Is Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69” really about performing the act of 69?
Back in the summer of ’85, Adams’ nostalgic tale of his youth and his first rock band was a top-five hit: “I got my first real six-string / Bought it at the five-and-dime / Played it ’till my fingers bled / It was the summer of ’69,” Adams sang. Most people believed that he was referring to the year 1969; this was partially because of the apostrophe in the song’s title, and partially because Adams was a cleancut Canadian boy: if it had been a Prince song, there would have been less wholesome assumptions. But for anyone who did the math, the timeline was inescapable: Bryan Adams was only nine years old in the summer 1969. This would have made him a tad young for the song’s “Jimmy quit, Jody got married” narrative–either he was the world’s most precocious third-grader or the title’s apostrophe was just a figleaf. Years later, Adams finally confirmed your dirty-minded suspicions: “That song always surprised me. From its inception it was always exciting, so I’m glad everyone else got it. One thing people never got, though, was the song isn’t about the actual year 1969–it’s about making love a la sixty-nine!”
(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)
(Note: in 2012, I received an email from the song’s cowriter Jim Vallance, detailing the creation of the song and denying that the title was intended as a dirty joke. You can read the details here.)