Big Country Info Big Country Info

 

CREDITS

(jump to: Notes by Stuart Adamson)
(jump to: Liner Notes by Tim Barr)
(jump to: List of Fans)

Bruce Watson: Guitars, E-Bow, Vocals
Stuart Adamson: Vocals, Guitars, E-bow, Piano
Tony Butler: Bass Guitars, Vocals
Mark Brzezicki: Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Additional Vocals by Christine Beveridge

All Tracks on Side One/Two Produced by Steve Lillywhite
All Tracks on Side Three/Four Produced by Chris Thomas
Engineered by Will Gosling
Assited by Steve Chase & Mike Nocito
except
Tracks 11, 12, 13 and 14:
Produced by BIG COUNTRY
All songs published by EMI Music / 10 Music Ltd. except:
Tracks Of My Tears published by Jobete Music/ EMI Music Publishing
& We Could Laugh, Big City and Ring Out Bells 'Copyright Control'
All Titles written by Big Country except:
The Crossing written by Adamson, Brzezicki, Butler, Watson, P. Wishart, A.Wishart
& Harvest Home, Balcony, Flag Of Nations, Angle Park, We Could Laugh
written by Stuart Adamson & Bruce Watson
& Tracks Of My Tears written by Warren Moore, Smokey Robinson & Marvin Tarplin
Recorded at The Manor and RAK Studios May 1983

Photography by Paul Cox
Original Sleeve by J.B. & Q. Branch
Compilation researched and compiled by Dermot James
Project Co-ordination for Universal by Joe Blackat Hey Joe!
24-bit digital mastering by Paschal Byrne at
The Audio Archiving Company, London
CD Package Design by RA
Sleeve notes by Tim Barr
Management by Ian Grant at Ian Grant Management
Grateful thanks are extended to Bruce Watson & Ian Grant
Big Country would like to thank:
Mike Peters, Jamie Watson, Debbie Grant, Sandra Watson, Jules Peters, Ron Manigley, Derek Haggar, Oli Powell, James Grant, Alan Morrison, Barry Mead, Willie Tocher, John Giddings, David Gentle, Lester Dales, Simon Moran (for suggesting the 2012 tour), Geoff Ellis, Dave McGeaghan & Denis Desmond.

UMC would like to thank:
Sue Armstrong, Justin Brown, Ed Carruthers, John Chadwick, Johnny Chandler, Paul Cox, Richard Hinkley, Wayne Horton, Pete Matthews, Stephen Partridge, Emine Rifat, Colin Smith, Ian Smith, Joanna Strachan & Allen Ward.


NOTES FROM STUART ADAMSON
(RE-PRINTED FROM 1996 REMASTER)

(jump to: Credits)
(jump to: Liner Notes by Tim Barr)
(jump to: List of Fans)

It all begins with a sound in your head, a disarray of word and music, an awareness of something coming to the surface. Small pieces occasionally break through but the whole is a mystery. Take the mood, the emotion, the passion for it and make it live. Focus it all, crystalize the essence of it, let it become a living thing, share it. The music I felt wasn’t like the music I had grown up hearing, or rather, not like any one of them. It was all of them jumbled up and drawn into something I could understand as mine.

I found I could play this music and connect the guitar directly to my heart. I found others who could make he same connection, who could see the music as well as play it.

The sound made pictures. It spread out wide landscapes. Great dramas were played out under its turbulent skies. There was romance and reality, truth and dare. People being people, no heroes just you and me, like it always is.

The music told stories, little stories. Lands were not conquered, treasure was left in the tombs, the magic was in the everyday. We learned how we are together and how we come apart. Life happens.

-Stuart Adamson

LINER NOTES BY TIME BARR

(jump to: Credits)
(jump to: Notes by Stuart Adamson)
(jump to: List of Fans)

Records come and records go. Some barely trouble the radar, others arrive in a blaze of supernova glory, seemingly inescapable for months — even years — before they're vaporised by the ebb and flow of changing tastes and fashions. But, occasionally, there are those special enough, perhaps due to some fundamental truth freighted within them, to outlast the years, to manifest the full extent of their wingspan over the passing of time. Big Country's The Crossing falls into this latter category.

Originally released on July 15, 1983, the band's debut more than fulfilled Stuart Adamson's aim of "making a record to show people what your feelings are". Brimming with heartfelt emotion, densely packed with unforgettable melodies and vividly inventive songwriting, the album went on to spend an impressive 80 weeks in the UK charts. Within a month of its release it had climbed into the Top Five, reaching No3 in the final week of September, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Michael Jackson's Thriller, David Bowie's Let's Dance and War by U2 all the way through to December. By the beginning of 1984, non-album single Wonderland and consistently good word-of-mouth ratings propelled it back into the upper reaches of the charts against strong competition from The Police (Synchronicity), Simple Minds (Sparkle In The Rain) and U2 again (Under A Blood Red Sky). In the USA, buoyed by the success of the single In A Big Country, it breached the Top 20, in Canada — birthplace of BC guitarist and co-founder Bruce Watson — it soared into the Top Five. From Sweden to Holland to New Zealand, the everyday magic of these extraordinary songs seduced an army of fans, shifting over two million copies and earning Big Country two Grammy nominations for Best New Group and Best Single (In A Big Country).

And yet such glittering prizes seemed a long way off when the foundations of Big Country's brilliantly realised vision were first laid down. In fact, the roots of The Crossing stretch back more than a decade before Stuart and Bruce — along with fleet-fingered bassist Tony Butler and virtuoso drummer Mark Brzezicki — arrived at The Manor studio in Oxfordshire to begin recording.

Ten years earlier, just as The Everly Brothers were breaking up and Led Zeppelin were assembling the movie that would become The Song Remains The Same, the 15-year-old Stuart Adamson was dreaming of rock'n'roll. Growing up in the small mining village of Crossgates, four miles to the east of Scotland's ancient capital Dunfermline, he was a familiar figure to most of his neighbours. Stick-thin, huddled inside his trademark duffel coat against the bitter Fife cold, they'd see him taking his Cairn terrier Rory for long walks, hands plunged deep in his pockets fretting imaginary chords or silently testing out rhythms. Dreams of majestic guitar parts were a means of escaping the quotidian aspects of life as a pupil at the nearby Beath High School. But a taste for adventure, fired by an avid reading habit and his father's job as a merchant seaman, fanned the flames of a restless curiosity about the wider world. Blessed with a quick wit and a lively sense of humour, if he hadn't been so hung up on those silver strings he'd have succeeded at whatever he tried — even his original career path as a trainee environmental officer with the local council. Fate, however, had other ideas.

By the following year, Stuart was playing rhythm guitar in local covers band Tattoo. As lead guitarist Jock McMonagle took command of the flashier elements of songs like Bowie's Suffragette City or Status Quo's Roll Over Lay Down, his younger bandmate chopped out chords and riffs with metronomic precision on the Flying V his parents had recently bought him. The group's ambitions grew from gigs at Crossgates Institute to a full-blown Scottish tour.

Tattoo didn't last beyond the long, hot, glorious summer of 1976 and a short-lived plan to "see a bit of Europe" that saw Stuart and bassist Bill Simpson briefly decamp to Amsterdam. But already he was scribbling down notes for lyrics, sketches for original songs that would blossom into a remarkable musical legacy.

By then the first stirrings of London's nascent punk scene had reached Crossgates through the pages of the music papers that Stuart pored over on a weekly basis. At once he recognised kindred spirits. Visits to Muir's Music Services in Dunfermline's Queen Anne Street saw him scour the racks of vinyl for other records that might sound like the singles by The Damned and Sex Pistols he'd ordered at the counter.

Simultaneously, he'd gaze at the guitar collection displayed in the rear of the store, eyes heavy with desire.
He took action swiftly. By the time The Clash's White Riot Tour rolled into nearby Edinburgh in May 1977, Stuart had recruited Bill Simpson to help flesh out a series of gritty new wave anthems like My Life, penned a month earlier on his 19th birthday, Sick Club and Don't Want To GO (the GO stood for George Orwell, whose novel 1984 chimed perfectly with the dystopian future of other prototype Adamson classics like Nationwide and New Daze). "Stuart wanted to concentrate on guitar," remembers Bill, "so we needed a frontman." Enter Richard Jobson, a wild-eyed maverick from the pit settlement of Ballingry, seven miles away. He lent a forbidding presence to the songs and, wielding a notebook crammed with his own lyrics, recognised not only Stuart's dazzling abilities as a guitar player but as a gifted writer too. "His lyrics were more focused on reality than my more abstract stuff," remembers Jobson.

"Punk was the greatest thing ever," Stuart insisted. "A lot of the groups were crap but that didn't matter — it was the feeling that was important. It was young people having the chance to say what they wanted regardless of the dictates of fashion."

With the addition of faster-than-a-speeding-bullet drummer Tam Kellichan, The Skids became a potent vehicle for Stuart's rapidly developing talents as a songwriter and musician. Their first single, released in March 1978, was distinguished by the inspired Charles, an Adamson song about a factory employee who is first consumed by his work and then, finally, betrayed by it. The theme was one that Stuart would return to frequently during Big Country — tales of decent, hardworking folk competing against the odds just for a small share of the world's spoils.

On an early trip south to play at London's Nashville where they were watched by Virgin Records MD Simon Draper and Radio l's John Peel — The Skids passed a road sign for the Northumberland hamlet of Wide Open. The phrase, quickly scrawled in black marker pen on Stuart's Gibson Marauder guitar, came to sum up the band's credo, a neat shorthand for the virtues of open-mindedness, adventure, tolerance and innovation that were so close to Stuart's heart. The "wide landscapes" and "great dramas" of Big Country had taken seed.

Back in Dunfermline, as The Skids unveiled new song after new song at their rehearsal space next to Queen Anne High School, another stick-thin kid with big dreams huddled in the corner watching intently as classics like The Saints Are Coming and Of One Skin took shape. "They were incredible," remembers Bruce Watson. "A force of nature. People don't quite realise how exceptional The Skids were. Though we were a couple of years younger - a big deal at that age - Stuart used to let us in to watch them practice. Seeing your favourite band at close quarters like that? It's about as good as it gets."

Three albums of gloriously ambitious rock'n'roll followed - Scared To Dance, Days In Europa and The Absolute Game. But behind the musical successes relations within the band, often rebellious and fractious, were coming apart at the seams. Even as early as 1978, Stuart had threatened to quit - after one memorable row, following a support slot at Edinburgh's Clouds, he grabbed his H+H amp, slapped his guitar case on top and wheeled it out of the front door, ready to walk the 12 miles home. Unfortunately the kerb outside the venue was higher than expected and the amplifier came down with a crash. Stuart relented, accepted a lift back in the band's van and relations were soon repaired. The amp didn't fare so well. Whether it was a rip in one of the speakers, as Skids producer Mick Glossop insists, or a broken transistor, the H+H developed the ringing sound that became a Skids - and later Big Country - trademark.
By 1981, however, the recording sessions for the fourth Skids album Joy in Ardersier, Inverness-shire, proved to be a hurdle too far. After contributing guitar to just one song, the single Iona, Stuart resigned his commission.

At the time, Ian Grant - who went on to chart Big Country's course through the stormy waters of the music
industry - was the band's manager. "Virgin Records had installed Mike Oldfield as producer on that final Skids album," he says. "I think that was really the last straw for a dyed-in-the-wool punk rocker like Stuart."
At home in Dunfermline, Bruce Watson had been ringing the changes too. His punk outfit The Delinquents had metamorphosed into the more new wave styled Delinx, landing a support slot with post-punk abstractionists Wire at Newcastle City Hall, before imploding. In its place, Bruce formed Eurosect, swapping his giant Columbus semi-acoustic for a Yamaha SG500, and raw-boned punk thrills for the more considered, and adventurous, sound of tracks like Blurred & Faded or Second Thoughts. Other Eurosect songs such as Forbidden Whisper and Beating Hearts would later be dismantled and rebuilt to become the constituent elements of Big Country tracks such as Angle Park and The Crossing.

Stuart, who'd taken to riding a Yamaha motorbike by that stage, quickly appeared on Bruce's doorstep, asking: "Do you want to write some songs?" "He hadn't bothered to take off his helmet," recalls Bruce. "So at first I wondered who it was at my door." The idea for a twin-guitar project had been percolating for a while. "I've been thinking much more about what I'm going to do in the future," Stuart told his old friend Johnny Waller.

After a long, gruelling drive to London and back to collect Stuart's equipment, the pair set up in a basement room in Townhill Institute, just a few yards from Stuart's new flat above the local chip shop. "We had his Yamaha SG2000 guitar, two H+H amps, a Yamaha synthesiser and some cheap microphones we'd bought from an electrical shop," recalls Bruce. "I had a PA system I'd used with Eurosect, my SG500, a Watkins Copycat echo unit and a Carlsboro amp. We'd write songs, using a borrowed drum machine, and then record them using Stuart's four-track Tascam Portastudio. We bought a Fender short-scale bass too, a pink one, and some of the songs were written on that."

The pool of influences was a wide one ranging from the most primal of punk rock to the elegant guitar symphonies of Television, from their shared passion for the electrifying six-string genius of Be Bop Deluxe/ Red Noise mainman (and sometime Skids producer) Bill Nelson, to Nils Lofgren, Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen. Bruce brought with him a passion for Liverpool eccentrics Deaf School and proto punks Doctors Of Madness to which Stuart tried to add a taste for Led Zeppelin too.

Angle Park, which eventually became the b-side to the Fields Of Fire single, was the first track to be completed. The title came from the name of the last house that Bruce passed on the mile-long walk from Dunfermline to Townhill. Unable to see over the property's high walls, Bruce and Stuart took to imagining what was going on behind them. The song's lyric quickly followed. By coincidence, the first house on that same road was called Iona - Stuart's final song with The Skids.

Heart And Soul came after that, then The Crossing. Harvest Home, a kissing cousin of The Skids' Hurry On Boys, was next. "We spent two or three months locked away in the basement at Townhill," confides Bruce. "We'd write the songs as instrumentals first then, once they were close to complete, Stuart would take a day off to write lyrics." The songs continued to tumble out. Lost Patrol, Wake - which eventually metamorphosed into the first half of Porrohman (itself inspired by the 1895 HG Wells tale Pollock And The Porroh Man) - and We Could Laugh, which has remained unreleased until now.

Though the drum machine, jokingly known as Dr Roboto or simply Warpo, was adequate for sketching out ideas, they were eager to find out just how the songs would work with a real drummer. On July 28, 1981, they went into London's Townhouse Studios with producer John Leckie and The Jam's sticksman Rick Buckler to record versions of Heart And Soul and Angle Park.

A second session, this time with producer Adam Sieff and Spizz Energi drummer Clive Parker, was recorded at CBS, resulting in versions of Lost Patrol, The Crossing, Wake and long-lost Big Country song Echoes. As with the earlier Townhouse sessions, Bruce and Stuart handled the bass playing between them but they were growing restless with life as a two-piece. Returning home, they began discussing potential recruits for a full-time line-up.

Big Country Mk1 emerged towards the tail-end of 1981. With Parker installed on drums, brothers Pete and Alan Wishart - who had been in popular local band The Subject - joined on keyboards and bass respectively. They made their debut at Dunfermline's Glen Pavilion on February 4, 1982. It was an impressive show. The sound of the band was distinctive and different and Stuart's natural on-stage charisma gave glimpses of the commanding frontman he would become. But those Skids fans in the sold-out crowd who'd come in the hope of hearing an old favourite or two in the set were disappointed. "Stuart never liked to look back," says Ian Grant. "For him, it was always about moving forward."

The Pavilion gig served as a warm-up for Big Country's support slot on Alice Cooper's Armed Forces tour, which kicked off at Brighton's Conference Centre on February 11, the day after Stuart's son Calum was born. But their challenging post-punk sound at the time didn't gel with the heavy rock crowd. Even Alice himself thought they were "too weird". After the second night of the tour, at Birmingham Odeon, it was agreed that they'd leave the tour. "I don't think Stuart was too bothered," remembers Ian Grant. "He was keen to get back up to Scotland to see Calum."

By coincidence, one-time BBC clerk Tony Butler, who had been playing with The Who's Pete Townshend, called Cairo Management (named by screenwriter Lynda La Plante after Grant's habit of dressing exclusively in black) to find out what Stuart Adamson was up to. The pair had met during the final Skids tour when Tony and Mark's band On The Air had been the warm-up. "Stuart really stood out on that tour," recalls Mark. "He was a real guitar hero, so stylish.He had incredible charisma. And his guitar sound was unbelievable. We got to know each other a little, as bands do when they're touring together, and I found him to be an incredibly warm, inspiring person to be around."

"It was very clear by this point that something wasn't working with the first line-up," remembers Ian Grant. "I told Stuart he had two choices. Either tour the Highlands and islands of Scotland for a year and iron out the problems or make some changes. He thought about it over the weekend and decided that he had to put the music first. At that point, I decided it might be a good idea to have Tony and Mark, who at that point were very well respected on the session scene, come in and help out on some recordings."

The classic Big Country line-up first got together in April 1982 for a session that had been arranged by A&R man Chris Briggs at Phonogram's studio in London's New Bond Street. With Aztec Camera/The Cult producer, and future Stereophonics manager, John Brand at the controls, the four-piece worked through the night to record three tracks: Heart And Soul, Close Action (the title appropriated from Alexander Kent's maritime thriller Signal Close Action, which Stuart was reading at the time) and Harvest Home.
"Heart And Soul was the one that grabbed me first," remembers Tony. "I've got Scottish ancestry and there's something about the Celtic feel of it that made me realise how much Caledonian blood I've got in my veins. But, over time, Close Action became one of my favourite Big Country tracks. It has a depth to it that I've always found very compelling."

"Mark and Tony could barely understand what Stuart and I were saying because of our Scottish accents," recalls Bruce. "But I can remember we were amazed at how quickly they picked up the songs. We barely did one run-through and they had the parts down exactly. Stuart and I were like, 'How can you do that?' — of course, it was their background as session players — but as soon as we all played together the chemistry was there. The songs just came to life."

"My first impression," recalls Mark, "was that what Bruce and Stuart were doing sounded very unique. And, as Bruce says, when we played together, everything felt instinctively right."
Chris Briggs, who had been popping in to the studio at intervals during the recording, was suitably impressed.

Phonogram quickly moved to make an offer for the band and Big Country signed in May 1982. Sessions were quickly arranged the following month with veteran production guru Chris Thomas (The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music) at Air. But with Thomas simultaneously producing Elton John's Too Low For Zero in Montserrat, progress was slow. When Pretenders guitarist James Honeyman-Scott died a few weeks into the sessions, Thomas — who was particularly close to the band — was grief-stricken. Recording ground to a halt but it was already clear there were problems.

"Chris really wasn't on the same wavelength as the group," Stuart later recalled. "I had a very defined idea about how we should sound and I think Chris tried to make us sound likeother people so it would be successful rather than actually bringing out what was best about the music and best about the group." Harvest Home, released as Big Country's first single in September 1982, became the only track to emerge from those sessions.

Its disappointing chart performance (it stalled at 91) seemed to confirm that Thomas hadn't captured the magic at the group's heart. But help was at hand. In August, Big Country had played with The Members at New York's trendy Peppermint Lounge. Drummer Adrian Lillywhite's brother Steve had already been carving out a solid reputation as an innovative, highly creative producer thanks to his work with Ultravox, Peter Gabriel and U2. Famously, he'd also worked on XTC's 1979 masterpiece Drums & Wires, which had been a huge favourite with Stuart, Bruce and Mark. Earlier that year, his name had come up in conversations with Bono and The Edge — who always cited Stuart's work with The Skids as a major influence — when the Irish pair caught a ferry from Dublin to Liverpool to see Big Country play at Dingwalls. "I'd always thought Steve would have made a great producer for The Skids," insists Ian Grant. "So when everything seemed to align, he was the obvious choice for Big Country."

"It was Chris Briggs who approached me about the band," says Steve Lillywhite. "He was a great friend and I had enormous respect for his taste in music so when he recommended them, I was instantly receptive. As I listened to the original demos, I can remember thinking, 'This has joy, it has spirit — they're a great band'."
Initially, Lillywhite was called in to work on Fields Of Fire, Big Country's second single, but after it soared into the Top Ten on its release in February 1983, sessions were quickly booked for an album. "Maybe there was a little bit of me that wanted to succeed where Chris Thomas had failed," Lillywhite confesses. "The truth was that he was my hero and to be able to succeed where your hero has failed was certainly a challenge that I'd love to be able to rise to.

"It was really the first time I'd worked with truly great musicians. Outside of, say, Peter Gabriel, most of the acts I'd worked with had been punk bands. It was a real pleasure to work with a brilliant rhythm section like Mark and Tony. And I didn't make it easy for them — on Fields Of Fire, I made Mark separate his drum parts into the constituent elements, which is very difficult to pull off. But he enjoyed all those challenges. To this day, he is still the best hi-hat player I've ever worked with, the intricacy of his playing is spectacular."
"Steve doesn't have one set production style," Stuart later explained. "He seems to get more into the spirit of what the group is doing and bring out the best in them."


In fact, the admiration was mutual. "Stuart was an incredible guitar player," insists Lillywhite. "And it was never really very difficult for him. During recording with U2, for example, The Edge would spend a long time working on parts whereas with Big Country, those things seemed to come very easily."

Mark Brzezicki, who worked tirelessly with Lillywhite to lay down the rhythmic foundations of The Crossing insists he also owes the producer a debt of gratitude. "He was brilliant to work with," says the sticksman. " I'd come from quite a technical drumming background, doing a lot of quite demanding playing on sessions and, before that, doing a lot of soul and funk grooves in Silver Stream, the covers band I'd been in as a teenager. So I came to Big Country with a degree of musical aptitude and rhythms that I used to express myself.

Knowing Stuart and Bruce's background, it needed to be punky and powerful, but I wanted to add my technical detail to that. Steve told me, 'I love what you do and I want it all on the album'. It was very inspiring. He was on the front-end of experimenting with drums and very keen to try out new ideas. Without question, he gave me my own drum sound and steered me to put my own stamp on things."

As the May 1983 start date for the album sessions neared, Big Country added to their already impressive stockpile of tracks. Chance, a spine-tingling anthem of love and loss, evolved from something Bruce had written at home in Dunfermline, after borrowing Stuart's Fender Stratocaster and spending a night experimenting with a an echo unit (the song's distinctive melody was written on piano by Stuart and Mark, setting themselves the task of "only playing the black notes"). Another, which went on to become their signature song, was In A Big Country.

"One of the reasons The Crossing is so close to my heart," says Lillywhite, "is that Stuart told me he'd written In A Big Country after hearing the sound we'd got on Fields Of Fire. It opened up something for him. And it's great to feel that we put together a sound that inspired Stuart to write something which, for me, is ultimately timeless. A lot of records don't date very well, but In A Big Country is one of those rare instances where the spirit and the quality of what's been recorded transcends the years."

"I remember we did the demo for that in a studio in Croydon," says Mark. "The thing that stuck in my mind was that the guy who owned the studio was a jazz player and there was a huge double bass in the corner. Listening back to the track once we'd finished recording, I'll never forget Stuart telling us, 'I think we've got a hit here'. And he was right." In A Big Country went on to become a Top 20 smash in the UK and soared to No3 in the US charts, giving the band an enviable beachhead on the other side of the Atlantic.

As April and May flashed past in the fragmentary blur that characterises life in the studio, the band spent two weeks in The Manor, laying down the basic tracks for the rest of The Crossing (though Chance was fully completed there) before moving into London's RAK to record the remainder of the guitars and vocals. The Storm was also added to the tracking list and recorded at RAK in its entirety.

"Obviously, when we'd begun working together," explains Tony, "the original template came from the demo recordings that Bruce and Stuart had done. But by the time we were halfway through the album, things were taking more of a band shape. Steve's genius as a producer was to encourage that situation to evolve into the record that The Crossing became."

After six weeks of recording, with the final backing vocals and guitar overdubs done, The Crossing was completed and the band gathered in the control room of Studio 1 at the St John's Wood complex to listen to a playback of the completed album. "Making a record," explains Mark, "is quite a stop-start-stop-start process. You might hear specific elements of it played and played and played a hundred times but while you're doing it, you never hear it from start to finish. So it was brilliant to be able to listen to the complete album at last. The day of that final playback, there was a huge electrical storm. We could see thunder and lightning ricocheting down the road as the finished album began to play. There was definitely some magic in the air."

"The playback was a great moment for us all," recalls Tony. "It felt like we'd done something very special. But for me, one of my favourite memories was from a couple of weeks later when the test pressings arrived. Our first album, with our name on it. That was a big deal."

Moving almost at the speed of light, Phonogram established an early release date and had The Crossing on sale within weeks. "The music itself is obviously the most important thing about a successful record," observes Ian Grant. "But that success doesn't happen without having the right team of people around to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Our A&R man Chris Briggs was fantastic and the MD at Phonogram, Brian Shepherd, was a huge support to us. The band obviously created some great music, but around them was a team of people equally talented in their own right."

The album soared into the charts and, more or less, stayed there for the next 18 months, clocking up an extraordinary 80 weeks on the charts. "The success of The Crossing was extraordinary," says Ian Grant. "When I first heard those early demos, I never imagined it would get as big as it did. It became a phenomenon. In fact, it was almost too successful for Stuart. He never wanted to join in the circus and become a celebrity. It wasn't something that interested him."

Thirty years gone in the blink of an eye, yet while the songs on The Crossing still transmit their extraordinary power, not everyone made it through. After creating a thrilling musical legacy that included a further seven albums with Big Country, Stuart Adamson died in December 2001. And these days the band's finest ballad, Chance, has added poignancy since it was the last song that friends, family and fans sang at his memorial service held shortly afterwards in Dunfermline's Carnegie Hall. Stuart would have appreciated the choice of venue. As a teenager it was where, in February 1976, he'd worshipped feverishly at the rock'n'roll altar of Be Bop Deluxe as they powered through futuristic anthems like Blazing Apostles and Ships In The Night.

"For me music has always been an important thing," he explained, soon after The Crossing was released. "It's something that's very close to me and something that has meant a lot to me — and if I can give that feeling to other people then I've done something worthwhile."

He did. And it was.

Stay alive.

TIM BARR