‘Steeltown’: In A Big Country, A No.1 Album

It was February, 1983, during a new heyday for British rock music, that the name of Big Country first flew the flag for Scotland on a UK chart.

Their single “Fields Of Fire (400 Miles)” rose to No.10, the first of four Top 10 and eight Top 20 hits for the band. August that year brought their first album chart appearance with their debut long player, The Crossing, which rose to No.3. Then on October 27, 1984, they went straight to No.1 on the UK bestsellers with what would be their finest commercial hour, Steeltown.

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With songs written by all four members of Big Country – frontman Stuart Adamson, guitarist Bruce Watson, bassist Tony Butler, and drummer Mark Brzezicki – and production by the in-demand Steve Lillywhite, the album saw the band at the height of their powers. Recorded at ABBA’s Polar Studios in Stockholm, it featured the Top 20 single “East Of Eden” and other memorable songs such as “Where The Rose Is Sown” and the title song.

English steel

As Melody Maker reported at the time, the irony for such a proudly Scottish group was that the steel town they were honouring in the album title and artwork was based in England. The title track was written about the Northamptonshire town of Corby, where many Scots sought work at the steel tube manufacturer Stewarts and Lloyd, during the Great Depression.

Listen to uDiscover Music’s Big Country Best Of playlist.

Steeltown unseated U2’s The Unforgettable Fire to enter the UK chart at No.1. The next week, it fell to No.5, replaced at the top by a new entry for Paul McCartney’s film soundtrack Give My Regards To Broad Street.

In 2014, the album was reissued in a desirable double vinyl Super Deluxe package. It features the original ten-track set spread across the two sides of one disc, while a second record contains single A-sides and B-sides, and on the flip, five previously unreleased rough mixes, of “East Of Eden,” “Tall Ships Go,” “Where The Rose Is Sown,” “Come Back To Me,“ and “Bass Concerto.”

Buy or stream Steeltown.

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