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Bryan Adams and the delicious truth behind that Summer of ’69

“I got my first real six string.”

Tomorrow is officially the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere, of which I generally reside only in the middle of each year, at my old farmhouse in France.

Over the course a career that began almost three decades ago, the little rocker they call the Groover from Vancouver has assured some sort of diminutive place in rock history with hits such as Cuts Like a Knife, Heaven and the deathlessly ubiquitous Everything I Do (I Do It For You).

In the Summer of ’69 of which I came into this world, Bryan Adams was just 9 years old. 

Pretty fly for a short guy

Adams and Jim Vallance penned Summer of ’69 for his fourth album, Reckless, which was released in 1984. People quickly took to the song because of Adams’s storytelling and the strong theme of nostalgia. BA explained at the time that he was inspired by the “cultural revolution” that was going on at the time, including the Beatles disbanding, the moon landing, and his foray into music, hence the lyrics “I got my first real six-string…Played it ’til my fingers bled.”

The hoarsy Canadian’s karaoke standard are probably among the most popular and iconic for summer anthems, and not only took Adams to No. 5 on the American Billboard Hot 100 in 1985, but gave him a lasting reputation as scores of 69ers would sing about getting a start in music or finding a summer love.

“Standin’ on your mama’s porch, you told me that you’d wait forever. Oh, and when you held my hand, I knew that it was now or never. Those were the best days of my life.”

Adams’ raspy voice keeps it grounded. He’s like Neil Young with strep throat. I can dig that for a few minutes.

However, in recent years the diminutive one has been at pains to point out that the said story is not about the sultry season of my birth after all, confirming many people’s suspicions while appearing on The Early Show in 2008.

“I think [Summer of ’69 is] timeless because it’s a very simple song about making love in the summertime. There is a slight misconception it’s about a year, but it’s not. ’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.” 

Oh, the cunning wag.

Even after Adams’s so-called admission, Vallance continued to deny the fact that the song was about sex. However, he did agree that Bry’s last minute lyrical addition was indeed a sexual innuendo, but it was meant as an inside joke, though it was a factor in the song’s title mutating from The Best days Of My Life to the one you know and gush over…

“All I can say is: as I remember it, when we were writing the song, just the two of us, at no point did we discuss implied meanings or inferences,” Vallance said in an email to Rule Forty Two last year. “I admit, there’s a naughty bit at the very end, but it was a three-second, improvised afterthought. It’s not the whole song. Never was.”

There you go then. I preferred Run To You anyway.

Steve Pafford, currently in Seattle and about 100 miles from Vancouver

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Steve Pafford

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