YOU ARE PURE, YOU ARE SNOW (EVERLASTING LONELINESS)
Ten years ago today, Richey Edwards stepped out of our lives and never looked back.
As the rhythm guitarist and one of the lyricists for the Manic Street Preachers, Edwards--who originally went by the name Richey James--had come to mean quite a bit to a lot of people. While the band's success was primarily in Europe and Asia, there were some of us in America who gravitated towards the Manics because they resembled something more akin to the complexity of emotion we were feeling. It was the early '90s, and while Kurt Cobain's constipated gibberish began to touch on the alienation that many were feeling, it was too stuck within itself, too garbled, to mean everything.
And meaning everything is important.
The Manics were different. Richey and his fellow lyricist Nicky Wire had the same kind of disaffection, introspection, and anxiety as Cobain, but they also had an anger at a world that said they could not bend it to their will. Unable to accept that, they started to apply as much weight as they could, to see how much they could push the boundaries. They lashed without as much as they lashed within.
Richey's disappearance had strange reverberations for me. There was always something in me that believed I could do this, too. In high school, I wrote a story about myself as an old man, living alone in a big house and denying all access. In college, I laid out my plans for my first three novels, the third of which stars a man whose words eased a lot of pain, but who checked out from life because he could not cope with his own. I even started the long road of my soon-to-be-published novella, about another character who can't cope in normal society, with humanity trying to tear itself apart. I conceived of all of these things before I had ever heard one note of the Manic Street Preachers. Part of it was inspired by Sherwood Anderson, who didn't disappear, but who walked out on a straight life to become a writer. The core of it is simply something I had in me, that I wanted to say. Reading about Richey's disappearance, it was like it had come true.
I pulled out my Forever Delayed DVD, along with the early albums, in honor of Richey today, and I was struck all over again by just how brave and outrageous this band was. I'll be honest, I didn't really get it all at the time. They were absolutely strange, embracing rock 'n' roll in a way that was noticeably passé while being markedly futurist. They had big riffs like Guns 'n' Roses, yet they dressed like extras from Bowie's "Boys Keep Swinging." They were macho and feminine, given to grand slogans and Dadaist gestures, making a glam racket while reveling in absolute trash. Their first major single was called "Motown Junk," and started with a sample of Public Enemy chanting "Revolution! Revolution!" over and over. A white rock band from Wales! Their second single was called "You Love Us." Who could say they didn't?
It's amazing how angelic Richey could look. In the video for "Slash 'n' Burn," he is perfection in mascara, baby-faced and alluring. He was as in-your-face as a rock star could get, famously carving words into his skin with a knife, but there was something equally torn up behind it, like the bloody gashes were just a disguise, a distraction to keep us from seeing what else was going on, like he could cover up what his words had laid bare. Depression, alcohol, self-mutilation, anorexia: he was broken, and somehow he was broken on our behalf.
No one knows what happened to him. He could be dead, he could be hiding somewhere, the mystery may never be solved. Or it has been, and those who solved it aren't telling. Any of those solutions--as sad as they may be--are fine. He left us with his art, and he hopefully has achieved peace.
Current Soundtrack: Manic Street Preachers, Forever Delayed DVD remix section
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich