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Lost in the ’80s: Big Country, “Look Away”


It’s amazing to even consider now, but once there were debates on who’d be the bigger band – U2 or Big Country?

It’s obvious who won that little argument, but believe it or not, there was a time around 1983 where it was a dead heat.  Both bands had critical acclaim, hotly touted live shows, and briskly selling albums.  But Big Country had the lead when it came to mainstream acceptance, scoring a Top 40 hit with “In A Big Country” and a platinum album with their debut, The Crossing.  U2 were just starting to break though with War, but singles “New Years Day” and “Two Hearts Beat As One” didn’t make much of a dent on the charts.

Things had changed a bit three years down the road.  U2 were coming off the biggest album of their career at that point, The Unforgettable Fire, and had finally crossed over to Top 40 with “Pride (In The Name Of Love).”  Meanwhile, Big Country remained one-hit wonders, with the EP Wonderland and their second full-length, Steeltown, both flopping in the States (while doing well in the UK).  In 1986, Big Country could use a hit.

Things looked good for their third album, The Seer.  It had peaked at #2 in the UK, and the lead single was the band’s highest charter.  “Look Away” (download) was also issued as the album’s first single in the States and thanks to a snazzy video, MTV embraced the band again.  Things looked hopeful and Big Country looked poised to hit big again:

While MTV jumped on the video, Top 40 radio in the U.S. still considered the band one-hit wonders and didn’t give “Look Away” a fair shake.  However, rock radio embraced the single, sending it into the Top Five of the AOR charts.  It wasn’t enough to push The Seer to the sales heights The Crossing enjoyed, and Big Country remained a marginal-selling cult act in the States.
Each Big Country release sold less and less, and lead singer Stuart Adamson’s alcoholism sent the singer into a downward spiral, culminating in his suicide in 2001.  It was a sad end to a band that, hard as it may be to believe, once had U2 looking over its Irish shoulders.
“Look Away” peaked at #5 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart in 1986.

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