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Manic Street Preachers

From Academic Kids

The Manic Street Preachers are a Welsh rock band, one of the biggest in Britain for a period in the late 1990s, known for their early wild exploits; the mysterious disappearance and alleged suicide of Richey James Edwards (Richey James, as he preferred to be known); and for a progression of strong iconoclastic albums and energetic gigs. Politically they are staunch socialists, a stance inflected by their working class upbringing (they grew up during the Miners' strike of the '80s) and evidenced by their often highly politicised lyrics and their actions (they once dedicated an award to Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Mineworkers and later the Socialist Labour Party).

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Manic Street Preachers in 1994 when The Holy Bible was released. Left to right: Richey, James, Nicky and Sean
Contents

History

The band, which was originally named Betty Blue (after the English title of French film 372 le matin), was formed in 1986 by Oakdale Comprehensive (Blackwood) schoolfriends James Dean Bradfield (lead guitarist), Flicker (bass guitarist), Sean Moore, (drummer and James' cousin), and Nicky Wire (Real name: Nicholas Jones, rhythm guitarist and brother of poet and playwright Patrick Jones). For a short period Jenny Watkins-Isnardi joined the group as a singer, but left after a few months to be replaced by James as singer. During this time James had tried writing lyrics, among them the unrecorded "Jackboot Johnny", but he gave up and Nicky wrote all their lyrics.

In 1988, Flicker left the band, which became a three piece, with Nicky switching from rhythm to bass guitar, and recorded their first single, Suicide Alley. The cover was highly reminiscent of The Clash's first album, simply titled The Clash, and was photographed and designed by schoolfriend Richey James Edwards. Richey's contribution to the band was, along with Nicky, writing the lyrics, miming guitar onstage (Richey once said of his guitar playing, "I can play a bit, but compared to James I can't play at all") and driving them to and from gigs.

However, Richey contributed much more, he brought to the band a unique aesthetic that was a collision of The Clash and Guns N' Roses (which sat perfectly with James, two of his heroes are Mick Jones and Slash), Albert Camus style intelligence, Guy Debord style politics and Marilyn Monroe style glamour. The Manics aesthetic, especially in these early days, also strongly embraced a philosophy of sell out as freedom and liberation, that by exerting absolute freedom of will and by being honest about your past, present and future, mistakes and all, double standards and broken promises were nothing to be ashamed of. For this reason, the Manics polarised opinion more than any other British rock band before of since, critics hated them for their allegedly superficial glamour, arrogant rock star posturing, aggressive intellectualism as well as a seeming lack of values and, to a certain extent, apathetic nihilism.

Much of this criticism stemmed from an aggressive anti-success ethic amongst NME championed bands that had reached epidemic proportions by the time the Manics began to receive coverage in the music papers as well as the then rampant critical opinion that a band had to "stand for for something". Ironically enough, the fans loved the band for the very things that they were condemned for by the press, with Nicky saying in later years that their manipulation of the media was "the greatest thing we ever did".

All of this set them a million miles apart from the shoegazing and Madchester bands of the day. At early gigs, they would be bottled and heckled from beginning to end. James and Nicky would hurl abuse at their audiences and tear through short sets similar to those of The Ramones famous "Twenty minutes of energy" gigs, a display of an odd punk rock style band/audience interaction that had been unheard of since the infamous riotous early gigs of Scotland's The Jesus & Mary Chain a few years earlier.

In 1990, they signed a deal with punk label Damaged Goods Records for one EP. The four track ep, New Art Riot, attracted as much media interest for its attacks on fellow musicians as for the actual music. Following this they, with the help of Hall Or Nothing management, signed to hip, London Dance music label Heavenly Records. Their first single for Heavenly, Motown Junk (released on January 21 1991), showcased their iconoclastic ("I laughed when Lennon got shot") punk/metal influenced rock n' roll that, like their image and attitude, was a million miles apart from the Madchester and Thames Valley scenes that were dominating the indie world. The song also displays their huge cultural scope with a Public Enemy sampling intro and an outro sample of The Skids.

Over the next year they earned a wild reputation, much like that of Guns N' Roses or The Sex Pistols, as well as an extremely loyal, rabid fanbase. In music press interviews they attacked the indie press darlings of the day, Shoegazing bands (Chapterhouse, Slowdive, Ride, and My Bloody Valentine), the crusty pop rockers (Carter USM, Senseless Things, Ned's Atomic Dustbin) as well as the dying Madchester movement (The Happy Mondays, The Farm, Stone Roses). The Preachers manifesto went as follows: release one album that would outsell Appetite For Destruction, tour the world, headline Wembley for three nights and then burn out.

Their love/hate relationship with the press, and their use of Sex Pistols style media manipulation tactics, was documented on their next Heavenly single, You Love Us. They again displayed their huge cultural scope, the single sampled Penderecki's "Threnody To The Victims Of Hiroshima" as well as Iggy Pop and the video featured Nicky in drag as Marilyn Monroe and contained visual references to Betty Blue and Aleister Crowley. In a now legendary interview with then New Musical Express journalist Steve Lamacq, a man known for despising anything he sees as hype or contrivance, Richey carved the words "4 Real" into his arm with a razor blade to prove their sincerity. Shortly afterwards the band signed to Sony Records and began work on their debut album.

Their debut album, Generation Terrorists, was released on the Columbia Records imprint. The band toured the world and achieved success in most countries, including a particularly fanatical following in Japan, but failed to make any headway in the United States. This was mostly due to a combination of the band's androgynous image and the Grunge Music explosion, making anything that whiffed of glam or heavy metal unfashionable overnight. The liner notes contained a literary quote for each of the albums eighteen songs (Albert Camus, Sylvia Plath, George Orwell among others) and the album lasted just over seventy minutes. The record contained five singles and sold 250,000 copies, but the band felt they had failed due to it not matching up to their own expectations (James said of it, "If you make a record as good as Appetite For Destruction it sells, if you don't it doesn't"). The band did not burn out after all, releasing a split single with Fatima Mansions (a rock cover of "Suicide Is Painless") which became their first UK Top 10 hit, and began work on a second album.

The second album, Gold Against the Soul, was released to mixed reviews but still performed well, reaching number eight in the UK album chart, and displayed a more grungy sound. The nature of the lyrics also changed, with Richey and Nicky eschewing their political fire for introspective melancholy. They also disposed of their glam slut punk image, adopting in its stead a more mainstream hard rock look, and their venomous attacks, though Nicky would still slag off other bands at gigs.

Following what the band themselves described as "the most unfocused part of our career", Richey's personal problems of self-mutilation, anorexia nervosa and alcoholism became worse and began to affect the other band members as well as himself. He was admitted into The Priory, a private mental clinic to overcome his problems, and the band played a few festivals as a three piece to pay for his treatment.

The group's next album, The Holy Bible, regained their critical acclaim but sold extremely poorly. In fact it sold fewer copies than the previous albums and was not released at all America, though an American mix of the album was in the can. The album displayed yet another musical and aesthetic change for the band, the casual rock look was out and was replaced by army/navy uniforms. Musically, the band were veering into a gothic take on traditional metal forms, with highly irregular melodies and ice cold-guitar riffs taking centre stage. It was a stark departure from their previous work, replacing the previously Tommy Vance friendly hard rock with gothic anti-rock, influenced by post punk and a reflection on the bands own musical taste at the time. The lyrics, about 70% of them by Richey, had taken on a poetic nature and were much more horrifying and disturbing than ever before. No wonder it was compared to In Utero in almost every review.

Not long after, on February 1 1995, Richey disappeared from Cardiff, Wales. His car was found abandoned at the nearby Severn bridge service station. He has never been seen again, although unsubstantiated sightings have been common. Nonetheless, Richey retains a special place in many fans' hearts. The band was put on hold for six months and calling it a day was seriously considered, but with the blessing of Richey's family the other Manics went back to work.

The first album without Richey, Everything Must Go, contained four lyrics either written or co-written by Richey, was released to overwhelmingly positive reviews. The bulk of the lyrics were written solely by Nicky included number two hit single "A Design for Life", which became a working class anthem, and established the band alongside the other premier British bands of the day like Oasis. The band's image changed yet again, this time choosing a casual, lad culture image much like that of Oasis. The album was shortlisted for the 1996 Mercury Prize award for best album, and yielded the hit singles "Australia", "Everything Must Go" and "Kevin Carter".

1998's This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours was just as successful across most of the world, and gave the band their first number one single in "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next". It was written about the Spanish Civil War and was inspired in equal parts by George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia and The Clash's "Spanish Bombs". The accompanying music video, directed by WIZ, is regarded by many as one of the finest ever made. The album also included the hit singles "You Stole The Sun From My Heart", "Tsunami" and "The Everlasting".

In 2000 they released the limited edition single "The Masses Against The Classes", which takes its name from a quotation of 19th century Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone ("All the world over, I will back the masses against the classes"). Despite receiving little to no promotion, the record hit the number one position on the UK Singles chart. The record was a return to their more rock based roots and was well accepted by their old fans.

In 2001 they became the first western rock band to play in Cuba, (at the Karl Marx theater) and met president Fidel Castro, who declared that their concert was "Louder than War" (a title they used on a DVD of the Cuban trip). They made no mention of Castro during the concert but did dedicate "You Love Us" to Flix Savn who was also in the audience. Many criticised the band because of Cuba's human rights record but Nicky claimed that although it wasn't perfect, it was still the closest any society had got to socialism.

In this concert they revealed many tracks from their sixth album Know Your Enemy, a much more eclectic album in the vein of London Calling or Sandinista! era Clash. The song "Ocean Spray" was written by James about his mother's battle with cancer. The first singles from the album, "So Why So Sad" and "Found That Soul", were both released on the same day. Other singles included "Let Robeson Sing".

The greatest hits (plus remixes) album Forever Delayed was released in 2002. It was controversial with fans who claimed that it did not reflect the band's greatest songs but instead only featured the songs that charted well (although a look at the chart entries for singles included and excluded reveals that this is not completely true either). The album included two brand new songs, "Door To The River" and "There By The Grace of God" (which was released as a single).

An album of B-sides, rarities, and cover versions album was released in 2003 - Lipstick Traces. The album included the last song that was ever recorded when Richey was still in the band, the previously unreleased "Judge Yr'self" that was intended to feature on the Judge Dredd movie soundtrack, as well as "Forever Delayed", a song the band had been playing at gigs throughout the year but had not been released.

The band's seventh studio album, Lifeblood, was released on November 1st 2004. The band played two new songs from the album, "Empty Souls" and "Solitude Sometimes Is", during their appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival 2004. "Everything Will Be", which the band previewed at the Glastonbury Festival 2003, appeared as a B-side to the single The Love of Richard Nixon. Tony Visconti helped the band produce three songs on the album.

A tenth anniversary edition of The Holy Bible was released on December 6th 2004 which included a digitally remastered version of the original album, a never before heard U.S mix and a D.V.D of live performances and extras including a band interview.

The band has yet to establish a sizable American audience, but remains popular in the UK, especially in Wales, and in many Asian countries including Japan.
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Manic Street Preachers in 2004 around the release of "Lifeblood"

Discography

Chart positions listed are for the UK, they never had an album or a single in the US charts.

Studio Albums

Compilations

Singles

Videos

  • 1997 Everything Live
  • 2000 Leaving The 20th Century - Cardiff Millennium Stadium Concert
  • 2001 Louder Than War
  • 2002 Forever Delayed

Publications

  • 2002 Forever Delayed (Official photo book, photos taken by Japanese photographer Mitch Ikeda. With an introduction by John Savage.)

Awards

  • Best Album & "Best Group" - Brit awards, 1999
  • Best Band In The World Today - Q Awards, 1998
  • Best Album & "Best Group" - Brit awards, 1996
  • Writers' Best Album (Everything Must Go) of 1996 - Melody Maker
  • Reader's Band of 1996 (Runner Up) & "Writers' Album (Everything Must Go) of 1996" - NME
  • Writers' Best Live Band of 1996 - NME Brat Award
  • "Writers' Best Album (Everything Must Go) of 1996 - Vox
  • Writers' Best Album (Everything Must Go) of 1996 - The Sunday Times
  • "Writers' Best Album (Everything Must Go) of 1996 - Sky
  • Writers' Best Album (Everything Must Go) of 1996 & Readers' Best Album (Everything Must Go) of 1996 - Select
  • Readers' Best Album (Everything Must Go) of 1996 - Q Awards
  • Writers' Best Album (Everything Must Go) of 1996 - Music Week
  • One of Writers' Top Ten Albums (Everything Must Go) of 1996 - Metal Hammer
  • Writers' Album (Everything Must Go) of 1996 (Runner Up) - Kerrang!
  • One of Writers' Top Five Albums (Everything Must Go) of 1996 - Independent On Sunday
  • Readers' Best Album (Everything Must Go) of 1996 - Hot Press
  • Writers' Best Album (Everything Must Go) of 1996 - The Guardian
  • One of The Writers' Best Albums (Everything Must Go) of 1996 - The Daily Telegraph

External links

  • Official site (http://www.manics.co.uk) official news, forum and more
  • Stay Beautiful (http://www.staybeautiful.net) fan site with news messageboard, lyrics, pictures, and interviews.
  • Sciryl/Lyrics (http://www1.tip.nl/~t892660/msp/index.htm) fan site with lyrics and a comprehensive FAQ.
  • Manics.nl (http://www.manics.nl/) fansite about the philosophical, historical, cultural and literary aspects of Manic Street Preachers.
  • nickywire.co.uk (http://www.nickywire.co.uk/) fan site for Nicky Wire, Manics lyricist and bassist, with news and interviews.
  • seanmoore.net (http://www.seanmoore.net/) fan site for Sean Moore, Manics drummer, with interviews and FAQ.de:Manic Street Preachers

pl:Manic Street Preachers fi:Manic Street Preachers sv:Manic Street Preachers ja:マニック・ストリート・プリーチャーズ

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