Oh, 1991 …
And with this flashback to the blockbuster phenomenon that was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, I begin Radio Remix #2.
It does not matter how young or old you were, whether you were a movie-goer or lived under a rock. If you were breathing in July of 1991, you knew Bryan Adams’s smash hit.
Written specifically for 1991’s Kevin Costner historical mullet-a-thon, the song also appeared on Adams’s next solo album, Waking up the Neighbours (with a U, because Canadians), the following year. But by the time Adams’s album came out, the song was already a multi-platinum hit thanks to Robin Hood. It actually holds a record in the UK for having the longest run on top of the UK Singles Chart—16 weeks, trouncing its paltry 9-week run in BA’s native Canada. It hit #1 in 17 other countries and it also topped the Europe-wide charts. In the US, it not only hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but also on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary (which sounds like an oxymoron) and the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock (also an oxymoron). In ’92, BA and company won a Grammy for it, but it lost out on the Academy Award to “Beauty and the Beast.”
So now that the ridiculous statistics are out of the way, let’s chat about this song.
Look, as I said, if you were alive in 1991, you knew this song. It was everywhere—on every radio station, on all the tv commercials for the movie, *in* the movie, rotating heavily on MTV due to the strange combination of Farmhand!Bryan Adams and Bad British Accent!Kevin Costner in the same video.
If you also happened to be barely into high school and barely out of puberty, the song was practically a sacrament (and so was the movie, which not only reinforced my existing crush on Christian Slater, despite his horrendous accent, but introduced me to the glory that was and is Alan Rickman). This song was the highlight of every school dance, every social function, every party. My friends celebrated their one-month-iversary with “their song,” cried to it when they broke up a week later. Everything at fourteen is so important, so revelatory, so necessary, and so immediate that this song, with its cries of perfect, permanent love encapsulated all the teenage idealism and hormone-induced romance that every teenager was feeling.
Apparently written in just under an hour, BA, Mutt Lange and company clearly had the formula to a teenage girl’s heart down pat. The song itself plucks at every heartstring, from the near-mystical acoustic piano sounding earnestly above the synthy stringed backdrop, to Adams’s well-known husky vibrato, to the long-awaited entrance of the guitars and drums, to the inevitable guitar solo, to the slow fade-out back to the song’s humble beginnings. Not only did the lyrics suit the anxious romance of the film, but they were universally appealing to those yearning for true love. What young girl, or guy, wasn’t dreaming of finding the person that would say to them “I’d fight for you, I’d lie for you, walk the wire for you, I’d die for you”?
Of course, as one grows older and hopefully wiser, we can recognize that perhaps such emotions are a bit on the trite side, not to mention a rather poor rhyme scheme. But even to this day, the song still inflicts a bit of a heady rush, a little pang in the chest. Even though the song itself is quite dated, it’s kind of a nice reminder of the youthful hope for romance. It’s certainly not a song I go out of my way to listen to, but if I happen to catch a few bars, I smile.
One of the fun things about going through these old mixtapes is remembering how they sounded on the actual cassette, as opposed to the “official” versions on YouTube, etc. Even though I hesitate these days to play these old tapes (Radio Remix #1 died a painful death many years ago and I wish I’d kept it), I can remember exactly what blips, bloops, and unfortunate edits were part of each song, and oftentimes how they got there. Back in the day, the radio announcers would often tell you what songs were coming up next, and if it was one I wanted to dub and I had the great misfortune of being in the car, I would often sprint to my room, hoping I’d make it in time and would catch the beginning of the song. Unfortunately, that was not the case with this song. I don’t know if it was a car thing or not, but my version of this song started about two or three measures in. Even to this day, the song sounds funny to me with the full intro, and I half hold my breath, thinking the tape is about to crackle.