Summer of '69
Recording Artist: Bryan Adams
Writers: Jim Vallance
Bryan Adams
Date Written: January 1984 / Vancouver Canada
Albums: Reckless (A&M Records, 1984)
Live Live Live (A&M Records, 1988)
So Far So Good (A&M Records, 1993)
Bryan Adams Unplugged (A&M Records, 1997)
The Best Of Me (A&M Records, 1999)
Anthology (A&M Records, 2005)
Icon (Universal, 2010)
Bare Bones (2010)
Charts: #5 - Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart / August 1985 (17 weeks on the chart)
#5 - Netherlands / 1990
#12 - The Record (Canada) / October 7, 1985 (17 weeks on the chart)
#40 - Billboard Top Rock Tracks Chart / 1984 (8 weeks on the chart)
#42 - UK Charts / August 1985 (7 weeks on the chart)
Awards: 1985 - BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) Citation of Achievement for U.S. radio airplay
1986 - Procan Award (Performing Rights Organization of Canada) for Canadian radio airplay
2000 - Socan Classics Award for more than 100,000 Canadian radio performances
Audio 1:
 
Bryan Adams: rhythm guitar, vocals
Keith Scott: lead guitar
Dave Taylor: bass
Pat Steward: drums
Jim Vallance: percussion
 
Produced by Bob Clearmountain and Bryan Adams.  Associate producer, Jim Vallance. Recorded by Bob Clearmountain, March/April 1984, at Little Mountain Sound, Vancouver. Mixed by Bob Clearmountain, September 1984, at the Power Station, New York.
Cover Versions:
Also recorded by Bowling For Soup, DJ Otzi, Emily's Toybox, Janet Theory, Jive Bunny, MxPx, Catherine Porter, John H featuring Barfalk, WC Experience
Vinyl 45-RPM single, "Summer of '69" >
Comments:
Bryan Adams and I wrote "Summer Of '69" in my basement studio in January 1984. During the next month or two the song went through a number of musical and lyrical changes, and we still weren't convinced it was strong enough to include on Bryan's "Reckless" album.

The song was very much a 50-50 collaboration -- me and Bryan -- but here's what I remember from writing Summer Of '69, line by line ...
45 single sleeve / USA
45 single sleeve / UK
I got my first real six string, bought it at the "Five and Dime"
When I was growing up in the 1950's and 60's there were shops called "Five and Dime" where you could (supposedly) buy anything for five or ten cents, which wasn't always true. Now they call them "Dollar Stores"! 

Neither Bryan or I ever bought a guitar at the "Five and Dime". I got my first guitar from my parents, Christmas 1965, when I was thirteen. Bryan bought his first guitar at a pawn shop in 1972, age twelve.
Played it 'til my fingers bled
Anyone who's ever played a guitar knows the strings can be brutal on your fingers when you're first learning. I played my new guitar all Christmas day 1965, and half that night. I remember my dad coming down about one o'clock in the morning, saying "go to sleep!" because I was keeping everybody up.

It was the summer of '69
This is where the phrase "summer of '69" appears for the first time ... quite casually, as line #4 of the first verse.  It's interesting to note: in our first draft of the song, the lyric "summer of '69" appears only once, never to be repeated.  It wasn't the title, it was just another line in the song. In fact, we originally planned on calling the song "Best Days Of My Life".
photo: The Tremelones, April 1966. Front row, left to right - Bob Roberson, Wayne Deorksen, myself. Back row, left to right - Dave Snell, Gordon Keith. The photo was taken at the Vanderhoof Community Centre. It was my first ever paying gig. I couldn't believe it - we actually got paid for playing music! We each earned $2.50 for the evening.  >
Me and some guys from school had a band and we tried real hard
Bryan's first band "Shock" played Top-40 songs in Vancouver night clubs. Bryan was 16. My first band, "The Tremelones", was formed in 1965 with some school-mates. I was 13 and the other fellows were a bit older, maybe 16 or 17.

Wayne Deorksen and Gordy Keith played guitar, and I played drums. Gordy's friend Dave Snell played bass with us for a while.  Dave ordered a Silvertone bass guitar and amplifier from the Sears catalogue.

We changed our name to The Fourmost when my neighbour Chuck Davies joined the band. Chuck was really old (twenty-one), plus he'd recently travelled to England, so he had instant credibility!

Chuck had an electric guitar with a silver sparkle finish -- a marvelous thing to behold -- and a Fender amp. None of us could sing very well, so we mostly played instrumentals by The Ventures and The Shadows. "Walk Don't Run" and "Wipeout" were a couple of our favourites.
 
Before joining The Tremelones or The Fourmost, I spent most lunch-hours in the school music room with "Woody" Whitmore.  Woody is the first musician I ever played with, and I have fond memories of those mid-day "jam sessions". Lacking a drum kit of my own, I'd pound on the school's snare drum and cymbal while Woody played his electric guitar through a small amp. 
 
When the music room was occupied, Woody and I would use the school library. But our "rock music" annoyed my Grade 8 French teacher, Mrs. Morrissey, whose classroom was directly across from the library.  In a futile attempt to enlist my parents and shut me down, Mrs. Morrissey put a less-than-helpful comment in my report card:  "Jim's mind is never on the job.  He can't just drum his life away".

Can't blame her for trying, but it didn't work. Fifty years later I still play the drums! Loudly!
Pat "Axe" Steward, drummer on "Summer of '69" >
Jimmy quit and Jody got married
I remember me and Bryan going back and forth on this line. I suggested "Woody quit and Gordy got married", like the guys in my school band, but Bryan thought "Jimmy" and "Jody" sounded better, and I had to agree.

I'm not sure where Bryan got the name "Jimmy" -- we didn't discuss it at the time -- but in a recent interview he said it was a reference to one of his early drummers.

"Jody" is Bryan's sound-man, Jody Perpik, who got married around the time we were working on the song. Jody and his wife appear in Bryan's video for "Summer Of '69", driving away with a "Just Married" sign on the back of their car.
I shoulda known we'd never get far
When we were writing "Summer Of '69" I suggested the lyric "I got a job at the railway yard", because that's what my band-mate Chuck had done. The "railway" lyric survived the first three "rough drafts" of the song but was eventually scrapped. Personally, I still prefer it.

Oh, when I look back now that summer seemed to last forever
1969 was a great year ... especially the music ...

And if I had the choice I'd always want to be there
Imagine ... brand new vinyl releases from The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, The Band and Led Zeppelin!

Those were the best days of my life
As I mentioned, this was originally going to be our title, rather than "Summer Of '69".  In our first draft of the song the phrase "best days of my life" appears seven times, while the phrase "summer of '69" appears only once.

By the time we recorded the final recorded version of the song, "best days of my life" has been demoted, appearing only three times, while the phrase "summer of '69" appears five times ... a deliberate change of emphasis.

Ain't no use in complainin' when you got a job to do
I was thinking about Chuck and his job at the railway yard.  Bryan was probably thinking about his brief stint as a dish-washer at the Tomahawk Restaurant in North Vancouver.
"Dog and Suds" drive-in, Terrace, British Columbia, winter 1968-69 >
Spent my evenin's down at the drive-in, and that's when I met you
There aren't many drive-ins left, and I wonder if kids these days even know what they are?

When I was growing up in the 1950s and '60s there were two kinds of drive-ins: the big outdoor movie screens, and the drive-in restaurants that served burgers and soda while you sat in your car, like in the film "American Graffiti". They're pretty much gone now, but I have fond memories of going to both kinds of drive-ins as a kid. 

Standin' on your mama's porch, you told me that you'd wait forever
Oh and when you held my hand, I knew that it was now or never
Those were the best days of my life / Back in the summer of '69
Once we'd decided "Summer Of '69" was better than "Best Days Of My Life", we had to find a way to reinforce our new title. The most obvious way was to repeat it a few more times ... so, we literally "shoe-horned" the phrase into some gaps in the song. Initially I was concerned that it sounded too forced -- to the point of being awkward -- but it seems to have stood the test of time.
Man we were killin' time, we were young and restless, we needed to unwind
I guess nothin' can last forever
At this point the song goes to an electric twelve-string guitar break, a nod to The Beatles, The Byrds and The Searchers (songs like "Ticket To Ride", "Tambourine Man" and "Needles And Pins") -- some of my favourite music from the 1960's.



On our very first basement demo of "Summer of '69" we started the song with the 12-string riff, exactly like the "break down" section in the middle of the song ... but on subsequent demo's we replaced the 12-string with a chunky 6-string intro. In fact, we toiled over the musical arrangement for several weeks, maybe longer. We recorded the song three or four different ways, and we still weren't convinced we had it right! Bryan even considered dropping the song from the Reckless album.

Now, 35 years later, when I hear "Summer of '69" on the radio, I can't remember what we didn't like about it.
Lyrics: I got my first real six-string
Bought it at the "Five and Dime"
Played it 'til my fingers bled
It was the summer of '69

Me and some guys from school
Had a band and we tried real hard
Jimmy quit and Jody got married
I shoulda known we'd never get far

Oh when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Ya - I'd always wanna be there
Those were the best days of my life

Ain't no use in complainin'
When you got a job to do
Spent my evenin's down at the drive-in
And that's when I met you

Standin' on your mama's porch
You told me that you'd wait forever
Oh and when you held my hand
I knew that it was now or never
Those were the best days of my life

Back in the summer of '69

Man we were killin' time
We were young and restless
We needed to unwind
I guess nothin' can last forever - forever, no

And now the times are changin'
Look at everything that's come and gone
Sometimes when I play that old six-string
I think about ya wonder what went wrong

Standin' on your mama's porch
You told me it would last forever
Oh the way you held my hand
I knew that it was now or never
Those were the best days of my life

Back in the summer of '69