Stuart Adamson performing in August 1991.
|Birth name||William Stuart Adamson|
11 April 1958|
|Died||16 December 2001
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
|Genres||Rock, punk rock, new wave, Celtic rock|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, keyboard, bass guitar|
|Labels||No Bad, Virgin, Phonogram, Mercury, Vertigo, Compulsion, Fox, Transatlantic, Track|
|Associated acts||Skids, Big Country, The Raphaels|
William Stuart Adamson (11 April 1958 – 16 December 2001) was a Scottish guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter, described by broadcaster and DJ John Peel as “the new Jimi Hendrix”. He is best known as co-founder, lead vocalist, and guitarist of rock group Big Country, which rose to prominence in 1983. Prior to that he founded Scottish art-punk band Skids. In the 1990s he founded alternative country rock act The Raphaels. He committed suicide in 2001.
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 of Forth in Edinburgh. He went to school with Ian Rankin, who was two years younger and went on to become a fan of Skids. 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, Skids.
Adamson founded 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. Jobson was recruited as a frontman; Adamson and Jobson both wrote songs for the band.
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 chart singles 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 musicians.
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."
Adamson came to greater international prominence with Big Country. He 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 big crossover hit in the United States powered by the single "In a Big Country", which was performed on Saturday Night Live. The video for "In A Big Country" received frequent airplay on MTV & featured the band riding ATV's in the countryside.
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 was The Seer. The first two albums were produced by Steve Lillywhite. The band continued to record studio albums, and to tour until 1999. Adamson supplied much of the 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 Ahern.
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 and death
Adamson was married twice. He also had two children, born to his first wife Sandra in 1982 and 1985. His son Calum Adamson is the guitarist of British band Ahab. In 1996, Adamson split with Sandra and moved to Nashville. There he married his second wife, Melanie Shelly, and founded his final band, the alternative country band The Raphaels, a duo of Adamson and Nashville songwriter Marcus Hummon.
On November 26, 2001, Adamson was reported missing by his wife Melanie. At the time, the couple had been estranged for six weeks, and Melanie filed for divorce on the day he disappeared. Adamson had been due to face drunk-driving charges in March 2002, and had been ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous. He was an alcoholic and had resumed drinking, after having been sober for over a decade. On 16 December 2001, his body was found in a closet in his room at the Best Western Plaza Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii. According to police, Adamson had hanged himself with an electrical cord from a pole in the wardrobe. An empty wine bottle was found in the room. At the time of death he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.279%.
In 2006, Adamson's music achieved an unexpected success when U2 and Green Day covered "The Saints are Coming" by Skids 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.
- Skids discography
|1979||Scared to Dance||Virgin|
|Days in Europa|
|1980||The Absolute Game|
|1981||Joy||Guitar on Track 5 only.|
|1987||Dunfermline: A Collection of the Skids' Finest Moments|
|2007||The Saints Are Coming: The Best of The Skids||EMI/Virgin|
- Big Country Discography
- The Raphaels Discography
- Glen, Allan. Stuart Adamson - In A Big Country. ISBN 184697142X.
- Stuart Reid, Rock Star Adamson dies in hotel, The Scotsman, 17 December 2001.
- Sean O'Hagan, Jobson's Choice, The Observer, Sunday 20 June 2004.
- Simon Goddard, Once more into the valley, The Scotsman, 17 February 2007.
- Sean O'Hagan, Jobson's Choice, The Observer, Sunday 20 June 2004.
- STARDOM: LIFE AND TIMES OF PUNK HERO, The Scotsman, 18 December 2001.
- Alison Boshoff, Big Country star found hanged, The Daily Mail.
- "Death of rocker Adamson likely suicide, official says | The Honolulu Advertiser | Hawaii's Newspaper". The Honolulu Advertiser. 18 December 2001. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
- Jeevan Vasagar, Big Country's Stuart Adamson dead in hotel, The Guardian, 17 December 2001.
- Mike Wade, Autopsy shows star was drunk at time of suicide, The Scotsman, 26 January 2002.