BY 1993 The Proclaimers had spent five years without proclaiming anything very much. The duo briefly contemplated changing their name to the Procreators. Between them, Charlie and Craig Reid produced seven children in 11 years. But the baby which took up most of their time was their beloved Hibernian Football Club.
The brothers spearheaded the ultimately successful 3,000 strong pressure group Hands Off Hibs campaign against the threatened takeover of the club by Heart of Midlothian.
"We did what we could," says Craig. "Charlie was more involved than I was. I don't think Wallace Mercer [the Hearts chairman and architect of the takeover bid] realised the level of vitriol he was going to be subjected to. He was getting death threats and bullets through the post.
"Most of our family were traditionally Hearts supporters. My dad would go to Tynecastle or Easter Road, whoever was playing at home. In the early 1950s my dad had a trial for Hibs. He was a good footballer but it was a time when Hibs had won the championship three times and he wasn't quite good enough."
The brothers were taken to their first Hibs match in 1972 when the team beat St Johnstone 7-1. "That is the only time I've ever seen them strike seven goals," says Craig ruefully. "When you're a kid you think it's always going to be like that. My two girls support Hibs, as does my younger son, but my older boy, Peter, is a Hearts fan. I refuse to buy him a Hearts strip. If he wants to go the wrong way, that's up to him.
"But to be honest, I'd rather not be so obsessed by football. You spend a lot of money on it and it brings a lot of heartache."
It has also brought one or two good tunes. The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues, which features on the first album, is about a Hibs victory away from home.
Family and football meant that the Reid brothers were far from idle but with no album to promote, there were fears that the Proclaimers' fan base might have deserted them. "Looking back I wouldn't have changed anything," says Charlie. "What we lost out on wasn't as big as what we gained."
Then, out of the blue, came another unexpected stroke of luck. Mary Stuart Masterson, the Hollywood star of Some Kind Of Wonderful and Fried Green Tomatoes, played the Proclaimers' hit I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) incessantly on the set of the her 1993 film Benny & Joon, in which she co-starred with Johnny Depp. "It became the theme tune for the movie," says Charlie. "People started to pick up on it and it just took off from there. The movie did quite well in America in the spring of 1993 but the song took on a life beyond the movie."
I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) spent more than 28 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100, climbed to number 3 nationally and reached number 1 in more than half the states in America, selling a million copies. "It takes longer for a song to be a hit in America but when it does, it hangs around a lot longer than it does in the UK," says Craig. "It was unbelievable. It just went on and on and on."
"Financially, it put us in a different league for a while," says Charlie. "We've been OK with the money. We didn't spend it all. The money we've made over the years has had to see us through the years when we haven't had a record, and more recently it has had to finance our own record label." (The Proclaimers parted company with EMI in 2000 when it closed Chrysalis as an independent record label. They now produce their albums under their own imprint, Persevere.)
On the back of the American breakthrough, the brothers undertook a three-week, coast-to-coast promotional tour, the climax of which was an appearance before 22,000 New Yorkers in Madison Square Garden. "The only gig we've ever done like that was Murrayfield Live8," says Craig. "We were the first act on. Jon Bon Jovi were top of the bill. Duran Duran were performing too. It was one of the worst-organised events I have ever played at. Murrayfield Live8 was chaos too. It was the same kind of feeling. There was no soundcheck. Charlie was still putting his shirt on when we were pushed on the stage."
There were performances on the Letterman and Today TV shows. Sunshine On Leith went gold in the US, eventually selling 2m copies worldwide. Advertising agencies cottoned on to the commercial viability of I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) - it has been used to sell everything from South Korean mobile phones to Swedish meat balls. And the Scottish tennis star Andrew Murray used the song to psych himself up for his Davis Cup victory in Tel Aviv. Even Homer Simpson paid tribute to the song with his version, I Could Drink 500 Beers.
Hollywood, too, continued to court the brothers. I'm On My Way featured in Shrek. They contributed versions of Get Ready to the soundtrack of Dumb and Dumber; Over and Done With to cult movie Bottle Rocket and Bye Bye Love to the movie of the same name. "Suddenly we were bankable," says Charlie.
By the end of 1993, a new album, Hit The Highway, was ready. When the single Let's Get Married was released in early 1994, it went straight into the UK top 20. The brothers toured for 18 months, playing 116 venues, including a coast-to-coast tour of the US and Canada. They were careful, however, not to let success go to their heads.
"We stayed grounded," says Charlie. "I think if you are that way, you'll stay that way. There's a theory that all that fame does is magnify what you're like. It doesn't change your basic personality. Your family and your friends know what a great guy you are or what a prick you are. The only difference is that, with fame, everyone else knows too. The huge advantage is that there are two of us. If there hadn't been, we'd have been more likely to go off the rails."
While Scottish contemporaries, such as Stuart Adamson of Big Country and Marti Pellow of Wet, Wet, Wet, succumbed to the lure of drink and drugs, the Reid brothers managed to avoid the urge to self-destruct.
"I've certainly participated in the drink, not really in the drugs," says Craig. "I have to be careful what I say here. They used to say there was nothing wrong with marijuana, but I think the evidence now shows there probably is something deeply wrong with it. But I wouldn't condemn anybody for doing anything."
"There are drink bands and drug bands and this is a drink band," says Charlie. "There is an ethos of drink about this band and there isn't an ethos of drugs. I'm not saying no-one in the band ever took drugs but the vibe round the Proclaimers would be more to do with drink."
Craig adds: "The rule is, before the gig, no alcohol. After the gig you can have a drink. You've got to be disciplined. People are paying to see the band and if you go on half-cut it's an insult to the audience. You absolutely owe it to them to be professional. I wouldn't say it was a crime to have an affair or take a drug but I think if you insult your audience, that is a crime. If there ever comes a time when I cannot give the public what I owe them at a gig, I will stop it instantly."
Exhausted from the tour of 1994/95, The Proclaimers made a one-off live appearance in 1996, performing from the centre circle at Murrayfield Stadium prior to a Scotland v Australia rugby encounter. They also recorded Chuck Berry's No Particular Place To Go and Buddy Holly's Maybe Baby in 1997, for John Byrne's film adaptation of his play The Slab Boys. But the real reason for their low profile was the illness of their father Ian, who died in 1997.
"He'd been ill for about a year," says Craig. "He was a heavy drinker and smoker and he had problems with his heart. He was wasting away. By the end, it was a relief because he was in so much pain and he was so weak. He died in the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy and we were all there."
"On a day to day level you don't realise how influential he was," says Charlie. "He really discharged his responsibilities as a father very well. For a working class man of his time, he was very forward looking.
"He always encouraged us to get well above our raising but always to understand that everybody was worth the same. His philosophy was: 'You only get one kick at it, so give it a go.'
"He saw most of our success. Unfortunately he didn't live long enough to see us push it on to another stage, which we've done in the last few years.
"He was proud of what we did and effusive in his praise. I feel sorry for people who don't have good families."
Political impotence, romantic love and football are recurring themes in the Proclaimers' work, but among their most moving songs are tributes to the father. Act of Remembrance on Persevere, the 2001 album and the first after his death, is a raw and moving tribute. Now and Then on the new album Restless Soul is tender and poignant.
2001 was a defining years for the brothers. Despite "an inexcusable absence" of seven years in which they produced no album, they headlined T in the Park by popular demand and played before a 100,000 strong crowd at Edinburgh's Hogmanay. "Up until 2001 we didn't have a career. What we had was a series of freak accidents," says Charlie. For the first time, with the 2002 album Born Innocent, the Proclaimers set themselves the discipline of a deadline.
"Basically, with Born Innocent we gave ourselves the target of completing it in eight months," says Craig. "We've done the same thing with Restless Soul. In the past we've spent too long waiting for the inspiration to come and worrying about repeating ourselves."
Two decades ago, when they stubbornly refused to manipulate their image for the marketing men, the Reid brothers vowed they would be judged purely on their music and their music has outlived many of their contemporaries. They can still draw huge crowds all over the world, be it headlining shows in Sydney at the invitation of the organisers of the Rugby World Cup, playing to the crowd at UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen at Glasgow's Hampden Park, or kicking off the Live8 event at Murrayfield.
"We've never wanted to present a kids' television programme or get into films or write scripts," says Charlie. "All we've wanted to concentrate on is the music."
By holding on to that early vision, the brothers have won themselves a starring role in the history of Scottish popular culture and the abiding affection of their fellow Scots.
Wherever they perform one thing is clear, The Proclaimers are not an act.
Restless Soul is available now. For details of the tour see www.proclaimers.co.uk