The Big Country story started in April 1981 when Stuart Adamson left The Skids during recordings at an Inverness studio.
Three weeks later both Stuart Adamson & Bruce Watson started writing & recording songs at Townhill community centre in Dunfermline, Inwards, Heart & Soul, Lost Patrol, The Crossing, Wake, We Could Laugh, and Harvest Home are penned & Produced by Stuart & Bruce using a Tascam 4 Track Porta Studio. Thinking about names for their new project, they come up with Angle Park, The Little Giants & Big Country. In July of 1981 thy recorded a Demo Tape for Virgin Records with Rick Buckler from The Jam playing drums. Later in the month they record another Demo for CBS Records with Clive Parker playing drums.
In January 1982 the band started rehearsals at the Glen Pavilion in Pittencrief Park, Dunfermline, Fife with the line up of
Stuart Adamson – Guitar/Vocals
Bruce Watson – Guitar
Clive Parker – Drums
Alan Wishart – Bass
Pete Wishart – Keyboards
Band breaks up in February after a small tour with 2 dates Supporting Alice Coopers Armed Forces tour at The Brighton Conference Centre on February 10th & Birmingham Odeon on February 11th.
In March of 82 they recorded a new Demo Tape for Phonogram Records with the New Line up of
Stuart Adamson – Guitar/Vocals
Bruce Watson – Guitar
Tony Butler – Bass
Mark Brzezicki – Drums
And in April rehearsals started at Hammersmith Studios followed by a tour for most of the rest of 1982 including some US dates, a 5 night Support slot opening for The Jam at Wembley Arena. December of 82 also saw the band make the Television Debut appearance on Channel 4s show – Whatever You Want, Supporting ‘Spear Of Destiny’ at the Brixton Ace in London.
1983 was the year the band would gain worldwide popularity their Debut single ‘Fields Of Fire’ was released in February & went on to reach Number 10 in the UK Charts.
The band toured for the spring of 1983 including several Support dates on U2′s War tour, and released their Most popular hit ‘In A Big Country’ in may of that year. The single would be their first & Only US hit but the band still gained a strong following throughout the United states with many Live shows played in the US Throughout their career.
In August of 1983 their debut Album ‘The Crossing’ (Produced by Steve Lillywhite) was released, Reaching Number 3 in the UK Albums chart & number 1 in the US Billboard chart. The album which contained the hit singles ‘Fields Of Fire, In A Big Country & Chance’ would go on to be certified platinum in the UK and Canada.
January of 1984 saw the release of the non album Track ‘Wonderland’. The single became a Top Ten UK Hit for the band peaking at Number 8. The song has been included in all of the bands subsequent ‘Greatest Hits’ collections although it didn’t feature on any of the bands Studio Albums. 1984 also seen Big Country tour throughout most of the world featuring dates in Europe, Japan & the United States, Selling out many venues & Playing to Even larger Audiences than they had previously with many in the upper thousands. Sadly 7 Australian dates in may unfortunately having to be cancelled. This was to be the bands Australian Live debut.
The bands second album ‘Steeltown’ also produced by Steve Lillywhite was released on the 19th of October 1984 in the UK & the 29th of October in the US. The album topped the UK Charts at Number 1 October of 1984 & Reached Number 72 on the US Billboard 200. The album contained the singles East of Eden, Where The Rose Is Sown & Just A Shadow. East of Eden would be the only top 20 hit single from the album reaching number 17 in the UK.
1985 saw the band provide the soundtrack for the Scottish indepedent film Restless Natives & an appearance at Live Aid with the band appearing onstage for the finale.
1986′s The Seer, the bands third album, was another big success in the UK & Europe peaking at number 2 in the UK. It produced three further top 30 singles including the Irish number 1 hit single Look Away, which would also prove to be the bands biggest hit in the UK peaking at Number 7.
1987 saw the band tour again including several support dates on David Bowies ‘Glass Spider Tour’. With some writing being done for their next album which would be 1988’s‘Peace In Our Time’ which contained the hit singles ‘Peace In Our Time’ ‘King Of Emotion & ‘Broken Heart 13 Valleys’. The Peace in our time tour was again successful including dates at ‘Glasnost 1988 ,Sport Aid in Sheffield & the‘Children In Need’ telethon & most notably a date at the Moscow Palace Of Sports. With the Moscow concert the group were “the first Western band to play live in the Soviet Union promoted by a private individual and before the general paying public (not an invited audience).” The concert was recorded & Released both in audio & video formats. The various stages of the tour would go on until 1989.
The 1990s – Present
No Place Like Home (1991) was a lesser success & wasn’t released in the US, it temporarily broke up the bands then current line up with drummer Mark Brzezicki returning to the studio as a session drummer after leaving the band. Two re-recorded tracks from the album showed up on 1993′s The Buffalo Skinners.
In 1991, the band parted ways with the Phonogram label which had released all of their material for ten years. After that, Big Country would be briefly in & out of the charts in the UK and Europe with the release of every subsequent album. Only one of these, 1993′s The Buffalo Skinners, received a major label release (via Chrysalis Records), and it seemed a return to form of sorts for the band, reaching the UK Top 25. The album obtained a successful enthusiastic critical response, and although it produced two UK Top 30 singles in “Alone” and “Ships”, followed by their successful ‘Buffalo Skinners Tour’ (Which saw the permanent return of Drummer Mark Brzezicki) & ‘Live Without The Aid Of A Safety Net’ Video & CD Releases. The band retained an highly devoted cult following, as evidenced by their deceptively large post-1995 discography, which consists mostly of live concert recordings and singles/rarities collections.
Throughout the 1990s, Big Country became a popular ‘opening act’, supporting such bands as Rolling Stones and The Who. Big Country had backed Daltrey on his 1985 solo album Under the Raging Moon, and Tony Butler played bass and backing vocals on Pete Townsend’s 1980 hit single “Let My Love Open the Door”. Both Butler and Brzezicki performed on Townsend’s 1985 solo album White City: A Novel. Brzezicki played drums for The Cult on their 1985 Love album and featured in the video for the single, “She Sells Sanctuary”.
Speculation & Growing Concerns began around this time over the mental and emotional health of lead singer Stuart Adamson, who reportedly had struggled with alcoholism & depression for several years. Adamson split with his first wife Sandra & moved to Nashville in the mid-1990s where he took up residence and married a hairdresser. While in Nashville, he met noted artist Marcus Hummon and released an acclaimed studio album with him under the name The Raphaels.
In 1995 Big Country released another album, Why the Long Face? followed by a tour which included several opening dates for both The Rolling Stones & Robert Page & Jimmy Plant.
1999 saw the release of Big Country’s eighth and final studio album, Driving to Damascus (titled in its slightly different, augmented U.S. release John Wayne’s Dream). Adamson said publicly that he was disappointed that the album did not fare better on the charts, which led to depression. Later that year, Stuart Adamson went missing for a while before resurfacing, stating that he had needed some time off.
Final Fling Tour & Stuarts Passing
Stuart Adamson returned for the band’s ‘Final Fling’ farewell tour, concluding in a sold-out concert at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom on
31 May 2000. Although that marked the end of Big Country as a touring band, they were always adamant that they would appear together again. They played what turned out to be their last gig in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in October that year.
In November 2001, Stuart Adamson disappeared again. Numerous appeals were put on the Big Country website asking for Adamson to call home and speak to anyone in the band, the management company. The website also requested that any fans who might have been ‘harbouring’ the singer to contact the management company and alert them to his whereabouts. Mark Brzezicki and Tony Butler had indicated they were concerned but the reason Big Country had lasted so long was they stayed out of one another’s personal lives, and both later noted they were unaware of the extent of Adamson’s problems. Sadly He was found dead in a room at the Best Western Plaza Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii on 16 December 2001.
A memorial to Stuart Adamson was held at Dunfermline’s Carnegie Hall in January 2002, followed by a tribute concert at the Barrowlands in May. It brought together the remaining members of both Big Country and The Skids; Adamson’s then teenage children, Callum and Kirsten; as well as Steve Harley, Runrig, Simon Townshend, Midge Ure and Bill Nelson.
In 2007, to celebrate 25 years of Big Country, founding member Bruce Watson, Tony Butler (now lead vocalist for the first time), and Mark Brzezicki reunited to embark on a tour of the UK with dates in Scotland and England and a gig in Cologne (Germany). They also released a new album, twenty five live, on the trackrecords label.
Remembering The Crossing
In 1982 an album was released that captured perfectly the
times. It was an album of light set against the dark despair of Britain in the
grips of economic ruin. It gave voice to the hopes and dreams of a generation
of people and communities across the UK that had been sacrificed on the altar
of dogma. It gave young people the knowledge that they were not alone and that
they could still fulfil those dreams.
That album was Big Country’s ‘The Crossing’.
In the 2012, the album will be re-released and the new band
line-up will be touring and playing the album in full. As in 1982, the young
people of the United Kingdom are once more the victims of political ambivalence
and social devastation.
I know from personal experience how important those words of
hope were to me at a time when I was unemployed. I have spoken to other people
who were also affected positively by the affirmation of life that the songs of
the album gave them.
Now in conjunction with other fans, I would like to give you
the chance to share your story from wherever you are in the world. We are
looking for personal anecdotes about your experience of that time. Where were
you in your life? What were you doing? What do you remember of when you heard
those uplifting songs? How did they affect you? Was it the beginning of a
life-long love of the songs of the late Stuart Adamson? Do you have an amusing
anecdote connected to the album?
We also want to hear from young people who have recently
discovered the album. What do you think of those songs rooted in Scotland but
with truly international appeal? Do they give you hope for a better future?
If we can get enough stories, we plan to collate them into
an e-book that we will sell with proceeds going to charity.
This project is for all the fans of Stuart and Big Country,
it is born of love for the music and the belief that it can be a force for good
in this cynical world. We hope you will contribute and also buy the book when
it is published to read the stories of fans from around the world.
If you are interested in contributing we are looking for
around five hundred words, although if you have more to say that’s fine. We
want it to be your story, so the more personal the better. Don’t worry about
spelling or grammar; we’ll help you with that. We can’t guarantee we will use every article
but we will definitely do our best.
Mail your piece to firstname.lastname@example.org with details and
the town you live in. We hope to publish the book in late January or early
February of next year.
Thanks for reading this.
In a big country, dreams stay with you.
Yours in friendship