Sunday, October 3, 2010


A diversion from my usual stuff... 1989 was the year I did my last music fanzine - I did 8 or 9 issues between 1984 and 1989 - most were called Adventure In Bereznik, but the last few had other names, but always with Bereznik in the title. But this isn't really about that so much as it is about a band I haven't thought much about in the last 20 years, but millions of other people have - Manic Street Preachers.

The main source of info on the band's early years seems to be an article in Record Collector, the end of which focuses on the roles of Kevin Pearce and Bob Stanley in getting them their first London gig, and then reviewing it. I was friends with Kevin and Bob, and Kevin had told me about this amazing band who would blow me away, so when they played with the Claim (an excellent but obscure band, one of Kevin's faves) I was there. As the '80s drew to a close, good bands were thin on the ground. 'Independent' music was going corporate and embracing pre-punk 70s rock, which we seriously disapproved of at the time, and of course Kevin always had great taste. Of course there was never a 'fanzine mafia' at all, but this kind of lazy journalistic hindsight would probably have included us.

I was introduced to the band, and probably gave them fanzines. The setting was inauspicious, but typical of the kinds of gigs I had been going to several times a month for years. The lack of a stage wasn't unusual, nor was the damp patch in the corner. I don't remember much else, except that they looked really young and were very nervous; but like a small controlled explosion, they lit up the drab upstairs room of a central London pub for an instant. The set flew by. I remember we laughed (as Bob mentions in the RC article), but it was more like a nervous laugh - they didn't make sense - how could they be so serious, look so silly, but be so amazing?! I didn't talk to them much but they had a friend, like a sort of older brother figure, who wasn't quite their manager, but had something like that role, which included talking to people and being friendly. I think he probably drove the van too, and he gave me a copy of Suicide Alley from it after the next gig in Shepherds Bush soon after. I really don't remember, but for some reason the name Martin came to me as I was writing this.

Anyway, the Record Collector piece also mentions Richey's campaign of writing to fanzine editors to promote the band. So Richey wrote to me too, enclosing a photo. I don't think I have the letter anymore, and I I didn't write back, but I was looking for photos of a band I was in in the '90s when I found the photo. All this time had passed without realising I was in it.

I'm not 100% sure the photo is at the Horse and Groom, it might be from the Shepherd's Bush gig, but it's London, 1989, they are wearing the right stencilled shirts, and they are the support band. I'm there (at the front, in the white t-shirt in front of Richey), as is Kevin. I'm not sure if can recognise Bob from the back of his head, but I think I can see him too. I kind of wish I could say I've been a fan ever since, but I haven't - in my world this was their peak, and I lost interest pretty quickly, but it was a good night.