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The Proclaimers, a lot more than I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)
September 25, 2012 10:03 AM   Subscribe

They're best known for one song: I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), as featured in Benny and Joon in 1993, and though the identical twin brothers faded from the public eye in the US, 500 Miles was lovingly parodied by Homer Simpson in 2001, and the brothers appeared on Family Guy in 2006. That song was featured in Comic Relief 2007, and that rendition was the number 1 song in the UK for three weeks. Given this focus on a single song that was first released in 1988, you might want mark The Proclaimers as a one-hit wonder and leave it at that. But David Pollock, writing for The Guardian, wants you to reconsider: The Proclaimers are a lot better than you probably remember.

The Proclaimers sell out annual tours in their home country of Scotland, and their song Sunshine on the Leith is the "tear-tugging" anthem for the Scottish Hibernian F.C.. In 2007, The Proclaimers' back catalog became the score to a "jukebox musical", written by Scottish playwright, television writer and novelist Stephen Greenhorn. That musical, Sunshine on the Leith, is even set to be made into a film, as of June of this year. And then there are the 9 studio albums from the past 25 years.

Craig and Charlie Reid started out in a different direction from many of their musical peers. Instead of following their love of punk rock from the late 1970s, they embraced Scottish folk and "the pure badness" of Jerry Lee Lewis (their description). They were immediately compared to the Everly Brothers, and the brothers said they'd make the Housemartins look fashionable. The brothers wrote two albums in two years: This Is the Story in 1987 [sample tracks: Over and Done With, Misty Blue video, Letter from America video], and Sunshine on Leith in 1988 [sample tracks: I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) original video, Then I Met You video, I'm On My Way video]. Both albums were hits, and they toured the world for their second album. In 1993, Benny & Joon featured I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), which was nominated for Best Movie Song in the Mtv Movie Awards in 1994, the same year their third album came. That album, Hit the Highway [sample tracks: What Makes You Cry video, Let's Get Married video, and the title track, live on Conan], didn't do as well as their prior albums. Then the brothers hit a rough patch, disappearing for seven years.

Proclaimers : The Real Proclaimers is a 28 minute documentary by BBC Scotland's EX:S in 2001, when Craig and Charlie were on their comeback tour. Their fourth album was titled Persevere, which was paid for in part by IBM's use of the track Over and Done With. The Rolling Stone review of the album claimed that it "kicks off with a chord nicked directly from Pleasant Valley Sunday," but There's a Touch isn't an upbeat nod to The Monkees. The review was positive, highlighting the "pop-country touches" on One Too Many (ignore the video, please), the "Sixties AM radio" sound of How Many Times (30 second sample), and wrote that Everybody's A Victim "may make you wanna do a jig, if not don a kilt," though it's more of a political country song than a dance number.

Their next four albums came out like clockwork, every two years. With Born Innocent, they may "have lost some of the sense of giddy fun," but by writing more mature songs, they "transcend the perception of them as a novelty act." [Sample songs: title track live video, Blood on Your Hands live video, He's Just Like Me, and a 22 minute song-and-interview segment on Canadian TV] The 2005 album, Restless Soul, didn't pan out so well, even with a self-proclaimed "biggest fan in North America". [Sample tracks: When Love Struck You Down, I'm Gone live with a short interview, and That's Better Now, from the same live set]

After their last two albums were self-released on their own Persevere label, the brothers signed with Universal for their album Life with You, which was also released with a 2nd CD of live and acoustic tracks. The album included their cover of Whole Wide World (video), written in 1974 and recorded in '77 by Wreckless Eric, one of many covers of the song. "This might be a ride through familiar territory but The Proclaimers specialise in steadfast song writing and this is sure to satisfy their legions of fans. They're easy to dismiss, but with an open mind this album is difficult to dislike." [more sample tracks: title track, In Recognition, S-O-R-R-Y]

"That Notes & Rhymes, the eighth long-playing offering from the identical twins, delivers more of the same is recommendation enough. ... [An] elegant combination of country, pop, bluegrass and soapbox pontificating...." [Sample tracks: Love can Move Mountains video, title track video, Sing Our Cares Away (acoustic)] Their 2009 album was followed by their newest, Like Comedy, released earlier this year. The debut single, Spinning Around in the Air, was set to video as Matt Lucas' directorial debut, with a home video of a 50th anniversary party turning rowdy. Mojo called the album "a stronger set" than the 2009 album, highlighting Whatever You've Got (video) and I Think That's What I Believe.

If that wasn't enough, there is a LOT of live footage online, bunches of crowd-shot videos from BelgiumMarleen, and there are plenty of pro-shot videos, too, like a half hour set from 2006 for T in the Park, a 45 minute set at SXSW in 2009, and over an hour live set from earlier this year. MySpace also has most of the brothers' albums and singles streaming in full.
posted by filthy light thief (72 comments total) 105 users marked this as a favorite

 




Great, now I'm gonna have that song stuck in my head all day. And I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more...
posted by atomicstone at 10:14 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course, the real question is...what the fuck is a "haver"?
posted by inturnaround at 10:15 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Proclaimers are a lot better than you probably remember.

I dunno, I remember them as being GREAT.

(Like this post!)
posted by chavenet at 10:15 AM on September 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


"Haver" means "To talk foolishly."

(I learned this because one of my friends challenged us to listen to the song 500 times in a year. Another friend took that a step further and listened to it 500 times in one day. She no longer enjoys the song.)
posted by Turkey Glue at 10:16 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


And I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more...

A 200lb person walking at 3 miles an hour for 500 miles would burn .... 53030 calories.
posted by The Whelk at 10:16 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


What, no mention of the tape stuck in the Fiero from "How I Met Your Mother"?
posted by zombieflanders at 10:18 AM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


That cover of "Whole Wide World" makes me so freaking happy that I don't have the words to describe it properly. I am really, really happy now. filthy light thief, I have you to thank for this.
posted by bakerina at 10:19 AM on September 25, 2012


thank you Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey! I actually came here to post that link.
I must have watched that probably 20 times by now and will always watch it when it comes around.

and filthy light thief.....amazing post!
posted by ShawnString at 10:23 AM on September 25, 2012


What, no mention of the tape stuck in the Fiero from "How I Met Your Mother"?

Well, only one, which is hardly in keeping with the spirit of the bit.
posted by yoink at 10:23 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the Word Reference forums, someone pulled up the OED definitions:
According to the Oxford English Dictionary,
  • in the sense to talk garrulously and foolishly; to talk nonsense, haver is 'chiefly Scottish and northern dialect';
  • in the sense to hesitate, to be slow in deciding, haver is 'originally Scottish dialect but now in general English use'.
And this post was made to show folks some other songs from The Proclaimers collection. Most of their IMDb credits are for 500 Miles, and moreso since 2003 than before. They have plenty of other good songs.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:25 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Proclaimers's Bacon number is 3
posted by chavenet at 10:29 AM on September 25, 2012




The Proclaimers are a lot better than you probably remember.

I dunno, I remember them as being GREAT.


Likewise. Not to get all hipster, but I got in on the ground floor in 1987 with their first album This Is The Story, which was essentially just two guys and one guitar and some sharp songwriting. It is brilliant and propulsive and hilarious and has not a single track on it which I dislike, which is something I can say of maybe three albums I have ever encountered.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:30 AM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Day: made.
posted by tommasz at 10:30 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a fantastic post.

When Benny & Joon came out and I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) was blowing up, I went to the Sam Goody store in my local mall looking for the Benny & Joon Soundtrack CD. In what must have been one of the only times that a Sam Goody salesperson offered real musical insight, the guy steered me away from the soundtrack and said "what you really want is Sunshine on Leith. It's really good." I bought the CD and it's been a favorite since.

Cap in Hand, I'm on My Way (later used in Shrek), and Then I Met You are all top notch songs.
posted by AgentRocket at 10:37 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I discovered This is the Story this year on Spotify... it is indeed awesome. Thanks for this post.
posted by starman at 10:38 AM on September 25, 2012


"Haver" means "To talk foolishly."

Thank you for this. Up until 5 minutes ago, I thought he said "heave-ah," as in a slang way to say "throw up". I mean, doesn't this line come right after "If I get drunk?"
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:39 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


wow that was an annoying song
posted by thelonius at 10:39 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could think of much worse. That's what I said now.
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:41 AM on September 25, 2012


"Och, havers" was a familiar put-down when my habitual truth-stretching was seen through.
posted by scruss at 10:43 AM on September 25, 2012


THIS IS THE STORY OF OUR FIRST TEACHER
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 10:51 AM on September 25, 2012


I thought it meant sex.
posted by bookman117 at 10:52 AM on September 25, 2012




I always thought "haver" was a Scottish version of "walkabout", because of the phrase "haversack", which is a shoulder bag with one strap. I assumed one would carry a haversack when one was havering over hill and dale.
posted by annekenstein at 11:01 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't include AOL's list of the 100 worst songs, where "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" charts at #50. The comment on it has nothing to do with the song: We're halfway through our list! Doesn't it feel like your ears have walked through 500 miles of bad songs? Because of that, I figure it's on this Worst list because it was overplayed at it's (US) peak in 1993.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:03 AM on September 25, 2012


And man, Cap in Hand is a great song.
posted by jaduncan at 11:09 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I always thought that "The Proclaimers" was one of the best band names ever, like "The Commitments" (which movie coincidentally briefly features Letter From America, which is sung by Deco when he is spotted by Jimmy). I was at T in the Park in 2006, and the sing-a-long fairly cheered everyone up on a rainy Sunday afternoon. You can't go wrong with the Proclaimers. Great post.
posted by Jakey at 11:13 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


DA DA DA!
posted by cavalier at 11:18 AM on September 25, 2012


A year or so ago, I used my roommates computer and stole a bunch of his MP3s more or less indiscriminately to put on my phone. The fourth weirdest thing I stole (after three Lou Bega songs other than "Mambo Number Five") was The Proclaimers cover of "Get Ready" off the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack.* It's not particularly earth shattering, but it's enjoyable.

Until right now, I had sort of assumed that was their "other" song.

*My roommate, bizarrely, seems to have no memory of ever owning a copy of this song.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:19 AM on September 25, 2012


Don't turn out (PLEASE) Don't turn out (PLEASE) Don't turn out like yooooooooooooour MOOOOOOOOOOOTHER
posted by angrycat at 11:21 AM on September 25, 2012


DA DA DA!

You're thinking of Trio. And if you thought the video edit was repetitive, there's also the full-length version, clocking in at 6 minutes 37 seconds.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:39 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wonderful... and my 8-year-old just concocted a microphone from rope, tissues and plastic bottles to sing along. Thank you!
posted by bwonder2 at 11:49 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I always remember "Over and Done With" from the part in "Bottle Rocket" when Dignan steals the little convertible.
posted by stifford at 12:24 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I loved the Proclaimers, and never thought of them as a one-hit wonder. They were a two-hit wonder: 500 miles and Over and Done With.

And I can't believe no one has mentioned Bottle Rocket! (I couldn't find the real scene so I'll throw in Alone Again Or, another great song ... oh, and The Making Of too. ...).

This Is the Story was great. (Argh, waited too long to post!)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:30 PM on September 25, 2012


I remember them as being great too. I bought "This is the Story" back when it came out and since I've always had a fondness for all things Scottish, The Proclaimers have been in fairly regular rotation ever since.

There's nothing like going on a long drive and singing along with "Throw the R Away".
posted by black8 at 12:30 PM on September 25, 2012


As an American I only really knew "that 500 miles song". But my husband, the Scot, pretty much has their whole back catalog. One day a bit after we got engaged he played one of their albums and he started singing along to "Let's Get Married" and he started to get a bit choked up.

Me: Are you.... crying??
Him: ... no... *sniff*

And so The Proclaimers play an integral part in how much I love my man.
posted by like_neon at 12:31 PM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


since I've always had a fondness for all things Scottish

Frightened Rabbit has a new one.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:36 PM on September 25, 2012


When I saw Benny and Joon in the theater, as soon as the credits were over I walked out and drove to Applause in St. Paul to buy the Proclaimers CD. Their tunes are the most played on my iPod, and are featured prominently on my granddaughter's mix CDs I make for her. When they appeared at the Fine Line in Minneapolis, I snapped up tickets and stood not 10 feet from them on the floor, surrounded by other fanatics. They are extremely talented song-writers, singers, and musicians and I believe they are greatly underestimated.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:36 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I get most of my work done listening to either the Proclaimers or Nena. I went to see them at the Triple Rock in Minneapolis a few years ago (it sounds like we rate a stop on their US tours, if Mental Wimp and I went to shows in two different years). I did feel a little weird at one point--I'm at a show in Minneapolis featuring songs explicitly about Scottish nationalism where I'm sort of cast as the oppressor and most of the people in the room likely have no idea what the song's about.
posted by hoyland at 12:43 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is my favourite Proclaimers clip. It's their TV debut and has them singing Throw The R Away which is a song about how the record company suits told them to lose the accents. I think it's one of most punk rock things in all creation.

As I am lucky enough to live in Edinburgh I often see Proclaimers kicking about. But I have no idea if I have seen them both or just the one lots of times.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 1:07 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


"haversack", which is a shoulder bag with one strap.

So named because of the oat cake Havercake which fit neatly inside of them and then delivered to the front lines!

(vanishes back into the ancient mist)
posted by The Whelk at 1:16 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nice work, Filthy, illuminating artists who are to most of us a one- (maybe one and a half) hit wonder. There is always more to the story!

Now: where to start . . .
 
posted by Herodios at 1:19 PM on September 25, 2012


I saw that SXSW show. I've never been a huge Proclaimers fan, but they blew everyone there away. And as always, an excellent post from filthy light thief--thanks for this.
posted by immlass at 1:23 PM on September 25, 2012


I actually like "Then I Met You" more than 500 miles. It perfectly captures how falling in love can be like a rebirth, no matter how old and cynical you believe yourself to be.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:26 PM on September 25, 2012


I thought miles were a strictly American thing.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:48 PM on September 25, 2012


I lived for three years just off Easter Road in Edinburgh, where the Hibs play. "Sunshine on Leith" has achieved hymnal status in that brave and gritty corner of Scotland. Mah heart is broken...
posted by Catchfire at 1:51 PM on September 25, 2012


gnuhavenpier: "This is my favourite Proclaimers clip."

It's worth watching just to see Paula Yates trying to say Auchtermuchty.
posted by Jakey at 1:52 PM on September 25, 2012




I thought miles were a strictly American thing.

They're still in use in Britain (and Ireland?). Some things went metric, but not everything and not everything that went went all the way.
posted by hoyland at 1:58 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If all you know are the first two albums, get hold of Born Innocent and Like Comedy, which are the pick of the rest.

For anyone who's interested, here's a self-link to my side of a discussion about The Proclaimers distilled from a thread at Popular, with various comments on "haver" and how the band are perceived at home, as seen from the perspective of an Aussie migrant to Scotland.
posted by rory at 2:22 PM on September 25, 2012


Senor Cardgage: "I thought miles were a strictly American thing."

Dear boy, there's a reason they used to be called Imperial Miles. Miles date back to the Romans and were defined in law in Britain.

Also I deeply love the Proclaimers. Years and years of amazing music.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:30 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


So my wife and I rented Benny and Joon on our first date (for-some-value-of-the-word-"date") way back in the dark ages when we were in high school. We ended up choosing That Damn John Hiatt Song as the designated shmoopy mixtape track rather than That Damn Proclaimers Song.

I always felt like we made the right choice, but ... huh. Maybe not. These guys look like fun.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:38 PM on September 25, 2012


I mean, I still have a soft spot for John Hiatt, romantic connection aside, because for about five years he was the only musician who both my parents and my little brother could all agree on, so we listened to a lot of John Hiatt on vacation and that brings up a buncha nice memories.

But aside from being totally unobjectionable and just noticeable enough to form pleasant Pavlovian associations with? Like, objectively speaking? He's sort of the opposite of fun.

Getting old and having some perspective on the shit you listened to when you were fifteen is a terrible idea. You shouldn't do it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:43 PM on September 25, 2012


After seeing "Benny and Joon," my (now ex-) husband fell in love with "500 Miles" and declared it to be "our song." He later became quite a Proclaimers fan.

I just sent him an email with a link to this wonderful post and thread with the line, "It's our song!"
posted by Schadenfreudian at 3:20 PM on September 25, 2012


After seeing "Benny and Joon," my (now ex-) husband fell in love with "500 Miles" and declared it to be "our song." ...

I just sent him an email with a link to this wonderful post and thread with the line, "It's our song!"
posted by Schadenfreudian at 3:20 PM on September 25 [+] [!]


/eponysterical
posted by mrgrimm at 3:22 PM on September 25, 2012


They're still in use in Britain (and Ireland?)

Nah, we went metric a about 7 years ago, all in one night too!
posted by TwoWordReview at 3:27 PM on September 25, 2012


But we were all about walking 500 miles when it was released!
posted by TwoWordReview at 3:30 PM on September 25, 2012


And I would make 500 posts...

(MeTa.)
posted by John Cohen at 3:31 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fantastic post. Thanks for this
posted by J.W. at 4:31 PM on September 25, 2012


Recently they appeared as guest question askers on the Big Fat Quiz of the 80s
Yes, seal included
posted by bruzie at 6:08 PM on September 25, 2012


Before today, I was never much into "Sunshine on Leith." But you know what? Having spent the last few months watching Mr. Palmcorder watch his beloved Winnipeg Blue Bombers have a mind-blowingly sucktastic season, I really envy the Scottish Hibernian F. C. for having it as their anthem.

The idea of bringing together a stadium full of Bomber fans to sing a song that goes, "My heart was broken. My heart was broken. Sorrow-- Sorrow-- ," sounds really healing.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:31 PM on September 25, 2012


The Proclaimers sell out annual tours in their home country of Scotland

Wow, I really, really suck at accents. I always thought they were Aussies.

But thanks for the post. I love "500 Miles". It's fun to hear it again.
posted by marsha56 at 6:38 PM on September 25, 2012


I actually lived in Edinburgh in late '88 and early '89, and I can't remember hearing any Proclaimers tunes at all when I was there, even though I surely do remember the songs from back in the day. Odd.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:19 AM on September 26, 2012


TwoWordReview: "They're still in use in Britain (and Ireland?)

Nah, we went metric a about 7 years ago, all in one night too!
"

Technically. But all the road signs are still in miles, as are the speed indicators in every vehicle. Does my head in, as I was raised in between the two systems.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:31 AM on September 26, 2012


Wow, I really, really suck at accents.

Yes, marsha56, you really do!
posted by phl at 2:43 AM on September 26, 2012


Jakey: "gnuhavenpier: "This is my favourite Proclaimers clip."
It's worth watching just to see Paula Yates trying to say Auchtermuchty.
"

To be fair to her, she can say Saskatchewan without starting to stutter.
posted by Nossidge at 2:57 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe a decade ago I went to see the Proclaimers in Philly. I wore an old Public Enemy t-shirt I had from when It "Takes A Nation of Millions..." came out, the familiar silhouette logo in crosshairs.

I got to the venue early, so I decided to go across the street to a bar. There was a DJ spinning hip hop and old soul, and when the black guy collecting the cover charge took a look me, a smallish pale white guy, and said "you get in for free because of your t-shirt", I was feeling pretty goddam hip. The only white guy in the bar at the moment, and at the bar two LARGE guys with full-on dreadlocks looked down at me, also complimented my PE shirt, and started chatting with me. We mostly talked music, I'm no expert when it comes to hip-hop but I could hold my own and I was able to school them on some of the older funk that was being played, much to their surprise.

So. Eventually I let it slip that I'm on my way to a show soon.

"Who you seein'?"

"Um....er...well. Actually, the Proclaimers. Now wait! they actually...!

It was too late. As soon as I said the name, the two locked eyes, adopted a ludicrous Scottish brogue, and launched into a full-throated "AND I WOULD WALK 500 MILES AND I WOULD WALK 500 MORE JUST TO BE THE MAN WHO WALKS 1000 MILES TO FALL DOWN AT YOUR DOOR!!

Then fell over each other laughing, bought me another beer, and politely listened as I, blushing furiously, gave a passionate defense of why the Proclaimers are fucking awesome.
posted by the bricabrac man at 3:45 AM on September 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


the bricabrac man, that is awesome.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:56 AM on September 26, 2012


I've long had a soft spot for the Proclaimers. Thanks so much for the fantastic post filthy light thief!
posted by lunaazul at 10:15 PM on September 28, 2012


I was introduced to The Proclaimers by a boyfriend in 1987 or 1988, my freshman year in college. Coming from a small town with limited radio choices (Scorpians tune for prom theme) I thought I didn't like music.

Then my new sweetheart introduced me to The Proclaimers, The Smiths, The Housemartins, The Church, The Jam...lots of "The"s.

I didn't even know what a mix tape was, and suddenly he was creating them for me with all this great music and artsy doodles on the homemade cassette covers.

I was a complete goner. Head over heels in love with him and music.

I still can't listen to a Proclaimers song without listening to the entire album -- and in the order of the original album.

Sigh.
posted by vitabellosi at 5:41 AM on September 29, 2012


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