Friday, July 15, 2011

BOOTLEG - BIG COUNTRY Live in Glasgow 21 December 1984





(From Wikipedia)

Big Country are a Scottish rock band born out of Dunfermline, Fife. They were most popular in the early to mid-1980s, but they still release material for a cult following. The band were notable for music infused with Scottish folk and martial music styles, as well as for playing and engineering their guitar driven sound to evoke the inspirational spirit of bagpipes, fiddles and other traditional folk instruments.

Contents


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 and Aaron B. Prior to the recruitment of Butler and Brzezicki, an early incarnation of Big Country was a five-piece band and it featured Peter Wishart, later of Runrig and now an SNP MP, on keyboards, his brother Alan on bass, and Clive Parker, drummer from Spizz Energi / Athletico Spizz '80 (Rough Trade & A&M Records). Parker had approached Adamson to join his new band after the demise of The Skids. Adamson auditioned Parker (1980) at The Members rehearsal room in Ladbroke Grove London, and the next day was called on to play drums on demos for CBS Records at their Whitfield Street studios. The demos just featured Adamson, Parker, with barely a contribution from Watson. Adamson had asked bassist Dave Allen from the Gang of Four to join the band but he declined. Adamson asked Parker to join the band, which led to 8 months of rehearsal in Dunfermline, at a disused furniture warehouse. The culmination was a successful concert at the Glen Pavilion in Dunfermline, (playing to a home crowd, mainly Skids fans), and an interview with BBC Radio Scotland, where the CBS Studio demos were utilised. What followed were live dates with Alice Cooper's Armed Forces tour in 1981. The band were 'out of their depth' with their rambling Echo & The Bunnymen and keyboard orientated sound which went down badly with the metal crowds and the band were dumped from the tour after 2 dates of Bournemouth Centre, and Birmingham Odeon. Adamson's management issued an ultimatum and the Wisharts and Parker were sacked. Adamson later asked Peter Wishart to rejoin on Keyboards, but Peter declined without his brother in the band. Parker formed the synth pop band Scary Thieves, and signed to EMI Records, and later went on to play session drums for ex-Jesus and Mary Chain member John Moore in The Expressway, (Polydor Records) touring the UK and USA. Parker and The Wisharts joined forces to sue Big Country for plagiarism and their song contribution, but, Peter Wishart changed his mind at the last moment because of associations through Runrig and still resident in Dunfermline. Alan Wishart later joined Parker in contemporary folk band Barra (Sony/ATV Music/Hi-Note Records). The manager Ian Grant brought in Brzezicki, and Butler, and along with Watson, the main band Big Country line up was formed. Although the band's music drew from Scottish traditional music, none of its members was born in Scotland. Adamson grew up in Dunfermline though, and as such, his 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 (reaching the US Billboard Top 20), 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 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, 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., reaching only #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 30 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.

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. It produced three further top 30 singles, including the Irish number one hit "Look Away", which would also prove to be the band's biggest hit in the U.K., peaking at #7. Kate Bush provided backing vocals on the album's title track, 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 Seer sold a little bit better than Steeltown, reaching #59 on the Billboard charts.

In what some critics felt was an apparent attempt to regain their dwindling U.S. following, Big Country used producer 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." It sold poorly. During the "Peace In Our Time" Tour, the band were supported by Diesel Park West and Cry Before Dawn.


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), and it seemed a return to form of sorts for the band, reaching the UK Top 25. The album obtained a surprisingly enthusiastic critical response, and although it produced two UK Top 30 singles in Alone and Ships, 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. 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 White City: A Novel. Brzezicki played drums for The Cult on their 1985 Love album and featured in the video for the single, She Sells Sanctuary.

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 needed some time off.

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 16 December 2001. The official autopsy revealed that he had hanged himself.

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

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.

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.

As of September 2008 the band returned to an indefinite hiatus.

The surviving original members toured again in late December 2010 and January 2011 with Mike Peters of the Alarm and Jamie Watson added to the lineup.They played another set of concerts in April 2011.

Big Country have been announced at six major UK/Irish festivals - Isle of Wight, T in the Park, Oxygen in Dublin, V festival (Chelmsford & Stafford) & Inverness with Simple Minds.

Legendary producer Steve Lillywhite who produced Big Country's finest work from the 80s including their first and second albums (The Crossing & Steeltown) will be back producing the bands first single in over 12 years. Steve remarked "when I heard the demo of their new song I was impressed on first listen. I am looking forward to working with the band again whom I last worked with in the 80s on one of my favourite albums I have ever produced - 'The Crossing'".

“ It will be a real buzz working with Steve again, he is a producer we all have a great regard for and are looking forward to working with again”. "We'd also like to thank all the festival promoters for having faith in us". says Tony Butler.

The band will also soon announce a series of smaller dates where they will be "breaking in" new songs for a future release. "These will be places we have never played before, giving us the chance to work in new songs in the more intimate type of venues” adds Mark Brzezicki.

"Due to the success of the January and April tours, the band have decided to continue and have already started planning for a new album and a 30th anniversary tour in the new year" says Mike Peters.

Bruce Watson comments, "we are 100% dedicated and intent on making this new line up a permanent one. We can finally look forward to completing unfinished business from the past, particularly internationally, and look to a creative and active future".


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