Manic Street Preachers
The Holy Bible 50 Further Facts
Compiled By: Steve Bateman
Having recently added postscripts detailing 'The
Holy Bible 1994 Studio Equipment & Recording Sessions Gear' + 'The
Holy Bible 2014 Tour Gear' to R*E*P*E*A*T's interview
with 'Alex Silva On Engineering/Co-Producing Manic Street Preachers
The Holy Bible'. I then started thinking about some of the other
interesting facts which could perhaps be turned into a timeline-type
of feature and act as a companion-piece to that article (which is 5-years-old
this month), and although a number of these facts are well-known, others
may be surprising or even new to some MSP Fans. The bite-size pieces
of information were all written with help from, or sourced from, A Critical
Discography, BBC Radio 4 Mastertapes, Dazed, Guitarist Magazine, Manics
Promo Materials, Melody Maker, NME, R*E*P*E*A*T, Select Magazine, The
Face, Wikipedia and more - a very special thanks to all! Branded as
everything from "disturbingly traumatic" to "laceratingly
savage" to "a group in extremis" to "a triumph of
art over logic" by music critics, here are 50 Further Facts about
the dark and divine, one-of-a-kind and acclaimed album that is The Holy
1. Recorded as a b-side for the Life Becoming A Landslide EP, Comfort
Comes famously set the tone for what fans could expect from The Holy
Bible. The track was even included on the Japanese Faster CD single,
most likely so that listeners could compare the similarities shared
by both songs.
2. Proof that the Manic Street Preachers certainly considered enlisting
Mike Hedges to produce THB can be found in a July 1996 interview with
Select Magazine, whereby Nicky elaborates on wanting to "have him
for The Holy Bible's more gothic punk side."
3. Whereas the plush and opulent residential recording environs used
for Gold Against The Soul, Hookend Recording Studios near Checkendon,
cost £2,000 per day. By comparison, the since demolished primitive
and unheated, 16-track recording facility rented for The Holy Bible,
Sound Space Studios in the red-light-district of Cardiff (with the area's
scuzziness having inevitably seeped into the LP's overall morose make-up),
cost a mere £50 per day. Sony did offer MSP the chance to record
in Barbados, but the band collectively responded: "Fuck off, no
way - that's not us!" Commuting daily, Richey would pick-up James
and Nicky by car, while Sean travelled from Bristol (where his girlfriend
was studying) by train - with The Wire treasuring the fact that he could
go home every night to his wife and watch Sky TV after a hard day's
4. Nicky's working title for The Holy Bible was The Poetry Of Death.
5. Although sounding nihilistic, grim and discordant on record, most
tracks were actually written and demoed by James on an acoustic guitar,
with Sean also writing music for The Intense Of Humming Of Evil acoustically.
6. 4st 7lb - the weight below which death is said to be medically unavoidable
for an anorexic sufferer - was the very first song to be recorded for
THB on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1994. Talking about this ominous
track and the complicated time-signature changes, JDB - whose girlfriend
had just called off their engagement - articulately observed: "Of
all the songs on The Holy Bible, it has the most amount of words (This
Is Yesterday is the simplest) and when I looked at the main body of
the lyric, I wanted to reflect the frenetic nature of this vanity that
keeps analysing itself and keeps trying to find a reason for something
which is so irrational. Then, I wanted there to be a resolution in the
end, I wanted there to be some kind of defeat, because the lyrics at
the end seem to have a self-knowing wry observation about themselves,
that they knew they were being irrational but they couldn't stop it."
7. Musically, Ifwhiteamerica... was inspired by West Side Story (James
jokingly refers to it as "the American Musical gone wrong"),
with its title thought to have come from a quote by controversial US
comedian Lenny Bruce. In pre-production rehearsals, the band almost
gave up on this song, but Sean said that he knew exactly what to do
with it and went onto add one of his most skilful, unrelenting and memorable
drum tracks ever!
8. The post-punk, metallic and rhythmical guitar riff on Of Walking
Abortion was influenced by Magazine's The Light Pours Out Of Me. The
song also takes its name from a passage and lifts one or two additional
ideas from the radical feminist 'SCUM Manifesto' by Valerie Solanas.
9. Nicky tried to convince James that She Is Suffering could be MSP's
Every Breath You Take (The Police) and a massive 'Transatlantic hit'.
Now however, not only would Nicky "definitely take it off"
the record (it's also JDB's least favourite track on The Holy Bible),
but it is one of the Manics music videos he most despises.
10. One of the bravest songs ever penned by Richey, is the chilling
Archives Of Pain - named after a chapter in a biography of French philosopher
Michel Foucault - which seemingly advocates the use of the death penalty.
With JDB adding: "To reiterate the fact, the lyric was about coming
from a left-wing perspective, but actually just saying that: Despite
my political leanings, despite the essence and the core of what I am,
I think I believe in Capital Punishment. I believe the punishment should
fit the crime." Sonically, Archives Of Pain is renowned for boasting
one of James' premium guitar solos, as well as one of Nicky's finest
bass lines. While in a 1999 interview with Rhythm Magazine, Sean chose
this particular track as having the drumming performance he's most proud
of, recounting: "It's something I wouldn't normally do - it was
one of those sudden rushes of blood. Even now I couldn't really play
it to you." Notably, JDB frequently "nagged" Sean to
put a harmonizer (studio effects processor) on the drums during The
Holy Bible sessions, to make them sound boxy / claustrophobic and as
Archives Of Pain was in the process of being recorded, Blur's poptastic
new single Girls & Boys hit the airwaves, causing Nicky to fret:
"It might not be our time." Referring to MSP's more melodic
and accessible side, James' Mum, Sue, would even later ask him why they
no longer wrote songs akin to Motorcycle Emptiness.
11. In a 2011 NME Poll, the Manics themselves named Faster as their
'Best Single'. Dissecting Faster (which was the last time that Nicky
and Richey "collaborated lyrically on an even keel"), Nicky
once stated: "A lot of it is all Richey again and he told me it
was about self-abuse... I think it's the most confusing song on the
album. I added some stuff about the regurgitation of 20th Century culture,
and the way that everything's speeded up to such an extent that nobody
knows if they've got any meaning any more. It's probably the first time
that we've written a song and not completely understood what we've written."
When Richey gave the finished lyric to James it had no punctuation whatsoever,
and interestingly, the line: "Self-disgust is self-obsession, honey"
was a phrase actually coined by MSP's Press Officer, Gillian Porter,
which she used when anatomising Richey's scornful opinion / scathing
critique of himself - "That's the truest line on there, probably"
he claimed. The title is rumoured to have a double-meaning, based around
the aforementioned idea of the acceleration of society as well as fasting.
In terms of matching the sentiment of the words with the sonics, JDB
with his high level of artistry, wanted the music to sound as if it
was regimented, cold, parallel-lined, compressed, stark and in control
of itself. And even though it went through 20 reworked overhauls, apparently,
the Manics' co-manager Martin Hall was never overly fond of this track
at any stage of its development, or indeed the finished version either.
Faster was first played live in Thailand at Bangkok's MBK Hall in April
1994, and whenever used as the opener in set lists throughout that year,
it had an extended intro with James calling out to the crowd: "Hello,
hello, hello, hello, hello..." as a nod to John Lydon's greeting
on the PiL song, Public Image. At recent THB gigs, the group used Faster
(Vocal Mix) as their walk on music.
12. A first draft of The Intense Humming Of Evil (the sister song of
Mausoleum and some of the earliest Holy Bible tracks to be written,
after the band had visited the sites of former German concentration
camps during their European Tour in Autumn '93) was considered insufficiently
judgmental by Bradfield, who asked for a rewrite, explaining: "You
can't be ambivalent about the Holocaust." Notably, the only member
of MSP who can read music is Sean, and for this tense and unvarnished
composition, his idea was to use the minimalist delineation of modern
song structures to make more out of less. Coupled with the looped industrial
sample, it is unlike any other track in the band's entire body of work.
13. Revol (lover spelt backwards) and This Is Yesterday (which musically,
was loosely based on Ghosts by The Jam) were late additions to The Holy
Bible and were both written side-by-side. JDB told NME in 2014: "It
was in our pocket for a long time. That's why two other songs got recorded
at the end. We'd lived with it for so long that we realised just in
time that it wasn't balanced. Well, in its own fucked-up way."
14. Song titles nearly used include: Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'scountrywouldfallapart,
Walking Abortions and No Birds (Mausoleum).
15. A differently sequenced tracklisting of the 13 songs (obviously
later revised and re-jigged) also appeared on an early pre-release PR
16. Sculpture Of Man is the sole b-side dating from this period, all
others were recorded later. Nicky called this "The darkest lyric
ever!" With James continuing: "That's completely Richey's.
But that just shows how bullet-nosed we were."
17. Due to the vast amount of information, well-read literary references,
cultural connections, subject matter, knowledge and wealth of words
crammed into Richey's lyric sheets (which could even be classified as
prose). JDB - sometimes even without a moment to take a breath - recorded
far more vocal takes than usual so that he sung every syllable correctly,
with his voice / approaches to singing reacting perfectly to the array
of convulsing sonics, abrasive guitar sounds and counter-melodies used
on different compositions.
18. Interestingly, James "never felt completely comfortable as
the lead singer of the Manics, until The Holy Bible" and
before then, would have "just preferred to have solely been the
lead guitarist, with either Nicky or Richey as the frontman, because
they had the cheekbones for it!"
19. In 2004, James unexpectedly admitted to Guitarist Magazine: "Sometimes
I've resented putting vocals over the music, especially on The Holy
20. Carefully sourced by Richey and in-keeping with / highlighting the
songs' themes - sometimes adding a menacing and dystopian atmosphere
- every dialogue sample on The Holy Bible had to be cleared for usage,
in turn, costing Sony a lot of money. In reference to the sample used
on Mausoleum, when talking to The Face in '94, Richey expounded: "When
J. G. Ballard wrote Crash, he said that what he was trying to do was
force humanity to look itself in the mirror, then rub its face in its
own vomit. That was what we wanted, too." With Nicky additionally
looking to write about the atrocities caused by "the human capability
to inflict pain on its own race," and Richey reasoning in another
interview: "Henry Miller said 'At the edge of eternity is torture,
in our mind's never-ending ambition to damage itself.' That's what we
would like to write about."
21. Financially, with all band members existing on a small income at
the time - £250 per month each, later rising to £200 per
week - JDB was still living at home with his parents during the making
of this long player, with the others 'clubbing together' so that he
could stay in a Marriott hotel one night a week.
22. Although the THB sessions involved long hours for James in the studio,
along with engineer/co-producer Alex Silva - 16-hours per day, sometimes
more - he has described it as "one of the best times of his life."
With Nicky recently reflecting: "It makes you realise the power
of youth, feeling fearless and, in blunt terms, not giving a shit. Which
obviously dims with age and having kids and responsibilities, and all
that. It does make you realise the power of the four of us locked away
from mainstream Britain in the early 1990s, and how glorious that feeling
23. After his initial concerns as to whether or not he'd be capable
of even turning some of Richey's lyrics into singable songs: "You
crazy fucker. How do you expect me to write music to this!?!" JDB
later revealed: "The Holy Bible was the only other time I've had
to re-design what I do. That album gave me so much confidence. Once
I'd done that, I knew that - in terms of pure musicality - writing a
song to whatever words I was given, there was nothing for me to be scared
about any more." When asked which Manics lyric has been the hardest
to put music to, Sean answered: "Yes was a challenge, hence the
time-signature of the song" - with its melody also rooted in The
Penguin Orchestra Cafe's Music For A Found Harmonium, as at the time
James was writing the music for Yes, he kept hearing this instrumental
track being played on the radio.
24. Career-wise, and despite having tasted some success, the group still
felt like failures. With Richey placing his first love of penning lyrics
way above performing, travelling and doing press - while aware that
the extremely high calibre and depth of MSP's vocabulary, was what elevated
them to another plane and massively separated them as sui generis, from
their peers also operating within the rock sphere. Irrespective of people's
acceptance or understanding, Richey (who was incapable of 'switching
off' and now devouring a book a day / using references that sometimes
JDB and The Wire couldn't even grasp), constantly strove "to write
a flawless lyric that would scan rhythmically with James' music, and
summed-up exactly how he felt about himself and the world around him."
Always treating songwriting as an artform and never aspiring to be compared
to any other lyricists - he was especially proud of Archives Of Pain
and Die In The Summertime - Nicky (enjoying domestic bliss and "not
so much on his game" with lyrics and reading, concluding that his
songwriting partner's contributions were perfect anyway), even perceptively
noted that with THB, Richey created "A new lyrical language."
Infused with intent and ideas, and containing a multitude of searingly
memorable, honest and endlessly fascinating words, one of the greatest,
most quoted and famous lines of them all remains: "I know I believe
in nothing but it is my nothing." This was also nearly used as
the title for the long player that became known as Journal For Plague
Lovers, which in many ways, is a companion-piece to The Holy Bible -
with some fans and music scribes even affectionately referring to them
as 'Richey's albums', or as 'Richey's Old and New Testaments'.
25. Speaking about trying to connect with the complexity of the lyrical
content, James unveiled: "It's just about believing it as much
as the author believes it. Sometimes it really was not about questioning
anything in the lyric, but just going along with it because you knew
there was this militancy here that would only work if you're 100 per
cent committed to it."
26. Length-wise, The Holy Bible clocks in at 56:17, with Revol being
the shortest song at 3:04 and The Intense Humming Of Evil the longest
at 6:12. On completion, JDB was convinced that the record was a "positive"
artistic statement and would do well, as when people heard the messages
in the songs, they would think: "Finally, the truth!" He even
once summarised the LP as "A Holy Chalice burning through everything
it touches." The meaning behind every lyric was also printed in
track-by-track notes for journalists (subsequently published in The
Holy Bible tour book), with all explanations by Richey and thus further
emphasising the ferocity of his mind / intelligence. Echoing James'
thoughts, Richey judiciously commented: "If the Holy Bible is true,
it should be about the way the world is, and I think thats what
my lyrics are about." Adding: "I went to church for 13-years,
I've read most holy books there are, but I don't find much in it apart
from cruelty. That's the centre of human existence. It's not a religious
album, but the imagery is very important to us."
27. The album cover, designed by Richey while hospitalised, features
a 1993-94 oil on canvas triptych by British artist Jenny Saville, depicting
three perspectives on the body of an obese woman in her underwear and
is titled Strategy (South Face/Front Face/North Face). After seeing
the painting in a Sunday supplement magazine, Edwards contacted the
Saatchi Collection to buy it, but was put off by the £30,000 asking
price. Saville originally declined the band's request to use the artwork,
but changed her mind after a 30-minute phone call from Richey in which
he described every track on the record in detail, giving them permission
to use it for free. The back cover features a photo (painted over by
the late artist, model and stylist Barry Kamen) of the group in military
uniforms and a quote taken from Octave Mirbeau's book, The Torture Garden.
This long player is also the first instance of the Manic Street Preachers
using Gill Sans typeface with a (Cyrillic-style) reversed 'R' in their
album art. The font would be reused on later LPs and has become an easily
recognised motif of Manics' artwork. The typeface is similar to one
used on 1980's Empires And Dance by Simple Minds, one of James Dean
Bradfield's favourite records (coincidentally, the band's third LP and
also recorded in Wales), with the sleeve's warfare visuals, sophisticated
/ clean minimal design and white background, another obvious likeness
to The Holy Bible's cover. An additional element worth mentioning, is
that of all MSP's albums, this is the only one to incorporate the tracklisting
on the front (as did each of THB's accompanying singles) - which with
sleeve art, is generally quite a rarity in itself! Finally, when originally
released in '94, both The Holy Bible's title and its sleeve, caused
controversy due to the religious overtones of the long player's name
and the image of the obese woman in her underwear, which some people
called "morbid and grotesque."
28. The lyrics booklet (which unusually, has the songs in non-running
order) features various images including a photograph of a woman with
a parasitic twin, Christian iconography, an abstract piece of fine art
of a cum shot, a picture of an apple, a painting resembling American
writer / painter Henry Miller. Black & white portraits of James,
Nicky, Richey and Sean, a photograph of a group of British policemen
in gas-masks, photographs of the gate at Dachau concentration camp and
a plan of the gas chambers at Belsen concentration camp. Photographs
of each of the Manic Street Preachers as children, an engraving depicting
an execution by guillotine in Revolutionary France, a skewed version
of Richey's US handgun image and a photograph of Lenin's corpse. The
booklet also contains a Buddhist saying from the Tripitaka alongside
a dedication to the band's co-manager / publicist, Philip Hall, who
had died of cancer in December 1993.
29. All artwork for The Holy Bible singles was licensed (relatively
inexpensively) from German artist Martin Kippenberger, and each picture
is oil / mixed media collage on canvas dating from 1982-83. Part four
of the five-part Fliegender Tanga (Flying Tanga), was used for the first
single Faster/P.C.P. Sympatische Kommunistin (Nice Communist Woman),
appeared on part one of the two-part single Revol. And, Titten, Türme,
Tortellini (Tits, Towers, Tortellini), credited under its French title
Des tètons, des tours, des tortellini, was the cover artwork
on both parts of the two-part, third single She Is Suffering. Opting
for a different aesthetic approach on the limited edition numbered 10"
vinyls, these instead feature a montage of Manics tour pictures (P.C.P./Faster)
and music video stills (Revol, She Is Suffering). Every format - CD,
vinyl and cassette - also comes adorned with a customary related literary
sleeve quote and has extra tracks. Faster/P.C.P. was the only single
to be issued as a 7" and there is also a 3trk 12" DJ promo
of The Dust Brothers (now known as The Chemical Brothers) mixes, in
a grey sleeve tagged with the sticker Done & Dusted.
30. In late July '94, following a particularly alarming bout of heavy
drinking and self-mutilation, after going missing for 48-hours and locking
himself away in his flat. Richey was admitted to Whitchurch Hospital
in Cardiff, then to The Priory Clinic in Roehampton, for 10-weeks of
rehabilitation to help him overcome his problems (depression, cutting
himself, alcohol dependency and borderline-anorexia nervosa, while still
mourning the deaths of the Manics' mentor Philip Hall and his best friend
at University, Nigel, who had hung himself earlier that year). By this
point, he weighed only 6st and was teetering on the edge. Though addressed
by Hall or Nothing as "nervous exhaustion" in a press release,
some detractors insensitively and incorrectly called this a suicide
attempt or a publicity-stunt, but the band - though self-confessed press
junkies and appreciating sensationalist scandal - were mortified by
such flagrant lies / accusatory stories. Soldiering on regardless and
playing as a three-piece, to honour their remaining summer festival
commitments and pay for his treatment. After visiting Richey during
his stay however, although understandably worried and distressed, James,
Nicky and Sean sceptically called into question how beneficial the 'Twelve-Step
Programme' treatment actually was to his mental health and well-being.
Amid rampant rumours and growing media speculation that MSP wouldn't
continue without Richey, JDB theorised about his inner-turmoil, emotional
oversensitivity and the burden of adulthood: "I think he just feels
things so fucking intensely. He always had this vision of purity or
perfection, a kind of childlike vision, that became completely obliterated."
Later conceding that upon leaving the psychiatric clinic, he had "come
back a completely different person," even as far as wanting to
be called Richard. Nicky even accused The Priory Clinic of "ripping
the soul out of him." The THB era also saw the rise of an infamous
fan collective / subculture known as 'CoR - Cult of Richey', as well
as later becoming the marker for Manic Street Preachers' pre and post
Holy Bible fanbases / old fans vs. new fans.
31. By way of promotion and based on Rob Stringer's (currently Chairman
of Columbia Records) suggestion, every word from every song was reproduced
as a centre-spread advertisement in the music press in the lead-up to
the release of the album - although all explicit words were blacked
out. NME even gave away a free 4trk flexidisc 7" sampler entitled
'Verses From The Holy Bible', which was sellotaped to the front cover.
Mirroring the printed lyrics theme, each single also had its own press
32. THB was put out on the same day as Oasis' Definitely Maybe: August
30, 1994, just as Britpop was really starting to take-off. The long
player (issued via the Epic label and MSP's "most complete album
by a long way" according to Richey), reached No. 6 on the UK Albums
Chart and remained in the chart for 11-weeks, but didn't chart in Europe
or North America. As a devoutly religious country, Italy ostensibly
refused to sell the LP at all based on the grounds that the LP's title
could be construed as deeply offensive. Though widely-praised by critics
upon release, it sold poorly. A 'radio-friendly unit shifter' this was
33. Advance Holy Bible promo cassettes, limited edition CD / vinyl picture
discs, official out-of-print Thai album / maxi single cassettes (featuring
artwork variations), an original withdrawn CD pressing of the US Mix
of THB (a small number surfaced in Canadian record stores in March 1995,
but the pushed back date of July for the North American release was
eventually scrapped), the UK promo CD for Faster/P.C.P. (which has an
infrared coloured sleeve) and live bootlegs. Along with press releases,
a Japanese-only promo postcard set, tour itineraries, AAA laminates,
hand-written set lists, tickets, posters, flyers and magazine/newspaper
clippings - plus of course, any items signed by all 4 members, remain
some of the most highly-coveted and prized MSP Collectibles amongst
34. In America, Faster had an exclusive promo CD featuring an action-packed
live shot of James on the front cover, plus an alternate music video
cut from live footage.
35. While touring in early 1994, the group visited army surplus stores
and bought clothing / medals to wear onstage, in homage to The Clash
and Echo & The Bunnymen's camo apparel. This military image (which
later extended to how MSP's gigs and dressing rooms were lit and decked-out)
"represented the control and discipline that they were trying to
get back" after becoming too 'rockist', as well as "reaffirming
their existence" and symbolising "a metaphorical war against
everything around them." Sean has joked that rather than being
the Manic Street Preachers, they had actually metamorphosed into the
Manic Street Army. This strengthening aesthetic was used consistently
by the band during the promotion of The Holy Bible, including in their
videos and television appearances. A sneering and enraged performance
of Faster on the BBC's Top of the Pops in June '94, resulted in a record
number of complaints - over 25,000 - and was extremely controversial
at the time, as Bradfield wore an 'IRA-style' balaclava.
36. Talking about wearing the balaclava (which is now a far less intimidating
tea cosy at Faster Studio), James later pondered if subconsciously,
this was perhaps his own way of "daubing actor's paint" to
help distance himself from the personal nature of the lyrics that he
hadn't actually penned.
37. Many of Mitch Ikeda's (Manic Street Preachers official photographer)
favourite photo sessions and pictures that he's taken of the group date
from The Holy Bible era, due to the band's striking look. Visually -
and because of the strong symmetry they had onstage with Richey as well
- James, Nicky and Sean also believe that this is the Manics at their
38. After one particular European date with Suede in Autumn '94, well-documented
events and pressures with Richey (who'd once considered not touring
anymore, but soon changed his mind as he didn't think that by avoiding
the part of being in a band which made it feel like a job / routine,
would be fair on the others) had taken their toll on Nicky, to the point
where he told James that he wanted to leave the group. JDB fully understood,
but then went out and got drunk later that night and by the next morning,
had completely forgotten this conversation ever took place. During this
time, Richey also had some new tattoos inked and in 'Everything (A Book
About Manic Street Preachers)', Simon Price clarified: "There were
two intricate circular diagrams, one with the words Hemisphere, Jerusalem,
Of Land, Of Water, Hemisphere, Hell, and Mount Purgatory (apparently
derived from the seven concentric circles of Hell as depicted in Dante's
Inferno). The other bearing the Caina, Antendra, Ptolomae and Judecca,
with the condemning additions 'Traitors to their Lovers, Traitors to
their Guests, Traitors to their Country, Traitors to their Kindred'.
Obscure biblical/classical references, and more fuel to the rumour that
Richey had found God in the Priory. The third tattoo read 'I'll surf
this beach', a quote from Apocalypse Now." This latter inking,
was due to the fact that Richey had become obsessed with the iconic
war motion picture and in particular, identified with Dennis Hopper's
photojournalist character. He even began wearing the same make of camera
used by the actor during filming. Another classic movie name-checked
by Richey - owing to its interconnected themes of abject enmity, resentment
and repulsion at the depraved vile sickness and putrefaction of a numbed
human race, while at the same time, wanting to inoculate mankind, waking
it from its diseased morality coma and ridding society's ills - was
Taxi Driver. With Travis Bickle's 'June 29th Journal Entry' played over
the PA after gigs, as it mirrored Richey's own complete control / self-improvement
mindset and strict, disciplined fitness regime (funnily, MSP's Tour
Manager always moaned about the weight of Richey's suitcase, as it contained
both his Olivetti portable typewriter and dumbbells). Along with his
tattoos and newly-dyed orange hair, Richey also started etching the
words HATE and LOVE across the fingers of his right and left hands,
and sometimes HUMILITY.
39. On that same tour, the guitar which most of The Holy Bible was
written on was lost. Beginning in late September 1994, the Manics supported
Therapy? in France for 7 gigs, followed by 14 of their own UK / Ireland
headline shows throughout October, before a further 21 European dates
supporting Suede during November and December - which by all accounts,
was somewhat of a gruelling slog for MSP and their crew. The band were
offered an extended run of gigs across Europe by their concert promoter,
but due to the strains on their relationship with Richey, his continued
self-harm, alcoholism and deteriorating mental health - who surprisingly,
was keen to carry on with life on the road and had been practising guitar
more / learning new chords, since his stay in The Priory Clinic. It
was ultimately decided that twinned with James, Nicky and Sean's crumbling
morale and the fact that one morning, Nicky found Richey outside the
group's hotel in Hamburg, Germany, repeatedly banging his head on the
wall with blood streaming down his face, pleading to go home, that this
wouldn't be a wise-decision. A moment of comic relief did come one night
however, when JDB's white sailor suit, which he bought because he thought
Richey looked amazingly cool in his navy one (though later joked that
although this annoyed Richey, it wasn't nearly as attractive on himself
anyway). After gradually rotting away over the course of the tour and
smelling horribly, embarrassingly and revealingly, split all around
the crotch area as he was jumping onstage!
40. Between December 19 - 21, 1994, the Manic Street Preachers played
three Christmas shows at London's Astoria, which would be the last time
that Richey ever performed with the band. Having all suffered from nosebleeds
after soundchecks due to an unknown problem with the sound frequencies,
on the final night and as a release of inter-tension (unusually, the
group hadn't really been getting on for the past few days), the gig
ended with the Manics smashing up not just their equipment, but the
venues lighting, causing £26,000 of damage. Nicky really
felt like "something's stopped, something's changed here."
Whenever quizzed about MSP as a live entity during that time, James
often wistfully remarks how "powerful" and unified the band
41. A limited amount of temporary transfer tattoos depicting the face
of Jesus Christ and the band's logo, were also handed out at these dates
to fans queuing outside the venue on a first-come-first-served basis.
42. Other notable merchandise from this period, includes a balaclava,
dog tags, a stunning tour programme and some of the Manics most popular
and enduring t-shirt designs, including the CCCP logo, the repeated
face pattern of Jesus Christ and 'Who's Responsible? You Fucking Are'.
43. Following Faster/P.C.P., Revol and She Is Suffering - which entered
the UK Top 40 at No. 16, 22 and 25 respectively, during June, August
and October '94 - Yes was purportedly set to be the last single lifted
from The Holy Bible (with the TSB bank aping 'MSP the band that likes
to say YES' artwork possibly intended for use as the sleeve). This idea
was binned however after the mysterious disappearance of Richey (who'd
not long shaved his head as his 17-year-old dog, Snoopy, had recently
died and because he also wanted to "shed himself of all vanity"),
cementing his place in rock 'n' roll mythology aged 27, on February
1, 1995 - the day he and James were due to fly to the US on a promotional
tour. Although JDB fulfilled the promo trip alone, as the weeks went
by and fears grew - with everyone accepting that the seriousness of
Richey's vanishing may not be resolved in the short-term - this meant
that all upcoming North American and Asian shows were cancelled. Having
long had a frosty relationship with Sony in the States, who'd previously
changed artwork / tracklistings and remixed songs without MSP's consent,
much to their chagrin. It was genuinely thought that the buffed and
shined - which removes the dank decay but never sounds antiseptic -
US Mix of The Holy Bible (how many classic albums can you think of with
an alternate mix?), which for once, the Manics were really pleased with.
Greater label support and audience-focused alternative radio airplay,
plus the ample / lengthy North American dates, would help the group
to raise their profile and make serious headway Stateside for the very
first time. But spookily, Nicky, who always packed weeks in advance
of every Manics tour didn't on this occasion, as something inside him
told him that they wouldn't be going. In due time, the US branch of
Epic then decided to pull the plug on the entire THB release / marketing
campaign, citing the Manics' inability to properly publicise the LP
by completing their touring commitments as the key reason for this -
meaning yet again, that the band were to remain virtually invisible
and unknown across the Atlantic. In relation to Richey's vanishing,
during the build up to this catastrophic, horrendous and devastating
occurrence, as a voracious reader, he had read numerous books about
how to disappear and there were also several links to / parallels with
other troubled figures / tragic icons, who he had an affinity with and
empathy for. These included both Ian Curtis, who committed suicide in
May 1980 - coincidentally on the eve of Joy Division's US Tour - and
Kurt Cobain. Not only did Richey purchase the exact same type of 'Converse
One Star' trainers that Kurt was wearing when he shot himself in April
1994. But, giving this notion further credence, he even had death camp-style
striped-pyjamas which matched those once worn by Cobain as a stage outfit
(Richey was photographed in these and the trainers during his final
interview on January 23, 1995, with the Japanese magazine, Music Life).
He also had a similar jacket to one of Kurt's - as pictured in Richey's
'Missing People' campaign poster - and Nirvana's In Utero was found
in the stereo cassette player of his Vauxhall Cavalier at Severn View
(formerly named Aust) Motorway Services, which was reported as abandoned
on February 17, 1995. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight however,
JDB, with typical integrity, has admitted that himself, Nicky and Sean
should have really picked-up on the intensifying anguished content within
Richey's words as a warning sign. Indubitably deducing that during the
notorious, blood-stained and unsavoury Thailand trip in April '94, MSP
picked-up a 'bug' - figuratively speaking - which symptomatically, they
were unable to shake off from that moment onwards. This is also where
the cracks first started to show with Richey, who enveloped by darkness,
emaciated and scarred, had reached a low ebb and was trying to come
to terms with the once latent realisation, that being in a band, along
with the non-creative aspects and the ongoing / fatiguing album-tour-album
treadmill - which he clearly struggled with, as it was becoming less
and less enjoyable and greatly contributing to his blackened mood, chronic
insomnia and illness - would never cure any of his plights or his debasing
/ fatalistic outlook on life. Upsettingly then, for Richey, even with
medication it really was a case of from despair to where... If one grain
of comfort can be taken from this sad situation and Richey's all-engulfing
descent into desperation however - which will always evoke outpourings
of grief, as he was a deeply affecting and prolific lyricist whose words
continue to be pored over (amusingly, sometimes handing over lyric sheets
to James who recalled: "There would be a sly little grin at the
corner of his mouth: 'See what you can do to that, ya prick!'")
- it's that he once stated: "In terms of the 'S' word, that does
not enter my mind. And it never has done, in terms of an attempt. Because
I am stronger than that. I might be a weak person, but I can take pain."
With Nicky optimistically opining: "Personally, I still think he's
alive, although I've got no physical evidence or reason to think that
he is. But I do... how can you accept that he's dead, when there's no
body, no evidence whatsoever? It's irrational." Compassionately
adding: "I can't help thinking: 'Richey, if you could have held
on a little longer, maybe then you could have had all these things you
wanted. You might have been happy.'"
44. Shockingly, The Holy Bible wasn't nominated for the 1995 Mercury
Prize - which to this day, remains a source of frustration for Nicky
45. Although in '94, Nicky wilfully wanted to embrace the "freedom
of commercial failure" again, MSP only discovered as late as 2014,
that in the mid-nineties, their record contract was in serious jeopardy
and at real risk. The 'biggest cult group in Britain' came extremely
close to being dropped by Sony due to The Holy Bible's low sales. But
Rob Stringer (then newly-head of Epic and the reason why THB came out
on that imprint rather than Columbia) voiced his belief in the band
and with a casting vote, helped to make sure that this didn't happen.
Having never once hankered the Manics for radio hits or chart smashes
during the making of The Holy Bible - an album that people are still
reckoning with to this day - and as a long-term supporter, he fought
their corner by arguing: "Sometimes, you've just got to give art
a chance." Speaking frankly to Select Magazine in January 1999
about MSP's unbowed approach to creating music, which resulted in diminishing
returns between the years 1993-94, Nicky insisted: "The one thing
that I am proud of about The Holy Bible is that we didn't do it on the
back of success. If you look at Pulp and Blur, they've only made an
artistic statement after they've had giant success. That isn't quite
as good as doing it when Gold Against The Soul hadn't sold much at all
and commercially we were at quite a low ebb."
46. In addition to the 10th Anniversary CD/DVD set and 2009's Japanese-only
mini replica of the original LP. 2014 marked the release of a deluxe
/ remastered 20th Anniversary Box Set, which also included THB on heavyweight
black vinyl in a gatefold sleeve for the first time. The Box Set went
onto win NME's 2015 'Reissue Of The Year' Award.
47. Interestingly, Jenny Saville's painting, Strategy (South Face/Front
Face/North Face), is printed the correct way round on 2014 editions,
whereas the image was flipped the other way on all previously-released
versions. The only exception, are the paper sleeves that were made to
house the promo discs pressed for the 10th Anniversary CD/DVD set, which
also have the triptych reproduced exactly as it was painted.
48. A commemorative tour in 2014 and 2015, saw The Holy Bible being
played live in full for the very first time ever, complete with army
camouflage netting stage production and dark, atmospheric lighting.
Also reviving their military image once again for complete authenticity,
James, Nicky and Sean openly acknowledged the technical challenges and
heavy emotional burden of performing such bleak, explicit and tortured
songs. The gigs (as documented in Kieran Evans' 2016 film: BE PURE.
BE VIGILANT. BEHAVE) were only booked after much deliberation. "It's
a complete state of mind," said Nicky of the band's approach to
the shows. "You have to be so well drilled; you have to literally
hate your audience." Statistically, prior to these gigs, the tracks
most performed from THB in set lists were Faster, This Is Yesterday,
Yes and Revol. The least played songs were Mausoleum, The Intense Humming
Of Evil, 4st 7lb and Ifwhiteamerica.
49. As part of 2015's 'Record Store Day' (and as a nod to the 1994 12"
picture disc), a pair of limited edition Holy Bible 12" picture
discs were issued in the UK and North America. Both featured unique
designs, with the United Kingdom getting the US Mix and the Original
Mix being sold exclusively in North America. The UK release charted
at No. 1 on the Official Vinyl Albums Chart.
50. With no commercial concessions - from the artwork to the lyrics
to the music - The Holy Bible has reportedly now sold more than 600,000
copies worldwide. A classic album from start to finish and a true masterpiece!
With MSP's other classic album and masterpiece, Everything Must Go,
celebrating its 20th Anniversary on May 20, 2016. Here's an extract
from Vice's excellent 2015 'Rank Your Records' editorial http://noisey.vice.com/blog/rank-your-records-manic-street-preachers
in which James Dean Bradfield ranked the Manic Street Preachers albums
in order of importance to him. Sitting at the top of the list was Everything
Must Go followed closely by The Holy Bible, with James discussing the
creative / recording process for each long player and elucidating how
"the biggest influence on Everything Must Go is The Holy Bible"...
2. THE HOLY BIBLE (1994)
You are currently touring this album. How has that been going?
Its been brilliant. I said to you earlier that the closest we
ever got to having Richey back in the band was writing and recording
Journal For Plague Lovers. I think there is a misapprehension on other
peoples part that in playing this record we will feel like were
closer to Richey, but thats not the experience Ive had.
I just enjoy the technicality of playing this record. The Holy Bible
is steeped in some kind of proto-punk spirit, but its got quite
a few different time signatures, everything is interlocked, the musicality
is based on being tight and knowing what youre doing. The amount
of lyrics I have to sing on this record means I never get to be carefree
up there. A lot of the songs have this push and pull to them. My solos
are very atonal and go in different areas, and sometimes the bass is
just completely connected to itself and nothing else. So youve
got to commit to playing the music. You cant fuck around with
it. People ask, Is it upsetting trying to connect with these lyrics
again? Is it upsetting looking to your right and not seeing Richey there?
Im sorry to disappoint people but Ive been so busy with
the technicalities of playing these songs that I never get wrapped up
in those things.
What about when you were recording this album? Was it difficult to
sing Richeys lyrics, considering how dark they were and what he
was going through?
For me it was more about the technical challenge. It was more a challenge
of trying to match the ferocity of the music as the music was trying
to match the ferocity of the lyrics. So once youve got the lyrics
in front of you and Ive written the music for the lyrics, and
have all of the vocals on top, it really was a physical battle for me.
The game kept getting higher and higher. You look at the lyrics and
youre like, Fuck me! Then you write the music for
them, and youve done it. Then you try and record it, and you go
Fuck! Then you try and sing it, and its Jesus
Christ! This is like an endless game of Jenga. Thats what
it was like recording this record. I remember having to ask Richey about
some of the references lyrically. There were some things in there that
I didnt get at the time. Especially in a song like Of Walking
Abortion, which had two names I didnt know about. So I had
to go do my own research. I remember asking for some clarification on
some things, but 90 percent of the time it would be our message within.
Thats the experience I remember making this record. It was a battle
because these songs have so many words in them, but a really cool, sporting
battle. The strange thing about us, even Richey, is that were
all massive sports fanatics, which is kind of an indie transgression
to a certain degree. This was like, Lets get ready to rumble!
Its time for a fucking fight! Which was good. I liked it.
I liked the sporting element of making a record.
Do you understand the rabid fascination with this record?
I understand it completely. Its a snapshot of a definite period
in time. A lot of people think that the qualifications of a classic
rock record has got to be that it transcends its time. Well, I disagree.
I think that sometimes a classic record is a snapshot of its time. It
doesnt transcend the ensuing years, it just stamps that place
and time, and thats what The Holy Bible does. We were young men
coming out of the back end of fucking Reaganomics from across the pond.
Ten years before we were fucking obsessed with American politics. There
was some pretty terrible stuff going on that we found enthralling to
watch from a distance. Youre getting stuff like that in Ifwhiteamerica
after the fact, of course. Youre getting stuff like Of Walking
Abortion that is steeped in post-war American history, which Richey
was a particular student of. And youre getting stuff like Archives
of Pain, where the left and right throughout 1990s Europe were
becoming indiscernible from each other. Just all of those subjects were
locked into that time. Some of it might miss its target now, but thats
how we viewed things then. I wouldnt ever say weve made
anything as good as The Clash, but the first Clash album never transcends
the time that it was made in. That album just sounds brown, it sounds
like the 70s. And The Holy Bible has that kind of discordant confusion,
that post-ideological fucked-up-ness of the pre-mid-90s. And I really
appreciate the fact that it is an album that does that.
1. EVERYTHING MUST GO (1996)
I wasnt sure if youd pick this or The Holy
In a strange way, its kind of hard to separate Everything Must
Go from The Holy Bible. Thats why I put them beside each other.
You could say that Everything Must Go was the last record we did with
Richey. Obviously youve got Kevin Carter on there
that is quintessentially Richey, isnt it? Youve got The
Girl Who Wanted To Be God, which is half of Richeys lyric.
Youve got Small Black Flowers, which is pretty much
all of Richeys lyrics. Removables, which is pretty
much all of Richey. And Elvis Impersonator, which is at
least 50 percent Richeys lyrics. There are so many ways to look
at this record. Would Richey like this record? Im not sure. I
dont know. But I know that the last song me and Richey listened
to together in the basement of the Embassy Hotel on Bayswater Road before
he went missing, after we came back from doing demos in Surrey, we listened
to No Surface All Feeling and Small Black Flowers.
And as we pulled into the carpark Small Black Flowers faded
and I asked which was his favorite and he said Small Black Flowers
by a mile. So I knew that he really liked that song, and there were
five songs on that record he was involved with. So there is an argument
to say this was the last time we worked with Richey, even though he
wasnt in the studio when we did it.
Theres an abiding, bittersweet feeling to the ensuing success
we had with Everything Must Go. There was a bit of serendipity in that
even though we werent Britpop we got co-opted into Britpop, which
I didnt give a fuck about. It didnt bother me. To some degree
people even saw A Design For Life as the epitome of that.
But Kevin Carter was a song that Richey could have seen
how it was possible to be a hit single. Which is a crowning achievement
itself: A photographer who killed himself and who actually saw how important
real war photography was, and how it led to his destruction. I wish
Richey couldve seen that it was possible to have a hit single
with something that traditionally wouldnt fucking get near the
top ten. I wish Richey could have been part of that success and seen
that you didnt have to sell out or whore out yourself to do that.
A Design For Life definitely stands in its own right in
terms of lyrically wielding how the celebration of class has triumph
in it. The first line of one our biggest ever songs is Libraries
gave us power / Then work came and made us free / What price now for
a shallow piece of dignity. Theres no selling out with that
lyric. Its saying what we want to say just in a much more succinct
way. And like we said before, the biggest influence on Everything Must
Go is The Holy Bible. We decided that we couldnt go in the same
direction as The Holy Bible because we would have fallen into self-parody.
It would have been comic abyss, comic gothic. And we knew we had to
go somewhere else and let the music breathe. We had to try and say what
we meant but with less words. And with some more oxygen in the music
and the words. Everything Must Go owes as much to The Holy Bible as
it does to any records in our collection.
"You're obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions
you think absurd. You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral and
social conventions you despise, condemn, and know lack all foundation.
It is that permanent contradiction between your ideas and desires and
all the dead formalities and vain pretences of your civilization which
makes you sad, troubled and unbalanced. In that intolerable conflict
you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality, because at
every moment they suppress and restrain and check the free play of your
powers. That's the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilized world."
- Octave Mirbeau (The Torture Garden)