Last week’s Criminally Underrated entry featured a little-known band from Scotland called Sideway Look who is often compared to another Scottish band known as Big Country. Personally, I don’t think there is that strong of a similarity, perhaps because I am just a bit biased.
Big Country began life in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland in 1981. The original line-up was comprised of Stuart Adamson (formerly with Richard Jobson and the punk band Skids, vocals, guitars, keyboards), Bruce Watson (guitar, mandolin, sitar, vocals), Tony Butler (bass, vocals), Mark Brzezicki (drums, percussion, vocals), and for a short time Peter Wishart (keyboards).
Quite a few years ago, a coworker burned some tunes to a CD that she wanted me to listen to. Two songs grabbed me tightly and just refused to let go; they were “In A Big Country” and “Porrohman” from a group I had never heard before. Sure, I knew that some good music had come out of Scotland – who hadn’t heard of Simple Minds, for instance? But Big Country’s interweaving of guitars, rhythm, keyboards in building a crescendo that is reminiscent of a train leaving the station, gaining velocity and barreling through the countryside at a breakneck speed that leaves the listener breathless – can you ask for anything more stimulating and gratifying from your music? It just doesn’t get any better than this.
The chart positions reported at Wikipedia are very telling. Big Country was wildly popular in the UK, but after their first release, they dropped off the radar in the US. My pet peeve is the non-promotion of deserving 80’s-era bands here in the states in favor of immersing us in the musical cesspool of Madonna, Cher, metal bands and their ilk.
Big Country continued to record and tour up until 2000. Their extraordinary live show thrilled millions of fans worldwide. In December 2001, any future plans of touring and recording came to an abrupt end when Stuart Adamson was found dead in a hotel room in Honolulu, HI of apparent suicide.
I challenge anyone to listen to just one song – Porrohman – and not want to hear more from this amazing band. It’s like eating potato chips or peanuts; can you honestly feel sated after eating only one? Can your love of 80’s post-punk and New Wave be truly satisfied without embracing Big Country and welcoming their music into your collection? I think not.
“Porrohman” via YouTube user josesirjose:
“In A Big Country” via YouTube user universal music group:
“Fields Of Fire” via YouTube user neilfunn:
“Steeltown” via YouTube user kevseabass:
Purchase Big Country music here.
The Crossing (1983)
The Seer (1986)
Peace In Our Time (1988)
I really love Big County, but I only currently have four of their songs in my library: “Where The Rose Is Sown,” “Wonderland,” “In A Big Country,” and “Fields of Fire.” That said, “Wonderland” is about as good a song as you could want to hear.
This is the first time I’ve listened to “Porrohman,” and I confess it is excellent. I will probably add this to my library soon. 😀
It was big news out here when Adamson died. I suspect most of my fellow Honolulu citizens were mostly unaware of who he was, but those of us into music all knew and we were stunned. He was a very talented man and its a shame he met such a tragic end.
It was around the time of Adamson’s death that my coworker shared a few Big Country songs (and those from other bands) with me. It was definitely one of those “slaps forehead and shouts, ‘Where the heck was I?'” moments for me…and the very seed of the Criminally Underrated was planted. Over the past 9-10 years, I’ve had the pleasure of revisiting music that I either completely missed or didn’t appreciate at the time. Your blog has been a wonderful vehicle for that journey, as well.
All the best to you, and check your mail 🙂
hi there, I just had a link from facebook sent about a band named Felt. They are very good if you had not had a listen to them before. Also I think the Blow Monkeys are worth a visit back to for a quick listen. I think they were criminally underrated.
I know Felt – their song with Liz Fraser called “Primitive Painters” is a classic. I had featured them on my “deceased” blog – will have to put them in queue for another article here. I’ll also have to listen to some Blow Monkeys – not sure I am all that familiar with them. Thanks for the suggestion!
I first heard Blow Monkeys on CFNY back in the day. I liked them but I think they are another one of the bands that I really noticed after seeing the video for Forbidden Fruit….It is all filmed backwards.
Have you ever written anything on Aztec Camera. They another one of my favourites.
All right, I can actually help with Blow Monkey research. 😛
“Digging Your Scene” was their American hit
“Forbidden Fruit” (one of my favorite 80’s tunes)
“It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way”
“Celebrate (The Day After You)” – classic anti-Thatcherism
“You Don’t Own Me” classic cover song from “Dirty Dancing”
There are a bunch of other excellent songs that aren’t available online. “Cash” and “Sweet Murder” in particular are favorites. In fact, their Animal Magic album is a favorite.
In related news, some Aztec Camera favorites:
“Pillar To Post”
“Deep and Wide and Tall”
“Somewhere In My Heart”
and, of course, their classic Van Halen cover “Jump”
::::Blinks:::: – Now I know who the Blow Monkeys are (after pulling up “Digging Your Scene)! Thank you for the examples. They were a part of the privileged few that actually got played on SoFla airwaves.
I’m also familiar with Aztec Camera – and, I will listen to all of samples you provided for both groups later after work to jog my memory. Thank you (((((Joey)))))).
Heck, I’m just grateful to be able to link some of the stuff I’ve been posting. I think you and Memo are the only ones who read it, so thank you! 😀
LOL – it’s nice to have a mutual fan society 🙂 You do a *fab* job of cataloguing a *ton* of music. Plus, you give a lot of insight into the selections as well. Keep it up!
I actually lived this dream… A reality. Back in 1993, in Atalnta, Big Country played a small club, downtown, promoting their “Buffalo Skinners” tour. Being general admission, and standing room only, I got to the club about an hour before the show and found my spot at the front row and center of the stage. The band played an incredible set that evening. During the concert, Stuart Adamson sat down on a speaker / amp directly in front of me and played “Porrohman.” I look back on this event and it will be forever engraved in my mind. To be there, up front and personal was like being entertained in my living room. At the end of the song, he tossed his pick ( a yellow tortoise) into the crowd. After the show, I found it between the stage and front railing. I grabbed it up and have kept it with my ticket stub ever since that event in December of 1993.
Hi Walt – what a fantastic memory – thanks so much for sharing it with us. I wish I could go back in time and be at that concert….to hear Porrohman live would be incredible. Hang on to that wonderful memory, along with the guitar pick and ticket stub.
Couldn’t agree with you more. Big Country was one of the truly great bands of all time. They have so many fantastic albums, many never released in the States. The total lack of promotion after their initial single was criminal. Causes me to wonder how many other great bands/artists are out there that the general public has missed due to a record companies bottom line. Stuart’s passing was tragic.