Although Canada is one of the world’s best countries to live in, it has to be said it's still kind of embarrassing that Bryan Adams is considered our answer to Springsteen.
But it’s worth remembering that long before the man began writing terrible love songs for the soundtracks of a bunch of equally bad Hollywood movies, he put out one of the catchiest albums of the eighties.
Reckless, the fourth studio album by the raspy-voiced singer, came out 30 years ago this month and quickly turned the acne-scarred, 24-year-old former dishwasher into a huge international star. Recorded here in Vancouver at Little Mountain Studios and co-produced by Bob Clearmountain, Reckless not only went straight to the top of the Billboard record charts but also boasts the distinction of having six singles crack the Top 15, a feat previously accomplished only by Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Born in the U.S.A. by the Boss himself.
Music videos were still shiny and new back in those days and, in light of the prodigal son’s upcoming Jan. 14 concert at Rogers Arena where he’ll play his breakthrough album in its entirety, here’s a look back at some of the hits that first brought our boy Bryan to the world’s attention.
1. Run to You
The first single from the album, this arena rawk anthem was originally written by Adams and writing partner Jim Vallance for Blue Öyster Cult but the hard rock band turned them down, possibly because they already had a hit song called “Burnin’ for You” and didn’t want to confuse people.
Instead, Adams’ heartfelt, hook-filled ode to infidelity became his then-biggest hit and remains so popular to this day that alt-country rocker Ryan Adams, who has spent his entire career putting up with requests for songs by the similarly named but more famous musician, finally gave up and started covering it.
Adams’ Canadian roots are also admirably on full display in the video, where he spends much of the time rocking out in a snowstorm. Or at least in a sound stage full of fake snow.
And just who is this lucky girl Bryan Adams wants to run to all night when the feeling is right? Turns out it’s British actress Lysette Anthony, best remembered today for playing Princess Lyssa in the fantasy flick Krull.
Reckless’ second single is not only an enduring singalong classic with a killer chorus, but the music video was also shot here at home. Our hero strolls the street and alleys of Vancouver singing about his need to find somebody before making his way to B.C. Place, where he wanders onto an empty playing field in front of a huge crowd while being beamed onto the Jumbotron.
However, it turns out he isn’t just looking for any somebody but rather a particular one. Lysette Anthony, to be precise, who is among the crowd and also appeared briefly at the beginning of the video in a car with some jerk (played by local actor Garwin Sanford) who clearly doesn’t appreciate her like Bryan Adams would.
Somebody like Lysette Anthony
This power ballad was Adams' first number one hit. An instant favourite for high school slow dances across the world, "Heaven" was actually released a year earlier as part of the soundtrack for the box office bomb A Night in Heaven, which starred Christopher Atkins as a male stripper and earned him the 1983 Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor.
The song was written after Adams had been the opening act on a tour with the American band Journey, and “Heaven” shares a certain, um, similarity to their own big hit “Faithfully.”
Recorded at The Power Station in New York City, it’s the only track on Reckless not recorded in Vancouver although the video was shot here and, as you might expect, featured a guest appearance by none other than British actress Lysette Anthony.
We first see her outside the Stanley Theatre on Granville Street while the angry dude she was sharing a car with in “Somebody” is now failing a breathalyzer test. She looks up sadly and recognizes a certain somebody on posters outside the venue before heading inside, where Adams is in the midst of performing. Their eyes lock, but she then suddenly bolts from the crowd while Adams, true to his word from “Run to You,” runs backstage to try and cut her off.
Unfortunately, the fire exits had been chained shut in an inexplicable violation of Vancouver fire safety codes and all he can do is peer through the door window at the sudden, equally inexplicable heavy snowfall, which no doubt baffled more than a few viewers who hadn’t seen the video for “Run to You.” Or, frankly, even those who did.
4. Summer of ‘69
Bryan Adams was only nine-years-old back in the summer of 1969 and it seems unlikely he would’ve been in a band with some guys from school, let alone be spending his evenings down at the drive-in. It’s almost as if he might be waxing nostalgic about something else entirely.
If you ever noted the lyric “Me and my baby in a 69” and thought this might be an oral sex reference, you are, in fact, correct. Adams finally came clean in a 2001 interview about the song’s meaning.
“Some parts are autobiographical, but the title comes from the idea of 69 as a metaphor for sex. Most people thought it was about the year 1969.”
Which only goes to show that the hit songwriter’s understanding of metaphors is on a par with Alanis Morissette’s grasp of irony, although at least she has the balls to be upfront about it when tossing the sex act into a song.
While there isn’t a whiff of sex in the song’s video, we do get introduced to a woman playing the teenaged Adams’ girlfriend and, yes, she is played by British actress Lysette Anthony. After she rescues him when he fell asleep on the job down at the drive-in, the two make their way to a romantic outdoor setting.
At which point Adams turns his back on her and simply walks away. Seriously, who does that to Lysette Anthony and then claim it was one of the best days of their lives!?
Adams then heads off to break into a factory and have a tomato fight with his pals before getting chased by the cops. Which, come to think of it, is the probably sort of thing that would appeal much more to a typical nine-year-old than making sweet love with Lysette Anthony.
5. One Night Love Affair
One thing immediately jumps out when watching the video for the fifth single from Reckless: the glaring absence of Lysette Anthony.
Did she not want to be included in a song about a one-night stand? Was she upset he abandoned her in their last video or by the lame 69 joke? Had she gotten back together with the mysterious drunk driver? Or did she simply head back home to star in a BBC miniseries based on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist?
Sadly, we may never know.
6. It’s Only Love
Or did the Queen of Rock n’ Roll come between them? The final single from Reckless is a duet with the great Tina Turner, and the two seem to have some serious chemistry together in the video for the song, which earned them a Grammy nomination for best rock song.
If he did spurn the affections of the lovely Lysette Anthony for a woman 20 years his senior, there is only one word to describe the decision.