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Better By Design

Stuart Bailie | 10:01 UK time, Thursday, 6 September 2012

There are many things to admire about the Paralympics, but I get some extra sentiment from the use of 'Design For Life' as a TV theme. It's the Manic Street Preachers tune from 1996, a song about the Welfare State, about class prejudice and the crushing effects of economic policy. I love the strings, the grandeur and the swelling belief of James Dean Bradfield. But most of all, it's the context of the song that chokes me.

It was the band's first release after the disappearance of Richey, their in-house lyric writer, ideas factory and provocateur. Working alongside Nicky Wire, he delivered the fearsome themes to 'The Holy Bible' and was subsequently taken to The Priory for treatment after a history of self-harming and unstable behavior. There was a hope that he was recovering, but he disappeared in February 1995. By now, we should suppose that he jumped off the Severn Bridge, but when 'Design For Life' came out there was still uncertainty for the band and understandably, much trauma.

That's why their comeback record was so moving. There was no self-pity. The opening line, "libraries gave us power' was a lift from a sign at Pilgwenlly Library in Newport. There was a reference to the concentration camps in the lyric, "work came and set us free" - a slogan that decorated the entrance to Auschwitz and other such places. What an image. Such a pop song.

Of course, the Nazis were fond of the eugenics philosophy, aimed at eliminating the "undesired" people in society. And if Hitler had prevailed, there certainly would not be a Paralympics. Every person at that event who crosses a finishing line, hits a target and makes a heroic leap is a rebuttal to that idea. Which is something to sing about.

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