How Bryan Adams Stretched His Songwriting on ‘Into the Fire’
Quite a bit happened in the three years between Bryan Adams' chart-topping Reckless and its follow-up, Into the Fire.
A global star after four albums, Adams and his songwriting partner Jim Vallance felt a different kind of fire creatively as they began their next outing. They were particularly affected by working on "Tears Are Not Enough," the 1985 single by the all-star collective Northern Lights that was Canada's answer to Band Aid and USA for Africa. After that, Adams told UCR at the time, "we couldn't write another toss-away song. We had to come up with stuff that had more substance to it.
"That was the first real sort of time we'd ever stretched our songwriting ability," Adams continued. "We got away from boy-girl lyrics and tackled an issue that was quite sensitive. That experience really set the tone for our writing style over that next year."
So Adams, Vallance and, later, coproducer Bob Clearmountain began work on Into the Fire with a sense of purpose that yielded songs that looked beyond the romantic paeans that dominated Adams' earlier work. They wrote about the plight of First Nation Americans and Canadians in "Native Son," about war veterans in "Remembrance Day" and about Adams' evolving self-determination ("Heat of the Night," "Only the Strong Survive" and the title track). In "Rebel," Adams and Vallance even dealt with the former's life story with greater weight than the nostalgic exuberance of Reckless' "Summer of '69."
"It's nice to come up with ideas that stretch you as a writer," he said. "With [Into the Fire] I really wanted to take it a step further. I was really intrigued with the writing styles of others — Robbie Robertson, for instance, wrote always in the second person, like 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.' That really intrigued me as a writer, and that's what you get in songs like 'Native Son' and 'Remembrance Day.'"
Listen to Bryan Adam's 'Remembrance Day'
"You know," he added, "I’m not trying to be a socially conscious songwriter or anything like that. It's not as though I want to say anything to anybody. I have to say something to myself first — then, if it says something to somebody else, that's fine with me."
Some felt that Into the Fire was inspired by Adams' participation in Amnesty International's A Conspiracy of Hope tour, a high-minded six-date North American trek that took place nine months before the album's release and put Adams in the company of Sting and the Police, U2, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed and others. But the songs, he said, were finished before the tour — "Hearts on Fire" was originally written for Reckless — though the album itself was recorded from mid-August to late October 1986.
Adams was accompanied on the album by the members of his touring band (guitarist Keith Scott, drummer Mickey Curry, bassist Dave Taylor and keyboardist Tommy Mandel), while Vallance added piano on three tracks along with some percussion and backing vocals for "Remembrance Day." Tears for Fears touring keyboardist Ian Stanley and Canadian organist Robbie King were also part of the sessions.
Watch Bryan Adams Perform 'Hearts on Fire'
Despite middling reviews, Into the Fire reached No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 in Adams' native Canada, while "Heat of the Night" was a Top 10 hit. The album was certified platinum in the U.S., too — a far cry from Reckless' five-times platinum showing, but that didn't faze him.
"A lot of people were waiting for Reckless II, and that wasn't gonna happen," Adams told UCR years later. "Like any other artist, we wanted to grow and do something different and not repeat ourselves — every time, you know? Why would you do it, otherwise?"