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Big Country Fly across the Atlantic (eventually!)

The band flew over to the States earlier this year (1982) to play at venues in New York and Washington, where The Members were promoting their Membership Club. Strangely enough the problems arose before they left this country, when they tried to get visas for their stay, and Bruce turned up with a passport picture showing him at the age of 18 months. But they eventually departed on Thursday August 19 for their American debut.

Tony Butler tells you his version of the visit:

We arrived at the American Embassy the morning our flight was to depart. Years of waiting to fulfill an ambition hinged on Beri, the Cairo Management secretary, virtually begging the officials to stamp our visas. We had only a few days notice of our trip to the states, and therefore there hadn't been time to get everything sorted out beforehand. We eventually got on the 6pm flight seven hours later than planned. All of us were extremely excited about going to America, wondering what kind of reception we'd get, but Stuart and Mark aren't keen on flying and hated the journey.

After six hours flying came the first glimpse of New York. It was midnight in the UK, but only 7pm in the States. After the formalities of customs and so on, we were greeted by our radiant, but knackered Manager Ian Grant. Then we were badgered by taxi drivers who didn't seem to understand the word "No". Then we were whisked down the freeway towards midtown Manhattan. Our cab was a HUGE Cadillac with the best sound system I've ever heard in a car. After half an hour we realised we were being taken the wrong way round - and the Spanish cabby tried to charge us $45, instead of $30, when we got to our hotel - the Iroquois on West 44th Street.

Going to bed at 1am New York time, it seemes silly that everyone got up so early the next morning. The sound check wasn't till 6pm, so we had the whole day to explore. On the way to the gig we stood outside the hotel and tried to catch a couple of real yellow cabs. They're brilliant - they're so hideous and uncomfortable, exactly as I imagined them. About a mile going downtown on Fifth Avenue was the Peppermint Lounge. It's quite an impressive club on three floors with viseo monitors, so you can watch the band playing from anywhere, and during change overs they show promo videos. We met the Members for the first time since our arrival, and after a soundcheck went back to the hotel, where I caught some American TV. The quiz programmes are hilarious, the adverts are cheap. Channel 5 news devoted 15 minutes to Joe Jackson, who was in town, and 5 minutes to the rest of the news - including the 17 murders that took place in the midtown on our first day in New York. At 12.15am we arrived back at the Peppermint Lounge for our American debut. The gig passed without major hitches, and the New Yorkers seemed to go a little apeshit over the group. After the apres gig pleasantries we avoided the herpes carriers and went back to the hotel for a large nightcap. It looked like the US was going to like Big Country.

Everyone went in different directions. Bruce went to Greenwich Village. Mark and Stuart went to Central Park and watched the local Saturday league baseball games, which by all accounts were hilarious. I met up with a family friend called Steve who took me round the city, including 42nd Street which is like Soho, but ten times worse, and Chinatown, which is like the one in London. The gig was going well again on our second night when, during the final number, Mark's floor tom tom fell on his leg, making it impossible to play properly. He promptly stopped the song, threw the drum stage left and Stuart announced this was a well rehearsed part of the song. Five seconds silence, then we were back into the song. What a great gig.

Still laughing about the tom tom episode, we were on our way to Washington DC for our last gig. We shared the minibus with the Members, which had its hysterical moments. I was a bit disappointed with Washington. The White House wasn't as big as I thought it might be, and the outskirts of town where the 9.30 club was situated weren't very embracing either. The two sets we played that night were the best of an ever increasing tightness and solidness of the group and the audience's enthusiastic response was confirmation enough. We stayed at the Iowa Jimu hotel in Washington, and driving back to New York the next day we caught a glimpse of the famous monument of the same name, which we think is on some famous group's record sleeve.

It took a long time to get back to New York. By the time we arrived we only had time to do a little shopping, and then it was on to the airport for the flight home. We were sad to be leaving, but glad to be going home. That was the general concensus of opinion, but as we were sitting in the airport bar waiting for our flight to be called, we reflected on the experience and looked forward to the next adventure.

by Tony Butler
(Taken from Issue 1 of Country Club Magazine, pgs 8-9)

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