Biography by Scotland Calling! (Scottish Music Network)
FEATURED BAND PAGE THE HISTORY OF BIG COUNTRY
Born in Manchester on 11th April 1958, Stuart Adamson’s first band was a covers group from Dunfermline called Tattoo, before he first tasted musical success with the Dunfermline punk outfit The Skids, who scored several top 40 UK hit singles and albums, as the backing vocalist and lead guitarist who gave the band their distinctive guitar sound. The band was fronted by now TV presenter and Mr. Respectable Richard Jobson, but back in 1977, Jobson was anything but, portraying the now well worn path of anarchy and rebellion. Together Adamson and Jobson formed a formidable writing partnership, composing most of the Skids material, but by 1981 tensions had become strained between the two and Adamson decided to leave the band, and if the truth be told the Skids never recovered from the loss of his song writing skills and guitar playing. One album later, the once mighty Skids were no more. However, during this period of the Skids demise, Stuart Adamson set about forming a new band, teaming up with fellow Dunfermline-ite Bruce Watson, who up until then had been gainfully employed as a cleaner on nuclear submarines, to form the nucleus of the band that was eventually to become known as Big Country.
Watson (born 11th March 1961 in Ontario), had grown up with Adamson in the east coast Scottish town of Dunfermline, as Stuart had moved there with his parents when he was six months old. Adamson’s parents were from Scotland, and indeed he was conceived in Scotland, but his father had got a job in England just before the birth and Adamson was born south of the border. He considers himself a true scot however and remains to this day proud of his nationality as does Watson who had similarly returned to Scotland with his parents in his infant years.
The first attempted line up found the duo joined by Rick Buckler (who was still with The Jam) in which they demoed two tracks “Angle Park” and “Heart and Soul” in June 1981at London’s Townhouse studios for Virgin Records, as Stuart was still contractually signed to them, despite his departure from the Skids. The following month saw Stuart released from his contract as he tried to get a record deal, with amongst others, CBS, A&M, WEA, Chrysalis, RAK, EMI, Polydor, Sire, and Arista all turning him down. In September ‘81, Bruce and Stuart were joined by the brothers Alan and Peter Wishart (Peter now plays keyboards with Scottish folk-rock legends Runrig) and Clive Parker (ex-Spizz Oil), while Ian Grant became their manager. After a couple of month’s rehearsal, Chris Briggs of Phonogram went to Dunfermline to check the band out and expressed interest, but failed to offer any deal. At the same time Ensign Records offered the band a singles deal, but this was not taken up at the time.
The band got their first major gig as support to American stage shocker Alice Cooper in February 1982 and opened the tour at the Brighton Centre. However, after the second night of the tour, at Birmingham’s Odeon, the band was asked to leave the tour, being deemed as “unsuitable”. Two months later, Adamson decided to change the line-up, removing the Wishart brothers and Parker, replacing them with the rhythm section of Tony Butler (born London 13th February1957) on bass guitar and Mark Brzezicki (born in Slough 21st June 1957) on drums. Adamson, Brzezicki and Butler had first met back in 1979 when On The Air had supported the Skids on a UK tour. On The Air were led by Simon Townshend, the son of Pete of The Who, and Adamson had been impressed by the duo’s rhythmic prowess with On The Air. They immediately went into the studio and within 6 weeks the band had cut demo’s and concluded a 5 album record deal with Phonogram on their Mercury label. At this time, the band was contractually signed as “Angle Park”, but the foursome soon decided on the name “Big Country” as more suitable.
They then proceeded to play their first gig as a foursome at Clapham’s 101 Club in London, and later played their first US gig as support to The Members at the Peppermint Lounge in New York. Work on the first album commenced in September 1982 with Chris Thomas at the helm as producer (previous credits include Sex Pistols, Pretenders, Elton John and Pete Townshend among others). The first product of their endeavours was “Harvest Home” and was released immediately as a single and sold the grand total of 6,000 copies and reached the dizzy heights of No.91 in the UK singles chart. There then followed a series of concerts, which included a Scottish Club tour (the clubs in the early 80’s being a lot different from what we know today), support to A Certain Ratio and six nights at London’s Wembley Arena in December to The Jam, who were on their farewell tour. The band were actually requested to do these dates by Mr Paul Weller himself! At this time, it was also decided that the relationship and the recordings with producer Thomas were not working and their collaboration came to an abrupt end.
However, in an inspired move they managed to team up with Steve Lilywhite (producer of U2, Simple Minds and Rolling Stones) and saw the band rerecording all the material from scratch at the RAK studios and Manor studios in Oxford. February 1983 saw the release of the bands second single entitled “Fields of Fire” and the storming anthem was to hit No.10 in the UK charts as the band opened as support for U2 at London’s Hammersmith Palais and also embarked on another headline UK tour of 1,000 capacity venues. As the bands profile rocketed, the band took time out from the debut albums recording and over the next two months proceeded to appear heavily on TV, including the prestigious Old Grey Whistle Test, and radio, as well as a 16 date UK tour made up of various support and headlining gigs.
The band had decided to capitalise on their unique bagpipe guitar sound which Adamson had brought to the fore with the conception of Big Country, by constantly wearing multicoloured tartan checked shirts, with the belief that an “image” would help raise the profile of the band, and this certainly seemed to work. Returning to the studio in May, the band put the finishing touches to the album and released their eponymous single “In A Big Country”, which peaked at No.17 in the UK singles chart. Immediately upon completion of the album, the band started their first ever headlining tour of the UK of 34 dates, including returning to Hammersmith Palais where they had played 4 months previous as support to U2 – a truly remarkable feat.
July 1983 saw the release of the debut album “The Crossing”; an album released too much critical acclaim and commercial success and was surely one of the best debut albums of the 80’s. Containing the 3 previous singles, it also featured such soaring tracks as “Lost Patrol” (still a live favourite to this day), the haunting “The Storm” and the classic rollercoaster “Porrohman”. It eventually sold in excess of 3 million copies worldwide, entering the UK charts at No. 4, remaining in the UK top 100 for 83 weeks, as well breaking the band massively worldwide, gaining numerous nominations for the likes of best New Group, Best Album and Best Single and collecting several awards, including a coveted Rolling Stone award in the USA. The album’s release was coincided with a massive outdoor headlining gig in Sefton Park, Liverpool, an event that was shown live on UK television and helped the following single “Chance” hit No.9 in the UK charts. Suddenly Big Country were hot property, whereas a year previously, they had been struggling to get a record deal. They had arrived and were soon the name on everybody’s lips as they appeared on the same Phoenix Park bill in Dublin as U2, Simple Minds and Eurythmics, and Reading Festival alongside The Stranglers. A successful US showcase tour was followed by another UK tour and an extensive European tour as the band set out to spread their invigorating, uplifting music to the world. “In A Big Country” proceeded to reach No.17 in the US singles chart as their debut single, with “Fields Of Fire” reaching No.52 and the album peaking at No.18. The band retreated to the studio briefly to record some new material, as well as Tony Butler recording with The Pretenders for the classic single “Back On The Chain Gang”, before finishing the year with their first North American tour, and a triumphant homecoming at Glasgow’s newly reopened Barrowlands on New Year’s Eve, which was transmitted live to America and was filmed by Polygram video.
The first week of January saw the release of a new composition “Wonderland” which became the bands biggest hit single in the UK reaching No.8, while reaching No.86 in the US. Successful tours of Japan and Europe followed, while they proceeded to write new material for the second album, which was to be eventually recorded in Stockholm at the Polar studio’s (owned by Abba), with Lilywhite again as producer, in conditions which the band openly admit to be “a drunken haze”. Prior to the recording, the band appeared at Wembley Stadium as special guests of Elton John and at the Pink Pop Festival in Holland. The second album “Steeltown” was released in October 1984 and debuted at No.1 in the UK charts, spawning 3 hit singles “East Of Eden” (UK No.17), “Where The Rose Is Sown” (UK No.29) and “Just A Shadow” (UK No.25). The album found the band experimenting with digital tape, which was still in its infancy, and the end result was a rawer sounding album, closer to the live sound of the band, with the likes of “Flame Of The West”, “Tall Ships Go”, “Rain Dance”, “The Great Divide” and the title track being particular shining examples. More major touring of the UK, Europe and the US followed with the band being supported on many occasions by a new up-and-coming band called The Cult, in venues which were sell-outs, including two nights at London’s Wembley Arena and a Christmas Eve concert shown live in the UK from the Edinburgh Playhouse.
1985 saw the first relative period of inactivity from the group, as they took their first proper break in 3 years from the constant cycle of recording and touring. On the recording front, Stuart wrote the musical score to a new film entitled “Restless Natives”, which the band recorded in Glasgow in January 85 and was produced by Geoff Emerick (Beatles and George Martin), Rick Stevens and Stuart Adamson, which was later to appear on the B-sides of the first two 12” singles for the third album. Mostly instrumental in its content, the soundtrack was a major departure from the bands previous works, but remains to this day a testament of the bands talents and diversity. The film was an American project using unknown Scottish actors shot entirely in Scotland and followed the antics of two young Scots who decided to hold up and rob coach loads of tourists, distributing their bounty to the poor, and become local heroes, aka Robin Hood, and was one of the funniest films of that year. No more recording was to take place until December of that year, while Mark guested on various recordings by Midge Ure, Nik Kershaw, Pete Townshend, The Cult and others, while Tony and Mark collaborated with Roger Daltrey and Niles Lofgren in the studio, as well as touring with Daltrey in late ‘85.
Steve Lilywhite had married Kirsty McColl and was otherwise engaged when it came to the recording of the “difficult” third album and so, Robin Millar was brought in to produce. Recording started in December and continued through to March 1986 and featured Kate Bush on the track “The Seer”, which was to become the album’s title. Bruce said at the time that Kate had “transformed the track from a little mandolin ditty into a fully fledged masterpiece”. Once again the album was a different sounding product, being more polished, this being mainly down to Millar’s production techniques.
In May 1986, the band hit the road, in a promotional tour previewing the new material, a tour that was to be 4 months ahead of the new albums release, starting in Holland and taking them all round Europe, before returning to the UK in time for the UK release of the first single to be lifted from the album, “Look Away”. Despite their inactivity in the past year the single charted highly, and peaked at No.7 – once again improving on their previous highest chart position in the UK singles chart. It also became their eighth consecutive Top 30 hit, and was their 4th Top 10.
Appearances on Germany’s prestigious “Rock Palace” TV programme broadcast live across Europe amongst others followed, including a performance at the Montreux Golden Rose Festival in Switzerland, headlining spots at the Seinejoke Festival in Finland, the Lochem Festival in Holland, the Brittany Festival and the 3 Day Festival at Roskilde in Denmark, as well as a performance at the 10th Birthday Party of the Prince’s Trust at Wembley Stadium, London, which meant the band performed to 100’s of thousands of people throughout Europe in the space of a couple of months. With such a high profile being attained by the band, this should have ensured that the new album would have been the bands biggest selling album, but due to record companies on both sides of the Atlantic failing to promote the album and band properly, it was to transpire that the album would not sell as well as it should have done.
A second single “The Teacher” was released in July, two weeks ahead of the album’s release, and peaked at No.28 in the UK, and featured a superb introduction a full minute long and a beautifully shot and scenic video filmed around the Rest and Be Thankful and Loch Lomond in Scotland. Despite the record companies, the album “The Seer” went straight in at No.2 in the UK album chart, only being prevented from attaining the converted No.1 spot by Madonna, who had released her new album “True Blue” the same week and featured the haunting “Live To Tell”. Despite this, the album still went gold in its first week of release in the UK and was described by Tony Butler as “an album of great songs, that should have put us on the map” had it not been for the “communicating record companies on both sides of the pond”.
The following month Big Country scored their tenth consecutive Top 30 UK hit single when the rousing “One Great Thing” made No.19. Once again the video was a spectacular affair, featuring a cast of hundreds miming the words in separate environments. Indeed the song and video impressed a lager company so much, the video was rerecorded for a major television promotion for Tennants Lager where the cast were filmed in exactly the same scenes as the original video, with the addition of each character holding a pint of lager in their hands, and this promotion was to run for almost a year. Also in August 1986, the band were invited to play as special guests of Queen at Knebworth, England, in front of 200,000 people, before embarking on another successful US tour, which also spawned the “Live at The Pier, New York” home video.
There then followed another European tour, prior to a live satellite television broadcast to America from London’s Limehouse Studios and the release of the fourth single from “The Seer”, “Hold The Heart” which due to a total lack of promotion and copies being very scarce in record stores, this superb love song failed to make any impression on the UK singles chart, peaking at No.55. Despite this, the band still managed to play another sell-out UK tour in December, including two nights at London’s Wembley Arena (capacity 12,000).
In 1987 the band had another quiet year, partly due to their disillusion with their record companies and the fact that the original core of people who had been at Phonogram/Mercury when the band had signed 5 years ago were being forced out and the new regime was not prepared to promote the band properly. This was to become even more evident with the fourth album. However, the band went away and spent a large part of 1987 writing new material and demoing it, with only a series of appearances alongside David Bowie on his “Glass Spider” tour in June as special guests at Wembley Stadium, London (2 nights), Cardiff Arms Park in Wales, Sunderland’s Roker Park and Slane Castle, Dublin saw them perform to well over 300,000 people in a week and a tour of UK colleges and clubs in December entitled the “Under Wraps Tour”.
At the start of 1988 the band flew to Los Angeles for the recording of their fourth album which was to be produced by Peter Wolfe over a period of four months. Upon their return, Mark went off and played drums at a series of concerts with Phil Collins, including the Nelson Mandela Concert at Wembley Stadium and the Princes Trust concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London, before the band flew off again in July, this time to Australia, to film the video’s for the first two singles to be released from the forthcoming album, “King Of Emotion”(released August 1988, highest UK chart position No.16) and “Broken Heart (Thirteen Valleys)” (November, No.63). From Australia they flew to East Berlin, Germany, to co-headline the Peace Festival with Canadian rocker Bryan Adams in front of 140,000 people, followed by another co-headlining appearance, this time at the Soviet Peace Festival in Tallin, Estonia, USSR, with Public Image Ltd., and attended by 200,000. Upon returning to the UK in September, Big Country played live at the Soviet Embassy in London, in front of a specially invited audience, previewing tracks from their forthcoming “Peace In Our Time” album, which was broadcast live across the UK on Radio 1and was featured on the News At Ten that night. At this show, the band announced their plans to tour Russia as the first band to play to a standing audience in a series of concerts that would also be the first to be legally promoted by a private individual and not the state. During their tour of Russia the band filmed the “Peace In Our Time” promotional video in both Moscow and Washington, and also ended up filming their third home video on the Russia tour.
“Peace In Our Time” entered the UK album charts at No.7 and became their third album in a row to go gold in its first week of release, but the album was not as well received critically, and the band were not happy with the final product, although this was not to be admitted by them for a few years as they were still under contract in Europe to Phonogram and they had just switched from Polygram to Reprise in America. Essentially, the band had been forced to put out a record as a finished product that was not in keeping with their “traditional” sound as the new regime took more control over their musical direction and resulted in an album that was a polished American sounding album. Tony Butler has commented recently that “this should have been a killer album, but we were not allowed to sound like us. Everything felt like slipping away”, while Bruce Watson says the album production “is very AOR – a million miles from The Crossing. The only thing that remained constant was Stuart’s voice”, while Mark Brzezicki states that “I thought this album would break the band in America. But, in hindsight it nearly broke the band up”. In fact, Mark was to leave the band for almost 4 years the following year.
The first two months of 1989 saw another major tour of the UK and Europe, followed by a two month break, as the band had been living out of suitcases for 14 months since they had gone to LA to record the “Peace In Our Time” album. A two month tour of Europe in May and June also found the band headlining at Festivals in Munchengladbach, Germany and St. Gallen, Switzerland. The following month however, found the group thrown into turmoil as Mark Brzezicki announced his decision to leave the band. Tony Butler had in fact stated as far back as New Years Eve, December 1983 in an interview with “No.1” Magazine, prior to their Glasgow Barrowlands gig, that “If anyone leaves Big Country, then that’s it. Not because, say Bruce is a great guitarist, but because Bruce is Bruce”. There then followed a period of much soul-searching as the band struggled to decide as to whether to carry on or go their separate ways, coupled with the relative failure of the last album and the lack of record company support in the direction the band wanted to pursue, meant that thousands of fans who lived and breathed Big Country were left not knowing what was going to happen.
The remaining three members decided to go away for six months and do their own thing, before deciding on the future of the band. Bruce Watson decided to spend as much time as he could with his new wife, while Tony played with the likes of The Creatures and Stuart performed at Wet Wet Wet’s free concert in Glasgow performing an acoustic Big Country set, appeared alongside the likes of Brian May, Van Morrison and Dave Edmunds at the Jerry Lee Lewis concert in London, and spent a lot of time in the pub he had bought in Dunfermline.
After regrouping the band decided to write some new material at the turn of 1990, and were joined by Pat Ahern on drums. In March they recorded several new tracks, with Tim Palmer (producer of The Mission, All About Eve etc.) of which two were to be released as singles of which a track entitled “Save Me” was to be included on the Greatest Hits package Phonogram were intending to release. The videos were shot in London in April, and the first single “Save Me” saw the light of day in May, reaching No.41 in the UK singles chart as the band embarked on a major UK tour to promote the single and the compilation album “Through A Big Country”. Despite the singles failure at denting the top 40, the album went in at No.2 in its first week of release, achieving gold status and eventually selling over 400,000 copies in the UK alone. There then followed performances at Glasgow’s free concert “The Big Day” in June and the Princes Trust concert at Wembley Arena before a European tour and the release of another new track “Heart Of The World” which reached No.50 in the UK.
The following year, saw Mark Brzezicki return to the recording studio with Big Country, but only as a session musician for the recording of their fifth studio album, with Pat Moran producing the tracks at Rockfield Studios in Wales during the months of February and March. For this album the band had decided on a more earthy sound but this never really came out fully after the final mix, and the band were once again disappointed. Tony openly admits that the term “record company” was “a dirty one” and that “the stress factor was quite high” while Mark said recently that the album didn’t “seem to please anyone, too many opinions from up top sends the band in all directions”. Indeed, the album contained many great tracks such as “We’re Not In Kansas”, “Dynamite Lady”, “Into The Fire”, “Hostage” and the searing first single to be lifted off the album “Republican Party Reptile”, which was released in August 1991, reaching No.37 in the UK chart, but essentially the album did not sound as it should have done and the finished product did not do the band justice, although it was admittedly a marked improvement from the previous studio album.
For the forthcoming tour, the band auditioned many session drummers and eventually Chris Bell was employed to play the sticks. The album “No Place Like Home” was released in September, entering in the Top 30 of the UK album chart in its first week of release, and the band brought Glasgow City Centre to a standstill during a PA at the city’s Tower Records store, where over excited fans spilled out onto the roads and started jumping on cars. Despite repeated pleas from the band for the crowd to calm down, the police eventually ordered the Big Country to cut their set short.
A concert in Bonn, Germany was televised across Europe as the European tour kicked off as the band hit the road to much acclaim, where the band showed that despite their layoff they were still as energetic and enthusiastic as ever, and the band were supported by local bands throughout the tour, as the band organised a competition on local radio stations where the applicants were whittled down to a shortlist for the band to make the final decision for each venue. During the UK leg of the tour, the second single from the album “Beautiful People” was released which failed to make any impression on the UK singles chart. Negligible promotion was made by the record company, and not surprisingly in November 1991, Big Country and Phonogram/Mercury parted company.
The following year, Big Country teamed up with some old friends – the gentleman responsible for signing the band to the Phonogram label, Chris Briggs, had started Compulsion Records, a division of Chrysalis, and the band secured a new deal – Chris had also assembled several other people around him who were also at Phonogram at the time of the bands signing back in 1982. Suddenly, things started to look rosy again for the band. In April, the band rerecorded two tracks from the “No Place Like Home” long player: “Ships” and “We’re Not In Kansas” in the format they had originally intended them to be played – the band had played harder versions of these songs in concert, especially in the case of “Ships”, and had found them to be immense new favourites with the audiences. This time Simon Philips (The Who skins man) did the honours on the drum kit, which was ironic, as Mark Brzezicki was at the time drumming with Pete Townshend.
New tracks were then demoed in Dunfermline, before the band commenced recording of their sixth studio album at London’s RAK Studios. For the first time in 10 years the band decided to produce the album themselves, with Chris Sheldon (Terrorvision, Therapy, The Almighty producer) assisting, allowing them total artistic control, something they had been denied, particularly in the past five years. The band flourished under the new environment they found themselves in, as suddenly they believed they had found a record company that would propel them back to the top. Simon Philips continued drumming duties, as the band produced an album that is the most vibrant collection they had done since “Steeltown”.
Even the loss of a week’s worth of recording due to a technical fault did not deter the band. The recording of the album was a loud affair as the guitars, bass and drums created an amazing rock and roll record, where every track is an absolute stormer. As Tony Butler commented – “Some BC rock n’roll record at last”. The lyrics were also stronger, as Stuart had pulled himself out of his drinking habits, and vowed never to touch alcohol again, added to the release of tensions within the band, predominately due to the previous frustrations and disappointment caused by the final years with Phonogram, meant that Adamson was a new man, and this was reflected in the lyrical and musical content of the album. The album was completed in December and upon hearing the new material, Mark Brzezicki rejoined the band in February 1993, and the band were back to full strength, with the line-up that had brought so much success in the early/mid 80’s, coupled with a record company management well represented by the people who helped promote and propel the band to stardom 10 years previously.
The first single from the album “Alone” was released in March ’93 and debuted in the UK singles chart at No.29, before peaking at No.24. A Top Of The Pops television appearance playing the song coincided with Stuart’s first appearance on the same programme, fully 15 years previously with The Skids. A sell-out tour of the UK followed as the album “The Buffalo Skinners” was released in the UK, debuting at No.19. The following month saw the release of “Ships”, which also debuted at No.29 in the charts, and this meant that “The Buffalo Skinners” was the first Big Country album to spawn two Top 30 singles since “The Seer”. Another sell-out UK and European tour followed in May and June, before several summer festival appearances throughout Europe, including headlining the “Out In The Green” Festival in Switzerland, Holland’s Geore festival and the Bemb festival in Belgium. Over the Atlantic, “The Buffalo Skinners” was receiving much critical acclaim and the band performed their first shows in America in seven years when they played the likes of Connecticut, Boston, New York, San Diego, Las Vegas and San Francisco during a 12 week tour of the US and Canada, of which Bruce says the band “had a large time!” Returning to the UK just before Christmas, the band then proceeded to play Glasgow’ Barrowlands where the gig was recorded on film and tape, for the bands first Live album “Without The Aid Of A Safety Net”, which was also released as their fourth live video.
The start of 1994 saw the band returning straight to the studio, demoing new material, before a Scottish Highlands & Islands Acoustic tour, an idea which had been first born in Adamson’s mind back in 1989 at the Wet Wet Wet free concert in Glasgow, and had been tested to great success in a mini set at the Barrowlands recording of the live album, prior to the bands full electric performance. The Live album and video was released in June 1994 and entered the UK album chart at No.24. It was an album which captured the complete feeling of a Big Country in concert : a rousingly powerful, dynamic, passionate, intense and individual sounding band, and featured a six strong acoustic set and eight thundering electric versions of songs such as “Steeltown”, “Ships”, “Wonderland”, “Long Way Home” and “Lost Patrol”. The band toured the UK and Europe yet again to coincide with the live release, including three German Festivals (Emlichehein, Jubeck and Balingen), a Festival in Vienna, the Sonoris Festival, Milan, and a headline appearance at the Bikers Festival in Derbyshire, England, as well as several visits to various studios to continue the demo’s for the new album. The year finished with the band recording the new album at RAK studios, London, with the band producing the material once again.
Unfortunately, internal record company politics blighted the band yet again at this stage and the band found themselves without a record company to release the new studio album. However the band signed to the newly reformed Transatlantic Records in Europe, with Pure Records in America (an offshoot of Polygram), and in May, the band started preparing themselves for another hectic series of concerts, television and radio promotion and the like. The first single, the raging “I’m Not Ashamed” was due to be released 30th May 1995, but for some reason some 2,000 copies found their way into UK record shops a week early, due to an administrative error and quickly sold out. The copies which were sold the following week coupled with those that had been snapped up would have meant the single would have entered the UK singles chart in the Top 40 if the sales had occurred in the one week, but once again, Big Country found themselves victims of someone else’s failure, and they were denied through no fault of their own another hit single. Unperturbed the band soldiered on, and made 14 UK in store appearances promoting the new studio album “Why The Long Face”, along with playing at the Harley Davidson Festival, the Fleadh Festival, London (alongside Van Morrison and Sinead O’Connor) and the Sjoslagef Festival in Sweden (with Soul Asylum). The following two months found the band playing four gigs as special guests of Page And Plant including two at Dublin’s Point, Festivals at Karleshue (Germany), Langeland (Denmark), Leuven (Belgium) and the Heineken Big Top Music Festival in Swansea and a European Tour as special guests of the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones special guest appearances found the band playing to crowds ranging from 78,000 to 98,000(venues including Berlin Olympic Stadium, Hockenheim Ring, Feyenoord Stadium and Leipzig Stadium), playing to almost 1,000,000 people in less than three weeks.
The release of “Why The Long Face” in July was a critical success, whereas on the commercial side the album did not sell as well as the band had hoped, although it did enter the UK album chart in the Top 30 in its first week of release. The album’s style and content had continued the new energetic and free flowing rock n’roll that had surfaced on the “Buffalo Skinners” album, full of strong songs such as “God’s Great Mistake”, “Far from Me To You”, “You Dreamer”, “Blue On A Green Planet”, the single “I’m Not Ashamed” and “Thunder And Lightning”, but in truth the record company did not do their job – as Mark Brzezicki said “you are as strong as your weakest link” and Tony Butler “if the record company situation was better, this album would have been huge”. Two further singles were to be released from the album, “You Dreamer” (August 1995) and the Greenpeace supporting single “Post Nuclear Talking Blues” (October), subtitled “NON! Stop The Tests”, in reference to the French Nuclear testing programme that was so widely publicised at the time. Neither single managed to sell sufficient copies to break into the UK singles charts, and meant that “Why The Long Face” was the first Big Country studio album not to produce a UK Top 40 hit single, despite the fact that the album was a stormier of an album, and it had been so critically well received. Yet, on the live front, the band were still as successful as ever – as well as being tremendously received at the Festivals, and on the Page & Plant and Rolling Stone dates, they proceeded to embark on a virtual sell-out 27 date UK tour and a equally successful European tour in October and November, which proved that the band still had plenty of gas left in the tank.
They even had new airline Easyjet, naming one of their planes “Big Country” and the band performed at the airlines opening reception, shortly before the band played an acoustic set in front of almost 50,00 people prior to the Scottish Coca Cola Cup Final at Hampden Park, Glasgow, with 130 pipers as backing, on the same day they headlined at Glasgow’s George Square Christmas celebration concert. 1995 drew to a close with a headline performance at Edinburgh’s Princes Street Hogmanay concert in front of an amazing 250,000 revellers, which was also broadcast live on BBC television and radio. The band then decided to record an unplugged-type album using special guest musicians to feature on various tracks and this project was recorded at Dingwalls, Camden in March 1996. The album was a mixture of covers and some original Big Country material, and showed the band in a totally different light. Steve Harley played with the band and sang on his own composition “Sling It”, Carol Laula sang “Big Yellow Taxi” with Stuart (originally written by Joni Mitchell), Kim Mazelle sung on the classic “Summertime” and BC’s own “King Of Emotion”, while Aaron Emerson played keyboards on seven of the albums 13 tracks, Bobby Valentino played violin on the whole set, while Hossam Ramzy and Mohammed Toufiq (The Hossam Ramzy Percussion Section – who play Egyptian type music) added an extra twist to the album on 6 tracks. Other BC songs of note were “The Buffalo Skinners” ( never released before on any album), Winter Sky (a classic BC B-side) and “Where The Rose Is Sown”, while the album also featured covers of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby”,Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire “and the Rolling Stones “Ruby Tuesday”. As the previous three albums, “Eclectic” was critically well received and sold reasonably well, once again debuting in the Top 30 of the UK album chart upon its first week of release, while never really setting the heather on fire either.
In April 1996, Mercury re released the first 5 Big Country studio albums, digitally remastered and with extra tracks on each CD and the band did a month long “Eclectic” tour in August of that year, but otherwise the band had a very quiet year. At this juncture, Stuart decided it was time for a break. He moved to Nashville and the rest of the band did their own thing. Mark joined The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown (he of The God of Hellfire), and did odd gigs with Procul Harum, Midge Ure and Bernie Marsden. Tony formed Great Western Records and released his debut solo album “The Great Unknown”, while Bruce formed his own band Wild Blue Yonder. Stuart wrote with several Nashville writers, something, he has never done before. All his previous co-writes were only with fellow band members in The Skids or Big Country. One Nashville-anian in particular, Marcus Hammon got on fantastically with Adamson, and the duo performed and recorded several times, although to date, no material has been released, but it is expected that something will come of this collaboration in the future. The band minus Bruce did one show in 1997 however. A certain Raymond Douglas Davies approached them to perform a Kinks set with him at Glastonbury. Ray had seen the band on a late night UK TV show and enjoyed them. This was a unique but sadly unrecorded Kinks show, but a powerful set was performed, at a venue which ended up in a sea of mud. One can expect future possibilities from this collaboration.