Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Stuart Adamson

If you grew up in the 1980s, then you knew Big Country - even if only for the couple of years when they were riding on the top of the pop charts. If I had a dollar for every time I hung out with my best mate Pete, had a few drinks while listening to Big Country, and talked about everything under the sun (and the moon, by the time the night was over), I'd have... well, enough money for a really good steak dinner.

So, as I sit here working on a budget for a future film project (oh, the excitement, the glamour, of the film industry), listening to Big Country's breakthrough album, The Crossing, I can't help but thinking... I miss Stuart Adamson, the band's singer / songwriter who passed away, far too young, in 2001.

There's no one band that would form the soundtrack to my life. Instead, it would be three - Big Country, U2 and the Smiths. I love the Beatles, but I didn't grow up with them. Their music is timeless, but the "experience" belongs to another generation. Big Country? The Smiths? U2? That's my generation. That's my music.

With Big Country (like the Smiths and U2) it was as much the lyrics as the music that resonated with me. For anyone who thinks the 1980s were a wasteland of pop music, the only thing I can say is that you just weren't listening to the bands that I was listening to (although I also have a soft spot for groups like ABC and The Human League). You can catch a performance of "Harvest Home", from Big Country's last tour, in 2000, here. If you're not familiar with their music, it's never too late to start!

Some of my favourite Adamson lyrics?

From "East of Eden" (Steeltown album):

"Some days will stay a thousand years
Some pass like the flash of a spark
Who knows where all our days go?"

That seems to mean more to me now, having just hit 39, than it did at 17!

From "What Are You Working For?" (The Buffalo Skinners album):

"Now I see what I must see
The poor do time the rich go free
You keep the faith and they keep score
Is this what you were working for"

More apropos than ever, I think.

From "Girl With Grey Eyes" (Steeltown album)

"You make me smile with all the feeling
That you deal in like a gambler
It makes me feel that I’m a winner
Or a sinner and I’m branded"

Always betwixt and between. We can all relate.

Another favourite is "1000 Stars" from The Crossing (which is one of the great first albums in history). Given what's going on in the world today it is, sadly, just as relevant now as it was then - here are the lyrics in their entirety:

"Now we play our final hand
Move in closer, understand
This time like never before
Only the black queen scores
A card so high and so wild
We should burn it

The luck of a thousand stars
Can't get me out of this
The luck of a thousand stars
Losing its charm

There are people I have loved
Hypnotized by lies
In defensive disguise
Some say protect and survive
I say it's over

The luck of a thousand stars
Can't get me out of this
The luck of a thousand stars
Losing its charm

Hold me through the darkest night
I feel secure in your arms
While all the city's on fire
It's not between you and me
But we are losing

The luck of a thousand stars
Can't get me out of this
The luck of a thousand stars
Can't get me out of this
The luck of a thousand stars
Losing its charm"

If you're curious as to what the song is about, check out this website.

Anyway, I miss Stuart Adamson. I didn't know him, of course, but his music connected with me, and many, many others. His was a voice of passion. His was the voice of a poet. He was one of the artists who inspired me to become a musician, and form a band. If there was ever anyone that my music resonated with, some of the credit belongs to Adamson.

U2 is still going strong, as good now as they were twenty years ago (an amazing feat), and if the Smiths aren't around anymore, Morrissey's solo career has been a pretty good substitute. Adamson, however, is gone.

Fortunately, the music he made lives on, as immediate and relevant today as it was when I first heard it.

Paul Kimball


Mac said...

*sigh* Add another album to my ever-growing list of CDs to listen to...

William said...

I remember going to the local record store and thumbing through the imports section looking for new music and finding a four record collection of U2 singles. There are some good b-side tracks from those! U2 is one of the few bands that can bring on a wave of strange, almost sickening or vertigo like, nostalgia. Strange how the mind works! Tracks from Boy really hit me hard this way. I was probably 12 or 13 at the time.

Paul Kimball said...


Yeah, Boy was a great album, although my favourite U2 album remains The Unforgettable Fire.


You DON'T have The Crossing? Shame on you! Run right out and pick it up (you might want to add a few more BC albums while you're at it, especially Steeltown, which was a very worthy follow-up). :-)


Jek said...

Gday! Yeah I miss SA too. Don't know how you can't say Big Country is your band though....it's MY band!! ;)

Stuart has been the only person I have never known personally to have shed a real tear over when he died. It wasn't just an emotional moment. I'd really felt I'd lost a family member.

Anonymous said...

Today is the 6th anniversary of Stuart's death. May he be finally at peace. I miss what he may have done with his talent. I am just glad we have his wonderful music and lyrics as a lasting legacy. God Bless You Stuart. RIP

Anonymous said...

A Stuart Adamson fan and a UFO researcher??
I thought I was the only one!!
You have very good taste in music and you words about Stuart are very true indeed.

No doubt I'll visit again!

Shazzies, (Big Country Website Member).

Anonymous said...

The crossing paints a picture of a wonderous and mysterious journey. I am inspired to traverse the landscapes of my subconcious. No other album has fed my imagination with such poignant depth. Big Country's brilliance seems to have fallen on def ears where the publics concerned(a crying shame}. A gem to those of us who feel its uncanny effect.

Anonymous said...

Yes, got to agree, I worked with a chap and we talked music quite a bit, I remember his words during a chat we were having, he said ' Trust me, if you don't have 'the crossing', then you really don't have a record collection at all'. I went out and bought it that same day and I realised how right he was, it's an essential rock album, no doubt about it.