COVER

At Work With A Wizard Of Song

NICHOLAS JENNINGS July 6 1987
COVER

At Work With A Wizard Of Song

NICHOLAS JENNINGS July 6 1987

At Work With A Wizard Of Song

When he is not on tour, Bryan Adams can usually be found down in Jim Vallance’s basement. It has become a routine but all-important pit stop for Canada’s rock ’n’ roll superstar. Adams makes the 20-minute drive from his own house in West Vancouver across the Lions Gate Bridge to Vallance’s home in a fashionable downtown neighborhood. There, sometimes for as long as 12 hours, he and Vallance refuel one of the most consistent hit machines in pop music. As composers of the more than 50 songs Adams has recorded, the Adams-Vallance team has a strong track record in the business.

Increasingly, their partnership is taking other artists to the top of the charts. Adams, the performing extrovert in the duo, has become probably the world’s most recognizable Canadian musician. By contrast, the bearded, balding and bespectacled Vallance is almost unknown—except in the credits on his partner’s records. And Vallance says that he likes it that way: “I have

freedom. I don’t have people knocking on the door the way Bryan does.”

That situation may be about to change. As the man behind the debut album of Canada’s fastest-rising new group, Glass Tiger, and as songwriter to such stars as Anne Murray, Vallance, 35, is in increasing demand in his own right. In industry circles, his name now comes up without the Adams connection. And his own writing and production schedule is fully booked until the middle of 1988.

Vision: In the past two months alone, Vallance completed a songwriting session with the veteran rock group Aerosmith, then produced a new song for the American band .38 Special. After wrapping up another writing stint with Glass Tiger—with whom he penned the 1986 hit Don’t Forget Me (When Fm Gone)—Vallance flew to Toronto to finish mixing a single for the new Canadian act The Partland Brothers. For what remains of the year, Vallance will again be tinkering with knobs and dials to produce Glass Tiger’s second album. He

expects to finish by Christmas—just in time to rejoin Adams for their next songwriting session in January. Said Glass Tiger drummer Michael Hanson: “Jim worked hard with us. Very few people have his vision.”

Enigma: Until recently, Vallance was a show business enigma. Earlier this year rock critic Peter Goddard spotted Vallance at an airport and, based on that encounter, produced a story about “possibly the biggest unknown in Canadian show business history.” Vallance, still furious, remains reluctant to give interviews about his private life—including his wife, Rachel Paiement, former singer with the Franco-Ontarian rock group Cano.

But some facts are known. Born in Chilliwack, B.C., Vallance began piano lessons at seven and studied cello at the University of British Columbia. Deciding that classical music would not pay, he switched to pop in 1975. Working under the name Rodney Higgs to conceal his stylistic change, he joined a rock band, Prism, and wrote much of its first album. At 25 he left the group—and by chance met a brash, aspiring 18-year-old rock vocalist named Bryan Adams in a Vancouver music store.

Inspiration: “It was literally a twominute meeting,” Vallance told Maclean’s. “I had been looking for a singer and had no idea Bryan could also write. We wrote a song the very first day.” With their partnership sealed, Vallance and Adams began turning out the basic three-chord rock songs suited to Adams’s husky voice. Although some critics have labelled their efforts mechanical, others have marvelled at their consistency. The British music magazine Sounds placed the AdamsVallance team among “the finest songwriters around.” The secret to their success, says Vallance, is hard work. He added, “The really great writers have always put in the hours.”

Vallance’s calm, pragmatic approach to songwriting is clearly a well-suited backbeat to Adams’s more volatile style. With more than 100 compositions to their credit, including those recorded by Tina Turner, Roger Daltrey and Carly Simon, their partnership is gaining increasing respect— and a joint royalty income estimated at more than $8 million to date.

In Vallance’s studio hangs a poster of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, for inspiration. Says Vallance: “Those guys were marvellous together. I believe they will eventually be seen as the Beethovens of the 20th century.” Emerging from the shadow of his famous partner, Vallance, too, aspires to be a composer of classic pop.

NICHOLAS JENNINGS