Stuart Adamson and Big Country could have been 19th century storytellers, such is their belief in traditional values.  Mr Spencer journeys to Ireland to see the old sods unearth new passion for their rock ‘n’ roll.  Peter Anderson digs the landscape.

“THERE is an underlying belief in the goodness of the human spirit and the sheer joyousness that can be found in actually living” – Stuart Adamson.

Walking into Leisure-land in Galway, Ireland, is like discovering the worlds about to end finding a hall packed with people determined to have the best night of their lives, while there’s still time.

It’s the rock movie director’s idea of a pop concert: wide-eyed 12 to 30-year old leaping around with cups of Coke and 7-up, miming guitar solos, punching the air, shrieking and screaming and continually rushing to and fro like a harangued ants’ nest of tarted-up humanity an without wishing to appear melodramatic, all of this is going on during the interval, to a record by Simple Minds.

The real excitement comes with the arrival of Big Country, whereupon their is a roar of such ferocity and passion I actually fear for my eardrums.  Its quite strange, and you can’t help but reach the conclusion Big Country are well thought of around here; they are rather popular

The atmosphere is such that even a sceptical observer, for instance who finds the group’s rollicking tunes en Masses a trifle samey and one dimensional (but who often enjoys them in more carefully measured helpings), cannot fail to get caught up in the mood and find himself inadvertently clapping along.

Never before has a band been applauded with such desperate favour. People are in tears laughing, crying, who knows? Big Country are having a wail of a time, and I have to admit it, tonight’s been pretty good for me too.  Afterwards Stuart Adamson chats happily to the sharpest fans, the 20 or so who’ve traced him back to the hotel. Its amazing, god knows how they manage it but somehow they always do, he gasps, impressed by their effort and investigative know-how.  Watching all this, still feeling a bit dazed at the excesses of tonight’s crowd, I think at last I’m beginning to understand things.  I now have a rough idea about what makes Big Country so ridiculously popular. 

Firstly, they gallop along and make hard hitting bagpipe-like sounds with their guitars, more or less guaranteeing folks a fine bop, minor head bang, thus providing an outlet for any non-drastic aggression which might be simmering.

And they sing of nice things, like rivers and sunshine; and of exciting things, like thunderstorms and sailors getting lost at sea; and they’re not afraid to admit ; sad feelings and most of all, you can find in your heart a place for them, you can find in your heart a place for them because just like yourself, they believe in flowers and candlelit dinners.

Big Country are comparable to a blockbuster cinema epic, a rock ‘n’ roll Gone With The Wind – a great big wodge of romance to brighten the lives of their countless ordinary working class followers; a reason to struggle on, despite everything.

There is nothing wrong with any of this Big Country are fulfilling a need and doing so with immense dedication and finesse. They are undoubtedly a very fine stirring, rowdy pop group.  Then again, you get your geezers liking Big Country because the band make excellent road-digging music, good sturdy stuff with lots of words about brave menfolk returning limbless from battles afar.  Plus of course, at a Big Country gig your average bloke can fling his arms around his mates without fear of being misunderstood, and all the while the ironies and subtleties of gentle Stuart Adamson – no lover of armies – are going completely over his head.  is interesting. 

Now this is interesting.

There is an underlying belief in the goodness of human spirit and the sheer joyousness that can be found in actually living,” says Stuart,attempting to explain the essence of the defiantly jubilant music that Big Country make.  Does he have any idealised image of the perfect Big Country fan?  “Not at all, we’ve never imposed any boundaries upon ourselves, we’vealways let things happen in a very natural fashion. It’s open to absolutely anyone… although I think possibly someone who is him or herself a caring and fairly emotional type of person is going to be interested in us, but I can’t be sure.”  Do the fans have fires burning in their hearts?  “I don’t know, I think for all of us in the group there’s a lot more to Big Country than simply the usual cliches that people trot out about us, a lot more.  There is a great deal of passion involved, and in as much as what we put out we always receive back, it’s very much a give and take situation on both sides.

“A definite unification exists between us and the crowd.  It’s something I feel happening every night, something whereby there are no restrictions or emotional barriers.  You mustn’t stand back and analyse your feelings, I think you’ve got too enjoy the effects rather than look for the causes.”

The fire in many of the band’s male admirers’ hearts is fuelled solely by the trill of violent action; not at Big Country concerts, but on the streets, with the lads, sinking a few cans and keeping an eye out for trouble.  I mention, this to Stuart.  “Perhaps that’s true,” he reluctantly admits.  “I think we possibly bring it on ourselves to an extent by being on the same level, being part of the same thing and from the same environment, but quite frankly I don’t like it.  I honestly don’t want to be identified with that mentality.  “It is a very fiery and uplifting sound that we make, but that’s the way we feel about music.  I think songs like ‘Just A Shadow’ and ‘Chance’ and ‘Seer’ reflect a lot of other sides, but these things seem to be glossed over, and I find it sad that people have such a very naive view of us at times,”

Do you like to look upon Big Country as being in the process of making history?  “I think so .  I’m sure every human being has the desire to leave his or her mark on the world, it’s inherent in all of us.  That’s why we try so hard in what we do – we want to be able to look back at all this with pride and satisfaction and know that we gave our all.  I believe that’s what counts in the end.”

With his songs of shirt-sleeves and hard graft, long winter evenings and years gone by, Adamson generates a warmth and an ambiance not unlike that of a pub full of leathery old men; pints in the corner, fond reminiscing, times were simpler then.  It’s almost a shame they have to use electricity when, say, horsepower or roasting manure would so clearly be more apt as forms of fuel for Big Country.  “I think I believe in reasonably basic values, fairly uncomplicated and straightforward ones,” confesses Adamson.  “But I do like to think you should be able to move forward and keep learning and stay open and receptive to new things; no change for change’s sake, but positive change….”

The idea age for Big Country to have existed in would’ve been around the end of last century, the 1890′s: you could have played to the fisherman and the coal miners, the ruddy-faced, bewhiskered turf gathers….

“Actually, if you’re talking in those terms, we would’ve been those turf gathers and miners, and we’d be the musicians too.  I do see a lot of different things in the group besides that, but I think it is part of us, that sense of history and roots, and a sense of a music that is much older than 30 years, like rock ‘n’ roll.  It’s nice idea, definitely.”

Do you ever think you’re too much of a romantic for your own good?

“Yeah, without doubt, I’m definitely overtly sensitive about things. I could never say that my life went along smoothly, it’s always been dramatic peaks and troughs.  But that’s how I am and I accept it, and I enjoy it in fact, because it makes the peaks seem higher if the troughs are lowere, y’know?”

You can picture him out in the fields in summer, driving a combine harvester with straw between his teeth, and somehow you can see him equally well in winter, by a blazing log fire with a dog curled up at his feet.  I wonder which of the four seasons is Stuart Adamson’s favourite?

“Well, I think my absolute favourite time of year is the late summer, when everything smells really nice and there’s that sense of poignancy because all the warmth is over again.  And I like it in the winter when it’s sunny but freezing cold, I really love that, I think it’s tremendous.  And for a cigarette smoker, of course, it’s ideal weather.”  Well, naturally.  So is smoking your only current vice?

“Yeah, bit it’s OK, I can handle it, although I would like to give it up one day.”

As an adolescent, when you were a skinhead, were you then indulging in a vice of sorts?

“No, it was simply a fashion, I didn’t even mean to get the hair done that way.  I went for a suede head cut, but it looked appalling, so I thought, right, off withe the lot! And then it was out with the old Crombie and Doc Martens…”

And into what forms of mischief?

“Just hanging around street corners shouting abuse at people, although at about this time I was beginning to get into bands anyway, around the start of the ’70s.”

The father of two children – daughter Kirsten and her elder brother Callum – is Stuart already preparing himself for the day his boy hits adolescence, the day hos own flesh and blood discovers the appeal in standing around on street corners yelling abuse at people?  Is her dreading this oncoming mirror image of his own tempestuous past?

“I am a bit, I definitely am ,” he confides, wincing at the idea. “I mean even since Callum’s been going to school he’s become far more independent.  Obviously, it’s nice to see him growing up, but it’s a bit hard in a sense; they seem to need less and less of your time but more of your love, if you see what I mean.”

Will you be a liberal parent?

“You’re joking.  I’ve never been a liberal in my life!”

Is there anyway in which your son could turn out to be a disappointment to you ?

“It’s hard to say.  I’ll certainly not be setting my own goals for him, nor for my daughter, but I’d like Callum to grow up with a certain  amount of compassion, I think , and a certain amount of  understanding of other people.  We’ll just have to see how it goes.”

Stuart Adamson, husband and father is a very happy man.  Big Country are flying high, both on the road and in the charts (“The Seer’, the present LP, is their-third top-selling album in a row).

And then there;s home.  Stuart paints a charming picture of life in the Adamson household, with his wife Sandra going about her own day-today business while he goes about his, both partners unhindered by traditional marital restrictions but always keen to rendezvous at the dinner-table come sunset.

Despite being a fairly unaccomplished cook, Stuart loves nothing nice then to have the whole family sit down and eat it.

“I take a lot of satisfaction out of doing something like that, ” he says.

Whats more, he’s already looking forward to taking his place at that very same table and being able to watch his children’s offspring tucking into what might by then be referred to as ‘Grandpa Stuart’s Tasty Treat’. or some equivalent cosy title.

Now there’s a sobering thought.

“I think it would be pretty splendid to be someone’s Grandad; I really find the idea of Sandra and myself being at the head of the family, at the top of the triangle, quite appealing.  It would be nice to have that sense of community, the knowledge that you had given something lasting. Definitely.”

Is it important to know that in 80 years’ time , people will look through their photography albums and they’llsay, That was old Stuart , he passed away, oh around 30 years ago…?

“That’s your Great Great Grandad, he did such and such…”

And he was good man.

“Yeah, that would be nice – to be remembered as a good man,”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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