“Summer of ’69” is a song recorded by the Canadian musician Bryan Adams, from his fourth album, Reckless (1984). The song was written by Adams and Jim Vallance, a long-time writing partner of Adams. “Summer of ’69” was produced by Adams and Bob Clearmountain. It was released in June 1985 under A&M Records as the fourth single from Reckless. “Summer of ’69” is an up-tempo rock song.
The song was released with two B-side tracks; “Kids Wanna Rock” and “The Best Was Yet to Come”, which had previously appeared on the albums Reckless and Cuts Like a Knife respectively. “Summer of ’69” received favorable reviews from music critics. The single had a strong effect on music charts internationally, with its highest peak being number four in the Netherlands, and its least successful charting country being Germany. The track was promoted with a music video, which was filmed by Steve Barron. The video features Adams and his backing band in a variety of settings, including running from the police.
After a tour supporting his album Cuts Like a Knife, he immediately started the recording sessions for the new album, Reckless. “Summer of ’69” was finished on January 25, 1984, co-written with Jim Vallance in his basement studio. The song went through a number of changes because neither Adams nor Vallance was convinced it was a strong enough song to be featured on the album. In their first draft, the lyric “summer of ’69” appeared only once. At that time the two were planning to title it “Best Days of My Life” instead. While the lyric “Best days of my life” appeared seven times in the first draft, on the final draft it had been replaced by “summer of ’69” and appeared only two times throughout the song.
When writing the lyrics “Jimmy quit, Jody got married”, Vallance suggested using “Woody quit and Gordy got married”, referring to members of his high school band, but Adams liked his version better. Adams mentioned once in an interview that “Jimmy” was one of his early drummers. “Jody” is a reference to Adams’ sound manager, Jody Perpick, who got married during the album’s recording session.
On the song’s very first demo, it started with a 12-string riff, just like the breakdown section in the middle of the song, but they replaced it with a chunky 6-string intro on the second demo. The song was recorded three to four times, in different ways, with both Adams and Vallance still not convinced that it was finished.
When Adams appeared on The Early Show in 2008, he was asked about “Summer of ’69” and its lyrical meaning. Adams said the song was about sex and making love in the summertime. “69” is a reference to the sexual position, 69. On the Reckless 25th anniversary, Adams told In the Studio that the song was built on the theme of nostalgia, such as the “cultural revolution”, the break-up of The Beatles, his discovery of music and the moon landing, but also about a character who plays until his fingers bleed and sexual discovery. Vallance, however, has gone for the more conventional interpretation of the title is a reference to a year. He notes Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty”, which contains references to 1965 and 1969, as his own influence, and recalls Adams citing the film Summer of ’42 as his.
“That song is 25 years old now so it’s had that many years to incubate. A lot of songs, like that one, hit big in America but really not anywhere else. It didn’t chart anywhere in Europe until at least 10 years after it was released. […] I think songs can have a life of their own regardless of the promotion.”
In 1985 the song won the BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) Citation of Achievement for US radio airplay, the following year 1986 – Procan Award (Performing Rights Organization of Canada) for Canadian radio airplay and in 2000 it won a Socan Classics Award for more than 100,000 Canadian radio performances. In a poll conducted by Decima Research in 2006, “Summer of ’69” was voted the best driving song among Canadians who sing in their cars. The song topped the survey with both sexes, and with French and English-speaking Canadians. In 2010, the song was voted the “hottest summer song” in Germany. In another poll, this time by Canadian magazine Chart, “Summer of ’69” was voted the fourth best song of all-time in 2000, four years earlier it had been voted the twenty-fourth best song of all-time. The song was ranked #17 on CBC Radio’s 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version. In 2008, the song was voted the 87th best-song of all-time by radio listeners in Norway, becoming the second highest Adams song ranked, the highest being “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” from 1991. It was voted the fourth best-song ever on Radio 2, a Belgian radio station, in 2008.
“Summer of ’69” remains popular to this day in many countries around the world. Bryan Adams sang “Summer of ’69” during the 2011 Cricket World Cup opening ceremony in Bangladesh.
Upon the release of the album Reckless in November 1984, “Summer of ’69” received some airplay on album-oriented rock radio stations but was mostly overshadowed by the tracks “Run to You” and “It’s Only Love”, only managing to reach number 40 on Billboard’s Top Rock Tracks chart. After it was released as a single in June 1985, “Summer of ’69” climbed to number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and helped push Reckless to the number one position on the Billboard 200 album chart in August 1985. Like the previous single released from Reckless, “Heaven“, “Summer of ’69” was a commercial success worldwide. “Summer of ’69” debuted at number fifty-nine, and managed to climb up the chart, and two weeks later reached its peak position 42, on August 24, 1985, on the UK Singles Chart. The single remained on the country’s chart for four consecutive weeks from August to September 1985, before falling out of the top 100. The track debuted at number twenty-two on September 22 and peaked at number seven in the fifth week on the New Zealand Singles Chart. The song debuted at 95 on the Canadian RPM Singles Chart on June 29, 1985, jumping to fifty in its second week and peaking at eleven on September 14, 1985, after spending seven weeks on the chart.
The song debuted at its peak position, number 9, on August 10, on the Norwegian Singles Chart and stayed there for another four weeks before falling off the charts. “Summer of ’69” charted on the Swedish Singles Chart for five consecutive weeks. Having debuted at number twenty on December 13, and peaked at number thirteen two weeks later. The single spent another three weeks on the chart before falling off. The track peaked at number seventeen on the Austrian Singles Chart and remained on the country’s chart for five weeks. The single’s most commercially successful charting territory was the Netherlands, where it peaked at number 4 on September 22, 1990. The single’s least successful chart territory was Germany. Having peaked on the country’s singles chart at number sixty-two, the single spent the next five weeks fluctuating down the chart.