May 11

BRYAN ADAMS – “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”

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#667, 13th July 1991

Sixteen Listens For Sixteen Weeks: An Everything I Do Liveblog

This song got to number one for 16 weeks, so I decided to play it 16 times in a row, writing as I went.

Play 1: And we’re off. I’ve honestly hardly heard this in the last twenty years so I don’t anticipate the full horror will strike me for a few plays. In case anyone doesn’t know why I’m doing this, “Everything I Do” – a soundtrack hit from Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves – holds the record for the longest consecutive run at Number One in the UK singles chart. At least one other record has come close, a few have threatened to, but this is still the champ. Sixteen weeks. Almost four months.

The record is – oh look, you know this, but anyway – it’s a power ballad, slower in fact than I remember. Very weighty. It levels up repeatedly, reaches a climax about two-thirds of the way through, then we have a lingering solo (which I didn’t remember at all and have really no desire to hear another fifteen times), a reprise of the pre-chorus and chorus, and that’s your lot.

Play 2: So on first go that wasn’t so bad! I was 18 when this song was around and I dare say a great deal less amenable to ballads in general and romantic ballads in particular. The song got to number one just after I’d left school – I was spending the summer listening to Bob Dylan and picking fruit for a pittance. “Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands” – now there, I thought, was a love song. I suspect “Everything I Do” might have a rather wider appeal. (Ah – the solo again – now I’m noticing little moans from Bry on it, dear me.) Anyway I hardly noticed this being number one for its first few weeks and certainly bore it no ill will.

Play 3: “This is a little bit sad music” says a passing four-year old. “I don’t like sad music.” Don’t worry, only thirteen more plays to go! Anyway, in the comments Billy Hicks asks the killer question – why this? As he points out the top ten seemed to be this plus half a dozen breakbeat tracks. At the risk of a stab at topicality which will date this entry event more, there’s yer argument for AV right there. If the second preference votes for Rebel MC had been counted in favour of the Prodigy perhaps we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

More seriously I think there’s a sense in which “Everything I Do” was put at number one as a reaction to a lot of the other stuff which was going on in pop, a ballad built on good old fashioned (well, circa 1986) values. Doesn’t quite explain the longevity, though.

Play 4: That piano intro is starting to sound a bit fussy. You also have to think about the subject matter, of course. Most of the really colossal 90s hits are love songs, and very big, demonstrative, Hollywood love songs at that. And there hadn’t been many of those at Number One recently, the last comparable thing was probably “Unchained Melody”, which was from 1965 anyway. Someone in the comments called “I Wanna Sex You Up” distressingly indiscreet, which seems a bit prudish but Bryan is definitely serving up something a bit more romantic – the sexing you up is all in the thrusting, hairy-chested sound of it, not in the devotional words.

Play 5: By this point in 1991 it was simply a big summer hit – I was aware of it, and pretty sick of it, but I still doubt anyone predicted it would have the legs it did. I don’t recall it breaking sales records – the overall levels of singles sales were quite weak, so the reign of the balladosaurs was partly a function of no real competition. Broad-based hits were rarer, so when one did come along it would really clean up.

I’m feeling a bit resentful of its bludgeoning properties by now.

Play 6: The film, right, let’s talk about the film. I never saw it. I understand someone shoots an arrow into a tree at one point.

So let’s not talk about the film yet. I’m definitely noticing little touches in the production – it feels wrong to call them “subtleties” somehow – there’s a kind of quiet keyboard bit going on behind the riffola just before the solo, for instance. It all serves to make the record bigger and more treacly.

Play 7: Someone has pointed out that there’s a SIX AND A HALF MINUTE version of this, if someone throws me a YouTube I’ll treat myself to it, but no, the bulk of these plays are a radio edit.]

What’s dominating the record now for me is Adams’ voice. It’s very effortful, really bringing out his fighting for you, dying for you, etc. It’s no walk in the park, this doing everything he does for you stuff! He’d been around for a while by this time, slogging away without really making much of an impression on me. He’d done “Run To You” and that showed he had the requisite huskiness for this kind of music, but he’s a bit of a nullity otherwise. That’s probably a contributory factor to the success here, though – if you’re buying this after seeing the film, you’re probably not thinking of Bryan Adams at all, you’re thinking of Kevin Costner clad in stubble and lincoln green. I see the sleeve goes very heavy on the film title and very light on the song title, for instance.

Play 8: There’s obviously a sort of Ren Faire appeal going on here, too – there’s something a little archaic, courtly almost, in the phrasing on “search your heart, search your soul, when you find me there you’ll search no more”, and we’re in the decade of Riverdance and Braveheart and a general bodice’n’broadsword revival (which culminates in Lord Of The Rings I guess, except luckily the songs from that are all IN ELVISH, thanks Tolk!). The reading of Robin Hood implied is less freedom fighter than a kind of Chivalry rockist, the man who understands duty, honour, love etc but is forced undercover by the decadent tenor of the times.

Play 9: OK, it’s time for the six minute version. on YouTube complete with Windows Movie Maker style floaty lyrics. The piano seems mixed up a bit higher, the guitars are a little more turbo-charged but it looks like the extra minutes are all at the end, which rather wrecks the song’s dying fall, replacing it with a bit of piano and guitar vamping and Bryan doing some kind of – improvised moaning? It’s a bit like a really bad Rod Stewart track but with a lot more crashing and soloing. Sorry, Bryan, this won’t do at all – all the precisely constructed build up of romance wrecked on this longer edit in favour of a bit of post-coital mumbling and grunting. It’s like Bryan is rolling over and stealing your duvet. Or your bearskin or whatever, this is the 13th century after all.

Play 10: Back to the shorter edit, and the clanging chimes of doom start up again. Lex in the comments points out rightly that, yes, obviously the film tie-in is why this managed such a gargantuan shift at the top (by week ten it had gone past “Two Tribes”, my benchmark for massivity in hits, and everyone had noticed what was going on). One of my pet theories is how pop is basically quite a small medium, easily bullied and shifted off course by the gravitational pull of other artforms – and cinema in the 90s exerted a particular force. So in a way it’s surprising there weren’t MORE Adams-sized hits.

I’m really wincing now when the BIG CHORDS come in, it’s like the song is a mash up of a films love scene and fight scene both at once.

Play 11: OK, definitely hitting a wall here. As someone else said in the comments, who on Earth was buying this after ten weeks? I’ve now managed to get myself into the same place of sullen anger I was in back in ’91, as the nights drew in, I started a crap job in the wines section of Tescos, and this bastard thing was STILL at number one.

Play 12: I mean, sixteen weeks is a really long time. It’s like six Olympics back-to-back, or a double summer holiday back when you were a kid and summer holidays lasted forever. They’re doing the TOTP re-runs on BBC4 and people are shifting uneasily as the Brotherhood Of Man are on it week after week (with, I admit, a worse song than this), and that was number one for way less than this. Maybe I should have taken it as a sign to stop caring about pop music, but there was a lot of stuff around I really loved and believed in. On the other hand, by week twelve you didn’t really hear it much in the wild, it was just out there somewhere, selling to someone. I wonder if there was ever peer pressure on people who hadn’t bought it yet?

Play 13: Time to take stock of what I think of it. The opening is the best part, I think – it’s gentle, it sounds humble (as someone pointed out, his voice does sound pretty fucked, but for me that suits the been-through-a-battle vibe). The piano chord announcing the second section sounds grossly echoey, though, and the rhythm it sets up is really donkey-ish and plodding. By this point Adam’s identical long vowels are starting to grate, too. The “no love, like your love” does the same stuff, but heavier – plate mail now, not leather armour – and it works better that way, approaching something like rock. Which is why the solo is such a drag, a real energy-killer – Bryan sounds even more knackered after it, like the drums are having to prop his wounded frame up. And then he dies, and it’s almost pretty again, or perhaps I’m just glad it’s ending.

Play 14: This time watching the video, a treat I’ve so far denied myself. The denim! Goodness me, I’d forgotten what a poster boy for denim he was. Bryan looks exhausted before it even starts, grizzled and baffled, a very un-starry sort of star. Most compelling is the bassist uncomfortably squatting up and down before the solo.

Play 15: My wife, who was 15 at the time of EID’s chart reign, went to a Bryan Adams gig in Summer ’92 – supported by Extreme. I asked her if there was any particular reaction when “Everything I Do” was played, but no – it was lighters aloft the whole time of course, but no great excitement. “He was a nice man who’d made a nice song and the whole thing was very nice” was her – not damning – verdict. “Everything I Do” is forceful, sweeping, and suchlike – and memorable too – but also rather unshowy and straightforward. A denimish sort of a song. You can imagine it not wearing out its welcome among its constituency, in the way that something more kitschy – a Jim Steinman jam, perhaps – might make fans feel uncomfortable or awkward after a while. It’s a low-calorie type of a power ballad.

Play 16: “Last play!” I announce to the family. “Good!” says my four year old. “Let’s see if the song’s getting better or worser.” I press play. “It’s getting worser.” Too right. Though actually it hit bottom a few plays ago, and now – just as then – a sort of acceptance has set in. By the sixteenth week, everyone knew it was absurd that this laboured but harmless thing had been at number one for so long, but there was amusement at that absurdity. Which isn’t to say I wasn’t grateful when the spell was finally broken – far happier with the band responsible than I’ve ever been before or since.

So sixteen plays later, what have I learned? Weirdly, I still find it quite hard to get a grip on. For all its bluster there’s an amiable space at the centre of “Everything I Do”, a knack of fading into the background which probably stood it in good stead. I boggled at it in 1991 but I don’t think I hated it, and I can’t really hate it now.



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  1. 126
    Billy Smart on 8 May 2011 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: The groover from Vancouver doesn’t appear in British TV studios all that often;

    AL MURRAY’S HAPPY HOUR: with Paul Daniels, Bryan Adams, Kelly Osbourne, Andy Serkis (2008)

    FRIDAY NIGHT’S ALL WRIGHT: with Gordon Ramsay, Dennis Rodman, Gwyneth Strong, Shelby Lynne, Lisa Loud, Bryan Adams, Lenny Biege (1999)

    LIVE FROM ABBEY ROAD: with Gary Dyson (Interviewer), Bryan Adams, Justin Currie, Ben Harper (2008)

    THE NATIONAL LOTTERY LIVE: with Bob Monkhouse, Alan Dedicoat (The Voice of the Balls), Bryan Adams, Mystic Meg, Peter Gardner, Ricky Hards (1996)

    PARKINSON: with Joan Collins, Jeremy Clarkson, William Hague, Bryan Adams (1998)

    SATURDAY LIVE: with Mark Morrison, Bryan Adams (1996)

    T•F•I• FRIDAY: with Will Macdonald, Andrew the Barman, Bryan Adams, Melvyn Bragg, Chris Rea, Shed Seven, Skunk Anansie, Sharleen Spiteri (1996)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates, Bryan Adams, Lucinda Lambton, Tim Healy, Fine Young Cannibals, Muriel Gray (1985)

    WOGAN: with Bryan Adams, Chris Tarrant, Simon Forbes (1991)

    WOGAN: with Bryan Adams, Donald Pleasence, Emo Phillips, Les Dennis (1991)

  2. 127
    Billy Smart on 8 May 2011 #

    Michael Howard chose this as his favourite record of all time on Desert Island Discs.

  3. 128
    hardtogethits on 8 May 2011 #

    #122. What?

  4. 129
    Izzy on 9 May 2011 #

    #125-6: I remember Bryan turning up in the audience at totp one time, and barging aside a presenter during a link, all while wearing a Chelsea shirt. He was never announced and you couldn’t even see him that clearly, so it seemed a bit odd, especially as he didn’t have a record in the charts at the time iirc. Why would he go to Elstree to do that?!

  5. 130
    Izzy on 9 May 2011 #

    #123: doubtless everyone feels the same about their own era, but I first found music press music in 1991 and it seemed anything but the doldrums to me – plenty of genuine indie classic albums that year (the ones you mention, tfc, mbv, st et), awesome shoegaze eps dropping fortnightly, tons of wonderful dance singles.

    In retrospect it was always the latter that affected me most and that I’d like to hear now, so I do resent spending years in the music press ghettoes for years afterwards. The dance stuff they covered tended for obvious reasons towards po-faced albums acts rather than cartoonish singles merchants, which is a shame but I guess maybe shows that reading is not always the best reaction to great tunes.

    1991 does seem like a rather unassuming period, compared to what came after and what had just been – there seems more of a spectrum of possibility for that kind of music press music, in the absence of a grand narrative. But then that’s probably only apparent if you were there to feel the stuff that’s been all forgotten now. Still, if britpop allowed for these various nooks, I don’t remember them.

  6. 131
    Steve Williams on 9 May 2011 #

    As #125 points out, another thing that emphasised its marathon run was that Adams only performed it on Top of the Pops once, so for its entire run it was represented by either the same performance or the video – and when Pops was revamped in October, they couldn’t show the performance anymore either, because it was on the old set, so you just got the video over and over again instead, which made it seem number one for longer.

    1991 was a very strange year musically because, as I mentioned when commenting on Chesney Hawkes, there were virtually no teen idols around – New Kids On The Block, Kylie and Jason were all going down the dumper, and at the Smash Hits Awards there were prizes for Marky Mark and Extreme. You ended up with Smash Hits promoting the likes of Jesus Jones and EMF, as well as the bog standard likes of Kenny Thomas. So there was nobody around to stop Adams, really.

    Incidentally I dunno why every wedding DJ now seems to play Summer of 69, I was at a do the other week and said to the person I was sitting next to that DJs in these places always play Summer of 69, only for him to put it on thirty seconds later. I read it was on the playlist for the Royal Wedding reception! I wouldn’t mind, but it’s undanceable.

  7. 132
    Pete on 17 May 2011 #

    It’s fair to say that whilst this was number 1 the remainder of the 80s quietly snucked out the back door whilst the 90s filtered in dribs and drabs.

  8. 133
    swanstep on 18 May 2011 #

    Just noticed that Roxette’s 1989 hit ‘The Look’ has an (ungrammatical) line in its chorus:

    When everything I’ll ever do, I do for you.

    Just coincidence I suppose.

  9. 134

    [...] of this is shamelessly ‘borrowed’ (inspired by) Tom Ewing’s fantastic live-blog (found here: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/popular/2011/05/bryan-adams-everything-i-do-i-do-it-for-you/) in which he listened to Brian Adams’ ‘Everything I Do’ sixteen times in a row, one for every [...]

  10. 135
    The Lurker on 20 May 2011 #

    #87 – Bryan Adams has claimed that the 69 in “Summer of 69″ does not refer to the year, which puts a slightly different spin on it being a wedding favourite.

  11. 136

    [...] BRYAN ADAMS – “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” | FreakyTrigger. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  12. 137
    Sonb on 21 Mar 2012 #

    One word. Urgh. Kevin Costner and this sickly number 1. Not a great combination. Looking at all the other great summertime music released at the time that Alfred pointed out:

    D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince – Summertime
    Crystal Waters – Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless) and Makin’ Happy

    I think most of the purchasers of this was the entire female population in the UK. It touches something in the female psyche I guess (and I am a woman too).

  13. 138
    Nik Krohn on 30 Apr 2012 #

    Are you every thing do it? Nice post.
    Thanks for your nice post…

  14. 139
    Mark G on 30 Apr 2012 #

    Yes. We are everything do it. Thanks for noticing.

  15. 140
    Ricardo on 7 Jan 2013 #

    Why only now I felt the need to comment on this, I don’t know! But there you go.
    With the benefit of hindsight, one can easily claim this song was the Power Ballad Era’s one last big shot at the limelight a few months before That Album With The Naked Baby Under The Pool Water changed everything.
    OK, so a lot of you will claim the whole power ballad thing never really hit in the UK the way it did in America or even some other Continental Europe countries. Fair enough. In fact, I’d wager that “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” might even be the only such member of its species troubling Popular‘s narrative. Still, one cannot help to think that this is another case where a song’s mammoth success is not, in any shape or form, a new beginning, but rather the very peak of Something and that the road marked Down is the only way possible after it. Needless to say, Bryan hasn’t exactly hit such heights since then, and power ballads as unashamedly big as this started becoming a scarcity, probably as a result of a Where To Go Next after such giddy heights.

  16. 141
    xyzzzz__ on 24 Mar 2013 #

    At least you were spared from reviewing this:


  17. 142
    DanH on 3 Aug 2013 #

    Although this song only spent 7 weeks at #1 here in the States, we had a motley crew of #2′s behind it…

    “Right Here, Right Now” – Jesus Jones – along with EMF, our only big hit from the early ’90s British rock scene

    “P.A.S.S.I.O.N” – Rhythm Syndicate – who?

    “Every Heartbeat” – Amy Grant – it’s sad that I remember so many Amy Grant songs from that period. So much so that when I first heard “Speak Like a Child,” I started singing the EH chorus

    “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” – Lenny Kravitz – the closest he ever got to a U.S. #1

    “Fading Like a Flower” – Roxette – don’t remember that one

  18. 143
    Steviebab on 22 Nov 2013 #

    I hated this song so much. Partly for its blandness, partly for its success and longevity but mainly for what I saw as some kind of self-perpetuating endorsement. People thought it must be good because it remained at number one so long. It wasn’t. At the time I disliked my job and I worked with a girl who (along with her boyfriend) bought all the number one singles, whether they liked them or not. I was especially opposed to this populist approach. Why buy stuff you don’t like? At least this being No. 1 for so long saved them some money.

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