Rock ‘N’ Roll Central – Big Country
The Crossing – 1983
I have been a fan of the UK rock band Big Country since the summer of 1983 when one afternoon my sister, my friend Rob & I watching a re-run episode of a late night show called “City Limits” came across one of their videos. This program played new, rare, and obscure music videos by up-and-coming artists. Some of which would go on to become successful in one way or another.
“I never took the smile away from anybody’s face” ~ In A Big Country
The song was their ever popular “In A Big Country” which would go on to typecast the band with it’s sound & style here in North America as time went on. Before I go on, BC is not a country music band although in their later years they composed some country influenced songs now and again. That’s another story altogether. In 1983 BC were two solid rocking guitars with lots of high end pitch shifting ear bending wizardry, and a mountainous bass & drum sound with that Celtic twist if I may be so bold. Headed by lead singer & guitarist Stuart Adamson.
To say Big Country influenced me as an artist is a clear understatement to be sure. I’ve written lately about inspiration both musical and otherwise, and in 1983 I was 14 and hearing BC belt out their big three guitar sound with Mark Brzezicki’s giant drum sound. Not entirely “Rock” not entirely rooted in one single genre or style, yet ever moving and always adventurous. Big Country showed me there are other ways to approach Rock music and set me on a musical path at an age where I could have been just any other ordinary drummer and bassist.
Tony Butler, bassist and backing vocals for BC has a playing style all his own, so much so it is truly hard to describe. Surely tied to his rhythm section counterpart and drummer extraordinaire Mark Brzezicki the “Rhythm For Hire” boys figure well into the musical landscape that is Big Country as much as guitarist Bruce Watson and founder Stuart Adamson ever did. A writer once referred to their music as “Heady Metal” because BC music although not Metal is forged by the elaborate guitar orchestrations of Adamson & Watson as well as the moving melodies & emotion laden lyrics borne of Adamson’s genius. Throw in the intricate passages of an E-bow line with their already emotional backdrop of struggle & strife into song and it emotes a great many feelings. From the most haunting & heartfelt to the stirrings of adventure and vivid vistas of grand landscapes right at your feet.
The Crossing still stands today as the most original set of music ever assembled in one package. It was a landmark any way you looked at it. Anthemic and bold it never strayed from the message it was trying to get across. The follow up EP Wonderland and new LP Steeltown kept me enthralled with their themes and style of music seeing the band getting tighter and better sounding as time went on.
“Some days will stay a thousand years. Some pass like the flash of a spark. Who knows where all our days go?” ~East Of Eden
As a young musician in 1984 I could not have hoped to find a single group with consistently great songwriting and music with meaning and passion. Sure not all the themes were the happiest but I didn’t really mind in a time when there were plenty of groups to satisfy that need in the mid 80′s.
Big Country are a group that transcends the norm despite all of the campy 80′s bands that came to mean little today but to echo sentiment. Most of their songs with their themes and integrity are just as relevant now as they ever were.
“When I was young you said to me how I would grow to find a world of hope and wonder that you would leave behind”~ Song Of The South
Like a gift songs from their 1986 LP The Seer began to make it’s way across the Atlantic to North America via radio & late night video shows. It was like history repeating itself. This time however Adamson himself declared this LP a sort of celebration. Sure enough it was. One for me that culminated in seeing Big Country live in concert for the first and only time by the end of that summer. The Seer proved to be yet another adventure across the mountains, valleys, skies & sea. Passionate and moving with songs crafted to make you cry and make you cheer. I was still a drummer playing on weekends with my friends and doing charity gigs at High School and I was loving this LP. I knew how to play every song within a month. It was also the advent of my writing both lyrics & poetry which I still do to this very day.
I highly recommend Big Country if you are a fan of rock music, with a twist. Something original and uplifting that will make you think. I wrote this article about their first three Lp’s because they are my favourites, before their sound changed too much. Rest assured there are plenty of songs that gets to the heart of you and may just inspire you to take on that journey. Just listen.
Below are select tracks as suggested listening from Big Country’s first three LP’s including the Wonderland EP and some B-Sides.There are plenty more great songs in the albums that follow.Other bands somewhat similar to BC: U2, Simple Minds, The Alarm,
Fields Of Fire
B-Sides: The Crossing Era
All Of Us
Tracks Of My Tears (cover)
All Fall Together
Flame Of The West
East Of Eden
Where The Rose Is Sown
Tall Ships Go
Girl With Grey Eyes
Just A Shadow
B-Sides: Steeltown Era
Belief In The Small Man
Prairie Rose (cover)
I Walk The Hill
Hold The Heart
B-Sides: The Seer Era
Song Of The South
Restless Natives Soundtrack
Albums That Followed:
Peace In Our Time 1988
No Place Like Home 1991
The Buffalo Skinners 1993
Why The Long Face 1995
Driving To Damascus 1999
My Big Country Gallery
Inspired works and my re-imagining of BC album art. The first “Wonderland” originally reproduced in high school art class now presented to you via my take and perspective via Photoshop over the years. Including some desktop backgrounds/wallpaper.
(For personal use only/No affiliation with the band or management)
My re-imagining of the record that started it all for
the band back in 1983 Big Country – The Crossing