Skids – Scared to Dance – Round 33 – Graham’s Choice

“Britain’s answer to Jimi Hendrix”. That quote drew nervous looks from fellow members when I began my introduction to this round. Luckily that was John Peel’s opinion when he first heard Stuart Adamson’s guitar work and we were all spared a possible ‘fret-work – noodle-fest’.

In 1983 I just loved Big Country. I was bored with U2 and Big Country came along with some great tunes and weren’t too weird.

After ‘The Crossing’ I quickly lost interest as the albums never seemed to capture the power and intensity of their live shows, which were simply phenomenal.

Around the same time I started rooting out Adamson’s earlier work with Skids. Although I was familiar with the well known singles like ‘Into the ….’ and ‘Working for the ….’, the band had pretty much passed me by in 1979 (I was convinced that ELO’s Discovery was the best album ever during most of 1979). Of the 3 albums featuring Adamson before his departure, this is my favourite and probably neatly captures all the good things Skids had to offer. It is probably only me, but while I have never really thought of Skids being influential, I keep hearing things at DRC that still remind me of them.

‘Into the Valley’ and ‘The Saints are Coming’ are brutal and not the most sophisticated offerings, but still have great energy today. Proof that when Adamson kept his guitar work focussed and Jobson kept a lid on pomposity, they could really deliver.

Much of what they deliver on the rest of the album is a mix of post-punk experimentation, over excited ego trips and naivety, depending on the mood of the listener. There is a fair selection of quirky on this album. The crashing guitars on ‘Of One Skin’, that start and stop as if the band were being cranked by hand and  the fantastic ‘Big Countryish’ riffs on ‘Charles’, while Jobson rants about the modernisation of industrial manufacturing.

The same heady mix of pomposity and naivety led to the repackaging of the band’s second album as a result of overtones of right wing/fascist imagery.  Any fears of such leanings could be quickly dispelled by listening to my track choice of the night, Skids ‘TV Stars’. Any band that have a song with “Albert Tatlock” (Coronation Street 1960-84 ) as a chorus, can’t be taken too seriously.

The tensions between Adamson and Jobson led to the band’s demise, but equally helped brew some little gems on their first 3 albums.

Rob listened: I too was a teenage Big Country fan, albeit one album later than Graham. Hearing tracks from ‘Steeltown’ on Piccadilly Radio led me to the album, probably one of the first 3 or 4 I owned. That in turn led me to U2, the opposite of Graham’s short journey and, ultimately, turned off by Bono and chum’s empty bombast I bounced back towards the Smiths, the Fall and the deal was done.

Great to finally listen to the Skids properly. When Adamson’s guitar starts to yowl like possessed electric bagpipes it’s a wonderful thing, one of the best sounds in rock. ‘Scared To Dance’ seemed to hold all the power and posturing that made the band so electrifying as well as much of the tension and pretention that may have ultimately brought them down.

Nick listened: I was not a teenage Big Country fan, because I was a toddler, so I had no journey to or from U2, no memories of Big Country on the radio. I was sent a Skids compilation by a friend many years ago, though, and quite enjoyed it. I quite enjoyed this, too, but Richard Jobson, in my world, is a TV presenter, and Stuart Adamson is just another guitarist, rather than Britain’s answer to Hendrix (Hendrix wasn’t a question, was he?).


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