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THE CROSSING DEEP DIVE - PART 1


6 November 2018
2:13:20




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The Crossing – album background

  • Halloween and podcast recording: a The Great Divide tradition.
  • How the podcast hosts feel about finally visiting (and in Tom’s case, re-visiting) The Crossing.
  • Basic album factoids and album formats/editions (contents, not packaging) of The Crossing that exist.
  • The state of Tom’s record collection – again.
  • Svein runs a short quiz on The Crossing for Tom.
  • Big Country on 8-track, and a general 8-track discussion.
  • The number of “karate barks” (sha!, ha!, etc.) on The Crossing.

Setting the stage: A timeline of notable Crossing-related band activities between 1981-1983

  • Looking back at the musical climate: Other hits at the time of release in 1983.
  •  “The Saga of Big Country” written by Stuart Adamson in 1983.
  • The day that Stuart Adamson left Skids in April 1981, and how just three weeks later he had written and demoed several new songs with Bruce.
  • Audio clip: Bruce Watson talking about the early days of teaming up and demoing with Stuart.

“Angle Park” – Portastudio demo by Stuart and Bruce from Townhall, May 1981.

  • Some of the names they are considering for the project.
  • Audio clip: Bruce sharing some memories of demoing and meeting up with other musicians in Kenny’s Music Store in Elgin Street, Dunfermline back in 1981 and beyond. (The store still exists, look at their Facebook page here.)
  • The various demoing activities throughout 1981.
  • Clive Parker’s emergence. Completing the line-up with Pete and Alan Wishart.
  • The first live performance of the five-piece line-up at Glen Pavilion on 4 Feb 1982.
  • Ian Grant invites Chris Briggs to see the band live at the Glen Pavilion. Briggs sees enough potential to offer them a single.
  • Audio Clip: Bruce Watson and Ian Grant on early demo submissions, setting up the Glen Pavilion gig, and memories of number of tickets sold…
  • The infamous Alice Cooper live shows on 11 and 12 Feb 1982. The band being dropped, why Stuart didn’t mind going home, and the end of the five-piece line-up.
  • Audio Clip: Ian Grant’s memories of putting Big Country on the Alice Cooper tour, getting the call that the band was off, and Stuart’s reaction when he told him.
  • Tony and Mark joins and almost immediately go into the studio for their first demo session together, at Phonogram Studios.

“Heart and Soul” – demo recorded at Phonogram studios in 1982.

  • Chris Briggs signs Big Country to a recording contract in May 1982.
  • June 1982: The Chris Thomas album sessions. After some three weeks, the sessions are stopped and abandoned. What happened?

“Harvest Home” – the Chris Thomas-produced single version (released Sep 1982).

  • Reviews of the Chris Thomas-produced Harvest Home from Country Club. They are divided into three categories: “the unenlightened,” “the unsure,” and “the inspired.”
  • The band move on to play shows in July and August 1982, including their first US tour in August. The show at the Peppermint Lounge in New York would later get a video/DVD release.
  • We accidentally discover that it is 25 years ago to the day since Tom saw Big Country for the first time! On Halloween at the 930 Club in Washington DC in 1993!
  • Tony’s diary from the 1982 US tour (from Country Club).
  • August 1982: back in the UK, they did the David “Kid” Jensen sessions at BBC (released on CD and in the BBC box set).

“Close Action” from the “Kid” Jensen BBC sessions, on 23 August 1982.

  • Still August 1982: Tony do the sessions with The Pretenders which result in songs like “Back On the Chain Gang,” “My City Was Gone,” etc.
  • Tom jumps ahead and reads a blurb from Country Club March 1983 where the not-yet-named (and not even played live) “In A Big Country” is announced as the next single.
  • Back in September 1982, the Chris Thomas-produced “Harvest Home” is released as Big Country’s first single. We discuss its chart performance, and the interesting choice of releasing something from the abandoned sessions.
  • In October 1982, they shot a video for Harvest Home. The reason why we have two versions of that video.
  • October/November 1982: Their first major tour across Scotland and England.
  • Supporting The Jam on the Wembley Arena shows of their farewell tour in December 1982, with some interesting thoughts from Stuart about the experience of playing stadium shows.
  • The band enter the studio again early 1983 to record Fields of Fire, with Steve Lillywhite producing.
  • Audio clip: Steve Lillywhite talks about being asked to produce Big Country, and how he felt about the Chris Thomas recordings.
  • Lillywhite’s track record at the time, and why he was a better fit for Big Country at that time than Chris Thomas.
  • Shooting a music video for “Fields of Fire” (the full story of the video shoot is told in episode 35 – the second part of our Top 10 Video Countdown).
  • The band enter a studio in Croydon to demo brand new songs “In A Big Country” and “The Storm”.

“In A Big Country” – demo version

  • “Fields of Fire” is released as Big Country’s second single on 18 February 1983, to much success.
  • February 1983: the band do the John Peel Sessions at BBC, which often are bundled with the Kid Jensen shows.
  • The first time that “In A Big Country” is jammed in front of an audience.
  • With Steve Lillywhite producing, the band enter the Manor Studios to record “The Crossing” album. The facilities allowed their families to be there while they were recording. Interesting studio reports from Playboy Magazine, as well as quotes from Lillywhite.
  • Looking at reports of the mood and atmosphere during recording vs. the album’s atmosphere. Likening that mood to the Boy’s Own illustrations used and how they come across.
  • Svein throws another trivia question at Tom: which album of The Crossing and Steeltown has the most overdubs? The truth is interesting.
  • “In A Big Country” is released as the band’s third single on 20 May 1983.
  • The band do a lot of TV performances in May 1983 (Svein’s list count 12!).
  • The band start the “Crossing the Country” tour in June, and stay on the road for a long time.
  • “The Crossing” is released on 15 July 1983.
  • Speakpipe from Stuart Menzies.
  • “Chance” is released as the fourth Big Country single on 26 August. It is the final single from the “The Crossing” era, and was the band’s biggest UK hit so far. 
  • Looking back again at the climate of the time – the emergence of several bands of the same ilk, referred to as “the big music” and “the new breed.” This movement was really foreshadowed at the U2 show in March 1983 where they brought up Mike Peters and Stuart Adamson to play a song together.

“Knocking On Heaven’s Door” - U2 with Mike Peters (The Alarm) & Stuart Adamson (Big Country). Live at Hammersmith Palais, London - 29 March 1983 (the last night of the War Tour).

A trip down memory lane – some personal reminiscing from both Tom and Svein

  • What we were into around 1983 and how that influenced getting into music from “the new breed” (esp. U2 and Big Country). Clue words from the discussion: comic books, science fiction, and wars/setting up battles with tin soldiers. 
  • Memories of hearing a song from “The Crossing” for the first time.
  • Memories of purchasing The Crossing. At least from Svein. Tom has forgotten.
  • Looking back at the bands that were so important in those years – how the emotional attachment we both have for Big Country has remained very strong, while the interest in (post-80s) U2 has gone steadily down and almost completely faded away today.

Speakpipe from Beavis.
Svein makes Tom give his prediction for how long the “The Crossing” deep-dive will end up being.