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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. 76
    Alan on 5 May 2011 #

    DVD bonus feature cover version http://trewartha.tumblr.com/post/5215109203/fatima-mansions-everything-i-do-i-do-it-for

  2. 77
    Izzy on 5 May 2011 #

    Nice top ten at #53!

    It’s a shame when some of my favourite near-misses pass by without me noticing, would like to mark them a bit more. ‘Charly’ is one of maybe only three new records to have had me gasping with euphoria on very first hearing* – I think it made #3, but there’s something reassuring in knowing it was a proper epic that kept it off the top.

    There were tons and tons of great rave records breezed into the upper reaches about this time – Bizarre Inc, SL2, more Prodigy, them was great days – but very few indeed reached the top slot. It can’t all have been down to Bryan Adams surely?!

    * ‘Beat Dis’ was the first and I’m sure it did make #2, but I have no idea what kept it off the top. The third did make #1 nine years after this, so I’ll save mentioning it ’til then. Discovery is the only album that’s ever pulled off the same trick – oddly I heard it for the first time recently, and I was delighted to find myself still capable of that reaction after all these years.

  3. 78
    lonepilgrim on 5 May 2011 #

    I’m a little sad to arrive after the epic feat of endurance but all credit to Tom for his perseverance. I imagined that after a while some sort of Stockholm Syndrome might have set in but he appears to have maintained his critical faculties.
    This is like the vanilla ice cream of pop sprinkled with a little bit of celtic, some throaty rock vocals and fairly generic lyrics. I find it hard to dislike but equally hard to get excited by. My main memory from 1991 is of the gurning guitarist on TOTP.

  4. 79
    Alan on 5 May 2011 #

    number one while “beat dis” stuck at 2: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/popular/2010/05/kylie-minogue-i-should-be-so-lucky/

  5. 80
    Andrew F on 5 May 2011 #

    I think you’d really like the film, Tom! It’s big and silly and enjoyable at this distance, and without Alan Rickman stealing every scene he’s even walking past, there’d be no Snape.

  6. 81
    AndyPandy on 5 May 2011 #

    38 very true about that market who only buy the record or book that “everyone else is buying” – and as well as not wanting to make that investment in music until they’re postive they want it – another thought is that many will probably not listen to music radio that much which explains why they’re still not bored of it 15 weeks after it got to number one.

  7. 82
    anto on 5 May 2011 #

    If nothing else I suppose Everything I Do was a lesson in being careful not to underestimate anyone. Apart from his run of hits in 1984/85 I don’t recall Bryan Adams being a chart regular as such prior to this. In fact I daresay a lot of people had forgotten about him by 1991 and then – we could hardly ignore this one. As it turned out the nineties rather than the eighties is when he hit really big.

    The follow-up was called Can’t Stop This Thing We Stared.
    Oh you said it Bryan.

  8. 83
    fivelongdays on 5 May 2011 #

    Bryan Adams mondegreen time – I always thought Summer of ’69’s opening line was ‘I had my first real sex dream over at the five and dime’.

    Talking of that particular song, it seems as if you’re as likely, if not more so, to bump into that as (EID)IDIFY, these days. Anyone got any ideas why?

  9. 84
    23 Daves on 5 May 2011 #

    It’s so strange – every time I visit Canada (where my in-laws live), it tends to be “Summer of ’69” you hear on the radio as the national Bryan Adams favourite rather than this. The way it captured the British imagination but not his heartland’s imagination to the same extent is a bizarre turn of events. Yes, it got to number one there, but so did “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started”.

    I don’t find it difficult to understand why so many people appreciated this song, even without the film tie-in. It’s a rock epic akin to Meatloaf’s Steinman penned epics, the kind of thing that leaves me cold but contains enough mixture of pop craft and rock dramatics to please a broad cross-section of the public. What genuinely stuns me is how it kept Right Said Fred off the top with a tune which I’d be willing to bet is still greeted with a certain degree of enthusiasm today despite its chart longevity.

    I’d also agree that note-for-note, “Everything I Do” is too over-familiar for me to offer any kind of reasonable or distant critical analysis of. Even the mocking, perverse cover version by The Fatima Mansions released in the same year was unappealing to me due to the fact that I’d already dissected and considered the original to death.

  10. 85
    Conrad on 6 May 2011 #

    I’ve just you-tubed this and you know it reminds me of Dire Straits. A sort of Romeo and Juliet on steroids.

  11. 86
    Conrad on 6 May 2011 #

    don’t know about rave being the only thing dominating the charts while this was number 1. Grunge got invented while Bryan clung to his denim, and American rock acts suddenly seemed to be taking over.

    Albums released during Bryan’s reign-

    Nirvana, Nevermind
    Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magick
    Guns N Roses, Use Your Illusion I and II
    Pearl Jam, Ten
    Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger
    Metallica, Black Album

  12. 87
    weej on 6 May 2011 #

    Bryan Adams, “Singer-songwriter, musician, photographer, social activist,” was born on the 5th November 1959, making him nine years old in the summer of ’69.

  13. 88
    Rory on 6 May 2011 #

    (This is a long digression before a fairly brief comment on the song itself, but it sets the context for my comments on the next few entries, so here goes.)

    1991 was a transitional year for me: I’d moved out of the home I grew up in, gone interstate, started a PhD, moved from a college room to a friend’s spare room to a share house, suspended my PhD so I could do a one-year masters after a late offer came in, driven all the way back home so I could leave my car and all my stuff there, flown from Hobart, to Melbourne, to Bangkok, to Amsterdam (where I wandered around the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum for a couple of days), to London (for the first time in six years, which felt like forever at that age), stayed with relatives for a bit, and finally caught the train up to the town where I would be spending the next nine months.

    I’ve been reading Popular comments long enough to feel a bit reluctant to say which town it was, because I know the baggage it brings; but hey, I was a young Aussie, and we can ignore all of that class stuff when it suits us. So, it was one of those university towns – the ones with the punts. Someone mentioned Terry Waite above; I saw him wandering down the street one day while I was there, not long after his release. Walked past Stephen Hawking once, too.

    So, there I was, newly arrived in Ancient University, in another college room, wondering what came next. Wondering where the “buttery” was, so I could eat. Wondering where the shower was. (It wasn’t. A year of baths lay ahead.) And wondering what I would listen to.

    Through all of these months of personal upheaval and culture shock, music had been a reassurance, a connection to the known, even as my tastes were changing. At the beginning of the year I was discovering Brahms; later, thanks to new flatmates, I was hearing Ziggy-era Bowie and Capitol-era Sinatra for the first time; and a chance purchase of The La’s in a bargain bin opened my ears to what was to come next. But those CDs and tapes were all back in Australia.

    In those days, relocating to the other side of the world was a much bigger deal than it is now. Communicating with home meant writing aerogrammes and waiting a week each way for a reply, or feeding pound coins into a payphone at an ominous rate. My stay was almost over when I saw another postgrad using one of the college Middle Common Room computers to email her parents in NZ, which looked fantastic, but there was no point getting an email account unless my folks had one as well (I got one six months later). Keeping up with news from Australia was pretty much impossible; about all I got from the BBC was the news that our PM had put his arm around the Queen (which led to MCR conversations about republicanism where I was bemused to be asked not if Australia would become a republic – which was taken as a given – but whether Britain should). In those days, the other side of the world really did feel like the other side of the world; I felt more removed from home and family and friends during that year than I have in the past decade of living in Britain again. That’s ubiquitous low-cost global communications networks for you.

    The other thing that must be utterly different for today’s international students is that, in the digital domain at least, there’s no need to leave anything behind. A pocket-sized terabyte USB hard-drive will let you bring everything, assuming you’ve ripped it all or it was digital in the first place. In 1991, even though my music collection was much smaller than it is now, there was no way I was fitting much of it into a 20kg suitcase – so I didn’t even try. I didn’t even bring a walkman or a single mixtape. My first purchases were a portable CD player/tapedeck/radio and a pair of yellow-foam Sennheisers from Richer Sounds, and then I started my music-buying from scratch.

    As a result, just about every CD I bought that year is burned into my brain, starting with the first few from the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street: new albums by Tom Petty (one of his best), Big Country (not their best), and the Pet Shop Boys (greatest hits). I even remember far more of Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Oratorio than it really deserves. As for what came next… well, that comes next.

    And along with those early purchases, one unexpected but oddly reassuring thread of continuity: the song that had been at number one when I was packing everything into my car in early August was still number one when I was unpacking my suitcase in late September. Even better, the distraction of relocating to the other side of the world meant that I didn’t loathe it with the burning passion that hearing it continuously for 11 or 16 weeks would have kindled.

    I still didn’t think it was all that, though. While I knew some of Adams’s work, he was more to the taste of my brother and some of my friends; the kind of people who loved Bon Jovi. I had a C90 of Cuts Like a Knife and Reckless courtesy of my brother, but this song wasn’t much like those. I was a big Hysteria fan, so the Mutt Lange production should have appealed to me, but here it didn’t. In Popular scoring terms I might have given this a 4 at the time, and that’s what I’ve given it now.

    But I’m still happy to hear it (once, and for the first time in years), thanks to the time it takes me back to. So much good music, and so much else, was just around the corner.

  14. 89

    […] has a go at Bryan Adams’ laboriously titled (Everything I Do) I Do It For You,” which spent […]

  15. 90
    swanstep on 6 May 2011 #

    If anyone’s interested, there’s a nice Onion avclub piece on Hysteria here. The author talks a lot about the shadowy figure of Mutt Lange, comparing him to the character of Swan (from whom I take my own nom-de-online!) in the ’70s cult classic film Phantom of the Paradise. Rather similarly, I always used to mentally blur super-producer Trevor Horn (half-remembered from Buggles videos) with Eldon Tyrell from Blade Runner. Though both Horn and Lange have continued to make hits for people, studio tech has been so democratized in the last two decades that the days of slightly spooky/sinister super-producers whom people hire precisely to blow everybody else away with their superior studio firepower appears to have passed.

  16. 91
    Garry on 6 May 2011 #

    I saw the film – I liked. I remember the song dominating the Australian charts quite distinctly (I was 14) – I didn’t like. I remember the song bored me silly.

    But I mostly I remember Martika’s Love… Thy Will Be Done was, if memory serves me right, number 2 for most of the Adam’s run at #1 (11 weeks). And at the time I felt it would never topple Adams. I longed for it to do so. I didn’t find Martika brilliant, but it was a lot more interesting than Adams bellowing.

    For me it was Robert Palmer vs the Timelords in 1988 all over again but over a longer period of time. Though unlike the Timelods, Martika finally hit the top spot for a solitary week.

    Only to be knocked off prompty by Big Audio Dynamite which briefly restored my faith in pop. :)

  17. 92
    lex on 6 May 2011 #

    I’d forgotten that this single served the public good of keeping Right Said Fred off No 1. “I’m Too Sexy” was one of the first songs I remember viscerally loathing – I think even at the age of 8 I could tell that it was about the most unsexy thing ever. It was bafflingly on all the dance compilations I was starting to buy and I remember the pain of having to forward past it every time all too well.

  18. 93
    Erithian on 6 May 2011 #

    Izzy #77 – “gasping with euphoria on very first hearing” is a great phrase, and reminds me of my similar reaction to a track I heard for the first time towards the end of EID’s run, and which heralds another phenomenon of the times. The track was “Love’s Sweet Exile” by the Manic Street Preachers – being already somewhat older than the band’s main target demographic, I remember the shock on younger colleagues’ faces when I told them I not only liked the Manics but had their first few albums. More on them is a few Popular-years’ time, though.

  19. 94
    hardtogethits on 6 May 2011 #

    The only record ever to spend more than half of its top 75 chart run at number one.

  20. 95
    Mark G on 6 May 2011 #

    Presumably, the six-minute-plus version was for the end credits of the film?

  21. 96
    Blue Straggler on 6 May 2011 #

    iirc it took a dubious marketing ploy from U2 to knock this off (they announced that “The Fly” would only be on sale for a week, or for 3 weeks, or some such thing). When arguably the biggest band in the world still has to resort to slightly underhand tactics, you have to wonder whether Adams’ run might have been even longer.

  22. 97
    hardtogethits on 6 May 2011 #

    @96. You’re right about the ploy, but EID(IDIFY) dropped to #4 – it was on the way out anyway.

  23. 98
    Cumbrian on 6 May 2011 #

    The official line on this was that the label wanted to get 2 singles out prior to Christmas to support the album launch – which was at the end of November, so they pulled it after 3 weeks, in order that they could get Mysterious Ways out.

    I don’t feel like this is a ploy to get a #1 – actually, I think it’s reasonably smart marketing; you’ve got a new album released near Christmas, a time when records should fly off the shelves. Shouldn’t you want more tracks from the album in the public consciousness in order to stimulate sales at what could well be a competitive time?

  24. 99
    MichaelH on 6 May 2011 #

    I was out with Tom and a bunch of other people recently, and this song came up in conversation. The group divided along age lines: all those who were 35 or over rolled their eyes as they relived the misery; all those under – including Lex – put up a spirited defence of its merits, to the surprise (I think) of we older types. Maybe the song wasn’t tainted for them because they don’t have such clear memories of it dragging on and on and on over months of ToTP.

  25. 100
    Wizi on 6 May 2011 #

    I can remember loving the singles from Reckless back in ’85 and years later feeling sad that that Bryan Adams never managed to continue his success.

    Then this came along and I liked it and just willed it to stay at number one. I now like (EID)IDIFY more and more, even though I prefer “Cloud no.9” and another track for which the bunny will keep me quiet for now. (EID)IDIFY goes down very well live, although it is not the most favourite song for Bryan’s regular audiences.

    I did listen to a radio production of Doctor Who and it was set somewhere where the time never progresses from that summer of ’91 and Bryan Adams is actually number one for what seems like forever.

    A nine from me.

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