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We Suffered 12 Months Of Misery For One Classic Song - Daily Record, 4th September 1998

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Title: We Suffered 12 Months Of Misery For One Classic Song
Publication: Daily Record
Date: Friday 4th September 1998
Writer: John Dingwall

Daily Record 040998.jpg

It really shouldn't have been a hit at all. An anti-fascist protest song inspired by 1984 author George Orwell...well, it's not exactly the Spice Girls is it?

But there, at the top of the charts and on the radio every time you switch it on, is the Manic Street Preachers' first, impressive single in two years, If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next.

For the group, it is further vindication of their decision to carry on after the disappearance of founder member, songwriter and guitarist Richey Edwards in 1995. It's also proof that pop can still address serious issues.

The song, written by bassist Nicky Wire, is about the International Brigade, a group of ordinary people who volunteered to fight against fascism during the Spanish Civil War.

Wire picked up on the subject after reading George Orwell's 1938 essay, Homage To Catalonia, which described how he was wounded during a trip to Spain.

It was also inspired by Spanish Bombs, a 70s rock single by The Clash, and took a staggering 12 months to write.

Wire explains: "The song is about standing up to any evil, and how people today don't know how lucky they are. They seem to have no understanding about how millions of people laid their lives down for us, just so we can be here now.

"It is meant to be a warning - a need for awareness in the modern world and to remember the courage of people such as members of the International Brigade."

The band admit they had fears that the song, produced by Dave Eringa, would be savaged by the critics if they couldn't match their previous songs.

Bassist Wire also had other problems to deal with while recording.

He developed an obsessive compulsive disorder, keeping the studio spotlessly clean and switching the lights on and off as many as 50 times.

Manics singer James Dean Bradfield admits the band's time in the studios in France, England and Wales, was intense.

Fans will be able to hear the result when their fifth album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, is released on September 14.

Bradfield said: "That's about the most tense we've been in the studio. We were a bit burned out by the end."

In the past seven years, the band have recorded a staggering 150 tracks.

The chart success of remaining members Wire, Bradfield and drummer Sean Hughes has defied critics who believed that they would fade into obscurity after guitarist Edwards disappeared on the eve of the band's American tour in February, 1995.

Some cynics even pointed out that the missing member's influence was as strong as ever after the release of the 1996 album Everything Must Go, which still contained some of his material.

It was because of those reviews that the band were so nervous about the release of their forthcoming album. It will be the first one without Edwards' contribution.

If the success of the album's first single is anything to go by, the release will be a huge hit. If You Tolerate This has already been hailed by many as the single of the year.

It's quite an achievement for a band who admit that they almost split before the release of their last album.

Luckily, they did stay together to see Everything Must Go bring them four top 10 hits, including a prestigious Ivorn Novello songwriting award for A Design For Life. It also earned the band two Brit and three Brat awards.

Wire admits: "With Everything Must Go, we were just pleased to carry on as a band and as three friends.

"It was more a case of `put the record out and see how it'll do'. Now we have a totally different attitude. I think my lyrics are still more provocative than anybody else's around.

"We talk about things that nobody else in the music industry bothers about. No other group writes the words we do.

"But I don't want to become the bard of the working classes.

"The biggest pressure with this album was knowing that it was just the three of us with no help from Richey.

"We knew that any goodwill we might have had because of the situation we were in, because of Richey's disappearance, would be gone. We're aware that the album could be hyper-criticised. But that could be a good thing."

The Manics' single has been helped to the top of the charts by one of the most original videos of the year.

Surreally, it shows a generation of people with no eyes and appears to be making a point about the dangers of allowing genetically- engineered food onto supermarket shelves without proper safeguards for consumers.

"Basically, we're showing in the video that the human race is an experiment gone wrong," Hughes said.

"I suppose, in a way, the band is, too. We were only going to do one album and then split up.

"But, as time's gone on, we've become this five-album, thirtysomething kind of group.

"Personally, we feel like we've spoiled it - that we've forgotten about our original plans. You think, `It didn't go quite right, did it?'"

This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours is almost certain to follow the single's success by shooting straight to number one.

Tracks include Ready For Drowning, inspired by the life and times of Howard Hughes and the screenplays of Howard Hughes and Jimmy McGovern.

One of Wire's favourites is the opening track, The Everlasting. He said: " James wanted this to sound like an old hymn.

"The song is an elegy. It deals with an eternal search for something we can never find. The feel is romantic and strangely uplifting."

Another song, S.Y.M.M., mentions the Hillsborough disaster, when 96 Liverpool fans died on the terraces of the Sheffield Wednesday football ground in 1989.

Wire said: "The dilemma of writing a song which might upset people can have an effect on you."

Wire took the album title from a famous phrase, often used by Welsh politician Aneurin Bevan, who founded the National Health Service. He explained: "It was just something he used to say. It means: 'Here's what I believe in, but I want to know what you do as well'."

Ross McFadyen, Head Of Music at Clyde 1 FM, believes the band are even better now than they were when Richey Edwards was a member. He said: "Maybe the disappearance of Richey did them a big favour."

BBC Radio Scotland's senior producer Stuart Cruickshank, added: "The three remaining members of the Manics seemed like losers when Richey disappeared.

"But they are a band with a sense of vision who have gritted their teeth and got on with it. They deserve their success."

On September 23, the BBC will broadcast a 50-minute documentary on the band as part of the Close Up series.

But before that the band will play for Scottish fans at a sell-out gig at Dundee's Caird Hall, on September 18.

The Manics will next be back in Scotland for a show at Glasgow's SECC on December 12, supported by Catatonia. Tickets go on sale today.

Manic Rundown, Track By Track

There are 13 tracks on the long- awaited Manic Street Preachers album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.

Here, Nicky Wire gives his rundown of the tracks on the album which is certain to become one of the biggest-sellers of the year.

THE EVERLASTING: "For us it's the Motorcycle Emptiness of the album. James wanted it to sound like that hymn The Old Rugged Cross."

IF YOU TOLERATE THIS THEN YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE NEXT: "We recorded it with Dave Eringa at Rockfield studios. There's something special about it when you get into it. It's organic and deep feeling."

YOU STOLE THE SUN FROM MY HEART: "It's one of the most simple tracks - a kind of hybrid Norvana and New Order - about when your soul gets ripped up but you just get past caring. Sean sampled the studio pinball machine."

READY FOR DROWNING: "It's about Richey and Welsh icons. I felt we had to write about him. It starts very acoustic and then goes into super rock."

TSUNAMI: "Tsunami means tidal wave in Japanese. It's about feeling really cleansed."

MY LITTLE EMPIRE: "It's James' Chili Peppers number which he's pleased about."

I'M NOT WORKING: "It's about the fear of flying. The sitar gives it that kind of dizziness feel."

YOU'RE TENDER AND YOU'RE TIRED: "It's our homage to Badfinger and about how society likes to suck the weak."

BORN A GIRL: "It's the hardest for James to sing because of what it's about."

BE NATURAL: "James' Jeff Buckley comes through on this. It's about the things I want to do and don't get the time to."

BLACK DOG ON MY SHOULDER: "It's about the normality of depression. The music is very Midnight Cowboy, very Witchita Lineman."

NOBODY LOVED YOU: "It deals with Richey - lots of people did care about him even if he didn't realise it."

S.Y.M.M: "It's the dilemma of writing a song which might upset. It has such an effect on you."

Sounds Like A Storm May Be Brewing

The new Manic Street Preachers single If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next has been hailed as the single of the year.

But a legal battle is looming after Radio 1 DJs Jo Whiley and Simon Mayo claimed the song sounds like The Stranglers classic Duchess.

And Stranglers bassist and songwriter Jean Jacques Burnel could be in for a windfall if it can be proved that the track was based on his song.

He said: "I haven't heard the song yet but an endless number of people have called to say it sounds like our single Duchess.

"My record company people have been asking if I am going to sue and my publishers are currently checking it out.

"I first realised there was probably a strong similarity when people called to say that they had just heard Simon Mayo comparing the two singles back to back.

"I hope it sounds like it, because my bank manager will like that. I've already had three Top 40 records from people who have covered Stranglers songs this year."

Three years ago Elastica were forced to reach a settlement because their single Waking Up sounded like the Stranglers' classic punk hit No More Heroes.

Jean Jacques said: "We didn't need to sue Elastica. They put their hands up and gave us everything. I think the expression is, it's a fair cop."

Despite being top of the charts, Radio 1's Jo Whiley is convinced the Manics haven't sold out their hardcore fans.

She said: "There's still the trademark insidious dangerousness conveyed in the lyrics and the song title. Yet the Manics have truly built a massive and broad based following as the number one has proved."

Stuart Cruickshank, senior producer, at Radio Scotland, said: "It took me a few listens to get into it. They've spent a lot of money and time on their record and it shows.

"The Manics are making highly-produced records when most bands are making break-beats or are stripping their sound down, like Blur have done.

"The type of music they make, which is adult-orientated, doesn't get much play on radio. They are not your average rock band. I have a lot of admiration for them."

Geoff Ellis, of DF Concerts, booked two Scottish dates for the band on the strength of the song.

He said: "I got an advance copy of the single. As with most good singles it takes one or two listens before you really get into it.

"Good bands like the Manics deserve a little more attention with their songs.

"I think it's fantastic. It's one of the best singles this year."

But not everyone is overwhelmed.

Northsound presenter Jim Gellatly said: "It is a great song, but I don't think anything has been as good as the first album.

"They've lost the cutting edge and have blanded out a bit. Successful bands have to do that, but they still have intelligent lyrics.

"But an average Manics is 10 times better than most other pop records and they are certainly more interesting than bands like Embrace who are just extremely dull.

"It's a bit excessive to say it's the single of the year . It has only been around for a few weeks.

"It could be everybody gets really sick of it in the next couple of weeks.

"There is a similarity between the two songs, but you can say that most songs sound like something else.

"It's not a blatant rip-off and I doubt it's deliberate."