Big Country

Big Country

Infobox musical artist |
Name = Big Country
Img_capt = (from left to right) Tony Butler, Bruce Watson, Stuart Adamson, and Mark Brzezicki
Img_size =
Landscape =
Background = group_or_band
Alias =
Origin = Scotland
Genre = Rock New Wave
Years_active = 1981–2000, 2007
Label = Phonogram Records
Track-BCR Records
Associated_acts =
Current_members = Bruce Watson Tony Butler
Mark Brzezicki
Past_members = Stuart Adamson (deceased)

Big Country are a rock band from Dunfermline, Scotland, popular in the early to mid-1980s but still releasing material for a cult following. The band were notable for music heavily accented with traditional Scottish folk and martial music styles, as well as for playing and engineering their guitar sound to resemble the bagpipes, fiddles and other traditional folk instruments.


Composed of Stuart Adamson (formerly of The Skids, vocals / guitar / keyboards), Bruce Watson (guitar / mandolin / sitar / vocals), Tony Butler (bass guitar / vocals) and Mark Brzezicki (drums / percussion / vocals) though a variety of other drummers have been in the band throughout their long career, including Simon Phillips. Prior to the recruitment of Butler and Brzezicki, an early incarnation of Big Country was a five-piece band and it featured Pete Wishart, later of Runrig and now an SNP MP, on keyboards. Although the band's music drew from Scottish traditional music, none of its members were born in Scotland. Adamson grew up in Dunfermline though, and as such, his trademark Scottish accent was genuine.

Formed initially as a five piece band in 1981, their first single was "Harvest Home", recorded and released in 1982. It was a modest success, reaching #91 on the UK Singles Chart. Their next single was 1983's "Fields of Fire", which reached the UK's Top Ten and was rapidly followed by the album "The Crossing". The album was a hit in the United States, powered by "In a Big Country", their only U.S. Top 40 hit single. The song featured heavily engineered guitar playing, strongly reminiscent of bagpipes; Adamson and fellow guitarist, Watson, achieved this through the use of the MXR Pitch Transposer 129 Guitar Effect. Also contributing to the band's unique sound was their early virtuoso use of the e-bow, a device which allows a guitar to sound more like strings or synthesizer. "The Crossing" sold over a million copies in the UK and obtained gold record status (sales of over 500,000) in the U.S. The band also performed on both the Grammys and Saturday Night Live.

The band released the non-LP extended play single "Wonderland" in 1984 while undergoing a lengthy worldwide tour. The song, considered by some critics to be one of their finest, [ [] ] [ [ TWAS 67: Comsat Angels, Big Country ] ] was a Top Ten hit (#8) in the UK singles chart but despite heavy airplay and a positive critical response, was a comparative flop in the U.S., only reaching #86 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the last single by the band to make a U.S. chart appearance.

Their second album "Steeltown" (1984) was a hit as soon as it was released, entering the UK Albums Chart at Number one. The album featured three UK Top 40 hit singles, and received considerable critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, but like "Wonderland" (and, in fact, all subsequent releases) it was a commercial disappointment in the U.S, peaking at #70 on the Billboard album charts. [ [ All Music - Steeltown] ]

Throughout 1984 and 1985, the band toured the UK, Europe, and, to a lesser extent, the U.S., both as headliners themselves and in support of such artists as Queen and Roger Daltrey. They also recorded prolifically, and provided the musical score to a Scottish independent film, 'Restless Natives' (1985), which was not released on CD until years later on the band's "Restless Natives and Rarities" (1998) collection.

1986's "The Seer", the band's third album, was another big success in the UK, peaking at Number 2, and producing three additional Top 40 UK singles. These included "Look Away" which reached Number 7 (the band's highest charting UK single). Kate Bush provided backing vocals on the title cut, and, as was the norm for the band at the time, the album received good reviews from the music press. In the U.S., the album sold modestly better than "Steeltown", reaching #59 on the Billboard album charts. [ [ All Music - The Seer] ]

This album showed the band's loyalty to Scottish Nationalist themes, with "The Seer" being about a woman who tells a traveller about the tyranny of William of Orange upon the Jacobites movement coming to an end soon; while "The Red Fox" was based on "Kidnapped" by Robert Louis Stevenson, and the so called Appin Murder of Colin Campbel, a Tory who was hated by many in Scotland around 1752.Fact|date=July 2007 In what some critics felt was an apparent attempt to regain their dwindling U.S. following, [ [ All Music - Peace in Our Time] ] Big Country hooked up with producer Peter Wolf [ [ Peter Wolf] ] for their next album, "Peace in Our Time" (1988), which was recorded in Los Angeles, California. The result was very different from the previous singles and albums, and, in "Broken Heart (13 Valleys)" contained the song which Stuart Adamson claimed to be his favourite of all time. Despite this it was not well received by most critics and fans. One reviewer noted that it was the group's "least representative and least interesting album." [ [ All Music - Peace in Our Time review] ] It sold poorly. [ [ All Music - Peace in Our Time chart placement] ]

The 1990s

"No Place Like Home" (1991) not only effectively killed off the band's commercial hopes in the US, it nearly broke up the band. Drummer Mark Brzezicki returned to the studio as a session drummer after leaving the band. The album found the band trying to reinvent themselves and shift away from their '80s image. It was not a commercial success and was not released in America, although two re-recorded tracks showed up on 1993's "The Buffalo Skinners".

In 1991, the band was dropped by Phonogram, the label that had released all of their material for ten years. After that, Big Country became a minor act, popping up in the lower echelons of the charts in the UK and Europe with the release of every subsequent album. Only one of these, 1993's "The Buffalo Skinners", received a major label release (via Chrysalis Records); it seemed a return to form of sorts for the band, and obtained a surprisingly enthusiastic critical response. But its sales were meagre and, in retrospect, it can be seen as Big Country's last, lost chance to regain a mass audience. Regardless, the band retained an intensely devoted cult following, as evidenced by their deceptively large post-1990 discography, which consists mostly of live concert recordings and singles/rarities collections.

Throughout the 1990s, Big Country became a popular 'opening act', supporting such bands as Rolling Stones and The Who; Roger Daltrey reportedly uttered on numerous occasions that he'd 'love to steal their rhythm section!'.Fact|date=June 2008 (In fact, Big Country had backed Daltrey on his 1985 solo album "Under the Raging Moon", and Tony Butler played bass and backing vocals on Pete Townshend's 1980 hit single "Let My Love Open the Door". Both Butler and Brzezicki performed on Townshend's 1985 solo album "".

Of growing concern, however, was the mental and emotional health of lead singer Adamson, who reportedly had struggled with alcoholism for several years. Adamson split with his first wife, who later spoke to Scottish and English tabloids about his heavy drinking. He moved to Nashville in the mid 1990s where he took up residence and married a hairdresser. While in Nashville, he met noted artist Marcus Hummon and released an acclaimed studio album with him under the moniker "The Raphaels".

In 1995 Big Country released another album "Why the Long Face?".

1999 saw the release of Big Country's eighth and final studio album, "Driving to Damascus" (titled in its slightly different, augmented U.S. release "John Wayne's Dream"). Adamson said publicly that he was disappointed that the album did not fare better on the charts, which led to depression. Later that year, he disappeared for a while before resurfacing, stating that he had just needed some time off.

The final days

Adamson returned for the band's 'Final Fling' farewell tour, culminating in a sold-out concert at Glasgow's Barrowland Ballroom on 31 May 2000. Although that marked the end of Big Country as a touring band, they were always adamant that they would appear together again. They played what turned out to be their last gig in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in October that year.

In November 2001, Adamson disappeared again. Numerous appeals were put on the Big Country website asking for Adamson to call home and speak to anyone in the band, the management company, or his ex-wife. The website also requested that any fans who might have been 'harbouring' the singer to contact the management company and alert them to his whereabouts. Mark Brzezicki and Tony Butler had indicated they were concerned but the reason Big Country had lasted so long was they stayed out of one another's personal lives, and both later noted they were unaware of the extent of Adamson's problems. He was found dead in a room at the Best Western Plaza Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii on December 16, 2001. The official autopsy revealed that he had hanged himself. [ [ Star - Stuart Adamson suicide] ] [ [] ] [ [ - Big Country] ]

At the time of death he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.279% [8] .

A memorial to Adamson was held at Dunfermline's Carnegie Hall in January 2002, followed by a tribute concert at the Barrowlands in May. It brought together the remaining members of both Big Country and The Skids; Adamson's teenage children, Callum and Kirsten; as well as Steve Harley, Runrig, Simon Townshend, Midge Ure and Bill Nelson.

Twenty Five Live

In 2007, to celebrate 25 years of Big Country, founding members Bruce Watson, Tony Butler (now lead vocalist for the first time), and Mark Brzezicki reunited to embark on a tour of the UK with dates in Scotland and England and a gig in Cologne (Germany).they also released a new album "twenty five live" on the trackrecords label


"For more details about the discography, see Big Country discography."

External links

* [ Official Site]
* [ Big Country at MySpace]
* [ Big Country Book of Lyrics]
* [ Big Country Info - The Unofficial Source for Lyrics, Discography and More]
* [ Big Country Live]
* [ Trouser Press: Big Country entry]
* [ Waking the Witch - Brand new album featuring Bruce Watson]
* [ Big Country Live from Glasgow Barrowlands on December 31, 1983]
* [ Big Country Live from Tower Theatre on August 26, 1986]


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