Ten Great Proclaimers Songs that Aren’t ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’

Just today a little uninvited ad popped up on my Facebook page asking if I liked the Proclaimers’ ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ and directing me to check out their newest album. Ironic since I was already planning to write this post complaining about how the Scottish sibling duo are too often summed up by their one-and-only American pop singles chart entry.

Thanks to its inclusion in the 1993 Johnny Depp film Benny & Joon, ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ was a #3 hit a full five years after its original release on the Proclaimers’ Sunshine On Leith album. And given our perception of one-hit wonders and the fact that there are plenty of respected acts (Tom Waits, Phish, The Ramones, Indigo Girls, Bob Marley) who have never had a top 40 single, I can’t help but wonder if that fluke hit actually has had a negative net effect on the Proclaimers’ legacy.

One-hit wonders are a joke. No-hit wonders are too cool to have hits. Right?

At any rate, the fact that Craig and Charlie Reid play coffeehouse-size venues in this country belies their status as a popular worldwide touring attraction. Their songs have been sung by stadia full of soccer fans and had stage musicals written around them (a la ABBA’s Mamma Mia!) in countries where they’d be baffled to see ‘I’m Gonna Be…’ featuring in lists with names like 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders.

Here are ten proclamations of the songwriting prowess of the Reid brothers:


1. “Letter From America”

The Proclaimers’ first album, 1987’s This is the Story, has similarities to another promising artist’s debut, that being Elvis Costello’s My Aim is True.

Though brimming with great songwriting, both albums featured a primitive sound that would be abandoned by the release of the respective artists’ sophomore LPs. Costello’s ragged throwback sound (provided by backing band Clover, later known as Huey Lewis & the News) pegged him as a punk Buddy Holly; a year later, with the legendary Attractions in place, Elvis began forging a legacy that terms like “punk” and “new wave” couldn’t encapsulate.

The Proclaimers’ first record presents them in a stripped-down (in this case acoustic) setting with an almost folk-punk feel. But tacked on at the end, in a full-band arrangement that presaged their sound on subsequent albums, was their first classic anthem, “Letter From America”.

This song deserves the status that “I’m Gonna Be…” enjoys as the Proclaimers’ calling card. It’s a heartbreaking elegy to Scotland’s emigration drain due to economic depression:

I wonder my blood/Will you ever return/To help us kick the life back/To a dying mutual friend?/Do we not love her?/Do we not say we love her?/Do we have to roam the world to prove how much it hurts?

Interestingly, the 12′ vinyl pressing interwove the full band and acoustic versions of the song on the same side of the record in such a way that the needle would play one or the other version randomly when the needle hit the grooves. The song was a #3 UK hit.

2. “Cap in Hand”

From their second and finest album, 1988’s Sunshine on Leith, somehow an overlooked classic despite the fact that it contained “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”. The brothers and their backing band talk about the special feeling they all had recording the album, and the great melodies that were flowing from the brothers’ collective pen.

In a brilliant piece of writing, “Cap in Hand” mixes cheek with pointed political commentary:

I can understand why Stranraer lie so lowly/They could save a lot of points by signing Hibs’ goalie/But I can’t understand why we let someone else rule our land/We’re cap in hand

3. “Then I Met You”

A hopeful ode to new love’s ability to overcome hardened cynicism. Also from Sunshine on Leith.

This one’s a burner live.

4. “Sean”

The Leith album was littered with songs which stirred the best kind of nationalistic feelings. Not the defiant, ready-to-take-up-guns type. But the kind that make you want to sing loudly and celebrate the beauty of family, nation and heritage.

Though fear and hurt and care can lead me to despair/I saw why I’m here the morning you appeared

Sean, I sat awhile on clouds to ask God if He’s living/I should have spent the time on knees in thanks for what He’s given

From parents smart and strong to both of us passed on/From kings is where you come, through daughters and through sons

5. “Sunshine on Leith”

Speaking of songs you want to sing loudly, the album’s title track–a beautiful serenade to the port district near Edinburgh–has been adopted by the Hibernian Football Club, whose fans belt it at all their matches.

While I’m worth
My room on this Earth

I will be with you
While the Chief
Puts sunshine on Leith

I’ll thank Him
For His work
And your birth
And my birth

The first video below shows the cheer that goes up when the song begins, and the team’s celebration of the CIC Cup victory as the fans serenade them. The second (which begins the same–just a heads up) adds a layer of poignancy with the story of the coach losing his father. The videos truly capture a moment when life and music intersect in a powerful way.

6. “I’m on my Way”

Yet another track from the Leith album (and it wasn’t easy to narrow it to five). This one will be familiar to anyone who saw the movie Shrek.

7. “Shout Shout”

After a six-year drought due to writer’s block, the twins returned with their attention having turned somewhat from the political/cultural focus of Sunshine on Leith to more domestic matters. Significantly, the album delivered no big follow-up single to “I’m Gonna Be…”, cementing their one-hit status in the States.

8. “Should Have Been Loved”

After a pair of so-so albums and a ‘best of’ collection, the brothers returned to form in 2003 with Born Innocent, their strongest record since Sunshine on Leith. The effortless songcraft and catchy melodies were abundant on this, their most underrated record.

9. “He’s Just Like Me”

Also from Born Innocent. Illustrative of the honest, poignant lyric style that sets them apart as writers.

10. “Now and Then”

This song, written in memory of the Reid brothers’ lost father, will be a dose of strong stuff for anyone who’s experienced a similar loss. Sad, beautiful and reassuring all at once.

Bonus Track: “Hate My Love”

I first wrote this post in April 2013. Due to some degradation of the attached files it was necessary to re-post it with the music files restored.

Since I always regretted that the snarling “Hate My Love” (another track from the superb Born Innocent LP) didn’t fit among the ten songs that were part of that post, I cheated this time and included it as a bonus track.

There. Now I feel better.

See also:

Ten Great Hollies Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Asia Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Irish Rovers Songs that Aren’t ‘The Unicorn’

Ten Great Weezer Songs That Aren’t from the ‘Blue Album

Ten Great Weezer Songs That Aren’t from the ‘Blue Album’


At a Weezer live show a couple years ago I waited in vain for personal favorites from more recent albums as the band played most of their self-titled debut, known in fan parlance as “The Blue Album” due to the band’s tendency to repeatedly release self-titled albums most easily distinguished by their color.

I have nothing against the Blue Album. Although “Beverly Hills” from eleven years later was their only true top ten pop single, it was their 1994 azure-covered debut which spawned the essential post-grunge modern rock hits that concert fans truly cut loose to: “Undone–The Sweater Song”, “Say it Ain’t So”, “My Name is Jonas” and “Buddy Holly”.

But like other bands we’ve recognized in this series of posts, the artistic successes have come along more often than the commercial ones, and there are some overlooked gems in the band’s catalogue which truly show off the band’s main strength–Rivers Cuomo’s killer melodic knack.

So here are ten great Weezer songs that aren’t from the Blue Album.


1. “Susanne”

As has been covered elsewhere in this blog, “Susanne” first appeared as a B-side and on the Mallrats soundtrack before shedding its rarity status with its inclusion on the bonus disc of the Blue Album’s deluxe reissue. The song has a great backstory, reprinted here from that album’s liner notes:

Susanne was a talented A&R assistant at Geffen. In the long months of limbo between completing the Blue album in October ’93 and its eventual release in May of ’94, she became a big Weezer supporter, doing her best to keep the guys optimistic about their future with Geffen. As the lyrics imply, Susanne did in fact help Rivers (Cuomo) out with her spare winter coat when he needed one, and made plates of brownies to cheer him up. Her devotion and aid were perfectly summed up in this song. Before she knew of the song’s existence, the guys performed it a cappella for her in her Geffen office. Needless to say, it surprised the hell out of her!

Originally the line “Even Izzy, Slash and Axl Rose, when I call you put ’em all on hold” read “Even Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose…” In April ’94 the shocking news came of Kurt’s untimely death. Though the two had never met, Rivers had found great inspiration in Kurt’s songwriting on Nirvana’s Bleach. So when it came time to record “Susanne”, Rivers decided to change the lyric, not wanting to disrespect the memory of one who had been such an inspiration.

Susanne, you’re all that I wanted of a girl
You’re all that I need in the world
I’m your child
Make me blush, drive me wild
Susanne, you’re all that I wanted

When I met you I was all alone
Cold and hungry cryin’ on the phone
You baked me brownies and said “don’t you cry”
And gave me the coat off your back

Susanne, you’re all that I wanted of a girl
You’re all that I need in the world
I’m your child
Make me blush, drive me wild
Susanne, you’re all that I wanted

Even Izzy, Slash and Axl Rose
When I call you put ’em all on hold
And say to me that you’d do anything
And all I can do is say that
I haven’t much I can give you in return
Only my heart and a promise not to turn
But I’ll sing to you every day and every night
Susanne, I’m your man

Susanne, you’re all that I wanted of a girl
You’re all that I need in the world
I’m your child
Make me blush,  drive me wild
Susanne, you’re all that I wanted
Of a girl


2. “Island in the Sun”

Not really an overlooked song; this was an MTV staple at the time. One of their best, from perhaps their strongest album (The “Green Album”)


3. “Perfect Situation”

This one starts out with a fairly assertive guitar solo (with some wah effect) before the heavy layers are stripped away for the vocals. It’s reminiscent of Steely Dan’s “Don’t Take Me Alive” and a dramatic way to begin a song.

Check out the great music video which accompanies this one.


4. “The Damage in Your Heart”

And speaking of drama…the lyric and melody work together here to heart-wrenching effect. And a piercing three-note fill cements the songs joints together nicely. One of Cuomo’s best efforts.


5. “Ruling Me”

Co-written with Semisonic’s Dan Wilson. Stop-start dynamics wind up a chorus that effectively explodes onto you with its sugary power pop rush. Possibly the band’s best pure pop song.



6. “Da Vinci”

Even Da Vinci couldn’t paint you
Stephen Hawking can’t explain you
Rosetta Stone could not translate you
I’m at a loss for words, I’m at a loss for words
I couldn’t put it in a novel
I wrote a page, but it was awful
Now I just want to sing your gospel
I’m at a loss for words, I’m at a loss for words


7. “(Girl We Got a) Good Thing”

Songs like “(Girl We Got a) Good Thing” make one believe that, far from being past his songwriting prime, Rivers Cuomo is only now perfecting the formula for the type of music he’s most interested in producing. Whatever post-punk or post-grunge or post-whatever paradigm gave impetus to their initial success, Cuomo has seemingly deduced that his singular talent lies in refining the sugar found in classic bubblegum rock and roll. I hear echoes of acts from Connie Francis to ABBA in the melodies and arrangements of Weezer’s recent albums.

And yeah that’s a good thing.


8. “King of the World”

Being an admirer of Brian Wilson, it’s not surprising Cuomo’s songwriting arsenal includes a shrewd comprehension of the power of the nonsense syllable. It never sounds forced, but rather completely organic. Here he tags the end of the chorus with a melodic woah-woah-WOAH, woah-woah-WOAH…and it sounds like nothing so much as an intrinsic part of the lyric.

Check out another perfect example in “Perfect Situation” above.


9. “Weekend Woman”

Bells and glockenspiel add melodramatic effect to a mournful lost love song. Pop magic.

I still believe your beautiful lies…


10. “Sweet Mary”

To describe “Sweet Mary” is to repeat myself about Cuomo’s aptitude for a sweet melancholy melody and his great pop instincts. But I won’t let that stop me.

Note how the extended bridge lends tension that leads to sweet melodic relief and resolution in the final chorus. Masterful.


See also:

Ten Great Asia Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Hollies Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Proclaimers Songs That Aren’t ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’

Ten Great Irish Rovers Songs That Aren’t ‘The Unicorn’

Ten Great Irish Rovers Songs that Aren’t ‘The Unicorn’


1. “Come In”

rovers 5


2. “The Life of a Rover”

rovers 2


3. “Lament for the Molly Maguires”



4. “Fiddler’s Green”


black velvet

5. “The Black Velvet Band”

rovers 9


8. “Liverpool Lou”

rovers 3

9. “When the Boys Come Rolling Home”

rovers 8

10. “Whiskey On a Sunday”

rovers 7

See also:

Ten Great Hollies Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Asia Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Proclaimers Songs that Aren’t ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’

Ten Great Weezer Songs That Aren’t from the ‘Blue Album’

Ten Great Asia Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

asia 1

That’s right. I said “Ten Great Asia Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40.”

I for one am sick of the near-monolithic critical disdain for the band Asia. The latest noogie is from a post titled The 15 Most Disappointing Supergroups Of All Time in this week’s NME:

Imagine how bad a supergroup consisting of old lags from King Crimson and ELP would have been. Now add in ex-members of Yes. And all of them trying to hang on to their prog-pop stylings well into the 80s. Asia, presumably, being where they should’ve been exiled to at birth.

Critics usually go even further and slag supergroups as a whole, as if it’s pre-ordained to be a bad idea each time talented musicians who made their reputations in other bands decide to band together. But Blind Faith and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young weren’t exactly artistic disasters. And who are we to begrudge rock veterans doing something fun on the side, e.g. the Traveling Wilburys? (It wasn’t supposed to sound like a Dylan album. It was a lark, more like Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, only making studio LPs.) If you don’t like it, let it be. At least allow that perhaps your expectations were the problem.

I’ll add that if you have a hard-bitten anti-prog bias, you have no business writing critically about a supergroup made up of prog musicians. It would be like me panning a Riverdance show: It’s really none of my business.

And Asia wasn’t meant to be Yes II, or a re-launching of ELP or King Crimson. Those bands, love ’em or hate ’em, were the original Progfathers, the ones who birthed the genre. Apparently the guys wished to do something that relaxed the prog tendencies somewhat, something more streamlined. Perhaps they wanted a piece of the Styx-Journey-Boston audience (and some of their money). Maybe (gasp!) they even wanted to be played on the radio.

And so they created a band that made four- and five-minute rock songs with layered harmonies and strong, anthemic choruses, tastefully rendered by consummate musicians. And they were almost universally reviled by critics.

But fans don’t carry around as many issues as critics–they simply like what they like. And “Heat of the Moment” is nearly as beloved by fans of 80’s pop rock as is Toto’s “Africa”. Asia’s debut album went four times platinum in the U.S. alone, and they consistently sell out concert halls in many parts of the world to this day.

With friends like that, who needs NME?


1. “Sole Survivor”

From their debut. This one got U.S. airplay, but never dented the pop charts. It’s very cinematic, in the same 80’s sci-fi sort of way as Mike + The Mechanics’ “Silent Running”.

2. “Wildest Dreams”

Also from their first LP. If you were a fan of muscular AOR, Asia’s first delivered the goods in spades. It wasn’t the last time Geoff Downes and John Wetton would visit an anti-war theme. Again, this song never saw the pop charts, although it was played on rock stations.

3. “Summer”

Here’s where things start to get interesting. Asia was a band of many lineup changes (the original lineup only survived two albums) and by 1994 John Payne had taken over John Wetton’s duties as lead vocalist and bass player. The Payne-era albums don’t get much respect today, to say the least. And they weren’t particularly good records. But most had at least a quality track or two, such as “Summer”, which offered a strong hook of a chorus, the kind that sticks with you like one of those Foreigner ballads the radio played incessantly.

4. “Ready to Go Home”

With the band including some material from outside writers by 2001’s Payne-era Aura album, they could do a lot worse than look to Andrew Gold and 10cc alum Graham Gouldman, who wrote this gorgeous ballad. Perhaps the overlooked gem of the band’s entire repertoire, “Ready to Go Home” speaks of the end of life in a poignant way, emotional but not maudlin. This is the kind of song most rock bands wouldn’t touch; it takes balls, frankly, to sing about the surrender of earthly cares and the forgiveness of sins within the rock arena. This is the kind of song that makes Asia’s John Payne era matter. With none of the Wetton-Downes power harmony bluster Asia is known for, “Ready to Go Home” might actually be the boldest artistic statement in their catalog.

 5. “Come Make My Day”

From the same Aura album, “Come Make My Day” is just a well-delivered welterweight rock tune with a nice chorus. If the MOR rock genre isn’t for you, neither is this song. But again, if you liked bands like Foreigner and late-period .38 Special, this is right up your alley.

6. “Never Again”

In 2008 the four original members of Asia returned with a vengeance. With John Wetton back in the fold, the trademark big harmony choruses were back, and with the return of his songwriting the aptly-titled Phoenix album was the band’s best since their debut. Simply put, if you liked Asia in 1982, you’ll like Phoenix.

7. “Alibis”

Of all the tracks on Phoenix, “Alibis” most made you want to check the date on the back of the CD, as it perfectly recaptured the “Heat of the Moment” sound. It’s like the years 1983-2007 never happened.

8. “Parallel Worlds/Vortex/Déyà”

This 8-minute epic in three parts allowed the guys to “prog out” a little. Carl Palmer and Steve Howe in particular get to show some chops here, but all in tasteful service of the song.

9. “An Extraordinary Life”

Yes, I realize four of these ten songs are from the Phoenix album, and yes, it’s that good. If the album had a potential single, this album-closer was probably it. With Wetton having come through some serious troubles with alcohol and recent major heart surgery, this song had to have real meaning for him, and it comes through in the lyric and performance: a simple statement of appreciation for life from a man who’d nearly lost his in more ways than one.

10. “Holy War”

All four original members reconvened for another strong album with 2010’s Omega, and its lead track is certainly one of the best songs the band has ever recorded. Again, it’s a sound, and theme, straight from Asia circa 1982. Their platinum-selling days are long behind them, of course. But musically at least, Asia was one band that accomplished the ultra-rare feat of a credible return to their glory years of decades earlier.


See also:

Ten Great Hollies Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Irish Rovers Songs that Aren’t ‘The Unicorn’

Ten Great Proclaimers Songs that Aren’t ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’

Ten Great Weezer Songs That Aren’t from the ‘Blue Album’

Ten Great Hollies Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Hollies 2

When Beatlemania shook America in 1964 the band set the table, opened the door, primed the pump and greased the kitty for many other acts who to varying degrees capitalized on America’s sudden appetite for anything British.

Not only did the Hollies follow in the Beatles’ wake, but their early sound owed more to the Fab Four than did that of say, the Who or the Animals. So it’s hard to understand why it didn’t translate into greater stateside success–they were always a much more successful act back in England, where they charted 17 top ten singles, compared to 6 in the U.S.

Of course, we’re familiar with their classic songs that were smashes on both sides of the Atlantic: “Bus Stop”, “Carrie-Anne”, “Stop Stop Stop”, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)” and “The Air That I Breathe”.

But there were a lot of quality songs seldom heard, or never heard, on American radio–songs that either missed the top 40 or were never released here at all. Here are ten singles and album tracks, all released between 1964 and 1968, that make the case for the Hollies being a better band than we generally realize:


1. “Just One Look”

Their cover of Doris Troy’s 1963 hit, covered again by Linda Ronstadt in 1979. But only Troy’s original managed to crack the top 40.

2. “Here I Go Again”

This one wouldn’t be out of place on A Hard Day’s Night.

3. “Don’t You Know”

I hear “Eight Days a Week” in the rhythm here.

4. “I Can’t Let Go”

Another song that was later a hit for Ronstadt. But while she took it to the top 40 the Hollies’ version stalled just outside it.

5. “Tell Me To My Face”

Great song, great riff. I think if they’d only added their usual harmonies to this one it could have been a hit. Covered in an excellent version by Dan Fogelberg and Tim Weisberg in 1978 (they did add Hollies-type harmonies). But only Keith (the “98.6” guy) hit the top 40 with this song.

6. “You Need Love”

Just when you expect a guitar solo they come in with Tijuana Brass horns. In another similarity to the Beatles, the Hollies would throw in a curveball instrument for a solo (steel drums in “Carrie-Anne”, bells in “Pay You Back with Interest”, psychedelic banjo in “Stop Stop Stop”, etc.)

7. “Would You Believe”

Getting a little more ambitious here. This sounds like something from the Bee Gees’ Odessa album. (That’s a compliment.)

8. “Butterfly”

Now we’re into full-on psychedelia. Donovan, the Zombies, Chad & Jeremy–most Invasion acts jumped on the bandwagon with something in this vein.

9. “Wings”

For my money this might be the true lost treasure of the batch. And maybe not coincidently this one sounds like no one but the Hollies. It’s a bit of a rarity too, having never been included on one of the band’s albums. It appeared on a various artist collection entitled No-One’s Gonna Change Our World, made as a benefit for the World Wildlife Fund.

10. “Listen To Me”

The last single to feature Graham Nash in the band. A #11 hit in England. It didn’t chart in the U.S.


See also:

Ten Great Asia Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Irish Rovers Songs that Aren’t ‘The Unicorn’

Ten Great Proclaimers Songs that Aren’t ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’

Ten Great Weezer Songs That Aren’t from the ‘Blue Album’

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