Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#951 in the Series) is Big Country, Steeltown 30th Anniversary Edition
The 80s were, without a doubt, a golden era for Scots pop/rock music.
A storm which began brewing deep in the punk and new wave sounds of the late 70’s suddenly gathered it’s forces and unleashed a Tsunami of talent which didn’t diminish for years. One of those talents was the wonderfully gifted Stuart Adamson, a young man who was a founding member of The Skids, a fantastic band from Fife which had great success between 1977 and 1982, became very influential , and which these days has attained semi-legendary status among fans of the Punk/New Wave era. Adamson actually left the band shortly before they split up ,feeling the need to get out there and do his own thing, carve a future of his own. He formed a new band: Big Country.
Big Country were one of the best bands to emerge in this period although they had little in common with contemporaries like Aztec Camera or Orange Juice, bands whose jangle pop went on to pretty much define the era (for some of us at least). Big Country ploughed a different, deeper, furrow with a brash guitar attack and air punching anthems to the fore. Early U2 and The Alarm would be better touchstones.
Debut album , The Crossing (1983) was an instant classic, yielding hit singles and a selection of instantly memorable efforts, a record loved by many to this day.
The much anticipated follow up, Steeltown, was a completely different beast , a work of increased depth maybe but also one which required greater attention be paid to it. The returns maybe weren’t as immediate as those on the debut but in time proved to be equally, and indeed possibly more, rewarding.
It’s a concept album, of sorts. By which i mean that the songs are all linked thematically , they share similar concerns. There’s a lot of focus placed on just how much the country was suffering economically at this time due to the decline of Scotland’s industrial heartlands and the strain which this placed on relationships and the hopes and aspirations of youngsters. There’s mention of war , the Falklands conflict being a then recent touchstone, and on how the propaganda machine can hoover up teenagers who feel they face a bleak future with little employment prospects.
There’s uplifting moments also of course, how we manage to find hope in the everyday machinations of life and Adamson’s musings on his relationship with his father.
Released in October 1984, “Steeltown” was the bands only number one album and spawned three Top 30 hits in the UK: “East Of Eden,” “Where The Rose Is Sown” and the mighty “Just A Shadow” and contained the wonderfully elegiac “Girl With Grey Eyes.” The full album hangs together superbly, it’s a cohesive statement and one of the best albums from the era.
Big Country and Stuart Adamson went on to many great things of course, another six studio albums followed and lots of excellent singles. Not only did they record some fantastic material they were also a fearsome great live act, loved by many faithful fans worldwide.
When Stuart died in somewhat tragic circumstances in December 2001 the eulogy at his funeral was delivered by U2’s The Edge, a great friend of his, and a man who’s always happy to let people know just what a great influence Adamson was on his guitar playing.
The man may be gone but the music endures, that at least, can never die.
SIDE TWO – The Original Album Remastered
1. Tall Ships Go
2. Girl With Grey Eyes
3. Rain Dance
4. The Great Divide
5. Just A Shadow
SIDE THREE- Single A-sides and B-Sides
1. Wonderland – Single A-side
2. Giant – Single B-side
3. Prairie Rose – Single B-side
4. Belief In The Small Man – Single B-si
5. Bass Dance – Single B-side
6. Winter Sky – Single B-side
SIDE FOUR – Previously Unreleased Rough Mixes
1. East of Eden – Rough Mix*
2. Tall Ships Go – Rough Mix*
3. Where The Rose Is Sown – Rough Mix*
4. Come Back To Me – Rough Mix*
5. Bass Concerto – Rough Mix*
* Previously Unreleased
Full Concert 2014
Full Concert “Back in the Day”