The Manic Street Preachers/R.E.M. controversy rages on this week with Senseless Things, Silverfish, Boy George, Kitchens Of Distinction and Huggy Bear among artists hitting out at the Manics for “mindless verbal terrorism” and publicity seeking.
The row began at the Manics’ Kilburn National show on December 11 when bassist Nicky Wire told the audience: “I hope Michael Stipe goes the same way as Freddie Mercury.”
There have been persistent rumours that the R.E.M. singer is suffering from AIDS, although Peter Buck has insisted to The Maker that all four members of the band have tested negative for HIV.
After the show, Wire was surrounded by angry protesters, some of whom were ejected after scuffles broke out. It has transpired this week that those thrown out included members of Trafalgar and Disco Assassins – who were the Manics’ support band that night.
The first group to respond to Wire’s deathwish were Huggy Bear, at Brixton Academy last Tuesday (December 15) where they were supporting Sonic Youth and also distributing a pro-gay fanzine, Queercore. Their singer, Chris, announced onstage “F*** Manic Street Preachers. I hope they get cancer.”
The other members of the band declined to comment, saying merely “What Chris says is up to him.”
Boy George and MC Kinky sent a fax to The Maker, with the following statement: “It’s sad when any musician has to resort to mindless verbal terrorism just to get a reputation. I don’t think Nicky Wire has the intelligence to think beyond his childish, clever-dick pronouncements.”
“After putting his festered foot in his mouth, he tries to backtrack in the most patronising fashion. Some of my best fans are gay. Doesn’t he realise that AIDS is not a gay issue? Unfortunately, just by eliciting this reply, Wire is getting 15 minutes more than he deserves.”
“If suicide is painless, why doesn’t he just slit his throat and shut the f*** up?”
Lesley Silverfish commented: “First of all, I think most things the Manics do are geared to producing publicity, so they will be pleased with this particular stunt.”
“Some of the reasoning behind the statement seemed fair enough, but if you hate someone then slag them off for the reasons you hate them. To wish death on them from AIDS is really petty, and serves to rub salt in the wounds of people who are HIV positive and dying with AIDS. What a f***ing tit!”
Mark Keds of Senseless Things – who recently released the single “Homophobic Asshole” – told The Maker: “Morality and half-baked rock ‘n’ roll just don’t mix.”
The band’s Cass added: “Who cares? We fall for it every time. Nicky said it to 2,000, you said it to 200,000, but it ain’t changed anyone’s opinion of Michael Stipe. More publicity for the Preachers, more publicity for us, more for R.E.M., you keep your jobs. Everyone’s a winner, baby.”
Frankie from Leatherface stated: “The Manic Street Preachers have come out of their own closet and revealed their true colours. I knew it all along.”
Patrick from Kitchens Of Distinction said: “If Nicky Wire wants Michael Stipe to go the same way as Freddie Mercury that means he wants him to be extremely rich, having lived a fairly full life, and applauded completely. When he dies, they will have a huge Wembley gig for him, and they’ll get people like Metallica doing R.E.M. songs which is everything I though the Manics would hate.”
“If on the other hand, Nicky thinks that Michael Stipe should die because of the HIV rumours, then that’s just ludicrous and sick. He doesn’t know Michael Stipe. He shouldn’t assume things like that. It’s an appalling thing to say if that’s what he meant.”
“I suppose it’s just typical Manic Street Preachers shock value stuff. I do like them, but this sort of thing isn’t interesting anymore. It’s getting fairly tedious. I’d rather they said something positive.”
A spokesman for the remaining members of Queen refused to comment. The Manics were keeping tight-lipped too, although it’s been confirmed that Nicky Wire is remaining in the band – despite telling The Maker last week that he believed he might be sacked for his outburst at Kilburn.
A spokesman added: “He hasn’t apologised for it. He said what he had to say.”
At the R.E.M. office in Athens, Georgia, there was a firm “No response” from their management.
However a source at their label, Warners said: “I don’t think the band want to help fuel this controversy. It only trivialises the whole AIDS issue. These rumours about Michael keep cropping up, and we don’t know where they’ve come from. His health is fine.”
“The band would probably find this Manic Street Preachers business quite amusing if it weren’t for the tragedy of people dying of AIDS.”
Meanwhile, Michael Stipe joined Peter Gabriel, Joan Baez and Cybil Shepherd at the fifth annual Reebok Human Rights Awards at the Hines Convention Centre in Boston. Each artist presented a $25,000 award to a different human rights activist. The awards were determined by a panel which included Sting, Peter Gabriel, former US President Jimmy carter and Reebok chairman Paul Fireman. Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart performed at the awards.
Jimmy Glass, for the Terrence Higgins Trust said of the Manics’ incident: “What this signifies to us is the ever increasing amount of health education we still have to do. It makes it clear to us that there is a generation we’re just not getting through to.”