Thursday, January 26, 2012

"In a Big Country" by Big Country - January 26th 80's Quest song/band of the day

Oh man, this was one of the best songs from the 80's.  It got you pumped up when you heard it.  The band had an original sound, unlike any other  - why did we not hear more from this band?

Big Country was a band from Scotland (Dunfermline) formed in 1981.  Their music was anthemic and guitar driven with elements of Scottish folk music like bagpipes and  fiddles.  The band was formed by singer/guitarist, Stuart Adamson, who was born in Manchester, England, but moved to Scotland when he was four years old.  In 1977 when he was 18, he formed a punk band called The Skids.  Later, he got together with his friend Bruce Watson (guitar) who was working as a cleaner on submarines on a naval base and hooked up with studio musicians Tony Butler (bass) and Mark Brzezicki (drums) to form Big Country. 

Their album "The Crossing" was released in 1982.  Adamson was married, and had his first child that same year.   The first and second singles were "Harvest Home" and "Fields of Fire", but the big hit was "In a Big Country"  It was their only song to hit the Top 40 in the United States.  Even though they are often considered a one-hit wonder in the U.S, over the ensuing years they released more albums and remained popular throughout Europe and had a cult following.  The song "In a Big Country" featured heavily engineered guitars that sounded like bagpipes.  The band was also known to use an e-bow which is a device that makes a guitar sound more like strings or a synthesizer.

1984's "Steeltown" album had 3 top 30 hits in the UK, but was a commercial flop in the U.S.  During this time the band toured as a headliner, and also as the opening band for Queen and Roger Daltrey from The Who.  In 1986 they put out their third album, "The Seer", again it did well in Europe, and poorly in the States.  In 1988 in an attempt to appeal to an American audience they worked with Peter Wolf (of the J. Geils Band) to produce their 4th album "Peace in Our Time".  Critics and fans enjoyed the album, but it still sold poorly in the States.  Their 5th album, 1991's "No Place Like Home" was not released in t he U.S. at all.  The band was dropped by their record label, Phonogram that same year. 

In 1996, lead singer Stuart Adamson split with his first wife, Sandra and was drinking heavily.  In 1997 he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and in 1999 got remarried to a hairdresser, Melanie Shelley.  In Nashville he started a new alternative country band with Marcus Hummon called The Raphaels.  Big Country also released 3 more albums before calling it a day.  Their last album was 1999's "Driving to Damascus". Adamson was disappointed and depressed that the album didn't do well, and late in 1999 he disappeared for while explaining only that he needed some time off.  He returned for Big Country's farewell tour. Their last show was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in October 2000.

Adamson's struggles with alcoholism returned with a vengeance.  In September 2001 he holed up in a Gatwick hotel and drank himself into oblivion, then spent 10 days in a detoxification unit in Crawley, West Sussex.  It was not the only time he did something like this.  He had another disappearance and was holed up in a hotel in Nashville.

Adamson was very depressed.  He was due in court on drunk driving charges in Nashville.  His band had broken up, and so had his second marriage.  His second wife filed for divorce.  She was badgering Adamson to sign over their Nashville home and hairdressing business.  Even though he had just finished a stint in rehab and hadn't been drinking for six weeks, apparently he snapped and took off again.  On November 26, 2001 his second wife reported him missing, and the band posted about his disappearance on the Big Country website urging any fans who may have known his whereabouts or been harbouring him to have  the singer to contact the band, or management company. 

Stuart Adamson was found dead on December 16, 2001 at the Best Western Plaza Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii.  He had committed suicide and was found alone on the floor of his hotel room closet.  He was in a seated position with one end of the rope tied to his neck, and the other to the closet pole.  He was 43 years old.

U2's the Edge delivered the eulogy at Adamson's funeral.  Sadly for Adamson's children Callum and Kirsten, who were 19 and 17 respectively at that time and living in Scotland, Adamson died without leaving a will.  His second wife was set to inherit his entire estate and there was a legal battle.  Adamson's first wife fought to secure a share of his estate for the kids.  Not sure how it turned out, but it sure was a sad end to the singer of one of the most upbeat songs of the 80's.  The surviving original members toured again in December 2010 - January 2011 with Mike Peters of the Alarm singing.


I've never seen you look like this without a reason,
Another promise fallen through, another season passes by you.
I never took the smile away from anybody's face,
And that's a desperate way to look for someone who is still a child.

And in a big country, dreams stay with you,
Like a lover's voice, fires the mountainside..
Stay alive..

(I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered
But you can't stay here with every single hope you had shattered)

I'm not expecting to grow flowers in the desert,
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime..


So take that look out of here, it doesn't fit you.
Because it's happened doesn't mean you've been discarded.
Pull up your head off the floor, come up screaming.
Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted.
I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered
But you can't stay here with every single hope you had shattered.

I'm not expecting to grow flowers in the desert,
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime..


1 comment:

  1. this is the saddest goddamn thing i've read in a long time. i liked the earlier, funny records. i still have my copy of the first pressing of 'the crossing' with the raised cover and reflective lettering. i would like to know how many of those there were. i guess he never found what was in that box.