Aside from Bros
it's hard to think of another pair of twins who have etched their names into the musical history books in quite the same way as the twins Charlie and Craig Reid of The Proclaimers.
The twins early life in Scotland was to form the basis for their rough and ready experiments into the extremes of folk pop. They spent their formative years in Edinburgh and the small fishing town of Auchtermuchty in Fife. I'll claim ignorance on what a youngster might gain from a youth spent in Edinburgh, but if any of you have ever been to Auchtermuchty you'll know something yourself of the hell and torment possible that far up north. On a personal note I spent a good amount of time up there, my family used to rent a small holiday home in that very town for three weeks a year. My Grandfather was a strict Church Of Scotland man who would never countenance the twin sins of fun and relaxation during a vacation. Auchtermuchty is as free from those sins as to be a holy site, a kind of Presbyterian Lourdes.
Following some early teenage musical experiments the young brothers formed The Proclaimers in the winter of 1983. As the winds and rain of another cold Scottish winter battered the small windows of the traditional Little Chef eaterie just off the M25 near Edinburgh, two men, who looked remarkably similar to each other, plotted their domination of the pop charts over tea and beans on toast. It is often whispered amongst A&R men and others with more spiritual tendencies than the norm, that the ghost of Wallace himself watched over the two as they planned. Far be it for cynical old me to point out the fact the Nick Park didn't start work on Aardman Animations until much later, I'll leave the myth to itself.
Their plans for world domination and eventual planetary presidentship were not to be quickly brought to fulfillment. It would be almost four years before their first chart success. In 1987 a tour with the Housemartins propelled them to television and an appearance on The Tube, singing their classic diatribe against failing postal infrastructure in
the face of electronic commerce, Letter from America. In that one show they grabbed the loins of Britain and squeezed, tightly but gently. Two weeks later they were signed to Chrysalis records and their form of funky, sex with specs folk was hitting the stores as a seven inch single. The album it came from was destined to go gold and the single itself reached number 3 in the UK Pop Charts for almost a whole week. At last things were beginning to come together. Soon the world would know just how POP bi-focals and colourful, but cosy, cardigans were. Soon no-one would mock. Or at the very least, less would mock and those that did mock wouldn't be quite so nasty.
The heady chart success of the first album was to be followed by a rigorous touring schedule that covered over 300 countries in 149 nights of concerts. A new album to promote and volumous sales of pin-up posters were fuelling the duo's
thoughts of conquering the planet. But one last push was needed, one last big move that would ensure the future they sought. America. The pair had never seen any chart success in the USA, and they wanted that market and its publicity machine to bring about the changes in world politics they needed to install themselves at the head of the UN. As with their very start the rumours and stories about just what happened abound, we shall perhaps never know the real truth. Some talk of promotional deals with Burger King, others whisper of how Craig fell toward the Dark Side and wanted to bring in someone good looking to front the band, or at least someone less obtusely ugly. The spiritual followers of the two still to this day claim, however, that it was the spirit of Elvis who looked down on them and did speak, and thus he spake 'Cover versions, my children. Songs in the public domain are best, but yay, verily, might ye also seek those songs owned by the record company, for neither should ye seek to sing new songs, being as they are tied to royalty payments to the writers and thus is thine own percentage of the gross cut.'
Whatever the true story is the result was dismal. America was not to be brought over to the fold, not yet anyway. It would be some years later, 1993 to be precise, when events would turn themselves to promoting the heroes in the land of Apple Pie. The song I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) was chosen as the theme tune to the latest Hollywood block-buster Benny and Joon. Chart success followed and our dynamic duo were back on track to save Gotham.
The gold disc festooned early nineties were, sadly, to be the peak for the lads. Follow up releases from a new album were destined to languish. Poor showing at the gates of concerts compounded the issues and the twinkling twins of urban soul were forced to retreat back to their Scottish roots to plot the next move. Many rumours still circulate as to their fate. Hushed whispers amongst the inner circle of Auchtermuchty's musical elite talk of come-backs and world-tours, but they remain the talk of those in the know, the soft Try, Try Again from the spirit of the Celts. The world awaits, but is it yet ready for two young men to wipe the steam from their bi-focals and sing once more those tunes of anguish and pain. We may never know, but I for one still hold onto my Argyle sweater with pride and longing.
Facts taken from the unofficial Proclaimers website (the official one seems to have gone the way of the DoDo) at http://huizen.dds.nl/~ernie/proclaim/index.htm . Please note that this site contains pictures of the twins and may prove disturbing for those with an aesthetic.
I've also been told that the official web site is back up at http://www.proclaimers.co.uk