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.
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: Jesus & Mary Chain w/ Hope Sandoval “Sometimes Always” Live – 1994
If you were told The Jesus & Mary Chain were attempting to pen a love song — a duet — this is EXACTLY what you’d hope to get from them. Somehow they managed to incorporate their signature detached (brooding) style — something unheard of in a traditional love song — and yet it works here on so many levels. They found the perfect female counterpart to Jim Reid in Hope Sandoval — ex-lead singer of Mazzy Star.
For me the song conjures up images of the American west — I’m thinking desert tumbleweed blowing around, Budweiser beer, Marlboro cigarettes, a young couple overcoming typical male indiscretion and indifference — both projecting the energy level of two junk addicts. Wait a minute, am I simply recalling the treatment for the original promo video? But there IS beauty lurking behind this lifelessness.
Over the years, I’ve continued to come back to this song, ‘Sometimes Always,’ whenever I contemplate dusting off one of the old J&MC CDs. Here they are with Hope Sandoval performing live on the David Letterman Show in 1994. Enjoy!