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Richey's Legacy Lives On - BBC News, 31st January 2002

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Title: Richey's Legacy Lives On
Publication: BBC News
Date: Thursday 31st January 2002

For the Manic Street Preachers, Friday marks a difficult anniversary - seven years since guitarist and songwriter Richey Edwards went missing. BBC News Online looks at his life and career.

Since his disappearance, the Manics have become household names. Edwards would now be 34 and entitled to claim millions in royalties from the album Everything Must Go - largely written by him, but recorded after his disappearance.

Edwards' disappearance remains a sensitive subject for his family, the band, and those connected with them.

After seven years, the family of a missing person are entitled to have the person declared dead, and apply for his estate.

But a statement issued by the Manics' record company, Sony, says: "For the family of Richey Edwards and the members of the Manic Street Preachers nothing has changed. Richey is still missing."

During the early stages of the band's success, Edwards became an iconic figure. But he was not in the founding line-up.

Edwards, Nicky Wire, James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore, all grew up together in Blackwood, south Wales.

All of them were obsessed by music, but Edwards had shown little musical talent, so the other three were joined by Miles Woodward - Flicker - on guitar in the Manic Street Preachers' first line-up.

Their first public appearance came in 1989 at a pub in Newbridge, Gwent - and ended in a mass brawl.

Edwards drove the flamboyant, defiant group from gig to gig and became their photographer.

He also wrote letters to the music press claiming the Manics were "the best band in the world", and penned their first press release calling the band "young, beautiful scum, pissed off with the world".

When Flicker was sacked from the band, Edwards learned guitar, and began to join them on stage too.

But that year, according to music writer Simon Price, Bradfield was horrified to find Edwards had been dragging the point of a compass across his forearms while revising for his finals at Swansea University.

He had also been binge-drinking - before university, he had been teetotal - and his weight had dropped to just six stone.

Edwards left with a 2:1, which Price says in his biography of the band, Everything, devastated him: "For the first time in his life, his academic achievements were less than perfect."

The band played their first London gig later that year, got a record deal, and built up a cult following during 1990.

But by 1991, Edwards' state of mind was publicly questioned following an interview with BBC Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq, then a journalist with NME.

Lamacq questioned the band's sincerity, and Edwards responded by taking out a razor knife and inscribing the legend "4 REAL" into his arm.

Edwards was rushed to hospital. Lamacq later wrote: "I'm not sure the Manics have everything under control at the moment."

Edwards denied it was a publicity stunt but the incident added to the band's mystique, and six days later Sony Records snapped them up, releasing their debut album Generation Terrorists.

Edwards' problems seemed to escalate as the band grew more popular. Manager Philip Hall, who had guided the band to success, died from cancer in December 1993, devastating the group.

In August 1994 - following the release of desolate third album The Holy Bible - Edwards was admitted to the Priory Clinic in Roehampton, London for "nervous exhaustion".

His weight had plummeted again and his band-mates admitted he was on "the verge of anorexia".

But a month later he checked out and rejoined the band, though his erratic behaviour continued to cause alarm.

In January 1995, after spending Christmas with their families, the band checked into a Surrey studio to begin work on their third album - which would become Everything Must Go.

Edwards seemed to be in a better frame of mind. But that changed when his pet dog at home in Blackwood died.

He shaved off his hair, and when he visited his family, he went around taking photographs of them.

He gave an interview to Japanese magazine Music Life, telling how he was looking forward to the future.

He told Music Life: "The worst thing I did was to keep trying to be normal, which is how I ended up in hospital. Now I wake up in the morning, and I know what I want to do. I want to write, it makes me feel better in myself."

The band were about to tour the US, and were due to depart on 1 February.

But Edwards vanished from his London hotel before he was due to travel to the airport. His room contained a box covered in literary quotes and collages, containing presents for a close female friend.

Also left in the room were a packet of Prozac and a suitcase containing all of Edwards' clothes.

It is known he drove to his flat in Cardiff, where he left his passport and other documents, before leaving his car close to the Severn Bridge.

That is where the trail ends, despite reported sightings around the world.

In March 1997 a college lecturer reported seeing him in the Indian resort of Goa, while in 1998 Edwards' parents flew to the Canary Islands after a bar worker reported seeing him in Tenerife.

In the meantime, the Manic Street Preachers hit mainstream success in 1996 with Everything Must Go - which was co-written by Edwards.

Those connected with the band still publicly believe he is still alive.

Whatever has happened to him, Richey Edwards' legacy will live on for many years to come.