Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stuart Adamson - Open Sound


I was lucky enough to catch a few of the major punk and New Wave groups live in concert at the time though deeply regret missing the only Belfast concert by The Skids in October 1980. The impenetrable vocals may have had the same esoteric quality that required subtitling on Peter Mullan’s extraordinary Neds movie but they produced a mighty and utterly original sound all the same. Their particular legend will essentially grow and grow.

In comparison the musical output of guitarist Stuart Adamson’s subsequent Big Country has been qualified in hindsight both by the questionable fashion styling of the Eighties and some terribly mis-produced material in their mid-career period. Nevertheless their two original albums The Crossing and Steeltown incorporated genuinely universal themes of maintaining self-respect and hope in the middle of struggle and deflation. Likewise Big Country produced a vital, worthy and contemporary commentary on the violent and brutal death of industrial Britain - surely the single most important historical factor underpinning the self-perpetuating social meltdown of today and the staggering disconnectivity with the recent past we can sense nowhere moreso than in our national capital. Having seen them live on five occasions across the British Isles I feel to this day that they were also the greatest live act of the Eighties.

Adamson’s December 2001 suicide has unequivocally cast an unbearably sad shadow across some of his later songs such as You Dreamer, Alone, Dive Into Me and particularly My Only Crime. Still the first overview of his career last year from Allan Glen, despite causing some considerable ructions within the residual fanbase, is a long overdue study of a hugely important figure in British popular music and an artist whose work truly deserves reappraisal.

Stuart Adamson certainly had huge pride in his own roots within both the Celtic littoral of the United Kingdom and industrial Britain alike. Hence when The Skids were asked by a record company at one point for the title for a forthcoming compilation he replied “There's no argument over what it's called. It'll be called Dunfermline - or it won't be released “.

Such words of faith, passion and a true belonging have all but disappeared now from our British folk memory.

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