'Summer of 69' by Bryan Adams: The making of the nostalgic guitar anthem

13 October 2021, 11:22

Bryan Adams - Summer of '69
Bryan Adams - Summer of '69. Picture: Bryan Adams/Getty

By Mayer Nissim

Bryan Adams cooked up a nostalgic anthem for the ages with the fourth single from his massive Reckless album.

After some steady success at home in Canada with his first couple of albums, Bryan Adams broke through in the US with his third record Cuts Like A Knife – but the UK still wasn't interested.

That all changed with his fourth album Reckless in 1984, which not only topped the US album chart but got to number 7 in the UK, too.

It had a whopping SIX singles (more than half the 10-track album), and all six went top 15 in the US, including the rocking nostalgia-fest that was 'Summer of '69'.

But who wrote the song, and is it about 1969 or actually about... ahem... Here's everything you need to know.

Who wrote 'Summer of '69'?

'Summer of '69' was written by Bryan Adams with his regular collaborator Jim Vallance in his basement studio. The pair worked together from way back in 1978 to 1989, and then again from 2005 to 2019.

While it ended up a massive hit, initially neither man thought it was strong enough to be on Reckless.

They recorded it a few times over, messing around with it for a few weeks. They started with a 12-string riff before binning it for a more trad 6-string intro. And even then, there was talk of dropping it from the tracklisting.

What's more, the lyrics went through several rewrites.

The most striking? "In our first draft of the song, the lyric 'summer of '69' appears only once, never to be repeated," Vallance revealed years later on his website.

"It wasn't the title, it was just another line in the song. In fact, we originally planned on calling the song 'Best Days Of My Life'."

A few drafts later they gave the song its new name, and Adams would be banging on about that summer all over the place,

Jim even worried that they shoehorned "summer of '69" into the lyrics too much, but we think they got away with it.

They finished recording it on January 25, 1984, and it was produced by rock superproducer Bob Clearmountain, who has credits with Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Toto and Bon Jovi.

Joining Adams on the track is Keith Scott on guitar, Tommy Mandel on keys, Dave Taylor on bass, Pat Steward on drums, and co-writer Jim Vallance on percussion.

When was 'Summer of '69' released?

'Summer of '69' was released as a single on June 17, 1985, with Reckless album track 'Kids Wanna Rock' and Cuts Like A Knife's 'The Best Was Yet to Come' on the B-sides.

It was the fourth (of six) singles taken from Reckless, after 'Run To You', 'Somebody' and 'Heaven' and before 'One Night Love Affair' and Tina Turner duet 'It's Only Love'.

But you could have heard the song first on the Reckless album, which was released on November 5, 1984.

Is 'Summer of '69' about the summer of 1969, or is it really about... y'know...?

Right. Let's get to the important question.

Is 'Summer of '69' about the neverending summer of 1969, when the then 9-year-old Bryan Adams claimed to have bought his first guitar, formed a band, met a girl, spent his evenings at the drive-in (when he was 9?!?) and had the best days of his life?

Or is it about what the French call soixante-neuf?

Well, it depends on who you talk to.

Speaking on The Early Show in 2008, Adams says the song is so timeless because it's about "making love in the summertime".

"There is a slight misconception it’s about a year, but it’s not," he went on."'69' has nothing to do about a year, it has to do with a sexual position.

"At the end of the song, the lyric says that 'it’s me and my baby in a 69'. You’d have to be pretty thick in the ears if you couldn't get that lyric."

So that's that, right?

Well, not completely. Co-writer Jim Vallance has said that the song was "very much a 50-50 collaboration" and he remembers things somewhat differently.

He doesn't mention any of that sex stuff in his lyrical breakdown of the song, and he even jumped into a thread over at Songfacts to share his truth.

"At no time do I recall discussing sexual innuendo with Bryan except for one little thing," Jim said.

"When we recorded the demo in my basement, towards the end of the song Bryan sang a little naughty bit, 'me and my baby in a '69'.

"We had a laugh about it at the time, and Bryan decided to keep it when he did the final recording a month or two later."

He added: "Let me qualify this by saying I don't pretend to speak for Bryan. Two of us wrote the song. Maybe he was thinking about something completely different ... but I was thinking about that amazing summer when I turned 17.

"Bryan Adams is a great writer, a great singer, and a great friend. He's entitled to his recollections as to what inspired the song 'Summer Of '69'. My recollections just happen to be different than his."

So take your pick!

Who were Jimmy and Jody who got married in 'Summer of '69'?

Jody and Jimmy - Just Married
Jody and Jimmy - Just Married. Picture: Bryan Adams

Were Jimmy and Jody just handy names to fit the rhythm of a song, like so many Johnnys and Tommys before them?

Actually, they were originally going to be Woody and Gordy, named for Jim's real-life teen bandmates Gordy Keith and Alan 'Woody' Whitmore, but Bryan liked the sound of Jimmy and Jordy better.

Jimmy was apparently an early drummer who Bryan played with, while Jordy was his soundman and tour manager Jody Perpik, who got married in real life when they were writing the song.

And just for fun, it's actually Jordy and his real-life wife who appear in the video, driving off with that "Just Married" sign.

How did 'Summer of '69' do in the charts?

It's hard to believe today, but 'Summer of '69' didn't really do much as a single when it was released in the UK.

Perhaps because most fans had already bought it on Reckless, it entered the charts down at 59, and only rose to 42, just outside the Top 40.

Over in the US it fared much better, getting some airplay on AOR stations when the album came out and storming to number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it got a proper single release, helping to propel its parent album all the way to number one spot on the Billboard Hot 200 a couple of months later.

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