Released : 1984
At the forefront of “Celtic rock” musical arms race with U2 and Simple Minds – all three groups had shared the same producer in Chris Lillywhite – Big Country always felt like the odd ones out. Vocalist Stuart Adamson had formed the quartet after the dissolution of post-punk agitators The Skids, but his new outfit’s aesthetic – working class check, bandannas, over use of the e-bow – gave their debut album The Crossing an ethereal but in places gimmicky feel.
Steeltown however revealed Adamson as a songwriter with rare intuition and empathy. His native Scotland had suffered first and hardest from the industrial deprivation caused by the Conservative government’s policies, the careless destruction of mining and steel working communities providing the inspiration for the album’s title. Whilst British pop was in the midst of a creative peak never to be reached again, it was evident that his conscience instead lay amongst the ordinary victims left in it’s wake.
Where The Rose Is Sown was the first single, immediately darker, harder and less compromising than the tweedy rock of before. Written and released in the wake of Britain’s military involvement in The Falklands and a response to the growing pockets of regime-sponsored conflict around the globe (Adamson also dealt with Ronald Reagan’s aggression on the album’s opening track Flame of The West), it told the story with a pacifist’s sentiment, mocking the propaganda which glorified the taking up of arms by young men as cannon fodder. Predictably however the switch of emphasis made Big Country a less saleable commodity, Steeltown their only number one album and their swift commercial decline was one of the key factors which eventually led to Adamson’s tragic death in 1997.