Monday, December 01, 2008

Richey Edwards 1967-2008

The Manics legend was a breath of fresh air in a world where stupidity is admired.


Richey Edwards, lyricist (and it has to be said, third wheel guitarist) of the Manic Street Preachers was declared dead last week, after being missing for almost 14 years. He wasn't just an anorexic, tortured Welsh bloke who cut himself up a bit once. To a few people, including myself as a Manics fan, this bloke was more than just a troubled young man. He was one of the most important lyricists and artists in recent history.
He was no Pete Doherty, despite the Guardian's inaccurate and hasty comparison. He was no drug-addled, bumbling mess. He was an eloquent and charismatic genius who deserves to be remembered.

I got into the Manics in 1996, after hearing A Design For Life on the radio. I admit, initially I hated it. I found it rather OTT and completely misinterpreted the lyrics as some sort of geezer-anthem, wheras in fact the message was the complete opposite. However, after listening a few times, I realised how fantastic it was, and became hooked. I bought the entire back catalogue and became obsessed.

For me, the Manics inspired creativity, eloquence, an interest in literature and pride in having a brain and knowing how to use it (and not being ashamed of it). They were a breath of fresh air in a world where stupidity is admired, and, not to put too fine a point on it they showed people that reading books and learning about things doesn't make you a geek or pretentious. How can a band make reading sexy, I hear you ask? The Manics made it sexy. They had the power to open up a whole world to me. Listening to their music was like putting two invisible fingers up at souless garage, and puce indie like Oasis and the Verve, where lack of intelligence, downing 8 pints on the trot and boasting about being thick was a virtue.

Hearing them reference an artist, author, poet or film made me immediately find out about them and in many cases buy their work. Through them I discovered the sheer genius of people like Sylvia Plath, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and J.D Salinger. I bought flowery blouses from Oxfam, leopard print and glittery everything and scrawled them with glitter glued and stencilled slogans. "Culture Slut", "All Rock & Roll is Homosexual" and "Lonesome Aesthetic". Cringeworthy now, perhaps, but at the time another anti-establishment two-fingered salute. Those situationist scrawls which were perhaps a little too much of a Clash-copy in '91 had some proper relevance against the early noughties sloganeered-trendywear of Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. Your shirt says 'CKone', mine says "Death Camp Palace", so fuck off. Being arrogant was a large part of being a Manics fan, however it was also combined with shyness and sensitivity.

Their lyrics of alienation appealed mostly as I too was from a small and depressing ''piss town'' like Blackwood. I lived in a crap seaside shithole with hardly any jobs, nothing to do, and I was also surrounded by pathetic, ignorant townies like they were when they were teenagers. I could completely relate to their songs, especially their early singles, which were odes to teenage boredom and wanting to escape.

So, in 2008 and still a faithful fan, the news of Richey being 'laid to rest' comes as no surprise. The most important thing is that he will live on through his lyrics and his band.

7 comments:

Jukebox Review said...

Why can't more music be like this?

We especially loved your words ...

"Listening to their music was like putting two invisible fingers up at souless garage, and puce indie like Oasis and the Verve, where lack of intelligence, downing 8 pints on the trot and boasting about being thick was a virtue."

Anything that exposes Oasis for the hollow sham they are is good by us.

Lizz said...

A friend of a friend went out with him for a while- they broke up and its thought he jumped off the famous "suicide bridge" in London, near Crouch End where she lived. All just rumour perhaps! Ah the manics :o)

Emma said...

Really, Lizz? She wasn't the infamous 'Jo' from London, was she? He left a box in his Cardiff flat for her before he did a runner, full of books, articles etc and a note for her reading ' I love you'

Nobody really knows much about her.

I have to say I've never heard the 'Crouch End' version of events but yeah, there are tons of rumours about. The mystery of it all!

RIP Richey!

harpymarx said...

I think though his state of mind had an impact on his music and that was a positive thing. He was spiralling into the depths and again this was exposed in his angsty leftie music. He has an awareness and political insight. I saw them play live in B'ton in summer of 1991...I confess I thought they were, crap... But I gave them another go and started to like them. I was really blown away by Design for Life and there are touches of Richey esp. the song Kevin Carter.

I also think a lot of people related to Richey's angst and the fact he was open about his distress also had an impact. I recall the NME had sackfulls of letters, when he went missing, from people who felt they could relate to Richey and there are a lot of atomised people out there living in an alienating society (and I certainly include myself)

Gemma Phillips said...

And let's not forget how fit he was. The first time I caught a glimpse of him I found out what love means.....:-P

Emma said...

Indeed. Richey's complete openess regarding his mental state made him a lot more human and easy to relate to, both for men and women.

I think The Holy Bible is one of, if not the finest piece of art ever created. I never get sick of it. It's terrifying, disgusting, invasive, chlaustrophobic and repulsive but thats what makes it so glorious.

And Gemma, couldn't agree more. Officially the most beautiful man ever created!!!!!

Anonymous said...

its good to know some people still feel this way, the music world has too many hero's and fuck ups that everyones life story is plasterd over lame songs, richey was so different, he was beautifull snd ment the world to me xx