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The Proclaimers

Scotland’s own modern-day EVERLY BROTHERS, singing twins Craig and Charlie Reid (lifelong Hibee supporters both) have become folk-rock celebrities since their induction into pop music a quarter of a century ago. Not just heroes in the homeland, the bespectacled siblings have stretched their wares across the seas to Australia and indeed America, where their tag of one-hit-wonder doesn’t seem to be an albatross around their neck.
Born in Leith, they ended up in Auchtermuchty (via Cornwall), although the Scottish capital drew them back to become their permanent locale again in 1986. It’s not always pointed out, but pop’s pauper princes played in punk bands The Hippie Hasslers and Reasons For Emotion before opting for The PROCLAIMERS. With the help of fan/manager, Kenny McDonald (who’d sent a demo to The HOUSEMARTINS, c/o Chrysalis Records), the lads from Leith found themselves on tour as support act, while a bemusing but stunning appearance on Channel 4’s premier music show The Tube helped gain them exposure for a forthcoming Top 50 debut album THIS IS THE STORY (1987) {*7}.
Without a hit initially (lead-off track `Throw The `R’ Away’ had failed), the record was a showcase for their boy-next door, uber-geek appeal and heavy-accented Scots brogue on the likes of `The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues’, minor hit-to-be `Make My Heart Fly’ and a cover of GEORGE JONES’ `(I’m Gonna) Burn Your Playhouse Down’. Of course, the set might never have got off the ground if not for their classic GERRY RAFFERTY-produced “band version” of `Letter From America’ (a song about the Highland clearances), which hit the UK Top 3 that December; the twins were proud activist members of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The following year The PROCLAIMERS went electric, recruiting a full band: namely guitarist Jerry Donahue, bassist Phil Cranham, drummer Paul Robinson and on keyboards/production Pete Wingfield for their Top 10 C&W-tinged sophomore effort SUNSHINE ON LEITH (1988) {*8}.
Bombastic, emotional and rousing, the set was enhanced and led by stomp-a-long classic `I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’, while the equally stirring `I’m On My Way’ and the title track entered the charts for a minor placing; token cover this time around was STEVE EARLE’s `My Old Friend The Blues’. While the twins took an extended sabbatical to record their new album and help with the campaign to save their beloved and beleaguered Hibernian F.C. (who were on the verge of an unscrupulous but unsuccessful coup/takeover by Hearts boss Wallace Mercer), a stop-gap EP `King Of The Road’ (led by the Roger Miller cover) reached Top 10 status. Shocking even the brothers themselves, and boosted by airplay and its inclusion in the 1993 movie Benny And Joon, `I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ took the States by storm, eventually reaching Top 3; without much effort, the parent album also went double platinum.
The long-awaited third set, the Top 10’er HIT THE HIGHWAY {*5} eventually emerged in 1994, a more contemporary country outing with equally traditional, gospel-like lyrics to match on songs like `Let’s Get Married’, `What Makes You Cry’ and OTIS REDDING’s `These Arms Of Mine’; a second cover was a re-vamp of The Consolers’ `I Want To Be A Christian’.
After another long hiatus, the twins emerged BLUE NILE-like in 2001, courtesy of their first LP in eight years, the delightful and appropriately-titled PERSEVERE {*5}. Not much had changed since the whimsical `I Gonna Be’, with The PROCLAIMERS remaining true to their original style (and original accents!). If `There’s A Touch’ was the less serious offering on the set, then `Scotland’s Story was the politicised “Letter Fi’”.
The harmonious heart and soul of Caledonia, but finding it hard to regain lost momentum from these wilderness years, the twins’ credibility was given a massive injection via their critically-acclaimed fifth album, BORN INNOCENT (2003) {*7}. While there was that token cover again through Allen Reynolds’ `Five O’Clock World’, one could shake yer proverbial hat at bawdy rock’n’roller `Role Model’, the Cajun-pumping `Dear Deidre’ and the foot-tapping opening title track. RESTLESS SOUL (2005) {*5} was another above-par album that produced good ballads rather than great. Recorded in London, it seemed to be stuck in a time-warp of sorts, although their genuine infectious appeal shone through on `When Love Stuck You Down’ and `I’m Gone’.
Just when things looked to be tailing away again, up popped huge fan Peter Kay to save the day, not just for The PROCLAIMERS but the perennial Comic Relief appeal. Yes, 2007 was another turning point for the duo when comedians Kay (alias Brian Potter of Phoenix Nights infamy) and Matt Lucas (Andy Pipkin of Little Britain) all collaborated and hit No.1 with a re-vamped `I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’. Back on track with Universal Records and A&R/producer John Williams (from their halcyon debut days), The PROCLAIMERS scoured the Top 20 album charts again via LIFE WITH YOU (2007) {*6}; check out their version of WRECKLESS ERIC’s `(I’d Go The) Whole Wide World’. It seemed the public had taken the songwriting twins back into their hearts when NOTES & RHYMES (2009) {*6} also reached the Top 30. Generated by one of their greatest ballads in yonks, `Love Can Move Mountains’ (surely one-that-got-away) and dual covers of DAMIEN DEMPSEY’s `Sing All Our Cares Away’ and Moe Bandy’s `It Was Always So Easy (To Find An Unhappy Woman)’, one couldn’t fault the brother’s dexterity and fortitude. If not exactly one of Scotland’s trendiest bands, The PROCLAIMERS remain one of the best loved.
Celebrating a quarter of a century since their inaugural release way back in ’87, hit album number nine, LIKE COMEDY (2012) {*6}, proved the middle-age twins could spread their happy-go-lucky tunes outside the confines of Auld Reekie. Slick and soulful as ever, the dozen songs here might seem a little sugar-coated though theatrical and literate (`After You’re Gone’, `Whatever You’ve Got’ and the title track probably the choice cuts), but the lads pull it off once again.
Picking up the pieces from a close-call Scottish referendum to break free from the government south of the border, The PROCLAIMERS were asking a “yes” or a “no” vote on their simplistic country-soul set LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE DOGS (2015) {*6}. Reminiscent of second-tier rock’n’rollers like DION, DEL SHANNON and others of the early 60s, the Reid brothers’ manifesto of musical homage was a mixed bag. Addressing head-on the child abuse scandal of the Jimmy Saville case and other stars on TV from their boyhood on `Then Again’, their wry sense of humour was not so sugar-coated and, with whimsical `What School?’ the siblings never shirk to tackle personal subject matter. A potpourri of pop-punk, rockabilly, R&B and retro-roots (further examples `You Built Me Up’, `Forever Young’ and the tear-jerking father-daughter ballad `Ten Tiny Fingers’), The PROCLAIMERS needn’t go the whole distance (or “500 Miles” south) to garner respect from their proud nation – whether it be Scotland or Britain.
© MC Strong 1994-2011/GRD-GFD2 // rev-up MCS Mar2013-Apr2015

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