Vancouver-born Bruce Fairbairn was a classically trained trumpet player and a producer of blockbuster albums. His hits include Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet, which sold 20 million copies; the Aerosmith trilogy of Permanent Vacation, Pump and Get a Grip, along with the greatest hits compilation Big Ones, which sold 30 million copies; and Loverboy’s albums Loverboy, Get Lucky, Keep it Up, Lovin’ Every Minute of It, and Wildside, which sold 15 million copies.
Fairbairn, who was born in 1949, began playing the trumpet when a neighbour introduced him to the instrument at the age of five. He was “mesmerized” by it, and the neighbour gave him some lessons. At age six, he began performing for local audiences around the neighbourhood. He continued playing in bands during his high school years, though his education came first — Fairbairn went on to study biology at UBC, and later went to work for B.C. Hydro.
While writing, demoing and performing gigs with bands the Spectres Rhythm & Blues Revue and Sunshyne, he finished off his education with a degree in resource management. He was just wrapping up a four-volume environmental-impact analysis of the Revelstoke Dam when he finally caught a musical break: It was a call from a friend who had played one of Sunshyne’s demos for a record producer in L.A. The band was offered a record contract, and Fairbairn put environmental resources behind him.
Sunshyne was renamed Prism, and Fairbairn became the band’s producer. His childhood friend, Bruce Allen, became the band’s manager, and they became favourites in the rock scene. Fairbairn produced four albums with Prism, and then went to on to produce Loverboy, which catapulted his career to new heights, making a name for himself in the rock community, and attracting the likes of Bon Jovi and Aerosmith.
Fairbairn was a respectful but authoritative presence in the recording studio. Lifelong friend and Prism partner Jim Vallance has said: “He did what a producer is supposed to do, which is provide the vision and guide the project. Aerosmith knew that. Bon Jovi knew it. And that’s why they kept coming back to Bruce.”
Fairbairn also worked with KISS, AC/DC, Poison, the Scorpions, the Cranberries and others. He passed away suddenly in 1999 at the age of 49. Although his professional life revolved around the bands he played with and the studios where he worked, Fairbairn was a devoted husband and father, and he ensured that studio time was balanced by family and community commitments.
The year after his passing, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences rallied to honour and pay tribute to Fairbairn by inducting him into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Wins first of three Producer of the Year JUNO Awards for Prism’s 1980 album Young and Restless.
Produces Aerosmith’s 1987 Permanent Vacation, which sells more than 5 million copies and marks their comeback.
Nominated for the Producer of the Year JUNO Award in 1987 for Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.”
Produces Aerosmith’s Pump album in 1989, which goes on to sell 7 million copies.
Produces Aerosmith’s Get a Grip in 1993, netting 7 million in copies sold.