Manic Street Preachers - James Dean Bradfield

James Dean Bradfield

Last updated: 03 December 2008

Born: 21 February 1969
Roles: vocals, guitar

He might describe himself as "a little short Welsh Smurf onstage trying to play guitar," but as the smouldering, guitar-wielding insurrectionary at the vanguard of the Manic Street Preachers' invective-spewing assault, James Dean Bradfield has been a heart throb to many and a hero to more.

I hate the word 'passionate', just because it sounds like you're trying too hard. Passion is something that you force out of yourself, and I've never forced anything out of myself. I've always spewed it out.

James Dean Bradfield

James was born in Newport, Gwent, the only child of Monty and Sue Bradfield. His father, a carpenter and trade unionist, wanted to name him Clint Eastwood Bradfield - a plan his mother successfully vetoed, with the rather dashing James Dean proving a happy compromise.

Before long, the family moved to a terraced house in Pontllanfraith, where James shared a bunk-bed with his older cousin, Sean Moore. James had the top bunk, Sean the bottom.

Although a self-confessed introvert into the writings of Jack Kerouac, Sartre, and Emily Dickinson, the teenage Bradfield discovered his hormones had different ideas. "I used to feel confrontational when I was young," explains Bradfield. "It's like a defence mechanism."

He began by venting his aggressions on the football pitch, but it was the sound of The Clash, Guns N' Roses and Public Enemy that really fired his imagination. He taught himself to play guitar by thrashing along to the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street.

James lacked the waifish androgynous appeal that made Richey and Nicky band pin-ups - "I haven't got the bone structure," he shrugs - but his puppydog eyes and rugged blue-collar looks ensured he won over more than a few female fans that like a bit of meat on the bones.

It stands to reason, then, that Bradfield should also be one of the lads. While Nicky and Sean are now dedicated homebodies, for a long time Bradfield remained a dedicated ligger, and relishing the late nights and bar-crawling that inevitably go hand in hand with the touring lifestyle.

"It actually worries me that I still like being in a really blokey environment," he said. "I always get bored of the company of women really quickly." Despite this, however, he announced his engagement to Mylene Halsall at the beginning of 2004, and they married in Florence in July the same year.

The key musical force behind the Manics, it's traditional for Bradfield to write instrumental pieces which he'll then thrash out with Sean in the studio, with Nicky writing lyrics independently from the song's construction.

However, later Manics albums saw James venture into the world of lyric writing, most notably on Ocean Spray - a song that drew on tragic personal experience, dealing as it did with his mother's seven-year battle with cancer.

By the time of the tour for Everything Must Go, no show was complete without James' short acoustic interlude. His cover of Wham's Last Christmas and a rendition of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, recorded for the War Child album, suggested that the old insurrectionist had mellowed into quite a different beast.

A keen collaborator, James has worked with a number of artists outside the band, most notably Kylie Minogue, for whom he wrote Some Kind Of Bliss and I Don't Need Anyone, two tracks that appeared on her eponymous 1997 album.

He's also contributed vocals to an 808 State track, Lopez, remixed Massive Attack's Inertia Creeps, produced tracks for Mancunian scally outfit Northern Uproar, and sung a duet with Tom Jones for the veteran bellower's 1999 duets project Reload.

In July 2006, with the Manics on a two-year hiatus, James released his first solo material. The single That's No Way To Tell A Lie was the first to emerge, followed by his debut album The Great Western.


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