05 March 2010

Bryan Adams: Summer of ’69

Today’s installment on Lyrics, Weakly is yet another overplayed song from the 80s (though this time it’s from 1985)—the Bryan Adams song “Summer of ’69”.

There’s been an interesting bit of controversy over this song, with Bryan Adams claiming that the song has nothing to do with the year 1969, and that it has everything to do with certain, um, physical activities. Jim Vallance, who co-wrote the song with Mr. Adams, says that that’s complete rubbish, and that the song is most definitely about the summer of that year.

My guess? It really is about the summer of 1969, but then Mr. Adams realized people had been doing the math (see my comments on the very first verse of the song), and so he decided to do some revisionist history.

Either way, though, it’s still a silly song.

I got my first real six-string
Bought it at the five-and-dime
Played ’til my fingers bled
It was summer of ’69

Yep, 1969—those halcyon days of the late 60s, when everything seemed possible, before the Altamont Speedway Free Festival, before the musical horrors of the 70s. Yes, the summer of ’69, back when Bryan Adams was a young, vibrant…erm…nine years old.

Now, this verse doesn’t press the bounds of reality all that far—one of my daughters started guitar lessons shortly before her seventh birthday, for example—but you really should keep this in mind for the rest of the song. Bryan Adams is singing this song about the summer he was nine years old.

Me and some guys from school
Had a band and we tried real hard
Jimmy quit, Jody got married
I shoulda known we’d never get far

Apparently Mr. Adams’s friends from grade four were pretty precocious in many ways, what with being in a band and getting married so young and all. Or maybe he’s boasting that his friends were older than him, and he should have been viewed as a prodigy along the lines of Stevie Winwood writing and singing with the Spencer Davis Group.

Either way, though, it was apparently good times, as we learn in the next stanza.

Oh, when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Yeah I’d always wanna be there
Those were the best days of my life

Can this verse be any more depressing? For someone born in 1959 to say that the summer of 1969 held the best days of his life, well, that’s just wrong. I mean, you didn’t even have a good few months when you were in your mid-twenties or something?

Ain’t no use in complainin’
When you got a job to do
Spent my evenin’s down at the drive in
And that’s when I met you

Complaining about one’s job is a time-honored benefit of being employed—yeah, you’ve got income coming in, and that’s good, but you could be paid more and valued as more than just another drain on the corporation’s coffers.

And complaining on the job serves a useful purpose—it’s a stress reliever. So get down off that moral high horse, Mr. Adams, and mingle with the rest of us sometime.

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

I don’t get this scene. Mr. Adams is standing on a porch with someone, and she grasps his hand, at which point it became now or never. Okay, fine—but now or never for what? I don’t know, and we never get told. Now or never for a relationship with the hand-holder, maybe? Entirely possible, but if you’re only to the hand-holding stage it doesn’t seem like you’d really be to the go-no go point yet, you know?

Those were the best days of my life
Oh, yeah, back in the summer of ‘69

More with the depressing reminder that time and youth are fleeting.

Man we were killin’ time
We were young and restless
We needed to unwind

So you’re young and restless, which generally means that you’re doing something (or at least planning to), and you’re killing time, which generally means you’re not doing anything (nor are you planning to).

This does not compute. It is a paradox. Would it be too much to ask logical consistency of your music, Mr. Bryan Adams?

Wait—sorry, i just realized i asked that question of someone who released, at age 36, an album titled 18 Til I Die.

I guess nothin’ can last forever, forever, no

The dark undercurrents of this song are only getting stronger…

And now the times are changin’

According to Bob Dylan, the times they were a-changin’ all the way back in 1964, even before the summer of ’69. Does that mean there is no change, since change is merely a constant?

Sorry, i’ve been talking with too many philosophy majors lately, apparently.

Look at everything that’s come and gone
Sometimes when I play that old six-string
I think about ya wonder what went wrong

My guess? You played that old six-string too much and ignored her needs. But then again, i’m not a licensed therapist, so you should take my analysis with a grain of salt.

Standin’ on your mama’s porch
You told me that it’d last forever
Oh the way you held my hand
I knew that it was now or never
Those were the best days of my life

Okay, i may be completely out of my depth here, what with not having even been alive in 1969, much less a world-weary musically and romantically precocious nine-year-old, but i don’t think holding hands really carried that much weight in the late 60s. Or maybe it’s all in the way she held your hand—except i’m having trouble figuring out how exactly one would go about holding hands in such an intensely meaningful way.

Ah, the secrets Bryan Adams keeps!

Oh, yeah, back in the summer of '69
It was the summer of ’69
Me and my baby in ’69
It was the summer, summer, summer of ’69, yeah

You know, all in all, Bryan Adams has a lot going for him—he’s been one of the most consistent hitmakers in music over the course of decades, he’s rightfully famous for his portrait photography, he does really amazing philanthropic work, and he seems such an all-around good guy that it seems a little petty to criticize him for a bit of poor songwriting. And yeah, it is petty—but come on, this song merits it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm disappointed that you missed a jab about him spending his time at the drive-in. I mean, clearly, at 9, he was either driving or all his friends were. Just like most 9 year olds.

    My guess: It's really the summer of '79, but the three syllables of seventy didn't work so he changed it '69. Since it came out in 1985, '89 just wouldn't have worked.