The Last Days Of Richey Manic
Richey Edwards was the creative force behind the Manics' early years. A fierce intellectual who could barely play guitar but plotted the band's every move, he disappeared in 1995 after a period of mental health and alcohol problems. Those who were close to Edwards and the band tell his tale.
22 DECEMBER 1967: Richey Edwards is born in Blackwood, Gwent. In 1988, he joins Manic Street Preachers, a punk band formed by his friends Nicholas Jones ("Nicky Wire"), James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore. A campaign of gigging and letter-writing begins.
Bob Stanley (Journalist and Saint Etienne member who in 1991 released the Manics' Feminine Is Beautiful EP on his own Caff label): The first time I came across Richey was when he wrote off to buy my fanzine, Caff. Most people put "Dear Sir" on their letters, which I suppose they'd been taught at school, but it always looked quite daft, Richey just wrote his address, and "Inspire me".
John Robb (Journalist): I was sent a Manics demo when they were just starting. It came with a long letter from Richey, about, the bands they hated and loved, and how they hated indie music. It was a great diatribe, a Biro manifesto, and you couldn't help falling in love with them before even listening to the tape.
Martin Hall (Manics manager, 1990-present): My brother Philip [Hall] and I drove down to see the Manics rehearsing in a school classroom in Pontllanfraith, and the first thing I saw was Wire bleeding out of his forehead because he'd whacked himself with his bass. And I thought, "Fucking hell, what have we got here?" Richey, though, was doe-eyed with a shy smile: "Hello, would you like a cup of tea?" We went out for dinner afterwards and regardless of their music, Philip was convinced they would get a shitload of press because they had their agenda mapped out so strongly.
Terri Hall (Their landlady when they lived on her and husband Philip's floor in West London. Later, their PR): Richey was such a fragile beauty. However, I fast discovered he was also hugely ambitious. With Richey in the band, their success was a given. Underneath that polite facade was quite a steely, assured young man.
JANUARY 1991: after an early single and EP on smaller labels, the Manics release Motown Junk on indie label Heavenly.
Dave Eringa (Producer): I was the tea boy on Motown Junk. We worked very late that night, and Richey went for a kip in the van where they all had to sleep. At 3am he came up to the studio to say he'd been sick in the van„and I was struck by how sweet they all were to him about it. I'd have been so pissed off, but they just rolled up their sleeves and dealt with it, like proper family.
John Robb: I interviewed the band for their first-ever front cover [for the 26 January 1991 issue of Sounds], sat on amps in the back of a freezing transit van outside Heavenly Records. Richey did most of the talking, saying the most dangerous stuff with a doe-eyed innocence. He was young, good-looking and with rough skin, a classic underfed rock'n'roll dreamer. Instead of having qualms about "selling out", he was thinking big.
MAY 1991: The band sign a multi-album deal with Sony. They release debut LP Generation Terrorists in February 1992.
Caitlin Moran (Writer and television presenter): I interviewed them in Portsmouth and they were still so new that he and Nicky were sharing a bedroom in a pretty shabby hotel. They were only the 10th band I'd ever interviewed - I was 17 - and I was struck by how charming they were: opening doors for ladies, pouring tea, insisting on sitting on the floor, while I sat on the bed. We all put on make-up together, and talked about council estates, and Guns N' Roses. It was like hanging out with two older teenage sisters. There was no sexy frisson. They so weren't lascivious rock star cocks„ It was definitely girly.
Wiz (Director of four Manics videos, including Love's Sweet Exile and You Love us): In the videos I made, Richey and Nicky were very happy to be encouraged into homosexual flirtations, as I think it appealed to their iconoclastic imaginations. However, I don't know how much they understood the effect we were creating, I think they were quite sexually inexperienced.
JUNE 1993: Gold Against The soul, their second album, is released.
DAVE ERINGA: I always used to smile when we were doing demos for Gold Against The Soul and Richey would wake up in the morning having drunk vodka and orange all the night before, saying, "Oh God, my head hurts. I think I must be allergic to orange juice. I'd better have Coke With my vodka tonight!" I'm also very proud of the fact I'm the only producer that got to record Richey's guitar. I got him to play the power chords in the chorus of La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh). He was really nervous about doing it, but I think pleased that he had.
DECEMBER 1993: Manics manager Philip Hall dies after a two-year battle with cancer.
Terri Hall: After Philip died, Richey was among the people I talked to at length. Mainly on the phone, always at ungodly hours of the morning. Either he'd call me at Askew Road[the Halls' house in West London, where the Manics had lived for several months] or I'd call him at whichever London hotel he was staying. I guess we both knew the other would be awake at 3am, hurting from Philip's loss. Bizarrely, Richey was a huge comfort at that time. As were all the band.
Pete Paphides (Journalist): Our social circles overlapped around 1993-94, and even though he was warm and friendly, I was scared of his intellect. I never really lost that fear. He was a good listener - embarrassingly good - but you always felt that anything you could say he'd heard it all before. He had this powerful presence. Everyone who met him either loved him, or wanted to impress him somehow.
Terri Hall: Richey and I spent a week at a health farm a few months after Philip's death. Martin [co-manager and Philip's brother] and the band felt he would benefit from the break. One night we watched Apocalypse Now in his room. He was obsessed by the film. He showed me a little journal with pages and pages of notes on it. I said he wasn't going to find "the answers" to his questions through that film, and jokingly told him to bloody throw the notes away. He laughed, "You're right. No wonder I'm so fucking depressed!"
Caitlin Moran: When the Manics came on [Channel 4 TV show] Naked City to be interviewed, he was wearing his sailor outfit, which made him seem like a slightly camp, slightly lost sea cadet, and in the interview, he was as sweet as always, but barely present.
JULY 1994: Richey is admitted to Whitchurch psychiatric hospital in Cardiff after a suspected suicide attempt, later transferring to The Priory, Roehampton.
Pete Paphides: I once put it to him that there had to be something that made him happy. He thought about it, and said, "You can buy a magazine and enjoy looking at the pictures...but it only lasts for a minute.' He was quietly, doggedly determined not to shift from his worldview.
John Robb: The Last time I saw him he was really close to the end, in the hotel he would last be seen in. It was a strange interview Richey was drinking heavily throughout. There was all that stuff about vodka helping him sleep, and things were quite dark.
AUGUST 1994: third album The Holy Bible is released.
Caitlin Moran: On tour with The Holy Bible in Wolverhampton, I took all my family to see them, and we stayed in the same hotel. James, Nick and Sean stayed up, and socialised, but Richey would go straight to his room after the gig. In the morning, Richey sat apart from everyone, in the lobby, sitting on his pile of suitcases, huge headphones on, drawing in a notebook. He was very, very thin now. He'd cut his hair short, and was wearing an inexplicably alarming beret. The beret seemed to herald doom.
Pete Paphides: I went to Paris to interview him in November 1994. As always, he was fiercely articulate, but this time he had an air of deadpan fatalism. When he talked about going to the doctor, and being told to get more sleep, he gave this half-smile and said, "I guess if my doctor says it, it must be right..."
Terri Hall: The last Lime I saw him was probably when he turned up at our office in Shepherd's Bush. He stood outside for a while, just looking in the window at us. It was quite a shock when we looked up and noticed him there. I'm sad to say I cannot recall the finer details of the meeting, which haunts me now. I was just so taken aback at how pale and gaunt he looked.
Dave Eringa: I was with Richey two nights before he went We'd been doing demos for what would become Everything Must Go. He seemed in very good spirits, and there was real feeling of less tension in the band. They'd started taking the piss out of each other again. I felt they'd turned the corner. That last night, I had a bunch of cassette copies to make, and the rest of the band went to bed but he stayed up with me and we watched the Richard Burton movie Equus together, which he loved.
1 FEBRUARY 1995: Richey leaves the Embassy Hotel, London on the eve of a US promotional trip. His car is later found at a service station near the Severn Bridge. Despite several inconclusive sightings, he is never found and is officially presumed dead in 2008.
Martin Hall: When I think of Richey now, I think of my brother as well, because Philip dying and Richey disappearing happened one on top of the other. I'm not sure that he's sat on a beach in Goa playing an acoustic guitar, I can't imagine that. Sometimes I do dream of him. It's usually him turning up at a Manics gig unexpectedly, a bit awkward. "Hi guys, I'm here!" It's always a happy dream: him at his best, being his best.