Saturday, 15 June 2013

You (Still) Love Us

The Manics started out life being very measured, rehearsed but nervous interviewees.  But as the scorn poured out of their mouths over the subsequent months, they perfected the art of the interview, calm and articulate but with vitriolic soundbites aplenty.  The interview with the NME from 2nd November 1991 is one where they're in top form.

Interviewer Andrew Collins puts everything into perspective first of all - "1991 might have been the year of Carter, Blur, Oceanic, Bryan Adams and Right Said Fred, but what got namechecked the most in other people's interviews?  None of the above".  You don't need to ask who he was referring to.  He also defends them against accusations of hype - "Steven Wells never managed to sell anyone Revolting Cocks or Lard; Philip Hall (their PR) also represents the Southernaires and Flood (no front covers there); and Columbia Records have yet to successfully 'get' Fishbone or the Real People into the Top 40".  The simple conclusion is the Manics do hype themselves to death, but you don't get this much prolonged attention without the music to back it up.

It's classic quote time too, from Richey - "You know how Catholics always hate every other religion, or Baptists hate Methodists more than they hate the devil?  Well, we will always hate Slowdive more than we hate Adolf Hitler".  Absolute journalistic gold.

An interesting little quote with hindsight is that amidst all of Richey's talk of Wales being " a museum, everything is closed, it's like a long walk down a graveyard", the interviewer asks if they ever get hiraeth (a "peculiarly Welsh sense of homesickness").  Mr Mouth himself, Nicky Wire, is the one that pipes up to say "I do sometimes".  Anyone who may have thought that the sudden championing of Wales later on in their careers was bandwagon jumping, can see that in Nicky at least it has always been hiding in the background.

You can't beat a good picture disc.  No matter what's on it a 12" slab of coloured vinyl just looks amazing doesn't it?  As far as the more obscure items in my collection go, this is one of my favourites, a 12" picture disc featuring an interview for Spiral Scratch magazine.  I have seen a few CDs knocking around Ebay, but I have also seen from a few sources that the vinyl version is quite rare, although don't know how accurate this is.  This is one of the earlier rare items I picked up from one of my previous favourite pastimes of looking at the record shop adverts in the back of Melody Maker, NME, Select etc.  My two favourite shops were Track Attack and Opal, they always seemed to have loads of Manics stuff that I could either use to plug holes in my collection or total up the current prices of everything I owned!!  Pre-Ebay they tended to be a lot more expensive, probably as they were more difficult to track down.

The interview itself starts off mid-conversation talking about bands who try their luck in Japan and moves on to their history where Nicky claims they only formed about 18 months ago??!!  There are demos to prove otherwise Mr Wire!  With the sound of people making tea in the background they discuss early gigs, the first singles (they didn't even keep a copy of 'Suicide Alley' for themselves apparently!)' and how their fans aren't ex-Smiths fans or whichever band's fans, they seem like the Manics were the first band they've ever been into. True for me, although more through age than anything else.  Special mention must also go to the way Richey says "punk", I can't even begin to do it justice by trying to write it down in print.

As we move into '92 (still in a room without a view, sorry couldn't resist it RATM fans) the NME is following our heroes with a live review at Cambridge The Junction.  It's Steven Wells again, so obviously not really going to tell you anything other than the fact that "The Manic Street Preachers are a kamikaze divebomber flown by Andy Pandy and his transsexual friends" and James, whilst singing, looks like "a puppy dog straining on its first solid dump".  Cheers Swells.  Comedy is also provided by Nicky apparently handing his bass to someone else to smash as he hasn't figured out how to do it yet!

What would the new album be if it didn't contain 'You Love Us'?  The decision to re-record it can't have been a difficult one, with such a shiny new production now the old version would have stood out like a sore thumb, never mind it being recorded for another label.  So, big guitars and drums are in, some of the peripheral stuff like the whooping in the verses and the extra guitar in the chorus are out (shame) and the outro is different, now being a showcase for James' ever improving guitar skills.  I'm not going to go into any more depth on this song as the original has already been covered in a previous blog.  It's 'You Love Us', what more is there to say?!

This was my first Manics purchase, going for the cassette single, I later bought the reissued CD for the additional tracks.  The artwork is different to the original, more toned down in silver and black, and the quotes used are also different across the two formats - "False Media.  We don't need it do we?", Public Enemy (cassette) and "Regard all art critics as useless and dangerous", Manifesto of the Futurists (reissued CD).

The video?  Well if you thought 'Love's Sweet Exile' was a bit raunchy, you ain't seen nothing yet!  Nicky and Richey camp it up for all they're worth, Richey in particular stealing the show while kissing a giant picture of himself, then suddenly turning his head to look in a mirror.  It's quite hilarious, no wonder they used to bring it out as a backdrop at later gigs.  It has to be said James has finally decided to make an effort in the image stakes, this is probably the point in time where all four of them actually look the part (usually someone would let the side down).  It's another triumphant video in the sense that whatever feeling you had for them before, love or hate, you can now double it.

After releasing no less than four songs from their upcoming album (before it has been released!) across three singles, and with it being a double album, the Manics were clearly struggling for new songs to use as B-sides.  They had used up their store of old songs, presumably all the new ones were going on the album, so they had to find something to give to their fans.  'A Vision of Dead Desire' was a new title but not a new song, although they could be forgiven as its original incarnation of 'UK Channel Boredom' was released before most people knew of their existence.  It's faithful to the original recording, apart from the obvious change in lyrics, but comes across as a definite B-side, good stuff but nothing special.

Also recognising that new fans may not have been around at the time of 'Motown Junk', the inclusion of 'We Her Majesty's Prisoners' both fills in a gap for fans and buys more time before new material is available.  It definitely sounds more dated in this context, still a good song but without the trimmings that major label life now brought.  Bringing up the rear is a live version of Guns 'n' Roses 'It's So Easy' recorded at the Band Explosion a few months before.  If the new sound wasn't enough, this was basically just ramming down everyone's throats who their current influence was and as with the live footage of this gig they sound like they're on fire, Nicky sneering along with James on many parts as the song careers to a close.

After the relative chart success of the last single, surely 'You Love Us' had the legs to go even higher?  Of course it did, earning the Manics their first shot at Top of the Pops, which features on the 'Televised Propaganda' DVD.  With James bare-chested and ignoring his guitar for the first minute or so, Richey and Nicky pull all their best poses while the crowd stand motionless, some might say stunned.  Sean meanwhile packs in about a minute before the end treating us to the hilarious sight of pyro going off all around his drum riser while he's sat completely still in a sulk!  A big moment for them, no matter what some people may want they really aren't going to go away (apart from when they split up after the album of course....yeah, right).

An advert from the inside cover of the March 1992 issue of Siren shows the cover of the new album due out on 10th February 1992, proudly bearing the line "18 Tracks including the Hit Singles..." ('Stay Beautiful' was pushing it a bit as a hit!).  Underneath that a list of tour dates taunt me, specifically the one reading "Friday 7th February Middlesbrough Town Hall".  I was a few months short of my 14th birthday and despite wanting to go, I wasn't allowed.  Eighteen months later I would go to my first gig at the same venue, but despite being good, Carter and the Sultans of Ping wasn't the same.  Imagine if I could have actually said that my first gig was the Manics on the 'Generation Terrorists' tour!!!

Two TV interviews in the run up to the album's release turn up on the 'Televised Propaganda' DVD.  The first for Rapido has the obligatory introduction from the mildly irritating Antoine de Caunes and starts off with some great old footage from what looks like a rehearsal around the time of 'Motown Junk'.  It moves on to the band going back home, wandering around Pontllanfraith in the snow, Richey in his fur coat genuinely looking like he is freezing to death, but like a true pro carrying on regardless.  We are also informed about Traci Lords' appearance on the new album on a song called 'Little Baby Nothing' and Nicky gives his famous quote about her being the "most intelligent American we've ever met" with a massive grin on his face.

The next piece for Vivid TV (who?) begins with the reporter saying "They've been described as the sexiest rock band in the entire world, they've also been described as utter crap".  Clips from videos are interspersed with Nicky and Richey, again in their fur coats, talking on some stairs.  The highlight is Richey responding to an unheard question, presumably along the lines of "What do you want from the album/life", saying what sounds like "I want someone who could love me" with a massive smile on his face, while Nicky, also laughing, replies "I love you Rich...I just want to have a number one album in America and then retire to a big concrete bunker.."

With singles released, TV and music paper interviews given and EVERYONE waiting for the album that was going to change the world, it wouldn't be long before it was upon us.....

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