The Double Meaning Behind “Summer of ’69,” by Bryan Adams

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

There’s a song for every occasion—your morning commute, a pump-up song before hitting the gym, coming home after a long day. There’s a song for it all. Arguably, there is a perfect summer song, fit for rolling the windows down on a warm evening, watching the sun go down. The iconic guitar riff starts and immediately you’re transported to the “Summer of ‘69.” 

Bryan Adams’ smash hit “Summer of ‘69” comes from the 1984 studio album Reckless. Shortly after its release, the single climbed to number five on the Billboard Hot 100 and helped push Reckless to the number one position on the Billboard 200 album chart in August 1985.  

Just an innocent summer love story?

The ’80s classic is a staple for many in their repertoire of feel-good music, but the track is not as innocent as it seems. Adams revealed the song’s double-meaning implications behind the lyrics: 

“It’s a very simple song about looking back on the summertime and making love,” Adams said. “For me, the ’69 was a metaphor for making love, not about the year. I had someone in Spain ask me once why I wrote the first line I had my first real sex dream… I had to laugh.” 

The correct lyrics are, I got my first real six-string / Bought it at the five and dime / Played it till my fingers bled / Was the summer of ’69.

Despite the sexual innuendos, Adams and co-writer Jim Valance both knew they had a hit on their hands. “Summer of ‘69” was written in Valance’s basement and was recorded three separate times.  

Making a hit

“I wanted to capture a special energy on the track—and nearly lost my team doing it,” Adams said. “I basically fought with everyone until it became the way it is today. It wasn’t easy getting it there.”  

“I had no idea it would become such a classic,” admits Adams. “Originally the song had been called ‘The Best Days Of My Life,’ but we had always played around with the idea of writing a song about summertime. At one point while we were doing the demo, I just threw in the lyric ‘It was the summer of ’69’ and it stuck. And the guitar intro is about the only thing I can play, so that was pretty easy.” 

Numbers aren’t everything

While the single would top the U.S. charts at number five on the Billboard Hot 100, Adams said he doesn’t care much for the ratings. 

“Charts don’t matter. What matters is that the song is great. And it is. It proves that people who program radio don’t always have their finger on what people want,” Adams said.  

Vallance reflected on writing the hit and said he isn’t sick of “Summer Of ’69” either. “I think it was Bryan and I at our best. We hadn’t had any real success yet. In January 1984 we were still writing songs for all the right reasons. Everything started to unravel after Reckless.” 


 Watch Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69” below: 

Bryan Adams (Photo: Courtesy of Sonic PR)

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