Notebook

Kids Wanna Rock

By Andy Afford

Canadian rocker Bryan Adams played the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham last weekend. Right next door to our offices here in Sneinton Market. I didn’t go, as I’d seen him and his band perform live as recently as 1984. 

Back then, it happened by accident. 

Myself, and then band mates, had decided that we would load our gear into our Ford Transit and head up to Newcastle, where we decided that Friday night appointment-to-view tv show The Tube, hosted by Jools Holland and Paula Yates, would place us promptly on the bill to perform. After all, the week before they’d played a homemade video of a funked-up demo of a song called ‘Relax’ by as yet unsigned Liverpool act, Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Us, being Lincolnshire’s next big thing, surely fitted right in with the same protocol?

Unbelievably, but still after a good deal of good-humoured to and fro – we offered to set up and play in the pub across the road – the production team failed to add us as a late-late inclusion to the running order. But on the upside we did gain tickets to watch our favourite show being broadcast live from the Tyneside studio. So, on balance, not the dream ticket we’d expected, but our time would definitely come. Maybe as early as next week. Maybe.

The line-up that night featured the debut performance from everyone’s second- or third-favourite based-largely-in-Coventry band, Fine Young Cannibals. Plus the above mentioned double-denimed-sporting North American cock-rockers. In short, Adams’ mob.

I remember there being two stages in the studio, upon which the bands were respectively set up. With the action panning between them as the show’s narrative barrelled along. Leaving the floating cast members of the audience being moved from place to place, in time with the action. It was Top of the Pops. But way cooler.

No fan of Adams’ hits of the day (we were entering his Summer of ‘69 Imperial period), the genre generally, it’s lyrical content, the perceived flag-waving, blue collar ethics and Christ almighty, look at the state of them, but still, let’s give it a chance, eh…

With that as the backdrop – and bear in mind I hadn’t even discovered Springsteen at this stage of my life – I remember standing arms folded ready to be absolutely and utterly underwhelmed. As this good-looking band of, clearly made-for-TV, sub Rick Springfield (one for the kids) fluff, first walked on stage, smiled cheerfully, and acknowledged a few no doubt  familiar faces on the stage lip, positioned front and centre. 

Upon cameras rolling at the top of the show, they stood nigh on motionless until cued in by the glorious Paula, and then fuck me dead. What a noise. 

That ‘full boat’, full-fat, classic rock band sound. It was loud, muscular and performed like it was the last show they might ever play. 

I think they played a song called ‘Somebody’ first. All pulsing bass and enormous chorus. You’d know it if you heard it. Then after that I can’t remember. But I do remember that during the ad breaks the band had the cheek, nay audacity, to shake hands and sign autographs from the stage for anyone and everyone who asked. Obviously, it was beneath me and my band. We were there to perform, after all. Not to worship.

And the upshot of that encounter is that I’ve remained not the world’s biggest Bryan Adams fan. Even now. But I know he’s good. As, to paraphrase Shakira, the hits don’t lie. 

I love songs of his like ‘Run To You’, ‘Cuts Like A Knife’ and the aforementioned ‘Somebody’. It’s still a rush, hearing it’s opening riff and bassline on an oldies radio show.

With regards the 40-year hit machine himself, it’s hard to write a single song loved by millions and millions of people and regarded a classic. Let alone a set full of them. But that song, more than any of his back catalogue, throws me back to a time when I clearly didn’t know shit from black pudding in terms of what makes the great songs great. Or understand what it takes to connect with people on such a scale. Not even a bit. But that’s the beauty of music, especially when you’re young. You don’t have to know anything. About anything really. Not when you look that bloody good x