In A Big Country

Album: The Crossing (1983)
Charted: 17 17
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Big Country was formed in Dunfermline, Scotland by ex-Skids Stuart Adamson (guitar/synthesizer/vocals), Bruce Watson (guitar), Tony Butler (bass), and Mark Brezicki (drums). They made their mark in the UK with "Fields of Fire" a #10 hit in that territory. "In A Big Country" was their next single; they went on to have three more UK Top 10 hits: "Chance," "Wonderland" and "Look Away."

    When they disbanded in 2000, Adamson became a country singer/songwriter, but got depressed after his second marriage collapsed. His wife declared him missing in November 2001 and the following month he was found hanged in a hotel room in Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • From its opening notes, "In A Big Country" bursts with fresh energy. The Celtic guitar parts produce a signature bagpipe sound as lead signer Stuart Adamson yelps "Sha!" and urges listeners to remain resilient and "Stay Alive!"

    "The lyrical idea was about having hope, a sense of self in times of trouble," Adamson told Melody Maker in March 1990.
  • Steve Lillywhite produced this track. This came at a time when he was emerging as one of the top producers in the business, known for his work with Peter Gabriel and U2.

    Lillywhite's impact on this song was dramatic when compared with the demo. Changes included delaying the chorus until after the second verse, adding the iconic bagpipe guitar break, and having Adamson sing the bridge an octave higher.
  • In America, this was the only Big Country hit of significance; it didn't garner much radio play, but the video was huge on MTV, which was two years old and becoming a cultural force. The network ignored the group's next US single, "Fields of Fire," which tanked their efforts in America.
  • The video was directed by Lindsey Clennell, who was one of the first to ply this trade. Some of his other credits include videos for The Clash ("White Riot," "1977"), Black Sabbath ("Trashed," "Zero the Hero") and the Stranglers ("Golden Brown," "No More Heroes").
  • Stuart Adamson was inspired to write "In A Big Country" after hearing what producer Steve Lillywhite was able to achieve on Big Country's "Fields of Fire" single. Adamson later wrote in liner notes for a re-release of their debut album, The Crossing, "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 the same connection, who could see the music as well as play it."
  • This song's working title was "Stay Alive." Booking agent John Giddings suggested that the name be changed to "In A Big Country." When Steve Lillywhite heard the demo, he was moved to tears, according to Allan Glen's book Stuart Adamson: In A Big Country.
  • "In A Big Country" was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal, but lost out to "Synchronicity" by the Police.
  • The video got a positive review from MTV's Beavis and Butthead, largely because of the 3-wheel vehicles. Quoth Butthead, "This is like a James Bond movie."
  • In 1999, Adamson told a group of fans that his favorite lyrics were:

    I'm not expecting to grow flowers in a desert
    But I can live and breathe
    And see the sun in wintertime
  • In concert, Adamson would often introduce the song with the final words of its chorus: "Stay Alive!," before the drum intro. Reconciling the resilient message with Adamson's eventual suicide was difficult for fans.
  • In 2012, Mike Peters, singer for The Alarm, selected "In A Big Country" for BYUTV's documentary series The Song That Changed My Life. Peters was inspired by the song during The Alarm's early years, and later during his battle with leukemia. Peters fronted Big Country tours in 2010 and 2011, and also sang and co-wrote Big Country's full-length 2013 album The Journey before returning to other projects.
  • The version that opened the album The Crossing is almost one minute longer than the single, adding an extended drum intro.
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Comments: 23

  • Matt from Vankookoo, Bc, CanadaIt is too bad that this band came along at such a stupid time in pop music history. I saw Big Country twice both at small venues, (86th Street, Commodore Ballroom?) and that was a blessing. However, they made their guitars sound like bagpipes sometimes so many critics wrote them off as a gimmick band. They were far from a gimmicky act. Timeless song writing and simple melodies that you could have sworn you'd heard a million times are what made them one of the greatest 'never was' bands of all time. Have they been mentioned regarding HOF consideration?
  • Tony from San DiegoI have this CD , an unknown masterpiece.
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaKind of sad how Adamson was hanging, dead, in that hotel room for a MONTH!!! I've heard of bad hotels, but...
  • Bruce from San Jose, CaI always liked the "guitar-as-Highland-bagpipes" sound of this song! It always got my heart pumping (maybe it's my Scottish-heritage blood waking up?)
  • Jamie from Fife, United KingdomSorry Colin you are wrong. I live a couple of miles from Dunfermline, and the name is pronounced Dun-ferm-lin. Literally said how it is written, with exception to 'lin' instead of 'line'.
  • Paul from Wigan, United KingdomStuart Adamson was actually born in Ancoats, Manchester, UK, of Scottish parents. He and his family moved to Scotland when he was 5 years old.
    During the many Big Country concerts in Manchester Stuart always proclaimed an affinity with Manchester and its people.
  • Shane from Wrexham, United KingdomAt the Hexagon theatre in Reading, Stuart comments "This song is about having a sense of humour and a sense of hope, in times of adversity" he then laughs before introducing the song as "young guns go for it". I also read an interview with Stuart where he said that this song was written completely differently from the way he normally works. He wanted to capture the feeling of maintaining hope through difficult times. I think he did a fantastic job of achieving that... COME UP SCREAMING !
  • Jim from Long Beach, CaBruce Watson was born in Ontario,Canada from Scottish parents, they moved back to Scotland when Bruce was still a child. If you listen to him talk he is a true Scotsman. Peace, SHOUT!!!!
  • Pat from St. Paul, MnI've always thought that the guitar duet during the bridge of the song sounded like bagpipes, and that it was done purposely. Great song.
  • Jade from Washington D.c., DcWhen things are too difficult for me, I listen to this beautiful song! It always makes me feel much better about my life! The happy lyrics always keep me going! I love this song and I always will! Rest In Peace Stuart Adamson!
  • Jan from Amsterdam, NetherlandsKate Bush did't do the backing vocals on Eiledon, but on the titletrack the Seer.
  • Tony from Detroit, MiWhere were Bruce Watsons parents from? Alll my ancestors are from sicily. Were all sicilian. But I was born here in Detroit. That doesnt make me american though. I wonder if bruce watson is actually canadian.
  • Musicguru from Lost Angles, CaAwesome song with inspirational lyrics. Does anyone really know the meaning behinds the lyrics? I want to say it?s about lovers breaking up or helping a depressed person "see the light".
  • Daryl from Stoke, EnglandAmazing song, Butler never ceases to amaze me, people check out 'ships' its nice
  • Kent from Toronto, CanadaAlthough known as a Scottish band, guitarist Bruce Watson is actually Canadian (born Timmins, Ontario, March 11, 1961). A similar case to The Mamas And The Papas, who also had one Canadian member, the recently deceased Denny Doherty (Nov. 29, 1940 - Jan. 19, 2007).
  • Christophe from Leest, BelgiumMark, Tony and Bruce guested on Roger Daltrey's underrated 1985 album "Under A Raging
    Moon". Worth checking out.
    Big Country should never be forgotten.
  • Colin from Bradford, EnglandThe spelling is incorrect here - it should be Dunfermline and is pronounced as follows: Dun-furm-lin. Hope this helps.
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrI'm half Irish and Half Scottish, and I've always wondered, how do you pronounce Dunfermilne?
  • John from Dublin, IrelandJust a small clarification. Kate Bush dueted on the title song on The Seer album - June Miles Kingston did backing vocals on Eiledon.
  • Ralph from Newton, MaThanks Edward Pearce and Hugh from KC.
    Great info on one of my favorite bands.
    Anyone know if the song has any particular meaning other than the literal (which doesn't actually say much.
  • Izzie from Lala, Hithis song is great. i love the sound.
  • Nero from Pietermaritzburg, South AfricaKate Bush did backing vocals on their album The Seer... the song was Eiledon.
  • Hugh from Kansas City, MoBig Country comprised the studio musicians during the recording of Pete Townsend's breakthrough solo album, Empty Glass.
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