THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S
THIS WEEK’S FEATURED SONG
Summer of ’69 by Bryan Adams - Song #36
This song is about the sexual position, not the year, according to Bryan Adams. He said, “A lot of people think it’s about a year, but actually it’s more about making love in the summertime. It uses ‘69’ as a sexual reference.” (Watch him explain in this 2008 clip from American morning TV news program The Early Show here.)He later clarified, “At the end of the song, the lyric says that it’s me and my baby in a 69. You’d have to be pretty thick in the ears if you couldn’t get that lyric.” But according to the song’s co-writer Jim Vallance, a long-time writing partner of Bryan Adams, Summer Of ’69 is not about sex, but rather exactly what it sounds like it’s about: nostalgia. Jim Vallance said, “Maybe he was thinking about something completely different...but I was thinking about that amazing summer when I turned 17. There were brand new vinyl albums released by The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Kinks, Janis Joplin, The Band. It was awesome and I’ll never forget it.”
The original title of the song was Best Days Of My Life, and according to Jim Vallance, in the original lyrics, “The words ‘summer of ‘69’ only appeared once, right after ‘played it ‘til my fingers bled.’ That was it! The song really was about the summer of 1969! It took us a week or two to fine-tune the lyric. At some point we realized that Summer Of ‘69 was a better title, so we literally ‘shoe-horned’ that phrase into a few more places in the song. At no time do I recall discussing sexual innuendo with Bryan, except for one little thing... When we recorded the demo in my basement, towards the end of the song Bryan sang a little naughty bit: ‘me and my baby in a ‘69.’ We had a laugh about it at the time, and Bryan decided to keep it when he did the final recording a month or two later. Nobody seemed to notice, and that was the end of it until Bryan started introducing the song in concert by saying, ‘This song has nothing to do with the year 1969.’”
In a 2013 Rolling Stone interview, Bryan Adams admitted that those summer days he sings about weren’t actually the best days of his life. He was only 10 years old in the summer of 1969; the lyrics of the song were inspired by a memorable summer when he was a teenager. He said, “Yes, I did get my first guitar that summer at the five and dime, and it’s true that I played it until my fingers bled. I did start a band with some of my classmates, and we really did make an effort to get some gigs and make a name for ourselves, but things fell apart and the band broke up. I actually did meet someone special at the drive-in, and I was sure it was true love, but you know how teenage romances are. It was a very exciting, action-packed summer, but definitely not the best days of my life. The births of my daughters would definitely rank up there as the best days of my life. As would signing my first record deal and playing my first sold out arena show. Then there’s winning my Grammy, my induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and starting my charitable foundation... [N]othing that happened back then would even make the top ten list of best days of my life now. When I look back now, that summer sure did seem to last forever, but that was all kid’s stuff. Truth be told, Summer Of ‘69 just sounded right lyrically. If I’m really coming clean, I should admit that my buddy Brodie bet me I couldn’t write a hit song with ‘69’ in the title. Had to prove that hoser wrong, you know what I mean?”
Bryan Guy Adams is a Canadian singer/songwriter, guitarist, producer, photographer, philanthropist, environmentalist, vegan, and animal rights activist. Known as “the Groover from Vancouver,” he is one of the most acclaimed singer/songwriters in music history, with a career that has spanned more than four decades. He has toured the world and performed live every year since 1980, often performing over 100 concerts per year. He was born in 1959 in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, to parents from the United Kingdom. About his childhood, Bryan Adams said, “My father was a diplomat in the Canadian foreign service, so we traveled around a lot... I was a polite, well-behaved child. I was also aimless until I discovered music at a young age. After that I would lock the bedroom door, play records, and learn the guitar. Music became my whole life.”
Even though Bryan Adams had four #1 songs on the U.S. Billboard Top 40, and other songs that were more popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Summer Of ‘69 is now widely considered to be his signature song, and arguably his most popular today. After it was released in June 1985 as the fourth single from his fourth album Reckless, Summer Of ‘69 peaked at #5 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40, and helped propel Reckless to #1 on the U.S. Billboard album chart in August 1985. Summer Of ‘69 is still a karaoke favorite, and has become Bryan Adam’s most-streamed single, with twice the number of streams on Spotify as his second most-popular song, the 1991 #1 smash Everything I Do (I Do It For You). To determine the 50 best Canadian songs of all time, Canadian online music publication Chart Attack conducted polls of readers, musicians, and music industry professionals in 1996, 2000, and 2005. The only Bryan Adams song to make these lists was Summer Of ’69, ranked 24th in 1996, fourth in 2000, and fifth in 2005.
Bryan Adams has been nominated for numerous awards over four decades, including 15 Grammys, winning only once in 1992 for (Everything I Do) I Do It for You——Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; the song was also nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. At the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, Summer Of ’69 was nominated for Best Male Video, but lost to Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love (song #184 on this list), but that year Bryan Adams did win Best Stage Performance in a Video for It’s Only Love (which is also from the Reckless album but did not make this list), his duet with Tina Turner, who has three songs on this list: What’s Love Got To Do With It (#77), Better Be Good To Me (#401), and Private Dancer (#448).
Bryan Adams has been nominated for an astonishing 56 Juno Awards (which honor Canadian music industry achievements) and he has won 18, including Male Vocalist of the Year seven times: in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1997, and 2000; 1984 Album of the Year for Cuts Like a Knife; 1984 Producer of the Year; 1984 and 1985 Composer of the Year (with Jim Vallance); 1985 Album of the Year for Reckless; Canadian Entertainer of the Year in both 1987 and 1992; 1992 Producer of the Year; 1993 Album of the Year for Waking Up the Neighbors; and Best Songwriter in 1999. He was named Canadian Artist Of the Decade for the ‘80s by the Canadian Recording Industry Association. Bryan Adams was the 2006 inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. In 2010, Bryan Adams received the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award for his part in numerous charitable concerts and campaigns during his career. He has been consistently nominated for Juno awards since the ‘80s; he was nominated for Artist of the Year as recently as 2015, and hosted the 2017 Juno Awards ceremony.
Bryan Adams has had a total of 22 U.S. Billboard Top 40 hits, 12 of them in the ‘80s, including Straight From the Heart (song #484 on this list), Cuts Like a Knife, This Time, Run To You (song #249 on this list), Somebody, Heaven (his first #1 hit, and song #64 on this list), One Night Love Affair, It’s Only Love (duet with Tina Turner), Heat Of the Night, Hearts On Fire, and Victim Of Love. In the ‘90s, Bryan Adams had 10 U.S. Billboard Top 40 hits, including the #1 songs (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, All for Love (with Rod Stewart and Sting), and Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?.
Summer Of ‘69 has been covered by American punk rock band MxPx in 1995 (click here), American rock band Bowling For Soup in 2000 (click here), Canadian rock band The Janet Theory in 2001 (click here), English/Irish pop boy band One Direction in 2010 (click here), British pop music act Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers in 2012 (click here), American music project in Tim Timebomb in 2014 (click here), and American rock band Foo Fighters in 2015 (click here).
Bryan Adams performed Summer Of ‘69 during the 2011 Cricket World Cup opening ceremony in Bangladesh (watch it here). In 2018, he performed Summer Of ‘69 as a surprise duet with American pop star Taylor Swift during the final show of her Reputation tour in Toronto, Canada. Taylor Swift says that Summer Of ’69 is one of her favorite songs ever written. She posted the performance on Facebook and wrote, “I didn’t even know Bryan was gonna be in town until last night and I asked him completely last minute if he wanted to come sing!! Pretty evident from the videos (um yes I’m posting another one) that I’m FULLY LOSING IT with excitement, and I can’t thank Bryan Adams enough.” To watch the live duet, as well as some behind-the-scenes footage, click here.
Bryan Adams has never married. He has two daughters (Bunny, born in 2011, and Lula, born in 2013) with Alicia Grimaldi, his former personal assistant who is the trustee and co-founder of his foundation, the Bryan Adams Foundation, which he started in 2006. The foundation “hopes to advance the lives of children through education and to support those in need in a variety of ways via the distribution of grants... It aims particularly to advance education and learning opportunities for children and young people worldwide, believing that an education is the best gift that a child can be given.”
In addition to his humanitarian work, Bryan Adams is also an animal rights activist. He says that eliminating all animal products from his diet in 1989 was the best thing he ever did. He says that his life’s motto is, “If you love animals, go vegan.” He frequently discusses being vegan in interviews, and posts about being vegan on Instagram. “I’m not for the killing of any creature, whether it be seals, cows, dogs, anything. So anytime it comes to any kind of animal cruelty, I’m totally against it.” He also talks about going vegan for the planet: “You can’t be a true environmentalist if you eat animals.” In a November 2019 Instagram post, he asserted, “The future is recognizing that killing animals for food is f*cking up the planet.” And he often shares the health benefits of being vegan: “I am always on the move but I have tons of energy because I am plant-based. It is absolutely the best thing you could ever do for yourself. It is a great path.” And he needs that energy: In 2019, this 60-year-old performed 88 live concerts around the world. Bryan Adams released his 14th studio album, Shine a Light, in March 2019. His Christmas EP was released in November 2019. Bryan Adams has three more songs on this list of the TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S: Heaven at #64, Run To You at #249, and Straight From the Heart at #484. For a totally awesome extended version of Summer Of ’69, click here.
Using the TABLE below, you may sort the list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S by rank, title, artist, and year.
When sorting song titles or artists in the table, they will be alphabetized. (The four songs that begin with a parenthesis will be listed first, followed by the four songs that begin with numbers.)
Songs and artists that begin with A or The are alphabetized that way. (For example, you’ll find The Police and The Pretenders with the letter T, and A Flock Of Seagulls with the letter A.)
Solo artists are alphabetized by their first names. (For example, Bryan Adams is with the letter B, and Richard Marx is with the letter R.)
To see all of an artist’s songs ranked in order, enter the artist’s name in the search box, and then, to sort the results by rank, click on the # at the top of the first column.
THE SEARCH BOX
The SEARCH BOX is in the top right corner of the table. When you type a word or words into the SEARCH BOX, the table will collapse, revealing the search results, which you may then sort by clicking on the table headers. (NOTE: To get back to the full list of 500 songs after doing a search, you must clear the search box.)
SORTING BY YEAR
To see songs from a specific year ranked in order, enter an apostrophe and the year (for example: ‘84) in the search box, and then sort the results by rank. The year listed is the year that the song entered the United States Billboard Top 40.
DETAILS ABOUT THE SONGS & ARTISTS
For more information and interesting facts about the songs and the artists, plus other great ‘80s songs that didn’t make this TOP 500 list, and much more, please go to PAGE 2: THE MUSIC.
WHO HAS THE MOST SONGS?
Who has the most songs on the list – Madonna, Prince, George Michael, Whitney Houston, or Michael Jackson? Click HERE to find out.