Saturday, 22 November 2014

Motorcycle Emptiness

Literally a day after the release of 'Slash 'N' Burn', the 17th March 1992 was obviously a busy day in providing things for my collection.  The latest song on 'Lipstick Traces' was an acoustic rendition of 'Little Baby Nothing' for Radio 1.  Nothing out of the ordinary now (apart from the Radio 1 part) you might think, James has done countless solo acoustic slots over the years.  But those dodgy glam/punk Manics?  Acoustic?  On Radio 1?  What's going on?!!  Obviously the song is performed magnificently to general encouragement from Steve Wright and that housewives market they previously referred to was now well within their grasp.

Another live gig featured on the Reading 97 video had the same standard 'Generation Terrorists' set as the two gigs mentioned on the previous blog.  So, despite what we now know was coming as the next single, there was still no room for 'Motorcycle Emptiness' yet 'Democracy Coma' and 'Damn Dog' were hanging on in the setlist.  After quite a lengthy Public Enemy intro tape, the gig itself is solid early Manics.  A decent vantage point with decent footage and an enthusiastic crowd, it is slightly marred by Richey's guitar being too loud in places.  The 'You Love Us' outro again is exhilarating stuff.


Fast-forward two months and we have an acoustic rendition of 'RP McMurphy' from Club Citta, Kawasaki, Japan, which appears on the 'Unplugged' bootleg.  So there's at least one change to the setlist we've been seeing in the other live performances featured on this blog.  It's a fairly faithful version, unremarkable, apart from the additional minute at the end which if I'm perfectly honest I was surprised to hear this early on in their career.  Amid high-pitched, heavily accented screams of "Richeyyyy!" and "Nickyyyy!" we get the first recorded instance in my collection of the James band intro.  Not sure I believe that Sean is 5'6" though....and who on earth is Richey Rocks?!!

In the NME from the 30th May 1992 we get another chance to catch up with our boys in interview form, this time from somewhere which seemed as though it may suit them but from the general tone almost definitely didn't, Los Angeles.  In the midst of the LA riots they plumped for a photo in front of Disneyland, all looking mean and moody hiding behind their shades.

If their career to date was actually 'Generation Terrorists' and they started with the youthful enthusiasm of "You need your stars...", then this interview is 'Condemned to Rock 'N' Roll', "There's nothing I want to see, there's nowhere I want to go".  Starting off at an album launch party at the Rainbow, Sunset Strip, you would think that this would be exactly where they wanted to be, but no.  Nicky says "It's made me much more inward. I haven't gone out at all.  I've been reading more than I've done in the last three years...I've gone back to the days when I used to love Morrissey."  Richey meanwhile observes that "Everything just seems for sale."  Might be a good idea for a song, that.....

The piece tells of a gig at the Whiskey, with Gilby Clarke of Guns 'N' Roses in attendance, again something that you might expect to be a dream come true, the next step on their path to world domination and 18 million album sales.  But the Manics don't get America and America doesn't get them, we're told that 'Slash 'N' Burn' was played by KROQ to commemorate the LA riots.  Nicky: "It just puts it all into perspective, being poxy British white kids in the heart of this grim nation of corporatism."

There's a sense of things falling apart a little, even Sean gets his own section of the article, stating that "the other Manics seem a little put out by his hermit style".  We're also told that after making the top 20 Sean got a letter from his dad asking to meet up which coincided with plenty of drink and Sean smashing his room up with a pool cue.  The interviewer also notes Richey's right arm (not the 4 Real one) - "burns, scrapes, slices, lesions - a lurid pink testimony to a sustained programme of self-mutilation" which Richey dismisses as " just my war wounds".

As things take a slightly darker tone what better way to raise spirits than with another hit single?  It was finally time for 'Motorcycle Emptiness' to take centre stage, as the NME single review gushes "OK, doubting Thomases, prepare to push quivering fingers into the wounds of Christ.  OK, mockers and deriders - prepare to eat hat, to gobble shit sandwich."  Never before played live (to my knowledge) and now the fifth song to be taken from 'Generation Terrorists', it was the one that in theory would propel them to super-stardom.

After buying the 'You Love Us' cassette and then the 'Slash 'N' Burn' seven-inch, it was back to the trusty old cassette format again this time.  The CD and additional B-sides followed when all of the GT-era singles were re-released, the 12" picture disc followed a few years later in my ebay gap-filling period and the German promo CD is actually one of my newest additions, bought because it is apparently the only place that the particular edit of the song appears (and I must admit it is a new one on me, fading out at only 3 minutes and 40 seconds).

Main B-side 'Bored Out Of My Mind' was another new studio song, the next in a long line of quiet, introspective, largely acoustic numbers. In terms of subject matter and the languid pace it seems to fit the mood of the aforementioned interview perfectly.  It has always slightly bothered me that James doesn't really seem to be pressing the strings down quite enough in places though.  The next B-side (on the CD and 12") is a cover of Alice Cooper's 'Under My Wheels' from a Friday Rock Show session a few months earlier.  Along similar lines to 'Damn Dog' and 'It's So Easy' it's a three minute romp to the finish line, as with the others a bit of fun but not up to the standard of their own originals here.  Also included on the CD is a live version of 'Crucifix Kiss' from the Astoria in February, a gig covered in the last blog.  Needless to say it's ace.

The cover of the single shows a photo of each band member making themselves at home in hotel rooms, James strumming away on his guitar, Sean looking rather pensive and Richey and Nicky doing their best bored out of my mind poses.  In terms of quotes, the original cassette goes with Marlon Brando's "The more sensitive you are, the more certain you are to be brutalized, develop scabs, never evolve.  Never allow yourself to feel anything, because you always feel too much."  Quite an apt Richey quote.  The CD again reverts back to the quote from the album sleeve.  An interesting curio on the 12" is that it is actually 'Bored Out Of My Mind' that is credited to M.Bruce/D.Dunaway/B.Ezrin and not 'Under My Wheels'.

And so to the video.  It's definitely iconic, wandering the Japanese streets as the true rock stars that they are.....but please, someone sack the stylist.  Nicky is passable although I'm not sure about the black hair, Sean's coat is too big, the less said about Richey's haircut the better and James?  The designer stubble is probably working but the suit makes him look like a little boy dressing in his dad's best clothes.  Full marks for one of the greatest moments of any Manics video with Richey on the bridge though.  Although that clock on the big wheel going back in time has always bothered me.  Maybe it's ART.

It was inevitable that a song like this was going to allow them to return to Top of the Pops, although it was surprisingly not their biggest hit to date ('You Love Us' pipping it by one place).  The performance turns up on disc 1 of 'Televised Propaganda'.  With James not learning and dressing the same way as in the video and Nicky appearing to have leopard print drawn onto his arms, they play along on a stage strewn with what appear to be rose petals.  Nicky in particular seems to be enjoying another triumphant moment, even though the crowd clapping along is particularly irritating.

So was the 'Generation Terrorists' era coming to a close?  Was the end going to be nigh with the 18 million album sales nowhere near achieved?  The answer to the first question for now was a no.  I think we all know the answer to the second....