Big Country Info Big Country Info


8 April 2019

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Tom shares a mini-rant about the state of general music podcasts.

Close Action – song deep-dive by Svein and Tom

  • Finally, we have come to the song about the life and times of the great Scorpheus! The mythological beast of the highlands. We recount the background for this expression.
  • Close Action is a song of undeniable quality. The secret weapon of the album? We look closer at the song’s role on The Crossing.
  • A look at in-progress & demo versions, and differences between these and the finished song.
    • John Brandt demo version (March 1982)
    • Chris Thomas version (June 1982)
    • Kid Jensen sessions (Aug 1982)
    • John Peel sessions (March 1983)
  • Slowing down the song for the album version.
  • Quotes from Tony (2006) and Stuart (1983 and 1984) about the song.
  • Where the title of the song was appropriated from. We also look closer at the phrase “Close Action” and the meanings it could have, as well as other items in popular culture carrying this name – such as the book “Signal Close Action”.
  • We again look at the way songs were named on The Crossing. Close Action is yet another song where the title does not appear anywhere in the lyrics.
  • Sound clips from Bruce Watson and Tony Butler, explaining the story about the Scorpheus.
  • Thanks to Colin Dawson for writing to us after Tom’s initial Crossing episodes back in 2012, providing detailed explanations of the nautical terms in the first verse, which is all about the technical aspects of being safely transported home.
  • Feelings of families and loved ones being separated in the 2nd verse, vs. feelings of the end of waiting in the 3rd.
  • The chorus – a comfort zone of sweetness. A heartfelt, touching sentiment of being brought home.
  • Instrumental and musical highlights of the song.
  • A special discussion on the outro section. One of Big Country’s best song end sections.
  • How Close Action was first perceived and enjoyed by the hosts, and how it has changed in some ways – and not changed in others – through the years.
  • A song about Stuart’s relationship with his father. His dad worked abroad and was rarely at home, and Stuart was constantly missing him. A possible precursor to “Tall Ships Go” which touches on the same thing.
  • Possibly also reflections on Stuart’s own feelings as a father?
  • Does the song (esp. the chorus) have a child’s naivety and perspective?
  • More nautical (and possible mythological) expressions as used in the 3rd verse.
  • A warning to other people about this situation – i.e. “I understand the need to travel away for work, but consider what it could mean to the family.” A very personal message from Stuart, served through more abstract and general imagery.
  • More musical moments: amazing rhythm guitars, the lovely e-bow part, and the star musical performance of the song: the amazing bass playing, which is strong, bouncy, playful and melodic. We give special attention to Tony’s bass run before the second verse.

Svein ranking: 3. Tom ranking: 1. Public ranking: 7.
Karate bark countdown: 0.

Speakpipes from Jaimin Weets and Andy Inkster.

Fields of Fire – song deep-dive by Tom and Svein

  • Tom’s story of Fields of Fire being the song that opened the door to his love for BC.
  • Tony’s short but sweet 2006 analysis of the track.
  • The song that defined the sound of Big Country – and made them sound on record like they sounded live.
  • How the public atmosphere of war of the early 1980s influenced the song – the Falklands war, people being called away to fight, and the story of how Stuart and Bruce met soldiers on trains and stations, travelling into service.
  • Released as BC’s 2nd overall single, and 1st single from the album that was to come – released 18 February 1983. UK #10, US #52.
  • Quotes from Stuart about this song – there are quite a few of them that in sum say a lot.
  • The words describe a series of bonds that exists – father/son, journey/rest, teacher/test, etc.
  • The song’s focus on the individual – each person being important. “The city and the one” – you can’t have a city without having a lot of individuals. As a parent, Stuart thought of the parental perspective and that everybody is someone’s son/daughter.
  • Is “Fields of Fire” a precursor to “Where the Rose Is Sown”? Tom thinks so and makes good points.
  • The drum approach – Steve Lillywhite had Mark play each drum part individually.
    • Clip: Lillywhite speaks of this process and why it was done like that.
  • Song originally done in the key of D. This was changed to the key of E on the album to give Stuart a more effective vocal range. Tom reveals why this made the guitar parts hard to figure out.
  • The various live intros of the song and the “scratch” version.
  • The “Guns of Navarone” theme song similarity – was it nicked? (Answer: no.)
    • Clip: a 1983 interview quote where Stuart and Bruce comment on that.  
  • A closer look at in-progress and demo versions of the song.  
  • An early demo version of the song is five and a half minutes long, as opposed to the three and a half minutes of the single version. We break down which parts were kept and which went away.
  • Instrumental and musical highlights of the song.
  • The song’s outro with two guitars interweaving.
  • The lyrics of the song – does the outward appearance of them match the underlying message?
  • The actual meaning of “field of fire” – the area around you that can be easily and effectively be reached by gunfire (the term originating from the era of forts (and similar defensive positions) where the area around would be cleared to give no shelter for an approaching enemy). Also, other meanings – actual fire, the “fire” from fields gleaming in sunlight – meanings in both ends of the scale.
  • The song paints a picture of finding yourself in a (any) situation where you are not safe. It mentions standing proud, being tested/challenged, but also returning safely, and the relief (on both sides) that comes from returning (to loved ones).
  • The “400 miles” is the train journey, it is hard to ignore that this is the distance between London and Edinburgh. Stuart’s quote “Thoughts on a train journey” – simplifying or accurate?
  • The shared links between “Close Action” and “Fields of Fire” – separation of families, reuniting – very similar themes in these songs.
  • Looking at the music video and how that could be interpreted vs how we have looked at the lyrics.
  • With this song, the album finally get some ‘karate barks’. With the help of the Karate Bark Beast, we count them.

Svein ranking: 7. Tom ranking: 3. Public ranking: 2.
Karate bark countdown: 6.

BIG COUNTRY – “Close Action” (live version from “The Crossing Live at RAK Studios”, recorded 13 January 2012)