ACCENT 0N CHANGE
From Auchtermuchty to America? The Proclaimers’ strong politics and musical style have marked them out as 1nd1v1dual and taken them far fast. Alastair Mabbott talked to the twin brothers.
resulted in This Is The Story. their excellent debut LP. to which superlatives have swarmed like ﬂies.
The fact that they sing in their own
accents. not an Anglicised or bastardised form of American dialect marks The Proclaimers off from the pack straight away. and is a subject they humorously tackle in the LP‘s opening track. ‘Throw The R Away". also their first single: ‘How dare I show face/ When my diction is such a dis grace/ Perhaps for some money/l could talk like a bee dripping honey'. the song runs. playfully displaying a serious grudge.
On ‘Letter From America'. the standout track. and highpoint oflive performances. they lament 'all the blood that ﬂowed away". the Scots who felt compelled to leave their home country to seek their fortune elsewhere. The songs sweeping timescale encompasses both the Highland Clearances and the closures of factories at Methil and Bathgate. and beyond. On ‘It Broke My Heart‘ they turn their attention to the ‘fools‘ who tell them they should move south. They nearly did so themselves. being hours away from buying flats in London before their instincts told them it was best to remain in Edinburgh. They
While marketing men and a trend-mongering music press continually tried to foist one gimmick after another on the public. who could have guessed that the hippest thing of 1986 would be two unfashionably-dressed bespectacled twin brothers from Auchtermuchty. performing ducts in unwaveringly strong Scottish accents with one acoustic guitar between them? The real Next Big Thing was to be good songs sung by good singers: so obvious. so unfashionable. but to enjoy The Proclaimers that‘s all you need to appreciate.
Craig and Charlie Reid were born twenty-five years ago. grew up in Auchtermuchty and. by the age of twelve had become obsessed with music. a fascination which dawned. as Charlie remembers. at about the same time they started getting interested in football.
‘listening to Radio One in about 1970-71. At the time it wasn‘t that great. though in retrospect some of it was very good. Then you‘d maybe hear an Elvis record. or something like that. and to me it stood out a mile — the energy. We were never like kids of eleven or twelve saying. “Aw. if it‘s a year old it must be out offashion.“ ‘
Finding school a complete waste of time. the Reid brothers left as early as they could. and played in various dodgy local rock groups.
‘When we were about sixteen. seventeen. we thought you had to be in a group.’ recalls Charlie. the more talkative of the pair on this occasion. ‘We thought that was what was needed. In actual fact one regret is — though it‘s not a big regret — I wish to some extent we‘d started earlier and played as a duo right from the start. ‘Cause I think it would‘ve been tighter and our musical understanding of each other better. But we wouldn’t know that it was a bad idea to play in a democratic group ifwe hadn’t done it.‘
Their shared love of country and western. early rock ‘n‘ roll and performers like Presley. Jerry Lee Lewis. Merle Haggard and Hank Williams have been distilled into a form all their own. Stripped down to basics. their two voices dancing around the melody in near- telepathic harmony. Proclaimers music broadcasts loud and clear a passionate intensity that never fails to win over audiences wherever they play. Their craftsmanship and stringent quality control. as well as their experience playing live. have
wouldn‘t. they believe. have any reservations about leaving if things got too lean.
Charlie: ‘I believe that. but you‘ve got to decide if it‘s absolutely necessary. and we don‘t think it was at that time. and at the moment it‘s not necessary. In the future if it becomes so then we‘ll pack our bags and we'll go. you know.‘
Craig vigorously agrees: ‘I don‘t think it would ever cross our minds to move to London now. The only time we‘d think about moving would be if it was to America. Because America is important enough. England isn‘t important enough to go and live there. Even commercially it's no important enough. It‘s no difficult to get down to England. takes you an hour. two hours ifyou're flying. ifyou took the train five hours. It‘s no that important. And I wouldn‘t choose to live in London. Parts of England maybe I would. but no London'.
The Reid brothers‘ political views are well-known. Both are SNP members with a strong left-wing bias. and in early music paper interviews informed national readers about the prevailing climate itt their homeland — a long time before the so-called ‘Doomsday scenario‘ became widely known. It seemed to me that they‘d toned down on talking about it.
‘No. I wouldnae say that.‘ answers Charlie. ‘I would say that we don't go out‘ofour way to talk about it. not because I‘m scared of my political opinions offendin‘ people. but I am afraid of my political opinions borin‘ people. [don’t think the majority of people who listen to us would not listen to us if we didn't say we were for Scottish independence. And I think that ifyou start attractin’ people because ofyour own political point of view you‘re gonnae get a certain sort of person who‘s not really interested in what you‘re doing musically. Basically. it‘s boring because. and I can only take it from my point ofview. I get bored shitless by these people fuckin‘ goin‘
on about what they did when they went to Nicaragua.‘
An unsubtle reference to future Labour peer Lord Bragg.
‘At the same time.‘ continues Charlie. ‘if somebody asks us a direct question we'll give them a direct answer. We're no lyin‘. We are republicans and Scottish socialists. you know‘."
In the last issue of this magazine Hue And Cry‘s singer Patrick Kane commented that. by creating a ‘linguistic unity‘ with their audience. The Proclaimers resolve the dichotomy which results when patriotic Scottish musicians find themselvesoverwhelmingly influenced by American idioms; music from ‘a culture which is probably responsible for a lot of the ills on your patch'. Charlie reacts to this praise a bit less grandly.
‘I think all we do is to be as honest with ourselves. and that includes the inﬂuences. as we possibly can be. And they are overwhelmingly American. But we are Scottish. y‘know. so we‘re not trying to be American. but we‘re not trying to
4 The List 30 Oct - 12 Nov