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How The Manics Were Reborn - The Western Mail, 3rd November 2006

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Title: How The Manics Were Reborn
Publication: The Western Mail
Date: Friday 3rd November 2006
Writer: Claire Hill

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It was their first album after Richey Edwards disappeared and the one that pushed Manic Street Preachers into the mainstream. A decade on, they have repackaged Everything Must Go. Claire Hill looks at how the album was a turning point in their career.

The date was May 20, 1996, a year after bassist Richey Edwards walked out of room 561 at the Embassy Hotel in London, climbed into his silver Vauxhall Cavalier and promptly disappeared.

After deciding to continue as a trio, the remaining Manic Street Preachers - James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore - found themselves in a strange position.

Despite years of sitting pretty as a cult band in Britain the release of their fourth album, Everything Must Go, pushed them into another league altogether. It won them two Brit Awards - Best Album and Best British Group - plus two other nominations, three NME Brat Awards and they topped all the major magazine polls for album of the year.

It spawned four top 10 hits in the UK: A Design For Life, Everything Must Go, Australia and Kevin Carter.

A Design For Life sold 92,648 copies in its first week, went in at number two in the UK charts and was awarded an Ivor Novello award.

The album didn't beat George Michael for the top spot, something that bugged Nicky Wire at the time, but it stayed at number four in the charts for 56 weeks and sold 1.4 million copies.

In all senses this was a seminal album for the band from Blackwood.

Drummer Moore calls it "Manics mark two" and a new beginning for the friends after the limbo that they were thrown into after Richey's disappearance. Personally it was a rebirth and Bradfield says they had time to breathe with the new songs that solidified their new direction.

With the gaping flamboyant hole left by Edwards, the band was not keen to fill it. They say it left them visually bland, anaemic and forced to focus on the songs. But the public, it seemed, reacted positively.

And however much the Manics have tried to keep their original nihilist outlook and outspokenness, and, however much Wire still wears the odd dress and layers of eyeliner, the release of Everything Must Go was the moment they crossed over into the mainstream; when they slowly became safe for Middle England to like.

No longer were they the controversial band who apparently boasted of sleeping with more than 200 groupies (step forward Richey), carved words into their arms (again Richey), panicked their record label Columbia with allegations of alcohol and gambling addictions or fought with bouncers, smashed guitars and hurled abuse at the Royal Family at a Cambridge University ball. And no longer were they a band that was critically acclaimed - but unable to fill stadiums.

This was a far cry from their position after the release of The Holy Bible in 2004.

With its tracks about prostitution, the Holocaust, self-mutilation and titles like ifwhiteAmericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart (sic), the album was critically acclaimed but it hardly set the charts alight.

It did worse than the band's first two albums, Generation Terrorists and Gold Against The Sun, and wasn't originally released in the States.

"We were worried about being dropped after The Holy Bible," James Dean Bradfield admits on the interview which accompanies the Everything Must Go 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition.

"I think our albums were a case of diminished return."

With hindsight, despite the NME branding it a "vile album" this dark tome created in the claustrophobic Soundscape studio, in Cardiff, has been heralded as a masterpiece.

But would it have received those later plaudits if its follow up, Everything Must Go hadn't found the band a middle ground where they could languish gaining critical and commercial ground?

Bradfield adds, "Even though it garnered respect, it hasn't had the respect that it has now."

While Wire claimed their initial controversial image in the press was due to adept, slick manipulation from the band itself, the process was hardly doing them any favours.

Latterly drummer Moore has been dismissive of the dresses and the sloganising, gimmicks and frills that surrounded the early days of the Manics.

He says of Everything Must Go, "It was a new start to forget all the gimmicks and the frills and all the other things that went on to annoy people. We just wanted something that conformed."

While the band were conscious enough that their old fans mightn't like the direction - something which is reflected in Everything Must Go's 'And I hope that you will forgive us' line - they were all happy with the album that they produced.

Without Richey the violence and polemics that characterised the band mellowed into something more approachable. Who would have thought you could make a chart hit out of the erosion of the welfare state? Certainly not the Manics in their earliest days.

Wire himself says, "Design For Life crystallised everything we had tried to achieve and that record more than anything just took us onto a different level. It caught the imagination of the people."

Obviously they were working in a vacuum of Britpop, the time when mediocre guitar bands could break through and shift thousands of copies. Britain was open to guitar music and the band admits they rode the coat-tails of the revolution.

Financially, the album's success proved to the record company that the Manics were a force to be reckoned with. They became financially viable filling out the Millennium Stadium and pulling in massive crowds wherever they went.

Personally the album provided the band with a stepping stone, however hard, to a life without their friend Richey.

With everything that happened to the Manics before 1996, the release of Everything Must Go could have so easily been the death knell for the band, but it was, in fact, its rebirth.

Manics frontman talks of artistic differences with missing Richey.

Manic Street Preachers frontman James Dean Bradfield has admitted for the first time he was worried the band's musical change of direction would have caused an impasse with founder member Richey Edwards.

The singer said he felt the pair were going down separate musical paths and he was personally worried that Edwards would be displeased with the changes. But then he disappeared in 1995.

But bassist Nicky Wire has revealed that watching Edwards' deterioration the year prior to his disappearance was worse than discovering that he was missing.

Despite producing the band's breakthrough album, Everything Must Go, and scoring commercial and critical success after Edwards' disappearance, singer Bradfield said it was a period when they were three very troubled men.

"It wasn't a simple matter of carrying on; it was a simple matter of having more to do," said Bradfield in an exclusive documentary on the three-disc boxed set Everything Must Go 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, which will be released on Monday.

"I think there was one other worry in the back of my mind, and perhaps this is a bit more honest than I have been before, that after The Holy Bible I worried that I couldn't write any music that would please Richey."

"Because I knew that perhaps he wanted to go down the road and do more stuff that was akin to The Holy Bible or take it even more extreme. And I was worried that as chief tune-smith in the band I wasn't actually going to be able to write things that he would have liked."

"There would have been an impasse in the band for the first time born out of taste and I was worried about that."

He admitted that Richey was more violent in his musical tastes, whereas he wanted to use more influences from Motown.

Drummer Sean Moore said the release of Everything Must Go was a rebirth for the band. He said it was "Manics mark two".

Despite a new direction for the band, Edwards was never far from their thoughts and the band hired private detectives to try and discover what happened to their friend.

Bradfield said that they did not like to talk about using detectives because in their heart they knew 'this kind of situation was here to stay for a while' and bassist Wire said that they found music a sort of salvation.

In the brutally honest documentary featured on the DVD disc the three remaining members talk openly about that dark period in their lives.

But, according to Wire, the worst part was not when Edwards walked out of his hotel in London on February 1, 1995, never to be officially seen again, but was the year beforehand.

He said, "With Richey, him going missing wasn't the worst bit, in a funny way, it was the year before. That was just a nightmare."

"There was nothing redeeming about it; people might think there is but it's not."

"It is no fun seeing someone you know kind of losing the will to live."

When the trio decided to continue with their musical career they headed back to the Soundscape rehearsal studios in Cardiff where they had worked with Edwards.

Bradfield said that the first rehearsal without Edwards was very difficult as was working on his lyrics for Kevin Carter, Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky and Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier which had been penned by Edwards before he vanished.

But that as soon as they practiced the song A Design For Life for the first time they had a sense of optimism.