We are the useless sluts they mould," state Manic Street Preachers on their epic double album 'Generation Terrorists' and they wouldn't want it any other way. James Sherry talks to guitarist Richey James to find out what six albums helped shape the Manic into the rock monster they've become.
The Manic Street Preachers are not afraid to show their roots (a variety of colours) and wear their influences proudly on their sleeves. Finding faith in older sounds, the Manics cast aside a good percentage of today's lifeless Rock bands and came screaming through the Rock scene like a breath of fresh air. Oozing contradictions and bursting with naïve energy, this Welsh four-piece have accomplished more in the last couple of years than most bands do in a lifetime. And it hasn't been through record company hype either; these boys have done it themselves. Loud mouths that spiel endless quotes – the press instantly fell in love with their arrogant attitude, their constant dismissal of the Indie scene and their love for everything lug. Why get someone to hype it up for you when you can do it yourself?
But it's not all hype. Oh no, the Manics are also responsible for some of the most rabble-rousing, out-of—control, rock 'n‘ roll shows in a long time. Energy and attitude seep from every pore, looking pretty and sounding even better. Admittedly, they’re not technically the best musicians in the world but what does that matter when the music and songs sound this good. Two fingers in the air to everyone and everything, except a few. They feel very strongly about the few groups they think are worth something and have something worthwhile to. These are the groups that the Manics lived for as they were stuck growing up in a remote Welsh village, with only these records and their dreams. Sounds romantic? It is - it also happens to be true. Just listen to pretty boy guitarist Richey James as he passionately explains why these records meant so much to him in his teenage years and then tell me it ain‘t coming from the heart!
’It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’
"This record came at completely the right time in our youth. There was nothing really saying anything at the time, nothing really contemporary anyway. At first we were put off by all the sexist bullshit and were never quite sure how to take the band, but once we got this record it really blew us away. I mean, a song like ’She Watched Channel Zero’ with lyrics like 'Her brain's controlled by a 24 inch remote" just summed us up. We were spending all of our days stuck in front of a TV with nothing to do and this really hit it home to us. I wouldn't say we were apathetic at the time but we were just stuck in James' bedroom, reading books and playing old records and we never really thought about doing anything ourselves. We knew we couldn't make music like that but we thought "at least they’re saying something about what's going on now’ and we just wanted to make good Rock records and address the same kind of issues as they were. The record just seemed so hard and nasty. It really made us get off our arses and do something!"
’Appetite For Destruction’
"At the time we'd only really been playing old records and it just seemed there was nothing much going on. There were millions of little Indie bands that had nothing to say and people would say 'Rock music is dead', but whenever, we went out, everybody was wearing Metal T-Shirts. In the provinces, Rock music never dies at all. Rave and acid culture is very much a city based, middle class kinda culture. Of course there's a lot of working class youths into raving and fashion but at the same time there's at least half as many people from the same generation into Rock bands. Basically, Appetite For Destruction' was the first time we realised that Rock wasn't dead. We had the Stones, The Who and The Clash and we'd basically given up on hearing a new Rock record that we'd really like. When we heard this it was just so instant and exciting. All these little Indie bands just used to stand there and look so crap. We wanted to look as exciting and pretty as them! People accuse Rock bands of all kinds of different things but take a record like 'Welcome To The Jungle’ and it said more about the way we felt inside than a thousand so caller intellectual, articulate bands."
"In '86, when it was the anniversary of Punk, all the papers started running articles and there was this Tony Wilson documentary on Channel 4. That was the first title we'd seen The Clash because we'd never really been interested in them at all. When we saw them on this programme it just started with this terrible noise and they were crap! It was just perfect! We got their first album and played it over and over again. At first we couldn't really understand it, but as time went m it meant more and more to us. Even though they were huge in America and all that stuff, they never lost their authentic, English root; and I think that's why a lot of bands like The Cult lose it because they wanna go and live in L.A. and all that stuff. The Clash remembered where they came from and I just think that's the best thing that can happen to a band."
THE SEX PISTOLS
'Never Mind The Bollocks'
I think this is probably on everybody's 'favourite albums of all time' list. They were ouch an intimidating band! I mean, we saw that film 'D.O.A: about the Pistols American tour ' end it was the biggest culture shock we'd ever had! When we started reading about them and learnt more about their history, they got better every day. They're probably the most Untouchable band of all time. That album does not contain one bad track and I'd never heard a voice quite like that before! To put on a Pistols record after coming back from the pub really shook me out of my apathy. After deadening myself with alcohol all night, I'd put that on and it just made me feel ashamed."
'Tracks From A Broken Dream'
"Songs like 'Don't You Ever Leave Me' and 'Boulevard Of Broken Dreams' just summed up our youth. Listening to them now brings back lots of memories. They were actually really big where we come from and the thing is, everyone else used to be out at the pubs getting pissed and we'd be locked away in our bedrooms playing these records. They just made a noise that we really liked. It was purely for the music, not for their rock 'n' roll lifestyle. That's why Public Enemy made such an impact because although Hanoi Rocks summed up our youth, it never really said that much, we just loved them. There was always something missing and when we heard Public Enemy we realised what that was. We realised we had to do something."
THE ROLLING STONES
'Exile On Main Street'
"We just wasted so many days playing this album! On songs like 'I Just Wanna See His Face', we didn't really understand what Mick Jagger was saying but they were the biggest Rock band in the world, you know! The thing was, on this album they sounded so lonely. I know our situation was completely different but it just seemed to completely represent what we were feeling. The songs are just so sad and lonely and James, our guitarist and vocalist, learnt to play this album from beginning to end! They really do sound like the loneliest people in the world. They had everything at their disposal and they just didn't know what they wanted to do with it. We had nothing at our disposal and we didn't know what to do with it either! It's a complete contradiction but it was like, we're rotting away in a bedroom and so were they. They could have any groupie, any drug, any drink and it didn't matter and that's when we started getting really disillusioned. We were trying to work out what would make us happy and I think everybody has felt that at some point in time."