Bryan Adams
Recording Artist: Bryan Adams
Release Date: 1980 (A&M Records)
Songs By Jim Vallance: Don't Ya Say It
Hidin' From Love
State Of Mind
Try To See It My Way
Win Some Lose Some
Certification: Gold (50,000 Canadian sales) 1986
World: Approximately 85,000 sales
Personally, I think I should be shot for producing Bryan's first album (Bryan is credited as co-producer, but really, I'm the guilty party). In 1980 I didn't have the skill, the knowledge or the experience to build a world-class album from the ground up, and as a result Bryan's debut album is a "dog's breakfast" of musical styles and influences.

As Bryan said during a 1996 VH-1 interview: "The first album was a bunch of glorified demos. We didn't know what we were doing".

Fast-forward five or six years and I'd finally learned enough to do a fairly decent job producing Glass Tiger's "Thin Red Line" album -- but after that I gave up production for good and concentrated solely on songwriting.

On January 9, 1978 I met 18-year-old Bryan Adams by chance at Long & McQuade, a Vancouver musical instrument store. I was there with a friend, piano-player Ali Monroe.  She knew Bryan and she introduced us.  Bryan and I exchanged phone numbers and got together a few days later. Over the next eleven years we wrote dozens of songs for Bryan and for a long list of other recording artists.

Here's how Bryan remembers the early days:

"It was an incredible ascension from absolutely nothing to having hit songs. In the beginning, we used to spend hours and hours in Jim's basement toying with ideas. I remember very distinctly what it was like the first time he put down the drums on our first demo. I was completely blown away with his drumming - with just a bass drum, snare, cymbal and a couple of mics he was able to put together the foundation of our first track -- then he added the bass! There was cat piss everywhere and we braved that dark hole for months until we had enough tunes for me to shop for a record deal. Then we went back to the dark hole -- until the mail box spewed out our first royalty cheques!"
Bryan at the piano
Manta Studios
November 1979
Right from the first day I was impressed with Bryan. It was obvious he had enormous talent coupled with extraordinary drive.  In fact, he was confident and tenacious to the point of being abrasive, not exactly undesirable traits for an aspiring rock star.

Still, I didn't quite know what to do with his voice. He was still a teenager and his vocal cords were still changing. He sang like a choir-boy, with little evidence of the gravelly vocal style that would emerge in the next year or two.   There were other high-pitched singers I enjoyed, like Roger Hodgson (Supertramp) and Jon Anderson (Yes) ... so I naturally assumed that was the direction I'd have to take with Bryan.  

Fortunately, by the time we recorded his first album Bryan had adopted a more hard-edged vocal style. He'd always been a fan of singers like Rod Stewart, Paul Rodgers and Steve Marriott ... but more than anything I believe it was Don Henley's vocals on "The Long Run" album (The Eagle's, 1979) that inspired Bryan to find his true voice.
Brian Chater
With Bryan Adams and publisher Lance Freed, Marina del Rey, California, 1983.
In 1979, age 19, after being turned down by every label in the country, Bryan Adams signed a recording contract with A&M Records Canada. In fact, A&M had initially turned him down too. It was A&M publisher Brian Chater who first recognized Bryan's talent and offered him a contract.

Chater was president of Almo-Irving Music, A&M Canada's publishing division. A full year before Bryan signed with A&M Records, Chater signed Bryan (and me) to a publishing deal. He also underwrote the cost of recording Bryan's first single.

Despite emigrating to Canada from England in 1966, Brian Chater retained a British accent that was thick as chowder. In fact I occasionally had trouble understanding him. He was an affable fellow, impossible to dislike. I have fond memories of nights out in Toronto with Adams and Chater, seeing who could consume the most Heinekens and still remain standing.

Over the years our paths continued to cross, and it was always a pleasure seeing him.

Sadly, Brian Chater passed away in September 2013.
In addition to the nine songs that appeared on Bryan's debut album there were several more that were recorded for that album but never released.
"Stay" was one of the songs Bryan and I wrote in January or February 1978, shortly after we'd first met. The song was basically a chorus of mine married to a verse of Bryan's. I don't have a copy of the recorded version, but I remember it being quite good -- at least as good as anything else on the album. It even had a string quartet, arranged by Eric Robertson and recorded in Toronto at considerable expense. But for some reason Bryan decided to leave that song off the album. 

"Stay" was eventually recorded by the Canadian group "Prism", and also by Quebec artist Peter Pringle, who sang a French translation of the song (re-titled "Tu N'as Pas Changé").

Another song that was recorded but not included on the first album was "Hold Me Once", written by Bryan and our friend Eric Kagna (Eric was Bryan's lawyer for a while in 1978-79). We did a huge production on that one as well, with stacks of violins, violas and and cellos from the Vancouver Symphony, arranged and conducted by Bob Buckley (another expensive session). I thought the song was a definite contender for the album -- but even though we were desperately short of material Bryan decided to nix that one too! ("Hold Me Once" was recorded and released by Florence Warner a few years later, in 1981.)
I took this photo of Bryan in his room at the Westbury Hotel in Toronto while we were recording his first album (Nov. 1979)
We recorded most of Bryan's first album at Manta Studios in Toronto, which at that time was better equipped than most Vancouver studios. Hayward Parrott engineered the recording (I'd worked with Hayward the year before when I produced an album for the A&M group Cano, who's vocalist was my future wife Rachel Paiement).

We began recording at Manta on Oct. 29, 1979 and finished exactly one month later.
photo: Bryan Adams and engineer Hayward Parrott, Manta Studios, Toronto, November 1979
We flew back to Vancouver on November 30 and spent a day at Pinewood Studios taping (among other things) Fred Turner's backing vocals on "Don't Ya Say It". On December 4th we flew to Los Angeles for additional recording and mixing at Sunset Sound with engineer Bobby Shaper and assistant Gene Meros.
After a month in chilly Toronto, Los Angeles was tropical by comparison. Adams and I checked into "Le Parc" hotel in West Hollywood and rented matching Volkswagen Beetle convertibles for our 2-week stay. I remember Bryan and I driving down Fountain Avenue late one night after a long day in the studio. The evening air was warm and I recall thinking "Wow, life is good". And it was.

Bryan was still signed to A&M Canada at the time, so A&M USA didn't have a direct interest in the album. Regardless, A&R executive David Kershenbaum dropped by Sunset Sound one day to have a listen (David was a respected music industry figure, having produced albums for Cat Stevens, Tracy Chapman, Duran Duran, etc).

David didn't have much to say after hearing the tracks we'd recorded.  Nor did he look particularly impressed. He did, however, comment on how short the album was: only four songs per side. He strongly recommended we record additional material.
Me on drums. Manta Studios, Nov. '79 (photo by Bryan)
We quickly recorded a version of "Wastin' Time" (a song Bryan had contributed to BTO's "Rock 'N Roll Nights" album, which I'd produced the year before). Bryan played guitars, I played drums, and David Hungate (Toto) played bass. The rejected songs "Stay" and "Hold Me Once" would have made a significant difference at this point in time, but for reasons that still baffle me, Bryan chose not to include them.
Despite his apparent lack of enthusiasm Kershenbaum must have sensed Bryan's potential, because David is the one responsible for hooking Bryan up with producer Bob Clearmountain for album #2 ("You Want It You Got It"). Bryan continues to work with Clearmountain to this day, and I believe the introduction to Bob is one of the single most significant occurrence in Bryan's career.
Even if the finished product failed to capture the public's attention, Adams and I had a lot of fun recording his first album. In fact, we could hardly believe our good fortune:  a "real" recording budget, including travel and meal expenses ... we were like kids in a candy store!  We worked hard, the days were long, but it wasn't without it's diversions.  

Bryan would frequently entertain Hayward and I with his spot-on "Derek and Clive" impersonations, and we'd all be rolling on the floor, laughing 'til we cried.

One night (November 16, 1979) we took a break from recording and went to see a new young band from England perform for a few hundred fans at Toronto's Danforth Music Hall. This new young band was "The Police", and they were amazing!

Three or four evenings a week we ate at Le Chaumière, a small French restaurant near our hotel. It was a few notches above what we could afford at the time, were it not for A&M picking up the tab!

For the most part we were given complete creative freedom during the recording, except for one particular episode ...

A&M Canada decided to inject some "social science" into the production process. They hired a consulting firm who assembled a "random group of young males and females" to preview the album-in-progress and respond to a questionnaire. The results were analyzed and the consultants reported back to us.

Among other things, this "random group" recommended adding a keyboard to this song, a guitar to that song, a harmony here, a tambourine there. It was an insulting and completely unnecessary exercise ... and probably quite expensive (eventually billed back to the artist, of course). We viewed the entire thing as a load of crap and we ignored the recommendations.

Initially the album artwork was also disappointing, in particular the text for the credits which was nearly impossible to read (miniature black print set against a purple background). Bryan insisted A&M stop production and change it ... although the final version is still somewhat blurry.

In addition, the first vinyl pressings didn't sound as good as they might have. Bryan was so concerned that he phoned A&R man Michael Godin at home at two o'clock in the morning. That got fixed too!

Bryan was obsessed with "quality control", even at that early stage of his career. I don't think the record company knew what to make of this cocky teenager telling music industry veterans how the album should look and sound. The truth is, Bryan knew! Despite his lack of experience, he had an innate sense of things, and he was usually right!
  Proceed to the next album,"You Want It, You Got It"