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It's Like Our Missing Mate Richey's Back In The Band - The Sun, 9th May 2009

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Title: It's Like Our Missing Mate Richey's Back In The Band
Publication: The Sun
Date: Saturday 9th May 2009
Writer: Oliver Harvey

14 years on, the Manics record 'dead' star's lyrics

When rock icon Richey Edwards disappeared leaving his car high above the lethal tides of the Severn Estuary 14 years ago there were few clues to his fate.

In one of pop's enduring mysteries Richey - the troubled but brilliant guitarist with the Manic Street Preachers - vanished without trace.

Over the years there have been numerous unconfirmed sightings of the star from Scotland to Goa in India and the Canary Islands. Every corpse fished from the Bristol Channel unleashed new "Richey Found?" headlines.

But nothing has ever been proven and many close friends and family cling to the belief that one day he will walk back in through the door.

Now the indie band are releasing a new album with lyrics entirely from a red, hardback folder Richey presented to them shortly before he vanished aged 27. Singer James Dean Bradfield, 40, said of recording the album Journal For Plague Lovers: "We wanted to be in a room with Richey again. It sounds sentimental but that's our right.

"For years we haven't felt ready to tackle the lyrics or use them in any songs.

"But it suddenly felt right to use these lyrics. I suppose it was part of the whole thing of letting enough time lapse. We actually enjoyed feeling as if we were in a band with Richey again."

When Richey disappeared in 1995 the Manics' blend of glam and punk was poised to make them one of Europe's biggest bands.

Richard James Edwards grew up with his sister Rachel in Blackwood, in the Valleys of South Wales. Their dad Graham - an ex-miner - and mum Sherry were both hairdressers. He left Oakdale Comprehensive with three As at A-level.

He joined the band after meeting bassist Nicky Wire at University of Wales, Swansea, where he graduated with a political history degree.

Clad in spray-painted clothes and eye-liner, stick-thin Richey - and his politicised songs - became the centrepiece of the Welsh four-piece.

The band, which included Sean Moore on drums, released first single Suicide Alley in 1989.

They had modest success with singles such as You Love Us, Motorcycle Emptiness and Top Ten hit Suicide Is Painless, their take on the M*A*S*H TV theme.

Third album The Holy Bible, a No6 in 1994, was a real breakthrough, with most of the dark lyrics by Richey. But by then he was depressed and self-harming, having years earlier razored "4 Real" into an arm to prove himself to a doubting rock writer.

In 1994 he was admitted to the Priory hospital after struggling with an eating disorder, alcoholism and self-mutilation.

On February 1, 1995, Richey was due to fly to the US on a promotional tour. He walked out of the Embassy Hotel in West London in the early morning and drove to his flat in Cardiff Bay.

Then he disappeared. It was ten months after one of his heroes, Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, killed himself. Two weeks later, at a motorway service area on the English side of the Severn Bridge, his abandoned Vauxhall Cavalier was given a parking ticket.

The bridge is a notorious suicide point. Police say many who jump hundreds of feet into the water are never found because the strong tides take their bodies out to sea.

Richey left no suicide note. His close family placed press ads urging him to contact them.

The band's manager hired a private investigator but no word came. In 2002 Richey's parents issued the last photo of their boy in a fresh appeal for his whereabouts.

Shaven-headed and gaunt, with dark rings around his eyes, the passport snap was taken for a US tour.

Graham and Sherry's statement said: "Apparently a caring, sensitive and talented young man, Richard left behind a close family who still hope he will come home one day.

"Richard had a flat in Cardiff and it seems that he went there briefly on the day he disappeared "Two weeks later Richard's car was found abandoned at the Severn Bridge service station near Aust. Richard is 34 years old, 5ft 8ins tall and very thin. Richard has four tattoos, one of which bears the words, 'I'll surf this beach'."

Mum Sherry, 64, added: "Until we know for certain what has happened we will always stay hopeful Richard is alive."

His sister Rachel said he had become obsessed with staging "the perfect disappearance".

They opted not to use their legal right to begin presumption of death proceedings in 2002, after he had been missing for the legal minimum of seven years. Richey was declared dead in November last year.

The band eventually continued with their career, filling stadiums and scoring hits. But they have continued to pay a quarter of royalties due to Richey into an account.

Now comes the new album with Richey's lost words, to be released on May 18. Terri Hall, the band's publicist, said last night: "The album is dignified and reverential to their friend. The band showed the lyrics to Richey's family who gave the album their approval."

Bassist Nicky said: "The brilliance and intelligence of the lyrics dictated we had to finally use them."

The band's fans will now undoubtedly scour the words for clues to Richey's state of mind at the time.

The album's 13th and final song, William's Last Words, has the lyrics: "Dreams, they leave and die/ Cos I am really tired/I'd love to go to sleep/And wake up happy".

The poignant sentiment will be seen by some as the suicide note that gifted yet haunted Richey has finally revealed to the world.