Stuart Adamson - vocals, guitar, piano; Mark Brzezicki - drums; Tony Butler - bass; Bruce Watson - guitar
Big Country had been a hit act for nearly four years when this show was taped for the King Biscuit Flower Hour in August 1986. The band had recorded three other shows for KBFH before performing this one at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia, PA - a town that had been enormously supportive of the band since their earliest days in the U.S.
Big Country was formed in the highlands of Scotland in the late 1970s, and took little time to hit the club circuit and build a small, but fiercely loyal cult following in their native U.K. The band had been initially put together by the late Stuart Adamson, who had come from a band called the Skids, which had enjoyed some earlier success in England thanks to a handful of hits. "Around late 1981 or early 1982, I knew I wanted to move on," said Adamson in a 1997 interview. He formed what would be the first version of Big Country with guitarist Bruce Watson and another rhythm section. Soon after, the drummer and bassist were replaced with Mark Brzezicki and Tony Butler, respectively, and the band's classic lineup was established.
"I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew what I wanted it to sound like; and I knew what the image should be," remembered Adamson. "Mainly, I wanted to work with the other three guys. These were people that were all friends of mine and were great musicians, too. We jelled very, very quickly. It only took about two weeks to come together. That song, 'In A Big Country' came together very quickly."
The group blended traditional Celtic music with their own brand of raucous rock 'n' roll to produce a distinctive, innovative new sound. "I remember when we were trying to get a record deal," said Bruce Watson, in an interview conducted around the same time. "Every company showed us the door. It was like that scene in The Rutles! The labels were saying 'Guitar music is dead.' We were determined to prove them wrong….. And we did."
"We did demos," adds Adamson. "At the time the music industry was leaning toward synth bands. We were this loud, ethnic rock band. People from labels said they liked it but they couldn't do anything with it." "(What we had) was the distinct Celtic vibe and that was what made us different," said Breezicki. "Tony and I were working with Simon Townshend in a band called On The Air," says Brzezicki. "We toured with the Skids. That's how we met up. Then we went on to work with Pete Townshend, and Big Country's manager, Ian Grant, saw us. He felt the original lineup of the band needed a stronger rhythm section, and we were it."
The band developed their material and stage show, and were suddenly being chased by a few important major labels. "Eventually, a guy from PolyGram came down and heard us," says Adamson. "He gave us the money to do four demos. He loved the songs and three of them ended up on the album. The name of the band was there first, before we had written the song," he remembers. "I wanted a name that gave you a wide, open expansive feeling, because I thought the music fit the name. There was also a movie of the same name, but the band really wasn't named because of that."
Big Country would continue to record and tour through the late 1990s. Tragically, the band fell apart when Adamson, battling depression, committed suicide. Brzezicki and Butler would go on to form the rhythm section in Pete Townshend's solo band. Among the surprises here is a great version of the Smokey Robinson and The Miracles classic "Tracks Of My Tears," as well as a rockin' remake of the Stones landmark tune, "Honky Tonk Woman."