1983 drummer-worship wasn’t completely dominated for me by Stewart Copeland; the other 50% I gave to a new gun in town (from Slough actually), who had an unpronounceable Polish surname. Mark Brzezicki grabbed my attention as the drummer for Celtic rockers, Big Country and as far as I was concerned, this guy had it all going on. A huge drum set (including Octobans), tons of cymbals, tastily busy drum parts and a band with great songs. Before I even read any interviews, it was obvious that he was another follower of the church of Copeland, which I got onto immediately.
What followed was yet another obscene display of kit-worship in my pathetic attempts to emulate my new hero. He had a Pearl natural wood 8-piece kit; I had a silver 7-piece Maxwin kit so drastic measures were needed. Without any hesitation, I proceeded to strip the plastic silver wrap off my drums, revealing horrible cheap mahogany plywood. Next step was a quick sanding and the application of a few coats of clear varnish and hey-presto, a ‘Big Country’ kit! But I still needed an extra Floor-tom plus the Octobans. Whilst these ridiculous inventions remained a luxury for richer teenage drummers than myself, a second Floor-tom wasn’t off the menu and I managed to obtain an old 16” Premier drum which suffered the same cosmetic treatment as the rest of my kit. I was never going to match Brzezicki for cymbals either, but did manage to get my hands on at least one Paiste 505 splash and a gorgeous UFIP china which cracked within a few weeks.
Over the next couple of years, the albums ‘The Crossing’ and ‘Steeltown’ became my drumming bible and as with Clive Burr in 1982, any band I played with would get the poor-boys Brzezicki treatment. This didn’t work out too badly though, as the band I was playing with were very much in that U2\Big Country\Alarm mould; so my busy rip-off drum parts weren’t too out of place in the music. Unfortunately, after that particular band had split, I continued to carry over my ubiquitous Brzezicki-isms into my next role as drummer in a group who wrote nice 80’s, jangly pop songs. Some of the recordings I made at the time were truly, cringe worthy, made even more deserving of punishment-by-death by my use of Octobans. Yes, by 1986 I had reached Octoban utopia, finally adding a completely unnecessary set of four to my kit.
Revisiting Big Country songs today, what Brzezicki played (though perhaps on the busy side) certainly worked within the framework of the music, helping give it an original feel that was perfect for its time. In fact, it was so good, that Brzezicki soon had an extra-curricular session diary to die for, giving me another goal to aim for. I too, wanted a piece of that session circuit and set my mind in focus for a career as an 80’s session drummer. Okay, this wasn’t exactly the most achievable of objectives for someone with my limited capabilities, but I enjoyed the thrill of the chase, for at least a few silly years.
As time moved on and in keeping with my transient habits, it wasn’t long before Big Country’s music was fading as an inspiration, in preference for softer sounding ear-candy. But I’ll always remain grateful for Mark’s generosity with his time, as the man was kind enough to respond to my naïve rookie requests for advice – not just once, but twice with personal phone calls made to me. He could have easily ignored me and got on with more important things, but instead, chose to be a decent ambassador for drumming.
Fast forward to 2001 and it was saddening to hear about the suicide of Stuart Adamson, especially when I look back at my ‘Steeltown’ signed tour program where the man himself had written: “To Nick, stay alive” (Anyone for irony?) At the time of writing this, it appears that the remaining members of Big Country have teamed up with Mike Peters of The Alarm for a tour. Whether this will work or not, or even if it’s being done with the blessing of Adamson’s family, I don’t know. Maybe some bands should simply just remain as fantastic memories? Whatever the future holds for Mark Brzezicki and his musical partners, the landmark album ‘The Crossing’, will forever rank high in my list of life-changing vinyl.