We started with the Manics at about the same time, my best friend Samantha and I. We were all at sixth form college together. I sang with them and went out with Nick through the summer of '87 and she went out with James.
Then I spent four years in Uruguay, when my father got a teaching job out there. On one trip back to Wales in about 1993, Samantha brought me up to date on the gossip.
The Manics are pretty well-known now after their album Generation Terrorists and their 1992 cover of Suicide Is Painless. She tells me James has phoned from the States. They are engaged, but he tells her he is marrying someone else.
The wedding is in a day of so, and she isn't invited. It's nothing serious or personal, just some publicity, he tells her. It is top secret and she makes me swear not to tell anyone. James will marry a glamorous model or film starlet, depending on what the publicists for the Manics' US tour decide. They need some headlines. The only guests will be photographers, in a week there's a divorce and a big tabloid story.
Apparently James is not as keen on the scam as Nick, who can be relied upon for putrid quotes, such as the one that he was glad Freddie Mercury had died.
We had a laugh when Sam told me that Nick was brainy, but not in the least vicious.
James had been chosen for the marriage scam because Nick was already married, to the girlfriend he had first met at 16 and who had dumped him, shortly before he and I got together.
They thought it would make a good story how James dumped his hometown sweetheart, showing how vile and nasty this band of provincial punks are. While James has toured the world Sam has been anonymous, working at a factory - it is part of the PR bargain. James has to be ruthlessly single. Sam works on the same production line as Nick's wife, assembling Walkmans. Nick calls her every night, cries down the phone. His real ambition is to own a pet shop.James is trying to keep his friend's mind off rabbits and goldfish. If Nick leaves the band will fall apart. Sean Moore, the drummer, is usually in the background and Richey Edwards is something else - a late starter with the band without a proper slot.
Sam isn't jealous of the boys on tour because, according to James, after a show they separate. He ends up in a hotel bar, gets drunk and watches night -time telly in his room.
They all get homesick. Like most Welsh people they don't travel well. Why do it? Is it huge bucks? Sean is constantly spending, generously. The other week he bought his girlfriend, Rhiannon - the same one he had when I first knew the band - a new TV and video.
They call James the Rainy Day Man. He banks every penny. Richey - news of the weird kid who cut himself even reached me in South America - is now the darling of the journalists. Doesn't sleep, doesn't eat, drinks. James is worried, says Sam, and has tried to get him to slow down.
A week later I get a call from Sam. She is gleeful. James couldn't go through with the wedding stunt. His bride-to-be was a big-jawed Texan, two hats taller than him. Sam gave him an ultimatum, her or tabloid fame. We all meet up for a drink at a pub, Sam, James, me and my 14-year-old sister Sally. James knocks back double whiskies and asks Sally what her favourite band is. She replies Guns n' Roses.
Yeah, agrees James, brilliant. Axl Rose has a great voice, but the star is Slash. One of the best guitarists.
"A great group, but as people they are the dregs. Complete pricks. No morals whatsoever. They exploit women and have the word nigger in one of their songs. It's immoral.
Worse, they are completely manipulated by record companies. That would never happen to my group. The Manics are the first real band from south Wales. We've got an obligation never to sell out." said James. He says he gets recognised all the time in London, but doesn't mind. The band have respect for their fans.
In Cardiff they either never get recognised or people think it is naff to speak. He loves Cardiff, he says, except at Christmas when it is packed with shoppers, "I hate the fury of their spending, the aggression, the desperation to throw money away," he says. "It is a con, a sham and the working classes are conned the most." He says his favourite TV programme is Cagney and Lacey.
Charlie's Angels was the dregs, pile of plastic fake. Cagney and Lacey showed women, real women, carrying the weight of the world. The single one was so lonely and wanted children. The married one had money problems and worried about her kids. They were decent, good. That's what women are like and men are bastards, complete bastards. While James is in the toilet, Sam says to remember what he said about how they would never be controlled by anyone? Bull. On tour they were told to tease the little girlie fans. Shove socks in their pants. Ask him. Nick had football socks, looked like he was ruptured.
We can't speak for laughing, eyeing his crotch, when he returns. He leaves with Sam in tow. Back in 1987 James was just as intense and extremely shy. There are pictures of him at his house as a little boy with NHS glasses. He had a bad squint that made him look boss-eyed and got him teased at school. Now he is older he is short sighted, but won't have glasses because he is so self-conscious.
He reads with books almost touching his nose. We were on the bus together on our way to college when he told me his full name - James Dean Bradfield. He says: "My dad, he loved cowboys and rebel films. James Dean was his hero. I hate it, prattish. James Dean: rebel, cult hero. Not exactly me is it? Feel such a fake. Could have been worse though. He liked John Wayne as well." I get out my copy of Melody Maker. James snatches it and checks the indie, then pop charts. "Oh good, Bananarama and Kylie. Kylie Minogue, love her to bits. I'm her number one fan. She's so tiny and gorgeous. I could eat her."
There was a well-known story about James at college when he had an audition for the drama class. The teacher told the students they had to draw attention to themselves without speaking.
Most kids started stripping off. James just lay on the floor, closed his eyes and started shivering, tongue drooling. They didn't know if he was pretending. The nurse was called and thought he was epileptic. Perhaps it was real. Maybe he was too embarrassed to snap out of it.
One thing he never faked was his devotion to the band. He told me how he, Sean and Nick would bunk-off college and go into Newport on borrowed bus passes. Spending the day in record shops. Never bought anything but we got a music education. We'd talk about being on Top of The Pops, even what we would wear. One day the band rehearsal was finishing and James' mother came home. He rushed downstairs to help her put away the shopping. "Good to his mother," says Nick. "She's so proud of him. He loves books and uses big words. She's glad he's in a band with his best friends. Already started a scrapbook, convinced he's gonna be famous."