In his 2009 book A Version Of Reason: In Search Of Richey Edwards, Rob Jovanovic writes that "the British seem to love a good mystery story, and a good old vanishing act has always managed to hold the public's imagination, from Agatha Christie to Lord Lucan. So what leads us to think that Richey might have pulled off one of the great vanishing acts?" The simple answer is: nothing. The guitarist and Sylvia Plath-inspired lyricist with Manic Street Preachers disappeared on February 1st, 1995, and has never been seen since. On February 17th, Richey's L Reg Vauxhall Cavalier was found abandoned at the Severn View service station, beside The Severn Bridge.
Barry Almost twenty years on, it is difficult not to imagine that Richey went to that notorious bridge and jumped off - his mortal body never to be seen again. On Manic Street Preachers' post-punkesque new album Futurology, tumbles forth the extraordinary track, Walk Me To The Bridge, which the band have claimed is about the Øresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark . Many of us will automatically see it as really about their life-long friend who never came back.
"I know people are going to think this is about Richey," Manic stalwart Nicky Wire says, "and really Richey's in all our lyrics. But it's not specifically about Richey," he insists. "It's much more about that out-of-body experience where you leave, you get on a bridge, and you arrive somewhere else and your mindset just completely changes."
Recorded at Hansa Tonstudio in Berlin, where David Bowie and U2 recorded arguably their most iconic works - Low, Heroes and Achtung Baby - Futurology has echoes of the Teutonic starkness of those three respective masterpieces. Indeed as Manic front man James Dean Bradfield sings, paraphrasing Bowie on Heroes, "we could have been heroes but failure's more fun."
Scritti Politti's Green Gartside pops up archly on the dour-but-beautiful Between The Clock And The Bed. On the title track, Nicky Wire is telling the world, "One day we will return no matter how much it hurts- and it hurts." Manic Street Preachers were never just any band.
The proposed original video for Little Baby Nothing, their 1992 duet with porn star turned singer Traci Lords about sexual exploitation of women, ended somewhat controversially with a woman committing suicide by shooting herself between the legs - having gained her revenge in the meantime by killing all the men.
The band were to controversy what Wordsworth was to autumn. The Manics don't wear make-up nor ripped T-shirts with slogans scrawled across them like "Molotov Cocktails of Fabulous Destruction" anymore like they used to. They do, however, still sing about ennui, despair, alienation and whatever you're having yourself with a power that the likes of Coldplay can but dream of.
Who else but this trio from Wales could give the world in 1994 a bleak classic of an album called The Holy Bible? Or a song about apparent suicide She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach, as they did on their breathtakingly depressing 2009 album, Journal For Plague Lovers? With titles like that it is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy to detect that the music was not going to be Boyzone.
Of She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach, Nicky noted a few years ago: "It reminds me a bit of the play we did in O-Level, An Inspector Calls, when the girl, doesn't she pour bleach, to kill herself, by drinking bleach? A lot of people have been shocked by the title. We just never get shocked by stuff like that. Even when Richey was around, he gave us Intense Humming Of Evil", a song Richey wrote about one of his obsessions - the Holocaust.
James Dean Bradfield added: "Yeah, I didn't think 'Oh God.' I thought, 'Cool, this is going to be difficult, but enjoyable'. Which is bizarre, because the subject matter of the lyric is awful. It's just the way we've inoculated ourselves against certain realities."