Ever since I set this blog up I’ve wanted (but struggled) to write a post on the Manic Street Preachers and I guess more specifically my relationship with them and what they mean to me. This week I’ll be going to London to see the Holy Bible gig at the Camden Roundhouse (thanks Phil) and I’m excited beyond belief and certainly perhaps more than a man of my age should be but that in itself is testament to the band, their longevity and relevance.
When the Mancis burst onto the scene in the early 90’s proclaiming they were going to be bigger than Guns N Roses and Public Enemy many (especially those in the music press, yes Steve Lamacq I’m looking at you) sneered and dismissed them as fake but what I heard was ambition. Ambition was an important attribute in South Wales, not in the naked greed sense displayed by the plastic spray tanned idiots paraded on our TV screens on a daily basis, but in the ‘I don’t want my kids to have to work in the pits type of way’. ‘I want you to get an education and get a good job’. Good jobs were often seen to be teachers, lawyers, ministers and to this day if you walk into any secondary school in England there will be a good chance you will find teachers of Welsh heritage. It was recognised that to escape the manual labour and better yourself then education was important. This had been the case in South Wales right from the early days of industrialisation through the formation of the strong trade unions, miners welfare and institutes that established principles of looking to improve both yourself and your community along lines of equality and social justice. Many left leaning leaders came out of this approach none more so that Nye Bevan, founder of the National Health Service. Libraries did indeed give us power.
When the Manics started releasing incendiary recordings chock full of pride, passion, emotion and intelligence I felt a clear lineage through to the likes of Bevan using the microphone in a different way but still using it for powerful oratory, strong messages and vision. They were light years ahead of any other band at the time and picked up the gladioli dropped by Morrissey and breathed some Welsh fire back into the music scene. It’s impossible in a simple blog post to cover all of the themes, authors, philosophers, cultural and political reference points that make up so much of their music because to do so would require the writing of a book. Suffice to say that for me it is so good to have a band writing songs that actually mean something, have been thought about and that provide a fantastic education in their own right. Having an intelligence in your lyrics however is irrelevant unless you can back them up with brilliant tunes and scorching, visceral live performances which the Manics do in spades. I’ve been lucky enough to see them in all sorts of venues over the years from tiny sweat stained clubs to Glastonbury declaring they should build a car park over the lot of it.
I grew up in Newport in South Wales, and after stumbling through school travelled north each day up the Gwent valleys to go to Crosskeys 6th Form college. This was at a time when my home area was being decimated by the Thatcher government and the miners strike was honing my political education. The year below me at that college were the individuals who would, a few years later, emerge as the Manics and I understood where they’d come from and what they were singing about. Over the last 20 odd years I’ve aged along with them, but also hopefully changed and developed along the way as they have. Whenever I hear them, and particularly when it is live, I am transported back to where I’m from and I experience feelings of pride, passion and emotion that no other band can provoke within me.
The Manic Street Preachers – original, intelligent, controversial, ambitious, exciting – simply one of Britain’s greatest ever bands.