By Steve Newton
Three days ago I did a blog about how former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett played a gig at Vancouver’s Town Pump 20 years ago. Well, 20 years ago today–on Thursday, November 11, 1993–Scottish rockers Big Country played the same legendary Gastown venue.
Like Hackett, Big Country frontman and main songwriter Stuart Adamson called from New York in advance of the show.
Here’s my story as it appeared in the Georgia Straight that week.
Big Country? You mean those guys from Scotland who had the guitars that sounded like bagpipes? Didn’t they have a hit song back in ’83 called “In a Big Country”? Yeah, I remember the chorus: “In a big country dreams stay with you, like a lover’s voice ‘cross the mountainside.” You mean they’re still around?
You betcha. They’re playing the Town Pump next Thursday (November 11), and their new album, The Buffalo Skinners, is one of the best rock albums of the year. Surprised? Maybe you have some preconceived notions about what a band like Big Country can do in 1993.
“I think perhaps a few people have,” says singer-guitarist Stuart Adamson, calling from New York. “But I’ve been very pleased to find that most people have approached us with a real kinda open mind. They’re aware that we have a past, but they seem to be interested in what we’re doin’. It’s not just seen as some sort of revivalist thing, which I’m real pleased about.”
The Buffalo Skinners is jam-packed with rousing tunes such as “The Selling of America”, “All Go Together”, and, especially, “The Long Way Home”, a stirring rock anthem that hits home on topics like phony evangelism, boat people, and the L.A. riots.
I was so impressed with the prospect of that tune becoming a mainstream rock-radio hit that, for the first time ever, I called up the program-director of a local station and tried to talk him into playing it, to no avail. He probably had preconceived notions of what Big Country we like today, and that’s a real shame, because the band mixes up an impressive blend of boisterous riffs and Celtic melodies.
“What we do is really loud guitar-rock music,” Adamson says. “But because of the music that I was exposed to growin’ up, the folk and country things come through quite naturally. I don’t sit around and think about it too much; I prefer to play just what I feel, and that’s the way it comes out.”
According to Wikipedia, The Buffalo Skinners “obtained a surprisingly enthusiastic critical response”, but “its sales were meagre and, in retrospect, it can be seen as Big Country’s last, lost chance to regain a mass audience.”
What a shame.
Adamson, who reportedly struggled with alcoholism and depression, hung himself in a hotel room in Honolulu, Hawaii in December of 2001.
He was 43.