Welsh Wizardry

Back to the 'Everything (A Book About Manic Street Preachers)' review

Everything (A Book About Manic Street Preachers) By Simon Price, Virgin, £14.99

Caroline Sullivan
Tuesday July 13, 1999
The Guardian

The fastest-selling rock book of all time? The smart money would be on one of the Spice Girls cash-ins or Robbie Williams's recent "autobiography", but the answer is this. Since publication six weeks ago, it has sold 10,000 copies in a genre where 3,000 is a hit. The reason, it seems, is that Everything nimbly leaps the two hurdles that fell most rock biogs: commitment and quality. Buying a book demands an uncommon level of commitment to a band, and the Manic Street Preachers are blessed with the most obsessive fanbase in the business. Journalist Simon Price meets the quality criterion by writing with a novelist's sense of pacing and a researcher's thoroughness. Although we already know what's going to happen - four Welsh nobodies form cult band; overcome disappearance of pivotal member to become top popsters - he relates it vividly enough to draw in even those with no particular interest in the group.

He's clearly a little in love with his subjects, singling out guitarist/face Richey Edwards as his main infatuation. "In his absence, Richey has arguably become something of a Christ figure," he contends in one of two essays about him, separate from the main narrative (the other members get one apiece). Hyperbole or not, Price's empathetic prose makes you care about Edwards, who was damaged in a way that was beyond the reach of friends or Priory. His decline (anorexia, alcoholism, the famous 4 Real arm-cutting) and disappearance are treated with the concern of a friend - which is appropriate, as dispassion wouldn't do. The Edwards chapters are the heart of the book, and have the velocity of a thriller as Price inexorably builds not to a conclusion but to a sad question mark.

The book seeks to explain why people relate so passionately; it's because, Price decides, the Manics turned frustration into art. It reads like one of their own songs, No Surface, All Feeling.