Manic Street Preachers' Generation Terrorists: Sally Margaret Joy

Wednesday 8 February 2012, 10:00

James McLaren James McLaren

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In 1992 Sally Margaret Joy interviewed Manic Street Preachers for Melody Maker. We talked to her about how the group of young, politicised Welsh nascent rock stars seemed to her as they released their début album, Generation Terrorists.

Sally Margaret Joy, aka Sally Still, in Furniture

Sally Margaret Joy, aka Sally Still, in Furniture

When did you first come across the Manics?

"When I first encountered the band I wasn't a journalist but was in a band called Furniture, on the road, promoting our single Brilliant Mind. Riffling through the press I came across their photos: black spiky hair, smudged eyeliner and attitudinous sneers. Fearfully, I noted they were prettier than our band, and two of us were girls!"

Did any of their qualities or personality traits strike you in particular?

They were un-intimidated by the media. They sported with it it like toreadors. They were irreverent, witty, and traded Nietzsche - the Welsh accents helped endear them, put them within reach. Yes, they shone a little brighter than others. In that sense, they were intimidating.

"But then when I interviewed them in 1992, I realised they had that quality so many apparently rebellious, revolution spouting artists have, which was they could get you to do whatever they wanted by just smiling at you in an amused, conspiratorial way. They had an incongruity about them.

"They were recording their first album in this grand castle - or was it a manor house? - and living like rock stars, yet insisted we do the interview in a bedroom where, plumped down on these little single beds adorned with children's duvet covers (pale blue with little red aeroplanes?), and me sat uncomfortably on a chair, we talked. Burrowing into their duvets, they seemed to me like vulnerable young men, unsure where it was all heading. Or maybe they were just knackered. Who knows?"

How did they differ from other bands of the time? Was there any sense that this band and album were going to be important?

"You know on X Factor when contestants go, 'I really want this!'? Well, the Manics were nothing like X Factor contestants but it was clear that unlike most of the shoegaze-y, depresso type bands of the time, the Manics actually wanted success. We were still in a post-punk, 'kill your idols', morose, grey knitted cardie-infested era of authenticity.

"It felt like they had studied success, its geography, its pitfalls, and were ready to get out there. Perhaps one of their built-in story lines was that success might not turn out to be what it seemed, that under the eyeliner and cool stares, they were a little naïve? That's not a bad thing. If you aren't naïve, you won't try anything."

They were always criticising other bands who were Melody Maker cover stars, like The Levellers, Slowdive, Ned's Atomic Dustbin and so on; was this manna from heaven for music journalists at the time?

"They were very funny criticising other bands for being boring! I think the Manics escaped having a sell by date because they remained peripheral to any scene. They emphasised their differences by slagging other bands off. But they were never mean."

How much was their Welshness a topic for remark?

"As a half Filipino woman in the music press at the time, I was very aware that the music press had its share of racists, sexists and bores. Yes, some of them felt compelled to go into a cod Welsh accent when talking about the Manics. But I don't remember people remarking on the Manics' Welshness very much, because, being primarily a musician, I didn't hang around with music journalists."

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