Manics Street Preachers' Generation Terrorists and me

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I was 20 and living a dissolute student life in Liverpool when Manic Street Preachers' Generation Terrorists came out 20 years ago.

My housemate - a bath-phobic fellow North Walean - and I queued outside HMV in Liverpool that morning, eager for it to open. No one else was queuing. Despite the band coming from a whole other cultural universe from my hometown of Mold, I remember being excited that a Welsh band had managed to create such a kerfuffle. As someone in a Welsh band, it felt like a battlement (of ignorance and petty prejudice) had been breached. Maybe there would be fewer 'Cwm Dancing' jokes from now on.

(There weren't, really.)

So we got the number 80 bus back to our freezing house on Ullet Rd, poring over the quotes on the gatefold sleeve all the way home: Plath, Rimbaud, Camus, Nietzsche... they were appealingly intellectual to a literature student with his head up a hundred different backsides.

We moved enough roach-encrusted plates and empty Thunderbird bottles to find the record player and stuck side one on; put a hooky 50p in the meter and sat back for a fag and a listen.

I remember being excited. Despite my flared trousers and floppy fringe, there was something titillating and rather thrilling about the Manics. They were different. They had an androgynous glamour that reminded me of Bowie. They said more interesting things in interviews than all of their peers sub-edited together.

But I didn't have that Valleys rock background or indoctrination. If you sounded - and looked a bit like - Mötley Crüe or Guns N' Roses, you were already a bit rubbish, to my heinously prejudiced ears.

I wanted more Public Enemy, less Tigertailz.

So, ultimately, it was a disappointment. I played Motorcycle Emptiness a few dozen times and that was it. It's the only track on the vinyl that exhibits any wear. But despite being nonplussed musically, there's no doubt that it changed expectations within Welsh bands. The Manics galvanised everyone. They were the punkest band Wales ever produced, because even - maybe, especially - the bands who couldn't stand them were inspired to give it a go.

So the Situationist message rang true. A phenomenally important Welsh album. Just not a very good one.

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