Our Top 10 Songs By The Proclaimers presents the best The Proclaimers songs like “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” “Letter from America” and many more. In 1983, twin brothers Craig and Charlie Reid decided to form their own rock band, The Proclaimers. Hailing from Leith, Scotland, the boys were born on March 5, 1962, and grew up in Edinburgh, Cornwall, and Auchtermuchty as fans of the punk rock music scene. The appreciation for the genre influenced the brothers to form a band of their own.
From Scotland’s Backyard
As an acoustic duo, Craig and Charlie Reid were drawn to the influences of country, folk, and punk. Their musical range focused heavily on alternative rock, folk rock, and roots rock. In their dialects as singers, the Scottish accents are prominent, which added even more charm to their musical material.
1987 marked the year The Proclaimers made its debut as a recording artist. This came five years after the two dabbled in a mix of folk and post-punk tunes. In those five years, they earned a solid fan base regionally. This included the 1984 song the brothers wrote, “Letter from America.”
Along with the assistance of Kevin Rowland from Dexys Midnight Runners fame, The Proclaimers recorded a demo album that went to the British indie pop band, the Housemartins. They invited the Reids to join them on their 1986 tour that began in Birmingham. This exposure played a key role to earn The Proclaimers its first record deal.
Via Chrysalis, This Is the Story was the debut album credited to The Proclaimers. The minimalist-sounding record remixed and released the single, “Letter from America.” This served as a breakthrough hit for Craig and Charlie that would earn them international fame.
1988 marked the year The Proclaimers would record and release their follow-up album, Sunshine on Leith. This was a rock-driven recording that had Craig and Charlie Reed perform with a band for the first time. Until now, it was strictly a duo act.
As The Proclaimers, the focus of the album was to promote Scottish nationalism. This was also the same album that released the hit single, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” It wound up topping the Australian music charts, as well as New Zealand’s. The album itself became a multi-platinum success by the Aria Recording Industry Association, as well as Music Canada. To date, Sunshine on Leith remains The Proclaimers’ most successful album. That, combined with the tour the brothers embarked on to promote it, catapulted their popularity to its highest peak. While at their peak, The Proclaimers supported big-name bands such as Bon Jovi and 10,000 Maniacs.
It was the hope after Hit the Highway was released as an album in 1994 that The Proclaimers could continue to ride the wave of commercial success. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite make the same impression as Sunshine on Leith did. It did spawn another hit for the brothers, though. “Let’s Get Married” made its mark on the music charts belonging to Austria, Canada, and the U.K. After this, The Proclaimers kept out of the limelight during the second half of the 1990s.
In 2001, The Proclaimers released Persevere as its comeback album. The success of this album put Craig and Charlie Reid back into the spotlight which had them capitalize on this as a backup band for the Barenaked Ladies. After this came The Best of The Proclaimers in 2002 as a compilation album. This was followed in 2003 by Born Innocent, an album that was regarded as the Reids returning back to a form as the dynamic duo of Scottish-based rock music. it was also in 2003 that The Proclaimers released another greatest hits album, Finest.
As performers and as people, The Proclaimers have sided with the Scottish National Party as the strive for Scottish independence continues to see Chris and Charlie Reid push for the people’s quest to be freed from the shackles of political powers that have other ideas. The Proclaimers also push for Welsh independence for the same reasons. In 2021, The Proclaimers have also endorsed Scotland’s Alba Party which is in on the fight for Scottish independence.
So far, The Proclaimers have recorded and released eleven studio albums, six compilation albums, an EP, and a video album. With a career run that spans nearly four decades’ worth of music, The Proclaimers show no sign of retirement anytime soon. In addition to using their influence on behalf of the rights of people, they also serve as a proclamation that music is a big part of who we are.
Top 10 Songs By The Proclaimers
#10 – Life with You
In 2007, Life with You became The Proclaimers’ seventh studio album. The title track peaked at fifty-eight on the UK Singles Chart, which was the first time since 1994 the Reid brothers scored a hit. Among some married couples, this was a favorite wedding song that was played. Lightheartedly, Chris and Charlie Reid proposed spending the rest of their days with that special someone in a tune that’s just too cute to ignore.
#9 – Throw the ‘R’ Away
Before The Proclaimers became an international success, “Throw the ‘R’ Away” was a song performed by Chris and Charlie Reid for the album, This Is the Story. Although it didn’t chart, this debut single came across as a Scottish-themed folk number that became a regional favorite, and for good reason. Loaded with shouts and a hyped finale, this was a celebratory song that still remains a highly entertaining tune with endearing qualities.
#8 – Sunshine on Leith
As fans of the Hibernian Football Team, Chris and Charlie Reid recorded and released “Sunshine on Leith” as a song from the album of the same name in 1988. Since then, it has become the official anthem of the club. The involvement of The Proclaimers has since seen them become sponsors of the Hibernian Girls Academy Under 12s football team. It was also popular enough to become a number forty-one hit on the UK Singles Chart.
#7 – Let’s Get Married
In 1994, “Let’s Get Married” was released as a single about wedded bliss from The Proclaimers’ third studio album, Hit the Highway. As a whole, the album focused on spirituality that went as far as questioning the practices of organized religions. Although The Proclaimers are technically a Scottish-based band, many fans and critics felt their material was more American than the recording artists who were in their prime at that time. As a humorous approach to the sanctity of marriage, it was part of the appeal behind this unconventional wedding song.
#6 – Get Ready
Originally recorded by The Temptations in 1966, “Get Ready” was given a Scottish twist by The Proclaimers in 1994. It was designed for the comedy film, Dumb and Dumber. This version of the song received critical acclaim and fan approval as a well-rocked gem. “Get Ready” was a popular dance number that began with the Temptations, then covered by several artists that favored the Motown and R&B flair. The Proclaimers turned this musical invitational into an international favorite.
#5 – King of the Road
As an EP, King of the Road was a smashing success for The Proclaimers after it was released in 1990. As a single, “King of the Road” also earned a spot in the 1990 movie, The Crossing. This Roger Miller cover was wonderfully performed with Scottish flair from Craig and Charlie Reid as they kept Miller’s signature song nice and simple, exactly as it should be.
For The Proclaimers, “King of the Road” became a number nine hit on the UK Singles Chart, a number eight hit on the Irish Singles Chart, as well as modest hits on the official music charts belonging to Australia, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Already a classic since Miller’s 1964 performance, the concept of a hobo’s life from the viewpoint of a Scot gave “King of the Road” an international flavor that made it a delight, even among North American fans who appreciated the twist.
#4 – I’m On My Way
In Australia, “I’m On My Way” became a number three hit. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number forty-three as a single released in 1989. From the album, Sunshine on Leith, this song also became certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry, as well as gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association.
As a follow-up single behind “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” this was a song that was released in 1993 as what was hoped to become a hit. This wasn’t the case but it did earn its claim to fame in 2001’s DreamWorks production, Shrek. It also became the music for the BBC comedy series, The Maltby Collection. In 2005, Are We There Yet? briefly used an instrumental version of “I’m On My Way.”
It was no secret The Proclaimers were avid fans of the Hibernian Football Club. After the 2007 Scottish League Cup Final saw Hibernian earn the victory, Kikki Danielsson recorded a cover version of this song with the lyrics written in Swedish. In 2020, it was used by Scottish trials cyclist Danny MacAskill as part of a soundtrack for a cycling stunt video, Danny MacAskill’s Gymnasium.
#3 – Whole Wide World
Originally written and recorded in 1977 by Wreckless Eric, “Whole Wide World” became his signature song despite the fact it never became a charted hit. For The Proclaimers, it didn’t chart for them either but it was still one of their most popular hits after it was released in 2007.
The song was about the willingness to travel the entire world just to find that perfect soul mate. This is a charming tune that came from the album, Life with You. For a lighthearted number just to listen to, perhaps even with a chuckle with the idea of a man’s quest to find that special someone that’s perfectly suited for him.
#2 – Letter from America
Written in 1984, “Letter from America” was a song that reflected upon the Scots who left their own nation with the hope of a brighter future in America and Canada. This left Scotland itself in a state of economic depression at the time. On the UK Singles Chart, it became a number three hit when it was remixed and released as a single in 1987. From the debut album, This Is the Story, “Letter from America” became one of The Proclaimers’ signature songs as a band.
In 1991, “Letters from America” appeared in The Commitments as a song that was played in the background of a wedding. It was among the several songs featured in the 2013 movie, Sunshine On Leith.
#1 – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)
In Australia and New Zealand, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” became a number eleven hit after it was released as a single in 1988. Between this original version and the 2007 revision, this is the most popular worldwide. In Australia, Iceland, and New Zealand, it became a number-one hit. In 1993, after it made an appearance in the American film, Benny & Joon, it was released for the first time in America, Canada, and a few other nations. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number three hit while on the Canadian Top Singles chart it peaked at number four.
The popularity of “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” was so great that it became a double platinum success according to the British Phonographic Industry. In Australia, it also became certified platinum. It was enough to spawn another version of it in 2007 for the Comic Relief charity. To this day, this song’s popularity remains one of the favorite tunes for several movies and television programs.
It was the original “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” that became the signature song for The Proclaimers. Mostly written by Craig Reed, this song came to him while waiting to travel to Aberdeen, Scotland, for a Hibernian Football Club match. Considering how big a fan he is of the team, even if there was a travel requirement of five thousand miles it wouldn’t be a problem just to go watch them play.
In 2007, a revised version of “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” was recorded and released as a single by The Proclaimers. This one featured the comedians, Peter Kay as Brian Potter and Matt Lucas as Andy Pipkin. This cover version of the original was used as a musical contribution to the Comic Relief charity upon the year of its release. This time, it became a number-one hit on the UK Singles Chart. The reason this song is listed as its own entity is due to the comedic jabs that were put into what was already a playful song to start with.
Top 10 Songs By The Proclaimers article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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