In 1995, Richey Edwards, the Manic Street Preachers' guitarist, vanished and has never been found. In an exclusive extract from a new biography, Martin Clarke traces his tragic fall.
On January 24, 1994. the Manic Street Preachers re-leased a single, the last from their second album Gold Against The Soul, called Life Becoming A Landslide. Little did they know how accurate that would be for the coming 12 months.
Behind their success. the Manics were falling apart, and this began to show during a tour of Thailand in the spring of 1994. The gigs were an important chapter in the Manics' lives. However, their activities around the concerts were of far greater significance. They were very low when they arrived in Bangkok, and the city's rampant sex industry and social degradation fuelled their despair further.
Richey Edwards, the band's troubled guitarist was losing the plot. He was the only Manic to take advantage of the sexual services on offer, wandering off one night into the hardcore area, where he bought himself a hand-job in a brothel.
The incident led to Richey's state of mind being revealingly exposed. He talked to journalists of his emotionless encounters with groupies, and how he hated it when they hung around after sex for kisses and cuddles - "There's no passion involved for me so it would be immoral to pretend there was." He said sex with groupies made him feel dirty afterwards, and that it was merely small change from wanking, and that, furthermore, he was not a sexual person. He talked of his fear of relationships - "I've seen so many people get left or hurt, it looks terrifying"- and was deeply offended when the interviewer asked him if he would still have had the hand-job had the hooker been under age.
Meanwhile, before the second gig, a girl walked up to Richey and handed him an expensive and razor-sharp set of ceremonial knives. As she gave him the present she said, "Look at me while you cut yourself..."
He played most of the gig seemingly unperturbed by this bizarre incident, but when James took the stage alone for an acoustic slot. Richey went into a dressing room on his own, look out the knives and slashed several deep wounds across his upper chest. When he returned to the stage, blood was running freely down his torso. Richey was not drunk, and did not appear to feel any pain.
The band continued to court controversy at Glastonbury that year. Halfway through their other-wise well-received set, bassist Nicky Wire announced: "They should build some more by-passes over this s**thole." Despite this, the Manics' set was almost universally hailed by the media as the highlight of the weekend. Ironically, though. singer and guitarist James Dean Bradfield hated the show: -It just seemed like the worst gig we've ever done, it was like cabaret for post-degree students."
Just before the band started the sessions in Wales for their third album, Richey saw a flat he liked in Cardiff and bought it the next day with his share of the proceeds from the band's growing record sales. Aged 25, it was probably about time that he moved out from his parents' bungalow. For a person so wracked with self-doubt and emotional pain. Richey appeared surprisingly unconcerned about his new-found financial security. Indeed. he ad-mired those people who were forced to face everyday difficulties through lack of money. It is a sign of the complexity of the man that his superior intelligence was not enough for him to work out the washing machine in his new flat, and he continued to take his dirty laundry home for his mother to wash. Richey's troubled mind was exacerbated when he heard that his only friend at university apart from Nicky had hung himself. He didn't take the news well. although rumours that he threatened to quit the band on hearing of the death were swiftly denied. He became morose and extremely depressed. and even told his management that he perhaps needed to get professional help.
His drinking was now out of control and his eating disorders were grave. He was now openly discussing his accelerating problems in several interviews. For example, he told NME."When I cut myself I feel so much better. All the little things that might have been annoying me suddenly seem so trivial because I'm concentrating on the pain...I'm not a person who can scream and shout, so this is my only outlet."
It was no surprise to the media when the news broke in July 1994 that Richey had been committed to a mental hospital. The band had taken him to health farms in the past, but he had reverted back to his self-destructive ways as soon as each session was finished. This time, more drastic measures were needed - Richey's weight seas down to six stone. It was therefore decided that professional medical attention was urgently needed.
Matters came to a head early that month with a damaging two-day self-mutilation session. When he was found, he was locked in his bedroom, badly lacerated and men-tally in shreds. Richey was rushed to hospital in Whitchurch. which did little to ease his troubled mind. When the band first visited him there they knew immediately he had to be moved somewhere else, and he Was duly booked into the (300-a-day Priory Clinic in Roehampton, where he embarked on the Twelve Step Recovery Programme. At first his progress seemed good. But its Step Three the patient has In reconcile himself with a god of his understanding. whether that be the Christian or Jewish god, a family member or even an animal. Richey could find no such crutch, saying:"Everything in my life has let me down".
In the immediate future, the band had certain gig commitments to meet. Richey was far short of being able to rejoin, so after much debate they agreed to play the forthcoming T In The Park and Reading festivals without him. No stand-in would be employed.
Richey had eyed the planned October tour as the motivation for his recovery and this goal seemed to speed up his improvement. He had begun eating properly again, was taking pride in his appearance and even practising his guitar. By late September, he was considered well enough to check out of The Priory. The tour went ahead, ending with three triumphant nights at London's Astoria. But on February 15. 1995, the press received a missing person report concerning Richey Edwards, who had been absent since February 1
The first shocking thing about Richey's disappearance was that there were no warning signs. He had driven home with Sean Moore, the drummer. after the Astoria gigs and seemed quiet but reasonably content He saw a lot of Nicky over the Christmas holiday and they exchanged festive presents as always. Friends of the family even saw him eat a Mars bar and hailed this as a small step towards defeating his anorexia. It was apparent, however, that he was still not fully recovered.
In January, he shaved his head, saying he was upset about the death of his beloved dog, Snoopy. On January 23, Richey conducted what is now known to be his last ever interview, for the Japanese magazine Music Life. He attended the interview dressed in striped pyjamas similar to the ones worn by Nazi concentration camp prisoners. He was wearing a pin badge saying "I miss my virginity" and had the word "love" written across his knuckles. He was wearing the same type of black canvas Converse trainers that Kurt Cobain was wearing when he killed himself.
In the interview, he seemed reasonably optimistic about the future. "The worst thing I did MS to keep trying to be normal, which is how I ended up in hospital. Now I wake up in the morning and I know what I want to do - I want to write, it makes me feel better in myself ... I value writing songs. I do regard myself as a good poet. I work hard. Songwriting is an art and I really try my best at it." He finished by saying. "The band is getting better and better, the lyrics are too. I've found better ways to express myself ... I don't think I've changed what 1 say but maybe I'm saying it in a different way." Nine days later, Richey vanished.