THE PROCLAIMERS FEATURE
the break-up of his marriage. ‘I’d got to the stage with my songwriting where nothing was happening.’ he says. ‘I was trying so hard and it got so bad that I was almost gun shy. l was going through a marriage breakup. but I can‘t really use that as an excuse. For a couple of years I did nothing.‘
With their career dormant Craig and Charlie got on with their lives and the distinctly tin-rock ’n’ roll stuff of domestic bliss or otherwise (in Charlie’s case). Family. feuding. and questioning what life’s all about are the subjects that dominate the new record. ‘That’s the life we were living.‘ says Craig. ‘at home in Edinburgh. getting married. getting divorced. having kids and that. That‘s what you write about. because that’s what you know. You can only try to sing about what‘s going on in your life. and this record certainly reflects five years of our lives.‘
For all its personal subject matter. the songs have a universality which their writers were keen to ensure. Neither has much time for the bleeding-heart school of songwriting. ‘I hope we never make an introspective record.‘ insists Craig. ‘l’m not interested in that. I think it‘s more personal but personal in an outward context, not Leonard Cohen fucking brooding in a bedsit kind of way.‘
In the event Hit The l-lighway has ended up as a kind of Scottish equivalent of Bruce Springsteen’s The River. 011 that record Springsteen sings ‘little girl I wanna marry you‘ as a rare moment of tenderness in the midst of a whole mess of frustration with the limited horizons of a mapped-out life. On Hit The Highwayu ‘Let’s Get Married' serves a similar purpose as a simplistic if bouncy centre-piece to a collection of songs that offer a markedly more critical assessment of family life. It’s the only plainly optimistic track on the album. and is outnumbered by three much bleaker marriage songs, ‘Don‘t Turn Out Like Your Mother“. ‘Shout Shout‘ and particularly ‘What Makes You Cry’. The last. in a consciously ironic move. will be the follow-up single replacing the ‘let’s get married‘ chorus with lines like ‘you're paying a lawyer to stab me in the back'. Tellingly. the cynicism rings truer.
The Proclaimers also share Springsteen‘s occasionally cloying affection for blue-collar existence. Marriage and bringing up kids are a vital part of it. but there‘s also a pure Calvinist work ethic. expressed in a song like ‘Follow The Money‘. almost a celebration of mindless drudgery. ‘That songs about the fact that to earn a living most people have to do things that they don’t necessarily enjoy. they have to put up with it. knuckle down because you have to earn some cash.’ Craig explains. “We come from a working-class background. Our dad is a joiner. We‘re not joiners. we're getting paid vast sums of money for very little physical effort. but I've had jobs before that I didn‘t enjoy at the time. Coming from a background like we do I‘ve got time for people who do jobs like that. I understand them better.‘
Along with marriage and work. The Proclaimers complete a Holy Trinity of uncool rock ’n’ roll subject matter with religion. Overtly on songs like ‘The More I Believe‘. ‘The Light‘ and the gospel cover version ‘I Want To Be A Christian‘. and less succinctly elsewhere. they sing about God. not in a Bible- bashing. testifyin‘ hellfire and brimstone style. but in an uncomfortably honest and questioning way.
‘You don’t think about it, it’s a subconscious thing. At the end of the song you may think, ‘censor it’, but the actual spark for the song is not conscious.’ - Charlie
‘lt’s an extension of what I‘ve always felt since we‘ve been making music.‘ says Craig. ‘l definitely believe in (iod. although I couldn‘t call myself a Christian because. while I‘m almost convinced. there‘s still ten percent of me that isn't. and you can‘t be a Christian if you still have doubts. ‘I Want To Be A Christian‘ was a song that we had listened to for years and liked the fact that it was “i want In he a Christian” not “I am a Christian”. it has that
element of a spiritual quest which kind of
summed up the way I felt. It‘s about thinking there must be something out there. and striving for something better.‘
It‘s still a subject that sits uneasily in pop
culture. conjuring up images of Cliff Richard or
born—again country singers crooning sickly pacans to our Lord and Saviour. Craig and Charlie are aware of the pitfalls. ‘You can write spiritual songs in liurope and be taken. hopefully. at face value. In the States if you cover a gospel song on a rock album. it‘s noticed more. They unfortunately have to deal with religious fundamentalists and right-wing
loonies who dress themselves up with the
Church of (iod. so they‘re a lot more wary of
that. You‘ve got to be clear about your meaning. You have to be very careful and explain yourself. I wouldn’t let us get in a situation
where we‘re using the Christian faith to put any message across. because that would be false. ’
l’lVE YEARS AGO. MESSAGES of a more secular nature in determinedly nationalist songs like 'Cap In Hand led to The Proclaimers being adopted by the SNP as part of a slew of pop personalities putting their name to the cause of independence. Since then Craig and Charlie have shied away from direct involvement in political debate (if you don’t count their vociferous support of the ‘Hands Off Hibs’ campaign) and Hi! The Highway probably benefits from the absence of any overtly political songs. which in the past have strayed dangerously close to being platitudes with attitude.
‘lt‘s not as if we sat down at the beginning and said we aren‘t going to do political songs.’ says Craig. ‘but there was no issue that moved us to write that sort of song at the time. What comes out comes out. and there was nothing that really inspired us. For a political song you have to really be emotionally involved with what you’re writing about. and know what you‘re writing about. For a good political song you‘ve got to be specific and nothing moved us to do that.
Not that their opinions have changed. ‘We’ve said where we stand. We‘ve said we are four- square for independence and we still are. but we don‘t have to keep saying it. People know where we stand. which is why we didn‘t do anything last year for the election. if you say it too often people switch off. You should say what you think a few times and then keep quiet about it.
There‘s every chance that we will do Wj political things in the future. but we
The List 25 February—l0 March l994 9