Happy 2017 everyone! Hope your holiday season treated you well!
For the January 8, 2017 edition of STUCK IN THE 80s (TONIGHT!), my little retro radio show on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine, I’ll be hosting my final (?) All-Request Fest. It’s something I thought of years ago as a way to give back to everyone who tuned in to the show and pledged money on STUCK IN THE 80s during the bi-annual pledge drives. From Pop to Punk, Rap to Rock, New Wave to New Romantics, it’s about the listeners and their requests, and it’s always spontaneous and fun.
For this final (?) edition of the All-Request Fest, I’ll also be channeling my inner chart nerd and will bring folks 17 for ’17, where I’ll be playing just some of the many songs that peaked at No. 17 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989. So, from now until the All-Request Fest, I’ll be posting all No. 17 hits…just because, well, I AM a chart nerd. And I’m okay with that.
Prolly my favorite No. 17 hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989 is a song that has had a special place in my heart since the first time I heard it – “In A Big Country” by Scotland’s Big Country.
I think what interested me the most about Big Country was the energy in a sound I have never heard in music before – guitars sounding like traditional bagpipes and fiddles against an Alt-Rock / New Wave sound. It’s safe to say I was hooked from the start (not to mention how cool I thought it was that the name of the band was incorporated into the name of the song).
In the band’s homeland, “In A Big Country” was released in mid-May 1983 as the third single from their brilliant debut album, THE CROSSING, following “Harvest Home” and the U.K. and Ireland Top 10 hit, “Fields Of Fire (400 Miles).” Here in the U.S., “In A Big Country” was released as the first single.
Debuting on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late October 1983, “In A Big Country” didn’t take long to be a hit in this country, reaching the Top 40 in just four weeks. By early December 1983, it had reached No. 17, but as was the case late in the year during most years for whatever reason, it was a competitive part of the Hot 100, and “In A Big Country” got stuck at No. 17 for three weeks and remained on the chart through the new year. On BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart, it was a big hit, reaching No. 3.
Around the globe, “In A Big Country” also reached No. 17, plus No. 6 in Canada, No. 7 in Australia, No. 22 in Ireland and No. 34 in New Zealand.
Though the band would release nine albums between 1983 and 2013, Big Country would reach the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just twice more, both in 1984, with “Fields Of Fire” (No. 52) and “Wonderland” (title track from the WONDERLAND EP; No. 86).
I followed Big Country for many years following “In A Big Country” and THE CROSSING, and they remain one of my favorite bands. Sadly, on December 16, 2001, singer, guitarist and principal Big Country songwriter, Stuart Adamson, committed suicide at a hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii. At Stuart’s funeral, U2’s The Edge delivered the eulogy, in which he said that Big Country wrote the songs that he wished U2 could write.
Big Country is still performing today, with original members Bruce Watson and Mark Brzezicki fronting the band. But, it was that memorable, cool new sound of Rock guitars sounding like traditional Scottish instruments on “In A Big Country” that I’ll remember Big Country for the most…
“I’m not expecting to grow flowers in the desert / But I can live and breathe / And see the sun in wintertime / In a big country dreams stay with you / Like a lover’s voice fires the mountainside / Stay alive…”