The start of something special

The release of Big Country’s first single 40 years ago marked the start of a musical journey that would propel the band Fife to global stardom.

Harvest Home was written in a community center in Dunfermline in 1981 and would go on to become one of the most important songs of the band’s career.

The song has remained a staple of Big Country’s live sets ever since.

The Big Country story began in the Fife mining village of Crossgates when Beath High student Stuart Adamson’s father bought him an acoustic guitar for his 11th birthday.

He was completely self-taught and wrote his first song at 13 before forming a cover band called Tattoo at 14, which rehearsed at the local Miners’ Welfare Institute.

The Skids formed in 1977

Adamson left Beath High in Cowdenbeath with eight O Levels and four Highers and formed a punk band with Richard Jobson in 1977 which became The Skids.

Fame came quickly over the next two years with classics written by Jobson/Adamson, including Into The Valley, The Saints Are Coming and Masquerade.

Adamson left the band in 1981 after disagreements with Jobson and bonded with guitarist and longtime friend Bruce Watson and began writing songs.

Adamson and Watson would train at a community center in Dunfermline armed with guitars, a drum machine, keyboards and a four-track recorder.

An early Big Country line-up included Clive Parker and brothers Pete and Alan Wishart, but they were soon replaced by bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki.

Mark Brzezicki had an early session drumming career for various artists.

Longtime fan Andy Inkster, an authoritative voice on Australia’s Big Country, said the classic line-up had only been together a few months when they entered the studio to start recording.

He said: “At AIR studios in London in June 1982 and under the supervision of the famous producer Chris Thomas, Big Country began to record a few tracks.

“One of them was going to be released as Big Country’s first single – Harvest Home; one of the very first songs written in that community center 12 months earlier.

“Although the recording session for the album ended up being scrapped after it was felt that Thomas was not fully committing to the band as he was undertaking production duties with Elton John at the same time, it gave Phonogram enough of songs from which to choose a first single. .

“Songs being considered for the first single also included 1000 Stars and Heart and Soul but it was Harvest Home that was considered the best representation of this new band.

“The song was accompanied by a promotional video, shot in Wapping in London, which showed the band members enjoying a sort of picnic before setting the area on fire and then entering an abandoned warehouse where their instruments were waiting!”

Harvest Home sold 6,000 copies

Harvest Home was released September 17, 1982 on 7″ with B-side Balcony and instrumental Flag of Nations (Swimming) as an additional track on 12″.

The band toured the single extensively around the country in small clubs, but the track entered the chart at just 91 after selling just 6,000 copies.

Harvest Home established the core of the Big Country sound before Thomas was replaced by Steve Lillywhite who had just finished recording U2’s breakthrough album, War.

Lillywhite was called in to work on Fields Of Fire, Big Country’s second single, which hit the Top Ten when it was released in February 1983.

Lillywhite’s subsequent recording sessions saw Harvest Home tighten up, and her power really shined on the band’s 1983 debut album, The Crossing.

The album has sold over two million copies worldwide.

In a 1983 Smash Hits interview, Adamson would have this to say about Harvest Home: “It’s all about the Highland clearances after the Battle of Culloden.

“Scotland has become a wasteland and the same sort of thing is happening today.

“The oil boom hit and now there are a lot of workers up there living in trailers, shivering with nothing to do.

“Scotland has always been plagued by difficulties.”

Stuart Adamson on stage
Stuart Adamson had an enormous talent for poetic, picturesque and socially landscaped lyrics.

Andy broke it down further.

“Harvest Home was truly the first song to employ a style that Big Country would become famous for at the source of its career: dark lyrics backed by uplifting music.

“As much as the message of, ‘Just as you sow, you will reap,’ is a message of positivity, the story of the song itself taps into darker times.

“From a songwriting perspective, Harvest Home tells the story of how the hardships have affected the person who works – the farmers, those who work the land for a living, so it’s a mix of historical events steeped in what he saw happening in Scotland at the time.

“Live, the song has always been a favorite, being a staple of live sets early on and over the years, only missing a few tours in the band’s 40-year history.”

Stuart Adamson died in 2001

The second album Steeltown went to number 1 in October 1984 and Adamson’s lyrics would articulate the plight of the beleaguered British working class.

The band’s third album, 1986’s The Seer, was another big hit in the UK.

Grammy nominations, supporting slots with the Rolling Stones, and tours with Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant all followed.

Stuart Adamson outside his Dunfermline home in 1988.
Stuart Adamson outside his Dunfermline home in 1988.

Driving To Damascus, released in 1999, was the band’s eighth studio album, before Adamson put Big Country on the back burner in 2000 after moving to Nashville.

He intended to work with Big Country again.

Unfortunately, that was not to be the case.

He died in Honolulu in 2001 at the age of 43.

Big Country has always been the popular band and Tony Butler, Mark Brzezicki and Bruce Watson reunited in 2007 to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary.

They got the band back on the road in the summer of 2010 with Watson’s son Jamie on guitar, and Alarm vocalist Mike Peters asked to sing Adamson’s lyrics.

Mike Peters performs another Big Country classic alongside guitarist Bruce Watson.
Mike Peters performs another Big Country classic alongside guitarist Bruce Watson.

Further line-up changes occurred when Butler retired and Peters left, but the band still filled venues all over Europe and Australia as far as their home town of Dunfermline.

The Harvest Home single laid the ground rules for the Big Country sound and the band will celebrate The Crossing with a 40th anniversary tour in 2023.

The last word must go to Andy.

He said: “While Harvest Home may not have the accolades and recognition of Fields of Fire, Chance or Look Away, it launched a creative streak of uniquely sounding songs and albums that would propel the music forward. of the group to the four corners of the world.

“Songs that are part of our fabric to this day.

“Harvest Home lives up to the best of Big Country.”

Tony Butler and Stuart Adamson performed in Aberdeen in 1989 during the band’s glory days.

More like this:

Stuart Adamson: The Skids and Big Country star who inspired U2 and had “a heart as big as a mountain”

Eddi Reader: My early years with the Eurythmics en route to Top of the Pops

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