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Attack Of The Killer B-Sides - Select, July 1999

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Title: Attack Of The Killer B-Sides
Publication: Select
Date: July 1999
Writer: John Mullen
Photos: Graham Samuels

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In the movies, it's the fabled 'cutting room floor'. But in rock, the hiding place of neglected gems is the humble B-side. Select rounds up a startling array of celebs, invites them to have a rummage in their record bags, and yells 'Eeek! Lost Classic!'

B-side to 'Roses In The Hospital' September '93

In the summer of 1993, Manic Street Preachers were floating in rough artistic waters. 'Gold Against The Soul', though home to a smattering of brilliance, oozed a pretty unappealing mixture of creative drift and over-production, and the group were still living in the shadows of the '8 million sales and then we'll split' rhetoric that had surrounded 'Generation Terrorists’.

Twelve months away lay military uniforms, terrorist balaclavas and ‘The Holy Bible'. In the meantime, the Manics groped for a fresh artistic route. The B-sides to ‘Roses In The Hospital' are a fascinating case in point: alongside 'Us Against You' (punkified Guns 'N' Roses) and a bizarre reading of Happy Mondays' 'Wrote For Luck' lurks an enticingly fragile ballad called 'Donkeys' - Nicky Wire's favourite Manics B-side.

"It's just a beautiful song," he says. "and it’s got one of James' best guitar solos. All the words are by Richey. And it's one of my favourite bass parts - which isn't the sort of thing you usually hear me saying [laughs]. We needed some songs for the extra tracks, and we went into Big Noise in Cardiff to record it. It starts with [singing] 'Put some lipstick on, at least your lies will be pretty' - a beautiful line. It's very...tender."

He isn't lying. Its music aside, 'Donkeys' is something of a lyrical precursor to what would come next: the scattershot poetry combined with self-loathing - exacerbated by the pop star process - that would go nuclear on 'Yes': "Us donkeys wake up sweating/Sickly donkeys don't allow their tears/No emotion, never feel and drown themselves in whatever...those with silence inside eyes/Bane piss-holes in the snow"

"The thing is," says Nicky, currently embroiled in compiling a B-sides album for release later this year, "we’ve always used B-sides as a kind of bridging thing. There's another track, on 'Life Becoming A Landslide', called 'Comfort Comes' - and that's definitely a stylistic bridge to 'The Holy Bible'. We still do it now: there’s a track we’ve just recorded called 'Buildings For Dead People', which could be a bit of a bridge to the next record. It’s a bit like 'Revolution' by The Beatles: a real rock 'n' roll beast. Just all-out, really trashy..."

He lets out a cackle. "And nice and fast."