Stuart Adamson

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Stuart Adamson

Stuart Adamson performing in August 1991.
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Stuart Adamson
Born(1958-04-11)11 April 1958
Manchester, England
OriginDunfermline, Scotland
Died16 December 2001(2001-12-16) (aged 43)
Honolulu, Hawaii
GenresRock, punk, New Wave, celtic rock
OccupationsSinger-songwriter, musician
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, keyboard, bass guitar
Years active1976–2001
LabelsNo Bad, Virgin, Phonogram, Mercury, Vertigo, Compulsion, Fox, Transatlantic, Track
Associated actsThe Skids
Big Country
The Raphaels
 
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Stuart Adamson

Stuart Adamson performing in August 1991.
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Stuart Adamson
Born(1958-04-11)11 April 1958
Manchester, England
OriginDunfermline, Scotland
Died16 December 2001(2001-12-16) (aged 43)
Honolulu, Hawaii
GenresRock, punk, New Wave, celtic rock
OccupationsSinger-songwriter, musician
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, keyboard, bass guitar
Years active1976–2001
LabelsNo Bad, Virgin, Phonogram, Mercury, Vertigo, Compulsion, Fox, Transatlantic, Track
Associated actsThe Skids
Big Country
The Raphaels

Stuart Adamson (11 April 1958 – 16 December 2001), born William Stuart Adamson, was an English-born Scottish guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter, described by legendary broadcaster and DJ John Peel as “Britain’s answer to Jimi Hendrix”.[1] He founded the Scottish art-punk band The Skids and later the more mainstream rock group Big Country, as well as the 1990s alternative country rock act The Raphaels.

Contents

Early life

Although Adamson was born in Manchester, both his parents were Scottish, and the family returned to Scotland when he was four. The family settled in a small mining town, Crossgates, about a mile to the east of Dunfermline in Fife.

Adamson founded his first two bands in Dunfermline and they both started out playing Dunfermline and across the Firth in Edinburgh. He went to school with Ian Rankin, who was two years younger and went on to become a fan of The Skids.[2] Adamson was a lifelong supporter of Dunfermline Athletic Football Club.

Adamson's father was in the fishing industry and travelled the world. He encouraged his son Stuart to read literature, and both parents shared an interest in folk music. As such they were strong influences on Adamson's art.

Adamson founded his first band, Tattoo, in 1976 after seeing The Damned play in Edinburgh. Besides Adamson, Tattoo included his friend William Simpson, who would also play bass guitar for his next band, The Skids.

The Skids

Adamson founded The Skids in 1977, when he was 18. Adamson and Simpson first recruited drummer Thomas Kellichan. They played as a trio around Dunfermline and Edinburgh until running into "the only other punk in town" on a street corner, 16-year-old Richard Jobson.[3] Jobson was recruited as a frontman; Adamson and Jobson both wrote songs for the band.

The Skids' biggest success was the single "Into the Valley" in 1979, which did well in the UK charts, and still regularly appears in anthologies. The band had four singles chart in the UK that year. Adamson was involved with three of their four albums, leaving in 1980 before Joy. Jobson's influence had increased in the band, which may have led to the increasing disputes between the two artists.[4]

Six years later, Adamson reported he had suffered a nervous breakdown at around this point in his life. He seems to have kept any such problems deeply private though. Jobson later said "This was a guy who had a mortgage, a wife and a family when we were all trying to live some mythic punk lifestyle. He seemed level-headed, grounded."[5]

Adamson was a large part of The Skids' sound, which set it apart from many of the punk/New Wave bands of the period, including slow riffs, as opposed to speedily played ones, which anticipated Black Flag and Grunge's "slow punk".[citation needed]

Big Country

Adamson came to greater international prominence with Big Country. Adamson constructed the band with friend and fellow-guitarist Bruce Watson (then employed as a cleaner on submarines at Rosyth naval base) and a rhythm section of well-established studio musicians Mark Brzezicki and Tony Butler, whom he found with the help of his record company. He founded the band in 1982, the same year his first child was born.

Big Country's first hit, 1983's "Fields of Fire", reached the UK's Top Ten, and was rapidly followed by the album The Crossing. The album was a crossover hit in the United States, powered by the single "In a Big Country". They are sometimes considered a one-hit wonder in the U.S., but remained popular in the UK and the rest of Europe, and still have a devout following in their homebase of Scotland.

Their second album Steeltown appeared in 1984, and was again a success with both fans and critics, although not quite to the same heights as their debut. The band's third album The Seer continued along somewhat familiar territory. The first two albums were produced by Steve Lillywhite. The band continued to record studio albums, and to tour until 1999. In many ways, Adamson was the sound of Big Country, supplying much of its distinctive guitar work, as well as being lead singer and main songwriter (both music and lyrics). The band's lineup never really underwent changes, the exception being a brief departure of drummer Mark Brzezicki in the early 1990s and his replacement by Pat Aherne.

Adamson was also a keen motorcyclist and regularly purchased new machines for riding around Fife. His interest extended to the race track where he sponsored British Championship rider Iain Duffus in the late eighties.

Final years

Adamson was married twice. He also had two children, born to his first wife Sandra in 1983 and 1985. In 1996, Adamson split with Sandra and moved to Nashville.[6] There he remarried, and founded his final band, the alternative country band The Raphaels, a duo of Adamson and Nashville songwriter Marcus Hummon.

On 16 December 2001 he was found dead on the floor of a closet in his room at the Best Western Plaza Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii after committing suicide by hanging.[7] At the time of death he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.279%.[8]

U2's The Edge delivered the eulogy at Adamson's funeral which was held at Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline. He told the mourners that Big Country wrote the songs that he wished U2 could write.

In 2006, Adamson's music achieved an unexpected success when U2 and Green Day covered "The Saints are Coming" as a charity single. The Edge paid tribute to the guitarist by exactly replicating his original solo for the single. The single led to a revival of interest in Adamson's earlier material. Richard Jobson, in an interview with the Sunday Post, said that he was upset Adamson had not been alive to see it.

Discography

Skids discography
YearTitleLabelNotes
1979Scared to DanceVirgin
Days in Europa
1980The Absolute Game
1981JoyGuitar on Track 5 only.
1982Fanfare
1987Dunfermline: A Collection of the Skids' Finest Moments
2007The Saints Are Coming: The Best of The SkidsEMI/Virgin
Big Country Discography
The Raphaels Discography
YearTitleLabel
2001SupernaturalTrack

Notes

  1. ^ Glen, Allan. Stuart Adamson - In A Big Country. ISBN 10:184697142X. http://www.bigcountryinfo.com/pages/albums/comp_notw.htm. 
  2. ^ Stuart Reid, Rock Star Adamson dies in hotel, The Scotsman, 17 December 2001.
  3. ^ Sean O'Hagan, Jobson's Choice, The Observer, Sunday 20 June 2004.
  4. ^ Simon Goddard, Once more into the valley, The Scotsman, 17 February 2007.
  5. ^ Sean O'Hagan, Jobson's Choice, The Observer, Sunday 20 June 2004.
  6. ^ STARDOM: LIFE AND TIMES OF PUNK HERO, The Scotsman, 18 December 2001.
  7. ^ "Death of rocker Adamson likely suicide, official says | The Honolulu Advertiser | Hawaii's Newspaper". The Honolulu Advertiser. 2001-12-18. http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2001/Dec/18/ln/ln05a.html. Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  8. ^ Mike Wade, Autopsy shows star was drunk at time of suicide, The Scotsman, 26 January 2002.

External links