Golfing movies, cider lollies, Arthur Scargill, er, Polbl Y Cwm?!!! That can only mean one thing - Manic Street Preachers bassist Nicky Wire recalling his highlights of 1996. And what a mixed year it was, as Keith Cameron found out.
Not for the first time, Nicky Wire is unwell. "Tonsillitis," he explains. "Never had it before. Horrible." But the worst is over, and now the resident tall fellow in the Manic Street Preachers is dealing with his latest malady in fine style: tucked up in bed at home perusing The Daily Telegraph.
It is under such cosy convalescent circumstances that we join pop's best-read, most loquacious epitome of charm to digest and discuss the year's salient moments. Music, sport, politics, drugs, shoes... The Wire has them all tapped. So, Lemsips at the ready, let prattle commence...
"Hero number one is Robert Howley, the Welsh scrum-half. Because he's the greatest scrum-half since Gareth Edwards. He's really humble and I just think he's fantastic. He's our one hope.
His nickname's Muscles 'cos he doesn't train or anything, he's just one of these old-fashioned, naturally talented Welsh players. He's got an amazing pass and
he's playing with Jonathan Davies at Cardiff and he's just fantastic."
"Number two is Jimmy McGovern. He wrote Cracker and some early Brookside episodes. I've always really liked him, but I'd never actually seen him before last Sunday, when I saw him on The South Bank Show. He was absolutely fantastic, really impressed me. I loved all the Crackers he wrote, especially To Be Somebody with Robert Carlyle as the Liverpool fan, which was one of the finest things I've ever seen. McGovern's a real Scouser, which I'd never realised. I always thought, for some reason, he might be Scottish. He's just done a new drama about Hillsborough which sounds quite harrowing, 'cos obviously it had a big impact on him. A lot of what he was saying tied in with what I was trying to say with 'A Design For Life'. A magic moment."
"Oh, and I wouldn't mind, for my heroes, to chuck my mum and dad in. Out of sentimental value, because I do love 'em."
"The bloke who hosted the MTV Awards, Denis Miller. For one thing he took the piss out of Liam and Oasis, said they're not the new Beatles, they're the new Badfinger. And that really annoyed me. And when Liam spat he went, 'Heyyy, they spilled a beer!' Y'know, sarcasm, Americans don't even know what it is anyway and he was trying to be sarcastic, and he really annoyed me. He thought Van Halen were better at the end of the night."
A proper villain.
"And talking of proper villains, Thomas Hamilton. I don't have to say anything about him."
GREAT SPORTING MOMENTS
"This year the sporting highlight for me was Faldo's last round in the Masters against Greg Norman. Just the sheer magnitude of that achievement... Everyone said Norman bottled it, but Faldo shot one of the best rounds of his life. He was just like a colossus. And Cardiff beating Bath in the quarter-final of the European Rugby Cup last Saturday was joyous. Because we beat Bath! It was a full house and just like the old days. It was just an amazing day for club rugby, to have 15,000 people packed in watching it. I was watching it on the telly! With my tonsillitis! It was fantastic, like a mini-international. And, of course, Bath had all their rugby league players and everyone on £2,000 bonus to win, and Cardiff were on £200 to win. It was brilliant."
WORST SPORTING MOMENTS
"I was quite upset when England lost in Euro '96, and when Scotland went out, but I can't say it bothered me the next day! I think the Olympics, probably. Linford - that really depressed me, 'cos he's been a real hero of mine. I still think he maybe could have got a bronze. I'm not saying he was justified in refusing to go off, but I felt really sad for him because I don't know anyone who tries harder than Linford. And what with him retiring I just felt it was really sad."
THREE BEST CINEMA SCENES
"I've got a bit of a struggle with this 'cos I can't think of any films. Obviously Trainspotting, especially the hands down the toilet scene. And there's a couple of scenes in Tin Cup I really liked, the golf film with Kevin Costner. It's quite a serious film! I'm always desperate to see sports films and, as far as golf films go, it's quite serious, 'cos he's kind of a loser that comes good. There's a few scenes where they're playing golf and it is
really realistic. Kevin Costner took six months of training. And I suppose Pacino and De Niro's first on-screen meeting in Heat, which I liked. I'm sure Crash will be one of the best, but we'll maybe never get to see it. Braveheart wasn't this year, was it? No, it won Oscars, so it couldn't be. James' favourite film was Smoke, but I didn't see that."
THREE SEMINAL SOAP OPERA MOMENTS
"To be honest, I've only ever watched soaps when I know I'm gonna watch 'em every week, and this year I knew I'd never keep up. I haven't watched any. I couldn't even tell you about Ian Beale being shot. I just never watch 'em any more. Except Pobol Y Cwm, the Welsh one, now and again. They have subtitles. It's good! More dark than the others, all death and destruction."
THREE FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
album of the
THREE FAVOURITE SINGLES OF THE YEAR
"I think my favourite single must be Give Me A Little More Time' by Gabrielle. Just 'cos it was a real '90s version of Tamla, brought up to date without seeming crass or horrible. In a pop sense, I really liked it. And it went up the charts for weeks and weeks without any hype or fan base. It's just a shame she did the East 17 thing, but you can't hold that against her."
"Either of the two Prodigy singles, 'Firestarter' or 'Breathe', they're both amazing. Amazing videos, amazing performances. They are the Sex Pistols of dance! There's been loads of great singles this year, 'The Box' by Orbital, or even 'Trash' by Suede. But I think 'Patio Song' by Gorky's Zygotic Mynci would get my vote, 'cos I'm in a really soppy indie mood. I have played that 20 times consecutively and still really liked it!
FAVOURITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR
"I admit it - I haven't read a fucking new book this year! All I've read this year is books about the Spanish Civil War and books on Welsh history. Ever since The Clash did 'Spanish Bombs' on 'London Calling', I've been intrigued. There's only about 50 veterans left now who left Wales or Manchester or wherever, and said, 'We're going to fight the fascists'. I think that's amazing. There's all these quotes, 'If I can shoot a rabbit, I can shoot a fascist', from a Welsh farmer who just decided to go to Spain. I've been trying to write a song on it for ages, so I'm diligently researching it."
THE TAKE THAT SPLIT
"Apart from 'Back For Good', which is a great song, I haven't got any time for boy bands, I find it all a bit ludicrous. Sickly. I just think it's funny that Mark Owen's probably come up with the best song of all of them! They're all trying to be really credible and he waltzes in with John Leckie as a producer. But I don't see the interest. The MTV thing Robbie Williams did the other night was so dreadful. I felt sorry for him. He's just happy eating pies, and you can't blame him. The discipline involved in being in those bands must be really hard to take. I couldn't contemplate having to get up and do a dance routine before I can have dinner! I love pop music, there's loads of records that just generally hit you, but that whole boy band process... I mean, I think the Spice Girls have got much more guts and ordinariness about them. And better songs."
DRUGS IN VOGUE
"I could never see the argument that Trainspotting glamorised heroin, 'cos I think it's incredibly seedy, but the very fact that handsome actors are making loads of money doing a brilliant film is obviously glamorous. That's always going to be part of showbusiness. Drugs, for me, I just find them incredibly boring and I find the people that take them incredibly boring. I don't see the interest, but there you go."
CHARLES & DIANA DIVORCE
"I totally despise all the Royal Family, and it's gone beyond having any interest now. I've got no sympathy at all for them as human beings, I don't even look at them as human beings. For what they've done and what they've perpetrated through generations and generations, and for what they stand for, I totally despise them."
NEW LABOUR—NO DANGER?
"I think yesterday is the first time I've ever thought they might actually be any good, with this windfall tax. It's the first little sign that maybe there are people in there who are gonna put up taxes and, if they get in, do something. Up until then I've been completely unconvinced. The eradication of the word 'socialist' I find quite scary. It's very Orwellian, the way the dictionary of the Labour Party has been destroyed. And the thing that scares me is that, if they lose this time, there will be no Labour Party. There'll be a really hardline socialist party and a social democratic-Christian coalition which'll mean all, and people will be left completely disenfranchised.
"We met Arthur Scargill on the British tour, he came to see us in Liverpool. He was a brilliant chap. a And I'm really tempted to vote for Socialist Labour, like Paul Heaton. People say it's defeatist, but that's a bad attitude to take. Everybody's allowed to vote, you should use it as you please, whether it's defeatist or not, you have a chance to make a personal statement. Scargill gave us some books about the strike and watched some of the gig. Out of all the people you meet from showbiz and all that, it was really quite inspiring. He still has the same passion, he just went off into some mad speech!"
THE DEMISE OF THE STONE ROSES
"Although people might not think it, they did have a lasting influence on us when we started. They were people we defined ourself against. I find the whole episode really sad, y'know, it was such an acrimonious split and to see the last line-up with two members left and a load of session musicians. Ian Brown's voice never bothered me. I don't think he sang that much better at the start, it was just that he was more confident, perhaps, and more cool. Perhaps his confidence went with the drugs, I don't know. I still think they've left two great albums. I still play The Stone Roses a lot and I think that lyrically they were underrated. The first album, especially."
THE TUPAC ASSASSINATION
"Things like that I get too scared to talk about. When you've got to confront death, and with guns as well, I can't think of anything more frightening. Guns petrify me. I've got no qualms about banning guns full-stop in Britain. I'm fucking sick of all these liberty groups saying their hobbies are gonna be taken away. Fucking hell, play darts then. The fewer guns we've got, the better. The Tupac thing is symbolic of American culture and the further away we get from that the better. It's hard for us to comprehend, especially when I'm in a sleepy town in the valleys, and I hope we never get it 'cos it's too frightening for words."
REFORMATION OF THE SEX PISTOLS
"Well, I think they deserved the money, after losing out on so much and being so influential. And I think Steve Jones still has the best guitar sound in the world. I still think think they're a lot better than many - American punk bands, even now. I had no desire to go and see them myself, because with something as perfect as that, I don't think you z. want to tarnish the memory."
VOGUEISH CONSUMER ITEMS... ALCOHOLIC SODAS
"Well, I abstain. The nearest I get is Ribena Light! I'm completely on the wagon again, I'm gonna stop drinking for another year, I've decided. Totally. I used to have wine. Sean got into alcopops a bit, I think. I don't think it's good for young kids, they'd be better off having cider blues like I used to! I used to f—ing love cider lollies in the summer. They were gorgeous! My mum would make them and then the local bloke started selling them as well. Gorgeous."
"I must admit, in all my years in the industry, cocaine seems back with a vengeance"
It hardly breeds reasoned behaviour, does it?
"No, but it sometimes breeds good records, though."
"Oh, you mean those 12" DJ bags. I think there's a lot of people who feel uncool, and they realise that getting into dance music is the one thing that can make them cool. I think that's true for a lot of people, whether it's dodgy old punks from the 70s who were in shit bands and now they make dance music, or they're young kids putting Technics or Kenwood on their bags. It's not for me. I don't think they're very practical, myself."
"But I think the mail bag is an interesting phenomenon, I mean I've been carrying one for five years and they're big business now. I've just bought a new Diesel bag and it's really nice."
BIG TRAINERS — AND WE MEAN BIG TRAINERS
"They're definitely not for me, but I do think trainers have become consumerist works of art. I can go into a shop and just look around for hours. The big ones are definitely for a new breed of people, though. It's the platforms. Super Furries have got some big ones, actually. They seemed really tall! Trainers are almost like sculptures, some of them, they almost join together from one point and flow out. I do like looking at them. I'm too old for them, though."
"There was a bloke at our gig in LA who's got his own brand, X-Pistol, and he gave us loads. I remember when we started, James had what everyone said was like a darts shirt! It had aesthetic debris on and he kinda looked like Jocky Wilson! Haha! But it was similar to the bowling shirts. It's that American blue-collar thing, coming from Pittsburgh, drinking coffee and eating cake. I kinda like all that."
"Oh dear! I've got bad memories from when I was young. Even though it was ten years too late, there were loads of mods round here. And their Vespas never worked! They were always broken down. Servicing them for hours to go two miles. I can't say I've ever wanted one. I never want to drive anything anyway, I've never had a driving lesson. James is much more your Barry Sheene, Suzuki Turbo man!
You know, like Crispian Mills waffling on about India and Damon Albarn going to Iceland.
"A lot of this spiritual thing is a complete load of bollocks, but at least people are making pricks of themselves and shedding some of their baggage. At least it's not like the new mod, which is extremely strict and you must follow certain codes. I think the bloke from Kula Shaker talks some utter crap, but at least you can laugh. I like John Power, I think he's a bit of an angel, but he does talk some bollocks. But I don't mind it, at least it's something different. And if you're talking in terms of Martin Luther King or Gandhi, true heroes really, the spiritual awakening they talked about was worthwhile."
"It doesn't bother me, because I find it a bit more colourful as much as anything. Like when the Stones did 'Satanic Majesties - not a very good album, but at least after they did it they could say, 'We're gonna come back, and ROCK!'. The reason why I always liked the Stones over The Beatles was that The Beatles f—ed off with the Maharishi, and you can just imagine Ringo saying, 'Sod this'. Keith always said that when they came back with 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' they wanted to kill psychedelia. People making mistakes makes it more interesting."
1996 – HOW WAS IT FOR YOU?
"Professionally, it's obviously been our most successful year. Sold the most records and all the rest of it, so I suppose it must be seen on the Richter scale of bad Manics years as not too high! Very low! A good year on the Richter scale for Manics years. And personally, yeah, it's been OK. Yeah, it's been alright!"
"It would round it off if Wales could win the Five Nations. I still define my years by sporting achievement, so if something good could happen in terms of Wales or Britain it would round it off. I was really pleased when Damon Hill won. Stuff like that makes me happy."