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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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Comments

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  1. 1
    Matthew H on 5 May 2011 #

    So, when Spotify decreed free users could only listen to a song five times, they were actually being merciful.

  2. 2
    Billy Hicks on 5 May 2011 #

    Good luck Tom :D

    Being too young to remember, I’m really keen on hearing people’s memories of this song’s domination at the time. As the run went into double figures, did its continued stay at #1 become a national talking point? Was it reported much on the news and magazines, did it genuinely feel like it would be number 1 until the end of time, or at least until Christmas? Also, any theories at all why on earth it lasted so long would be interesting, because I haven’t a clue. The top 10 half the time was literally this and nine breakbeat rave tracks. Surely that was the defining pop sound of 1991, not this – why did this beat them all?

  3. 3
    Dan Worsley on 5 May 2011 #

    I predict by the tenth play Tom will be dribbling and barely able to construct a sentence.

  4. 4


    Too Sexy For My Pelt^^^

  5. 5
    Weej on 5 May 2011 #

    Re Billy at #2 – I was there at the time, between the ages of 11 and 12. At first I thought it was a bit silly, then I liked it, then I was bored with it, then I couldn’t believe it was still there at the top. Who was still buying it after week 10 or so? It did seem to be a big deal at the time, I remember hearing it everywhere, and I think I remember people talking about it a lot, might just have been my family / friends though. It also kept the other big hit of the year, Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy, at number two for quite a while.

  6. 6
    Billy Hicks on 5 May 2011 #

    Listening to it just the once, it’s a completely deserved number 1. It brings together the epic quality of 80s ballads with the more sophisticated production of those of the 1990s. Four or five weeks at number 1 would be perfectly fitting, long enough for everyone to see the film and buy the record, and then graciously leave the top to make way for something else. But of course, that didn’t quite happen. A 6 at the least, up there with The KLF.

  7. 7
    swanstep on 5 May 2011 #

    Tom, you’ve misplaced the parentheses: it’s (EID)IDIFY not EID(IDIFY).
    God help us all.

  8. 8
    punctum on 5 May 2011 #

    As previously noted, my response to this landmark chart-topper is far too long to publish here so I thought it best to put it on the blog:

    http://garbocathedral.blogspot.com/2011/05/thoughts-about-1991.html

  9. 9
    Matthew H on 5 May 2011 #

    With this kind of chart behemoth, you go through phases of acceptance, I think. To begin with, I found it drab and its run at the top started with a “why?”, then it was an irritant, then a joke, then a “go on, son, keep going” until finally I felt rather affectionate towards it. Things were worse with its near-challenger a few years later, where I ran the gamut from cringing at it to actually loving it.

    ‘Everything I Do’ entered the charts as my first year at university ended, and it tinkled about in the background while we spent the last weeks of term watching England vs West Indies through a fug of smoke. Three months later we came back for second year and the blessed thing was still No.1. By then it was a tongue-in-cheek anthem for us, but we were mainly excited about Screamadelica and, I dunno, Bizarre Inc.

    Having just listened to it – once – I quite like it. The plodding pull into the second verse is rather stirring, but it could still do with a stronger hook. Anyway, keep going Tom. You can do it.

  10. 10
    CarsmileSteve on 5 May 2011 #

    cos it’d been hanging around for aaaaaaaages before it got to number one as well. i seem to recall Simon Mayo being a BIG booster of it on the radio one morning show and then becoming more and more ashamed of what he had “done” as the weeks ticked by…

  11. 11
    Rory on 5 May 2011 #

    Also number one in Australia for 11 weeks from 27 July onwards, so we weren’t far short of your horror. Maybe I’ll listen along for 11 plays… nahhh.

    Lengthier Adams-related memories from me after Tom’s done and dusted. In the meantime, you might enjoy this related contribution to another of my online haunts.

  12. 12
    Weej on 5 May 2011 #

    Listening to it again once it sounds earnest, well-made, good as far as power ballads go (never a favourite), fairly agreeable. The wife says she likes it. Second listening it’s starting to sound overwrought and desperate, think I’ll leave it at that.

  13. 13
    El boludo on 5 May 2011 #

    Score predictions, anyone? I don’t think Tom’s going to have much goodwill left towards the track by the end of this stint. I’m guessing a 2.

  14. 14
    Chelovek na lune on 5 May 2011 #

    @Billy Hicks

    I’m evidently a couple of years younger than Tom; I was 16 at the time, had just done my GSCEs and some work experience at my local newspaper..

    In any case I’d say more or less the answer to all your questions is “yes”. And it outlasted the entire top 40 chart run of the two follow-up singles by Bryan Adams (the first of which was rather uninteresting, the second of which should have been received more favourably than it was IMHO).

    As for why? Not sure. Maybe just because after all the excitement of 1988-1990 pop music had got a bit crap and inbetweeny; Madchester had more or less died out (or had been commercialised by major record label cash-ins with half-hearted inept groups like the Milltown Brothers, Rain, or the f**king Mock Turtles), rave had (mostly) faded (although…thinking of the charts of this summer -“Night in Motion” by Cubik 22 – tune!), and, as previously discussed the KLF were the msot exciting thing around (and Altern-8 a desperate imitation thereof).

    For God’s sake the NME were bigging up the dire Flowered Up as the great white hope of Brixton Town…

    But the film/advert/TV cashin aspect, discussed earlier this year, I think is probably the main reason. And a simple lack of any really really good pop records. This song’s reign of terror, or rather, of abject boredom, at number 1, was also the time (more or less exactly) that the charts really started to speed up, with an excess of new entries, entering the charts and falling straight down. Not quite as mad as later in the 90s – but a big speeding up compared with what had gone up until then.

    I think the Hummingbirds’ “Blush” was from summer 91. Prepared to be told I’m wrong (by our Aussie contingent, perhaps). That’d have been a far more worthy chart-topper than this load of old tosh, but as it was it didn’t even scrape the top 75.

  15. 15
    Alex Niven on 5 May 2011 #

    This was the first single I ever owned, aged 7, on cassette.

    I remember vividly thinking: “there will never be another piece of music I love more than this”.

  16. 16
    Seb Patrick on 5 May 2011 #

    One thing, and one thing only, justifies this record’s existence: the cover of it by Gob Bluth and Franklin Delano Bluth in Arrested Development.

  17. 17
    Erithian on 5 May 2011 #

    Billy #2 – I don’t think the record that was at number 2 for almost half the length of the run – “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred – counts as a breakbeat rave track, though I may be wrong! (Marcello, was this the longest ever run at number 2 as far as you know? – from memory it was 7 weeks.)

    This was the year when the hostages in Beirut – John McCarthy, Terry Waite, Jackie Mann – were released after being held for up to five years. The gag was that McCarthy’s first words on being released were “is Bryan Adams still number one?” I was on a cycling holiday in the Netherlands and picked up a British tabloid in a roadside café to check it was still there in about week 9. Once it got beyond that – beyond Queen and Wings in recent chart terms – chart watchers were all waiting to see if it could overtake Slim Whitman’s record of 11 consecutive weeks, and after that every extra week felt historic. As I recall it certainly did cross into the national consciousness.

    Notable though that it’s not as high up in the all-time UK top sellers list as you might imagine from a 16-week behemoth – lower end of the teens IIRC without looking it up – indicating that the overall level singles sales was relatively low at this period.

  18. 18
    Scott M on 5 May 2011 #

    Seriously Tom, you should be sponsored for this.

    Having just listened again myself I have to say it’s not actually so bad, but I had no idea that it went on for 6 and half minutes! As a result I began to waver towards the end and I can hardly imagine how it would feel after another fifteen plays. I presume you’re listening to a radio edit?

    Good luck!

  19. 19
    JLucas on 5 May 2011 #

    I realise the last thing you’re going to want to do after listening to this sixteen consecutive times is investigate a fairly faithful cover version, but Brandy gave this a lovely emotive reading on her 1998 Never Say Never album. Strips away the AOR bombast that marrs the Adams version and reveals the plaintive cry for love that sits at the heart of the record. She always did have the most beautiful voice too, perfectly suited to this kind of ballad, and sadly wasted on much of her subsequent material.

    http://youtu.be/8Xnw3K4pcUM

  20. 20
    AN on 5 May 2011 #

    The score for Prince of Thieves was vaguely Vaughan-Williams-esque wasn’t it? And Michael Kamen was also one of the composers of this, so perhaps some light medievalism here too (the piano intro in particular sounds a bit folk-ish)?

    A sort of Troubadour conceit in the lyrics as well?

  21. 21
    Rory on 5 May 2011 #

    @8 Phew, what a corker!

    @14 No idea about the UK release, but in Oz it was 1989. I still have the free 7″ “debut single of the year” given away with the Australian Rolling Stone.

  22. 22
    Kat but logged out innit on 5 May 2011 #

    I’m so going to do this at karaoke next week.

  23. 23
    lex on 5 May 2011 #

    @10 it actually got to #1 in just its third week! And, looking at Polyhex, only spent 25 weeks in the charts in total – just six more than Adams’ second-longest chart run (“When You’re Gone”, of all things, wut?). That’s substantially less than big singles habitually spend hanging around now, in the download age – and actually, the songs that refuse to go away these days feel far more oppressive in their hanging around than I remember this doing. (And I’m not sure that, in a practical sense, whether a song stays at No 1 for 16 weeks or just stays in the top 10 for 16 weeks makes much difference.)

    But then, I was still only just starting to follow the charts when this happened. I was vaguely aware of other people, on the radio and on TOTP, getting excited about its run, but for all I knew this was just how things were. I liked it then, I liked the sweeping rush of it all; I liked the film, which was one of the first blockbusters I remember seeing; I liked how ridiculous its epic romantic sweep was. I don’t remember getting sick of it but then, I actually didn’t encounter it all that much in the wild, so to speak.

    I then spent 20 years not thinking very much about it until I randomly heard it at Lambeth County Fair last year, appropriately enough accompanying a fake jousting tournament. I was completely pissed on homemade cider by this stage and it sounded SO RIGHT AND PERFECT to sing and fist-pump along to. Here is a photo of that moment!

    I have just listened to it again in solidarity with Tom and in fact it held up to being repeated. But just the once.

  24. 24
    Weej on 5 May 2011 #

    The Guardian’s Reel History did a very funny takedown of RH:POT a while back – http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/jan/15/robin-hood-prince-of-thieves

  25. 25
    El boludo on 5 May 2011 #

    @18 bloody hell! The one I’m listening to is 4:17 and it seems to be going on forever. I must say that having Bryan’s mumblings during the solo pointed out to me has increased my enjoyment of the song quite a bit – hilarious!

    Although I was only 5 at the time I’m pretty sure I remember the fuss about this song and it’s long run at the top. No idea why that should be since I wasn’t at all interested in the charts at that age. My siblings and I (deliberately? I dunno) misinterpreted the lyric as “you can’t tell me it’s not worth Diet Coke”.

    It really does wear you down, this song. I can’t imagine what Tom must be going through. This marathon is like a more vexing Vexations, I bet it seems to go on longer!

  26. 26
    Anna on 5 May 2011 #

    I bought this, you know. On cassingle.

    I was also 12, hopelessly in love with Christian Slater and wanted to keep the video with him in it on Top Of The Pops. (Slater played Will Scarlett in Prince of Thieves.) So, really, the internet could have prevented that purchase. Cheap recording technology could have prevented that purchase. An early VHS release of Prince of Thieves could have prevented that purchase.

  27. 27
    Scott M on 5 May 2011 #

    The six and half minute version:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeZr3U_vbng

    I listened on Spotify, and that’s the version that’s the most popular version there, bafflingly.

  28. 28
    lex on 5 May 2011 #

    As for why this particular balladosaur, and why for so long, surely it’s the obvious answer – the film tie-in. Films have longer legs than pop songs as a matter of course, so if a pop song’s lifespan can be fixed to a film’s, it’ll obviously stand out. And the same is true of a couple of the songs that came closest to “Everything I Do” in the early ’90s.

    Film soundtrack tie-ins = the X Factor artificial boost of two decades previous?

  29. 29

    Blimey there’s a lot of Robin Hood films and TV series.

    “1967: Rocket Robin Hood, a space-age version of the Robin Hood legend, where he and his band of Merry Spacemen live in the year 3000 on Sherwood Asteroid and fight the evil Sheriff who rules the space territory of N.O.T.T.” <-- current favourite

  30. 30
    Gareth on 5 May 2011 #

    I had never heard this before (I spent 1991 listening to Steve Reich) and the thing that most strikes me about this single is how bad Bryan Adams’ voice had become. It was never all that great, but in a track like “Run To You” (1985) he lets his guitar playing do the business that his voice can’t supply. But in this track, which depends so much more on the vocal part, his voice is almost completely gone. Maybe the success of the single is down to the contrast between the bombast of the lyrics and the broken-down hoarseness of the delivery? Maybe people just felt sorry for him.

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