Stuart Adamson

Click to follow
The Independent Online
<p class="obit"> William Stuart Adamson, singer, guitarist and songwriter: born Manchester 11 April 1958; twice married (one son, one daughter); died c16 December 2001.</p><a href="http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/music/news/story.jsp?story=110691">News: Big Country singer found dead in Hawaii hotel after six-week search</a></p></p>The guitarist and songwriter Stuart Adamson was a founding member of two of Britain's finest bands in the late Seventies and early Eighties. With the Skids, the Scottish musician scored four hit singles and developed his trademark "bagpipe" guitar sound which greatly influenced the early approach of U2's guitarist, The Edge. As frontman and lead singer with Big Country, Adamson supported the Rolling Stones and David Bowie, played to sold-out arenas and topped the charts with the album Steeltown</i> in 1984. Having moved to Nashville in the Nineties, the musician struggled with a drink problem. In 1999, he vanished for a few days on the eve of a British tour.</p>Born in 1958 in Manchester, William Stuart Adamson grew up in Crossgates, a small mining village near Dunfermline.</p>My father was an engineer on deep sea trawlers and would sail to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. He made me aware there was more to the world than my local area and him being away so much made me very self-reliant early in my life.</p>As a teenager, Adamson was obsessed with music and began playing the guitar.</p>My mum and dad had some great friends who played folk and country music. I was fascinated by the simplicity of a singer with his songs and guitar and, withing months of learning to play the guitar, I began writing songs.</p>The desire to write grew out of just wanting to be in a real band and then I found I was driven to communicate some of the joy and frustration of the human experience. I realised that a lot of my schooling was solely aimed at learning to accept my place in the British class system and I railed against it.</p>Seeing the punk rock group the Damned in Edinburgh in late 1976 proved a defining moment. "There was a desire to belong to something that was nothing to do with my parents," reflected the musician.</p>Adamson formed a band called Tattoo which subsequently evolved into the Skids with the addition of the vocalist Richard Jobson in March 1977. Later that year, they entered the Stiffwick Challenge, a battle of the bands sponsored by the independent labels Stiff and Chiswick. The Skids were offered a one-off deal but also attracted the attention of Sandy Muir, who owned a record shop in Fife. Muir financed the Skids début EP issued on the No Bad label in 1978 and the group went on to support the Jam and the Rezillos throughout Scotland.</p>Their first London gigs attracted considerable interest and the Skids signed to Virgin in the summer of 1978. The EPs Sweet Suburbia</i> and The Saints Are Coming</i> made the Top Seventy-Five but Adamson was already feeling the pressure. Halfway through the recording of Scared To Dance</i>, the group's début album, he disappeared. He returned from Scotland to complete the sessions and co-write the catchy singles "Into The Valley" and "Masquerade" which made the Top Twenty in 1979. Adamson was already pioneering a unique guitar sound, with ringing tones and urgent riffs. "Charade" and the rousing single "Working for the Yankee Dollar" charted too but, after the albums Days In Europa </i>(1979) and The Absolute Game </i>(1980), Jobson and Adamson, the only two remaining members of the original band, parted company.</p>Adamson went back to Scotland and back to his roots. With the Skids, he had been too young to cope with the pressure of success and a major label and this time he was determined to get it right. With the guitarist Bruce Watson he started demo-ing songs with the help of a drum machine. In 1982, a tentative Big Country played a few gigs but Adamson was far from happy.</p>Dismissing the rhythm section, the two guitarists came down to London for recording sessions using the bassist Tony Butler and the drummer Mark Brzezicki who had supported the Skids a couple of years previously with their band On The Air. The four musicians clicked and, even though Butler and Brzezicki had already become session-men of note under the name Rhythm For Hire, they agreed to join the line-up of Big Country. "When the four of us got together, it just felt so right, so exciting, so powerful and so focused", Adamson recalled. "I wanted Big Country to be a loud rock band with folk and country overtones and that's exactly how we turned out."</p>Signing to Mercury Records in 1983, the group renewed acquaintance with U2, supporting them at the Hammersmith Palais, and scored a Top Ten hit with their second single, "Fields Of Fire (400 Miles)". In August, their début album, The Crossing</i>, reached No 3 in the UK. It stayed in the best-sellers lists for nearly three years and also made the US Top Twenty. "It blew everybody away, including us. All of a sudden, we were a success." In 1984, Big Country were nominated in the Best New Group and Best Single categories at the Grammy awards.</p>Big Country remained a chart presence through most of the Eighties and became a world-wide act competing with the likes of Simple Minds and U2 without ever quite reaching the same emotional or commercial heights. The 1984 album Steeltown</i> saw Adamson looking around his native Fife for inspiration once again. "What I wanted to do was write contemporary folk music and document the struggles and triumphs of people I felt a real empathy with," he declared at the time.</p>A lot of the things we do do not come from an English or American pop tradition. If you grow up in a small town in Scotland, you think you are removed from the people who have their finger on the pulse but later you realise that your finger on the pulse is just as valid as everyone else's.</p>In 1985 Big Country joined the Live Aid finale; they always seemed destined for greater things but never seemed to quite get there. A trip to Russia in 1988 to launch the album Peace In Our Time</i> in Moscow backfired when local officials assumed most of the group's gear was being donated to help local musicians. Indeed, Big Country often did good deeds, performing at charity events for the Prince's Trust and Kosovan refugees or campaigning for Greenpeace.</p>By the Nineties, while the group still commanded a dedicated live following, their recordings only made the lower reaches of the charts. Brzezicki left but Big Country soldiered on with a variety of drummers and remained a recording, gigging, crowd-pleasing prospect, and only split up last year. However, Adamson, who had often suffered from a drink problem, grew despondent. He relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, to join other budding songwriters there.</p>Adamson had recently formed a group called the Raphaels with the American singer-songwriter Marcus Hummon and issued an album, Supernatural</i>. The duo performed on Radio 2 but never matched Adamson's finest moments. Whenever I met the guitarist over the last 20 years, his dedication to his music seemed paramount. "There's no handbook to being a rock'n'roll star," Adamson said. "Nothing can prepare you for that situation."</p>Pierre Perrone</b> </p>

Comments