Bryan Adam’s released Waking Up the Neighbors was released in September of 1991 and it was pretty hard to miss. “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” became a huge hit, just absolutely massive. The album itself would go on to go Diamond in Canada and 4 x Platinum in the United States. It was also a very good rejuvenation of Adam’s recording career as it helped spruce up and expand his sound a little bit.
That being said, I’m not really writing about any of that stuff.
As I have previously mentioned in another chapter, I picked up Waking Up the Neighbors and Def Leppard’s Adrenalize within months of one another. At the time, I loved both albums and had them on a pretty constant rotation. My Uncle Bill, wanting something new to listen to and being a fan of Def Leppard’s Hysteria, asked if he could borrow them from me.
This was a little bit of an event as this was the first time Uncle Bill had ever asked to borrow anything off of me. My music knowledge and tastes must be growing and getting pretty good if the teacher was borrowing from the student. A few weeks later when he returned them, I asked him what he thought.
“Eh… they were okay. Had a hard time telling them apart sometimes.”
In my young brain, I wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about. I then listened to the albums back to back and was slightly shocked to discover I kind of could understand what he was saying. While they were by no means identical, there was a definite line of connection between the album. There was just some sort of sound, not readily identifiable, that you could hear in both works.
I poured through the liner notes to find that there was a common name among the records. Robert John “Mutt” Lange.
As it would turn out, upon further research, “Mutt” was also responsible for producing a couple of other albums in my collection including AC/DC, two other Def Leppard albums (Pyromania and Hysteria) and Billy Ocean’s Tear Down These Walls (which I had bought during my pop music phase). Listening to all of them, the musical acts were very different but you could feel that there was something in all of those albums that you could recognize. Almost like one thumb print left at the crime scene.
I would delve into “Mutt”’s catalog of other albums that he produced. It’s a wide a varied list of acts but it’s amazing that you can hear something in all of them. I honestly can’t explain the similarities in some of the acts. In terms of Def Leppard and Bryan Adams, you can chalk it up to songwriting (we’ll come back to this in a little bit) but with some of the others, it’s really hard to say other than it has something in the production that has given it the “Mutt” Lange sound. What that sound is, I couldn’t even really tell you what that sound is.
In terms of songwriting, Lange has a sound unto itself as well. When I first heard Shania Twain’s album, Come On Over, you can definitely hear the similarities between it and the more “pop” ish music Lange had been a co-writer on before, especially with the work Lange had done with Bryan Adams. I was really surprised at the time that people started to accuse Adams of being a ghostwriter on Come On Over. The people got it half right, yeah one of the guys who co-wrote Waking Up the Neighbors co-wrote Come On Over, just not Bryan Adams
After discovering the kind of influence “Mutt” could have on an album, I began to pay attention to who the producers were. Rick Rubin would be another name I would come across quite a bit in my collection and once again, from The Beastie Boys to Johnny Cash, there was an intangible there that seemed to be present. I can also hear it in albums that Brian Eno produces.
Or maybe I’m just crazy. Either way, it took a Bryan Adam’s album to open my ideas to the fact that there are people behind the scenes on an album that can have a very big impact on that album’s sound.
Next week: We’ll take a dive into a singles collection by one of the most important bands in industrial music.