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Top Of The Pops Tales: Manics' Military Exercise - Retro Pop Magazine, September 2022

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June 9, 1994: Manic Street Preachers - Faster

Early on, Manic Street Preachers had a twisted plan for generating outrage. “We had this dream of performing self-immolation on ‘Top of the Pops;” singer James Dean Bradfield told Total Guitar in 1997. But nothing so drastic was required.

The Manics always made an effort for ‘Top of the Pops, stamping Warhol Marilyns on their arms and squeezing into skinny white jeans - or, in bassist Nicky Wire's case, a flowery dress. But by 1994, the band had swapped leopard-print blouses for military chic: camouflage, army overcoats, and sailor suits. Speaking to Noisey in 2018, Wire explained this in terms of, “feeling like it was us against the world. Defined within a uniform."

So it wasn't that big a leap for Bradfield to don a balaclava. “I asked James to put it on for a photo session,” Wire later explained, “And when ‘Top of the Pops’ came along, it just seemed the right thing to do.” It was a menacing look — albeit one undercut by Tipp-Exing "JAMES" across the front. And at a time when The Troubles were still rumbling on, some viewers assumed the band must be IRA sympathisers.

Bradfield swears that they didn't see this coming. “A balaclava is synonymous with all urban terrorist movements,” he noted to Melody Maker. And, as he told The Guardian in 2006, “Because we were all dressed in army regalia, it felt like we were parodying the use of legitimate power, like the special forces. It didn't enter our heads that people would see it as an Irish paramilitary symbol”

The BBC logged 17,500 complaints. "The day after,” Wire told Q in 2013, “Sony were saying, ‘It's the most complaints ever’ and, ‘You'll never get on 'Top of the Pops’ again.” And they didn't that year, despite charting in August and October. However, on returning as a trio in 1996, they became regulars again.

And the band did generate a little income from the controversy. Not long after, there ‘was an addition to their merch range: a Manics-branded balaclava.
Top Of The Pops Tales: Manics' Military Exercise
Publication: Retro Pop Magazine
Date: September 2022
Writer: Ian Berriman

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