Richey Edwards' contempt for love was legendary. We explore Richey's complex attitudes to sex, love and self-hatred in exclusive extract from Simon Price's new Manics book
In 1992, Richey Edwards made the extraordinarily dishonest claim that Manic Street Preachers were a walking orgy of bisexual depravity. "We realised that sex and love is a completely useless commodity, so if anybody wants to f* ** us they can," he began. "We're just total prostitutes... and we're willing to be used. Any boy. Any girl. Anytime. each other!"
In the same year, Richey French-kissed Therapy?'s Andy Cairns at a party (but then proceeded to shag a girl back at the hotel later), chose a T-shirt slogan that read, "All Rock 'N' Roll Is Homosexual", and said: "I've been homo for a long
time." Nicky Wire confirmed that "Richey's virtually bisexual". Edwards was also, undeniably, a magnificent homoerotic icon.
"You may be embarrassed to admit it," said the Young, Pretty And F***ed fanzine, "especially if you're a bloke, but I bet you'd love to f*** Richey."
Was Richey Edwards, to any extent, gay? The answer is...almost certainly not. As far as the T-shirt is concerned, Edwards said that most great art is homosexual, citing Allen Ginsberg's "Howl", Jackson Pollock's "Map Of The Tennessee Williams' "Suddenly Last Summer", Michael Foucault's "Archives Of Pain", and Quentin Crisp's "The Naked Civil Servant".
If Gore Vidal is correct, and there are no homosexual and heterosexual people, only homosexual and heterosexual acts, then arguably Richey never lied. Whichever prefix one chooses to apply, however, Richey was simply not a very sexual person, more Celibate Rifle than Sex Pistol. After his first childhood glimpse of pornography, Richey had to rush outside to be sick (James, also present, found the experience quite arousing).
"I didn't spend my teens wanting to Richey later claimed. Not that he didn't do plenty He was regularly to be seen after gigs sneaking off into a toilet cubicle with whoever happened to be at hand, whether they were five years younger or 20 years older. But the expression in those coal-black eyes was not one of decadent joy, but something closer to duty. In many
ways, for Richey, debauchery merely provided escape from boredom. I once saw him being chatted up by a pair of serial groupies in the bar of Cardiff's Holiday Inn. He was deeply in awe of the fact they had slept with Hanoi Rocks, Motley Crile and Dogs D'Amour. Minutes later, he escorted them up to his room, grinning his head off - not out of lust - but in obeisance to his rock'n'roll destiny. His heroes had been there, so now Richey must go there too.
Richey, who once described sex as "nature's lukewarm pleasure' was once asked whether he used condoms. "I gain no pleasure from sex anyway," he replied, "so wearing condoms doesn't bother me." He couldn't see what all the fuss was about. "Sleeping with someone is just a change from wanking. I could just as happily go back to the hotel, sit on the bog and have a good wank."
Most musicians spend their careers in the pursuit of easy sex. Even Nicky Wire once said, "Sex is crucial to this group." The Manics never really walked it like they talked it, though. "We're not a band that has group sex filmed on a camcorder to watch on the bus the next day," he admitted later. "It's always personal, one-to-one in a bedroom." Richey claimed to have f***ed every night on the European and British tours of spring 1992, but didnt have sex once on the subsequent American tour, and then got stuck in again on the Japanese leg. For six months between December '92 and June '93, he gave up sex altogether. One female fan I know was privileged to sleep with Richey during this period, after a gig in Southend. But it was only that: she literally slept with him. Like an old man who hires a prostitute not for sex but for company, Richey just
wanted someone to talk to. He lay on the bed all night fully-clothed.
Richey's Sex Tourism - literally, wanderlust - led him in some unorthodox directions. His fascination with the waif look, for instance, together with statements like "Every man wants to shag a 13-year-old" bore dodgy paedophile overtones. He once made a tour bus feel like home by covering the inside with pictures of Kate Moss and other childlike stick insects. "I just think she's pretty," he said. "She looks delicate, that's what I like about her." This might explain the attraction that the delicate young prostitutes of Bangkok held for Richey. He had no moral problem with prostitution itself. "I don't regard paying for sex as being different to sleeping with a groupie," he argued. "It's all done on the same functional level."
Richey's fellow Manics got their kicks in more harmless ways. Since that childhood glimpse of pornography, James remains an occasional porn-user and has been known to visit sex shops in Hamburg and Amsterdam when on tour. "Everyone goes through a dodgy period when they cant pull anything. Porn just gives you a quick relief," he admitted. Richey, too, used to buy porn at service stations, but it did little for him. "Men with non-erect dicks, man on top of woman, woman on top of man. It bores the f*** out of me." He even watched a hard-core bestiality video called "Animal Farm" on the bus, but claimed to be bored after five minutes.
If casual sex were merely a diversion for Richey, could love have "saved" him?
From the beginning, Manic Street Preachers were determinedly, didactically anti-love. "We'll never write a love song," they said. "We've got no respect for bands who sing about love. For many years - in fact, until Richey was gone - they remained true to their word. But for James Dean Bradfield (engaged), Nicky Wire (married) and Sean Moore (long-term relationship), this anti-love stance was mere rhetoric. For Richey Edwards, it was a matter of sacred political principle. He believed
that love was counter-revolutionary: the division of the working class into manageable units Of two. "Once you fall in love," he said, "or get a girlfriend pregnant, you've got no chance, you've got no chance, you've got responsibilities. Once you're reduced to a couple, alone together between your four walls, you're cut off. "
Richey despised what he saw as the inevitable dishonesty and hypocrisy that love entailed. "People go through the same rituals time and time again," he said. "I find love a very alien concept. People I know who are in long-term relationships
have always been unfaithful, and I find the whole lie really tiresome. That's why I've never been in any relationship. I find other people attractive, so unfair to walk around with one partner."
This, in all probability, was the heart of the matter. Richey knew himself well enough to know that he simply didn't have what it takes. "A well-preserved virginity shows a limited capacity for love'," he once quoted. Although Richey's virginity
was far from well-preserved, his capacity for love, he knew, was limited. When he said that "infidelity is a sign that you can't deal with self-hatred", he did so in the knowledge that he already had more than enough self-hatred. When he said, "Men and women just aren't compatible - men are too selfish", he was all too aware of his own instinctive selfish streak, which showed itself in the tiniest ways (offer him a cigarette and he would automatically take two from the packet without asking).
But did Richey condemn himself to a loveless life at the expense of his own mental health and happiness? He had always sneered that "being in love is just someone to share your boredom with" But, after Nicky's wedding in 1993, Richey began to think that maybe he needed to share his boredom with. One night, he announced that he was going to get married by the end of the year: doing so, he touchingly believed, would solve all his problems. And if he had, might things have turned out differently? When he was hospitalised in 1994, James suspected that they might have done. "Richey's never been in a relationship, and I should say that's something to do with it."
The package left behind in Room 516 of London's Embassy Hotel on February 1, 1995 contained a note for his some-time companion Jo, the woman he had never publicly described as his girlfriend. With heartbreaking irony, Richey Edwards' last written statement contained the three words he had never felt able to speak. It read: "I love you."