Saturday, 19 July 2014

Slash 'N' Burn

Around about the same time that 'Generation Terrorists' was arriving in our shops, the Manics were featured in long-forgotten magazine Siren, with an article by John Robb.  John has subsequently confirmed to me via Twitter that he wasn't responsible for the headline!

The most prominent interviewee as usual is Richey, the feature focussing predominantly on the intelligence of the band, with an almost apologetic tone towards the music on the new album, a fairly common stance at the time.  The practicalities of touring rear their head, with talk of Sonic the Hedgehog and getting "really drunk" and "hanging around with groupies".  References to "3 or 400 letters a week" show that the fan devotion had already well and truly set in too.

They almost sound as if they're uncharacteristically praising another current band, Nirvana, at one point, before pulling it round with a sneer when asked if they feel an empathy with them: "They are at least not singing about Harley Davidsons cruising down sunset strip".  Interesting quote of the piece goes to Nicky - "...if someone dies in this band I'd write a book about it".

The 15th February 1992 edition of NME delves further into the Manics' world in the immediate aftermath of 'Generation Terrorists' and hints for the first time (to the general surprise of no one) that the 'release-one-double-album-and-split-up-in-a-blaze-of-glory' claim may not actually be true.  It's also Carter's turn to come in for some stick, or rather their fans, ironic given that my first ever gig was Carter and my second was the Manics.

One part in particular interested me reading back, about how "...Richey plays a solo which is five minutes long and goes KRDAGANGGRRRRAH!!".  Now we all know he was never really one for solos, and as for that sound unless it was a break from the norm his live guitar sound was never really much louder than someone itching their back.  Richey does let himself down in my eyes though - "I was really surprised that in the NME Readers Poll, Bottom came second in the Favourite TV Show list.  For me, someone like Tony Hancock is way up there and Vic Reeves is with the scum down the bottom."  Richey, you wouldn't let it lie....and may I say that's a smashing blouse you're wearing?

Talking of Tony Hancock, Richey's labelling of his suicide note ("Things just went wrong too many times") as " of the most beautiful things I've ever read" shows a haunting echo of what's to come.  For all the initial bluster and propaganda, the melancholia is definitely gradually starting to come to the fore, both through the music and in interviews at this stage.

Back to the music.  Tucked away on a bootleg video of two 1996 gigs that I picked up on ebay a while back is "London Astoria 20.2.92 - Full set inc. lots of old songs they no longer play".  It's not quite a full set, as it turns out two and a half songs are missing, but even with the presumably fan-filmed footage it's a corker.  Coming in halfway through 'Democracy Coma', it leads us through 'Born to End', 'Love's Sweet Exile', 'Repeat', 'It's So Easy', 'Slash 'N' Burn', 'Crucifix Kiss', 'Sorrow 16', 'Little Baby Nothing', 'Stay Beautiful' and 'Motown Junk'.  It's the gig that the footage from the 'Slash N' Burn' video is taken from (with 'Crucifix Kiss' also turning up as a B-side to that single), James looking far cooler than should be possible in a frilly blouse, Sean boiling his brains with his Russian hat and Nicky in his iconic black mask makeup.

The choice of songs is interesting, B-sides still included in the set, but no room for 'Motorcycle Emptiness', and 'Love's Sweet Exile' is still played more in the style of its earlier incarnations than the album version less than two weeks after its release.  Nicky is warming up into his full-on motormouth period informing some audience members, presumably in the balcony, that they look like they'd be better suited to being at an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.  The general feeling is that despite the gloss of the album, the live arena still shows that the early spirit is still there, albeit with renewed musical prowess (James I'm looking at you).

The missing songs from the above gig, 'You Love Us' and 'Nat West...' turn up on Disc 2 of the 'Televised Propaganda' DVD seemingly recorded for MTV, along with 'Love's Sweet Exile', 'Slash 'N' Burn' (or 'Lash & Burn' as it is on the sleeve), 'Crucifix Kiss' (labelled wrongly as 'Sorrow 16'), 'Little Baby Nothing' and 'Motown Junk'.  They obviously have the added bonus of decent footage and improved sound as well as the infamous Nicky-smacking-a-photographer-with-his-bass incident.  It must have hurt Nicky just as much as he had to carry on the rest of the gig with a different guitar.

Some of the songs from this gig also turn up on a couple of bootlegs, 'If You Want Blood...' listed as "Live at the Astoria, London, 1993 Japanese TV broadcast, stereo" and on 'Where Are You Goin' Now!?' as "live in U.K. 1991".  Come on bootleggers, get your facts right!  Both of these bootlegs were picked up around the same time from ebay in around 2002.

Keeping up the pace in the press, the NME featured a live review by Stuart Maconie on 29th February 1992 with another of those Welsh pun headlines that were all the rage at the time (let's face it, I'd have probably done it too).  The line "in theory, the Manic Street Preachers have always been my favourite group.  It's just the practice I've had a little problem with" was pretty much the norm for most journalists then.  It's probably all you need to know from this review.  That and "the Manics are Japanese rice crackers in a world of Hula Hoops".

The third and final interview on the 'Mouthing Off With the Manics' interview CD (mentioned in previous blogs) is labelled as "March 1992 Here we hear Richey and bassist Nicky Wire talking openly in a face-to-face interview about life in this rapidly rising band. 37 minutes 39 seconds".  When listening, it becomes clear that it's taking place just before the album has been released though (oops wrong blog!) and it's also clear that the two of them are eating pretty much the whole of the way through the interview!

Tasty information includes Traci Lords taking a few takes before she got the right feel for 'Little Baby Nothing', Nicky claiming she initially sounded like Joey Ramone!  In terms of lyrics, we find out that 'Crucifix Kiss' is about religion (shock!), 'Nat-West...' is about banks (horror!) and 'Repeat' is anti-monarchy (scoop!).  And apparently producer Steve Brown said while recording that James was 10 times the guitar player that Billy Duffy is, despite only being 22.

We also find out that future plans include touring America and Japan, we're reminded that up to now they've only played one gig outside the UK in Paris.  Apparently American reviewers of the album are describing it as "Nine Inch Nails meets Cheap Trick" and Richey in particular almost spat the words "Smashing Pumpkins" in relation to another comparison.  When asked about singles we're told that 'Another Invented Disease' will be next (really?) and maybe either 'Motorcycle Emptiness' or 'Little Baby Nothing' after that to cross over "into the housewives' market" (Nicky).  Highlight of the interview again goes to Richey for the way he says The Who.

Proof that the Manics were moving out of the indie-land that they had predominantly inhabited up to this point came with a great feature on Headbanger's Ball, captured on Disc 2 of the 'Televised Propaganda' DVD.  Featuring an extremely bashful Richey and Nicky talking through the usual stuff between clips of all their promo videos and a quick snippet of 'Nat West...' live, it's a perfect summation of their career to date.  Nicky for one expresses pride at the album hitting number one in the rock charts, something which he didn't particularly feel about the indie charts.

Another bootleg video in my collection, which leads with the Reading 1997 gig, features a performance from Brighton East Wing from 14th March 1992.  Essentially the same gig as the one described earlier, the only differences are the opener and closer are exchanged, with an absolutely storming 'You Love Us' even featuring the ending played at lightning fast speed, and 'Damn Dog' (credited as "Unknown Song ?") replacing 'Sorrow 16'.

Shot from the side of the stage, it's quite a Richey-centric video given that he's stood in front of the camera, but James is again the star of the show.  The highlight comes before 'Little Baby Nothing' when one heckler clearly shouts "Hey Richey, are you plugged in?!", with a mouthed "Nah" and a shake of the head the response.  Great gig.

And so to the next official release.  The next single to come from 'Generation Terrorists' was 'Slash 'N' Burn', and after buying 'You Love Us' on cassette last time out I went for the 7" option on this occasion.  A very wise purchase given the B-side was 'Motown Junk', so I finally had the chance to hear that properly after the fleeting glimpses before fandom really took hold.  It was single purchase number 33 in my collection, and as it was bought on release was in my possession before 'Generation Terrorists' itself, which as mentioned on the last blog arrived on my 14th birthday two months later.

Carrying on the tradition of including older songs, ticking the boxes of allowing newer fans to hear them and not having to record any new songs, 'Motown Junk' was joined by its B-side 'Sorrow 16', although on the re-release CD I picked up later on 'Motown Junk' was omitted, preventing me from owning it on CD for a while longer.  Tucked away as the only new song was the superbly understated one-man-and-his-guitar of 'Ain't Going Down'.  To throw this away as the B-side of single number four from an album shows an embarrassment of riches in terms of material that would carry on for most of their career.

The quote on the sleeve of the 7", "Only the man who says no is free" - Melville, was replaced by the quote inside 'Generation Terrorists' for the re-release.

The accompanying video is basically a James Dean Bradfield appreciation-fest.  Comprised of footage from the aforementioned Astoria gig, along with backstage footage it's a PROPER ROCK video.  James pulling out all his best guitar god moves, looking as cool as he ever has, even managing to pull off wearing the brightest pink fur coat you'll ever see.  My favourite moment was always the play-fighting scene where he looks like he's just slightly overdoing it, but no one would dare tell him he was.  We've all been on the receiving end right?

So, after four major label singles and a double album, what next?  1992 still had plenty more Manics memories to come.