Stuart Adamson: Big Country Pedalboard
While first coming to prominence in the Scottish punk band The Skids, Stuart Adamson will forever be remembered for his instantly recognizable voice and guitar playing with Big Country. Along with co-lead guitarist Bruce Watson, bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki, Adamson composed four classic albums during the 1980s that melded meaningful lyrics, passionate guitar solos and solid rhythms. If you’re not familiar with Big Country, check out the songs “In a Big Country”, “Wonderland” and “Look Away” from The Crossing, Wonderland andThe Seer albums, respectively. We challenge you to stand still while listening to any of these selections. It’s impossible!

If you’re interested in comping Big Country’s guitar tones, we’re happy to provide you with the following summary of the set-ups of Stuart Adamson and Bruce Watson.

1. Stuart Adamson

  • Rack mounted effects: a MXR M-129 Pitch Transposer – used by Adamson and Watson to achieve the guitar/bagpipe tones heard in the song “In a Big Country”. The M-129 has four preset channels for chorus, octave up, octave down and octave fifths, along with rate and depth knobs. The first channel can be remotely activated using any suitable on/off pedal and, therefore, is likely the channel that Adamson and Watson relied upon during live performances; and
    • a Korg SDD-2000 Digital Delay.
  • Pedalboard:
    • a MXR Stereo Flanger;
    • an on/off pedal for MXR M-129 Pitch Transposer; and
    • an A/B switch pedal for switching between his clean and distorted amplifiers.
  • Amplifiers:
    • two Fender Dual Showman heads – matched with a pair of Fender 2X12 speaker cabinets. One Showman was set for a clean sound, the other set for a distorted sound. Adamson was also known to have used a H&H V-S Musician 100-Watt head and a Fender Stage 185.
  • Guitars - almost too many to count, but here are the most notable guitars used by Stuart Adamson:
    • a Yamaha SG2000;
    • an ESP Stratocaster copy;
    • a Gibson Les Paul Standard;
    • a Moon Telecaster copy; and
    • a Levinson Blade guitar.
  • Miscellaneous:
    • an Ebow.

2. Bruce Watson

  • Rack mounted effects:
    • a MXR M-129 Pitch Transposer; and
    • a Korg SDD-2000 Digital Delay.
  • Pedalboard:
    • a Boss DD-2 Digital Delay pedal;
    • a Boss OC-2 Octaver pedal;
    • a Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble pedal;
    • a Boss TR-2 Tremolo pedal;
    • a Boss LS-2 Line Selector pedal; and
    • a Frontline Regulated Power Supply unit.
Comments and corrections welcome.
mothwingdust said…I recently contacted Bruce about his “bagpipe” sound and he confirmed that he and Stuart did in fact use the M-129. In fact, it was the only harmonizer either of them used during their careers, because as Bruce said, he never found anything else that “behaved properly” for the type of pitch shifting they did.Bruce also confirmed that he and Stuart both used the optional rackmounted display that was available for the units, because the analog oscillators tended to wander in the heat and had to be retuned before every single show.Despite the finicky nature of the unit, Bruce says he still uses the M-129 to this day in his rig.mothwingdust said…Also meant to add that the optional display unit is the MXR M-131.Anonymous said…Back in the late 80′s a mate of mine sold me “Stuart Adamson’s old valve Marshall stack” supposedly 1969. Is this possible? Didn’t have any reason to disbelieve him..Tupperware said…Hi.
I always thought Stuart played a Yamaha SG1000 rather then the 2000? He also played a Yamaha SF700 Superflighter whilst with the skids. I only ever saw him play live once and that was in 1978. Can someone tell me the guitar he’s playing when performing “Save Me” at Dunfermline 1990 (see You Tube). Symetrical horns, tapered headstock with what appears to be a white tick/part oval in the makers name position (see around 3.50min). Neck has dot inlays. Body reddish with metal knobs. Also has tremelo bar. Thanks!Shed Dwellers said…Hey Patrick and TupperwareI think that sounds like Stuart’s custom Jimmy Moon guitar. A Glasgow guitar maker.Check out



Tommie said…

The MXR Pitch Transposer can have any of its 4 pre-sets (or bypass) selected remotely, and I believe Stuart’s pedalboard had such a switch, as you could hear him scroll through his 4 pre-sets during the intro to The Storm. The switch capability, although it only has a 1/4″ jack, works by momentarily connecting either a straight short or one of 4 varying resistors across it. I can’t recall the resistor values, but anyone wanting to try this should be able to hook up a high-ish value pot and switch and work the values out by trial and error.

Anonymous said…

I bought, from a music shop in Dunfermline, some 20 years ago a Blonde with gold parts Gibson ES-335 dot fret (it had ‘Restored By Valdez’ engraved on the truss rod cover). It came in a massive flight case with Big Country stenciled on it. The guy in the shop said it was ex Stuart Adamson. Anybody know if Stuart ever played or owned a Blonde Gibson ES-335.

CEJ said…

Kind of hard to say Bruce Watson was ‘co-lead’. He typically played simple repetitive parts, with Stuart playing a lot of rhythm and most leads–especially live when they did the guitars differently, allowing for soloing etc.

Also, in retrospect it looks like he must have dominated their songwriting, since the post-Stuart production has been rather scant.

Complied  by Ryan Byers

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