Dearly loved by an army of feather boa wearing, eyelinered fans, and an idol to many, Richey James Edwards was the lyric writer and unplugged guitarist with Welsh slogan wearing punk band The Manic Street Preachers. I count myself amongst his fans : I look up to him in so many ways : his song writing, his stage presence, his poetry, his artwork, his honesty, his intelligence , loads of stuff.
In 1995 he walked out of his hotel in a London room and was never seen again. The next day his car was found near the Severn Bridge, where many people take their own lives. Behind the glitz and glamour, he was depressed and unhappy, as you can tell from his lyrics about tortured souls, depression, self harm and suicide.
He speaks for the generation that feel misguided or depressed. On the other hand there are some critics who feel that people look up to him because he self-harms and they therefore they think it's glamorous. He has become a mouthpiece for anyone who feels alienated and alone in our mad, bad world - but he has also been accused of encouraging kids to become depressed and of glorifying self-harm. As Richard Rose, editor of R*E*P*E*A*T, a Manic Street Preachers inspired fanzine, explains:
"Do people love Richey because there, finally, is someone who is glamorous and famous and widely admired who can express intelligently how they've been secretly feeling for years? Or do people feel that self harm and depression are glamorous because Richey is so open about his feelings, and therefore get involved with these destructive emotions?"
Richey grew up in Blackwood, South Wales where he attended Oakdale Comprehensive. Up until the age of fourteen Richey was a perfectly normal boy, he even writes about how happy his childhood was just playing football in the fields. However when he was fourteen his life changed dramatically, he became fascinated by the darker side of life. He blamed this partly on the pressures of growing up and particularly of secondary school "Comprehensive school was the most depressing time they either right you off or fit you in". All the time he took refuge in the music and books that he loved, and with being with his dog. Just before he vanished, this dog Snoopy died; in his last interview he confessed to the journalist: " I loved my dog so much, he's just died, that's why I shaved my head."
He went on to attend the University Of Wales, Swansea. He graduated with a good degree in political history, but typically this degree was not good enough for him - he wanted to get a first. He was open in his disgust at fellow students who were just at college to have a good time - "I thought university would be full of people who wanted to sit around and talk about books, but it wasn't like that at all. It was full of people who wanted to sit around and do as little as possible other than have as much fun as they could. I never equated university with fun, I thought it was about reading and learning." He rarely socialised or went to parties, just being eager to learn more and to improve his mind and his lyric writing - "Libraries give us power" as the Manics were later to sing. Throughout his life he suffered bouts of depression and he was always open about it in interviews and in the ways he tried to escape it: "If you're hopelessly depressed like I was, then dressing up is just the ultimate escape. When I was young I just wanted to be noticed. Nothing could excite me except attention so I'd dress up as much as I could. Outrage and boredom just go hand in hand."
Richey's Role in the band
Never being the most musical member of the Manic Street Preachers, Richey was originally involved in just the artwork and propaganda side of the band, and he was their driver. At that time Nicky Wire played rhythm guitar and a friend called Flicker played bass. However, Flicker was sacked for refusing to get more than 2 strings on his instrument, Nicky was moved onto bass and Richey became rhythm guitarist. His playing was never high in the mix, sometimes he was even unplugged at gigs and lead guitarist James played all his parts on the records, but Richey's musical contribution was never the important part of his role in the band. It was his lyrics, his artwork and his articulate opinions that made him an essential band member - his antics on stage were also an essential part of the early live Manics experience.
Perhaps if Richey had remained a non performing band member things would have been very different. By 1993 it was obvious that the strain of being in a touring band and demands from obsessive fans were messing him up; however he always said that whatever job he was doing, he'd have felt the same way. The Holy Bible album, released in 1994, is a classic hard hitting explanation of what it is to feel depressed - most of the lyrics are by Richey, and much of it is so dark, bleak and honest that it can be hard to listen to.
Richey disappeared on February 1st 1995, the day before he and James Dean Bradfield were due to leave for America to promote the record. His car was found abandoned at the Severn service station. The last few months before he vanished, along with the pressures of being in the band, he suffered the deaths of several people close to him; Philip Hall, the Manic's manager who at his own expense dragged the band from obscurity in Blackwood to stardom, a close friend from university, then finally, as I mentioned, his dog Snoopy. Richey shaved his head before his disappearance. Richey had been staying in a London hotel with James before their visit to America, he checked out but visited his apartment in Cardiff first leaving his passport, credit cards, his favourite films "Apocalypse Now" and 'Equus' and a mysterious still unexplained letter out on the table. Some people say "The Holy Bible" can be seen as Richey's suicide note; I don't think that at all - I believe Richey is alive, and so do many more
That's what Nicky Wire thinks, and he was Richey's best friend, someone
he'd grown up with and knew him inside out. Wire told a magazine "I've
known Richey a long time and he would have probably planned this, he
could be in Tibet for all we know." Just a few months before his
disappearance, Richey himself told an interviewer "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."
The Scoffers and the understanders
Richey was loved by many, worshipped by many, an idol to many. He was such a great lyric writer, he was so articulate at expressing his feelings. He was full of slogans and quotes. He has been an inspiration to many bands that have come along since The Manics; Pete Doherty wrote a letter to the NME about him before The Libertines went big, bands such as My Chemical Romance, Kinesis, The Horrors, Towers of London, Johnny Panic and Green Day all owe a debt to him in terms of lyrics, attitude or performance, and indeed the whole emo movement sometimes comes across as a watered down Richey tribute! Many bands on R*E*P*E*A*T Records are more honest about the debt they owe him, Miss Black America and The Virgin Suicides being just two, and hosts of fanzines have been inspired to write, draw, collage or paint by the work of Richey and his band mates.
He is a great idol to me and I was outraged when last year in NME music paper rag, I found a review of James Dean Bradfield's solo album, in which it said something about Richey lying at the bottom of the river Severn! How do they know that, who do they think they are? Just some part time journalist after some easy publicity.
Then I found a song the lyrics to a song called "Richey Is Dead"; here's the lyrics so you can all see what a twats this band are :
Richey Is Dead
Again, this brainless rubbish earned the band their 15 minutes of fame, but who can now remember the name of the band that wrote it? And how many thousands of people still remember Richey?!
I don't believe he is dead and never will until I have proof. He is one of my biggest idols and always will be. If people want to spread stuff about him then fine there just making idiots out of themselves because it will not change my view on him. He is my idol along with many others.
This rant was written by Ash B Ramone of R*E*P*E*A*T, a Manic Street Preachers inspired fanzine.
I have used the following sites for information:
These are the people I have quoted
I got the pictures off :
I got the song lyrics from:
Although www.richeyedwards.net is not a Richey tribute
site it is still very
'I have a very child-like rage and a very child-like
"...we thought whatever he's done, he wants to do. If he's happy, good luck to him." - Nicky Wire