Great Rock Albums of 1984: Big Country- Steeltown

After much contemplation, actually thirty plus years of it, I have arrived at the conclusion that Scottish rockers, Big Country have been given a bad rap by many in the rock world. I think that because of their first big hit “In a Big Country” from their 1983 album, “The Crossing,” which sounded a little new wave pop to some and the fact that MTV played the video to death. What also didn’t help them was that on this, their 1984 album, “Steeltown,” they went on tour with Hall and Oates, which led me and many others to conclude they were simply a top forty band. In truth, they weren’t and had some interesting sounds that metalheads and those not into trends could like together.

What they do so well on this album and their others as well is to blend the hard rock, new wave with their Celtic roots. Blended together, it makes a very interesting but enjoyable sound. The title track is the prime example of what I mean. One minute you are gently rocking away to it and the next you find yourself lost in the Celtic melody of the song. An added bonus is the political/historical message in the lyrics. “Steeltown” is about the town of Corby where many local Scots went to work in the newly opened steel mill in 1935 only to find themselves unemployed when it shut down in the early 1980s following the decline of the steelworks. The song was very apt for that time.

The rest of the album follows along in the same vein. Hard rock with great local melodies entwine themselves in every song. One thing I find on a personal note is that “East of Eden” was their only top 20 single from the album but I think that there are better songs on it and with me, that’s usually the criteria for a good album in my twisted mind. As far as singles go, I prefer the non top 20 reaching one, “Where the Rose is Sown.” That only made it to 29  but it has all the things I like on the album. “Come Back to Me” is also an interesting one. It’s kind of a ballad but it’s not but it does have some nice drum work on it. “Rain Dance” also stands out for me and “The Great Divide” is the hardest rock track but I can’t say there’s a bad song on here.

Track Listing:

  1. Flame of the West
  2. East of Eden
  3. Steeltown
  4. Where the Rose is Sown
  5. Come Back to Me
  6. Tall Ships Go
  7. Girl With Grey Eyes
  8. Rain Dance
  9. The Great Divide
  10. Just a Shadow

Big Country

Stuart Adamson- lead vocals, guitar, piano

Mark Brzezicki- drums, percussion, vocals

Tony Butler- bass, vocals

Bruce Watson- guitar, mandolin, sitar, vocals

For the reasons I mentioned at the start of the post, this album largely passed me by in 1984. Don’t worry, I’ve already given myself 40 lashes for it. It would be the next album when I would stop and say, “Hey wait a minute, these guys are pretty good.” Still, better late than never and I can say that this album is the real deal.

Next post:  REO Speedwagon- Wheels Are Turnin’

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to:  https://www.amazon.com/Rock-Roll-Children-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1609763556/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1504208727&sr=8-8&keywords=michael+d+lefevre

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1984: Big Country- Steeltown”

  1. Hooray. I’m really glad you like this album and featured it here. Hopefully some of your readers who aren’t aware of Steeltown will now give it a shot. Of all the artists who first appeared during my high school years (1980-1984), Big Country is by far my favorite, and they’re definitely in my all-time Top 5 artists. I’ve always felt that Steeltown was released at the wrong time. It was too dense (lyrically & production-wise) for many listeners after their more accessible (but still musically adventurous) debut. Two years later they released The Seer, which would have been a much better follow-up to The Crossing, at least commercially speaking. By then a lot of fans from ’83 had moved on, and they would never make it back to the mainstream again. Had they been a little more established, I think Steeltown would be regarded as one of the greatest albums of the ’80s. I certainly think it is, and it’s a record that continues to blow me away after 34 years. When I met Stuart Adamson in 1993 I told him how much Steeltown had meant to me, and how it got me through some difficult times. He shook my hand and said, “ya cannae know how much tha means to me.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think you’re right about the placings of this album. Maybe it should have swapped places and come after The Seer. Another reason why it passed me by in 84 was the fact that I was listening to so much metal at the time. I listened it now without that distraction and now I appreciate Steeltown. It’s great that you got to meet Stuart Adamson.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really dig Big Country, and have this on LP. Great write-up!! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hurrah! Always great to see a Big Country post… a great band and one that probably isn’t spoken of often enough (and I reckon Rich is spot on by saying this should be regarded as one of the 80’s best albums).

    Liked by 1 person

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