Manic Street Preachers: 30 Interesting Facts You (Probably) Didn't Know
On the 30th anniversary of their first album, Generation Terrorists, join us as we celebrate one of British music’s most iconic bands with... 30 interesting facts you (probably) didn't know about the Manic Street Preachers.
Manic Street Preachers formed in formed in Blackwood, Wales in 1986 and consisted of cousins James Dean Bradfield (lead vocals, lead guitar) and Sean Moore (drums, percussion, soundscapes), plus Nicky Wire (bass guitar, lyrics) and were joined by Richey Edwards (guitar, lyrics) in 1988.
They released their debut single, Suicide Alley, in 1988 and pressed up 300 copies, which earned them a Single Of The Week review in the NME a few months later.
Their next release, the 1990 EP New Art Riot, was the first to feature Richey in the line-up, and garnered even more favourable press, primarily due to Nicky and Richey having a pop at various other bands.
After signing to Heavenly Records in 1991, they released Motown Junk, which became their first Official Chart entry at Number 94 that February. As Nicky brightsided it, “We were at Number 94 in the charts, but everyone had an opinion on us. That was the most brilliant thing we achieved.”
After issuing a few more singles, the quartet signed to Sony and released their debut album Generation Terrorists on February 10 1992, claiming that it would sell 16 million copies and that they would immediately split. As James said at the time, “We’ll release one double album that goes to Number One worldwide. One album, then we split. If it doesn’t work, we split anyway. Either way, after one album, we’re finished.” Nicky perhaps pushed it further, “We’re going to set fire to ourselves on Top Of The Pops.”
After the system remained very much unsmashed after Generation Terrorists failed to sell 16 million copies (to-date UK sales are approximately 289,000) thankfully they decided to carry on. Phew.
Nicky has been known for his big mouth, on one memorable occasion telling a Glastonbury audience: “Someone should build a bypass over this s***hole.” 20 years later he reflected, “It was supposed to be a joke – then this deathly silence descended on the place. It was painful but glorious.”
The only member of the band who keeps his counsel in interview is drummer Sean Moore, “There’s no point. I always say the same thing.”
James wore a balaclava with ‘JAMES’ written on it for their performance of Faster on Top Of The Pops in 1994. Several viewers interpreted this as a show of support for the IRA, and the BBC told the band that a record number of complaints (over 25,000) had been received.
After the release of their third album, 1994’s quite bleak The Holy Bible, the band were having to perform as a trio as Richey was becoming increasingly ill through drink and drugs. In February 1995, on the eve of a promotional tour in America, Richey disappeared. While there were sightings of him near his childhood home during the next two weeks, his car was eventually found abandoned at the Severn View service station near the Severn Bridge.
The band’s pitch-black humour reflected on Richey’s time in rehab, “Although when he was in The Priory and Eric Clapton was there and he offered to come round and jam, that was one of those moments where you couldn’t write anything funnier, in a tragic situation.” Richey, famously, never had his guitar plugged in when the band performed live.
When the band decided to continue after Richey’s disappearance, they set about recording their fourth album Everything Must Go as a trio, which would go on to sell 1.07 million copies, and eventually won them the Best British Album and Group at the 1997 BRIT Awards.
They also scored their then-biggest hit with the song A Design For Life reaching Number 2 in 1996, which James claimed ‘saved the band’ and went on to become their biggest anthem.
The follow-up, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, was the band’s first album to reach Number 1 in the Official Charts, as well as the single If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next becoming their first Number 1 that September.
If You Tolerate This… beat Steps’ One For Sorrow to Number 1 that week. An echo of that chart battle was reignited when both bands released their most recent albums on the same day, and the Manics’ The Ultra Vivid Lament beat Steps’ What The Future Holds Part 2 to the top in 2021. "It's amazing to be back at Number 1 after 23 years – it was a titanic chart battle and we are absolutely over the moon.”
This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours helped them win the Best British Band and Album awards at the BRIT Awards in 1999, making them the first band to win both awards twice.
Their 2000 single The Masses Against The Classes became their second Number 1 single, despite being deleted on day of release.
In 2001, they became the first popular Western rock band to play in Cuba (at the Karl Marx Theater) and met with President Fidel Castro.
After hoping Kylie Minogue would sing on their 1992 song Little Baby Nothing – she wasn’t allowed due to her PWL contract – the band eventually worked with Kylie during her ‘indie phase’ and wrote her 1997 single Some Kind Of Bliss.
Kylie isn’t the only act they’ve written for, as James and Nicky contributed The Girl from Tiger Bay for Shirley Bassey’s 2009 album The Performance.
Despite not being fans of free downloads, the band once released the amazing The Ghosts Of Christmas on their site in December 2007. It’s a genuine festive classic sadly (still) properly unreleased.
Nicky’s rock and roll lifestyle extends to not much past hoovering, “I have one (hoover) upstairs, one downstairs and a spare. I’ve still got the original Dyson, it’s the best… Crisps and hoovers. It’s my life.” The ANIMAL.
And that’s not all, telling MOJO that "I have a gigantic collection of hotel stationery. Also hotel flannels, which, to me, are like a comfort blanket — I probably have 900 flannels. It’s all filed year-by-year and with the stationery. You can definitely see the quality, it’s got loads better."
Their ninth album, 2009’s Journal For Plague Lovers, used lyrics that Richey had written for the band, telling a magazine that “There was a sense of responsibility to do his words justice. That was part of the whole thing of letting enough time lapse. Once we actually got into the studio, it almost felt as if we were a full band; it [was] as close to him being in the room again as possible."
The Manics have enjoyed 41 Top 75 singles – 15 of which went Top 10 including two Number 1s – spending 179 weeks in the Official Chart.
Album-wise, they’ve had 18 Top 75 albums including two Number 1s, and spent 252 weeks in the Top 75.
Not averse to a cover version, they had a Top 10 hit with a cover of Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless), as well as recording over chart-toppers such as Wham’s Last Christmas, Rihanna’s Umbrella and Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. They’ve also tackled numbers by Alice Cooper, Guns ‘N’ Roses and Happy Mondays. It’s called range.
Well done Manic Street Preachers, and Happy 30th Birthday Generation Terrorists!