Manic Street Preachers

TrackSingle / Album
Motown JunkHeavenly HVN 8CD
Motorcycle EmptinessGeneration Terrorists
FasterThe Holy Bible
Die In The SummertimeThe Holy Bible
P.C.P.The Holy Bible
This is YesterdayThe Holy Bible
Further AwayEverything Must Go
Prologue To HistoryEpic 666345 2
Ocean SprayKnow Your Enemy
Jackie Collins Existential Question TimeJournal For Plague Lovers

Manic Street Preachers photo 1

Photo for the 1994 release of ‘The Holy Bible’ – (l-r) Nicky Wire, Sean Moore, Richey Edwards, James Dean Bradfield – by Neil Cooper, painted on by Barry Kamen




Manics playlist


Contributor: Will Martyn

Name: Manic Street Preachers
From: Blackwood, Caerphilly.
Band members: James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire, Sean Moore.
Previous members: Richey Edwards, Miles Woodward.
Genre: Indie/Rock/Britpop
Overview: The Manic Street Preachers are veterans of the UK music scene. Formed in 1986, the Manics have released 14 albums, from their debut Generation Terrorists (1992) through to their most recent album The Ultra Vivid Lament (2021).

The Manic Street Preachers (a name gifted to them by a homeless man while they were busking) have evolved from a young, loud, politically aware punk band through to the established rock band they are today.

Accomplished musicians and cousins, James Dean Bradfield (vocals, lead guitar) and Sean Moore (drums), joined forces with Nicky Wire (bass) and Richey Edwards (rhythm guitar), who provided the lyrics and artistic direction.

Richey disappeared in February 1995 and was legally presumed dead in 2008. His presence still looms large over the band through their lyrics and imagery.

Rather than provide a detailed history of the band, there are many superb books available for those who wish to delve further, I’m instead focusing on my top 10 Manics tracks.

I was born in 1980 and was introduced to the band in the mid 90s, around the time of Richey’s disappearance. The Manics, minus Richey, triumphantly returned during the Britpop era and, from that point onwards, the Manics cemented themselves as one of my favourite bands. I’m generally more drawn towards music and melodies, but the Manics are a band who have also always fascinated me lyrically, which I will explore a little during this article.

Limiting it to 10 tracks has been a challenge, but will hopefully show you the Manics at their peak.

Motown Junk (1991) is the Manics’ second single and is still a live favourite today. NME included the song at #244 in their list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, with a description that sums the track up pretty well, “They were still stencilling their own t-shirts and playing to half-full pubs, but this icon-skewering single showed that the Manics meant business.” The wrist watch on the front cover of the single was from the ruins of Hiroshima and is frozen at the exact moment the atomic bomb detonated at 8:15am on 6th August 1945. The band have always loved a metaphor. (Motown Junk is on the 2011 compilation National Treasures – The Complete Singles.)


Motorcycle Emptiness (1992) is their second most played song on Spotify with 57m plays and is a fan favourite from their debut album Generation Terrorists. I must admit, I don’t love the production on the album version but it’s a dead cert at every Manics gig and instantly takes me back to my teenage years. Some of the lyrics are taken from the poem “Neon Loneliness” (the first line of the chorus, “Under neon loneliness”, is a direct lift) by Welsh poet Patrick Jones, the brother of Nicky Wire. I’m confident that if the Manics played one final gig on this planet, and even limited the setlist down to a handful of tracks, Motorcycle Emptiness would feature, and damn right, too.


We now get into an album that’s in my top 10 albums of all time, and in my opinion, where the Manics peaked – The Holy Bible (1994). It’s hard to put into words how much I love this album, but here I pick four tracks, all of which still sound incredible to me. Lyrically, the album seems like a parting gift from Richey. The topics range from politics, the Holocaust, self harm to serial killers. Clearly not for the faint hearted, but Bradfield’s voice and soaring melodies offset the acerbic lyrical content. Never has intelligence sounded cooler.

Faster (1994) is a musical and lyrical punch in the face. The band performed Faster on Top Of The Pops with James Dean Bradfield wearing an IRA-style balaclava with his first name scrawled over his forehead and the rest of the band wearing military clothing. A record number of complaints were received by the BBC and the track was lodged in Manics folklore. The band performed at Glastonbury in 2023 and even as middle-aged men, this song sounded incredible as part of their sunny afternoon set. Another fan favourite now and forever more.

Die In The Summertime (1994) clearly touches on Richey’s self abuse (scratch my leg with a rusty nail, sadly it heals), but he also once stated that the song is about a pensioner wanting to die with memories of childhood in his mind. Musically, the track is far bouncier than the lyrics might suggest. Whack up the volume and enjoy.

P.C.P. (1994) was the double A-side with Faster and is full throttle punk. The track takes a dig at political correctness – I remember trying to decipher the lyrics with school mates in the mid 90s and I’m none the wiser 30 years later, which I’m ok with. A raucous, but melodic, gem.

This Is Yesterday (1994) is my final entry from The Holy Bible. It’s a reflection on childhood, and it’s a beaut. Wire provides the lyrics this time and James Dean Bradfield produces one of his best ever guitar solos before the final chorus. Several excellent acoustic versions of the track also exist, including versions from BBC radio appearances. This is still a staple of live sets today.


Richey’s disappearance was a hugely traumatic event for the band and they still have a vacant microphone on stage to this day in his honour. There were question marks regarding whether the band would ever return, but in 1996, they did, with the triple platinum album Everything Must Go.

Further Away (1996) is my pick from this album and is still a track I play extensively today. Fans are split on its meaning – some regard it as the Manics’ first and only love song (The further away I get from you, the harder it gets for everyone else. The happier I am when I’m with you, the harder it gets when I am alone), whereas others dispute this. It’s simply beautifully melodic, the guitars still crunch and it sounds great any time of day, any time of year.


Prologue To History (1998) is the only B-side in my selection and it’s a corker. For me, it eclipses the No.1 single on its A-side (If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next) and any track on the relatively disappointing This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours album. It contains some of Wire’s best lyrics, referencing politicians, musicians and sports stars along with his own personal finance routines and mundane domestic habits. So I water my plants with Evian, a brand new Dyson that is decadent, read my papers in the business section, checkout the ‘Tessas’ and the pensions is a personal favourite. The heavy piano marks a bit of a change musically, too – and it romps along. It’s classic Manics and will either be loved or hated, I suspect. And I guess that’s the point. (Prologue To History is on the 2003 compilation Lipstick Traces: A Secret History Of Manic Street Preachers.)


Ocean Spray (2001) holds a personal memory for me as I reviewed it in my university newspaper. I gave it 9/10 and it was named Single of the Week. I stand by it to this day. It features a rare lyrical contribution from James Dean Bradfield as an ode to his late mother. She was suffering with cancer and they would regularly drink Ocean Spray cranberry juice together in an attempt to ease the discomfort of the illness. Bittersweet, poignant, but still has the edge one would associate with all the Manics’ best work. Superb.


Jackie Collins Existential Question Time (2009) is my final track and is taken from Journal For Plague Lovers. It features several unused Richey Edwards lyrics and, in my view, the band saved up their best songs in over a decade as a tribute. I won’t even attempt to translate the lyrics (Oh mummy, what’s a Sex Pistol?) but the song bounces along in a lo-fi indie rock way. JDB screaming the final ‘chorus’ is a highlight and the song is euphoric from start to finish. It encapsulates the crunching guitars, stunning melodies and irreverent lyrics the band are famed for. Even at this stage of their career, the Manics sounded fresh – and on this album, they very much did Richey proud.




National Treasures: The Complete Singles 38-track compilation (2011)


3 of the Manic’s 15 Top 10 UK hits




Manic Street Preachers official website

Manic Street Preachers discography

Books on Manic Street Preachers

Record Collector presents Manic Street Preachers:
in a 124 page special edition of the magazine

Forever Delayed: Manics fansite & Forum

A Manic Body Politic
Website devoted to ‘The Holy Bible’

Manic Street Preachers song-by-song Manics lyrics, meanings, people

Manic Street Preachers biography (AllMusic)

Will Martyn is based in Surrey and grew up in the 80s/90s on a diet of Britpop plus 60s guitar bands, courtesy of his parents. Will has since broadened his tastes and has a keen interest in everything from Delta Blues and 1920s Folk through to present day Indie and UK Rap, stopping off at Rock n Roll, Nu Metal, Punk, Americana, Country, Hip Hop and 80s Pop in between. Will can be found on Twitter/X @WillMartyn

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