20 years ago today (May 20), one of the most impassioned bands of their generation released one of their greatest albums.
The Manic Street Preachers‘ Everything Must Go is notable for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it’s jam packed with great songs. But secondly, it’s the first album the band released after the disappearance of founding member Richey Edwards.
It was a turn of events that obviously had a profound influence over their direction, and one that lends an almost eerie context to the music, even 20 years on.
As we celebrate the album, here are 20 things about Everything Must Go that you (probably) didn’t know:
1. ‘A Design For Life’ brought the magic back to the band
In February 1995, the Manics’ Richey Edwards went missing. This was obviously a great shock for the band, who were having to entertain the very real thought that they might never see Edwards again (while ‘legally dead’ since 2009, Edwards’ body was never found and various unconfirmed sightings have been reported since).
Artistically they were at a roadblock for five months, until Nicky Wire sent through lyric ideas to James Dean Bradfield and ‘A Design For Life’ was born, the first song written since Edwards’ disappearance.
2. The music was written in ‘about 10 minutes’
Once Bradfield had fused Wire’s two sets of lyrics – ‘Design for Life’ and ‘Pure Motive’ – he wrote the music “in about ten minutes” and is said to have felt a sense of euphoria with the result.
3. It kicked off an interesting run for the band
The track began a run of 11 years where all of the band’s singles charted within the Top 20 in the UK.
Single ‘Indian Summer’ from their eighth studio album Send Away the Tigers was the first since ’96 to just miss out, only reaching number 22.
4. ‘Kevin Carter’ is inspired by a photographer of the same name
Photojournalist Kevin Carter was the first to capture a public execution by ‘necklacing’ in South Africa in the mid-1980s.
He said: “The question that still haunts me is ‘would those people have been necklaced, if there was no media coverage?'”
He was troubled by his professional responsibilities vs. moral considerations, and committed suicide in Johannesburg at the age of 33.
5. Drummer Sean Moore plays trumpet on the track
He is a classically trained musician – and was the youngest trumpeter with the South Wales Jazz orchestra.
6. ‘Everything Must Go’ is a plea for forgiveness from the fans
Ushering in a new era for the band after the disappearance of Richey Edwards, Wire’s lyrics ask fans to forgive them for changing (“and I just hope that you can forgive us, but everything must go”).
7. ‘No Surface All Feeling’ is allegedly the second Manics track to feature Richey Edwards on guitar
James Dean Bradfield usually played the rhythm guitar parts on Manics tracks, but Edwards is rumoured to have contributed on this song that was recorded before his disappearance.
If true, it would be only the second time that Edwards’ guitar-work was present on a Manic Street Preachers recorded track, the other instance being ‘La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)’ on Gold Against the Soul.
8. A Chemical Brothers remix lent the track video game fame
The Chemical Brothers’ remix of the song appeared in the intro movie to Gran Turismo on the original PlayStation.
9. ‘Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky’ is about zoo animals
Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that with the Manics: the song empathises with a zoo animal’s state of mind while in captivity.
The troubled Edwards wrote the lyrics about “getting born in zoos and just going mad with boredom”, said Nicky Wire.
10. Wire’s writers block had an effect on the B-sides
The B-sides to the fourth single to be taken from the album (‘Australia’) are all covers, a fact attributed to Wire’s writers block as he settled down to focus on the next album.
Primal Scream, Camper Van Beethoven and Frank Valli covers feature on the CD, as Everything Must Go was the first album Wire had written without the help of Edwards.
11. ‘Australia’ has cropped up in some unusual places
Most notably in an advert for the Australian Tourist Board, but the song was also the theme tune to the Nickelodeon UK sitcom Renford Rejects.
12. It was originally named after a Jackson Pollock painting
[Credit: Flickr // Matthew Mendoza]
The working title of the album was Sounds in the Grass, named after a series of paintings by the abstract artist.
13. But Nicky Wire’s brother provided the final title
The final album title comes from a play by Patrick Jones, Nicky Wire’s brother.
14. The band consider it their best album
In the sleeves notes of the 10th anniversary re-released edition, the band claims they are still fond of the record, with Nicky Wire going so far as to add:
“I think it’s our best record, I am not afraid to say that.”
15. Producer Mike Hedges had a bizarre greeting ritual
Speaking to The Guardian on the making of the album, James Dean Bradfield said:
“Mike was at the bottom of the driveway when I arrived, this 6ft 5in bald man with a ginger beard. His hand was on fire. He said: ‘I always do this to say hello to bands – dip my hand in calvados.'”
16. It was more intelligent than your average Britpop album
The record was unfairly lumped in with Britpop, as the sub-genre was the height of the musical zeitgeist at the time.
But it dealt in much more intelligent subjects than Oasis et al:
“‘Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier’ talks about the acceleration of globalised thinking. ‘Interiors’ is about [artist] Willem de Kooning managing to keep painting while he has Alzheimer’s. ‘Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky’ says we’re closer to the barbarity of the animal world than we realise,” said Bradfield.
17. But there are less high-brow intentions
James Dean Bradfield told The Guardian:
“When Nick gave the ‘Australia’ lyrics to me, I just wanted to make a shiny escapist song – a song you could play as background to Goal of the Month.”
18. Nicky Wire wanted the album to be anti-Britpop
“There was undoubtedly some anger at how the working classes were being portrayed in Britpop. Post-Parklife, it had become a cockney jamboree of greyhound racing. I couldn’t relate to it,” the bassist told The Guardian.
19. It won the band two BRIT Awards
You wouldn’t normally associate the Manics with the BRITS in this day and age, but back in 1996 they won two awards for Best British Band and Best Album off the back of Everything Must Go‘s success.
20. And Nicky Wire wore a brilliant T-shirt to accept the prizes
Continuing his anti-Britpop campaign, Wire wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “I love hoovering”.