Everything I Do, pt. 5: The reclusive genius behind the song [Aug 4, 1991]
Plus: Metallica, Blur, De La Soul, and R.E.M.
This week’s Number 1 :
‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’ — Bryan Adams
One of the longest streaks at Number One before ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’ was a Slim Whitman track in 1955 called ‘Rose Marie’.
It was a big hit around the world. Even in the country formerly known as Rhodesia, where a kid called Robert Lange developed a deep love of country music.
Robert, or Mutt to his friends, came from a rich South African mining family. A little like Elon Musk. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to have substantial amounts of family money behind you. To have that freedom to spend your 20s just pursuing anything that catches your attention.
For Mutt Lange, that meant playing in a band that released a few EPs. Here’s a sample of what that sounded like:
(The B-side of this song is called ‘Monkey In My Family Tree’, which is a bit eek from a South African band.)
Lange — pronounced to rhyme with range and strange — didn’t have a destiny as a musician. He was born to sit behind the mixing desk, overseeing a series of increasingly massive global hits. Check out this small sample of the thousands of songs that Mutt Lange has produced:
‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ - The Boomtown Rats
‘Highway to Hell’ - AC/DC
‘Back in Black’ - AC/DC
‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’ - Foreigner
‘All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You’ - Heart
‘Drive’ - The Cars
‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ - Def Leppard
‘Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car’ - Billy Ocean
‘Said I Loved You But I Lied’ - Michael Bolton
‘Breathless’ - The Corrs
‘Misery’ - Maroon 5
Oh, and obviously he produced ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’. He was the other guy in the room when Bryan Adams wrote the song in 45 minutes.
Lange’s gift to the world is a particular type of radio-friendly rock. The typical Lange song has a big, ballsy vocal out front, giving his tracks a ton of personality. He likes hooky choruses and meaty guitar riffs, which is why he seems to have thrived in the hair metal days.
Lange’s CV also includes people like Tina Turner, Celine Dion, Backstreet Boys, Graham Parker, Nickelback, and Muse. It’s a diverse group of people, but they do have one thing in common, which is a kind of music-first sensibility. It’s easier to imagine all of them working hard in the studio rather than throwing TVs into a hotel pool.
That’s perhaps why Lange and Adams were a match made in heaven. They’re both consummate professionals, they’re both very focused on their craft, and they both have a taste for “let’s ROCK but let’s not get too crazy” guitar-driven pop songs.
They never had another hit on the scale of (EID)IDIFY, but the partnerships did produce some decent-sized hits, like ‘Can’t Stop This Thing We Started’, ‘Thought I’d Died And Gone To Heaven’, ‘Please Forgive Me’, ‘Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman’, ‘The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You’ and a couple of songs on the Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron soundtrack.
Here’s the thing about Lange though. He’ll never be remembered as the (EID) guy, or the AC/DC guy, or even the Backstreet Boys guy. He’ll always be remembered for one thing:
Shania Twain was a struggling solo artist in 1993 when she befriended and eventually married Mutt Lange. The two became an unstoppable cultural juggernaut. Their first collaboration was the album The Woman in Me, which went on to sell 12 million copies.
Peanuts. Absolute peanuts compared to the 40 million copies sold worldwide of their follow-up effort, Come On Over.
‘Don’t Be Stupid’, ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman’, ‘You’re Still The One’, ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’, and the title track ‘Come On Over’ were all massive smash hit singles that dominated the charts in 1997. Shania remains the GOAT of pop-country crossovers, despite a laudable attempt to seize the crown on Taylor Swift’s part.
The couple got divorced in 2008 after Mutt cheated on Shania with her own PA.
A few years ago, Twitter got slightly obsessed with this pseudo-feminist thing of qualifying people according to their relationships.
You couldn’t say “that guy’s daughter” or “that dude’s wife”. You had to say the name of the woman in question, wait for everyone to say “who?”, and then say, “oh, she’s so-and-so’s daughter/wife.”
I always thought this was a dumb thing to get hung up on because it’s (mostly) not gendered and it really can happen to men as well as women. Mutt Lange, for example, is still not a household name despite having sold a billion records. People only recognize the name when you call him Shania Twain’s husband.
Or, as he’s known these days, the guy who broke Shania Twain’s heart. He sits in history alongside the guy who made Celine Dion a widow, and the guy who treated Mariah Carey like crap.
Elsewhere in the charts
Number 5 (New Entry): ‘Enter Sandman’
Apparently, this is where many Metallica fans lost faith in the band. The Black Album was, they say, too commercial and too pop.
And thinking about that… yeah, they’re right. ‘Enter Sandman’ is loud and grunting, sure, but it has the bones of a pop song. It’s why non-metal fans will happily headbang along when this plays in the pub.
The problem with Metallica fans is in thinking that pop is a bad thing, or that metal can’t be pop. I understand this erroneous thinking. Back in my Metallica days, I felt like loud, angry music was inherently more important, more worthy of attention, more moral, somehow, than music that played on the radio. But pop has value, and writing a hit pop song is something to be proud of.
I guess what I’m saying is: Mutt Lange should have produced Load.
Number 10 (↑15): ‘Twist and Shout’ — Deacon Blue
I’ve always wanted to know who was buying Deacon Blue’s records. Not because they’re bad records (this song is perfectly good), but just because I’ve never met a single person who owned a Deacon Blue record. They must be out there somewhere.
Number 22 (↑35): ‘A Rollerskating Jam Named Saturdays’ — De La Soul
Didn’t the “Saturday, it’s a Saturday” hook in this song feature in a kids show in the 90s? I have a vague memory of this.
Number 25 (New Entry): ‘Bang’ — Blur
Apparently, Blur wrote this in 15 minutes because the label were demanding another single along the lines of 'There’s No Other Way’. Since then, they’ve tried to airbrush it from their history.
It’s not that bad though. A bit unremarkable, but by no means the worst cash-grab indie song of the 90s.
Number 36 (New Entry): ‘Time, Love and Tenderness’ — Michael Bolton
Am I getting old? Because in 1991, Michael Bolton seemed entirely ridiculous to me. A big, loud American with a mullet screaming about love. But, listening back to this now, I kind of like it? It’s kind of a jam?
Maybe it helps that Michael Bolton has since reinvented himself as a quite funny, self-aware bloke who does comedy specials and does duets with The Lonely Island.
Album of the week
Why did I start this feature in the summer, when nobody releases albums? There are two new entries in the whole Top 75 this week, and one of those is by Cathy Dennis.
Let’s give this week’s AotW to Out of Time, which is now at the end of a 22-week run in the Top 10. Neither REM nor the world was quite ready for such a breakthrough, but that’s the danger when you write an album full of bangers like ‘Near Wild Heaven’, ‘Radio Song’, ‘Shiny Happy People’, and, of course, ‘Losing My Religion’.