Posts Tagged ‘Dunfermline’

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The Skids were a Scottish punk rock and new wave band, formed in Dunfermline, Fife, in 1977 by Stuart Adamson (guitar, keyboards, percussion and backing vocals), William Simpson (bass guitar and backing vocals), Thomas Kellichan (drums) and Richard Jobson (vocals, guitar and keyboards). Their biggest success was the 1979 single “Into the Valley” and the 1980 album The Absolute Game.

Skids played their first gig on 19th August 1977 at the Bellville Hotel in Pilmuir Street Dunfermline.  Within six months they had released the “Charles” EP on the No Bad Record label, created by Sandy Muir, a Dunfermline Record shop and music shop owner turned Manager. The record brought them to the attention of national BBC Radio 1 Disc jockey John Peel. This led to a local gig supporting The Clash. Virgin Records then signed up Skids in April 1978.

In a two year period in 1979-80, the Skids hit the UK top 40, four times, with singles like “Into The Valley” (a top 10 hit), “Masquerade” and “Circus Games” plus the singles “Sweet Suburbia” and “The Saints Are Coming” both made commercial inroads, Guitarist Stuart Adamson left the band in 1980 to form Big Country, while singer Richard Jobson went on to form The Armoury Show, before becoming a poet, TV presenter, writer and film director, with six features films to his name.

Adamson took his own life in 2001. The Skids first reformed in 2007, with Adamson’s former Big Country band mate Bruce Watson, and Watson’s son Jamie, on guitars.

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Scared to Dance

The band released their debut studio album, “Scared to Dance” the same year. It was recorded at The Townhouse Studios in London, England with record producer David Batchelor, Adamson walked out towards the end of the sessions before all the guitar overdubs were completed .Session guitarist Chris Jenkins was chief maintenance engineer at Townhouse studios and completed the album using Adamson’s studio set up, adding additional guitar to four tracks “Into the Valley”, “Integral Plot”, “Calling the Tune” and “Scared to Dance”.

The Skids’ anthem was born from Alfred Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade – its anti-war sentiments are still relevant today. People seem to remember it more for my daft dancing rather than the themes we were exploring. That’s the price you pay for doing a daft dance on TOTP.”

In the meantime, Adamson had returned to Scotland when the recording was finished. He re-joined the band for the live concert tour promotion of the album. The record included “The Saints Are Coming”, which was later covered in late 2006 as a single by American band Green Day.

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Days in Europa

Skids enjoyed a further year of chart success as “Masquerade” and “Working for the Yankee Dollar” reached the UK Top 20 singles chart. Both came from their second album, also released in 1979, “Days in Europa” with the record’s production and keyboards by Bill Nelson (musician) of Be-Bop Deluxe” Nelson was the obvious choice for the record’s production duties as he was not only Adamson’s principal ‘guitar hero’ but also an enormous influence on Adamson’s playing. Nelson also played an important role in polishing Skids’ sound and in encouraging the development of Jobson’s lyrics. Just before recording of the album commenced, Kellichan left the band and was temporarily replaced on drums by Rusty Egan from the band Visage and later The Rich Kids The New Romantic Egan played on the album and later on the live concert tour of the record. Keyboard player Alistair Moore also temporarily joined the band to perform live with them. He had been recruited to play Bill Nelson’s keyboard parts from the record. The opening track of [second album] Days In Europa. It sets the tone for the new Skids. This was our second album. We had gone to Wales to record with Bill Nelson and we wanted to do something new and fresh. Bill encouraged me to write lyrics the way I wanted to write, which is captured perfectly here in this abstract poem on the working man. “Thanatos” “A blistering, ferocious song that always seemed to work better live than on record. It sits well on Days In Europa. We still play the song today as part of our live set and it still works. A song about Death called Death. I think I must have been going through a difficult period with my health at the time which has dogged me all my life. I’m epileptic.”

I was thinking about my father when I wrote it, he was a coal-miner. Adamson’s guitar work is brilliant and Rusty Egan helped develop a new sound through his innovative drum playing.” People missed the irony of Days In Europa and misread the lyrics as having some kind of Fascist fetish thing going on. I hate fascists and everything they stand for. The song was about the undue pressure put on young men to be somebody in the traditional sense of masculinity. This was something we all rejected.”

“A backwards version of Animation with a spoken word poem about the crumbling fabric of Europe after WW2. It was a brave thing to do at the time and critics were always looking to shoot anyone down who dared rise above their station. Fuck the critics.”

In November 1979 Mike Baillie, ex-Insect Bites, was recruited as a permanent band member, taking care of the drums, backing vocals and percussion). He slowly took over from Egan, while the band was still touring “Days in Europa”. Some of Jobson’s lyrics as well as the album cover caused controversy. It showed an Olympic Games” Olympian being crowned with laurels by an Aryan looking woman, and the lettering was also in Gothic script. Some, including DJ “John Peel” felt that this glorified Nazi ideology and it was indeed similar to posters from the “1936 Summer Olympics” held in Germany. After the original version of the album had already been released, The Canadian record producer Bruce Fairbairn was brought into the project. The original cover and the track “Pros and the Cons” were removed. The sleeve was completely re-designed and the song “Masquerade” added. The album was also remixed and the tracks re-sequenced. This second version was released in 1980.

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The Absolute Game, Joy

In February 1980 one of the Skids founding members William Simpson left and was replaced by Russell Webb (bass guitar, backing vocals, keyboards, percussion, and guitar). Webb joined as a permanent band member and immediately started work on the recording of the band’s third album “The Absolute Game”, released in 1980 and produced by Mick Glossop. It proved to be the band’s most commercial release, reaching the Top 10 of the UK Albums Chart and contained the minor hit single “Circus Games” Jobson has great memory of recording in the manor studios in Oxfordshire. We were working with Mick Glossop who focussed on Adamson’s guitar work and the band’s love of big choruses. We weren’t sure of how to make this song ignite until we decided to try kids singing the chorus. Its a song about people making mistakes and somebody paying the price, which is normally kids or the next generation.”

A few of the tracks on the album also included a collection of fourteen adult and child backing vocalists, along with a lone didgeridoo player. Initial copies of The Absolute Game came with a free limited edition, second album entitled Strength Through Joy, echoing the band’s previous controversial themes. Jobson claims to have got the title from Dirk Bogarde’s autobiography

Soon after the release and live concert tour of The Absolute Game Baillie left the band and was followed soon after by Adamson (although Adamson did stay around long enough to play on one more song for the next album “Joy”, called “Iona”). Baillie moved back to Scotland to live and Adamson went on to launch his new band, Big Country. This left Jobson and Webb to write and record the band’s fourth and final album Joy, which Russell Webb also produced. The pair played multiple instruments on the album, and also invited a collection of seventeen musical friends to perform on various tracks with them. Skids finally dissolved in 1982, with the compilation “Fanfare” posthumously issued by Virgin. It was a mixture of most of the band’s singles and some B-sides, though it omitted any tracks from the Joy period.

Jobson and Webb then went on to form a new band called The Armoury Show. The group recorded just one album, “Waiting for the Floods” in 1985 before splitting up. Jobson went on to pursue a solo career as a poet, songwriter, television presenter and most recently, as a film director. He released albums on the Belgian record label Les Disques du Crepuscule and the UK’s own Parlophone Records. Webb proposed a solo career and, according to Armoury Show fan page, later joined Public Image Ltd. in 1992 (but played only on their last tour), and is now a video game designer.

Studio albums

  • Scared to Dance (1979)
  • Days in Europa (1979; remixed and re-issued with a new sleeve design in 1980)
  • The Absolute Game (1980)
  • Joy (1981)

Fickle tastes and trends aside, the Peter Wolf-produced Peace in Our Time (“King of Emotion”) was a slick, topical tour de force to mark the end of the ‘80s, and No Place Like Home (“We’re Not in Kansas”) and Buffalo Skinners (“Alone”) were all a series of terrific, hard-rocking album releases to greet the ‘90s.

But Big Country had lost its foothold on the pop charts: No Place and Skinners weren’t even released stateside, which raised the stakes for “Long Face” and tested the group’s mettle with minders, marketers, and bean-counters at Transatlantic, Castle, and Pure Records.

Formed in Dunfermline, Scotland in 1981 by the band’s guitarists and founder members Stuart Adamson and Bruce Watson, Big Country quickly broke worldwide with their initial album “The Crossing”, selling over 2 million copies and receiving 3 Grammy nominations in the US. Success continued, and the band went on to put out another 5 highly regarded albums before the release of “Why The Long Face” in 1995.

With original singer Stuart Adamson at the helm, Big Country scored 17 top 30 singles in the UK, and achieved 5 gold and platinum albums during the period.

This release includes not only the full length album “Why The Long Face”, but also their live 1996 album “Eclectic”, plus a huge array of bonus tracks and band demos, including alternative and acoustic versions of classic tracks such as ‘In A Big Country’ and ‘You Dreamer’, plus a whole load of rarities including Big Country’s cover versions of Alice Cooper’s ‘Teenage Lament’, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Down On The Corner’ and Neil Young’s ‘Hey Hey My My’.

All material contained within has been freshly remastered especially for this release. It Comes packaged in a clam shell box set, with booklet containing full sleeve-notes documenting the band’s activities throughout the release of the album.

Suffice to say, ...Long Face didn’t broaden Big Country’s audience as intended. Following a similar fate as The Seer seven years prior, the disc—packed with muscular, melodic guitars and bold, book-smart verses—sated core fans but didn’t yield any radio hits or MTV mainstays like “In a Big Country” and “Fields of Fire.”

The album’s under-performance on the charts never really warranted it being overlooked by listeners (who by now had latched on to Nirvana, Dave Matthews, and Pearl Jam) or its dismissal in the annals of rock history.

That injustice is precisely what makes Cherry Red’s reassessment so crucial.

Handsomely packed in a sturdy yellow case (instead of original powder blue) with another photogenic Doberman on front, the 4CD set  “Why the Long Face” 2018 includes not only the remastered ’95 album, but three extra CD’s worth of bonus Big Country tracks, demos, covers, and in-concert cuts from that era (1994-1996).

Disc One contains the album proper—fourteen tracks of sparkling guitar (clean and crunchily distorted), robust rhythms, and intelligent lyrics (about love, regret, and hope), all anointed by another serving of the same hardy, anthem-like refrains that made Big Country famous.

Opener “You Dreamer” rides high on a bagpipe-esque guitar riff and rugged, dirty power chords (courtesy Adamson and Bruce Watson) before introducing Stuart’s vignette of forgotten souls in pizza shops (where “prescription junkies” “watch the window fill with flies”). It’s an electrifying ode to shattered dreams that ponders a plethora of what-ifs and what-might-have-been…yet—in true Big Country form—keeps positive rather than give up the ghost to adversity.

“Is this the way that you believed your life was gonna turn out?” muses Adamson (quite possibly about himself). “Is this the better world that you were making all those plans for?”

Then there’s the typical (but effective) valentines to both imagined paramours (“One in a Million,” “Send You”) and humanity at large (“Message of Love”), reflections on personal triumphs and private travails (“I’m Not Ashamed,” “Wildland in My Heart”), and sundry entries (“Sail Into Nothing,” “”God’s Great Mistake,” “Post Nuclear Talking Blues”) that couple the Dunfermline four-piece’s penchant for outdoor themes (nature, freedom, adventure) and affinity for its signature Scottish sound into upbeat, zeitgeist-sensitive zingers.

Disc Two is jam-packed with bonus tracks including single edits of “Dreamer” and “Ashamed,” early / alternate takes of “One in a Million,” and acoustic versions of old standbys “In a Big Country” and “All Go Together.” There’s also a bunch of extra songs that didn’t make the album (but might’ve popped up on the band’s Rarities series later), like “Crazy Times,” “Ice Cream Smile,” and “Bianca.” This is also where fans will find working versions recorded by Adamson, Butler, and company at House in the Woods studio in Surrey (“Hardly a Mountain,” “Can You Feel the Winter”).

Disc Three is a digitally-retouched edition of the in-concert Eclectic album released by Castle Communications in the year following …Long Face. Recorded live at Dingwalls in London in late March of ’96 (and long since out-of-print), the album shines with a mix of old and then-new Big Country classics (“River of Hope,” “Where the Rose is Sown”), all rendered before an elated audience. Also on the menu here is an assortment of choice cover songs that speak to the band’s early influences (The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My,” CCR’s “Down on the Corner.” The smoldering set (with bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki underpinning the guitar hysteria with glorious grooves) also features guest spots by British vocalist/actor Bobby Valentino, rocker Steve Harley (of Cockney Rebel), and American soul singer Kym Mazelle.

The Long Face prototype is represented by Disc Four: This is where collectors and curators will discover working versions of the tunes that would be polished up later for the final version of the album. Workshopped at various locations in Scotland and England (Audiocraft, Riverside, Chapel, HITW), this missing-link record presents some of Adamson’s best ideas in a stripped-down format. But most the program is dominated by near-finished “jam” versions of “Dreamer,” “Message,” “Ashamed” and other stand-outs that sound—unlike most demos or garage versions—almost as concise (in performance) and as crystalline (in production) as the finished Long Face LP.

So if you know Stuart Adamson and Big Country only by their earliest “essential” hits, now’s as good a time as any to revisit the well and get acclimated with the group’s strong, inspirational, and sorely-overlooked middle catalog. And there’s never been a better opportunity to take those first steps than with this respectfully-rendered Long Face deluxe box.