The Manic Street Preachers' guitarist, who was legally 'presumed dead' on 24 November, is recalled by the photographer who shot his first cover for NME.
I was shocked when I saw the full-page obit in the Guardian, My first thought was that Richey's body had finally been found. Reading on, it was almost a relief to learn that his parents, 14 years after he disappeared, had been granted a court order for Richey to be legally 'presumed dead'.
I photographed the Manics on many occasions, and it only seems a few years since I was walking around Bangkok at night with Richey looking for suitably grubby locations in which to photograph him. The first time was in Paris in March 1991, early one morning, They'd been out all night; it suited them to look wasted.
Later I shot them for their first NME cover. I loved the trash aesthetic of the band. It was all very obvious: Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, and Jane Mansfield - tragic blondes. My idea was to shoot them lying on gold lamé cloth. I wanted it to look slightly tacky, camp. They arrived at the studio spotting several fresh love bites. Richey told me that they'd been some club the night before and asked girls to bite them in order that they'd look sleazier for this, their most important photo session to date. I wrote 'Culture slut' on Nicky Wire's chest in lipstick while Richey stared at himself in the mirror and scratched three letters into his neck with a school compass: VIH. I asked him what it meant. 'Don't you know what HIV is? he asked. 'Er yes, But you've written it back to front.'
Richey was always a delight to photograph - he would do anything asked of him. On one occasion I bought a rubber stamp featuring a Warhol-style picture of Marilyn Monroe's face and he let me stamp it all over his body.
Another time I photographed him clutching a statue of a nymph in a garden. While I was shooting he drifted off into his own world. He was holding the statue so tightly his knuckles went white. Tears streamed down his cheeks. I felt guilty. I felt like I was intruding on a part of his life that was no business of mine. I was wondering how to tell him the session had finished - how to break the spell - when I heard Nicky Wire laughing. He shouted; 'Fucking hell, Richey, You'll do anything to be in the NME...'
The truth is, though, that we exploit our rock'n'roll stars. We want excessive behaviour. We live our lives vicariously via theirs. Until it all goes wrong...