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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. 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. :)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 94
    hardtogethits on 6 May 2011 #

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

  5. 95
    Mark G on 6 May 2011 #

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 101
    23 Daves on 6 May 2011 #

    #99 – I think another issue here (for me, at least) is that any summer number ones which occurred while I was on my break from school, college or university always somehow seemed inescapable. There’s a whole variety of reasons why this might be the case, but I think it was partly down to the fact that I’d tend to have the radio on a lot more during the daytime, and also time tended to drag a bit because my days weren’t so full. A five-week number one could feel like it had stuck around for double that length of time. A 16 week number one, on the other hand, was pushing matters to the limit.

    Ever since I’ve been working, I’ve barely noticed if a summer number one has had a long stint at the top.

    I also seem to remember that “The ITV Chart Show” had a custom of displaying how long a record had been at Number One, but in the case of “Everything I Do” I think they just completely gave up telling us after the ninth week, almost as if it was too much effort to keep tallying up the score.

  12. 102
    punctum on 6 May 2011 #

    #96: bunny alert

  13. 103
    Steve Mannion on 6 May 2011 #

    It was interesting (but disappointing) how the three longest-running #1s of the 90s all supported Hollywood blockbusters. It also supports the idea that the grandiose ballad was/is the most universally acceptable song type (most likely way to get an extended run…even without film tie-in). I don’t suppose the KLF had ever considered this approach tho.

    It was also interesting that Adams became the second long-established artist of the year to finally achieve their first top 10 hit with a #1.

    Did Adams unexpected success directly inspire Rage’s cover of ‘Run To You’ or would that have come about anyway (it may have been the most recent hit single to have received the dance cover treatment at the time)?

    The full number 2 watch during BA’s reign of terror:

    Heavy D & The Boyz – “Now That We Found Love” (1 week at #2)
    Extreme – “More Than Words” (2 weeks)
    Right Said Fred – “I’m Too Sexy” (6 wks)
    Salt n’ Pepa – “Let’s Talk About Sex” (2 wks)
    The Scorpions – “Wind Of Change” (2 wks)
    2 Unlimited – “Get Ready For This” (1 wk)

    I would’ve preferred all of those to have ousted Adams altho I wouldn’t give any above a 7 personally (these songs in turn kept a number of barn-storming rave hits from climbing higher including ‘Charly’, ‘Move Any Mountain’ and Oceanic’s ‘Insanity’ but I do try not to be too bitter…

    Adams himself gets just 2 (1 point for the middle eight, so often my favourite part of songs…tho that’s really not saying much here).

  14. 104
    Mark G on 6 May 2011 #

    #103, as I say, it’s probably because they have to be long to support the rolling of the (thesedays) very long end credit sequences these blockbuster movies have.

  15. 105
    Steve Mannion on 6 May 2011 #

    Oh I wasn’t referring to the track lengths themselves though Mark G – by longest running I meant most weeks at the top.

  16. 106
    Cumbrian on 6 May 2011 #

    More Than Words is an interesting song. It seems fairly clear to me that the lyrical message of it is “sleep with me or you’re dumped”. I wonder if those who contributed to its chart success interpret the lyrics in the same way?

  17. 107
    Izzy on 6 May 2011 #

    #103: those on their own are a mighty corpus of almost-made-its. I had no idea ‘Wind of Change’ or ‘Get Ready For This’ had to bow the knee here too. I’m put in mind of King Arthur presiding over his nobles, or (less mediaevally) Jose Mourinho keeping a team of egos in check through darker force. I can’t begrudge ‘Everything I Do’ such an epic reign.

  18. 108
    flahr on 6 May 2011 #

    I would have preferred “Wind of Change” to this (and if memory serves Tom likes it too?). It seems to be more aware of its own Bigness and does more to try and fill it.

    “these songs in turn kept a number of barn-storming rave hits from climbing higher including ‘Charly’, ‘Move Any Mountain’ and Oceanic’s ‘Insanity’…”

    And “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, though whether that is the same level of injustice is up to you to decide ;-)

  19. 109
    23 Daves on 6 May 2011 #

    #103 – Of that lot, I only really prefer Right Said Fred and 2 Unlimited’s efforts to “Everything I Do”. I’m not presenting myself as a typical British music consumer here, but it does make it easier to appreciate how it stayed on top for so long.

    “More Than Words” always felt a bit too worthy and dreary to me – although I do remember lots of people (including my Mum) stating “Ooh, just their voices and a guitar! It’s very different and unusual!” which turned me against it slightly. And “Wind of Change” feels like a textbook example of how not to write a rock ballad, moody whistles, grand statements, and chest-beating vocal performance and all. The only thing you can say in its favour is that it’s a bit better than “Belfast Child”.

  20. 110
    AndyPandy on 6 May 2011 #

    Been looking back through this thread hope I’m not too late to comment on earlier posts

    Re 14 & 103 “Rave had more or less faded” I don’t see how you can say that we’re still 6 months from 1992 even starting!And Zoe as “rave” is really pushing it isn’t it.In fact surely “Charly” is the only indisputable rave track in the upper echelons of the pop chart at this time – I mean as danced to at raves, bought by ravers, played on pirates etc. The others Rozalla (‘Queen of Rave’ title notwithstanding)never really ventured of the dancefloors of your Top 40 clubs.
    In 1992 though the pop charts will be far fuller of yer actual pukka rave tackle. Although its disappearance in 1993 as the dance scene completed its fragmentation not least that as hardcore split into
    jungle and happy hardcore was extremely quick when compared to average musical falling out of popularity go

  21. 111
    lex on 6 May 2011 #

    I love love love “Now That We Found Love”, “Let’s Talk About Sex” and “Get Ready For This” – the last of which led to 2 Unlimited, of all people, becoming my FIRST EVER FAVOURITE BAND for several years. I couldn’t get enough of that energy. These days it’s SnP that’d be my favourite. HER DATES – HEADS OF STATE, MEN OF TASTE

  22. 112
    fivelongdays on 6 May 2011 #

    The songs that were denied top spot by this would probably all get at least five from me, and a couple would get eights.

    That doesn’t matter.

    16 weeks, 16 weeks, 16 weeks

  23. 113
    Alfred on 6 May 2011 #

    Other terrific pop hits from the summer and fall of ’91:

    D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince – Summertime
    Heavy D and the Boyz – Now That We Find Love
    Roxette – Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave)
    Natural Selection – Do Anything
    Mariah Carey – Emotions
    Crystal Waters – Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless) and Makin’ Happy

  24. 114
    Tom on 6 May 2011 #

    I do like “Wind Of Change” yeah! I’m quite glad I’m not called upon to justify it though.

  25. 115
    swanstep on 7 May 2011 #

    …Meanwhile, in the nether regions of the charts, Nine Inch Nails bided their time with Head Like A Hole for 4 weeks of (EID)IDIFY’s reign. The song had been out for two years at that point, but IIRC NIN blew up on that first Lollapalooza tour early in 1991 and then the nifty vid. went into high rotation on daytime MTV in the US, as Soundgarden’s Outshined vid. did at about the same time. Neither of these songs did especially well in the charts in the US, again IIRC, but it was obvious that something big was up… In retrospect, it was widely believed that Head Like a Hole had been the biggest ‘near miss’/shoulda-coulda-been-teen-spirit record.

  26. 116

    […] Ewing recently live-blogged his heroic act of listening to Bryan Adam’s “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” 16…, one for each week that it spent atop the UK singles chart during the summer of 1991.  Probably […]

  27. 117
    AndyPandy on 7 May 2011 #

    109/114: I think “Wind of Change” is getting near to about as good as power-ballad can be – and maybe its lifted out of the run of the mill by the fact that with the Scorpions hailing from Germany (and the most momentous of the events that inspired it taking place in that country) that it wasn’t just a cynical exercise, but motivated by genuine excitement and hope in what they’d seen unfold around the Berlin Wall/Eastern Europe less than a year before they recorded it. It so different from their usual generic hard rock stuff that I think that could well be true.

  28. 118
    swanstep on 7 May 2011 #

    Bully for Balladosaurus (if anyone needs a title for their contrarian piece arguing the case for slow, movie-related power ballads).

  29. 119
    hardtogethits on 7 May 2011 #

    #117. So spot on; I don’t (think I) like Wind of Change, but spending some time in Germany in 1991 it unquestionably helped capture the spirit of the times (I couldn’t possibly use the Z word here, could I?). I know it succeeded in expressing, in English, the way many Germans felt positively about their country in 1989-90-91 (although I take care not to generalise too much and I can’t comment on whether there was / is a backlash against it, or parts of the country which liked it less than others etc). Because the band are part of what the song is about – sincerely, genuinely – and not just observing it, the song is head and shoulders above most other social commentary in Pop.

  30. 120
    Mark G on 7 May 2011 #

    Of course you can use the Z word, it’s German after all!

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