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From the archive: The Proclaimers

It may seem like only yesterday, but it has been 25 years since the Proclaimers had their first hit single with ‘Letters from America’. To celebrate, we take a look back at the musical duo’s phenomenal career.

The Proclaimers in 1989

Craig and Charlie Reid were born in Leith in 1962 and spent their formative years listening to early rock ‘n’ roll and country music.

The identical twins formed a punk band in 1983, which would eventually become the Proclaimers, and began building a dedicated fan base by playing gigs in Scottish towns and cities, including Edinburgh and Inverness.

In 2002 Craig told the Herald: “I'll be honest - I think if we hadn't played in Inverness, long before we got signed, we might well have given up. We did get good receptions in Edinburgh, but Inverness was exceptional, because the people that came along to see us got straight away what we were about."

The duo got their big break in 1986 when they were invited to tour with The Housemartins and, in January 1987, they gave a seminal performance of ‘Letters from America’ on Channel 4 music show The Tube, presented by Paula Yates and Jools Holland. The appearance secured them a record deal and propelled them to stardom.

After recording their debut album, This is the Story, acoustically, the brothers toured the UK, received the NME Readers Best New Band award and enjoyed UK chart success as their full-band version of Letters from America, which was produced by Gerry Rafferty, entered the top 3.

In 1988, the brothers formed their first full live band for their second album, ‘Sunshine on Leith’ and embarked on a nine month world tour. The seminal album included Hibs football anthem Sunshine on Leith, I’m on My Way and the anthemic I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). The track went to number 3 in the US Billboard Chart in 1993 when it appeared on the soundtrack for the Johnny Depp film Benny and Joon and, two decades later, it topped the UK charts after being chosen as the theme for Comic Relief.

The duo returned in 1994 with Hits the Highway and followed this up with Persevere in 2001, the Edwyn Collin’s produced Born Innocent in 2003, Restless Soul in 2005, Life with You in 2007 and Notes and Rhymes in 2009. In 2002, they also performing in front of a billion TV viewers at the Uefa Champions League final in Glasgow.

Following a world tour in 2009 and a triumphant appearance at T in the Park in 2010, Craig and Charlie spent most of 2011 writing and recording their ninth studio album ‘Like Comedy’, which they are currently touring around the UK.

In a 2002 interview with the Herald, Craig said: “We love touring, but playing Scotland’s still the best.”

During their career, the Proclaimers have secured gold and platinum singles and albums in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and their songs have been used in films, including Shrek and Dumb and Dumber.

Their list of celebrity fans includes Dexy’s Mignight Runners singer Kevin Rowland, who helped them record their first demos, David Tennant, Matt Lucas and Paolo Nutini.

The band’s tracks also inspired a musical called ‘Sunshine on Leith’, which follows the highs and lows of two soldiers returning home from Afghanistan.

The musical, which was written by Stephen Greenhorn, is currently being turned into a film, starring Peter Mullan, Jane Horrocks and Paul Brannigan.

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