by Muttley Remastered by Ella Crew
It’s amazing how many people thought Big Country split in
the mid-eighties. In fact, the band carried on recording and gigging until 2000.
It is a story of unrealized potential, lack of support from record labels, and a
musical style that the music industry couldn’t pigeon-hole. However, let’s
go back to the beginning.
The band formed in 1981 when hugely-talented vocalist/lead
guitarist/songwriter Stuart Adamson left Scottish punk band The Skids and joined
with long-time Dunfermline pal and ex-nuclear submarine cleaner Bruce Watson on
rhythm guitar. In 1982 the original rhythm section was fired and Tony Butler
(bass) and Mark Brzezicki (drums) were recruited from On the Air via session
work. On the Air was a three-some with Simon Townshend, who’s now helping
brother Pete out in The Who.
The band signed up with Phonogram and released their first
single ‘Harvest Home’. It introduced the band’s distinctive twin-racing
guitar sound. References have been made to a ‘bagpipe’ sound. Let me tell
you that most bagpipes I’ve heard would make a deaf dog cringe. We’ll leave
this stereotype to the ill-informed.
The band’s second single, ‘Fields of Fire’, hit #10 in
the UK charts in 1983. The excellent first album, ‘The Crossing’, charted
initially at #4 and eventually reached a peak of #3. Subsequent touring and
singles releases confirmed Big Country as the hot new act in the post-punk music
Big Country’s second album, ‘Steeltown’, hit the UK
charts in 1984 and went straight in at #1. More successful singles and sellout
gigs followed. The band then took a brief sabbatical to record the soundtrack to
the movie Restless Natives.
The third album, ‘The Seer’, was released in July 1986
and reached #2 in the UK charts supported by the success of their biggest hit
single (at #7) ‘Look Away’. High profile live appearances followed at the
classic 1986 Princes Trust Concert and at Knebworth, supporting Queen at their
last ever UK gig in front of 200,000 people (including this dog!). Looking back,
1986 was the band’s commercial peak.
Each of the five studio albums that followed had some
elements of experimentation and achieved varying degrees of success. The sixth
studio album, ‘Buffalo Skinners’, was a classic twin-guitar hard rocking
album that eventually reached #25 in the charts, but with proper support from
the record label could have brought the band back into the big time.
Big Country’s last studio album, ‘Driving to Damascus’,
encompassed many of the styles of the previous albums and had a more relaxed
leaning consistent with Stuart Adamson’s move to Nashville in the US.
So, what do we have in Come Up Screaming? A double live album
of 22 of their best tracks taken from the Glasgow and London gigs on the
‘Final Fling’ tour of May 2000. The album kicks off with the rousing
‘Harvest Home’, quickly followed by the hard-rocking ‘King of Emotion’
from the ‘Peace in Our Time’ album.
‘John Wayne’s Dream’ and ‘Driving to Damascus’
follow with Adamson and Watson in great form, supported by the tightest rhythm
section in the business. Other classic tracks follow including ‘The Storm’
with the unique E-bow intro; a quieter moment with ‘Come Back to Me’, before
cranking up again for the ever-popular ‘Look Away’ and ‘Wonderland’.
The finale is formed of four tracks from ‘The Crossing’
in rapid succession - the epic ‘Porroh Man’, ‘Chance’ with vocals as
usual loudly augmented by the crowd; theme song ‘In a Big Country’, and
great favourite ‘Fields of Fire’, all with the racing guitars on full
Where are they now? Sadly, Stuart Adamson took his own life
in December 2001; Bruce ‘the man who invented the seagull’ Watson is
recording and touring with ex-Marillion-frontman Fish; Mark Brzezicki has been
recording and playing in Procol Harum, and Tony Butler currently concentrates on
re-mastering and music production.
It’s always been a mystery why Big Country never made the
big time commercially. They shied away from publicity-seeking at the height of
their popularity, when many of their less-talented contemporaries sought the
limelight. The band stayed together for most of their 18 years and continued to
be a great live act to go and see. However, a band with four top ten albums and
four top ten singles should not have been forgotten so easily.
Their legacy is kept alive by the ever-supportive ex-manager
Ian Grant, the two websites he runs (Track and Big Country), and an enthusiastic
group of fans across the world. Live and rarities albums continue to be released
and some of the studio albums have been lovingly re-mastered by Tony Butler.
The big stores in Thailand have seen fit not to import
‘Come Up Screaming’, so the best bet is the Track Records website -
www.trackrecords. co.uk or the Big Country website - www.bigcountry.co.uk
Stuart Adamson - Guitar and Vocals
Mark Brzezicki - Drums and Backing Vocals
Tony Butler - Bass and Backing Vocals
Bruce Watson - Guitar and Mandolin
King of Emotion
Driving to Damascus
John Wayne’s Dream
Where the Rose is Sown
Come Back to Me
Dive in to Me
Your Spirit to Me
The President Slipped and Fell
We’re Not in Kansas
In a Big Country
Fields of Fire
To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]