Stay Alive

Big Country, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham. Friday, 17th August, 2007.

It was a friend north of the border who gave me the heads-up about this impending gig in the heart of Nottingham’s Studentland. The gig and tour are being carried out as a twenty-fifth anniversary commemorating the band’s brilliant debut album. “The Crossing”. Sadly of course, the band’s singer, main songwriter and twin lead guitarist, Stuart Adamson is no longer with us after his desperate loss through his suicide in Hawaii in 2001. His influence on the band and it’s music is still evident though. So is the love and respect for him from his former friends in Big Country.


Big Country in 2007 consists of the remaining three members, Bruce Watson (guitar), Tony Butler (bass and lead vocals) and Mark Brzezicki (drums). The band felt Stuart to be irreplaceable and I have to say I am in agreement with this. It seemed fitting that the three should celebrate the band’s major, landmark success from all those years ago.

Big Country remained something of an enigma in the eyes of much of the music world. Perhaps one might even refer to them as having a cult following. Irrespective they achieved great success in record sales, particularly in their earlier career and gained a huge reputation as a terrific live band.

It was my first visit to Rescue Rooms and at first I was a little surprised at how small the venue is. Nevertheless it’s a good venue that feel comfortable with people in the various nooks and crannies drinking and socialising, happily much of it outside on a warm-ish night. We entered in the midst of what I hoped was the opening tune and took our place near the back of the crowd. The crowd demographic was an interesting one with many people of an age group that had them marked as fans of the band from way back. It was a good-natured crowd too.

Tony Butler mentioned a few words about Stuart Adamson and the reason they were back playing in front of us on this occasion. He also explained that they had written some new material to ‘get them motivated’. As one might imagine, many of the old favourites were there, ‘Look Away’, ‘The Teacher’, ‘Fields of Fire’ and ‘Chance’, spread amongst a healthy amount of hitherto unheard material, some of which sounded promising. A personal high spot came at the band choosing to play ‘Restless Natives’, written as part of the soundtrack for the movie of the same name.It was Tony Butler’s job to recite the memorable opening words

“Alone among the hills and stone
Through summer sun and winter snow
The eagle he was lord above
And Rob was lord below”

I wondered how many of the audience understood the relevance of those words: “Two-hundred-forty years we lived, without hope and without pride”. Probably quite a few I reasoned. How well Stuart understood what it is to have a Scottish heartbeat and to feel the constant pull of those beautiful mountains and glens of our homeland, the love that is forever a corner in all of our hearts and will never die.

“I’m not expecting to grow flowers in the desert.

But I can live and breathe and see the sun in Wintertime”

Although a great fan from the past, I had never actually managed to see the original Big Country. Even so I had a strange feeling about the three playing up there on stage without Stuart. It was almost as if one expected him to run out on stage at any moment. Of course the loss was felt but that is meant in no way derogatively against the remaining members who toiled a little at times over the new numbers but excelled in the old ones.

The crowd lapped up every minute of it enthusiastically and the end came all too soon. I don’t believe the love and affection for this band will ever die. It certainly won’t in my mind. Apart from the Scottish sound which appeals to me for obvious reasons, I enjoyed the songwriting of Stuart Adamson, the way he tackled historical issues from his traditional, folk-inspired consciousness and the way he championed ordinary, working-class people and their trials and oppression. As well as THAT sound, that’s what Big Country and Stuart Adamson mean to me.

Just one encore of the expected ‘In a Big Country’ to a rapturous reception and the band were gone into the dark, inky night.

Will we ever see their like again?


Stuart Adamson, 1958-2001. Rest in Peace.

“In a big country, dreams stay with you, like a lover’s voice fires the mountainside, stay alive”

God Bless Scotland


14 thoughts on “Stay Alive”

  1. This band did so much for me as a kid growing up in the states…I will never forget them. They provided hope and inspiration – along with the “Alarm”, my favorite band of all time.

    Best to you all…

  2. Thanks Paul – good to hear.

    Talking to a few people at the gig there it seemed like so many echoed your words, the band were always an inspiration and always will be.

    Best wishes.


  3. Big Country were my favourite band in the early 80’s I saw them live every time they played Dublin and would rate them to this day way above U2, they were a no nonsense down to earth rocking band.

  4. Stuart props for writing this! Truly one of my favorite bands. RIP SA we miss you!

  5. I had the privelage of seeing Big Country live and being one of the lucky few to get on stage and dance with Stuart. It was FANTASTIC!! After, I had my concert tickets signed by the whole band. This band were such an influence on me. They marked the point that I changed from a “tween” liking the new romantics to a more serious taste in music. The night I danced on stage with them though, arm in arm with Stuart, will be a memory I take to my grave!

  6. This is probably a very strange reply. See I wondered a few days ago, why I did´nt see new albums with Big Country at my local musicstores in Denmark. Here we write 2012 and I just did not know Stuart Adamson had left the earth. I was shocked, I was sad beyond my own understanding: Why did I take it that seriously? Ok i am a sober alcoholic meself, and know to depressions. But how I LOVED their music, particularly Stuarts vocals, lyrics and guitars! His ambience! Well….it will take me as long to accept his fate as it took you more than 10 years ago, when you heard the tragic news…

  7. Not strange at all Kenneth. I’m glad you share a liking for Stuart and Big Country’s music. Yes, a very sad loss. Big Country without Stuart have been touring successfully recently. They have a couple of new members and you might be interested to read about them.

    Rest in peace Stuart

    Kind regards


  8. One of the best things to come out of ‘Bonnie Scotland’ without doubt.

  9. This is my first “post” on this subject, and hopefully the last. I’ll explain.

    As a boy growing up in a humbled industrial town in the States, I pasted Stuart Adamson’s picture on my wall as inspiration for something better. I was 12 years old in 1983 when I first heard a Big Country song that my cousin, the one with obscure tastes, played for me. Nothing I had ever heard before sounded like that, certainly nothing I was exposed to in the culture blockade of Saginaw, Michigan. By the end of the first chorus, I was struck with a uniquely singular vision inspired by a musical interpretation that I could only describe as what “brave” sounds like. That very day I ran out and bought the album. I began to savedup all my odd-job money to buy gear, and began teaching myself how to play guitar by learning the entirety of The Crossing. It took years, but I kept on without ever considering quitting as an option. Why the music affected me so would remain a mystery to me for some time.

    16 years later, I had the good fortune of signing along to a major record label. I thought my vision was then satisfied. Instead, I soon thereafter felt an overwhelming urge to find Stuart Adamson and thank him (kooky…I know. What was I thinking? Just drop a line to Stuart Adamson?!). With the help of some continued luck and coincidence, I was able to do just that almost a year later. While passing through Nashville, I tracked down Stuart by phone at a hair salon I’d heard he owned. I introduced myself, told him my crazy story, and proceed to invite him to our show in town that evening. He politely declined citing family reasons (ugh!). Instead, without skipping a beat, he offered to take me to breakfast the next morning before I hit the road (wow! what?!?!).

    I still think about that morning at Shoneys every day of my life. Never had I met someone so genuine and giving and regular, whose stories and comportment lived up to my every boyhood expectation. We talked for hours that morning. We talked of how Big Country came about, the guys in the band, the meaning of some of the songs and eventually onto our personal lives and even our hopes for the future. We exchanged numbers and spoke on the phone regularly after that. Over those next few months, Stuart unwittingly and unfailingly became a mentor through what suddenly had become some very low times in my life. At those times when I felt like checking out (things were that bad), I would think to myself how lucky I was to have met my hero and then become his friend. This thought alone restored my faith in the goodness of the universe when I needed it most.

    One day soon after, Stuart stopped picking up the phone. I found out why when I last dialed his number and a kind lady picked up to tell me the tragic news. Stuart had again irrevocably changed my life.

    In just a few weeks (on a total lark) I fly to Scotland with my wife to see Big Country perform in Edinburgh. My first Big Country concert, my first trip overseas, my first time in the land of my family’s name. Once again in my life, I am acting because I feel compelled. Once again, Stuart is the reason. Thirty years have passed since the initial event that granted me the ability to become everything I am today; a proud father, lucky husband and hopefully, a bit more like the modest man that once bought me breakfast. Maybe somewhere along this trip will be my opportunity to repay the favor, and to put something to rest, strange as that sounds.

    To those of us who were affected so deeply by Big Country, I now know in my heart there was a reason and connection beyond just the music. We were all touched something even greater and indescribable and were all forever changed by it. And we were all lucky.

    Stay alive.

  10. Brant

    Thanks so much for these fantastic comments – very good of you to share. They echo everything I’ve heard about Stuart from others that met him.

    I might ask your permission to publish this further if that is okay, I’d like others to be aware of it.

    Best wishes and Stay Alive


  11. That’s very kind. Please share anything interesting that may come of it. Thank you for putting together this site and best of luck to you. You must be a good man.

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