When Bryan Adams released his Reckless album in 1984, he learned pretty quickly that he had finally crafted a collection of songs that would collectively act as a major game-changer for his career. There would ultimately be six singles released from the album, each of them going inside the Top 15 of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. It was well-deserved success for the Canadian rocker, who had worked hard at building a story over the course of the three albums that he had recorded prior to Reckless.
During a phone conversation from London, Adams recalls that there were a couple of important pieces of the puzzle that helped make the album happen and one of those things was his association with producer Bob Clearmountain. Adams had heard Jim Carroll’s “City Drops Into The Night” and hearing the track lit a fuse.
“That was the song that made me think, ‘Who recorded that?,’” Adams remembers. “I called up my record company and said, ‘Can you please find this guy called Bob Clearmountain?’ David Kershenbaum was the A&R guy at the time and he said, ‘I know Bob — I’ll hook it up.’ So from 1981 through 1984, Bob and I made three records."
During the course of that time, the recordings took longer and longer. You Want It, You Got It took 10 days, Cuts Like A Knife took six weeks and Reckless took three months.
"We were getting better and better at making records and we were getting smarter about how to deliver them," says Adams. "It was a great team.”
Adams is quick to note that there were a number of important people playing on his team. “Behind the veil of Bob and I as producers is the great Jim Vallance, who helped arrange and was always instrumental in making sure that the arrangements were spot on and frugal and to the point. So it was a very, very strong team of guys that I had in my corner. Aside from that, I also had a manager, Bruce Allen, who I still have today, who during the course of Reckless came in and [said], ‘Okay, I want to hear what you guys have done.’ We thought we’d sort of gotten the record [done] and he looked at me after hearing it and went, ‘Where’s the rock?’”
While some artists might have pushed back, Adams took the feedback from Allen and went back to work.
“I went back to the drawing board and came back with a rewritten and re-demoed ‘Summer of 69,’ a new song called ‘Kids Wanna Rock’ and I recut ‘One Night Love Affair.’ You know the expression ‘all guns fire in the same direction’? It was that kind of thing and also, we were at the top of our game. We knew that if we wrote the right record that it would get played. It was an amazing feeling, you know? You know that if you put the right record, people are going to pay attention.”
As the series of singles began to unfold from Reckless, beginning with “Run To You” in late 1984, it was clear that people were paying plenty of attention. “It’s Only Love,” a duet with Tina Turner, was the final single released from the album and peaked on the charts in the early part of 1986. The gravelly-voiced singer had made his mark and three decades later, his hits continue to resonate with audiences worldwide.
Recently, he decided to look back at the artists who influenced his career as a songwriter and the results can be heard on his newly released album, The Tracks Of My Years. Discussing the album, Adams admits that it was a move that he wasn’t really sure about.
“It was an idea that was brought to me by Verve Records and David Foster, who sort of heads the company. They wanted to sign me based on doing a record like this and I was like, “Maybe,” he says. “I didn’t really know if it was a record that I wanted to make right now. Because I was in the middle of making an album with Jeff Lynne, which I’m still working on and it didn’t seem like the right thing to do. But Bob Rock talked me into coming in and doing a week of just messing around to see what happened and it started to come together.”
From there, it was time to figure out what songs he would cover and that proved to be a bit of a challenge.
“I sat down with David and we did a couple of things and you know, the biggest problem was not making the music — the biggest problem was choosing the songs. Because it’s one thing to say, ‘Oh yeah, let’s do that song.’ But a lot of the songs that I hold in great regard as influences to my career are untouchable. I would never ever record them, because they’re too great as a record, never mind as a song, to try and produce a record of a band that you loved.”
He wasn’t interested in laying down straight covers of well-known classics. When it came to covering “God Only Knows,” he imagined how Bill Evans and Tony Bennett might have approached it, rather than trying to clone what the Beach Boys themselves had done. “You can’t do Beach Boys if you’re Bryan Adams,” he says with a laugh, going on to explain that he wanted to “just do stuff that sounded more like me. If it sounded like me and I could have put it on any one of my records, then I left it on this record.”
The album also features “She Knows Me,” a fresh collaboration with his old pal from the Reckless era, Jim Vallance. Adams and Vallance have written a selection of songs in recent years, rekindling their friendship in the process. But he’s especially excited about the new album that he’s working on with Electric Light Orchestra mastermind Jeff Lynne for a planned 2015 release. The pair has completed six songs for the album so far and he calls the work that he’s doing with Lynne “blinding,” saying that it could be “the best record I’ve ever made.”
Adams returns to Cleveland this week for an acoustic show at Connor Palace and he’s come a long way since the days when he played some of his early shows here in the area as a fresh-faced rocker at the Agora. The show will feature material from across his career, including at least a track or two from the latest album and of course, you can expect to hear songs from Reckless, which will be a good primer for an expanded reissue of the classic album that’s hitting the stores in November. Overall, the Cleveland show should be a great evening of songs and stories from Adams and it’s one you won’t want to miss.
Bryan Adams: The Bare Bones Tour, 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 22, Connor Palace, 1615 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000. Tickets: $32-$82, playhousesquare.org.