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Stuart Adamson

Stuart Adamson performing in August 1991.
Background information
Birth name William Stuart Adamson
Born 11 April 1958(1958-04-11)
Manchester, England
Origin Dunfermline, Scotland
Died 16 December 2001 (aged 43)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Genres Rock, punk, New Wave, folk rock
Occupations Singer-songwriter, musician
Instruments Guitar, vocals, keyboards
Years active 1976–2001
Labels No Bad, Virgin, Phonogram, Mercury, Vertigo, Compulsion, Fox, Transatlantic, Track
Associated acts The 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. He founded the top-40 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

Adamson is usually considered Scottish, although he was born near Manchester, England. His parents were both Scottish, and returned to Scotland when Adamson 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.[1] Adamson was a life-long 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.[2] 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 (which many fans considered "non-canonical", though Adamson did play guitar on one memorable song of the album, 'Iona'). Jobson's influence had increased in the band, which may have led to the increasing disputes between the two artists.[3]

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."[4]

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". 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, who also contributed with a small written text to Adamson's memorial service at Carnegie Hall Dunfermline, 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.

Big Country

Stuart Adamson first came to 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, but did veer towards album oriented rock. 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.

Final years

Adamson was married twice. He also had two children, born to his first wife Sandra in 1982 and 1985. In 1996, Adamson split with Sandra and moved to Nashville.[5] 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, by self-strangulation, in a room at the Best Western Plaza Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii. At the time of death he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.279%.[6]

In 2009, Stuart Adamson was voted Scotland's Greatest Ever Guitarist by the readers of Dear Scotland.[7]

Notes

  1. ^ Stuart Reid, Rock Star Adamson dies in hotel, The Scotsman, 17 December 2001.
  2. ^ Sean O'Hagan, Jobson's Choice, The Observer, Sunday 20 June 2004.
  3. ^ Simon Goddard, Once more into the valley, The Scotsman, 17 February 2007.
  4. ^ Sean O'Hagan, Jobson's Choice, The Observer, Sunday 20 June 2004.
  5. ^ STARDOM: LIFE AND TIMES OF PUNK HERO, The Scotsman, 18 December 2001.
  6. ^ Mike Wade, Autopsy shows star was drunk at time of suicide, The Scotsman, 26 January 2002.
  7. ^ Vote for Scotland's Greatest Ever Guitarist, Dear Scotland, 4 November 2009

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