Growing up, few bands influenced me like Manic Street Preachers. I discovered them in 2001 almost 10 years after the release of their debut album Generation Terrorists. The following February marked seven years since the disappearance of guitarist Richey Edwards. Obviously, the Manics weren’t exactly blowing up the American pop charts in 2001. So why did they become the favorite band of an eighth grader in Murfreesboro, Tenn.?
For many, middle school is a horrific experience. I was a scrawny kid with bad hair, bad skin and a big nose. My classmates teased me mercilessly. I found solace in music. The Manics’ angst-ridden lyrics spoke to my tortured teenage soul and like that, I had found my new favorite band. Music was my entire identity back then (but let’s be honest, it still is!). The Welsh glam-meets-punk-meets-stadium rock band’s music couldn’t have been a further cry from life in Murfreesboro. Being a Manics fan allowed me to have some horrifying-then, hilarious-now experiences. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the stories of my Cult of Richey adolescence in rural Tennessee.
These were the days before iPods, you see. I carried my entire CD collection and a Discman in my backpack. I spent nearly two hours on the bus commuting to school every day and being a typical angsty teen; I really didn’t want to socialize with anyone. So, I put my headphones on and listened to many of the bands that I still love today. Occasionally, a fellow student would genuinely be interested in what “the weird girl” was listening to. People often asked me if my copy of the Manics’ Holy Bible was a recording of the actual Bible. I usually responded with some Camus-inspired quote from Richey Edwards. The first time I went into a record store in Murfreesboro looking for Manics CDs, the employee asked me if they were a Christian band. A friend frequently referred to them as the “Manic Street Evangelists.” This was obviously a recurring theme.
My friend Heather was also a fan of the Manics. One day in eighth grade English class, we were pouring over the NME Originals edition about Manic Street Preachers. Because Heather and I were teased relentlessly in middle school, one of our classmates decided it would be funny to steal our magazine. He flipped through it and eventually landed on the infamous “4REAL” photo. Immediately, he threw the magazine down yelling that it was a “freak magazine” and that Heather and I were “freaks” for reading it. How I survived middle school, I will never know.
Around this same time, Heather and I went to the mall dressed up in feather boas and tiaras with “Culture Sluts” written in lipstick on our arms. No one got it. I used to write on my arms a lot in middle school. It was kind of the thing to do in 2001. Once, I was sent to the guidance counselor’s office for being Sharpie’d in phrases like, “Culture alienation boredom and despair” and “Dead End Doll.” The guidance counselor asked me if I was suicidal and/or needed therapy. “No,” I replied. “I just like Manic Street Preachers.”
These have been the tales of a Manics fan growing up in Tennessee in the early noughties.