Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Big Country - "In A Big Country" (1983)

One of the greatest rock songs of the so-called "New Wave era." When this song broke in 1983, the "New Wave" genre of music hit the mainstream after bubbling under at college and more progressive rock stations.

"In a Big Country" created a mold of English rock anthems that was later followed by U2 and the Britpop bands that came 10 years later. As with many New Wave songs filling the airwaves, it didn't sound like anything else: snapping intro drum fill, shearing major guitar chords, deep kick drum, and the band's hallmark -- twin guitar leads mimicking bagpipes. The galloping beat drove what sounded like a call to arms to a friend in need:

I never seen you look like this without a reason
Another promise fallen through, another season passes by you
I never took the smile away from anybody's face
And that's a desperate way to look for someone who is still a child.

In a big country dreams stay with you
Like a lover's voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive

I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered
But you can't stay here with every single hope you had shattered

I'm not expecting to grow flowers in the desert
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime

Not surprisingly, Big Country was from Scotland, a multi-racial group as well. While this "theme song" was their biggest US hit, they had many terrific songs from this time which can be found on The Crossing album (which is still in print and merged with their great Wonderland EP) and the greatest hits album.

After the success of "In A Big Country," the band's subsequent albums stalled in the US, coming up against the next big music phase of "corporate rock," yet were smashes in the UK. As a matter of fact, after their US success died down, they just succumbed to the trend and hired one of the hot producers of the day, Peter Wolf, to produce the "Peace In Our Time" record. They probably figured if he could work wonders for Wang Chung and Jefferson Starship, it would click with them... the album flopped, despite one great song, "King Of Emotion."

The story gets much sadder from here, as lead singer Stuart Adamson fell into depression and alcoholism while the band lost its sizzle. They did their farewell tour in 2000, culminating in a sold out show in Glasgow. One year later, Adamson went missing, and after his bandmates searched for him, they found he had committed suicide in Hawaii.

If you like the song "In a Big Country" as much as I do, you owe it to yourself to explore the albums I mentioned above. You would discover one of rock's great unsung bands.

Instead of the official MTV video for "In A Big Country," below is their appearance on
Saturday Night Live (you'll see Dick Smothers do the quick intro), just so you can see the power of this band live. Turn it up!

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