How The Manic Street Preachers Became Generation Terrorists
"I just wanted to crush the opposition," is how guitarist Nicky Wire describes the Manics' mission to get themselves on stage and be heard by a wider audience than merely the inhabitants of pubs around the Welsh town of Blackwood where they grew up.
To support the 3-CD re-mastering of Generation Terrorists, the album that defined their position in the music canon, is this DVD documentary - 'Culture, Alienation, Boredom and Despair'. In it, the three remaining band members Wire, James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore join producers, managers and, of course, journalists, in reminiscing about the early days... the bitchiness of the Welsh scene, their 'playing into the political void', their first London gig at the Horse and Groom, meeting their first manager - the celebrated, late Philip Hall - signing to Heavenly then Columbia record companies, feeling let down in the US and finally making it very big in Japan.
This is unashamedly one for the fans, with the most interesting memories emerging from non-band members, the outsiders looking in. The best anecdotes are from uber-producer Steve Brown ('Wham Rap', 'She Sells Sanctuary') who was recruited for their album (after they suffered a non-meeting of minds with Duran Duran's Andy Taylor), fresh from Brown's rock and roll success in America. He describes his horror when he first saw the Manics live on stage, heard they wanted to make a double album, and screamed, "Get me back to Miami."
There was no return flight, and Brown set about pulling a more commercial sound from them. "Don't put a f*** in the middle of the chorus," he begged Bradfield. 'Stay Beautiful' turned up soon after, and guess what? So Brown set about beeping out the offending parts, and that's how the song stayed.
'Love's Sweet Exile' came next, with the video playing to Richey's androgyny, and the documentary builds steadily to that Eureka moment when the epic, melancholy, anthemic Motorcycle Emptiness turns up on the turntable, a song the Manics originally thought was "weak", until Bradfield had a dream about a guitar riff that Brown stayed up all night playing with. As Bradfield remembers, "We had that song in the background - we always knew it was going to be all right." And so it was.
Of course, a gaping hole remains. Where there were four, there are now three, after their most charismatic but troubled member disappeared from near the Severn Bridge in 1995.
Richey is referred to fondly, in passing memories of him playing on fruit machines, sending the self-important letter to their first manager, having a bonfire in the studio, scarring himself in San Francisco.
Nicky Wire reflects, "Everything we say today has a massive gap because Richey's not here, and his slant on everything could be totally different, could be exactly the same."
As for the songs themselves, Wire enjoys their enduring sound, and the fact that he and his Welsh pals can still blast through them... "On stage, we're a rock and roll band, it's where I miss Richey most."
'Culture, Alienation, Boredom And Despair - A Film About Generation Terrorists' is out now, part of the 20th Anniversary Remastered Edition of the album.