It was a record created in the most difficult of times for the Welsh rockers.
Manic Street Preachers’ classic 1996 album, Everything Must Go, followed a year after the disappearance of songwriter and lyricist Richey Edwards, who vanished prior to a promotional trip to the USA and was never seen again.
Edwards had been the architect of the band’s astounding third record, The Holy Bible, which chronicled his ever-deepening depression. Following his disappearance, the Manics were close to calling it a day.
But they returned a year later with Everything Must Go, a classic record that sold more than two million copies and won the band BRIT Awards for Best British Album and Best British Group.
Twenty years on, frontman James Dean Bradfield is comfortable with the record’s enduring appeal.
“You should never call yourself a ‘classic’, it’s a heinous sin – but I’m going to commit that sin: I just think it’s a classic album. I can’t be bothered to be modest about it!”
The record featured four Top 10 singles; A Design For Life, Everything Must Go, Kevin Carter and Australia. It was certified triple platinum in the UK. And the Manics will play it in its entirety at Birmingham’s Genting Arena tomorrow before a set of rarities, curios, greatest hits and new songs.
Despite the circumstances, the recording was strangely happy. Nicky Wire remembers: “It had been a miserable two years, with Philip [Hall, MSP manager] dying and Richey going missing, and the baggage of The Holy Bible following you around.
“Just being ensconced in a chateau with Mike Hedges in the middle of nowhere in France was the closest we’ve ever come to bliss in the band. Feeling cocooned from any kind of reality. We basked in the anonymity and creativity of just being there.”
Bradfield adds: “We’d realised that on the other side of our lives was an obviously intractable situation – we weren’t going to get an answer about Richey. After three or four months we just knew we were going to be left in some kind of purgatory.
“So when it seemed something was sounding good, it was a relief – we were happy something was going right for once.”
There were huge consequences of Edwards’ disappearance, though musically-speaking, the band were able to move on. Wire adds: “The practical implications weren’t gigantic. Musically there were no implications. And it’s not like I hadn’t written any lyrics before. It was the emotional gap, the idling and the watching TV and talking, reading...all those little things were amiss.
“The turning point was James singing A Design For Life down the phone to me. I’d written some really bad lyrics up to that point, just stuff that was never going to work. From then on, everything came really easily. We might not have been in a band without A Design For Life.”
The band have learned to live with the success of Everything Must Go. They are confident it has stood the test of time.
Wire says: “It astounds me a record like that could sell a million copies in a year. The fact a lyric like ‘libraries gave us power’ smashed into the charts. Sometimes in modern culture you overlook albums that are really massive.”
Manic Street Preachers play the Genting Arena in Birmingham tomorrow.