WHEN Craig and Charlie Reid boarded a train from Edinburgh to Newcastle they could not have predicted the journey that lay ahead. The brothers had landed a coveted slot on The Tube, presented by Jools Holland and Paula Yates from Tyne Tees Television.

A few months earlier, they’d sent a home-made video for their song, Letter From America, into the programme in an effort to whip up a bit of interest in their music. It worked and the producers were sufficiently impressed to take a punt.

Within three hours of The Proclaimers making their TV debut, life would never be the same again.

“At that point we’d had a little bit of record company attention but nobody was really biting,” recalled Craig.

“We always assumed if we ever signed a deal it would be on an indie label. That was the level we’d get to. We never thought we’d reach a mass audience.”

Craig and Charlie were spectacularly wrong on both counts. On January 30, 1987, Yates introduced the twins as one of the few new Scottish bands who didn’t sing in American accents.


What happened next was one of those rare punch-the-air TV moments. In a thick Scots brogue, they tore into Throw The ‘R” Away, a song which told how they’d flattened all the vowels to make sure their words didn’t grate on Saxon ears.

The studio audience – most of whom probably had indecipherable Geordie accents – stood seemingly transfixed.

Their performance had a similar effect on me. I couldn’t take my eyes of the screen.

“When we got off the train at Waverley Station on the way home, we walked along George Street to our flat,” said Craig.

“A guy came running out of Mad Dogs bar and shouted: ‘I saw you on the telly … you’re the guys off The Tube’. It was only three hours later. So it was as quick as that. It was an instantaneous impact. It took going on The Tube to finally get some real recognition.”

But it had been a four-year slog to get to that point. The twins served their music apprenticeship in groups like Black Flag, Hippy Hasslers and Reasons For Emotion.

“We’d been in bands from the age of 15 and while we got better every time, we felt we weren’t really doing things musically that we wanted to,” revealed Craig.

“When we started The Proclaimers in early 1983, as just two voices and a guitar, the songs were better straight away.”


One of their first demos was heard by Kevin Rowland of Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

“We’d seen the first Dexy’s tour at

St Andrew’s University at the start of 1980,” Craig said.

“We got to know Kevin and he was really interested in what we were doing. It was a big thing to get such a reaction from somebody of that stature. He gave us some studio time in Birmingham and we recorded four songs – Letter From America, Misty Blue, Sky Takes The Soul and The First Attack.”

They also got the support slot on a UK tour by The Housemartins, reaching their biggest audience to date. This brought them to the attention of John Williams of Chrysalis Records who’d produced the band’s hit albums London 0 Hull 4 in 1986 and The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death the following year.

“Until then we’d been getting a lot of rejection,” revealed Craig.

“I remember going down to London on the overnight bus to hand in our tape to record companies. We never got one reply. I assume they went straight into the bin.”

But in early 1987, Chrysalis offered the band a deal. They began recording This Is The Story within five days of signing.

They had a bunch of songs written in their housing association flat in the Dean Village area of the capital.

“We were on the dole so there were plenty of opportunities to write, there wasn’t much else to do during the day,” Craig recalled.

“And we did it the old fashioned way. We wrote together … face-to-face. I can’t play guitar but Charlie is a much better musician. It was mostly us sitting down and trying to come up with words and melodies at the same time.”

The duo recorded in Strongroom Studios in London, with Williams producing.

“We had all the songs that went on the album and were very confident because we’d been playing most of them for the last couple of years,” said Craig.

“We had nine days of actual recording. There was a bit of time wasted in choosing guitars and sorting out tuning problems. But once we got started it was fairly quick. It was just the two of us with John, nobody else sang or played on it. He gave us a bit of guidance. We hadn’t spent more than a couple of hours in a studio until then, so we needed that.”

The album was mixed at AIR Studios in London, owned by legendary producer George Martin and favoured by artists such as Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, Kate Bush and Duran Duran.

“We’d worked hard to get this. At last we were recording our songs in exactly the way we wanted them,” said Craig.

“But even then, we weren’t thinking of having hits. We were looking more at the short to medium future. The aim was to get the record out and start playing again as often as we could.”

This Is The Story was released on April 27, 1987, and reached No. 43 in the charts after selling 30,000 copies. The first single Throw The ‘R’ Away, failed to breach the Top 40.

But Chrysalis had faith in Letter From America, despite the song’s politically charged lyrics that contrasted the unemployment crisis with the Highland clearances. It most definitely wasn’t the usual chart fodder.

“The first version on the album was good but maybe not considered radio material,” admitted Craig.

“Everybody at Chrysalis was saying if we were going to have a real go at the charts then Letter From America was the one.”

Williams suggested re-recording the track with Scottish music legend Gerry Rafferty. They moved into Comforts Place Studios in Kent, owned by the team behind Bucks Fizz, winners of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981.

“The label were saying Letter wasn’t gonna fly as an acoustic record,” said Craig. “But they said, if you try it with a band it might work. Gerry and his producer Hugh Murphy brought in musicians to layer the song up. They made a great record.

“Many people who’d worked with Gerry found him quite a spiky character. But that’s only because he knew what he wanted musically. He was great with us but very definite about what he was doing. That’s exactly what we needed. So it was a great stage for us.”

On November 19, DJ Steve Wright introduced The Proclaimers’ debut appearance on Top Of The Pops when Letter From America was a new entry at No. 25. The song climbed to No. 3.

“Such success was good and I’m glad it happened, but I think by that time our minds were already on making the next record,” revealed Craig. “By the end of 1987 we’d almost certainly dismissed what we’d done, put it to one side.

“That was difficult when Letter From America was still being played on the radio. We wanted to concentrate more on finishing off some new songs which would become our second album, Sunshine On Leith.”

Within 12 months, they’d released Sunshine On Leith – whose full-band sound was captured perfectly by producer Pete Wingfield – and it reached No. 2. It produced two classic singles, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) and the title track. In any fan poll it would be voted THE defining record of their 11-album career.

But you never forget the first time. “This Is The Story stands the test of time. We’re still very proud of it. It’s us, raw and undiluted,” said Craig.

“After getting so much rejection it did seem like real vindication of what we were trying to do. It’s full of songs we’d written when we were struggling to break through and progress as artists.

“So without that one, there could never have been any others.”