Manic Street Preachers On ‘The Holy Bible’: The Truth About The Album Which Almost Ripped Them Apart

This December, the Manic Street Preachers will play their seminal album ‘The Holy Bible’ live in full to celebrate its 20th anniversary. In August of this year, NME spoke to James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire about the LP’s legacy, its power and how it nearly tore them apart. Here, in their own words, is the story of ‘The Holy Bible’.

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Nicky Wire

Nicky Wire

The Manics felt that they had lost their way on 1993’s ‘Gold Against The Soul’: too hollow, too blustery, too rockist. ‘The Holy Bible’ was their attempt to be true to themselves. Nicky Wire: “There was a post-‘Gold Against The Soul’ emptiness and a realisation that we hadn’t got as big as we thought we would have. There was a kind of empty hole hat needed to be filled.”

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James Dean Bradfield

James Dean Bradfield

James Dean Bradfield: “This mission statement appeared: must record in red light district of Cardiff, must forego big name producer, must got home and sleep at parents’ house every night. And that’s what we did! And it did feel great straight away.”

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JDB

JDB

JDB: “I felt alive with something again, whereas before that I was just fearing things – the end of the band, being a fuckwit because my girlfriend had dumped me, the world not even wanting us to play some shit festival. As soon as we stepped in the studio and started doing these songs I felt alive with something I hadn’t felt for about six months.”

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NW

NW

NW: “The making of it was a really good feeling. The four of us were getting on great, Richey had just bought a flat that he was decorating and collaging. i’d just got married and bought a house in the valleys. James was the most feverish I’ve ever seen him work. I don’t think he ever missed anything before three in the morning.”

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NW

NW

The Manics weren’t only under pressure from themselves, either: their relationship with label Columbia was increasingly at threat. NW: “Rob Stringer [Columbia chairman] recently told us that we were quite close to being dropped; he was the one who kept us.”

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JDB

JDB

‘The Holy Bible’ was dark, bleak and irascible. It was also leaps away from the zeitgeist at the time: it was released on the same day as ‘Definitely Maybe’. JDB: “I remember being in a taxi with Richey and we heard ‘Supersonic’ on the radio. We felt a bit bowed by it, in a strange commercial kind of way.”

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NW

NW

NW: “We were in the studio doing ‘Revol’ when we heard [Blur]’s ‘Girls And Boys’. And I thought, ‘Fuck, we’ve just written a song about group sex in the Politburo and really the biggest thing out there from an indie band is about going off on holiday in Ibiza. We couldn’t be fucking further from the musical explosion than we are now!”

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NW

In addition to being the Manics’ masterpiece, ‘The Holy Bible’ is also considered Richey Edwards’ greatest statement. NW: “Something like ‘She Is Suffering’ is purely Richey’s lyric, apart from the title. Most of it I’d never want to take or have taken any credit for it. I’d say it’s 30 per cent me, 70 per cent Richey.”

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NW

NW

NW: “I think they speak their own language, Richey’s lyrics. On ‘The Holy Bible’, in terms of rock music, I think he invented a new lyrical language, which wasn’t easy for James to fucking put music to!”

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NW

NW

Recording ‘The Holy Bible’ was a revitalising experience for the Manics, but afterwards things began to fall apart – particularly on an ill-fated tour of Thailand, shortly before the LP’s release in 1994. NW: “We realised what we’d made and we had to play it every night.”

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NW

NW

NW: “I just felt increasingly fucking awful in myself, let alone the worry of Richey as well. There was something about that whole tour that unleashed a symptom that felt incurable to me. When we’d been making it, it was our fucking private universe. But then unleashing that onto the world… from then on, it just felt like a long summer of calamity. Things starting to fall apart.”

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JDB

JDB: “Suddenly it went from feeling we were an impenetrable division to it just starting to drift away. Richey started doubting everything, absolutely everything.” NW: “The more exaggerated and more tabloid and bigger Britpop got, the more weak and on the edge we started to feel.”

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JDB

JDB

Despite the upheaval and difficult times, ‘The Holy Bible’ is still one of the most powerful British albums of the past 20 years. JDB: “Contrary to popular belief, most people did genuinely fucking love that album. We went to play at the universities and it was these kids who got a first in English Lit. It’s one of the great reader albums.”

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NW

NW

NW: “Sometimes music is diminished or bands’ memories are diminished but there’s something about ‘The Holy Bible’. Those lyrics are kind of in a pre-digital world. The amount of fucking information in them and intellect crammed into them, on a portable typewriter. There’s no technology involved, it’s just pure fucking… knowledge.”

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And now the album will be performed, in full, for the first time ever – although as James told NME, the Manics are still looking forward. “If this was the only thing we were doing this year then it might be a museum piece, but we’ve just released ‘Futurology’ and toured it heavily, so these ‘Holy Bible’ gigs will just bookend all the new stuff we’re doing.”

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