East of Eden Glasgow “- No 1″, October 1984

Big Country are back with a new single, “East Of Eden”, and a harrowing new video about unemployment, despair and death… Paul Bursche travelled to there heir beloved Scotland to watch them work.

Big Country are coming home, in more ways than one.

After spending nearly all of the second half of last year in America, the group are now eagerly looking forward to playing in Britain again. their new video for “East Of Eden” also sees them going back to Glasgow – scene of some of their best concerts.

Set in the early ’50s, the video is about a family torn apart by economic circumstances; the son has to leave home because he can’t find a job.

Played by Stuart Adamson, he makes his way to Glasgow, meeting the other members of the band on the way. There he finally finds a job on the shipyards working as a welder, and he begins to piece his life together.

But back home his father has died, ravaged by drink and despair, and Stuart has to comfort his mother during the funeral.

“East Of Eden” isn’t a particularly happy or sad song says Stuart.

“It’s a questioning song, a song about always having to look for any hope or inspiration.”

Stuart says he wrote the song as a result of living alongside theunemployment and anger in the dockyards and factories.

“The fact that it’s set in the ’50s makes it doubly ironic, ” he says,”because that’s when we’d ‘Never had it so good’.”

The funniest moment of the shoot came when director Mike Brady hired 50dockers to act as extras in the scene where Stuart is seen as a welder on a huge ship in dry dock. As soon as they collected their money for the day’s work they all shot off to the pub.

That’s funny, we thought Big Country were re-enacting Brideshead,
not The Charge Of The Light Brigade!


Country Life Smash Hits(?), October(?) 1984

Stuart Adamson takes a man-sized bite out of his corned beef “grinder” (sausage-shaped sarnie), chews, swallows and grins nervously as he ponders the age-old musical question: “What’s your new album like?” A few chews and a bit of
thought later, he finally commits himself: “I’m well pleased with it.” “Steel Town” (sic), he hopes, will provide proof – iffurther proof were needed – that Big Country are more than just a group who sport unaffected checked shirts and make electric guitars sound like bagpipes. “Aye, we’ve tried to stay away from the old Scottish guitars this time. The album’s got a lot more scope than ‘The Crossing’.”
“I always used to think, can there be any good new music?” adds bassist Tony Butler, “but this LP’s turned out so well! The question now is, what can we do after this?”
As the group put the finishing touches to “Steel Town” and prepare to embark on their first British Tour for months, it is clear that confidence is
high in Big Country. And that confidence remains based firmly on somewhat old-fashioned, remarkably unhip standards of ‘musicianship’ and ‘technical excellence’. Sitting in a lively North London public house, statements like “I’m not a pop star – I hate that word; I just want to play me
guitar” (from Bruce Watson) and discussions about the “amazing drum sound” available at Abba’s studios in Sweden (where the LP was partially recorded) do battle with the weepie Irish country and western ballads seeping from the rather
loud jukebox. The music of Big Country has been described in the past as “uplifting”, “stirring”, “emotional”, and various other complimentary things like that; Big Country music raises the spirits – but it could not do this,insist the members, if they were unable to play their instruments with a certainaplomb. So they practise in private, they polish their instruments and treat
them with tender loving care, they rehearse for goodness sake. Big Country are real, DEDICATED musicians. To find out why, we probed into the backgrounds of the foursome who fly fearlessly in the face of fashion.

Stuart Adamson
“I
think my interest in music came from my Mum. She used to work in a record shop
and she used to bring stuff like Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly home. But I
wasn’t born until 1958 so I just got the leftovers – she always had loads of
mouldy old records lying about, like the Rolling Stones’ first LP…
“My
Dad was in the merchant navy so, as my Mum was working, I had to go and do the
shopping of a Saturday morning. My Mum would give me six shillings to buy a
single and the first one I bought was ‘Death Of A Clown’ by Dave Davies (of The
Kinks)…
“After I left school I started working as a student
environmental health officer, doing a course in Sanitary Science – water
sampling, shop and pub inspection, anything involved in pollution. The guy who
was teaching me the job was great. He was a big mad drummer in a country and
western group and he’d take me to see his band in his Ford Escort – you couldn’t
see the back seat for four years’ worth of rubbish. He used to toss and twirl
the sticks. he was a briolliant drummer…
“When I was about 13, my Mum’s
brother, a man called Drew, got an acoustic guitar and I started messing about
on it at my Gran’s house, learning ‘Danny Boy’ and stuff like that to play at
parties. Then I started watching the BBC TV series Hold Down A Chord; I
can’t remember the presenter’s name but I owe it all to him…
“One
Christmas, my Dad came home from sea and bought me a Woolworth’s
electric guitar which played like a plank and, in 1973, me and a crazy guy
called Louis started a group called Tattoo, playing at dance halls doing Status
Quo and Stones stuff. But eventually me and Willie Simpson, the bass player, got
into Roxy Music and Mott The Hoople and the other guys were still into Rory
Gallagher so we split up. And then the punk thing started…”
With Willie
and Richard Jobson (now with the Armoury Show), Stuart formed The Skids
(Scotland’s prime punk movers). “If I sit down and think about The Skids, I
remember how crappy it was at times.” He quit in 1981, teemed up with Bruce
Watson to form the first version of Big Country, later recruiting Mark and Tony.
And the rest is history.
Tony Butler
“My
father was a trumpet player in the West Indies. He played in a big band on the
island of Dominique and was a bit of a pop star there before he came to England.
When I was still quite young, he bought me a piano and a trumpet but back then I
showed no aptitude for music…
“At school in Ealing, I started studying
musical theory and tapping the drums in the school orchestra, but I still wasn’t
particularly interested until one night I saw Top Of The Pops and
Normal Greenbaum was on doing ‘Spirit In The Sky’ and there was a shot of a
Fender bass close up. To me it was like a pair of legs and I wanted a bass
guitar of my own…
“My cousin was in the army and doing alright and so
he bought me a bass and I started to learn. Then a few of my friends at school
said they knew this family called the Townshends who were looking for a bass
player. So one day I went along to their house and the Townshend mummy came out
- and she wouldn’t let me in because she thought I was some kind of
mugger…
“When I started playing with Simon Townsend, I didn’t even know
he was the brother of Pete Townshend of The Who. And when I did find out who
Pete was this big star loved by millions of people all over the world, I wasn’t
really impressed. I just thought he sounded a bit wild. I was really green at
that time…
“While I was playing with Simon, we were getting nowhere and
I had a day job at WEA records doing telephone sales. I broke The Pretenders – I
sold so many copies of ‘Brass In Pocket’ to the shops you wouldn’t believe it.
And then, when I played on Pete Townsend’s ‘Empty Glass’ album, I ended up
having to sell that too, which was really embarassing…
“When On The Air
toured with the Skids, I knew I wanted to play with Stuart. I’d never seen a
group play such simple, effective songs and raise the spirits of so many people
under one roof as the Skids did. Big Country do the same – only more so. This
group is nothing but an emotional experience to me. Perhaps it’s my West Indian
blood, my calypso feelin’ brudder…”
Mark
Brzezicki

“My Dad is a trained opera singer and although he
never got anywhere, he still practices two hours every day. He’s one of a rare
breed; I’ve got two brothers and two sisters – I’m in the middle – and he’s
always encouraged us all. My older brother’s a bass player in a group with Tim
Attack from Child (slightly wimpy teen-oriented group of the late 70′s), my
older brother is a DJ on local hospital radio, my older sister’s a children’s
entertainer – she works holiday camps as a magician’s assistant. My younger
sister, who is 17 and just going into an office job, is the only non-entertainer
in the family…
“When I left school, I went into engineering and at the
age of 16, I bought a drum kit off my neighbour. With my brothers, I formed the
Flying Brzezickis who unfortunately never got anywhere. But then I started
playing on the working man’s club circuit…
“I did the ropes, playing
seven nights a week, everything from talent contests to backing drag artists.
Dwarves playing xylophones – they always needed a drummer. I backed Paul Daniels
once – it’s wierd when you see someone doing their magic tricks from behind
because you can see how it’s all done. The worst gig I ever did was with these
complete idiots called Johnny And The Playboys with some dirty lech with a huge
medallion about 50 singing ‘Delilah’…
“When my aircraft engineer
apprenticeship was coming to an end there was an ad in a music paper saying
“Drummer required”. I replied, did the audition, passed, and it happened to be
the Simon Townshend Band (subsequently On The Air) with Tony on bass. This was
about 1977 and the music was very demanding, a cross between Yes and Genesis.
Our first tour was supporting The Skids after which we split up and me and Tony
formed a rhythm section called Rhythm For Hire…
“I’m committed to Big
Country but I still enjoy the demands of session work. I’ve just done Frida’s
solo album. I was a bit intimidated playing with someone from Abba, this big
mega-band, but she’s totally unaffected by it all. I did the artwork for Frida’s
cover too. I’m clever like that…”
Bruce
Watson

“When I was born, my Dad was working as a gold miner
in Ontario, Canada. he used to take me to bear parks and places like that which
was great, but when I was two years old, he moved back to Scotland where he had
grown up as an ordinary coal miner. I went to school in Dunfermline until I was
15 and I got one ‘O’ level in plasticene – no, it was woodwork to be honest. I’d
always wanted to be a joiner but by then I was interested in music and playing
guitar. The first groups that got to me were things like The Sweet, Gary Glitter
and Slade. Good stuff, eh?…
“After school I got a job in a lemonade
factory and then I had a choice of going down the pits like my Dad or going into
the dockyards. So I went into the dockyard as a yardboy, cleaning up the mess
for two years, and after that I spent six months with a joiner’s firm making
rope ladders for submarines – which was completely boring. By now all my friends
were getting into Genesis and awful stuff like that but I had seen the Alex
Harvey Band and decided I was going to be a guitarist…
“Me and my mate
Raymond saved up all our money and bought some guitars and formed a group called
The Delinquents. We got a wee guy called Jimmy to play drums and a guy called
Box used to sing. We played church halls and community centres and then, all in
one week, we got to support The Stranglers, Wire, Simple Minds and The Skids. It
was the most completely brilliant week of my life. The Skids, to me, were
unbelievable – the Scottish version of Television (rather superb US band of the
late 70′s)…
“After The Delinquents I sold all my instruments, went to
London and squatted for about three weeks trying to get a band together. No
luck. I just wanted to see my mum. So I came back to Scotland, formed another
no-luck group called Eurosect and went on the dole. Then I got a call from
Stuart…”

Big Country Newcastle City Hall April 1986

A few weeks ago Big Country played a concert in this very hall, but the show was so beset with technical problems (i.e. wonky equipment) that the  group decided to give everyone in the audience a free ticket to come back and see them play “properly” tonight. That’s nice – so,  unsurprisingly, everyone’s in a good mood as we hear…

A skirl! A screech! And the “lads” trot on stage in front of a giant, smoky backdrop of a ruined Scottish castle. They pluck one string and -
whoosh a billion people hurl themselves towards the stage, leaping and punching the air and bawling the words to “Wonderland”. And then it’s “Fields Of Fire” – and the audience leap even higher as seats are up-rooted and the bouncers look a mite anxious…

Big Country are in high spirits this evening, with Stuart Adamson and Bruce Watson sprinting all over the stage wielding their guitars and doing monumental leaps and thumbs up signs at the end of every song. And no wonder because the place is packed – and the lads can do nowt wrong.

They belt out their “classics” (letting the crowd do most of the singing), they belt out their new songs, and Stuart looks as if he’s going to die of
thankfulness at every end-of-song roar, when suddenly – “This is a song about having a sense of humour in times of adversity – it’s called ‘Touch Me I Want Your Body’. Ha ha!!” Of course he’s fibbed – in fact it’s a very very long version of “In A Big Country” which stops and starts and slows and speeds up while a lot of the audience in the aisles thump ‘n’ kick each other (but only for “fun”). And there’s encores a-plenty with skirly guitar versions of “Tracks Of My Tears” and The Rolling Stones’ (man) “Honky Tonk Woman” – “This is something we don’t even know!” Well!

Yip, they’ve rocked, they’ve rolled, they’ve made a lot of people jump up and down for two hours and even though they are a teeny bit predictable,
they do, as the Scots would say, “fair put a skirl in yer pipes”.

Sylvia Patterson

The text under the inset photo reads: “I say, Bruce what
exactly IS a ‘skirl’?” “It’s a bagpipey sort of noise, you great big jessie!”
“Hurrah!!”

Big Country “Exposed” Smash Hits, 1986

There are one zwillzwillion fascinating facts to be known about the ones they call Big Country. And Bitz now brings you…, er, none of them actuellement. But these completely useless facts (below) are nonetheless..TRUE!!!!!!

Stuart Adamson has a scar on his forehead from falling on a lead soldier when he was about 5!

When Bruce Watson gave up drinking recently, he had to convert his home bar into a video room!

Mark Unpronounceablename was so mad on planes in his youth that he could tell the make flying overhead just by the engine sound – his bedroom was full of “mocked-up cockpits” made out of cardboard boxes and old Squeezy washing up liquid bottles!

Tony Butler claims he decided he wanted to play the bass when he saw Norman Greenbaum perform the original version of “Spirit In The Sky” on Top Of The Pops!

Stuart once wrote a song for Frida from Abba!

Callum, Stuart’s son, burst into tears when Stuart wouldn’t let him come with the band to film a TV programme at Alton Towers.

None of Big Country are really Scottish! Stuart was born in Manchester and bruce in Canada!

Stuart was present at the birth of his daughter Kirsten and it was “magic”!

Bruce used to clean the radioactive ballast out from nuclear submarines but gave it up when his boots “started glowing in the dark”!

Sandra, Stuart’s wife, is the sister of Bruce’s school pal, Raymond!

The two other musicians (apart from Stuart and Bruce) at the Big’s first concert in Dunfermline in 1983 were brothers Peter and Alan Wishart – but they got the boot!

Stuart hasn’t got very much hair under his armpits!

Stuart’s many previous jobs include a) potato picker b) student environmental officer c) production controller in a valve factory d) accountant
e) roof tiler f) roadie for the Alarm (are you sure about the last one – Ed?)

Stuart sponsors Ian Duffus in motorbike races – Ian is the salesman inStuart’s local bike shop!!!

Mark once drummed for ex-toupee-wearing “comedian”/”magician” Paul daniels!

Stuart used to go to Dunfermline Athletic matches with our own Ian “Jock E.”
Cranna!

A Bush in the Country by Bruce Watson
Tracks, 1986

We started writing the material for this album about August/September of last year. We did about six weeks actual writing of the album. There’d been a few ideas kicking around all year which we’d saved up – guitar riffs and things which we’d stuck on cassettes or a Portastudio, individually. So we had a few good ideas and took them into the rehearsal studio to work on them. We’d just sort of use the various parts we’d written until we were ready to go into the studio and record. We booked ourselves into RAK Studios to do the bass and drums because Mark, our drummer, particularly likes the drum room at RAK Studios. We did the guitars and vocals at a place called The Power Plant in Willesden which is owned by Robin Millar, who produced the album.

I think that took us up to around February, then we decided to mix the album at Maison Rouge Studios and we got an American guy called Walter Turbet, who’s worked with The Cars and Malcolm McLaren.

The songs are written in different ways. Sometimes the four of us can be in soundcheck, just jamming, and one of us will come up with a riff and we start jamming around that. Sometimes either Stuart, myself, or Tony will have a guitar riff or a bass riff and we’ll start playing it and the other three members will start jamming along. Sometimes Stuart might have the whole arrangement to a song written on cassette which he’ll bring along to the studio and we’ll add our own little bit on to it. Sometimes it’s been known that Mark will go in a recording studio and put down a drum part and the rest of us will go in and do something on top of it. So it works in different ways, we don’t have a set formula and a lot of stuff happens accidentally.

Making the album was enjoyable, although it can have its problems as well. It’s not all plain sailing, but it’s really good productive work to make an album – and you can see, when you’re actually writing a song, you can see the msong shaping up and building up and it’s very satisfying. It’s the most satisfying thing in the world at the time and then when you go out on tour the most satisfying thing is actually playing it in front of people.

The Power Plant’s got good facilities for relaxing. they’ve got a little pinball room, a TV room upstairs, little individual rooms where each member of the group can sit if he want’s to be alone. If somebody, say Stuart, wants to be alone to write lyrics, or if one person was sick of the rest, there are plenty of little rooms and annexes where one can go and be by themselves or whatever. But when we’re actually in the studio, there’s usually a couple of us there all the time because we never actually play live when we’re in the studio. So it’s not as if everybody has to stay and get bored with hanging around all the time. What we actually do is, we usually lay down a quick track which Stuart and Mark will usually work out for timing. Then either myself or Stuart or both of us will put down a guide guitar, or two guide guitars. Then Tony will put down a guide bass and Mark will play along to this on his headphones. So it’s not as if we’re asked to play live. Then Tony will usually put down his real bass, which
only takes him a couple of hours. Tone’s really quick. The next couple of days are usually spent doing the guitars. Then, when Stuart’s got the lyrics ready we’ll come back and deliver some good backing tracks.

‘Eiledon’
The female vocals were done by a girl called June Miles-Kingston who used to play drums with Feargal Sharkey and The Fun Boy Three. She’s got a really good voice that compliments Stuart’s. A lot of people think the start was done on keyboards, or it sounds like that. But it wasn’t really. Stuart used E-Bow on it and Tony used bass pedals and I put my guitar through an old Leslie cabinet and miked it up so that I got the reverb of piano strings as well – so you’ve got a good sort of organ-type sound, sort of ice rink or cinema type organ sound on it as well. We did a few wierd things with guitars and pedals on this song, and the song itself is about a perfect place to live, a perfect place to be.

‘Hold The Heart’
This was my problem song, actually. I had to spend three or four days actually doing the guitar on it. I came and played twelve-string on it and it was like and old Fox Phantom I was playing on and the tuning was just impossible, you know. You’d tune the guitar up and strike a chord that would go out of tune, so I had to play each chord near enough individually, so it took a couple of days to record. I think it’ll be one of the singles to be taken off the album.

‘Look Away’
The idea for the song was taken off a video Stuart watched called “Harry Tracy”. It starred Bruce Dern and was about the last of the Wild Bunch, who were sort of outlaws in America. It’s pretty straightforward recording really, with no sort of weird tricks or gadgetry on it.

‘One Great Thing’
This is a sort of typical Big Country sounding record. It can mean anything great that’s happened to you in your life, I suppose. This is also a very straightforward number.

‘Remembrance Day’
Yet again we have the great vocal talents of June Miles-Kingston on this one. We put some nice effects on the guitars. I actually used the immortal chords guitar synth on that one to get a sort of pipes effect – but not a bagpipes effect, just a sort of flute-type effect on it. Different weird and wonderful things happened on the guitars on this track. We had my guitar triggered off Mark’s hi-hat and put a little bit of an echo on it to make it sound like fiddles. It was good because the middle section of the song is very moving because of that, because we were triggering different instruments off each other. It was one of the first times I’ve ever done that and it worked very effectively on this track.

‘The Red Fox’
This features the sort of famous twin-lead guitar sound of Big Country, I suppose. Straight sort of guitar harmonies, almost Thin Lizzie-ish in parts. Yet again, at the end section there, triggering of a lot of odd guitar sounds from Mark’s tom-tom this time. I also played slide guitar on this which turned out to be quite effective – and we also had the great kebab middle-eight section – which is good for the kebab seller!

‘The Sailor’
I played mandolin on this song and it’s one of our slower, softer pieces. It starts off really sort of nursery rhyme-ish, sort of ballady, and ends up in a sort of Meatloaf thrash towards the end.

‘The Seer’
We’d done the song and one of our mates, a guy called Davy Duncan who used to play and sing in a band called The Shaking Pyramids, put down Barrad which is a sort of ethnic Scottish-Irish type hand-held drums – and it gave it a sort of folky feel, along with the mandolins and sitars. We thought ‘this song needs girl vocals on it’ and Stuart immediately thought ‘why don’t we get kate bush?’ We said there’s only one way to do it and that’s phone her management. They said that Kate would do it but she’d like to hear a cassette of the song first. So we sent a cassette there and
she liked the song and she worked out her parts for the song, orchestrating them really well. Then she came to the studio and did them, it took her about twelve hours to do and it was just great, it was fantastic. I think the woman is just a complete genius. She was very shy. I think we were quite sort of awestruck as well when she walked in. Tony was like ‘Oh, hello Kate, would you like a cup of coffee, would you like a glass of orange juice?’, running about saying things like that. I think we were quite shy, she was quite shy as well. But she was good fun, she’s got a very ‘Comic Strip’ type sense of humour which we immediately identified with and after that it was a great time.

‘The Teacher’
This track has Stuart’s famous Duane Eddy-cum- Hank Marvin type guitar sound on it.

‘I Walk The Hill’
This started off as a Big Country parody of ourselves. We were sitting thinking to ourselves: ‘Let’s do a parody of ‘Fields Of Fire’ or something like that’. So we just started playing these guitars on a typically Big Country style, with the drum beat and Tony playing typically cod-work bass type stuff and it actually ended up sounding quite good. We decided to use it, so what started out to be a joke in a way turned out to be really good.

Bruce Watson

One Great Thing – Jackie, 1986

Fife, Dunfermline to be exact, home of… erm, Big Country! OK, so Debbie Gibson is only 16, writes her own songs, and makes quite a bit of dosh out of them too, but did you know that Stuart Adamson of Big Country started writing songs at the age of 13? nah! Bet you didn’t!

Don’t suppose you realised that the theme music for the very funnee film “Restless Natives” was written by Stuart and performed by Big Country, either,
did you? Clever chaps these Big Country lads. But that’s not all: Big Country have appeared at the Prince’s Trust Gala at the Wembley Arena, appeared on stage
at the finale of Live Aid, supported David Bowie on tour, and had their song “One Great Thing” used as a theme for a Scottish-type advert. Not a bad set of achievements for the four piece Scottish band with the distinctive bagpipe guitar sound. (Ner ner ner ner – ha ha! – Jackie Office.)

Ahem! Now we know all that, what about their singles? What kind of record success have they had? Well, a lot more than you think! Fields of Fire, Chance, Wonderland and Look Away have all been top ten hits, with In A Big Country, East Of Eden, and One Great Thing, all reaching the top twenty. They have also had
several other songs in the top thirty. Not bad for an ordinary working-class bunch of lads who “just want to be musicians, not rock stars”.

So where do these talented blokes come from? – Dunfermline of course – city famous for dead millionaire Andrew Carnegie and Dunfermline Athletic
Football team. (Oh really? Ha ha! – the Ed.) In fact, many’s the time Stuart’s been spotted on the terraces at Eastend Park (Dunfermline’s football ground, dummies!) shouting with the best of them… Here we go… here we go…here we go!… Enough of these football chants. This is a music page, you plebs!

Now, if you want to know more about the boys of B.C. look out for their official book “A Certain Chemistry” in most good bookshops.

Bye Bye Dunfermline, …Look Away…Look Away.

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