Sunday, 9 June 2013

Love's Sweet Exile/Repeat

The Manics are captured in the studio environment for an interview with Rage magazine around the time of the release of 'Stay Beautiful' and it's another one of those interviews which mis-spells 'Richie', 'Shaun' and 'Nicki'.  It immediately paints a picture of rock 'n' roll excess as James welcomes the interviewer wearing a blouse bearing 'I AM A SLUT' while Sean "is sullenly working out with video golf" and Richey "passes round a plate of Mr Kipling apple pies".

It's more of the same about the one and only album, trying not to slag off bands ("The interviews we were doing were, like, two or three hours long and we'd talked about loads of different things.  We'd illustrate a point by mentioning a band and they'd be the only quotes that ever got used") and how they seem to inspire their fair share of hatred ("We are weak, puny little people.  We always knew that.  Anybody could beat us up.  But then, it happens to a lot of people in everyday life anyway.  So many bands forget that").

Select were next on the agenda, in which the band seem to strangely be mostly wearing the same clothes playing live as they were in the studio in the previous article.  This time they manage to tag "Ricky Edwards" in the caption on the main photo, which I seem to find more funny than it actually is.  And they also appear to be playing on the set of an old Flash floor cleaner commercial.

It starts off telling it like it is - "So far, they've released three properly distributed singles but only one, the latest 'Stay Beautiful', has gone anywhere near the Top 40.  Their concerts mostly attract audiences of between 100 and 200 people.  Their records have had measly airplay.  Fact is, most people have never heard Manic Street Preachers, they're a phenomenon that only really exists on the pages of the music press, where they've caused one hell of a stink with their blatantly sensation-seeking interviews and divided critical opinion more starkly than any group in years".

All smiling?!
It's an on the road feature and goes on to introduce each member, highlights as follows: quiet, shy, jittery, trying to run a four minute mile (James), addicted to fruit machines, drinks Babycham, former captain of Wales under-16 football team (Nicky), charming, pretty boy, doesn't play on the records (Richey), cousin of James, youngest trumpet player ever in the South Wales jazz orchestra, has childhood sweetheart of 8 years (Sean).  All of these are probably well-known to fans now but for some this may have been the first appearance of the more personal information.

Apart from a bit of a band history and tales of table tennis, computer games and Babycham, a large chunk of the interview is made up of a letter sent to the magazine by the band and printed word for word.  It basically complains about how they've been portrayed in the magazine and is a plea for a fair crack of the whip (which this interview is).  They do this in the style of their early manifestos, also littered with lines which would eventually crop up all over 'Generation Terrorists'.

An interesting little curio is credited on the trusty 'Tortured Genius' bootleg as 'Sorrow 16 Riot - Reading After Dark 10.8.91'.  It consists of about a minute of 'Sorrow 16', during which Nicky sounds a bit distracted, missing notes, then Nicky and James stop, leaving Richey and Sean merrily playing away. James then lashes out at someone "Don't hit him, right, if you want to hit anyone hit me, I'm not gonna hit back all right?!".  He might be short, but don't mess with him or his friends!  The incident is referred to in Simon Price's book 'Everything', where a mixture of sound failure, Nicky baiting the crowd and no security obviously led to a confrontation that perhaps only James actually relished (once Nicky had established there was no security).

A slightly different kind of feature appears in the 24th August 1991 edition of NME, a Q&A article headed 'Material World'.  It reads like a written interview rather than face to face, asking random questions like "Key films in your life", "Desert Island Discs", "Great writers" etc.  A lot of the questions are either answered in list form or by quotes from Lenin to Bret Easton Ellis to Marlene Dietrich.  It's pretty much the Manics' reason for being in a handy two page guide.  Slightly worrying at this point (and a pointer for images to come) is that "Best Dressed Person in Rock" is answered as Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes.  I like the Black Crowes, but not for their fashion sense.....

In September the Manics were part of Band Explosion, a series of showcase gigs recorded by both Radio 1 and BBC2.  Included on the 'Televised Propaganda' DVD were two televised performances of 'Stay Beautiful' and 'Motown Junk', with a short interview by early 90's wish-you-could-have-forgotten-him presenter Gary Crowley.  His interview contains my all time favourite question - "So you guys come from, what, Blackwood? So what have you made of all of that?".  Richey answers patiently, Nicky chips in his views, before the band are called to the stage.

I remember watching this at the time, I think my brother recorded it on one of our 'Tusic Mapes' (music tapes, videos, no?) and seeing it now I can believe that this may have been the catalyst for me changing my opinion of them from being a band with good songs to being a proper fan.  It definitely seems like "an event", the band playing out of their skins, although Nicky messes up as usual, and that early 90's seal of approval, the constant stream of stagedivers livening things up even more.  As a display is destroyed and thrown around the venue during 'Stay Beautiful', James encourages the crowd to "rip it apart" - that moment stuck in my head so much that I always hear James say it in my head at that part of the song every time I listen to the album version!!

As 'Motown Junk' brings everything to a climactic close, the glitter rains down on band and crowd and you get the feeling that after all the column inches they've finally arrived, they're finally receiving some sort of acclaim.  The credits rolling over this scene hit this home even more with the roll call of some of the bands also appearing - Catherine Wheel (good, but hardly exciting), Intastella (interesting hair, but ditto) and Slowdive (do you really have to ask?!).  A definite turning point.

The second interview from the 'Mouthing Off with the Manics' CD mentioned in a previous blog is described as follows: "October 1991. Featuring Richey, again, in a phone interview, this time you can hear him talking about the artists and musicians that influenced the Manics in those early years and what they meant to him.  From Public Enemy to Guns 'n' Roses, Richey sheds new light on what inspired the band to pick up guitars in the first place. 17 minutes 21 seconds".

It does exactly what it says on the tin minus the awkward introductions from last time, the start and end being edited out.  We hear about Public Enemy, Richey shaming himself by saying that 'She Watch Channel Zero' has guitar  from an Anthrax song.  Richey, Richey, Richey, it's obviously 'Angel of Death' by Slayer!  He tells us how he's hardly seen any bands live, just read about them, before moving on to Guns 'n' Roses (exciting, much more interesting than boring indie bands) and The Clash (the Tony Wilson Channel 4 documentary from 1986 gets another mention) at which point it carries on for a minute or two as a conversation between two obvious Clash fans. Next to be discussed are the Sex Pistols, quote of the whole interview coming from interviewer James Sherry - "The best thing was they never reformed and they never will". Are you sure about that James?!  And finally the Rolling Stones, where we learn that James learnt to play 'Exile on Main Street'.  A different interview for the band at this stage, about what they like rather than what they hate!

And so to the Manics' first double A side, probably because they wanted to release 'Repeat' as a single but the use of the 'F' word kind of made that a bit difficult.  This single is almost like they are clearing the decks of their old material before pressing on with the new, with the exception of 'Methadone Pretty' there weren't many other older songs that would resurface.  Like with 'Stay Beautiful', the first time I owned this single was as part of the 97 CD re-releases, also going back to Ebay later on to pick up the 12" with the additional live track and gatefold sleeve.

There are actually two different quotes on the sleeves of the different formats, the 12" containing "Then came human beings, they wanted to cling but there was nothing to cling to" (Camus) and the reissued CD going with "Modern capitalism, organising the reduction of all social life to a spectacle, cannot offer any other spectacle than that of our own alienation" (Kotanyi, Vaneigem: IS NO.6 1961).  The artwork for each was the same, a simple target painted on a sculpted torso, but with different colours.  The gatefold opened up to a blurry live image with the lyrics printed down one side, for a band that was very conscious of their lyrics it was an opportunity for some to get past some of James', er, interesting phrasings and read what they were singing about!

'Love's Sweet Exile' is the final incarnation of a song previously known as 'Just Can't be Happy' and 'Faceless Sense of Void' and the production qualities of the upcoming album show a marked change to those previous versions.  Huge sounding drums kick the song off, with James' guitars increasing the rock factor from the last single ten-fold.  I have honestly never noticed this before, but where is Nicky?!  Did they just not bother putting him on it or was it another Jason Newsted on '...And Justice For All' scandal?!!  Given that Sean does pretty much the same drumbeat all the way through, it may as well be a James solo single.  As the last drumbeats come to a halt, you can almost hear the sound of those journalists that had them down as Clash copyists sharpening their pencils (do journalists use pencils?).  Well, they did warn us with all those Guns 'n' Roses references!

The accompanying video was a strange one, camping it up doesn't quite seem enough, homo-erotic seems closer to the mark.  You can picture the discussions as Richey and Nicky try to persuade Sean, who turns up later in the video wearing his best "I'm not even taking off my T-shirt" look.  The idea that 'Repeat' was always the one they wanted as the single is backed up by Nicky spraying the song title onto a pane of glass.

'Repeat' had always previously been incredibly energetic and controversial.....but usually a bit of a shambles.  Now they have finally got the right version.  At the time I seem to remember this being one of my favourite Manics songs and quite possibly one of the best uses of a siren in music alongside EMF's cover of 'Search and Destroy'.  One thing I don't seem to have (although it's probably buried on a video somewhere) is the version of 'Repeat' played on The Word, another one of those rebellious acts having rehearsed 'Love's Sweet Exile' before the live programme went out.

'Democracy Coma' is the B-side on the regular versions, another contender for best ever B-side, it could almost be a triple A-side!!  It really seems to suit the new sound perfectly and begs the question that if this is a B-side what treats are waiting for us on this multi-million selling debut album in waiting?!  The 12" actually has 'Repeat' and 'Democracy Coma' on the A side and 'Love's Sweet Exile' on the B-side with a live version of 'Stay Beautiful' from the Band Explosion referred to earlier.  It even has old Goodybags himself, Mark Goodier, at the end, telling us that it was from "London's Mar-klee Club" and is another one of those live recordings where Richey is clearly audible in your right ear.

While 'Stay Beautiful' had only just scraped into the top 40, this was the single that made a slightly larger dent, peaking at number 26.  So, they're starting to make further inroads to the general public consciousness, but if only they could make an extra leap....Top of the Pops maybe?


  1. Hi could you maybe post scans of the magazine pics you've posted here? xxx

    1. I don't have a scanner, sorry!!! I can try and get some better resolution photos though if there are any you're particularly interested in?

  2. No it's fine, don't worry :) Thanks xx