Manic Street Preachers. Who are they? What are they? Why are they? The very essence of rock'n'roll or turkeys ripe for a seasonal stuffing? Here, now, for the first time, we exclusively reveal the truth, the lies, the blood, the guts, the money, the girls, the whole hideous story of rock's angriest young men, all told in their own somewhat colourful words. Hold onto your hats, readers, it's gonna be a bumpy ride!!
Starring JAMES DEAN BRADFIELD as the singer, songwriter, guitarist and battle-scarred pub-brawler, SEAN MOORE as his faithful hide-bashing henchman, NICKY WIRE as the bassist, bitch and outspoken media slut and RICHIE EDWARDS as a mercurial manchild so goddamn rock'n'roll he couldn't even be bothered to learn to play his guitar.
Plus THE STUD BROTHERS as two jaded, disillusioned rock'n'roll hacks past thirty and well-deserved obsolescence and TOM SHEERAN as the no-nonsense photographer who'd seen it all before.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman
It's late November in the tiny Tudor hamlet of Ripley. We're sitting in a pub that's been sitting here since 1546, just a few hundred yards away from Ripley's only modern convenience, a recording studio where Manic Street Preachers are working on their first and, they say, their only album. It's a double, and it's costing an awful lot of money. The Manics, soon to be interviewed by us, are presently posing for pictures before a hastily constructed Christmas backdrop or streamers, tinsel and balloons. As the photographer, Tom Sheehan, snaps away, they're watched by their weary PR, ourselves and a half a dozen half-cut, ruddy-faced locals whispering conspiratorially.
Sheehan, intent upon getting something he can print, is encouraging Nicky, the group's tall, cooly androgynous bassist, to adopt some suitably salacious pose. Nicky reluctantly obliges, all the while muttering "Christ", and "Jesus Christ" and "Christ, this crass, this is sooo crass"
The locals, until now, we assume, stunned into silence by the spectacle of these incorrigibly effeminate Welsh boys strutting and mincing around their ill-frequented pub, begin to voice their disapproval.
"Tart!" hisses one of them, just within earshot. Another, encouraged, goes further and a whole lot louder. "You f***ing old tart!" Nicky turns to face his critics. "There appears to be some heckling from the cheap seats," he announces in a tone, so archly camp it wouldn't sound out of place on the lips of Quentin Crisp.
Unamused, the locals respond with the immortal legend "Get yer tits out, darling!" Sheehan, who just wants to nail the job, tells Nicky to ignore them, just throw a few shapes. Nicky pouts, tousles and teases his hair into a just-got-out-of-bed look and tosses his head backwards, offering his audience an inflammatory profile. The locals, momentarily rendered dumb by righteous prejudice, suddenly erupt into a chorus of "YOU SLUT!...YOU F***ING TART!...GET YER KNICKERS OFF!..."
At this point we, painfully aware of just how rapidly these situations can escalate, consider retreating to the safety of the Saloon Bar. Sadly, any possible escape route is blocked by mountains of photographic equipment and an ever increasing pack of homophobic locals seemingly determined to reinstitute Ripley's rusting ducking-stool and make this the most memorable day since Mathew Hopkins, Wytchfynder General, rode into town. Courageously, we hold our ground.
Sheehan, oblivious to it all behind his lens, carries on snapping as Nicky, and then Richie, clearly enlivened by the possibility someone might think they have tits and wear knickers, throw themselves into evermore obscene poses. The locals, unaccustomed to this sort of provocation, slump back into silence. This is most definitely not surrender, merely a tactical reassessment.
James Dean, the group's singer, who has thus far remained ominously impassive behind expensive sunglasses, moves with sudden, suicidal determination towards the locals' table and points to the biggest and burliest of them all. The Ringleader.
"You. Outside," he says, in the voice of one whose saintly patience has been tested beyond endurance. We assume and hope he must be joking. After all, James, at 5 foot 7 and 140 pounds, is not a particularly convincing Clint Eastwood. The locals, the wimpiest of them weighing in at no less than 200 pounds, also assume James is joking.
Sadly, James is in no mood for jokes.
"I said 'You. Outside'," he repeats, thrusting an indignant finger at his, we think, somewhat hastily chosen adversary. The man reacts as if he'd just been swatted by a fly. He's appalled, visibly shaken, roundly humiliated. He looks pleadingly towards his friends to confirm the absurdity of all this.
Before anyone can do anything, the PR comes into his own. "James come on. You're wanted back at the studio." Now, there's reason. There's wisdom. There's public relations. James hesitates, then along with Sean, mercifully takes his leave. And the local turns to his friends and, sorrowfully shaking his head, declares "Now, he really WAS a vicious little bastard, wasn't he?"
His friends nod solemnly. Nicky gives he camera one last farewell pout, Richie offers a final wiggle of the arse and the party's over. Sitting down at a table within spitting distance of the deflated hecklers, we wonder if James really is a vicious little bastard.
"He's very defensive," says Nicky. "He's always very protective of me and Richie"
And it always work, that attack-is-the-best-form-of-defence business?
"Er, no, not really says Richie.
What, he's been beaten up or something?
"Oh yeah," explains Richie. "The only time we ever went out over Christmas, we went out on my birthday, on December 22, about three years ago. We were in McDonalds about seven at night, really early, before anyone had a chance to drink and about 15 blokes came in, started beating up James, broke his jaw, kicked me in the face, smashed burgers in our faces. James couldn't sing for half a year. That was the end of our night really, a very thrilling birthday. We haven't been out since."
While Shepherds Watched
It's early September, in London's Soho Square. Four floors up in the Sony Music building, a Columbia A&R executive is making a panicked phone-call to the recording studio in Ripley. On the other end of the line is Steve Brown, Manic Street Preachers' producer.
"For Chrissakes, Steve, the album was meant to take eight weeks and you're going on 16! Sixteen f***ing weeks! What the f***'s going on down there?"
"Calm down. We're making an album here, a double album. It takes time. You can't just knock it out."
"Okay, okay, just tell me when the f***ing thing's gonna be finished. Is it finished?"
"So what...? The end of the week? Next week?"
"Er...I'd probably say December. Jan max. Absolutely max."
"JAN? JAN MAX? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR F***ING MIND? THAT'S GONNA COME TO...JESUS!"
He hurriedly taps the fingers into his pocket calculator then stares appalled as the truth appears in sickly luminous green.
"F***. Nearly half a million f***ing quid. Oh, I don't f***ing belive it."
"Listen, take it easy. It's gonna be a great album."
"A great album? A GREAT ALBUM? FOR HALF A MILLION F***ING QUID I EXPECT 'SERGEANT F***ING PEPPER!'"
In The Bleak Midwinter
November. Ripley. WE hear the album's costing a few quid. "Yeah," says Nicky. "It was supposed to take eight weeks and, so far, it's taken 24."
So how much money has Columbia spent on you guys?
"Well, we signed for a quarter of a million in advance with £400,000 to make the album."
F***ing hell. It ain't peanuts.
No, no, it not," admits Nicky, "but then we only have to sell three quarters of a million copies to break even. Two million and we can retire."
And you really expect to do that.
"Honestly, with the confidence we have in this album we wouldn't be happy unless it sold 16 million."
Oh yeah, we remember. The infamous 16 million." "Appetite For Destruction II". And then you retire. Back to South Wales.
Yeah, absolutely," says Nicky.
Oh come on, be serious. Some promises are made to be broken. You can't really expect us to believe that should you sell 16 million albums you're gonna retire to a place you admit hating.
"We have to," says Nicky, "if only for dignity's sale. In the last years, I've lost any shred of credibility or dignity I've ever had. I'm a complete media slut. We just did those crass Christmas pictures. We did a nude video."
"I know," continues Richie "that if I get to the end of this year I'll have no dignity left at all. It's all gone. I live in a big fantasy world. All I do is get into the company Mercedes , drive to London, drive around for five or six hours then come back to the studio. It's sad."
No wonder the album's taking so long if you're poncing around in cabs instead of playing your guitar.
"The thing is," explains Nicky, without a hint of apology, "Richey doesn't play on the records at all. Everybody knows that."
It's news to us.
"We've said that right from the start. All he does is go to London, drives around, goes to Soho stripjoints, spends £300 on the Amex, comes back covered in lovebites and asks how the track's going. I think that's the thing that's given me the most pride in this band."
So, what exactly is your artistic contribution, Richie?
"Well, I help write the lyrics, I help choose the artwork..."
You slash 4Real into your arm.
"Yeah," says Nicky, "and despite what was said, when he did it he was laughing. It hurt him more to get a tattoo done than that did."
So Richie doesn't actually play anything.
"No, I can't."
"No," says Nicky, "he can't. He can just about play live but not on the records. James and Sean are the musical geniuses, they're like Phil Spector or Brian Jones."
But you two are the focal points, you're the people people want to talk to.
"Yeah, we decided all that from the start. We can't write music but we can write lyrics and look pretty tarty. Richie's the spirit of the band, he's totally what we're about."
4 Real in a fantasy world?
"Yeah, right, and I love living in a fantasy world," beams Richie. "All I ever wanted to be was Diana Ross. As soon as I get enough money I'm gonna get serious plastic surgery."
"You know, you've gotta do something with your money and we need a challenge," says Nicky, staring wistfully into the middle-distance. "That's why we're looking to America. Because, basically, I think we've conquered Britain already.."
Stop! Stop in the name of love!
Oh Come All Ye Faithful
Early December. London.
We're sitting in the back of on of Sony's fleet of Mercedes limousines moving sluggishly through the debris of Kings Cross. Richie's passing his time watching the girls turn tricks and Nicky, decked in spectacular winter furs, is wondering what the Melody Maker's Album Of The Year might be.
"Why?" asks Nicky, his eyes gleaming with sadistic curiosity. We explain, in the pompous way critics sometimes do, that Primal Scream have introduced the dance dynamics of rave culture to the spectacle of rock and are hence the only band in Britain who could truly be described as contemporary.
"Oh f*** off!" snaps Richie, momentarily distracted from his rude perusal, evidently judging our, we'll admit, somewhat bombastic statements to be even more obscene than the sorry sight of kerbcrawlers.
"Primal Scream are complete failures," he continues. "Since 'Loaded' and 'Come Together' they haven't had a real Top 40 hit. 'Higher Than The Sun', lauded by every critic, just scraped it and I really think that song was completely and totally designed to get a Melody Maker front cover. Primal Scream have changed too many times. I saw them at Cardiff Mars Bar club in 1986 and they were indie pop. On the back of the second album they were trying to be Guns 'N' Roses, all long flowing locks and Marshall stacks. We've got an honesty thing about us. Everyone who likes us knows what we could become, they know we could never sell out."
Nicky, who's patiently waited his turn, now joins in the chorus of disapproval.
"Primal Scream are just fake rock'n'roll. If Bobby Gillespie thinks he's gonna get people into Sun Ra or John Coltrane he's sorely misguided because the only people who buy Primal Scream records are people who like indie music anyway. Primal Scream will never cross over, they have no chance of conquering America. They haven't got a chance of doing anything, they're just too fake. It's just a big con. I think what's happened is that Bobby Gillespie has just told the press he's so good so many times they've started to believe him. But all his records have been total crap - everyone's agreed on that."
Exhausted, we sink back into the upholstery, both of us trying to conjure some ingenious riposte. But Richie and Nicky are way ahead of us. They've tasted blood and Nicky can smell some more.
"So, er, what do you think the Brightest Hope's gonna be?" he asks, with affected innocence.
"Oh come on."
Dunno, honestly. Curve, maybe The Levellers.
"The Levellers?" asks Richie with appalled amusement.
"The f***ing Levellers? We've done loads of dates with bands like The Levellers, where the whole audience completely despises us, and we've gone onstage and been obscenely arrogant. And rightly so. They can't understand any band who has pretension, who thinks of rock'n'roll as power, who wants to dress up. You can tell they're middle-class poseurs because they wanna dress down like scummy people. The working-class tradition has always been to want to be clean and dress up. All my dad's friends want to do when they come home from the pit, or whatever, is have a wash, have a shave, dress up and go out. The last thing we ever wanted to do was wear rags. You could go to any Levellers concert and stand in the middle and shout 'Jeremy!' and 75 per cent of the audience would turn round. The Levellers. I can't f***ing believe it.
No, we've had it with this bollocks. You're being deliberately contrary. Basically, you just pretend to hate anything labelled indie.
"We're not pretending," says Nicky. "Indie music ruined our lives," adds Richie. "It really did ruin our lives. Every week we'd buy Melody Maker and NME and The Wedding Present would be Single Of The Week. We'd go to Cardiff, an hour-long bus journey, a real drag. We'd spend all day trying to find this f***ing record, going to every record shop you could imagine. We'd finally get it, go all the way home and it would be total shit. Disaster! I mean, it's one thing suffering for your own art, but suffering for The Wedding Present's? F*** that!"
Now that everyone IS agreed on. The thing is, and it is every time we meet Manic Street Preachers, the thing is, who do they like? They're so full of sweet venom and likeable hatred we wonder if they like music at all. Or just love loathing it.
"We love it," says Nicky, "We love it. We like so many bands - the Stones, The Who, the Pistols, The Clash, Guns 'N' Roses, Skid Row, Metallica, Black Crowes, Public Enemy, Ice-T, Kylie, Chris Eubank..."
Chris Eubank? Oh no, not a Christmas single.
"Nah," says Nicky. "Chris Eubank's just out sporting contemporary really."
"Everybody hates him, but they know deep down he's f***ing brilliant."
Sixteen million people can't be wrong.
You do. You love them.