b. Manchester, England
A POST-PUNK bassist turned composer of jazz-tinged themes to imaginary films, Adamson’s musical career began in the late ’70s as bass player in art-school punk band Magazine, fronted by ex-Buzzcock Howard Devoto. He followed this with a stint alongside another former member of the Buzzcocks, Pete Shelley, before joining the Bad Seeds, the backing group of Australian goth-rocker Nick Cave.
Leaving the Bad Seeds in 1987, Adamson turned his attention to writing jazzy, instrumental pieces in the style of Ennio Morricone and John Barry. His début solo album, Moss Side Story (1989), had little commercial impact, but its hip-hop-inspired sound provided inspiration for British trip-hop acts, including Portishead.
In the next few years Adamson fulfilled his dream of producing an actual film score with his work on Delusion (1991) and Gas Food Lodging (1992), before returning to his solo career with Soul Murder (1992) and The Negro Inside Me (1993), which included experimentation with ska and funk, respectively. Oedipus Shmoedipus (1996) revisited the sound of Moss Side Story, and featured an array of guest vocalists, including Jarvis Cocker (Pulp), Billy MacKenzie (formerly of the Associates) and old colleague Nick Cave.
After three of his compositions were included on the soundtrack to David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1996) (which was produced by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails), Adamson released his fifth album, As Above, So Below (1998), his most successful to date, which saw him sing for the first time. The Murky World of Barry Adamson (1999) compiled the best of his solo work.
© Phil Hardy, Dave Laing, Faber Companion to 20th Century Popular Music, 2001