In A Slower, Wistful Big Country

This makes me both happy and sad: Kohl’s is using a cover of the 1983 hit In A Big Country in their latest ad. I’m happy to see my favorite band get some (posthumous) publicity, but the cover version they’re using makes me cringe. The demographic obviously being targeted here is my age group. But, y’know, we’re all in our mid-thirties and early forties now, and – while we have fond memories of the electric guitar rock of our youth – we’ve all mellowed with age, and hearing it again in its original form would just hurt our aging, sensitive ears. We’re much more likely to shop at Kohl’s if they play a slower, more wistful version of the song for us.

And to think I listened to Big Black’s Atomizer on the way to work this morning.

Update: Some in the Big Country discussion forum were wondering if the surviving band members get any royalties from this sort of thing. The answer is no – Mercury owns most of their back catalogue and can do whatever they want with it, with no payment to the band. Since I’ve already mentioned Big Black in this post, I’ll quote their former frontman Steve Albini (who went on to produce albums for the Pixies, Breeders, and dozens of others) on the matter:

“Starting with Jefferson Airplane and The MC5 and going right up to Sonic Youth and Husker Du, it’s never worked. In 30 years no band has ever come out of the system alive. They get signed, they get arm-wrestled into spending too much money on their records, they get into debt to the record company, they spend 18 months trying to get out of it, it doesn’t work and the band breaks up. That has been such a constant that I can’t believe anyone still falls for it…”

Steve gazes calmly into the hell that is corporate rock. “It boggles my mind that everyone thinks they can pull the wool over the eyes of a company that’s had 30 years’ experience in dicking rock bands. Now that means that bands are being arm-wrestled into sounding like Nirvana; and the only way record companies can imagine doing that is by hiring Nirvana’s producer, so every band on a major label has been remixed by Nirvana’s producer this year…and I just don’t have any interest in being part of the continuum.”

8 thoughts on “In A Slower, Wistful Big Country

  • Came across your comment on the Kohl’s ad as I was doing a search to find out who it was that was ruining “In a Big Country”. Not only is it “slower, more wistful” as you said, what annoys me most is that they didn’t even take the time to learn the right chords. Each time I’ve heard the commercial, I’ve thought, “something’s missing…” and that’s it: they’ve simplified the chords so much as to loose any of the harmonic interest of the original. All I can say is…argh. For the record, I’m 39, almost 40, and since the eighties my tastes in music have gradually leaned further and further toward heavy metal, not easy listening!

    Dan

  • Also ran across the advertisment for Kohl today. First I had heard of Kohl (wife knew them), but it brought back memories of that radical group I loved.. (Yeah, Wonderland still rules) ..I am 39 too.

    Anyhoo, would like to know the group that did the soft version (I still collect BC stuff and remakes are included).. LOL, had a buddy that even did a fanzine (unoffical) for BC. Odd, my musical tastes have softened over time (just to break the tiebreak)…

    Anyhoo… still stuck in the 80’s… and BC (steeltown, their second full album release) was probable the most underated album of the era.

    Thanks for bringing up the subject toppa dude.

  • Just a follow up to the question of “who” especially for LowOil. This is from a forum discussing songs in commercials:

    “…the song in the commercial is NOT Big Country. According to a message posted on the official Big Country website, it was performed by “session musicians” just for the Kohls commercial, and will not be release (or for sale).”

    …from another blog, at http://www.promoguy.net/archives/002927.php

    I couldn’t find the comment in the BC forum to confirm, but it rings true, in light of Albini’s quote!

  • Thanks Dan Walsh for the infomation. I will just have to do a soundrecord program on that snippit of song for my collection (good or bad, I still collect old BC stuff)..

    It was interesting doing some research (it has been a while) at the official BC site and ran across a thread with more remakes of BC songs, so I will have some digging to do to keep up.

    Thank goodness this internet makes it easier than searching that old “Goldmine” mag that I used to comb religiously for rare gems to actually bid on in snail mail days.

    Stay Alive…

    LowOiL

  • It is correct, it’s Jimmy Gnecco of the band “Ours” and as far as getting chords right, what does that have to do with a remake (cover)?? A cover song should be about taking a sweet rhythm and some awesome lyrics, and making it your own. I say rock on “Jimmy Gnecco.” I hope the full version is released; sorry guys but that’s one of those early 80s songs that could use some refreshment (nothing against Big Country) I love those guys as well.

    THE BLACKMAILER

  • It is correct, it’s Jimmy Gnecco of the band “Ours” and as far as getting chords right, what does that have to do with a remake (cover)?? A cover song should be about taking a sweet rhythm and some awesome lyrics, and making it your own. I say rock on “Jimmy Gnecco.” I hope the full version is released; sorry guys but that’s one of those early 80s songs that could use some refreshment (nothing against Big Country) I love those guys as well.

    THE BLACKMAILER

    PS. please remove the above add, i am in no way a part of Kohl’s, sorry!! i forgot to put in my name!!

  • What difference does it make? It’s a great song in any shape or form. It will make people re-visit Big Country I am listening to them as I type this. Bottom line is it’s a great song! There are more inportant things to worry about.

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