I am one of those people who like lyrics in songs. I listen to the text, and for me to like a song, the text has to make sense. Well, the exception that confirms the rules is “Scatman” but I’m not sure if that even counts.
I think it’s partly because my brain’s just wired to play with words and twist and shout them, and love the words, and partly because I wouldn’t want to get caught pushing a message I don’t understand. It hasn’t always been easy, especially since Mom used to play Harry Belafonte and Edith Piaf at home when I was a preschooler, and as much as I’d love to say I was fluent in French at the age of five, well, I just can’t.
And “Je ne regrette rien” may even have been be easier to understand than “Day-o, day-o, Daylight come and me wan’ go home, day, me say day, me say day, me say day”.
When I started school, I spent my afternoons alone at home, listening to the Beatles, Paul Anka, and Finnish pop, which at the time, consisted mostly of Finnish covers of songs that had charted elsewhere. And I sang along, approving of their message.
Knowing the lyrics to all Paul Anka songs impressed at least one girl in my first ever school dance, even if my singing probably didn’t. In the next couple of years I graduated to Finnish new wave, rockabilly – which was all the craze – Elvis, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly and by the time Terry hung his Canadian flag on the wall in our house, I was listening to whatever was on the “Rock Radio”, a radio show in the afternoons, three times a week.
We were so rock/pop deprived in Finland, that a buddy of mine and me stayed up all night to see Lionel Ritchie sing “All Night Long” at the 1984 Olympics closing ceremony in Los Angeles.
Terry didn’t grow up with “Rock Radio” because he was Canadian (in case the fact he put a flag of Canada on his wall wasn’t a giveaway), in Joensuu to spend a year after high school to figure out what to do next. Wanting to keep on playin hockey, he chose Finland, and together with his Cooperalls (long hockey pants), Saskatchewan Roughriders baseball cap, and the flag, he brought rock’n’roll with him.
He played Twisted Sister, and Tragically Hip, and Van Halen, and Rick Moranis’s and Dave Thomas’s comedy album “The Great White North” in his room, and we watched music videos we had taped off the one show that played music videos to the point where we both knew the lyrics to Kiss’s “Heaven’s on fire”, Dio’s “Last in line”, and Limahl’s “Neverending story”. Well, we even knew David Lee Roth’s lines in the intro to “Just a Gigolo” by heart.
And then one winter’s day, Terry got mail from Canada. It was one of those padded yellow envelopes used in North America, and inside there was a black tape. Now, I didn’t know it was black when the mail arrived because it was Terry’s mail, and his tape, and his music, but a couple of months later, Terry handed me the tape.
By then, I knew exactly what was on it. I knew it was something his friends back home in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan had made him so he would stay abreast of things in Canada. On one side of the tape, there were a few songs by Chicago – “You’re the inspiration”, “Hard habit to break” – and REO Speedwagon – “One lonely night”, “Can’t fight this feeling” – and on the other side Bryan Adams’s “Reckless” album.
Terry gave me that tape early that summer because he went interrailing in Europe with a friend, and I stayed at home mowing lawns for the city of Joensuu. Every day, I rode my bike to a garage, got out a lawnmower, rode it to my designated spot for the day, put on my headphones under my ear-muffs and listened to that tape.
I listened to the tape so much I ever made up a story arc for the entire album, from “One night love affair” to “Heaven” to “It’s only love” to “Ain’t gonna cry”. I listened to the songs over and over again, and I sang along, and I liked the lyrics.
Only, since Terry had only received a black tape in the mail, and since I didn’t have Internet – or the presence of mind to ride my bike to a record store – I didn’t know that the songs were called “One night love affair” and “Heaven” and “Ain’t gonna cry”.
That bothered me so when Terry got back from his trip, I told him I wished I knew the song titles.
“You idiot, how hard can it be,” he said. (He liked to sound tough).
“Just listen to the songs. Come here,” he said and walked into my room.
“Put the tape in,” he said.
“Play the first song.”
I pressed play, and I heard the first guitar riffs of the song.
Bryan Adams sang “you’re the silent type, and you caught my eye”, and I was tapping my feet, and Terry was playing his air guitar, and then the song kicked into its chorus.
“One night love affair
Tryin’ to make like we don’t care
We were both reachin’ out for somethin’ “
Terry signaled to me to press stop. I did.
“So, this one’s obviously called ‘One night love affair’. Fast forward to the next song,” Terry said while he scribbled “One night love affair” on a piece of paper.
We did the same with song number: got to the chorus in which Bryan Adams sings, “she’s only happy when she’s dancin’” and Terry signaled me to stop the tape.
“She’s only happy when she’s dancin’,” he said, and made a circling motion with his index finger. “Next.”
We went through the album song by song, and as we got to each chorus, Terry wrote the song title on the piece of paper.
“There you go,”he said. “See, it wasn’t that hard. Think a little,” he added.
A few weeks later I somehow learned that we had made one mistake on the list. The song we had thought was called “The Best Days of My Life” was actually called “Summer of ’69”.
“Oh well,” said Terry.
“It was either that or “Best Days of My Life.”
The other day, there was a big Bryan Adams interview in The Rolling Stone, about the Reckless album, on its 30th anniversary.
In it, he says, among other things, this:
That explains Terry’s mistake. Although, I’m sure that if you asked him about it, he’d say it was actually Bryan Adams’s mistake.