I Know I Believe in Nothing but it is my Nothing...

Manic Street Preachers
The Holy Bible – 50 Further Facts

March 2016 (Updated June 2018)
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 Bible...


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 (who had just bought a flat in Cardiff Bay which he was decorating and collaging) 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 to his wife / new house in the valleys every night and watch Sky TV after a hard day's work. Tellingly, a revitalised JDB recalled: "I felt alive with something again, whereas before that I was just fearing things - the end of the band, the world not even wanting us to play some shit festival. As soon as we stepped in the studio and started doing these songs, I felt alive with something I hadn’t felt for about six months... It did feel great straight away." "James was the most feverish I've ever seen him work" proclaimed Nicky.


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 threshold 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. The one song that I didn’t enjoy writing the music to. There are moments of The Bible where I felt as if I was being really precarious about singing the thoughts of other people channelled through Richey, but I felt slightly uneasy doing that song. I was glad when I finished. I felt like I was prying when I wrote it. It was a weird feeling."


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! "It’s me trying to be Topper Headon, in a strange sort of way. I remember the quote at the beginning – I did all the samples. Richey would source it and I’d be the one dragging it off old VHS tapes. It’s one of those songs where it just happened, the ideas were there, the little fast tom. I was thinking all the time of London Calling. For us it was the end – third album, everything’s bombing, fuck it, let’s do what we want."


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 huge 'Transatlantic hit'. Now however, not only would Nicky "definitely take it off" the record, but it is one of the Manics music videos he most despises. Drafting in Generation Terrorists producer, Steve Brown, as JDB simply "didn't know what to do with the track," She Is Suffering has also now become his least favourite song on The Holy Bible (after the Manics maligned Revol for years), who humbly conceded: "That thing of using 'she' and 'beauty' as a metaphor never really sat that well with me. I thought we were a bit out of our depth and I didn't think it was one of Richey's best lyrics (neither did Nicky or Richey). I wanted Ifwhiteamerica... to be the single." For its European release, a 2trk and a 4trk tour edition CD single were pressed, which both included the 7" radio edit of She Is Suffering, as well as an exclusive acoustic version taken from a live performance on MTV's Most Wanted. In terms of The Holy Bible as a collection of songs, James has acknowledged that he's "conscious of how many of the album tracks are far superior and much more loved by fans, than any of the singles released from it - with the exception of Faster - which ultimately, is what has led to the LP's survival, prosperity and reverence!"


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." Similarly, James has since disclosed: "I remember being in a taxi with Richey and we heard Oasis' Supersonic on the radio. We felt a bit bowed by it, in a strange commercial kind of way." Referring to MSP's more melodic and accessible side, JDB's Mum, Sue, would even later ask him why they no longer wrote "nice songs" akin to Motorcycle Emptiness.


11. In a 2011 NME Poll, the Manics themselves named Faster as their 'Best Single', which was labelled by the music publication as "The most incendiary tour de force of their career, the band on the point of glorious combustion. It is the dark heart of The Holy Bible that emerges as Manic Street Preachers' Number One of their own Top 40 hit parade. What else? A Molotov cocktail of post-punk guitars powers along one of Richey's most freeform and barbed lyrical displays. The result of one of the most intense compositions of all time and one of the most exhilarating pop songs of all time." While in April 2018, as part of an 18-month long comprehensive, social media 'song contest' run by the Twitter account, Every Manics Song; "All studio tracks pitted against each other (nearly) to decide the most accurate & unofficial complete song chart ever!" With votes coming from genuine MSP Fans, it was announced that out of over 200+ tracks in their back catalogue, Faster had once again been ranked and rated as the band's greatest song (The Holy Bible was also the most popular era and LP - with or without singles included - by average track score). 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 anymore. It's probably the first time that we've written a song and not completely understood what we've written... It's my title. I think the outro: 'Man kills everything' is mine. 'If you stand up like a nail...' is a Chinese proverb. So it's a perfect synthesis of everything really. I think 'I know I believe in nothing but it is my nothing' is the great catchphrase of The '90s. And for Richey to actually write: 'I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer', it shows an almost heroic self-indulgence. But it makes you great. Because at the time, Blur's Girls & Boys went Top Five and I remember thinking: 'What the fuck are we doing?', just completely ostracised. But then I remember having a moment thinking: 'This is brilliant.' We'd never felt so alone and we really were distanced from everything else. And that's why we were the biggest cult band in Britain. It was one of those moments when you're never gonna do something that good again. You might do something more commercial, more uplifting, which we have done. But the cult-dom of it - I think it was once described as 'a heady mix of Ace Of Spades by Motörhead and Anarchy In The UK.' When Richey gave the finished lyric to James, it had no punctuation whatsoever, who has since categorised this specific song as "One of Richey's soothsaying lyrics. There's a lot of prophesy, in terms of the acceleration of everything - joy, pain, death, consumerism... I don’t think a band like us, from a working class area in South Wales, were ever meant to write a lyric like Faster, that has ambitions of overcoming everything with the power of your own will and your own self made intelligence. And I don’t think that would be married to that post-punk influenced music." 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 "cold voiced" words with sonic enhancements, JDB with his high level of artistry, wanted the music to sound as if it was regimented, parallel-lined, compressed, stark and in control of itself, although "didn't realise that Faster was going to be a single (let alone the lead single) for a long time." 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. The template for this song was Faith No More’s From Out Of Nowhere, with Sean admitting: "It's us at our most visceral best, spitting bile. The lyrics weren’t in the form that they ended up in, but just that bit ‘stronger than Mensa’ was enough for us." With JDB adding: "It was the hardest one to write music to by a million miles (including Sean's drums in the final section). I was worried, as I knew it was the key to everything on the record. So I stomped around, and then put Never Mind The Bollocks on and that was it. Sometimes the way Johnny Rotten’s voice goes down the middle of a song and barely changes, it’s about the twists and phrases and the commitment to the words. And that’s exactly what it needed, that straight line through the middle... It's something that connected with the darker parts of all our selves and it's hard to get a career out of those moments." "It was a defining moment for us. That song laid it all out. It was like a band manifesto" later mused Nicky. 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 information card


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 Bible."


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. Notably, part way through recording - after having seen them play live and been magnetised by the Washington DC indie hardcore outfit, later purchasing some of their LPs - one of James' morning wake-up songs and on repeat studio favourites, was Learned It by Girls Against Boys. "I really latched onto that song and I think they had a small bearing in the music I wrote for The Holy Bible, so it’s a good memory for me" he revealed on BBC Radio 6 Music. However, not everyone in MSP recollects Bradfield’s choice of alarm call so fondly. "I remember James' obsession well," laughed Nicky of hearing the song a lot... "To my pain!"


22. While refining the Manic Street Preachers' sound and twisting melodies into new shapes. 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, 7 days a week for 1 month - who also ate breakfast, lunch and dinner together, he has described it as "one of the best times of his life." Elaborating: "Brilliant memories. All the dark humour around that time makes it seem happier in retrospect than maybe it actually was. Regardless of the lyrics, I remember Richey as being quite cuddly at that point (who was often present with his Olivetti portable typewriter). He didn't seem in the perpetual motions of darkness as the lyrics might imply. It was a happy period, recording that album, even though it was done in bleak surroundings. It felt like we were all pulling in the same direction. I remember thinking if this is our last album, it's a fucking brilliant album to finish on. We felt it was our final riposte. It was definitely the best thing we could have done. We actually recorded on smaller tape; we didn't record on conventional tape. We recorded on tape you'd use for demos usually and recorded on very small 16-track decks. Working within those limitations made everything so vital." And in spite of the fact that "some bands wouldn't have even used Sound Space Studios to record demos" in the opinion of Nicky - the studio, vicinity, environment and 'method recording' to stay on-message, suited everything about the lo-fi and stylised Holy Bible perfectly! JDB: "Gold Against The Soul was slightly hollow and we knew we'd failed ourselves and fallen into the biggest rock 'n' roll cliché in the world: the difficult second album. I think we're at our best following our own lead, and sometimes, you need some creative failure to spur you on." With The Wire 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 was." At the end of making THB, James, Nicky, Richey and Sean bought Alex a bottle of Champagne, among other gifts, as a thank you for all of his hard work. However, when he arrived home that day, his girlfriend announced that she was leaving him as he'd spent so little time with her! With Alex jesting that the Manics had "left him with a bottle of Champagne and a broken heart." Discussing the mixing stages of The Holy Bible with Mark Freegard, and then, its critical reception, Nicky imparted: "That year in particular, obviously, was the year of Nirvana’s In Utero and everything else - it was a pretty bleak year and it just seemed to all come together at the same time. I remember we were in Britannia Row, which was where Joy Division recorded Closer, we were there when we heard that Kurt Cobain had killed himself. We were mixing The Intense Humming Of Evil, or some other really bleak track. It was a pretty bleak moment - it actually felt like a lot of connections were falling into place... In terms of the press in the UK, I think the difference was that it was the album they’d always wanted us to make. When we first started, I guess they’d been not disappointed, but you know, Generation Terrorists was so cosmetic and glam, and Gold Against The Soul was this cavernous, empty and miserable stadium rock. I think the fact was that the band that they’d wanted to love, all of a sudden they could love. We’d always been a band to cherish critically, but I don’t think we’d ever made the record - maybe with the exception of Motorcycle Emptiness - that people wanted."


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 pondering: "In maybe twenty years we might have an impact on somebody because of what we believe or what we say, but we’re not important now." 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, preferring instead to concentrate more on his bass playing and "not so much on his game" with lyrics and reading, concluding that his songwriting partner's creative flow and contributions were perfect anyway), even perceptively noted that with THB, Richey invented "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, then convey, the complexity of the lyrical content (which refused the brevity typically associated with the concise nature of most song lyrics), 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 percent committed to it. For me, it just feels like something that could only ever have been done in Europe. There's a morass of remains. We went through two world wars, and it's man's greatest achievement that we now live in Europe in peace. But the record says that there are ghosts there: it's built on blood, bones and rubble and we still live with those things." Sean has since described the topics tackled in these lyrics as being "as far as Richey's character could go." And even though Nicky has revealed Richey's oft gallows humour, i.e. when handing him the lyric sheet for the macabre Archives Of Pain, how he had a big smile on his face and announced: "Here you go Wire, you'll like this one!" Then, with Revol which covered the sexual peccadilloes of Totalitarian leaders: "You'll love it!" Nicky has still expressed fears that having put so much of himself into his words over the years, that towards the end of 1994, Richey had finally become "an empty shell inside." JDB has even talked about the immense amount of pressure placed on Richey by some people at the time, who after scrutinising the extremities dredged up and ingrained within his lyrics and believing his words to be prophetic, would ghoulishly urge: "If he truly means all of these things, then he'll do something drastic to prove that he is '4 REAL'." When interviewed in '94, Richey was "certain that the group's visit to Belsen, Dachau and Hiroshima, influenced their entire perspective of the role of themselves as individuals and as a band." While James reflected: "The title, The Holy Bible, seems like a very good metaphor for a lot of things. We took the Ten Commandments and realised that they had contradictory failures in Western terms. The album is designed to challenge complacency at all levels. It sounds really pompous and it is, but it gave us a good sounding board for all of the lyrics. It's a sarcastic Valentine to religion itself." However, he was later taken aback after Richey "persuaded him that there's no catharsis in art." "We made the new album without the record company's permission, laid down our own money for it. It's completely uncompromising in every sense, and it's our best album yet. I really hoped Richey would find some kind of redemption in it, but he didn't. And that's upsetting." With regard to Richey's more personal lyrics, when playing Yes live, James is now understandably sometimes unable to sing the tormented line: "I hurt myself to get pain out," which deals with Richey expressing frustrations about his need to self-harm, as he "can't shout, can't scream." With JDB adding: "People will say to me: 'Do you think you did everything you could to stop Richey doing this?' I say: 'Yeah.' Then they'll go: 'Are you sure?' And at that point I just want to fill their faces in." On a lighter note and in relation to the extensive cultural, historical, political and societal signposts + literary references used throughout The Holy Bible, over the years, an inexhaustible amount of MSP Fans, bookworms and English Lit students have all been led to discover a variety of texts, which once caused James to label this long player as "one of the great reader albums." In fact, in February 2017, an unofficial academic book entitled, 'Triptych: Three Studies of Manic Street Preachers The Holy Bible' was published. Whereby three authors "reconsider The Holy Bible from three separate, intersecting angles, combining the personal with the political, history with memory, and popular accessibility with intellectual attention to the album's depth and complexity."



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 that’s 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 now iconic 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. This particular painting showing a confrontational image of obesity, was chosen by Wire and Edwards because of its portrayal of 'beauty in perceived ugliness'. And, as is the case with all MSP artwork and sleeve quotes, it complements the character and lyrical / musical inspiration of the album within. The back cover features a photograph (painted over by the late artist, model and stylist Barry Kamen) of the group in military uniforms and a quote taken from the introduction of 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 cover, 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." When interviewed by Music Week in April 2018, Nicky ruminated: "Calling our third album The Holy Bible was brave in retrospect, but when Richey suggested it, I didn't even think about it, it just seemed totally natural. I remember there was one territory in Europe that wouldn't release The Holy Bible because of the title - perhaps a Catholic country, I don't know - and that was the first time I thought: "Fuck me, it is a funny old title." But at the time, it wasn't a debate at all. Fair play to Sony/Epic, they never said a word. It was a much freer time in terms of artistic license."

28. The CD lyrics booklet (which unusually, has the songs in non-running order) features various images each relating to their corresponding tracks, 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. Having first begun to outline their intentions for The Holy Bible - lyrically and musically - to journalists from late 1993 onwards, both the record's title and August release date were officially announced in early July '94. But, by the end of July, 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 to 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 (who abstained from doing interviews for some time after this), 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 advert.




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 mainland Europe or North America. It did however make a small dent in the Japanese marketplace. As a devoutly religious country, Italy ostensibly refused to sell the LP at all based on the grounds that the title, The Holy Bible, could be construed as deeply offensive or even sacrilegious by Italians. Though widely-praised by critics upon release, it sold poorly. A 'radio-friendly unit shifter' this was not.


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 crept into circulation and 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, ticket stubs, 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 fans.

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 (filmed at The London Astoria, December 1994). In relation to other alternate music videos, in early 2008, the director of the UK promotional clips for Faster and Revol, Chris D'Adda, posted 'Director's Cut Versions' for each of these videos on his (now deleted) official YouTube channel, with the supplementary notes: "Faster - The original cut of the video before the record company had their way with it! Revol - Original edit of Revol containing various still images which do not appear in the TV release version. Richey came up with pages and pages of ideas for this video including the two blood drenched girls in UN uniform but as usual, it was all a big compromise mainly due to budget restraints. That snow-drift in the corner is made out of salt by the way and I think I remember the flying over mountains bit being archive footage from one of the Superman films!" Both 'Director's Cut Versions' can be viewed here https://vimeo.com/manicstreetmania



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 / battledress. 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." However, at the time, some critics did query the mix 'n' match approach to the band's uniforms, and also, the hypocrisy of adopting this new look after they had previously written a song, La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh), which sympathised with the plight of war veterans and featured the lyric: "I sold my medal / It paid a bill / It sells at market stalls / Parades Milan catwalks." Unperturbed, Nicky is confident that this is "the best that any band has ever looked" and has since rhapsodised: "I remember when we had The Holy Bible era, just being able to go to army stores and buy all that military regalia and feeling like it was us against the world. Defined within a uniform, if you like - and James’ sailor suit and stuff. That was really fucking cheap. They used to love us in the Army & Navy stores, especially the one in Cardiff. They’d be like: ‘Oh, here you are, we’ve got some new camo in…’" With JDB disclosing how Sean would always buy the most expensive medals, who himself once joked that rather than being the Manic Street Preachers, they had actually metamorphosed into the Manic Street Army. This attire and strengthening aesthetic was used consistently by the group during the promotion of The Holy Bible, including in their press shots, music 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. Even making headlines around the country including in the local newspaper for Blackwood (e.g. 'MANIC THREAT TO THE NATION'), which thrilled Nicky and Richey, due to the Malcolm McLaren-esque scandal after Bradfield wore a paramilitary '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 peak!


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 11 gigs, followed by 16 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. Although 2 of the Manic Street Preachers' own shows in Austria and 1 in the Czech Republic (Prague), which had been booked to take place after the Suede tour had finished, were cancelled (the rescheduled dates for February '95 would also later be axed), 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 before this nix, 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 The London 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, which made them "paranoid that this could lead to brain haemorrhages." 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 "edgy" gig ended with the Manics smashing up not just their equipment to smithereens, but also the venue's lighting, causing £26,000 of damage - which could have potentially bankrupted them! Knowing that they were "on top of their game and stupendously tight" at each of these shows, and in the aftermath of their appetite for destruction at the last gig, which "felt brilliant." Nicky, who's unreservedly declared that much of The Holy Bible era was instinctive, cannily predicted that "something's stopped, something's changed here." Whenever quizzed about MSP as a live entity during that time - who were always turned-up loudly and along with their last gang in town mentality / individually assembled army fatigues and combat garb, felt at their strongest onstage - James often wistfully remarks how "powerful, united and unbeatable" the band were. Touchingly adding: "If I can be so bold as to say it was our peak, in terms of the way we looked, it's painful to look back at yourself when you're thinner and you're just younger. It makes you realise that that indestructibility of relative youth, gives you such an armour and it gives you such an identity. People don't actually realise, that it's so much easier to be in a band when you are younger and when you've got the ability to wear certain clothes and not feel like a dick. It gives you an armour plating and it makes everything much easier. You're not just only standing behind the music, you're standing behind an image too! And that makes being in a band much easier, because you feel as if you're part of something and there's more than one answer to all of your questions or your accusations - you've got the way you look to fall behind as well and it's a complete armour coating! So, it's kind of painful sometimes, because it's something you can't reclaim and you've got to let that go with the onward march of age." And, when reminiscing about the infamous shows: "I do remember so much about the actual mood that prevailed at those Astoria gigs. There were just lots of little things that were happening at the time, that seemed to add up to the feeling that you felt as if you were part of a bit of 'a moment in time'."


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. The next day, Martin Hall filed a 'Missing Person Report' on Richey with the Metropolitan Police and Richey's family also placed an advert in their local paper, which ran for three days and read: 'Richard, please make contact. Love Mum, Dad and Rachel.' Although JDB fulfilled the American 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, just a couple of days after the South Wales Police had issued a public statement about Richey's disappearance from the London Embassy Hotel. Richey's father, Graham Edwards, had appeared on Cardiff's Red Dragon Radio to appeal to his son to get in touch and the Manic Street Preachers had also released an official band statement. 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 in particular.


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 (they were the first signing of his music career), 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." Also revealing to NME.COM in 2014: "There was a post-Gold Against The Soul emptiness and a realisation that we hadn’t got as big as we thought we would have. There was a kind of empty hole that needed to be filled... However, shortly before The Holy Bible's release, we realised what we'd made and we had to play it every night. When we'd been making it, it was our fucking private universe. But then unleashing that onto the world, from then on, it just felt like a long summer of calamity. Things starting to fall apart, and the more exaggerated and more tabloid and bigger Britpop got, the more weak and on the edge we started to feel." With JDB agreeing: "Suddenly, it went from feeling we were an impenetrable division, to it just starting to drift away. Richey started doubting everything, absolutely everything."


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 - which included 11 UK / Ireland dates, 7 North American dates and 1 final date at Summer Sonic Tokyo in Japan - saw the predominantly 5 star and 10 / 10 reviewed Holy Bible being played live in full for the very first time ever, complete with army camouflage netting stage production and dark, atmospheric lighting (MSP had declined several lucrative offers in the past to put on THB shows). 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 much celebrated and nostalgic gigs (as documented in both BBC Two Wales' BAFTA Cymru Award-nominated 2015 Cardiff Castle homecoming TV coverage, and 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. Another fact worth noting, is how James affectionately refers to a hardcore contingent of MSP Fans who always crave hearing tracks from The Holy Bible performed live, as 'sick puppies'. Some brand new memorabilia was also manufactured for THB 20, including a combat cap, a metal cross pin, dog tags, a lanyard, a limited edition lithograph of Richey's US handgun image (which was also printed on a North American tour t-shirt), as well as other t-shirt designs featuring related imagery such as camouflage, crosses, gravestones and rosary beads. On The Holy Bible's legacy, Sean has stated: "Playing the songs now, strengthens the belief that we had back then. It shows us the reason why we’re in a band. It’s probably a lot less about the musicality and more about the message. We threw every bit of anger and bile that we had contained in us. It was cathartic in a way, because we were almost cleansing ourselves and putting it on tape. We had a pleasurable experience when recording it. We didn’t feel like we were under any constraints and I think that’s possibly why the album has been revered for its honesty - even the darker elements that are a bit hard for people to digest. But for us, we were just happy with the fact that we could actually express ourselves as truly as we could. We’ve come to terms with a lot of things. This is a celebration of those times in which we felt complete. The sad thing is how the album affected a friend. At the time, you could see him disintegrating and there was nothing you could do about it. So, I think we’ve had enough time to come to terms with those things. As you grow older, you become more understanding - not accepting - but understanding. For us to go back and revisit those things (when aged 24-26), all you can do is appreciate the personal sacrifice of some people and the fact that we were honest as songwriters and that we didn’t hold anything back. There are a lot of chapters that have closed in our story as a group. I think after this, we won’t be revisiting The Holy Bible. This is the reason why we did the full album shows in the UK and North America: to say that this is the end of this chapter and that we won’t be going back and revisiting it in the future. Out of our first three albums, this was the most honest and intense expression of how we felt as young men isolated and alienated in our hometowns and wanting to get out and break free. To have an understanding about ourselves personally, as well as mankind. For me, this album is the antithesis of that particular time." JDB: "I knew it would be intrinsic to a very large minority of people that the record would connect to, and that it would mean something to them, it would be tangible to them. The album was so locked in to dissecting certain politics, certain events, certain histories, certain psyches, that I knew the record would mean something to somebody out there. For want of a better phrase, I kind of felt as if I was part of something that could become a cult classic, definitely. And then all that kind of rational thinking went out the window when Richey went missing. I stopped thinking about the record after Richey went missing, because it was indelibly connected to something which was quite a traumatic memory. So I think we kind of parked The Holy Bible in our psyches somewhere when we carried on with Everything Must Go, and we kind of tried to protect him, we tried not to touch it. But then ten years later, we realised that The Holy Bible had sold so many more records post-Richey’s disappearance than it did while he was around. It wasn’t much of a surprise to me, but it kind of crept up on us because we tried to protect ourselves from analysing it because it seemed like such a pure thing that we didn’t want to sully it with anything." With Nicky concluding: "It is quite uncomfortable, let's be honest, but there is a comfort there, in some respects. Having to play those songs every night... but the reaction of the crowd, really, is what made it easier. Just hearing them sing songs like Mausoleum back to you, three or four thousand people in London just singing those words. Never been a gig like it, really. That kind of communal thing, and of something so dark, made it all worthwhile. I think it's true artistic expression, musically and lyrically. That doesn't necessarily mean it's my favourite record, but it's the truest expression of the people we were at that point. It's just so brutally honest. The scary thing is the relevance it still seems to have. And that’s what makes a timeless piece of art, really. And when you’re going through every little detail of it, you realise that its presence is undiminished, and its topics just haven’t seemed to change - they’ve just come ‘round in a full circle. And that’s when you realise that you’ve actually made something really brilliant, that the whole album has taken on this... this life. Sometimes music is diminished or bands’ memories are diminished, but there’s something about The Holy Bible. I think there are certain albums that form part of my life and everyone else's life that you go back to every few years, and I think it has become one of those records. It has become like Unknown Pleasures (Joy Division) which sells copies every year. The Holy Bible sells 5-10,000 copies every year to the same sort of people; the sort of people who are interested in that secret history of finding the cult, classic album. That is what it has become and I'm quite happy with that, because I grew up on records like that. Every band needs an album like this. We've really enjoyed the gigantic commercial success that came later, but if a band doesn't have an album like that, it's a hole in their armoury."


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!


Postscript

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?
It’s 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 people’s part that in playing this record we will feel like we’re closer to Richey, but that’s not the experience I’ve had. I just enjoy the technicality of playing this record. The Holy Bible is steeped in some kind of proto-punk spirit, but it’s got quite a few different time signatures, everything is interlocked, the musicality is based on being tight and knowing what you’re 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 you’ve got to commit to playing the music. You can’t 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?” I’m sorry to disappoint people but I’ve 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 Richey’s 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 you’ve got the lyrics in front of you and I’ve 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 you’re like, “Fuck me!” Then you write the music for them, and you’ve done it. Then you try and record it, and you go “Fuck!” Then you try and sing it, and it’s “Jesus Christ! This is like an endless game of Jenga.” That’s 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 didn’t get at the time. Especially in a song like “Of Walking Abortion,” which had two names I didn’t 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. That’s 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 we’re all massive sports fanatics, which is kind of an indie transgression to a certain degree. This was like, “Let’s get ready to rumble! It’s 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. It’s 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 doesn’t transcend the ensuing years, it just stamps that place and time, and that’s 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. You’re getting stuff like that in “Ifwhiteamerica…” after the fact, of course. You’re getting stuff like “Of Walking Abortion” that is steeped in post-war American history, which Richey was a particular student of. And you’re 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 that’s how we viewed things then. I wouldn’t ever say we’ve 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 wasn’t sure if you’d pick this or The Holy Bible.
In a strange way, it’s kind of hard to separate Everything Must Go from The Holy Bible. That’s why I put them beside each other. You could say that Everything Must Go was the last record we did with Richey. Obviously you’ve got “Kevin Carter” on there that is quintessentially Richey, isn’t it? You’ve got “The Girl Who Wanted To Be God,” which is half of Richey’s lyric. You’ve got “Small Black Flowers,” which is pretty much all of Richey’s lyrics. “Removables,” which is pretty much all of Richey. And “Elvis Impersonator,” which is at least 50 percent Richey’s lyrics. There are so many ways to look at this record. Would Richey like this record? I’m not sure. I don’t 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 wasn’t in the studio when we did it.

There’s 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 weren’t Britpop we got co-opted into Britpop, which I didn’t give a fuck about. It didn’t 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 could’ve seen that it was possible to have a hit single with something that traditionally wouldn’t fucking get near the top ten. I wish Richey could have been part of that success and seen that you didn’t 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.” There’s no selling out with that lyric. It’s 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 couldn’t 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.

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"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)