Big Country - Celtic Rock heroes

Big Country - Celtic Rock heroes

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines "genius", very concisely, as being an individual with "instinctive and extraordinary imaginative, creative or inventive capacity."

FirstFoot, therefore, has no hesitation whatsoever in using the term to describe Stuart Adamson, although we suspect that the man himself would turn in his grave at such a suggestion.

Few musicians are gifted enough to create a style and a "sound" that is so uniquely and identifiably theirs, and theirs alone (think Glen Miller). Adamson, however, with his soaring, blazing-bagpipe styled guitar, was one of those few, a writer and guitarist of sublime ability. Upon hearing him for the first time, DJ John Peel, a man more renowned for the sharper end of his tongue, proclaimed Stuart on live radio as "the new Hendrix". In time, he proved he was much more than that - the only Stuart Adamson, a true original.
Big Country in 1991 - there wiz few Plug lookalikes in the band
Big Country in 1991 - there wiz few Plug lookalikes in the band

Granted, the tragedy of his recent untimely death in December 2001 may have contributed a degree of rose-tinted sentimentality to our views, but nevertheless and with due respect to the other band members, all talented musicians in their own right, in our humble opinion Stuart Adamson was Big Country. And perhaps that, in itself, was part of the problem that led to his mental decline into alcoholism and eventual suicide in a lonely hotel room. Being, or having been, Big Country may just have been a burden too Big to bear for this resolutely down to earth home-boy from the Kingdom of Fife.

Born April 1958 in Manchester to Scottish parents, Adamson was raised in the small mining village of Crossgates, but it was to the nearby town of Dunfermline that Stuart's loyalties and heart would always belong. He remained to his dying day an avid and active supporter of that town's less than glamourous football club (more than adequate grounds for suicide, some would say!) and owned several houses there, pointedly refusing to base himself in the trendier enclaves of Edinburgh, just a few miles across the Forth Bridge.
Stuart Adamson - one of the few people who could look cool in an anorak
Stuart Adamson - one of the few people who could look cool in an anorak

Adamson's first band was a covers group called Tattoo, but it was his collaboration with vocalist Richard Jobson to form punk band The Skids in 1977 that the trainee environmental health inspector first tasted musical success. Together, they made a formidable writing team and scored several Top 40 singles and albums, before Adamson left in 1981 to form the new band that would eventually evolve into Big Country.

Although the Skids attempted to carry on, releasing one further post-Adamson album, without their inspirational guitarist and songwriter they, and Jobson in particular, were found sadly lacking and the once mighty pied pipers of punk were soon consigned to the junkpile.

The first recruit to Adamson's new venture was fellow Dunfermline-ite Bruce Watson on guitar, then employed as a cleaner on nuclear submarines at Rosyth naval base. After a couple of changes in rhythm section personnel, Watson and Adamson were joined in 1982 by bass guitarist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki, and the rest, as they say, is musical history.
The Skids - with the uber-poseur Richard (am I not gorgeous) Jobson
The Skids - with the uber-poseur Richard (am I not gorgeous) Jobson

Big Country's debut album, The Crossing, sold over 3 million copies. In total, the band notched up 17 top 30 singles and seven top 30 albums but, more than anything, it was Big Country's awesome live performances that set them apart as performers. Few acts of their day could set the pulses racing or have the hairs on the back of yourneck stand up in the way that a Big Country concert did. Watching and listening in the flesh was quite simply an unforgettable musical experience and a privilege that, sadly, can never now be repeated.

Instead, Heaven rocks to a new, but distinctly Scottish, sound. Give it laldie, Big Man.

BIG COUNTRY TRIVIA FOOTNOTE

  1. Big Country? Big mistake. After Adamson left the Skids, the embryonic Big Country (pre-Butler & Brzezicki) were turned down for a record deal by most of the industry's leading names including, amongst others, Polydor, Chrysalis, EMI, RAK, CBS, WEA, A&M and Arista, before Phonogram finally saw what the others were missing and signed the band to their Mercury label.
  2. The rousing, anthemic single "One Great Thing" received one of popular culture's ultimate accolades when the track and its accompanying video were both requisitioned for use in a national TV campaign for Tennants Lager. The commercial featured a cast of hundreds filmed all over Scotland in exactly the same scenes as the original video, but with the subtle addition of a pint of lager in their hands, and was Scotland's most popular TV commercial of 1986.

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