Everything I Do, pt. 13: Oh yeah, the song [September 29, 1991]
Plus: The Scorpions, Bizarre Inc, Voice of the Beehive, and Primal Scream
This week’s Number 1 : ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’ — Bryan Adams
We’ve been doing this for over three months now and we’ve not talked about the song.
That’s partly because—as mentioned previously—there’s not much to say about it. Adams and Lange were offered the Robin Hood soundtrack gig, they knocked it out in 45 minutes, and then they went to lunch.
That’s the whole story. This is not like Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, a song that took years of work, had a 100-verse first draft, and eventually required an intervention from John Cale. There are sandwiches with a richer backstory than ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’.
Also, it’s really hard to discuss this song without the video.
The song is inextricably entwined with its music video. It’s the one that features Bryan Adams in a forest, intercut with clips from the Robin Hood movie. You know, this one:
The video is gone.
It seems to have been purged forever from the internet. Back in Week 7 of this odyssey, friend of the newsletter Richard Neary managed to find a rare copy of the original video and was kind enough to share a link.
That link now looks like this:
God damn you, Web Sherrif of Nottingham.
Anyway, it means that if we want to watch a video for this song, we have to go with this generic and crappy concert video instead:
Anyway. Let’s talk about the song.
A few weeks back, we talked about teenage discos and slow sets in nightclubs. But listening back now, that’s not the real function of this song.
This is a wedding song.
When you listen to it, you can almost visualise a wedding party filling a hotel’s function room. There are trays of sandwiches and half-drunk glasses of buck’s fizz on the table. Little kids in suits are running around with bags of crisps. Somebody’s aunt is laughing loudly, already way too drunk. An optimistic waiter is trying to get a bit of chat going with a bridesmaid.
And then the DJ says, “ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the bride and groom for their first dance.”
They step out onto the floor. She’s had her makeup refreshed, he’s starting to loosen his collar a little. ‘Everything I Do’ starts with this little piano flourish, five notes with a little twirly flourish on the fourth. It sounds like a corporate jingle, almost like the Intel sound, which is part of why the song succeeds. It has a strong brand identity.
“Look into my eyes,” says Bryan. And they do. “You will see, what you mean to me.”
It’s like the Macarena for lovers, this song, a simple walkthough of idealised love. This first section is just Bryan’s voice and the piano, an intimate duet mirroring the lone couple on the floor.
The couple are so sweet. Arms around each other, they gaze into each other’s eyes, their gentle swaying a signature on a contract that says, “I will give it all, I would sacrifice.”
And now the descending guitar line, then a crashing cymbal leading into the second verse. It beckons everyone else onto the dance floor. First, the couples with a connection to the bride and groom—parents, aunts and uncles, friends who got married sooner. They orbit the main couple, like electrons around a nucleus.
A more abstract layer of dancers forms as we get to the second chorus. Now, there are girls dancing together, scream-singing their undying love to their friends. Someone very tall is dancing with a very small child. They hold hands and swing them side to side while their feet stay planted on the ground.
Here come the big power chords and crashing drums leading into the middle section. The guys at the bar put their pints on the counter and yell, “there’s no love like your love.” If they started drinking early, one of them might already have a tie around his head in the classic Rambo style.
Meanwhile, the bride and groom are being distracted from each other by wellwishers. Everyone wants a little of their time.
The guitar solo at the bridge is a chance for everyone to have a breather. Some people give up and return to their tables, unpausing the conversations they were having with the grumpy non-dancers. Some people will head to the bar to get more drinks, others will wander off to the bathroom.
It’s not a long guitar solo (unless you listen to the interminable album version, in which case it is far too long). Once it winds up, there’s a big emotional key change, the climax of the song that surges through everyone. “There’s nowhere unless you’re there.”
The force of this section pushes the bridal couple back together, and they are holding each other as Bryan’s voice trails off plaintively on the echoing, “you know I’d die for yooooooooou….”
The song ends as it began, just Bryan and the piano. And the dance ends also ends as it began, with our bride and groom enraptured in each other. They sing the final “you know it’s true, everything I do, ohhh, I do it for you.”
Someone turns to their partner and whispers, “I give it six months.”
I wonder if they’re right?
I mean, what does it say about couple that they chose Bryan Adams for their first dance. The only more basic-ass, insipid choice would be if they had chosen ‘Perfect’ by Ed Sheeran, a song that might as well be called ‘Wedding First Dance Song For People Who Can’t Be Bothered’.
Or maybe these couples are the ones who make it. Perhaps the secret to a happy life is not to overthink things. Maybe, in fact, there is a kind of genius to picking something that has an uncomplicated and universal appeal. ‘Just Like Honey’ by The Jesus And Mary Chain would make a great first dance, but would it get your auntie out on the dancefloor?
Perhaps this is the genius of ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’. It’s a profoundly generic song, a Big Mac of a tune. It’s practically a nursery rhyme. This is why it plays so well at teen discos, slow sets, wedding dances. The simplicity of it brings people together.
And that’s probably why it was Number One for sixteen weeks.
→ Part 14: How do old songs teleport us back to the past? [October 6, 1991]
← Part 12: The 80s ended slowly, then all at once [September 22, 1991]
Elsewhere in the charts
Number 5 (↑ from 19): ‘Winds of Change’ — The Scorpions
“Taaaaaaaake me/To the magic of a moment on a glory night”
Last month (August 1991), Soviet loyalists made a failed attempt to overthrow Gorbachev’s government. It was a last roll of the dice for Soviet communism and, when it failed, it meant that the USSR’s total collapse was inevitable.
Such a monumental event deserved an anthem. It may have had a dozen anthems, all of which were in Russian and never made it to this side of the Danube. But German journeymen Scorpions had the good sense to record their effort in English, and it became a global phenomenon after a very canny re-release (it originally came out in January.)
There are some wild political stories surrounding this song. Rumours abound that the CIA actually helped fund its production, and it’s a documented fact that Scorpions presented $70,000 of the royalties to Gorbachev, who donated it to a children’s hospital. What a commie.
I don’t think ‘Winds of Change’ would have been a hit if it weren’t for the political aspect. It’s got a very 1982 vibe, a whole Survivor trying to follow up ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ groove that sounded a bit naff even in 1991. But it captured the post-Cold War mood wonderfully and deserved its moment in the sun.
Number 13 (↑ from 14): ‘Such A Feeling’ — Bizarre Inc.
Balls out techno. Not to be confused with the next song…
Number 14 (↑ from 16): ‘Such A Good Feeling’ — Brothers In Rhythm
This is a much more radio-friendly track than the Bizarre Inc song, and yet it failed to win the chart battle of “songs with the words Such and Feeling in the title.”
It’s built around a sample from Charvoni’s classic ‘Always There’, which was sampled by Incognito and Jocelyn Brown earlier in the year. That track made the top ten. Obviously, Brothers in Rhythm sampled the wrong bit.
Number 23 (no change): ‘Nutbush City Limits’ — Tina Turner
I rewatched What’s Love Got To Do With It recently and now I think Tina can do no wrong. Hail, queen.
Number 25 (↑ from 38): ‘I Think I Love You’ — Voice of the Beehive
[Austin Powers voice] Oooh, beehive.
Album of the Week
Screamadelica — Primal Scream
This is a tricky choice. Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pixie’s Trompe le Monde both entered the charts this week, and all three of these records are contenders for album of the year, if not album of the decade.
But we’re going to talk about Nevermind more when ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ hits the charts. And while Trompe le Monde is great, it is not the strongest Pixies record.
So, let’s give Album of the Week to the record that won the first ever Mercury Music Prize: Primal Scream’s Screamadelica.
The ‘Scream have always been a hard act to categorize. Sometimes they are classic rock’n’roll, like on their 1994 album Give Out But Don’t Give Up. At other times, they do head-wrecking electronic mashups, such as the ones on the very noisy XTRMNTR.
Screamadelica dared to cross the streams and attempt both at once. The opening track, ‘Movin’ On Up’, has Bobby Gillespie in 70s rockstar mode, with howling guitar riffs and soulful backing vocals. But it’s immediately followed by the trippy, trance-ey ‘Slip Inside This House’, and then the unabashed house music anthem, ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’.
The vision of the album comes together on the middle track, “Come Together”. This is a gorgeous celebration of the post-club feeling, a ten-minute pool of ecstatic bliss that captures the feeling of watching a sunrise after an incredible night out. This song is beyond genre. “Gospel and rhythm and blues and jazz, all those are just labels,” says Jesse Jackson in the central sample of ‘Come Together’. “We know that music is music.”
Traces of Screamadelica’s DNA can be heard across 90s British alternative music, from Spiritualized to Chemical Brothers to Menswear. It’s a record with purpose and vision that deserves its place in the pantheon.
The beginning of the end of the Bryan Adams sequence. We’re almost there.
Bernard, man. I love ya. And I'll never, ever let you down.
Neither will dodgy Russian video hosting sites: