Stuart Adamson “In A Big Country” by Allan Glen

Synopsis

The book that fans of the Skids, Big Country and the Raphaels have been waiting for – a critical perspective not only of Adamson’s music and its wider cultural influence, but also the excesses of fame and how the music business really works. Stuart Adamson: In A Big Country tells the story of how a teenager who was raised in a small Fife village released his first single at 19, wrote three Top 40 albums in the next three years and was written off as a has-been at 23, but then went on to form a new band and sell more than 10 million records worldwide, touring with the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. Although Adamson was one of the most respected and popular figures in the music industry, his personal life was complex and ultimately tragic, ending with his alcohol-fuelled suicide in a Hawaiian hotel in December 2001.

Allan Glen

Allan Glen was born in Dunfermline and worked as a miner before studying journalism. He worked as an investigative news reporter on the South China Sunday Morning Post in Hong Kong before returning to the UK to work for NME, Melody Maker and The Guardian. He writes for The Stage, Audience and Live UK. He lives on Teesside with his family

Reviews

By Too Many Books, Not Enough Time (Edinburgh, Scotland)
This review is from: Stuart Adamson: In a Big Country (Hardcover)

I could well be accused of being biased – Big Country was the first ever gig I went to – but I still play the music and get misty-eyed at any clip of Stuart Adamson. The prospect of a biog of Stuart was a double-edged sword, then. As a fan I desperately wanted to read it, but also as a fan I didn’t want to read anything horrible about someone I adore. Luckily, Allan Glen is not only a fan but he’s also a serious music journalist who grew up in Dunfermline (the band’s hometown) and followed Stuart’s career closely. The book celebrates all the wonderful things about the man and the music, but is also very honest about the problems and troubles that beset Stuart and led, ultimately, to him taking his own life without it turning into a gushing fanzine or (worse) a lurid hack job. I’ll probably end up with three copies this Christmas, but I won’t care. You can never have too much Stuart Adamson!

This review is from: Stuart Adamson: In a Big Country (Hardcover)

On 8 September 2010, the surviving members of Big Country announced they would be joining forces with Mike Peters of The Alarm to embark on a tour under the Big Country banner. Someone who they haven’t been willing to join forces with is author Allan Glen. The public animosity towards the author from those integral to the plot is a little unfortunate given that Glen has delivered a respectful, controversy-free, fan-driven account of Stuart Adamson’s life in as much detail as has been allowed him. He even takes a moment in his acknowledgements to offer his goodwill to the forthcoming official band biography.

The absence of any first-hand input from the Big Country and Skids camps does cast an undeniable shadow over the book. When you take away Ian Rankin’s introduction and the foreword, discography and index, you’re left with a biography just shy of 200 pages. I get the impression the author would have loved at least another 100. So would I, but Glen deserves credit for producing a faithful and ultimately moving narrative in spite of the obstacles placed in his way. Importantly, the book is blessed with the cooperation of Adamson’s son, Callum, which, I suppose, is the best seal of approval of all. In A Big Country is the story of a celebrated man who famously chanted ‘stay alive’ to hordes of devotees, only to end up a tormented soul and victim of a tragic self-inflicted death. From a human point of view and as a lifelong fan, I don’t think it’s ghoulish to want to know how that story unravelled.

As expected, after the final page, we’re no nearer to or farther from understanding than we already were. The final days are handled with due care, and they’re as deep as the book delves into Adamson’s private life. The focus centres on his bands and his music. That’s no bad thing because the music speaks volumes. Stuart and his guitar won’t be on stage when Big Country play their next show, but his music will and therefore he lives on. And no matter what aspersions are cast over the reasoning behind Glen choosing to write about his countryman, the end results serve the greater good in keeping a star shining.

For me if no one else, the book begins with a wonderful moment of serendipity. As someone whose first two reviews on Amazon were for Big Country and Manic Street Preachers albums (not a coincidence), reading James Dean Bradfield eulogize over Stuart in his foreword provides me with two idols for the price of one. Not that it should have come as a surprise. JDB has always been one to pay his dues to the great man’s talents, rarely letting a Scottish gig go by without playing the seminal opening bars of Into The Valley as a segue into Motown Junk, a song that, as the Manics frontman admits in his notes, is already massively indebted.

Such unflinching respect has never been universal, of course. For every right-thinking listener who understands that The Crossing and Steeltown are two of the finest British rock records ever made there’s another window-licking moron who ‘doesn’t get it’ and turns derision into a fashion. While Glen positions himself very much as a fan and positive voice, he occasionally gives too much space to quotes from the non-believers and I worry that Steeltown in particular doesn’t really get the defence it deserves from him. The Skids albums are more pationately defended as the classics they are, but if you’re coming to the book solely as a Skids fan, be warned that the band is history by page 60.

As pages pass like the flash of a spark, it’s fair to say the derisive media quotes begin to carry more weight. Naturally, we’re reminded of the ‘No place like the bin’ review for 1991′s patchy No Place Like Home, but somewhere around The Seer and Peace In Our Time period, the book turns into the Dave Bates Show. Dave Bates was the man at PolyGram who oversaw the commercial decline of Big Country before washing his hands of the band when he decided they were getting too dirty. He recalls his experiences with an engaging honesty and admits to his share of culpability, but if ever there was a passage where Glen’s lack of sources shows, it’s when every quote seems to be from the A&R man. I’m guessing Bates’ anecdotes won’t be repeated in the official book. Dougie Dudgeon, formerly of Castle Communications (he doesn’t seem to know what his job title was), is called upon to recall what was surely the most farcical period in the band’s history in the mid-90s. The words ‘Spinal Tap’ come into play more than once.

In the end you’ll be left wanting more. A feeling you may have felt before during your fandom. Glen has been denied the opportunity to bring much new to the table for the hardcore, but In A Big Country nevertheless provides newcomers with a neatly compiled instant knowledge of The Skids and Big Country and long-time fans with a well-written trip down Memory Lane. On my shelf sits a nicely-produced hardback book with an attractive dust jacket about a personal hero who is sadly gone and too often forgotten, and because of that alone I can’t do anything other than thank and support both author and publisher

By  michael bragg (glen jean, wv United States)
This review is from: Stuart Adamson: In a Big Country (Hardcover)

I enjoyed reading this book and once I learned that it was coming out I had to get a copy. It’s not available in the U.S. so I ordered it from Amazon U.K. There is a lot of info about Stuart, The Skids and Big Country that I was glad to learn about. It is well researched and well written. I hope that there will be an official book released by the band and I will definitely get that one, but until then, this is a great resource. It was well worth the wait

By  Shirley

A very moving biography of Stuart Adamson,following his early days in punk band The Skids, then front man of Scottish band Big Country.This book gives you a insight of the music industry, life on the road in the 80s, then touches on Stuarts private life, his disappearance and then his tragic death..in a hotel room in Hawaii.This book will touch the Hearts of his many fan , it is well written, but although tragic it tells of how his music has inspired so many groups in the present day,which is a lasting tribute to him… if you are a fan please don’t hesitate to buy this book

By Lincs Reader (Lincolnshire, England)
This review is from: Stuart Adamson: In a Big Country (Hardcover)

‘Stuart Adamson : In A Big Country’ charts the rise of his career, from the beginning with Skids to his heyday as the lead man of Big Country.
This is more of a biography of Stuart’s music, than of his life and details in detail the rise of Skids and the world-wide success of Big Country.
Stuart Adamson was one of the most respected guitarists in rock and Big Country were one of the most successful bands of the 80s. With fans including U2, Simple Minds and The Manic Street Preachers. Stuart Adamson was an intense man, who loved music, Scotland and football. His morals and beliefs often lead to him leaving the music scene, only to reappear a few months later. During the height of his career he played venues all over the world with some of the greatest rock stars of all time. It is clear though, from this book, that underneath the glamour there was a guy with alot of issues – he married twice and finally gave up the rock star life to live in Nashville. As a massive Stuart Adamson fan, I found this book an excellent read – bringing back many memories and also learning things about Stuart and the band that I was not aware of

By Davie

A great insight into the man behind the music of Big Country . If you liked them back then you’ll definately enjoy reading this book

I was looking for a book which not only gave me Stuarts working career but an insight to his personal life, his struggles and demons basically an understanding of a man rather than the group. The book gave very little regarding Stuart’s own life but in fairness did give you a good understanding of his musical career. If you are like me and want to know about the person I wouldnt recommend this book

By  Paulio

Great read. Stuart, was in my opinion, one hell of a guitar player, the best. Was a huge Skids fan but an even bigger Big Country fan. The best live band i have ever seen. The book gives a real insight into just how ruthless the music industry was back then and the reasons why Stuart felt the way he did. It was a shame he did what he did and even now it doesn’t seem the same, Big Country back playing without him leading the way.Would recommend this book to any avid BC fan

By Elizabeth S. Case “Proust Gal” (Walden, NY United States)
This review is from: Stuart Adamson: In a Big Country (Hardcover)

I agree with the other 2 star reviews. Although Mr. Glen gave a great over view of The Skids and Big Country’s music (much of which I am not familiar with), I truly wished he could have delved further into what made Stuart Adamson “tick”. As I read, I wanted to know: why did his first marriage end in divorce? why did he come to the United States, Tennessee of all places? how did he meet up with his second wife? where did it all go so terribly wrong for Stuart Adamson, getting to the point of killing himself?

By mrs f

This review is from: Stuart Adamson: In a Big Country (Paperback)

A really good, well written piece of work. Lots of detail. Would recommend to anyone who is a SA/BC fan.

Very readable and well presented telling of a very sad story. If you loved the Skids/Big Country and wanted to find out more about them, this is the perfect place to start

By DufferBadge

Sorry, I love Big Country. Were briliiant “back in the day” and they can still put on a live show. But this book is very disappointing. There is very little insight into Stuart Adamson as a person – his thoughts, motivations and reactions to events. The author has spoken to people at record companies, trawled through reviews of records and seems to have pulled quotes from old interviews but there seems to be very little content that comes from people close to Adamson that look back at the man. His family life – which considering some of his career choices was obviously very important to him – but is hardly mentioned and his sad suicide is almost an afterthought. There could be a very good biography(and probably biopic too) out there on Stuart Adamson, unfortunately this really isn’t it

 

 

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