reading of the song and expressive elongated vocal phrasing.

Bryan Adams: I worked on that album with David Foster and we were always looking around for the right songs. Foster is good at making these kind of records. I said to him, “Let’s try to do God Only Knows like Bill Evans meets Tony Bennett.” I thought let’s take that approach for God Only Knows. And as soon as I said that Foster jumped out of his chair and we recorded it.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Looking back over the years, pick a “do over” moment in your career.

Bryan Adams: I signed a lot of bad deals when I was young so perhaps I wish I hadn’t signed this or that. But looking back you can say that…but at the same time I’ve got no regrets because it’s all worked out pretty good.

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