But new generation Glam God Richey James and the Manic Street Preachers are still trying to kick the corpse back to life. This time last year they claimed that their debut LP 'Generation Terrorists' would be their first and last, but several sell-out tours and Top 20 singles later, they're eating their words. CHRIS WATTS is the man spoon-feeding the dialogue...
It's patently obvious that the Manic Street Preachers didn't write 'Stay Beautiful' before midday. It's 10.30am in Wolverhampton, and the band look bloody awful. Wrapped up, ashen-faced and barely conscious, the Generation Terrorists slump into their tour van and promptly fall asleep.
The prospect of what should be a celebratory hometown gig this evening hasn't quite overfilled the band's cup of happiness. But it's too late. Like every date on their latest British tour, the University has been sold out for weeks.
There is little alcohol in the van and not even a single Copy Of 'Spinal Tap'. There are ravishingly underage girls backstage; they sit at the feet of guitarist Richey James and just gaze up into his pale, feminine face. He picks constantly at a polystyrene cup and colours his knuckles with an indelible felt-tip pen.
'I Hate My Geetar' is neatly Stencilled onto his white shirt. An alarmingly quiet disciple wants to know if Richey found the note she pinned to the band's van. "It said. 'Your Beauty Is Insulting Because I Cannot Touch It'." Richey says he didn't. Back at the Marriott, Gill from Lewisham finally plucks up the courage to ask what colour underpants he's wearing. Richey James - shy media magpie and current figurehead of the '90s junk generation - is wearing white pants. Life's a damn dog.
The Manic Street Preachers inspire love and loathing in equal proportions. At the very least, the quartet are quite superb tacticians. The Manic Street Preachers are a tabloid rock Event.
In just two years, the band have flashed from obscurity into the Top 10. At the same time, they made no secret of the fact that Richey James didn't play on 'Generation Terrorists', and that the album would probably be the band's last.
"Bands that care about music don't sell records," he says. can't understand bands who like practising. I'm a pretty sad Person, but anybody who practises guitar in their bedroom is a fucking sight sadder than me!
"We always said that we wanted to make one album, sell 20 million copies, make Michael Jackson look like a peanut and then fuck off! That was an absolute and total lie! It was just a good statement to make at the time."
Richey James says all this in his quiet Welsh lilt. It might sound arrogant, but it is only meant to grab headlines. As James Dean Bradfield admits: "I play a better guitar solo than him, but Richey takes a better photograph.
'I haven't got much respect for Richey as a musician. Nick is perfect for our music, but he's hardly breaking any boundaries either. But I respect Richey as a person and as my friend. He's also my second favourite lyricist after Joe Strummer, and that's good enough for me. I could never write a song without his lyrics. I've tried. and it's bullshit! "'Respect is such an overbearing term anyway. We all found out what we did best, and we do it. Its the perfect democracy."
The Manic Street Preachers are also the perfect rock band. Really. Richey James left Swansea University two years ago with a 2:1 degree in political history and a signed photo of Morrissey. The band who later described themselves as "disposable and to be used" were already planning an invigorating display of media piracy.
"Everything we've ever done has been mutual," says Richey. "We decided on the music we wanted to play, and targeted specific journalists who might be sympathetic. We played a few shit clubs, but knew there was no point. "We used the media in a 'natural way. We didn't want to spend two years playing creepy little pubs. What do you do? We wanted to be in a band, and it seemed natural to write letters to journalists. In that respect, most bands seem totally naive."
It worked. The Manics made themselves quotable. provocative. senseless, delicate... but above all, the Manics made themselves pop terrorists. No one wrote about James Dean Bradfield's and Sean Moore's competent music or Steve Brown's billion-dollar production. Only the ignorant have ever complained that they play for less than an hour and have . only played two encores in their short career. So what? Instead, everybody wanted Richey to fill up their column inches. Everybody wanted Richey to carve up his arm. Everybody wanted to hear Richey say stuff.
"We don't respect the media, but there's nothing wrong with being a 'media band'. We are the ultimate consumers. We work in tabloid headlines. It's the perfect way for us to be perceived. There's not much intelligence in a song like 'Repeat' ('Useless generation, dumb flag scum/ Repeat after me, 'Fuck Queen and Country'). The sentiments are very obvious, but how else could you write a song about the monarchy?
"We set out to be as hypocritical as the Press. We've read all the lies, we've bought all the crappy Singles Of The Week. So we set out to lie as well. We're the most fake band ever.
"Every single band is a cartoon. Every single band is a bit pathetic. Even those caring, sharing Metal bands from Seattle. They're self-obsessed and hypocritical just like us."
James Dean Bradfield shrugs at accusations that the Manics use excessive sloganeering to shift records. "People in their everyday life understand things in sensationalist terms, and we'll stoop to that level if it makes us relevant. We use the tabloid language to typify the times."
There are four official Manics' fanzines in the UK. Anthony Melder edits No Future in Essex, and a manuscript of his novel provides Nicky Wire and Richey James with food for thought. In the book - 'Dead End Apocalypse' - Melder claims: 'I am dispossessed, impoverished, forgotten,..'!
It's all a little bit negative. "That's good," says Richey. "You can go into any record store and buy 10 songs with positive messages, a thousand love songs. We always said that we didn't want to offer anything positive because we couldn't think of anything worthwhile. "Youth rebellion is dead. You go out and there are more kids buying Segas than CDs. Pop stardom is just dead. Everybody is just resigned to nothing."
Even your sexual imagery is negative. You could've used Cilia Black on 'Little Baby Nothing' rather than Traci Lords - ex-star of the West Coast fuck 'n' suck movie industry and sometime Heavy Metal pin-up...
"We read about her in The Independent. There was a big furore because she was only 15 when she made a lot of her films. I thought she'd be a good symbol for the song. I think I went shopping when she was in the studio."
In marked contrast to Anthony Melders bedsit apocalypse, Jacqui and Carrie are on tour flogging their Last Exit fanzine for a quid. Dressed as twin babe airheads in fake fur and stack heels, the pair secretly agree with an essay describing the band as 'docile'.
"They're turning into a bloody parody," writes Carol Pointon. 'Worse still, the parody is of their fucking selves. The band who once pummelled, patronised and scrupulously provoked one's mind into mayhem have publicly become futile."
The other James Dean laughs. "I'd be lying if I stuck by that quote about us splitting up. I'm going to have to eat humble pie, and I'll probably get f"ked up the arse for it when I go to hell! "If it hadn't been a really good album, then I don't think we should've carried on. A band has to create its own full-stop. If I thought we'd put our point across, then we'd stop now. But we haven't, so we'll try again."
"Maybe we believed that quote about Michael Jackson at the time," adds Richey James. "It all came true except for the record sales. We want to make another record, and we want to make a better record."
You're probably in a better band than the Manic Street Preachers, but you haven't got the balls to be as good. One day you'll figure out how they've done it, and weep.