Odd couples don't come much odder than DJ Sammy and Bryan Adams. One is a pale Canadian rocker approaching middle age, and the other is a sun-worshipping Spanish techno producer who once recorded under the name Porno DJ.
But, like Junkie XL's revival of Elvis' "A Little Less Conversation," Sammy's clubland resuscitation of Adams' 1984 weeper ballad "Heaven" has exploded into an international chart smash. Luckily for Sammy, he gets to celebrate the success of his single with its author.
"I've met him a few times, and we e-mail every few days now," said Sammy, 30, of his new best friend. "We have a very good friendship, and I think we have lots of plans for the future."
The full-length Heaven album might be Sammy's (born Sammy Bouriah) North American debut, but he's been moving asses across the ocean for more than a decade. Born on the Spanish island of Majorca, Sammy started washing glasses and spinning the occasional Madonna record in English disco pubs when he was 15, teaming with singer Marie van der Kolk as DJ Sammy featuring Carisma in the early '90s.
The pair hit the European dance charts with the songs "Life Is Just a Game" and "You're My Angel" before changing their name to Loona in the mid-'90s. After he began working under the pseudonym Porno DJ, Sammy's techno banger "The Judgement" became the unofficial anthem of Berlin's annual massive Love Parade techno party in 1999.
But it wasn't until he hooked up with ethereal Dutch singer Do that Sammy truly became an international male. The story of how his Eurodisco remix crashed the top of the Billboard dance chart and put the former dishwasher on the fast track is a classic case of being in the right place at the right time.
"I heard the song three summers ago when Loona was opening for Bryan at a show in Poland," Sammy said. "I watched his show, and when 'Heaven' came on and I saw all those hands in the air and felt the energy, I said, 'This is the right song. These are perfect harmonies!' "
Sammy couldn't get the song out of his head, so he asked friend and producing partner Yanou to burn him a demo of the song so he could listen to it as he drove around the island going to DJing gigs. "I had that demo in my car every day," Sammy said. "Then one day I said, 'I have the right medicine for the song, It will be hype!' "
Do had been recording some tag lines for commercials in an adjoining studio, and, liking her voice, Sammy and Yanou asked her if she would be the voice of "Heaven."
"But she didn't like dance music," Sammy said. "She loves R&B. I told her the Puff Daddy thing is not my specialty, but please try this and let's see how it goes. When I finished the mix at four in the morning, I just said, 'Wow.' The moment it was mixed, I knew it was the best remake I've ever done. I felt the magic of the record."
The success of "Heaven" inspired Sammy to add two more remakes to the hastily recorded album, which also includes such sun-kissed original trance tracks as "Sunlight," "Beautiful Smile," "Sunchild" and "Sunlight."
Van der Kolk lends her airy voice to a propulsive take on the Mamas and the Papas' classic 1966 hippie anthem "California Dreamin'." More improbably, the duo give Don Henley's brooding 1984 hit "The Boys of Summer" a trance facelift, turning it into a hands-in-the-air anthem. "I am a summer guy," said the perpetually cheery Sammy. "I love that summer, positive feeling, and I love to make people happy."
When Sammy sees people run to the dance floor when "Heaven" comes on, he said the biggest payoff is that look of recognition on their faces a few minutes in. "They realize what the [original] song is and then they go crazy," he said. "That is the best feeling."
Adams was so pleased with Sammy's work on "Heaven" that the DJ said he's been asked to remix the first single from Adams' next album, "I Will Always Return."
And though remakes and remixes seem to be Sammy's forte, "you have to be careful," he warned. "The people who love the originals can be deeply hurt by a remake if you don't put your own creativity inside and give it another kind of hype."