Remembering Stuart Adamson of Big Country

Stuart Adamson found fame with The Skids and Big Country. Tragically a long running battle with alcohol led to his early death aged 43 in 2001.

Almost a decade has passed since Stuart Adamson tragically took his own life in a Hawaiian hotel room. His legacy lives on through the music he wrote and the people he influenced. After finding success with The Skids Adamson went on to form Big Country, one of the greatest Scottish groups of all time.

Stuart Adamson and The Skids

In the late 1970s Adamson formed The Skids with friend Richard Jobson. Punk was at its peak and they were keen to get involved. What perhaps made The Skids stand out from many of their contemporaries was their musicianship. Adamson was a self taught guitarist and his distinctive sound soon started to emerge.

The Skids enjoyed numerous chart appearances with songs including ‘Into the Valley’ and ‘Masquerade.’ Despite this Adamson was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the music industry and eventually walked away from the band.

Stuart Adamson and Big Country

With Big Country Adamson found global success. Throughout the 1980s they were one of the world’s greatest live rock bands. The launch pad for this success was their seminal debut album The Crossing, released in 1983. Classic tracks included ‘Chance’ and the song for which they are best remembered, ‘In a Big Country.’

Big Country continued to make numerous top 40 appearances throughout the decade. In addition they wrote and performed the soundtrack for the cult Scottish film Restless Natives. The 1990s saw Big Country’s chart success dry up, but the band’s loyal fans still turned out in huge numbers to watch them live. Big Country always were a formidable live draw, with Adamson and guitarist Bruce Watson backed up by the supremely talented rhythm section of Mark Brzezicki and Tony Butler.

Adamson remained something of a reluctant celebrity throughout his career. An ideal Saturday would involve standing on the terrace at East End Park shouting for Dunfermline Athletic, the local football team he supported passionately. Indeed, for a while Big Country used a room in the stadium to rehearse. For much of the 1990s Adamson also ran a small pub in Dunfermline called Tappie Toories (still in existence). It was here that visitors stood the chance of being treated to an impromptu performance with an acoustic guitar from one of the most famous front men in music.

Stuart Adamson performed with Big Country for the final time in 2000. Having relocated to Nashville Adamson put together a new band, The Raphaels, with their debut album Supernatural receiving much acclaim. In December 2001 Adamson went missing, having started drinking again after a long battle against alcohol addiction. Despite desperate attempts by family, friends and fans he could not be located. On December 16th 2001 Adamson was found hanged in a cheap Hawaiian hotel, having taken his own life.

Stuart Adamson Tributes and Legacy

Although none of Big Country’s members were born in Scotland, Adamson considered himself very much a native of Dunfermline in the Kingdom of Fife. It was in Dunfermline’s Carnegie Hall that a moving remembrance service was held. Several close friends made speeches, including the Dunfermline Athletic Football Club manager Jim Leishman. Perhaps the most poignant moment came when the remaining members of Big Country performed the song ‘Fragile Thing’, from the band’s final album Driving to Damascus. Adamson’s son Callum and daughter Kirsten also performed.

Stuart Adamson’s music continues to be performed to this day, with Mike Peters from The Alarm on vocals and Bruce Watson’s son Jamie joining the band on guitar. In Dunfermline he is remembered as the local boy who found worldwide acclaim but never forgot his working class background, growing up in the Fife mining village of Crossgates.

Adamson also influenced many other musicians. Notable groups who cite him as a major influence include U2 and the Manic Street Preachers. In 2005 U2 joined forces with Green Day to record a version of The Skids song ‘The Saints Are Coming’, to raise funds for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It proved to be a huge success. To this day the Dunfermline Athletic team take to the football pitch while another Skids Classic – ‘Into the Valley’ – blares over the stadium’s PA system. It is safe to assume that Stuart Adamson’s life and work will be remembered for many, many years to come.

ByKevin Guthrie

Jan 19, 2011

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