Manic Street Preachers: ‘A Design For Life saved us’

The Manic Street Preachers found themselves at a traumatic crossroads in 1995.

Anarchic lyricist Richey Edwards, who along with bass player Nicky Wire had been the chief songwriter behind their most recent and most iconoclastic album, 1994’s The Holy Bible, was suddenly missing.

The post-punk rockers had previously played without Edwards at a festival when he had checked into The Priory due to problems with alcoholism and self-harming (he once carved the words “4 Real” into his arm with a knife for the benefit of NME journalist Steve Lamacq).

But the prospect of going on without him while an investigation into his disappearance was ongoing was another matter entirely.

Then, about six months after Edwards went missing, a new song changed all that.

“A Design For Life saved us,” recalls frontman and guitarist James Dean Bradfield.

“We were like, ‘Well, we don’t know if Richey would even want to be part of this band any more, but we think he may have liked this song’. And that made us go forward.”

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Edwards was never found, but after many false trails and rumoured sightings he was legally declared dead in 2008, a fact some still question. For years, the Manics continued to pay royalties to his estate, and left an empty microphone on stage in the hope that their backing vocalist and childhood friend would return.

Meanwhile, A Design For Life, an anthemic string-laden dissection of working class life in the UK, raised his band up from cult heroes to part of the mainstream Britpop landscape. While supporting Oasis at the era’s defining concert at Knebworth in 1996, the Manics closed their set with the track, which appeared alongside five contributions from Edwards on their Brit Award-winning fourth album Everything Must Go
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We were just coming out of our own trauma at that point,” Bradfield continues. “Design for Life was proving to be something that kept us going as a band, that validated us, that took us past the procedure of not knowing whether we could be in the Manics any more.

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“It kind of solved a lot of really awkward emotional riddles for us. We were on our way to something, reaffirming ourselves and and staving off having to think about really serious, damaging things with regards to Richey and his

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