Make it Big!

In light of Simple Minds upcoming release BIG MUSIC, I thought I’d glance back at some of the other records that mention BIG in their titles, and it’s surprising how many are new wave or alternative artists from the eighties. As for Simple Minds themselves, I recall an article in Smash Hits where Jim Kerr stated their music would become so big it couldn’t be stopped! Well he might just be right and they’re no stranger to the word BIG though it wasn’t always their sound that was, it may be hard to believe now but back in 1982 they were dreamy…

1 BIG SLEEP – SIMPLE MINDS

It’s sleepy, splendid and subliminal as is the album it calls home. Is that enough superlatives? I also like the way the history of SM is present in most everything they do. Some of the imagery from New Gold Dream translates wonderfully to the aforementioned Big Music. Weather it’s the album version or a plethora of live versions such as the slower dramatic take found amid the Themes boxes, it’s still gorgeous after all these years.

2 BIG SCIENCE – LAURIE ANDERSON

Not an artist I’m as familiar with as I perhaps ought to be; only now can I see her influence on Imogen Heap. Big Science is slightly less drab and irritating than O Superman. Still, she is nothing short of a consummate intellectual. It’s kind of an avant garde Big Yellow Taxi meets Dog Eat Dog (both Joni Mitchell records for those who may not know). Look at what we built, isn’t it great? All praise the culture of every man for himself but wait we forgot to put the mountains in for us to fall off. Smart stuff indeed.

3 BIG TIME – PETER GABRIEL

Hi there.. I’m Pete and ‘I’m on my way of making it. I’ve got to let it show yeah!’ – and he did. It might not have been quite as big as its predecessor but that’s why I like it. White funk for blue skies, big commentary and a neat follow on from Anderson’s observations above.

4 BIG SHOT – BILLY JOEL

In ’79 Billy was Big! Following his mammoth album The Stranger from a year or so earlier Joel took to his tough guy narrative to tell us the exploits of a character – probably not unlike Gabriel’s – who had made it in the big city and wasn’t shy on utilising their big money for big parties and big booze; ‘You had to be big shot, didn’t cha’ Right you are Billy, possibly a template for We Didn’t Start the Fire? No Belgians in the Congo or rock n’roller cola wars here but a neat guitar riff and it’s still rock n’roll to me.

 

5 BIG MONEY (THE) – RUSH

And speaking of big money, Canada’s finest power trio (is there another one?) were not slow to speak of the shuddering wealth emanating from the corporate ‘Power Windows’ that now engulfed even the music world. An irony the record company released it in the heart of the eighties at all. I dare say the musics strength swayed the suits but did they have to be so literally correct to call it The Big Money, when the abbreviated version does just nicely. Fantastic musicianship here from what some say is a ropey album though I thought it was quite cohesive.

6 BIG WORLD – WANG CHUNG

While some of the above were critically aware of the excesses of the big time and all that went with it, the tail end of the eighties saw an about face toward the effects and potential consequences mankind were having on the environment. Big World found Wang Chung in a more sombre tone than the good time funk of ‘everybody have fun tonight/everybody wang chung tonight’ but since when was that bad? Here they are more harmonic thanks to some fine backing vocals on the chorus and like the Minds pay homage to their past in the songs closing moments with an impromptu burst of ‘Dancing’ (a tune from their first album, also from ’82) although how many picked up on that who knows. It wasn’t the last we’d hear from their global concerns either as another oddity in their discography, Akasha, surfaced many years later in light of the Thai Tsunami in 2004.

7 BIG AREA/THE BIG SWEEP – THEN JERICO

I’m not entirely certain what the hell the ‘big area of mine’ that Mark Shaw and Co’s tide of guitar crashing rock referred to, however the b-side was the rather excellent (the) Big Sweep showcasing an English freshness to its new wave/alt-rock swagger. Beautiful stuff in a mini-era somewhere between 1984 and 1989. Sadly the band themselves were equally short lived via their own demolition colliding with record company politics leaving the big area greatly diminished. Pity though.

8 BIG LOVE – FLEETWOOD MAC

Something quite dark and mysterious about this courtesy of the ever intriguing Lindsay Buckingham. Love the acoustic live version more so than the studio take and even if the artwork is fitting, it could have played more on the lyrics; the house on the hill for example.

 

9 BIG LOG – ROBERT PLANT

Although I didn’t quite get the magnitude of Led Zep I got this (along with much of his solo work). A calm lazy tone poem, viewing the faces and towns that breeze by from the road and more importantly a singer unafraid of tapping into new sonic territory and leaving his legacy in tact. As the lyric suggests it’s an automotive romance perfect for subdued English motorway drives (drizzle and twilight optional but recommended). Never got round to hearing the album though.

10 BIG THING – DURAN DURAN

I was hoping to find a geographical location where this album had a decent cover. As you can see I failed. The record itself is pretty good. Not quite as mature as Notorious moving more towards dance and house music, however their knack for beautiful melody and words shines forth on the classy Too Late Marlene, the shimmering Palomino, and the heartfelt Do You Believe in Shame? The singles for I Don’t Want Your Love and All She Wants Is.. both had more successful graphic interpretations on their sleeves while the title track was an all hands on deck pick and mix lyric set against John Taylor’s slinky bass grooves.

11 BIG GENERATOR – YES

Segue from the Duran album above which samples a drum fill from this by UK prog stalwarts gone nu-metal of sorts. Their second with Trevor Rabin might divide the die-hards but I liked the direction he took them in, save the dreadful Almost Like Love. The title track’s grungy guitar was akin to bathing your ears in industrial lubricant and the artwork light years away from the Roger Dean illustrations of yesteryear.

12 BIG IN JAPAN – ALPHAVILLE

1984, deep in the heart of synth-pop and anything European was cool including Alphaville who had their thunder stolen by some cheeky Norsemen called a-ha. Anyway, Big in Japan remains essential Euro cool for those of us old enough to remember Forever Young (like the pun?) and who like their travel complete with silhouettes of strange illuminated mannequins. It’s easy when you’re Big in Japan.

 

13 BIG DECISION – THAT PETROL EMOTION

TPE were the middle skip from a musical pebble that first splashed as The Undertones and currently The Everlasting Yeah. The most I remember of Big Decision is that it fell just short of the Top 40 at home (UK) in 1987. Babble, the album, managed to make #30 but it’s as high as their ceiling would allow. They had plenty more ammunition in rock stomper Dance Your Ass Off, and the brilliant pub-rocker Sensitize which really should have been huge but alas you’re either critically acclaimed and don’t sell records or commercially successful and critically panned. Like XTC, TPE were of the former, another much fancied series of small ripples swallowed by a big surging sea.

14 BIG WHEEL – ICEHOUSE

‘Mmmm, alright.’ It’s a simple but effective kick off to the album of the same name. I don’t think my review over on All Music Guide did it justice (thanks to some abysmal editing by someone who remains nameless though mine went on the finished piece right). Anyway, the ambitious and adventurous album was one of their strongest; kind of Sgt. Iva’s Magical Mystery Tour or Iva Jones raiding his own arc (ie his studio) with great gusto and dazzling effects. I especially admire the link music and the idea to marry the record to the growing digital sphere with a floppy disc of content. Great drumming from the Bonzo of Oz (Paul Wheeler) too.

15 BIG MUSIC – SIMPLE MINDS

And so to SM part 2 and the return and crowning glory, save the unfortunate decision to re-cut Blood Diamonds and Broken Glass Park; both superb as they were. Elsewhere my critical eye wishes Jim Kerr could tap into his earlier incarnation for some more interesting titles; Human is one of my favourites off here but it’s hardly an original name is it; Human Inside (Hunter in Chase) sound better? Never mind the rest exhibits their continuing form to resounding success. Welcome back!

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