Sunday, April 27, 2008

Scottish Sunday: Harvest Home

My obsession with Scottish post-punk probably began the first time I heard John McGeoch's guitar, but certainly reached its apotheosis with Big Country. I first heard them in September of 1983 during the height of the New British Invasion/synth pop craze and almost immediately ran out to buy their album The Crossing at the old Quincy Records off the main drag in Quincy Square. I played their album incessantly during the blissful autumn of 1983, giving the poor slab of vinyl respite only to play the Cocteau Twins and Comsat Angels in equally merciless rotation. It was a time when I began pursuing my art career seriously, and it seemed perfectly Synchronistic. Why?

Well, perhaps because Big Country seemed to be a band that emerged fully-formed from my subconscious. I almost couldn't believe that they existed, having come at a point when I was so bitterly disenchanted with most of the New Wave or Glam Metal I was hearing on the radio and disgusted with the developing fascist tendencies of the Hardcore scene. When I first played The Crossing, I vividly remember trembling by the time it was over, it had such an emotional impact on me. Hell, I remember my hands shaking as I flipped the record to the second side. It was like the record I had waited all my life to hear. And The Crossing was just a warm-up to their blisteringly cathartic second album, Steeltown, an album that became the soundtrack to my liberation from the clutches of my unhappy childhood home.

I didn't understand why I was drawn towards Caledonian musicians in particular or Celtic bands in general, it was just instinctual. I've got some Scottish on my mother's side, but that was never really part of my upbringing. I loved plenty of English and American bands too, but there was a poetic, mystical quality to the Scots bands in particular that I identified with, as well as a fiery passion I felt in my gut. It helped that The Crossing came out in the Autumn, and I could play it while the perfume of fallen leaves and woodfires wafted into my window on the chilly night air. For years, I would welcome the first chill of Autumn by opening the window and playing that album.

This is a smoking hot live performance of one of my favorite Big Country songs, "Harvest Home" performed at the Glasgow Barrowlands. The lyrics to the song itself are cryptic but the title comes from Thomas Tryon's 1973 novel, whose themes of a rural remnant of Celtic/fertility rites eerily mirrors the contemporaneous Wicker Man film, and yet is much more akin to LaBute's loathesome Wicker Man remake, with its murderous pagan matriarchy.

The book was made into a 1978 mini-series which featured Bette Davis and a young and nubile Rosanna Arquette, playing who else but a character named Ka-Athyr-Ein.

Big Country never really hit the big time in the US. They were unfairly tagged as a novelty act and concentrated on their music rather than their image, a mortal sin in the 80s. Their third LP, The Seer is worthy, but their fourth, Peace in Our Time, was a tragically misguided attempt at AOR rock. They never were able to recapture the early magic after that. Tragically, Stuart Adamson, lead singer and guitarist, would struggle with alcoholism and commit suicide in 2001.


  1. Even I (the 80's disco bunny) loved Big Country. That wailing electric bagpipe guitar sends you right back to the tribe.

  2. On 20th April - Newspaceman posted WARNING BELLS AND HORNS! featuring a photo of Bette Davis in Jezebel - Newspaceman = Scots!

  3. BRAVO!!!! Big Country well under-rated...and John McGeoch is always on my TOP list

    ahh, the e-bow

  4. Wow. Your description of Big Country is perfection.

    Back in the day, I would grab my cassette player and make my way to Strawberry Hill, a beautiful coastal forest a short walk from my home. The fog and the ocean were my only companions and I couldn’t wait to ascend to my private world.

    The music filled me with such longing. Embraced by the solitude I would fantasize that I was walking amongst emerald green hills and magnificent castles atop the cliffs of an untamed ocean.

    In my revere, I would be discovered by a kindred soul, an artist with a mystic's heart, who could see right through me. There would be instant recognition and no hesitation. Finally, I was understood and all was made right.

    Ahhh, the romantic dreams of schoolgirls.

    Those moments were pure bliss.

    Chance, The Storm, Lost Patrol, Porroh Man, Where the Rose is Sown, Girl With Grey Eyes, Come Back to Me, Just A Shadow, The Seer, The Teacher, Eiledon… I must not forget Wonderland. I love each and every one of their songs. Their impact on me was deep and all-encompassing and it continues to this

  5. That's the thing about BC- a lot of people don't get it but the ones who get it REALLY get it.