Bryan Adams: Summer of 69
t’s always been a little too easy to take shots at Bryan Adams, the mere mention of his name summons up visions of white t-shirt wearing weak radio rocking. The fact that he's also a ginger nut, a Canadian and the deep blue denim sporting clown who subjected the UK to "Everything I do (I do it for you)" for over 16 weeks doesn't help matters. But if only these gingophobes had taken the time to scratch below the surface of one of his 'all time classic' hits, the mighty "Summer of 69", they'd have revealed something a little more complex and emotive in Adams' work than just the greatest drunken sing-along soundtrack in shitty bars across the country. In these few short paragraphs I'd like to make a case for this song having both a universal emotive 'awesome moment ' and the right to be able to be placed amongst the work of socially-conscious singer-songwriters like Springsteen, Young ( by the way that’s Neil not Will) and Earle.
Out there in the wilds of buttfuck, Tennessee or Shrenley Brook End, Milton Keynes, England there will undoubtedly be a recording of "Summer of 69" somewhere which will validate my opinion of the song. Some lone urban cowboy will have crafted a desolate tundra-like widescreen-but-lonesome acoustic version of this song reinventing it, much like Springsteen's Tracks rendering of "Born in the USA". As far as I'm concerned the song is about the Vietnam War. Bear with me, honest it really is. Whilst many people still believe it to be just another slab of Institutional Rock and a slice of Siamese party vinyl with Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer", I see it as a song about the protagonist's youth pre-Vietnam draft.
Throughout the verses Adams reflects on the senseless humid jungle village slaughter with a stereotypical small town USA 'get on with it' attitude ("Ain’t no use in complainin’ / When you got a job to do"), refusing to be explicit he avoids facing the reality of his bloody past. Referencing Bob Dylan with "And now the times are changin’ / Look at everything that’s come and gone / Sometimes when I play that old six-string / I think about ya wonder what went wrong" he looks back to the innocent days of belting out some Rock and Roll on his battered "five and dime" guitar; the freedom, blamelessness and purity of those childhood musical days. It’s unclear whether when Adams sings the line "Oh when I look back now / That summer seemed to last forever" he is either talking about the jungle (“The horror, the horror”) or his hometown.
The most powerful evocation of shattered innocence in this song which is normally seen as shamelessly and cheesily OTT romantic, but when you weigh these few starry-eyed lines against the young man going off to almost inevitable psychological damage or death, it becomes a more powerfully tender moment.
"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"
The chances are that this boy wasn't coming home and the reality of the situation may have been sinking into Middle America by 1969 so this might have been in the back of their minds as Adams’ couple exchanged saliva and promises. Telling someone that you're going to wait forever for them is pretty much the most melodramatic teenage dedication that anyone can ever make. A statement like this obviously carries with it an albatross of movie fantasy relationships proportions with it, but here despite (or perhaps because of) the rock-lite keys heavy production it manages to capture perfectly the fun, the longing and the innocence of immortality of one of those forever moments in everyone’s halcyon pasts.
By: Scott McKeating
Published on: 2005-03-10