Bryan Adams: ‘You can’t possibly follow up a hit that big’

The Canadian rocker-photographer answers your questions on his surprisingly bad karaoke skills, duetting with Mel C and the story behind his first six-string

When Wet Wet Wet had been at No 1 for ages with Love Is All Around they eventually got the record company to withdraw it from stores because they were so fed up with it. Did you ever come close to that with (Everything I Do) I Do It for You when it was the UK No 1 for a record 16 weeks? keithinfife

I do remember my record company wanting to withdraw it and focus on the album and I told them they’d be mad to. If they had, we’d never have got the record. I wrote the song with my dear friend Michael Kamen – rest in peace – and [producer] Mutt Lange. When it was used in the film Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves I went to see it with my girlfriend and it played over the end credits as everyone was leaving the theatre. I said: “Well, they can’t have liked it very much if they stuck it at the end,” but maybe it stayed in people’s heads.

When you have an international smash like (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, how much pressure is there to repeat the success? stevey1001

I don’t remember any pressure, but I wasn’t in the UK when all that was going on. I’d just get reports as it exploded. You can’t possibly follow up a hit that big but it did reignite interest in my back catalogue. Shortly afterwards I got a call telling me Summer of ’69 was No 1 in Holland, 10 years after it was first released.

Did you really play your first real six-string till your fingers bled [as in Summer Of ’69]? noirnoirnoir

I did and that’s something that a lot of guitar players will attest to. I actually put a photograph on my Instagram last year after I was playing bass and I got a blood blister. Actual bleeding fingers only really happen when you first start playing: you soon get callouses so it doesn’t happen any more.

Where did you really buy your first real six-string? ElZorro

When I was 10 or 11 I’d stopped in the UK to visit my uncle in Reading and he took me to buy a guitar [an imitation Stratocaster]. We were on our way to live in Israel, and then when I left that country I gave it to my young neighbour, an aspiring musician. Years later he wrote to me asking if I wanted it back, but then I didn’t hear again. Much later a guy came up to me in a club in Berlin and told me that my neighbour had died in a plane crash, but he knew he’d promised to send me the guitar. It arrived within a few days and I still have it. The first “real” six-string was a black Les Paul copy I bought in a pawn shop [a “five and dime” in the song] in Ottawa. I was a Steve Marriott fan and he played one.

What’s the weirdest, most off-the-wall concert you’ve ever played? Incredible-disc

An outdoor gig in Turkey. The first 20 rows had been given to local politicians, so they showed up in dinner suits and ballgowns. It was pretty surreal. Behind them were the screaming mob, so I got them all to come to the front. They all seemed to enjoy it well enough.

How did you end up working with Chicane? Would you agree that it was the most unlikely collaboration – and that the result (Don’t Give Up) was pop gold? haemorrhoid

Nick [Bracegirdle] from Chicane called me up out of the blue and asked if I would possibly be interested in helping him write a song. He came over, I wrote a lyric and melody and recorded it then and there. The next thing I knew, he’d dialled it into his dance music world and put a vocoder on my voice. It was unusual, but I loved it. I wanted to join the band. He came on stage with me once in Ireland and we did the show together.

When You’re Gone reminds me of Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around

by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty. What duets did you have in mind while writing it? Laurasnapes

I wrote it just for me, but then towards the end I thought maybe it would be cool to have a duet on it. I ran into the sweetheart, Mel C. She was up for doing it, my co-writer Eliot [Kennedy] recorded her and sent her vocals over to the studio in Canada where I was and we just slotted it together.

When You’re Gone is a karaoke classic. What do you like singing at karaoke? citizen-idiot

Once in New York there was a guy on before me and when he got up the place went crazy. I got up and did You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling and after I finished there was one guy clapping. Afterwards I told the first singer he was great and he went: “Oh, I’m a professional singer.” He had no idea who I was.

Do you plan to visit and perform again in Pakistan? The concert with Shehzad Roy in Karachi [in 2006] was a wonderful occasion. Game

He wrote to me and asked if I would perform to raise money for earthquake victims. We raised $100,000 from the show and President Musharraf matched us dollar for dollar. He gave a very sweet speech thanking us for coming and then I had to speak to a table of 150 people. I was thinking: “My dad would love this!” In the right circumstances I’d go again but my drummer was freaked out that someone blew up our hotel two weeks after we left.

If you had to choose between only doing photography or music, which would you choose? TheOneAndOnlyRHM

Oh, music. As much as I love photography, I love being a singer. I always carried a camera around as a way of documenting tours and such and I’m glad I did, because otherwise I’d forget a lot of the situations.

How do you keep your voice in shape on tour? SouthendOnSea

Cups of tea!

Is there a song in your catalogue you felt certain would be a hit but was met with indifference? KitRey

I always loved 18 Till I Die [which reached No 22 in the UK]. With the new album we released “teaser tracks” rather than singles, which is the way now. I played every instrument because we couldn’t get the band together. I’m not a very good drummer but would think: “What would John Bonham do?”

What’s the story behind Can’t Stop This Thing We Started?


Mutt Lange started the idea. We’d spent a week on it but the verse needed to be different, so he erased it right then and there. He just went: “OK, let’s write a new one!” I spent a couple of days working on the vocal and he kept saying: “This just doesn’t sound right.” Sure enough, the microphone that I’d been singing through for two days was completely blown.

The War On Drugs get compared to your 80s output, in a good way. Do you like them? Manofthesouth

I really like them. Can I join the band?

Bryan Adams’s 15th album, So Happy It Hurts, is out now on BMG. His UK tour begins 9 May at Royal Albert Hall, London

• This article was amended on 21 March 2022 to correct a transcription error. Mutt Lange intentionally erased the initial idea for Can’t Stop This Thing We Started; it was not an accident as previously stated.


As told to Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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