If you were a teenager in the 1980s, there is a good chance that your first slow dance was to a song by Bryan Adams. (“Heaven” was my senior prom theme.) And there is also a good chance you rocked out to some of his harder hits like “Summer of 69,” “Cuts Like a Knife” and “Somebody.”
The Canadian rocker with the American sound knows how to do it all, with close to 100 million albums sold worldwide. But unlike a lot of musicians who hit in the 1980s and now play the nostalgia circuit, Mr. Adams continues to make vital new music. His latest album, “Get Up,” produced by Jeff Lynne, is an amazing step forward in a constantly evolving career that shows no sign of slowing down.
Mr. Adams spoke to The Washington Times about the new CD and what it was like to play Live Aid.
Question: How did you get Jeff Lynne to produce your new CD?
Answer: A friend of mine is also a friend of his. We were just talking, and I said, “Oh, if you see Jeff, say hi from me.” He said, “I will.” Then I got a message back: “Oh, Jeff wants you to call him when you get to L.A. sometime.” So I called, [then] went up and saw him.
Jeff said, “Do you wanna cut a track sometime?” I said, “Yeah.”
Q: What did Jeff bring in producing the record?
A: Well, he did what I would imagine he does in any project that he’s done: He sort of becomes a member of the band. In this case, on the majority of the tracks he produced on this album, he is the band.
I had wanted to work with Jeff for a long time. When it finally happened I was elated.
Q: How did it go from doing one track to a whole album?
A: When I heard the first track we did played back, I thought, “Wow, we can’t just stop here.” I kept asking him to do more songs. That is how the album came about. I never actually said, “Hey, can you produce my album?”
We did a track together, and one by one it grew. I would say, “Wanna do another track?” He always said, “Well, I’ve got my album to do.” I said, “That’s OK. Whenever you’ve got time.” I was in no hurry.
Q: A lot of artists from the 1980s are content to go the nostalgia route, but you keep making new music.
A: I was asked to go the nostalgia route, as you would call it, on the last album, “Tracks of My Years,” which I was reluctant to do. I would literally leave one studio where I was recording the covers with David Foster, and go to another studio where I was working on the new album with Jeff. That gave me the impetus to get through the Foster record, because I didn’t enjoy that at all.
Q: If you didn’t enjoy the covers record, why did you do it?
A: I did it because my management and record company wanted me to. I got into it in the end. And David is a brilliant producer — nothing against him. It just wasn’t something I really wanted to do. It was funny literally leaving one studio thinking “ugh,” then going into the [next] studio going “ah!” It wasn’t for the “ah!” moments, I wouldn’t have gotten through the “ugh” moments.
Q: You revisited your album “Reckless” for the 30th anniversary with a two-CD set and tour. What did you discover when you went back to those recordings?
A: I found a lot of extra songs [and] demos that were left behind. Putting together the package was quite fun. Digging up things that didn’t exist anymore. Making that record, that 2-CD reissue, was kind of like looking for buried treasure because everything had been lost.
Q: What do you mean by “lost”?
A: In the transition of the label selling itself over and over again — I’m talking about A&M — everything was misplaced. Not just the master tapes, I’m talking about artwork. All gone. I kept writing to the archives at Universal Music and said, “You’ve got to have something. It couldn’t have just disappeared.”
While I was working on the “ugh” project, I walked down the hall to the archive, because it was in the same building. I asked, “Can I have a look through the drawers?” I found what they call a transparency for a VHS box. That was the only thing left from the artwork. It wasn’t even labeled in a folder. I had to open several folders and stumbled on it.
With the tapes the same story happened. When [producer Bob] Clearmountain and I used to make records, we would run the master tape and run a copy at the same time. We would have a safety in case anything happened to the master. We would always have a backup copy. I would take the copy and put it in my studio, but I had forgotten I had it. We needed the tapes because you can’t remaster from mastered CDs. — you have to do it from the tapes. I went through my archive, and suddenly I saw it: “Reckless Master.”
Q: Do you have favorites among the songs you’ve written?
A: I like the songs everyone else likes. I tend to forget until I get to my set list, and I see it and say, “Yeah, it’s gonna be good.”
Q: Do you have a regimen to keep your voice in shape?
A: Nothing. I just have a cup of tea.
Q: What was playing Live Aid in 1985 like?
A: It was kind of weird. We were just hoping that everything worked. Jack Nicholson introduced me. That was kind of surreal. It was pretty exciting because just before we went on, somebody said, “You’re the first artist to go out live around the world.” That was pretty cool.
“Get Up” is out Friday.