The Proclaimers are a Scottish rock duo formed in 1983 by twin brothers Craig and Charlie Reid, who were born on 5 March 1962. They came to attention with their 1987 single "Letter from America", which reached No. 3 in the United Kingdom, and the 1988 single "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)", which topped charts in Australia, Iceland and New Zealand. The Proclaimers have sold over 5 million albums worldwide.
|Born||5 March 1962 (twins)|
Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland
|Origin||Auchtermuchty, Fife, Scotland|
Garry John Kane
First active from 1983 as an acoustic duo, the Proclaimers moved toward band-oriented rock in later works. The Proclaimers' style draws from a diversity of influences, including country, folk, and punk rock. Their playing range has included roots rock, alternative rock and folk rock, and their music is typified by their Scottish accents. The Proclaimers often tour internationally, and have released 11 studio albums since 1987, the most recent being 2018's Angry Cyclist, as well as three compilation albums and a DVD.
Alluding to the early careers of Craig and Charles Reid in 1989, Bill Wyman of Chicago Reader commented that the pair "got into music through punk". After Craig received a beaten-up drum kit and Charlie a guitar, the pair played in punk rock bands named Black Flag, Hippy Hasslers and Reasons for Emotion. Craig Reid, in a 2016 interview with Esquire Middle East, relayed that he loved punk acts such as The Clash, The Jam, the Sex Pistols, as well as "all the mid-60s stuff… The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks".
Formation and This Is the Story (1983–1987)
Becoming cognisant of the potential of playing as a duo, the Reids established the Proclaimers as an acoustic duo in 1983. In allusion to their early sound, actor Peter Mullan said that the Proclaimers played "a mix of post-punk and folk". During this time, the duo attracted a regional fan-base, with Inverness having an especially dedicated community of supporters. Many of the duo's songs, such as "Letter from America" which was written in 1984 and reflected unemployment rates of the day, were conceived in this period.
The Proclaimers recorded a demo album with the assistance of Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners.[when?] The demo fell into the hands of English indie pop band the Housemartins, who invited the Proclaimers to support them on their 1986 tour. First opening at the Hummingbird in Birmingham, the tour afforded the duo the opportunity to perform on Channel 4 pop programme The Tube in January 1987, and Chrysalis Records quickly signed the pair.
In 1987, the duo's John Williams-produced debut record This Is the Story was released through Chrysalis, and displayed a minimalist sound lauded by Timothy Monger as "sparse but spirited". For release as a single, the album-track "Letter from America" was remixed by Gerry Rafferty, embellishing the song with a full-band sound. The single peaked at No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart, as the duo appeared on Top of the Pops for the first time on 12 December 1987, while the album This Is the Story went gold. On their 1987 breakthrough, Neil McCormick of The Telegraph opined that the pair "stuck out like a pair of sore thumbs" amidst the "ersatz glamour of Eighties pop".
Sunshine on Leith (1988–1993)
The follow-up album, Sunshine on Leith, was released in 1988 and featured a rock-driven sound as the Proclaimers worked with a band for the first time. Ranging in lyrical-themes from familial joy to Scottish nationalism, the record featured the singles "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)", which went to number one in Australia and New Zealand, and "I'm On My Way". The album was a particularly big hit in Australia in 1989, being that year's 12th biggest-seller, reaching No. 2, and attaining a 2× multi-platinum certification by the ARIA. Craig Reid described this success as their "biggest ever". Attaining certifications of 2× multi-platinum in Canada, at the time of June 2009 Sunshine on Leith had sold a worldwide total of 2 million copies. The album was a critical success, with Rolling Stone in May 1989 lauding it "a wonderfully guileless treasure of an album".
Sunshine on Leith's following concert tour included a performance at the 1989 Glastonbury Festival, playing to an audience of over 65,000.
"I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" belatedly peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1993, after appearing in the movie Benny & Joon, becoming their only chart single in the United States. This popularity saw the Proclaimers supporting American glam metal band Bon Jovi, alongside 10,000 Maniacs, at the Madison Square Garden concert on their I'll Sleep When I'm Dead Tour. Sunshine on Leith peaked at No. 31, shifting close to 700,000 units in the US by 2001.
Hit the Highway and hiatus (1994–2001)
The Proclaimers' third studio album, Hit the Highway, was released in 1994. Continuing in the band-oriented rock direction of Sunshine on Leith, Hit the Highway fell short of previous successes. Irrespective, the record spawned the hit "Let's Get Married", charting in the United Kingdom, Canada and Austria.
The Proclaimers recorded a cover of "Get Ready" by the Temptations for the 1994 screwball comedy film Dumb and Dumber. Cameron Matthews of Vice praised the song "a rocking cover" which gave "a Scottish twist to the ... original".
Return and Persevere (2001–2002)
After seven low-profile years, they released their comeback album Persevere in 2001. Lauded by Canadian culture publication Exclaim! as a "remarkable comeback", Persevere was to-date the only album of theirs to be recorded in the United States, and saw the duo tour North America in support of Canadian alternative rock band Barenaked Ladies.
The Best of The Proclaimers the duo's first greatest hits album, was released on 15 April 2002. The album was hailed by Hal Horowitz as "a near-perfect summary" of their material. Reaching No. 5 and being certified platinum in the UK, the compilation also charted in New Zealand.
Born Innocent (2003–2004)
The Proclaimers' fifth studio effort, Born Innocent, was released in 2003. Their first release on their own label, Persevere Records, the record was hailed as "a return to form" and saw the duo work with Orange Juice frontman Edwyn Collins. Born Innocent was ranked at No. 26 for Mojo Magazine's "Albums of the Year".
Finest, the duo's second greatest hits album, was also released in 2003. Released through EMI that September, the compilation was received less favorably than its predecessor, but was nonetheless certified silver in the UK.
Restless Soul and Life With You (2005–2008)
The sixth studio effort, Restless Soul, was released in 2005.
In March 2007 a new version of "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)", recorded for Comic Relief, reached No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart. The revival of the hit featured guest vocals from sitcom characters Andy Pipkin (portrayed by Matt Lucas) and Brian Potter (Peter Kay), of Little Britain and Phoenix Nights, respectively.
A seventh studio album, Life with You, was released on 3 September 2007 in the UK, and April 2008 in the US. The lead single, "Life with You", reached No. 58 in the UK, having been the only new Proclaimers single to chart since 1994, while the record itself was their highest-charting in 13 years, peaking at No. 13. Life with You enjoyed a generally praising critical reception, with Boston Globe praising the record's politically edged content, remarking that "the Proclaimers are best when [...] proclaiming".
Notes & Rhymes (2009–2011)
Notes & Rhymes, the eighth Proclaimers studio album, was released in June 2009 on the W14 label. They signed to Cooking Vinyl thereafter. The European release was on 15 June 2009, with the US release on 11 August 2009. It was simultaneously released as both the standard CD and a 'Special Limited Edition' 2-CD set, the latter being a double, slimline jewel-case. CD2 has ten tracks: four acoustic and six live. The acoustic tracks were produced by John Williams, who had produced the Proclaimers' debut album This Is the Story. The album, including the bonus CD, was also released as a digital download.
They featured in VH1's 100 greatest one hit wonders, "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" having been their only US hit single.
Like Comedy (2012–2014)
Like Comedy, in 2012, was the Proclaimers' ninth studio effort and their first to be released on Cooking Vinyl records. In its sound a foray into blue-eyed soul, the record enjoyed a "generally favourable reception".
In 2014, the Sunshine on Leith track "Cap in Hand", noted for its nationalist stance, came to prominence in the wake of the Scottish Independence Referendum that September. The song reached No. 6 in Scotland and No. 62 on the UK Singles Chart.
Let's Hear It for the Dogs (2015–2017)
A tenth studio album, Let's Hear It for the Dogs, was released in April 2015. The album was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales and produced by Dave Eringa. As stated by member Charlie Reid, the decision to have Eringa produce Let's Hear It for the Dogs was brought about by an admiration for his work with Manic Street Preachers, and on the Johnson and Daltrey album Going Back Home.
Angry Cyclist (2018–present)
Their latest album, Angry Cyclist, was released in August 2018. Noted for its political lyrics attacking Brexit and the Trump administration, Angry Cyclist attracted a favourable reception, AllMusic's Marcy Donelson lauding the record "one of [their] best", and The Skinny praising the album-track "Classy" as "lyrical genius".
During Angry Cyclist's accompanying promotional tour, they performed in the United Kingdom, Asia, Canada and Australia, to over 400,000 people. The Proclaimers also opened at the 2019 Glastonbury Festival.
In 2006, the twins participated in a campaign to free a fellow Scot, Kenny Richey, from his death row sentence in Ohio, United States, including an appearance at a charity concert. In December 2007, Richey accepted a plea bargain, which led to his release from death row and return to Scotland on 9 January 2008. Also, in March 2010 they participated with Billy Bragg in a show at the Electric Palace, Bridport, supporting Reprieve, a charity that seeks to end the use of the death penalty.
In April 2021, the twins endorsed the Alba Party.
Influences and style
Craig Reid has acknowledged 1970s punk rock as a major influence, citing the Clash, the Jam, the Damned and the Sex Pistols as inspirational. On the punk influence, Stuff New Zealand remarked that punk bands galvanized the Proclaimers into making "whatever music they liked, in their own way, using their own accents". Other notable influences included 1960s music, such as the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and the Beatles, as well as later acts such as Dexys Midnight Runners, Joy Division, and Bruce Springsteen.
When exploring lyrical influences in a 2012 interview with The Scotsman, the Proclaimers cited Dexys' Kevin Rowland, The Blockheads' Ian Dury, Joe Strummer of the Clash, the Smiths vocalist Morrissey and Merle Haggard as their "favourite lyricists".
Described by Timothy Monger of AllMusic as a "charismatic amalgam", the Proclaimers' style of music incorporates elements of country, folk, new wave, pop, punk rock, rock, rockabilly and soul. Stylistically, the Proclaimers have been typified as alternative folk, alternative rock, Celtic pop, country folk, folk rock, post-punk, rhythm and blues, and roots rock.
The vocals in the Proclaimers' music are characterized by thick Scottish accents. Describing this to The Courier in 2018, Craig Reid commented "it was a conscious thing, because we were singing about where we live, our experiences and it just felt stupid to sing in an English or American accent".
Impact and influence
Many bands and artists have cited the Proclaimers as an influence or inspiration, including the Balconies, Barenaked Ladies, Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura, the Concretes, Jens Lekman, Sondre Lerche, Lonely Dear, Oppenheimer, Peter Bjorn and John and the Weepies.
Recalling feeling an immediate kinship with the Proclaimers after discovering This Is the Story, Steven Page of Barenaked Ladies commented that "[the album] was perfect for us because it was exactly what we were; two guys with acoustic guitars, singing in harmony. It had all the energy of punk rock but just with acoustic guitars and voices".
Sunshine on Leith, a stage musical spotlighting the songs of The Proclaimers, was named in renown of the group's second studio album and its title track. The TMAAward-winning musical debuted in 2007, and the film adaptation, starring Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks, was completed in 2013, grossing over US$4.7 million after debuting at No. 3 in the UK box office.
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- Born Innocent (2003)
- Restless Soul (2005)
- Life with You (2007)
- Notes & Rhymes (2009)
- Like Comedy (2012)
- Let's Hear It for the Dogs (2015)
- Angry Cyclist (2018)
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