The Proclaimers

Craig and Charlie Reid - not throwing the "R" away

If there is one thing that the writers of FirstFoot have learned in the writing of FirstFoot it is simply that the Scots have a long and wonderful history of rarely agreeing on anything.

This, of all character traits, has been our national downfall through the ages. We are so enured to fighting, we do it amongst ourselves for fun.

What the fuck has this got to do with the Proclaimers, you may be asking? The answer is simple, and so atypically Scottish.

Few Scottish bands polarise popular opinion or provoke heated debate quite like them. You're either for them or against them, love them or loathe them. Simple as that. Like Labour or Conservative, Highland or Lowland, MacDonald or Campbell, Protestant or Catholic, Glasgow or Edinburgh. Good Pop or Bad Pop? The choice is yours. Cast your vote and take your side. There's no middle ground, no abstaining.

That being said, the Proclaimers' place in the Good Pop part of this particular site owes more, it must be admitted, to their proudly proclaimed Scottishness than to their musical prowess per se. Even their greatest fans would probably admit they are capable of swinging from brilliance to bollocks within the space of two album tracks.
Craig and Charlie Reid
Craig and Charlie Reid are not identical twins. Apparently one is uglier than the other. We know who our money is on. But we're not saying.

When they're good (the rousing "I'm gonna be 500 miles" or the haunting "Act of Remembrance", they're great, when they're bad (the turgid "I want to be a Christian" to name but one), they're utterly appalling. God bless the god-fearing Hi-bee twins. Or Devil take them, as the case may be.

Charlie and Craig Reid were born in Leith in 1962 but none of that biographical shite is important.

What's important is that around about 1983 a couple of geeky Scottish laddies decided they wanted to sing pop songs in the accent of their everyday language.

The Record Producers and Publishers tut-tutted, pooh-poohed, and told them to get real and sing their songs in proper English if they wanted to be successful in the music business. "Take Jim Kerr" they said, "he speaks in a Glasgow accent but doesn't sing in it."

The brothers stuck two (or four collective) fingers up at this Simple-Minded advice, insisting that even though it might limit the number of people who would buy the records, "it's our lyrics, our life we're talking about and we'll sing it in our own way."
Siamese twins Craig and Charlie before the operation to separate them.
Siamese twins Craig and Charlie before the operation to separate them.

And lo, after being "discovered" on Channel Four's seminal pop-prog "The Tube" in 1987, "Letter from America" swept the planet and made "Scottish" trendy in the pop world.

The pointed song that the boys wrote about these early conversations with the Record Company "experts", however, and which featured on their first album, "This is the story", is the real summation of why the Reid boys are must-have inclusions into any celebration of Scots Pop music.

"THROW THE 'R' AWAY"

I've been so sad, since you said my accent was bad,
He's worn a frown, this Caledonian clown.

I'm just gonna have to learn to hesitate,
To make sure my words on your Saxon ears don't grate,
But I wouldn't know a single word to say,
If I flattened all the vowels and I threw the 'R' away.

You say that if I want to get ahead,
The language I use should be left for dead.
It doesn't please your ears and though you tell it like a leg-pull
I think you're still full of John Bull
You just refuse to hear.

Some days I stand on your green and pleasant land,
How dare I show face, when my diction is such a disgrace.

Oh what can I do, to be understood by you?
Perhaps for some money, I could talk like a bee dripping honey.

Or, to put it another way, "Get it right up ye, ya English tossers!"

Love 'em or loathe 'em, they broke with convention and, in the face of enormous pressure to "conform", had the strength of conviction to stand up, and sing up, for what they believed in. And ye cannae say fairer than that.

PROCLAIMERS TRIVIA FOOTNOTE

Strange but true. Before forming the Proclaimers in 1983, the Reid brothers performed in various punk, yes punk, bands. It's hard to picture, we know. Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten they most certainly ain't!

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