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Manics Street Preachers' Generation Terrorists and me

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 15:15 UK time, Thursday, 9 February 2012

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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  • Comment number 1.

    So, did you ever grow to love the Manics?
    I hadn't even heard of them before "Everything Must Go." That meant I was able to experience them on a musical level, not on image or hype.
    And while not every album has been brilliant, they've always been worth the listen...

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't get the whole Manics mania full-stop. (speaking as someone who was born and raised 2 miles from Blackwood) first I heard of the band was when that Richie guy was on the news cos he went missing. Passed me by completely.. but then, most NME Indie stuff did too (much prefering German Techno and Belgian Industrial at the time).

    I've since heard the album.. not bad, but you kind-of get the impression that had their guitarist not vanished, they would be in much the same place bands like Marion are today. Who? Yeah.

  • Comment number 3.

    lkmi - not really (with regards to loving them.) Holy Bible came along at a dark period in my life and was just too difficult to listen to. A mark of its brilliance, obviously.

    I believe them to be excellent human beings. They do a lot - quietly - to support fellow Welsh artists. There are no airs and graces about them. I admire and respect them totally. Their reaction to the loss of their best friend has always been dignified. I saw them play one of their first Richie-less gigs at Reading and the emotional undercurrent to the set was one of the most moving things I have ever witnessed from a stage.

    But their music doesn't have the grace I seek, for the most part. I have enjoyed them more as the years have passed but they would rarely get played in my house. I'm not trying to be deliberately provocative or iconoclastic. I can see that they deserve the respect they've earnt - and their position in Welsh culture, as it were - it's just not really to my tastes.

    iggy23 - I think the Manics would have had an enduring career regardless of Richey's disappearance. I agree regarding Generation Terrorists, but I think Everything Must Go would have reached a bigger audience regardless of tragedies within the band. The songwriting was too good to be ignored. Not being all that moved by it isn't quite the same thing.

  • Comment number 4.

    Yeah, the songwriting.. I bet Cohen and Cave were quaking in their winklepickers. I mean .. "you love! You love us!".. that's quality songwriting.. up there with 2Unlimited..

    (Look, I'm not anti-Manics, but this whole anniversary is blown WAY out of proportion. The album is only a landmark in the minds of those who liked it. In the same way Barry Manilow's album is a landmark in the minds of those who liked that. Stop pretending the WHOLE of Wales loves the Manics, patently not the case. Are you going to give equal coverage to Catatonia's first album? Stereophonics? Cowboy Killers? Young Gods? The Alarm? Demented Are go? etc)

  • Comment number 5.

    iggy - anyone can take a single line from a song and hold it up as an example of trite lyrics. Adam was clearly referring to their songwriting over their career, not just on this album. You may think that Cohen and Cave wrote better lyrics than the Manics did on even The Holy Bible, but to pretend that "you love, you love us" even comes close to summing up their songwriting is completely disingenuous.

  • Comment number 6.

    Lyrics from the same album Iggy -
    Little baby nothing
    Loveless slavery, lips kissing empty
    Dress your life in loathing
    Breaking your mind with Barbie Doll futility - one of 50 or more examples

    That's just one lyric - so your comparisons to 2unlimited shows how limited your thought process was when writing that comment.

    Each to their own with music - but in my opinion the Manics are one of the most important British bands especially when you consider what else came out then.

  • Comment number 7.

    Late back to this: it would be handy if the BBC blogs had an email notification feature of any replies / follow ups on the blogs...

    Iggy23: I was referring to Everything Must Go, not Generation Terrorists. And anyway, You Love Us is deliberate, ironic sloganeering. I liked that about the Manics - the way they bastardised pop culture / advertising / situationism - I tended to like that more than the music, though.

    None of the other artists you mention went on to have the longevity of the Manics. That's why the anniversary is worth celebrating / discussing. Personally I'll get far more excited when a notable anniversary for Fuzzy Logic comes up because that album spoke to me more. And Super Furry Animals are the only other band that comes close to the Manics in terms of cultural value and endurance.

    Not that it's a race or, indeed, a competition.


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