Born on Guy Fawkes' Day into a military family, Adams lived all over the world from two weeks after he was born until his parents split up and his mother finally settled in Vancouver with a 14-year-old Bryan and his younger brother. Hearing the Beatles for the first time while crossing the English Channel on a ferry, Adams was pointed in the rock n' roll direction his life would take.
Because of this he knew that being a musician was all he would ever want to be at a very young age, so he auditioned for band after band in the Vancouver area, finally putting his own together out of frustration; he ended up singing lead only because he could find no one he liked well enough to do the honours. After playing the Vancouver nightclub scene for awhile, he finally quit school because he couldn't be both a student and a musician. The money his parents had put away for his university tuition went towards buying a piano.
In the summer of 1976 Nick Gilder left the newly-popular area band Sweeney Todd; Adams approached the band and convinced them that he was the one to replace Gilder. One audition was all it took and the band re-recorded their hit single "Roxy Roller" for release in the US. They went into the studio for Sweeney Todd's second album, and Adams co-wrote three songs for the 1977 London Records release, 'If Wishes Were Horses...'. Constant touring in confined vehicles eventually put too great a strain on Adams's relationship with the rest of the band, and he left at the end of 1977.
While in a music store one day in January of 1978, a mutual friend introduced Adams to local musician/producer Jim Vallance, then moonlighting with the newly-formed Prism as Rodney Higgs. The two hit it off immediately and got together the next day to attempt songwriting together; the first song they wrote, "Don't Turn Me Away", ended up as the B-side to two later Adams singles.
Their combined talents and Adams's intense persona garnered Adams a recording deal with A&M Records in Toronto, for the now-legendary sum of $1.00. It has proven to be just about the best single dollar A&M has ever spent. Adams's very first release for the label, "Let Me Take You Dancing", recorded when Adams was 19, became a disco hit in 1979, selling 80,000 copies as a remixed 12" single in New York City alone.
In 1979 Adams knew that he needed someone to handle the business side of his career and there was no bigger music manager in Canada than Vancouver's own Bruce Allen; the success he had had internationally with Bachman Turner-Overdrive coupled with the then-initial success in Canada with Prism made him the man Adams wanted, and so he went after him doggedly until Allen had no choice but to say yes.
Impressed with the success of the first single, A&M sent Adams to record a full album in Toronto, the result of which was Adams's eponymous debut in 1980. Although not having any chart-busting singles, the album paved the way for radio interest in the young Canadian singer on both sides of the North American border, as did touring with a band that could reproduce the sound live. For this task Adams hired a local existing quartet known as Remote Control featuring Steven Weakes (keyboards), Paul Iverson (bass), Darryl Kromm (guitar and back-up vocals - Kromm went on to form Strange Advance with Iverson a few years later), and Ross Hembling (drums).
Such was A&M's belief in the Adams-Vallance team that the label sent Adams to New York City to record his second album, 1981's 'You Want It, You Got It'. Produced by Bob Clearmountain, and featuring guest appearances by G.E. Smith (guitarist for Hall and Oates), Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (The Doobie Brothers), Cindy Bullen, Tommy Mandel, and Mickey Curry, the less-polished, edgier material and production caught the ears of radio programmers in the US and Canada, and the record's various singles started climbing up charts across the continent.
Needing a band, Adams went out and convinced three of Vancouver's best-known musicians (Keith Scott, guitar; John Hannah, keyboards; and Dave Reimer, bass) to hook up with him; this line-up eventually changed and stabilized with Scott, Hannah, Dave Taylor (bass), and Jimmy Wesley (drums). Tours with the Kinks, Foreigner, and Loverboy across North America helped spread the word, and having songs covered by so many other artists at the time also assisted in establishing Adams and Vallance as a writing duo to be reckoned with. Releases of Adams-Vallance tunes on the charts at the time showed covers by such diverse acts as Lisa Dal Bello, Prism, Tim Bogert, Ian Lloyd, Bob Welch, Bonnie Tyler, Rosetta Stone, Loverboy, and Kiss.
By the time Adams was ready to record again, he had established a strong working relationship with guitarist Scott and bassist Taylor, so into the studio they went, and Adams once again used Mandel and Curry for keyboards and drums respectively. The result of their efforts was 1983's 'Cuts Like A Knife', once again produced by Clearmountain and featuring Foreigner's Lou Gramm on back-up vocals. The album was an immediate hit in Canada and Adams hit the road again, with Scott, Taylor, Hannah, and new drummer Frankie La Rocka from New York. Various singles caught on south of the border, and Allen secured Adams a tour opening for Journey in the US, one of their biggest acts at the time, as well as many headlining gigs all over the continent. The hard work paid off and single after single from the album hit the charts, as well as racking up considerable sales in both Canada and the United States.
Anticipation was high for the next album, 1984's 'Reckless', so A&M did something no other label had done before then: they simultaneously released a video package with the album. With Clearmountain returning as producer, and featuring the same core musicians as 'Cuts...' (Scott, Taylor, Curry and Mandel), plus a duet featuring Tina Turner, the album shipped platinum in Canada and the first single, "Run To You", hit the charts instantly in the US and Canada.
Once again recruiting Scott, Taylor and Hannah to tour with him, Adams added relative newcomer Pat Steward on drums, and Adams set out for the first time as headliner in 1985. On the strength of strong single choices and constant touring, 'Reckless' eventually went on to sell over eight million copies worldwide and established Adams as a true music star.
It was in 1984 that the world's attention was brought to the famine situation in Ethiopia by Boomtown Rats' singer (Sir) Bob Geldof and the charity single by Band Aid, "Do They Know It's Christmas", so when Adams heard that a similar effort was being made by a group of all-star American musicians, Adams insisted that Canadians get into the act as well.
The result of which was the Adams/Vallance/David Foster song, "Tears Are Not Enough", a Canadian-history-making video featuring most of the country's biggest stars, and an Adams band appearance at the historic Live Aid concert in Philadelphia that summer. This was the beginning of Adams's public display of support for various charities, which he continues to this day.
The next album, 1987's 'Into The Fire', took a little longer to record and was met with critical and commercial puzzlement. Adams felt his experience with Live Aid and the 1986 Amnesty International tour (featuring U2, Peter Gabriel, Sting, and Adams, among others) had helped him to grow as a person, and the songs on 'Into The Fire' showed a more reflective, mature Adams that had left many a fan of his usual rock and roll fare confused. This showed in sales of the Clearmountain produced album, and featured the by-now core studio band of Scott, Taylor, Mandel, and Curry; it failed to reach the standard set by 'Reckless', eventually selling just over three million copies worldwide.
While not a flop by any stretch of the imagination, it also did not produce great box-office numbers, and some live dates on the 1987 North American tour had to be cancelled. By now Adams had managed to convince Mickey Curry to accompany him on the road with Scott, Taylor and Hannah, and while still garnering positive reviews for their live shows in the US and Canada, 1987 was the year that saw Adams firmly establish himself in the hearts and minds of European and Japanese audiences. While previous tours overseas had always done well, particularly the opening slot for Tina Turner in Europe, the 'Into The Fire' tour solidified a fan base for Adams that to this day remains his strongest, both in terms of record and ticket sales. It was also on this overseas tour that Adams persuaded Tommy Mandel to join the band and his dream band was finally a reality.
After coming off the road in 1988, Adams decided to regroup and refocus on his music. His writing relationship with Vallance had begun to deteriorate, but they managed to record a full album's worth of material with producer Daniel Lanois. Not happy with the way it turned out, Adams scrapped the entire thing and started from scratch, writing new material and recruiting a new producer and writing partner in Robert John "Mutt" Lange (Def Leppard, AC/DC, Shania Twain).
Lange had a reputation for taking his time with recording projects and such was the case with Adams's album, and it didn't see the light of day until 1991. 'Waking Up The Neighbours' surpassed everyone's expectations and went on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide. The band - Adams, Scott, Taylor, Curry, and Mandel - stayed on the road, predominantly overseas, for almost two full years, playing in sold out after sold out venue everywhere. With all the attention that was generated from this album and tour, Bryan Adams finally became a household name.
Between 'Waking Up The Neighbours' and the next album of new material, 1996's '18 'Til I Die', A&M Records capitalized on Adams's new-found superstardom and released a best-of package, 'So Far So Good', in 1993, which eventually sold over 13 million copies worldwide. In 1994 they also released a live album called 'Live! Live! Live!' (feauring a bonus live disc with the Asian release), which showcased Adams's strongest point - his live concert.
But once again the rollercoaster of Adams's career took a dip with '18 'Til I Die', also produced by Lange. Stylistically all over the board, it failed to produce any hit singles; even with a long tour of Europe, the album failed to sell well anywhere in the world (although going platinum in Canada almost immediately, it was a far cry from the multi-platinum sales of previous albums), and proposed dates in the US were cancelled due to lack of interest.
Regrouping once again, Adams decided to take MTV up on their years long offer to do one of their famous 'Unplugged' shows, and a concert in New York City in early 1997 was recorded and released as 'Bryan Adams MTV Unplugged' later in the year. Reworking some of his biggest hits and some obscure album tracks to fit the more acoustically-inclined setting, the first single was very well received in North America, so A&M released a second single in the hopes the album would start gaining sales numbers in the US. It ended up selling fairly well, but nowhere near the numbers previous Adams releases saw.
However, Adams is firmly established as one of the most successful singer-songwriters in music history, having sold over 50 millions albums worldwide, and with an impressive list of nominations and awards won: 24 Juno nominations (16 won); 13 Grammy nominations (3 won), including one from the American Paper Institute for the environmental packaging of 'Waking Up The Neighbours'; 3 Academy Awards nominations; 4 MTV Awards nominations (2 won); 5 MuchMusic Awards nominations (3 won); plus literally dozens of other awards worldwide since 1983.
Adams took on the rock world again, with the 1998 release of the Brit-pop styled single/video, "On A Day Like Today" which was the title track from the album released in North America October 20/98.
The second single/video, "When You're Gone", features The Spice Girls' Mel C. A planned tour for the U.S. was cancelled following the CD's slide from Billboard's Top-200 in December '98.