A proclamation of independence

The Proclaimers
The Proclaimers
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When comedian Matt Lucas suggested to Scottish stars The Proclaimers that they should dress up as elderly ladies and let him film them, they hesitated.

But the pair, twins Charlie and Craig Reid, soon found they were surprisingly comfortable with cross dressing.

Charlie admits: “I think initially there was a slight...I mean, let’s be honest, most people would consider it before they did it!

“But as soon as we put the stuff on, it was funny and, after two hours of walking about in it, you kinda wondered what people were staring at, you know, hahah!

“After a while, it became very very comfortable, put it that way!”

The Reid twins, who enjoyed a seemingly never ending worldwide hit with I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), weren’t being lured into transvestism by the Little Britain star. Lucas, a passionate Proclaimers fan, was producing the video for their latest single, Spinning Around in the Air.

Charlie explains laughing: “The background to the video is meant to be a Golden Wedding anniversary at this house in Glasgow. People turn up and two old ladies - as it turns out, us - mix punch and people get progressively more drunk.

“That was a lot of fun. But it’s quite a hard thing to do in terms of keeping everybody going. I’m not saying we’re not genuinely old - we were 50 this year so we’re well on.

“But there were people in the video who were considerably older than us and to keep the energy level up and keep everybody smiling through a 12 hour shoot, I think, was fantastic. He was absolutely fabulous as a director.”

The Leith-born twins, who play a sold out Preston Guild Hall tomorrow, first emerged in 1986 with a spot on the hugely influential music show, The Tube. Their performance of Letter From America propelled the song to Number Three in the charts and their debut album, This Is The Story, went gold.

But it was the follow up, Sunshine on Leith, which spawned the tune which was to make them instantly recognisable around the world.

Although it is, without question, The Proclaimers biggest song, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) only reached Number 11 first time out. Charlie says: “That song was always bigger later on.

“But at the time, it hung about in the chart for a long time - and we sold a massive amount of records on the back of it. The great thing for us was the Sunshine on Leith album was huge in Britain - and that was what we wanted.

“We never really bothered about singles, we wanted to sell albums. So it worked in that respect back in the 1980s.”

The brothers disappeared for much of the 1990s, preoccupied with family concerns. Charlie says: “I’ve got three kids, Craig’s got four. And there was a lot of stuff going on. My Dad got really ill and then he died - there was always reasons maybe not to go out again for a while. But we started from 2000 and we’ve been on the road consistently.”

They rediscovered their creativity and have produced an album roughly every two years since. Charlie says: “I think we just hit a bit of a vein of form and we just seemed to be able to do it more easily, produce more records. Our thing had always been we’d not produced enough songs or enough records so from 2000 onwards, we were really on the road every year.”

But it was a chance encounter with comedian Peter Kay which catapulted them - and 500 Miles - into a whole new sphere.

Charlie says: “We were on at the G8 show at Murrayfield a few years ago and Peter Kay was on that. It was maybe a year or two before.

“Maybe he saw the reaction from the crowd and that gave him the idea, I’m guessing. But, from 2001 up to 2007, we’d been getting progressively more successful anyway.”

The subsequent release of the song as the Children in Need single in 2007 took it to the top of the charts for the first time and ignited a whole new wave of fame for the twins. Charlie says: “We just never stopped.

“The song itself became more well known in the early part of this century than it was even when it was a hit. And the song has long outgrown and far outgrown the group itself. It’s unbelievable and it’s the only thing we’ve done that’s been a truly international song.

“It’s kept us in the public eye - and it’s kept people thinking about us.”

And starring in the video alongside Kay was their old friend Matt Lucas in character as wheelchair con artist Andy from Little Britain.

Lucas is a longterm fan. Charlie says: “In the late 1990s, he started emailing our manager, Kenny, and saying, ‘My name is Matt Lucas, you may know me as George Dawes from the TV.’ We were like, ‘Oh right, he’s really funny!’ And we didn’t think anymore about it.

“Then in about 2001, he came along to a radio show we recorded at the BBC and we’ve known him since then. He did the liner notes for the first Best Of we put out in 2002. Yeah, he’s great with us.”

But his appearance in the Comic Relief video was pure coincidence. Charlie says: “Matt Lucas was called in by Peter Kay and he didn’t know that Matt was a big Proclaimers fan so he was delighted.

“I think it was the wheelchair thing, it was just a tie up. So that was fantastic, it was just a great stroke of luck for us.”

The brothers say they are enjoying their success much more the second time around. Although they no longer top the charts, much of what they do is now self financed, giving them more control and more security.

And they also say being older helps them to take things in their stride. Charlie says: “The first time around, we were only 26 and we were still quite new to playing professionally. Everything was new really and I suppose you’re quite nervous that it’s all going to disappear.

“The sole ambition when we signed was to stay working, doing this professionally, it wasn’t to have hit records, it wasn’t to fill concert halls, it was just not to go back and sign on again, that was the Number One.

“Given the fact of how long we’d spent on the dole up to when we signed a contract in 1987, that was always a fear.

“By the time, we reached the age when it (500 Miles) was a hit again, we weren’t so worried about that. I think overall we’ve enjoyed things better since the comeback in 2000.

“It’s a lot more enjoyable, we felt happier about it, about ourselves - and happier that we were not going to go straight back on the dole!”

Maybe the Reids are at last learning to relax about their music.

“Having produced an album every two years since 2000, their current record, Like Comedy, which came out in May, is their first for three years.

And the hardworking brothers even took a break from touring last year as they perfected it. Charlie says: “That was the first year in about 12 years we’d been off the road and we took that deliberately because we’d done so much and we felt that it was good for ourselves and for the audience to take a break from each other.

“So we made the record - but didn’t do any live work. But that’s the exception now, the vast majority of what we do is live shows.”

They are also looking forward to the forthcoming release of the movie version of stage musical, Sunshine on Leith, created around their songs, on which filming is imminently due to start.

Sadly they won’t be there - they’ll be on tour. But the brothers are clearly proud to have inspired such a hit.

Charlie says: “The musical itself has done three runs in the theatres and been progressively more successful every time so that’s been great for us. We were sceptical at the start that it would work but it’s been really good.

“We’ve not started filming yet - and it’s ironic, we’re going to be on the road when it’s happening. But they are talking about a six week shoot, mostly around Edinburgh and Glasgow and then there will be about six months of editing and post production.

“But yeah, I’ll be delighted to see it when it comes out.”

But for now, they’re doing what they know best - playing live. Charlie says: “The whole point of being in a band nowadays, certainly with us, is the vast majority of what we do is live work.

“So we’ve got a week of rehearsals, then pack the bag, get everything ready - and get away again!”