I am a rarity. I am an American Manic Street Preachers fan. And I've been a fan since before Richey left. Here's how I became a fan while living in the land of "Manic what?" and how I connected with Richey.
All my life, I have been an Anglophile and a lover of British pop/rock music. I blame the Beatles. I discovered them when I was not quite 4 years old. I think I decided that any country that could produce something as wonderful as them, had to be a pretty great place. (Over the years, I've become about as anti-American as the Manics have proclaimed themselves to be.) And, any artist or group I've ever really liked, has been British, or British-influenced. So, starting in the late 1980's, I've bought the British music papers and magazines, if I can find them. Often, I have a hard time.
I think the first time I ever heard, or read, of Richey or Manic Street Preachers, was when I saw the now famous picture of Richey and his "4 REAL" cutting, in the year-end issue of Select in December 1991. I seem to remember thinking it was a horrible sight. But I wasn't too interested in finding out who the band were. This was my gothic phase - I was seriously into The Sisters of Mercy in 1991/1992.
Between then and 1994, I saw Manic Street Preachers mentioned in various publications, but I didn't pay too much attention to them. In my part of America, I had no chance to hear their music. The local radio stations never played them. And America's version of MTV never played their videos (at least, not that I ever I saw.)
1994: a year of horror for Richey and Manic Street Preachers - and for me. In February and March, my then-boyfriend lied to me, cheated on me, tried to kill me, and blamed me for his violence. I suffered a breakdown. I spent most of April in hospital, (a better experience for me than Whitchurch was for Richey, apparently.) I didn't eat much, and I lost a lot of weight that spring/summer. On 3 June, I attempted suicide. I wanted to slash my wrists. I took a few practice cuts, (I'd never done anything to myself before this), but I got scared when I saw the blood. By September, I was convinced I was going to kill myself before the end of the year. In October, I started occasionally cutting my arms. (No, I don't do it any more.) This wasn't only about the ex-boyfriend; that had just been the latest in a long line of failings throughout my life. Also, I had had two previous depressive episodes - life has been unfaithful.
In December, (it must have been sometime between the 19th and the 23nd - I have a strong feeling it was the 21st or 22nd), I bought the year-end issues of the NME, Select, and VOX. And I discovered Richey. I finally read about his breakdown the previous summer. (People with stories of suffering were especially appealing to me right then. But I wasn't buying/reading much that year. I could barely leave my house. Or my bed. Although, I did manage to buy Select throughout most of the year, which reported Richey's problems in the autumn. I just hadn't read my copies.) I was so happy to find someone who had gone through the same things - hospital, eating little, self-harm - and at about the same time as I had! I finally heard the Manics on the best-albums-of-the-year cassette tape called "Class Of 94" that came with VOX, (pictured above) - the song was "Archives of Pain". I desperately wanted to learn, and hear, more. Especially since no other musical artist at the time spoke to me. I related to Richey's story so much!
January 1995 found me more surprised than anyone that I was still alive. On 13 January, I bought a slightly old copy of Melody Maker with a long interview with Richey. This was Simon Price's last interview with him, done during the Manics' shows in Paris, shortly after Richey left the Priory. I couldn't understand everything in the interview; I didn't know all the background of Richey's story yet. But I was really intrigued about him after reading the article.
Sometime in the following two weeks, I found tapes of Generation Terrorists and Gold Against the Soul. I played GATS first, and loved it. I really didn't want to remove it from my player! But I forced myself to play GT, and found that I loved that too! (Eventually, I bought the UK versions of both albums on CDs. I had learned of the horrible job Sony had done with the American release of GT, and I was wearing out my tape of GATS at "Roses in the Hospital".)
I hate to admit it, but I didn't find out about Richey's disappearance until 18 March, six weeks after it happened. I still wasn't up to regularly buying the British music press. As before, I finally found an old copy of something, (I think it was the NME), which filled me in on the news.
I had a variety of feelings when I learned Richey was gone. I wanted to know more about what happened (the first article I read really didn't say much, it was one of the earliest reports.) I felt stupid for not finding out sooner. I felt so far away from the UK, more than just an ocean away. Of course, I also felt worry, anxiety - what you'd expect. But there was also anger. Anger that he left so soon - I had just discovered and connected with him, and now he was gone, perhaps forever! (This fit in well with my view of my own life - I find something good, and I'm not allowed to keep it.) And lastly, Richey's disappearance made me regret not finding out about him and the Manics sooner, like back in 1991, when I first saw his picture in Select. I felt like I had wasted so much time!
Since then, I've had to both catch up with the pre-disappearance Manics, and keep up with the post-Richey Manics. I finally own all of the songs, (in one form or another), and I have videotapes of most of their important TV appearances, shows, and promo videos. I've seen the band live several times. I've read most of the articles in the music press and the newspapers, and almost all of the biographies. I've also visited most of the Manic-related sites in London and South Wales. One thing I haven't done though, is bother Richey's family. I haven't got the nerve to approach them, and I think they have more than enough to contend with without me showing up on their doorstep. Still, I'd dearly love to talk to them.
As I've been catching up with Richey, I've developed a far greater appreciation of him than before. Each time I see or hear or read something new, (and that includes the not-so-great things), I realise even more, just what we've lost since he left.
Richey is still a big part of my life. This website is an obvious example of that.
(I fully recovered from my breakdown of 1994 two years later, only to go through another depressive phase in 1999-2002. La tristesse durera.)
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