Manic Street Preachers are a Welsh alternative rock band, formed in 1986 in Blackwood and consisting of James Dean Bradfield (lead vocals, lead guitar), Nicky Wire (bass guitar, lyrics) and Sean Moore (drums). They are often colloquially known as "The Manics", or simply, "Manics". Originally a quartet, the band became a trio when primary lyricist and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards disappeared on 1 February 1995. Their early combination of androgynous glam imagery and critical social lyrics about "culture, alienation, boredom and despair" gained them a loyal following and cult status.
Following Edwards' disappearance, Bradfield, Moore and Wire persisted with Manic Street Preachers, and went on to gain critical and commercial success, becoming one of Britain's premier rock bands. The band's later albums retained a leftist politicisation and intellectual lyrical style while adopting a broader alternative rock sound. Altogether, they have garnered eight Top 10 albums, fifteen Top 10 singles and have reached No. 1 on the UK charts three times—with their 1998 This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours album, the 1998 "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next" single and the 2000 "The Masses Against the Classes" single.
Formation and early years (1986–1991)
The band was formed in 1986 in Oakdale Comprehensive School, Blackwood, South Wales. During this time, Bradfield had tried writing lyrics but this later changed and Wire wrote all their earliest lyrics, leaving Bradfield, alongside the classically-trained Sean Moore when he joined, to write the music. Original bassist Flicker (Miles Woodward) left the band in early 1988, reportedly because he believed that the band were moving away from their punk roots. The band continued as a three-piece, with Wire switching from guitar to bass, and in 1988 they released their first single, "Suicide Alley". Edwards joined the band on guitar and often made contributions to lyrics with Wire, designing record sleeves and other artwork as well as driving the band to and from gigs.
In 1990, they signed a deal with label Damaged Goods Records for one EP. The four-track New Art Riot E.P. attracted as much media interest for its attacks on fellow musicians as for the actual music. With the help of Hall or Nothing management, the Manics signed to indie label Heavenly Records. The band recorded their first single for the label, entitled "Motown Junk".
Their next single, "You Love Us", sampled Krzysztof Penderecki's "Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima" as well as Iggy Pop. The video featured Nicky Wire in drag as Marilyn Monroe and contained visual references to the film Betty Blue and Aleister Crowley. In a now legendary interview with then-NME journalist Steve Lamacq, Edwards carved the phrase "4REAL" into his arm with a razor blade to prove their sincerity. He was taken to hospital and received a total of seventeen stitches. Columbia Records of Sony Music UK signed the band shortly afterwards and they began work on their debut album.
Generation Terrorists to The Holy Bible (1992–1995)
Their debut album, Generation Terrorists ( sample (help·info)), was released on the Columbia Records imprint. The liner notes contained a literary quote for each of the album's eighteen songs and the album lasted just over seventy minutes. The record contained six singles and sold 250,000 copies.
The second album, Gold Against the Soul, displayed a more commercial, grungy sound and alienated fans as well the band themselves. It was released to mixed reviews but still performed well, reaching number eight in the UK album chart. The nature of the lyrics also changed, with Edwards and Wire eschewing their political fire for introspective melancholy.
By early 1994, Edwards' personal difficulties became worse and began to affect the other band members as well as himself. He was admitted into The Priory in 1994 to overcome his problems and the band played a few festivals as a three-piece to pay for his treatment.
The group's next album, The Holy Bible, was released in August to critical acclaim, but sold poorly. The album displayed yet another musical and aesthetic change for the band, largely featuring army/navy uniforms. Musically, the band had shifted to a darker, post-punk-influenced and almost gothic sound. In support of the album, the band appeared on Top of the Pops, performing its first single, "Faster", which reached No. 16. The performance was extremely controversial at the time, as the band were all dressed in army regalia. Bradfield wore a 'terrorist-style' balaclava. At the time, the band was told by the BBC that they had received the most complaints ever.
Shortly after, on 1 February 1995, Edwards disappeared from the Embassy Hotel at Bayswater Road in London after checking out at 7:00 A.M. His car was found abandoned 17 February at the Severn View service station near the Severn Bridge. A car park attendant reported it had been there for three days; police search of the car revealed that it had been lived in for a few days. Edwards was never seen again, although the band have kept a percentage of the royalties aside should he return. He was declared presumed dead on 23 November 2008 by his family. The band commented that they respect their decision. Manic Street Preachers was put on hold for six months and disbanding the group was seriously considered, but with the blessing of Edwards' family, the other members continued.
Everything Must Go to Know Your Enemy (1996–2003)
The first album without Edwards, Everything Must Go contained five songs either written or co-written by Edwards, and was released to overwhelmingly positive reviews. The bulk of the lyrics were written solely by Wire including number two hit single "A Design for Life". The album was shortlisted for the 1996 Mercury Prize award for best album, and won the band two BRIT Awards for Best British Band and Best British Album, as well as yielding the hit singles "Australia", "Everything Must Go" and "Kevin Carter".
1998's This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours was just as successful across most of the world, giving the band their first No. 1 charting as well as first No. 1 single in "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next". ( sample (help·info)) It was written about the Spanish Civil War and was inspired in equal parts by George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia and The Clash's "Spanish Bombs". The album also included the hit singles "You Stole the Sun from My Heart", "Tsunami" and "The Everlasting". Again, the Manics won the Best British Band and Album awards at the BRIT Awards in 1999.
On 31 December 1999, they played at the Leaving the 20th Century concert in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, the first and biggest ever concert to be held there, with 80,000 people attending.
In 2000, they released the limited edition single "The Masses Against the Classes". Despite receiving little promotion, the single hit the No. 1 position on the UK Singles Chart, beating "U Know What's Up" by Donell Jones to the top. The catalogue entry for the single was deleted (removed from wholesale supply) on the day of release, but the song nevertheless spent seven weeks in the UK chart.
In 2001, they became the first popular Western rock band to play in Cuba (at the Karl Marx Theater), and met with president Fidel Castro. Their concert and trip to Cuba was documented and then released as a DVD entitled Louder Than War. At this concert they revealed many tracks from their upcoming sixth album, Know Your Enemy, which was released on 19 March. The song "Ocean Spray" was written entirely by James about his mother's battle with cancer. The first singles from the album, "So Why So Sad" and "Found That Soul", were both released on the same day. The final single, "Let Robeson Sing", was released later.
The greatest hits (plus remixes) album Forever Delayed was released in 2002, containing two new songs, "Door to the River" and the single "There by the Grace of God". An album of B-sides, rarities and cover versions was released in 2003 entitled Lipstick Traces (A Secret History of Manic Street Preachers), which contains the last song the band worked on with Edwards.
Lifeblood to Journal for Plague Lovers (2004–2009)
The band's seventh studio album, Lifeblood, was released on 1 November 2004 and reached No. 13 on the UK album chart. Critical response to the album was mixed. Tony Visconti helped the band produce three songs on the album, which was followed by a UK arena tour in December 2004.
A tenth anniversary edition of The Holy Bible was released on 6 December 2004, which included a digitally remastered version of the original album, a rare U.S. mix (which the band themselves have admitted to preferring to the original UK mix) and a DVD of live performances and extras including a band interview.
In April 2005, the band played a number of shows as the Past-Present-Future tour – announced as their last for at least two years. The band released an EP entitled God Save the Manics with only a limited number of copies available and given out to fans as they arrived at the venue. After all the copies were gone, the band made the EP available as a free download on their website. In September, the band contributed the new track "Leviathan" to the War Child charity album Help!: A Day in the Life.
The band's eighth studio album, Send Away the Tigers, was released on 7 May 2007 on Columbia Records. It entered the official UK album charts at No. 2. Critical response to the album was largely positive, with some critics hailing the album as the band's best in a decade. A free download of a song entitled "Underdogs" from the album was made available through the group's website on 19 March 2007. The first official single released from Send Away the Tigers was "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough", which features Cardigans vocalist Nina Persson. The second single, "Autumnsong", and a third, "Indian Summer", were released in August.
The band released a Christmas single in December. "The Ghosts of Christmas" was available as a free download on their official website throughout December 2007 and January 2008. In February 2008, the band were presented with the God-Like Geniuses Award at the NME Awards ceremony.
The ninth Manics album, Journal for Plague Lovers, was released on 18 May 2009 and features lyrics left behind by Edwards. Wire commented in an interview that "there was a sense of responsibility to do his words justice." The album was released to positive critical reviews.
Postcards from a Young Man and National Treasures (2010–present)
On 1 June 2010, the band announced on their homepage that a new album called Postcards from a Young Man will be released on 20 September. James Dean Bradfield said that the album would be an unashamedly pop-orientated affair, following 2009's Journal for Plague Lovers. "We're going for big radio hits on this one", he told NME. "It isn't a follow-up to Journal for Plague Lovers. It's one last shot at mass communication."
On 26 July, the first single from the new album, "(It's Not War) Just the End of Love", was played on the breakfast shows of BBC Radio 2, BBC 6Music, XFm and Absolute Radio. It was released on 13 September. The title had previously been suggested as a working title for the album by Nicky Wire. Three collaborations were also confirmed on the band's website later that day: Duff McKagan would appear on "A Billion Balconies Facing the Sun", Ian McCulloch will add guest vocals to "Some Kind of Nothingness" and John Cale will feature on "Auto-Intoxication".
The band embarked on a UK tour to promote the album, starting in Glasgow on 29 September 2010. British Sea Power were the support act for the band on the tour. Two further singles have been released from the album – the McCulloch-featuring "Some Kind of Nothingness" and the title track "Postcards from a Young Man".
The band initially announced that their next album has the working title 70 Songs of Hatred and Failure and will sound very different from Postcards. "The next album will be pure indulgence. There's only so much melody stored in your body that you can physically get onto one record. It was just so utterly commercial and melodic." However, Nicky Wire contradicted this in 2011 while doing promotion for their greatest hits compilation National Treasures. When asked why the band was releasing the compilation Wire stated: "It's just the end of an era. Not the end of a band. We're gonna disappear for quite a long time."
A 38-track singles compilation, National Treasures – The Complete Singles, was released on 31 October 2011, preceded by the release of cover single "This Is the Day", originally by The The. On 17 December, the band performed all their singles in full at the O2 Arena in London. In April and May 2012, the band embarked on a European greatest hits tour.
On 10 October, the band announced via Facebook that a film-interview-documentary about their album Generation Terrorists will be screened at 2012s Sŵn Festival as a Welsh exclusive. The film was shown at Chapter Arts Centre on Saturday 20 October, with all profits being donated to Young Promoters Network. The film was made available in the 20th's anniversary re-issue of Generation Terrorists, a boxset that includes the remastered album alongside three CDs featuring demos, B-sides, a 28-page booklet, a 10" vinyl and the documentary. On 16 October, the band played an acoustic version of "Damn Dog" for Dermot O'Leary's show on BBC Radio 2.
In May 2013, the band announced an Australasian tour for June and July, that would see them play their first ever show in New Zealand.
In late 2005, both Bradfield and Wire announced that they intended to release solo material prior to a new album by the band. A free download of Nicky Wire's debut solo offering I Killed the Zeitgeist was posted on the band's website for just one day, Christmas Day 2005. The album was officially released in September 2006. It charted at No. 130 in the UK. The sound of the album, which Nicky referred to as his "nihilistic anti-everything album", was inspired by, among others, Neu!, The Plastic Ono Band, Einstürzende Neubauten, The Modern Lovers, Richard Thompson and Lou Reed. Only one official single was released, "Break My Heart Slowly", which charted at No. 74. Nicky toured small intimate venues across the UK with his band The Secret Society, affording fans the opportunity of seeing their hero at close quarters.
Bradfield's solo album, The Great Western, was released in July 2006. It reached No. 22 in the UK. The sound of the album was inspired by, among others, Jeff Beck, Badfinger, Simple Minds and McCarthy. Two singles were released: "That's No Way to Tell a Lie" (No. 18) in July and then "An English Gentleman" (No. 31) in September. The latter is in remembrance of the first Manics manager Philip Hall, to whom The Holy Bible had been dedicated. James toured the album with a band that included Wayne Murray, who would subsequently play second guitar for Manics live performances. James' solo gigs featured covers of The Clash songs "Clampdown" and "The Card Cheat", both from the album London Calling.
In a later interview, when the band were collectively asked what they had learned from making a solo album, Sean Moore dryly quipped, "Not to do one".
Collaborations and covers
The band released a split single in 1992 with The Fatima Mansions, a rock cover of "Suicide Is Painless", which became their first UK Top 10 hit. They have recorded many cover versions of songs by other artists, primarily as B-sides for their own singles. Bands to whom the group have paid tribute in this way include The Clash, Guns N' Roses, Alice Cooper, Happy Mondays, McCarthy, Chuck Berry, Faces and Nirvana.
The band's first musical appearance since Edwards' departure was recording a cover of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" for The Help Album, a charity effort in 1995 in support of aid efforts in war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Lightning Seeds' song "Waiting for Today to Happen", from their fifth album, Dizzy Heights (1996), was written by Nicky Wire and Ian Broudie. That same year, James Dean Bradfield and Dave Eringa produced Northern Uproar's first single, "Rollercoaster/Rough Boys". The 808 State song "Lopez" (1997) features lyrics by Wire and vocals by Bradfield. It is featured on their greatest hits album, 808:88:98. Kylie Minogue's sixth album, Impossible Princess (1997), features two songs co-written and produced by the Manics: "Some Kind of Bliss" (Bradfield, Minogue and Sean Moore) and "I Don't Need Anyone" (Bradfield, Jones and Minogue) were produced by Bradfield and Dave Eringa. Bradfield provided backing vocals, bass guitar and production for the Massive Attack song "Inertia Creeps" (1998), which features on their successful third album, Mezzanine. Patrick Jones' album of poetry set to music, Commemoration and Amnesia (1999), features two songs with music written by Bradfield: the title track and "The Guerilla Tapestry". Bradfield plays guitar on both songs. Furthermore, the track "Hireath" features a section called "Spoken Word", in which Nicky Wire talks about Welsh identity.
In February 2006, the band contributed a cover version of "The Instrumental" to the album Still Unravished: A Tribute to the June Brides.
In February 2008, the Manics covered Rihanna's hit pop song "Umbrella". Their version appeared on a CD titled NME Awards 2008 given away free with a special souvenir box set issue of NME magazine, which went on sale 27 February. Additionally, the Manics' version of the song was made available on iTunes since 5 March 2008. Despite being chart-eligible (it reached number 47 in the UK), the release was not intended as an official single. Two further versions (the Acoustic and Grand Slam mixes) were later made available on iTunes and now comprise a three-track Umbrella EP.
James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire contributed an original song, "The Girl from Tiger Bay", to Shirley Bassey's 2009 studio album, The Performance.
- Studio albums
- Generation Terrorists (1992)
- Gold Against the Soul (1993)
- The Holy Bible (1994)
- Everything Must Go (1996)
- This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (1998)
- Know Your Enemy (2001)
- Lifeblood (2004)
- Send Away the Tigers (2007)
- Journal for Plague Lovers (2009)
- Postcards from a Young Man (2010)
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Image from Discogs