At least 84% of every song ever written has been about sex. Sometimes it’s obvious, like Weezer’s “Tired of Sex” or every track on Love Gun; other times, it’s less explicit, such as “Tusk.” Then there are songs you have a hunch are about Doing It, but you’re not entirely sure. Take “Please Please Me” by the Beatles, for instance. That’s definitely about oral sex, right? Wrong.
John Lennon: “I remember the day I wrote it, I heard Roy Orbison doing ‘Only the Lonely,’ or something. And I was also always intrigued by the words to a Bing Crosby song that went, ‘Please lend a little ear to my pleas.’ The double use of the word ‘please.’ So it was a combination of Roy Orbison and Bing Crosby.” (Via)
Great song, disappointing origin story. It’s just about love and holding hands and, ugh, none of the sweaty stuff, making it the rare classic rock staple that doesn’t make you feel weird when you’re singing it with your parents in their beat-up Chevy. But what about when it ends and the next song is “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams — is that acceptable to sing with your parents? You’ve always assumed it’s about … y’know … but you’re not convinced either way. Let’s find out!
First, a bit of background on the song: Adams co-wrote it with Jim Vallance (who’s also worked with everyone from Aerosmith to Anne Murray) for his eventual-smash album, Reckless. This was in January 1984, and according to Vallance, “During the next month or two the song went through a number of musical and lyrical changes.” In his line-by-line lyrical breakdown, Adams’ writing partner claims, “In our first draft of the song, the lyric ‘summer of ’69’ appears only once, never to be repeated. It wasn’t the title, it was just another line in the song.”
He added more behind-the-scenes context in, of all places, a Song Facts message board.
Oh my ‘ I wish this little “controversy” would just go away.
First of all, when Bryan and I were writing the song, it was originally called “Best Days Of My Life.” 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 a few years ago when Bryan started introducing the song in concert by saying, “This song has nothing to do with the year 1969.” The audience reaction was predictable.
Let me qualify this by saying I don’t pretend to speak for Bryan. Two of us wrote the song. 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.
Bryan Adams is a great writer, a great singer, and a great friend. He’s entitled to his recollections as to what inspired the song “Summer of ’69.” My recollections just happen to be different than his. (Via)
He’s right, they are. Here’s what Adams had to say about his biggest hit.
I think [“Summer of ’69” is] timeless because it’s about making love in the summertime. There is a slight misconception it’s about a year, but it’s not. “69” has nothing to do about a year, it has to do with a sexual position…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. (Via)