WATCH: Big Country Performs ‘Inwards’ Live @ The Pier in New York City – 1986
Hailing from Dunfermline, Scotland, Big Country literally roared onto the world stage in 1983 with their debut album, The Crossing. The album sold over one million copies in the UK alone, and due to the success of its single ‘In a Big Country‘ the album quickly climbed into the US Billboard Top 20 and achieved Gold Record status.
Lead singer/songwriter Stuart Adamson (formerly of The Skids) brilliantly incorporated traditional Scottish music (including bagpipes) around his distinctive guitar-work, giving Big Country a truly unique sound for the times. His guitar sound became modeled by U2’s The Edge, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, and even Metallica’s James Hetfield.
After The Crossing, Big Country would go on to release one EP and seven more albums over the course of twenty years, many of which garnered wide critical acclaim in the UK, and topped the UK charts. But in the US, none of these later efforts would come close to matching the success of their debut album.
The band was eventually dropped by their record label Phonogram in 1991, but they remained a favorite opening band for iconic groups like The Who, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant & Jimmy Page. Mick Jagger called Big Country “one of the best opening bands we have had”.
When not working on side projects, Big Country continued to release albums and tour together, though these later recording efforts failed to achieve anything close to the commercial success they enjoyed in the 80s. Adamson who had had a long battle with alcoholism, dating back to the 80s, suffered from acute depression, and by the end of the 90s he’d resorted to sudden disappearing acts without notice.
His second marriage began to crumble in 2001, and shortly after his wife commenced with divorce proceedings, Adamson disappeared again. On December 16, 2001, Adamson’s body was found in a hotel room in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he had hanged himself. He was 43 years old at the time of his death. He is survived by two children from his first marriage.
The way Big Country stormed into the US charts in the early 80s only to seemingly vanish by the decade’s end, might leave some younger Americans — largely unfamiliar with them — to believe Big Country was just another 80s ‘one-hit wonder’ group. This is most definitely not the case. The Crossing itself is one of the best albums of that era, full of fabulous songs. I cannot recommend it enough.
Here is a video of Big Country in 1986 performing ‘Inwards’ (from The Crossing) at The Pier in New York City. Though, Adamson has to stop abruptly for a moment to quell some fan on fan violence, this video, in my opinion, succeeds in capturing the band’s live energy.
R.I.P. Mick Karn – Bass Player of Japan (July 24, 1958 – Jan. 4, 2011)
I was sad to hear that Mick Karn, artist and bass player of the band, Japan, lost his battle with cancer yesterday.
Fronted by lead singer David Sylvian, Japan formed in 1974 in South London, and had a distinctive sound vaguely reminiscent of Bowie or Roxy Music. Karn played a fretless bass guitar, and his unique style of playing helped to define Japan’s sound.
They were a major influence on many of the new-wave Romantic bands that would sprout up in the early 80s. Yesterday, Duran Duran’s bass player John Taylor blogged about the first time he and Nick Rhodes saw Japan perform live and the impact Karn’s work and style had on him. Taylor said of Karn: “[he is] one of the great visual and sound stylists of the late-70s/early-80s.” Japan has long been noted as one of Duran Duran’s major influences.
After Japan’s demise in 1982, Karn and Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy formed Dali’s Car, producing just one album together, The Waking Hour.
In 1991, Japan reconvened with all four original members (Sylvian, Karn, Steve Jansen, & Richard Barbieri) but under a different moniker, Rain Tree Crow. What resulted was something of an experimental, improvisational album, more in keeping with David Sylvian’s solo projects than anything Japan had previously created together.
Never having made a huge splash on this side of the Atlantic, many Americans are unfamiliar with Japan’s amazing song catalog, including the tracks: Methods of Dance, Still Life in Mobile Homes, Quiet Life, Visions of China, Ghosts, Nightporter, Life in Tokyo, etc.
Here’s Japan in 1979 performing ‘Quiet Life’:
Mick Karn is survived by his wife Kyoko, and his son Metis. You can post your condolences and tributes to his facebook page.
Watch: Orange Juice ‘Rip It Up’ Video From 1983
Formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1979, Orange Juice released many memorable songs inspired by the sounds of the Velvet Underground, Chic, and the Talking Heads. After the band’s demise, singer/songwriter Edwyn Collins went on to enjoy critical acclaim as a solo artist. Most of you are probably familiar with his amazing single ‘A Girl Like You’ from the album ‘Gorgeous George’. But I’m guessing few of our American readers will recall his earlier efforts with the band, Orange Juice.
Take a listen to Orange Juice’s unique sounds and style underlined by superb songwriting, and you will instantly be reminded of all the exciting independent music that was coming out in the early 80s. Fabulous song! Fabulous band!
From the album of the same name, here’s Orange Juice’s first Top 10 Hit — the funky and soulful ‘Rip It Up’:
Watch: The Cars Perform ‘Heartbeat City’ @ Live Aid 1985
Here’s a favorite Cars song of mine — not as recognizable as some of their hits, although it should be. I was in Paris when Live Aid was happening, and my brother and I were watching a rabbit-ear antenna’d static-prone TV set in a hotel — unable to understand the French dialogue between the songs, […]
Watch: Roxy Music “Same Old Scene”
Here’s one of my all-time favorites. Each time I hear that intro, it’s like an instant flashback into a different world — namely, my youth. I was fortunate enough to have seen Bryan Ferry play live around 1989-1990 with my brother — a show I’ll never forget. Fantastic! From the album Flesh and Blood, here’s […]
FREE 12-Song Download: Carbon/Silicon (Ex-Clash Mick Jones) New LP, ‘Carbon Bubble’
Great news for all impoverished music lovers out there! Carbon/Silicon, featuring — one of my all-time favorite songwriters — Mick Jones (formerly of The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite) and Tony James (formerly of Generation X), have just released their new 12-Song LP entitled The Carbon Bubble. It is available at the Carbon/Silicon site as […]
Watch: From 1980 — Boomtown Rats Perform Hit ‘Banana Republic’
Here’s a fabulous song by Bob Geldof’s old band — from Dublin, Ireland — The Boomtown Rats. For those unfamiliar with this track, it’s got a great reggae-infused melody that will leave you humming it over and over again, all day and night. Songs like these make me miss the 80s something terrible: Enjoy!: The […]
David Byrne and Brian Eno “Strange Overtones” Live in Paris
Here’s a song for fellow Roxy Music and Talking Heads fans. Over a year ago, when I first learned Byrne and Eno were releasing an album together, I googled their site, Everything That Happens. I was both shocked and delighted to learn they were giving away the album’s first single, “Strange Overtones,” as a […]