The 20th Anniversary of The Holy Bible by Manic Street Preachers

by JoHarrington

On August 29th 2014, we will be marking twenty years of The Holy Bible. This is probably the most important album of my lifetime. You'll either love it or hate it.

I have in my hands the 10th Anniversary Edition double CD of 'The Holy Bible'. That is itself ten years old now.

It's not my first copy of the album. Two previous ones were both stolen, one from a student house in Whitmore Reans and another from my home. Which proves that even burglars have great taste in music.

I bought 'The Holy Bible' for the first time when it was newly released. My whole life pivoted upon hearing it. We all have music that hit deep and raw into our psyche. We have albums that we can say saved our lives. Sometimes we mean that quite literally.

That album, that music - and particularly one track upon it - is mine. Indulge me here, in an extremely personal revisiting of an important CD in my collection.

Two Decades of Critical Acclaim for The Holy Bible

When people speak of great British albums, they tend to look towards Liverpool, Cambridge or London. The Rhondda Valley isn't too shabby, you know.

Image: Newsnight Manic St PreachersBack in 2005, the seminal British political talk show Newsnight, and its sister channel Newsnight Review, held a series of cultural surveys. They sought to discover those albums, films, books, art and theater shows most important to their viewers.

Nobody quite foresaw what would happen next. People would have put money on The Beatles or Pink Floyd as certain winners in the music category.

It was Manic Street Preachers' The Holy Bible.

Newsnight's editors were left floundering. Chief Editor Peter Barron wrote, 'The biggest surprise was the triumph of The Holy Bible by the Manic Street Preachers, an album which I suspect most quintessential Newsnight employees have never heard. On the whole we're not big Manics fans, but I understand they like us.'

The album had beaten Dark Side of the Moon.  Van Morrison's Astral Weeks was relegated to a mere fifth place. The Beatles weren't even there!

People who had been sniffing about the Manics since the early 90s were suddenly having to find excuses about it.  Had fans of the Manics launched some kind of en masse voting operation, thus skewing the survey's results?  Nope. It wasn't even mentioned on any forum.

The Holy Bible won because it is, in the words of the NME, 'a work of genuine genius'.

In October 2013, nineteen years after the album's release, NME named The Holy Bible the 44th greatest album of all time.  In 2005, Kerrang! decided it was more like the 10th. In the same year, Rolling Stone waxed lyrical about the Manics, calling them 'Guns N' Roses with brains, a Welsh Public Enemy with guitars', and discussing The Holy Bible in terms of 'biblical in weight', ' sturdy, roaring beauty inside dense manifestos' and 'the life-affirming force that hits you with the very first song'.

Most of these accolades were referring to the 10th anniversary of the album - and particularly the remastered double CD release that accompanied it.  We're now twenty years down the line.  If you haven't heard it yet, then you're a little late to the party, but better late than never.

And for those who won't join in - on the general principle that it's Manic Street Preachers - then you deserve never to have heard The Holy Bible. That's YOUR nothing.

Yes, I Have Heard of The Holy Bible. Thank You for Asking!

For the love of all that's sacred, pure and great, I have heard it, lived it, analyzed every note and lyric. I didn't write it, but it's mine.

Image: Jo Harrington Spring 1994Some albums come at precisely the right time. In 1994, I was mentally and emotionally in probably THE most receptive mood for The Holy Bible.

I'd been a fan of the Manic Street Preachers since the beginning. But not massively so. I'd enjoyed Generation Terrorists, though less so its follow up Gold Against the Soul.

None of which was going to oust EMF, Carter USM, New Model Army etc. from my primary affections. The Manics were just there in the mix.

In fact, they confused me, because I'd hallucinated a whole album in between Generation Terrorists and Gold Against the Soul. It's something which is still vaguely unsettling now. I continue to automatically look for it there (even in writing this, I double checked). I recall being quite adamant that it had existed and that it was suddenly disappeared.

It was a fabulous album. It was Richey Edwards at his poetical and red raw stark best. It had tunes which stuck with you forever. And it was gone.

When I first heard The Holy Bible, it was at a friend's house. I breathed a sigh of relief. It HAD existed! It was here!  This was it!  Only it had just that second been released. I'd already been missing the album for a year.

So that then was my first reaction - relief. An emotion which built with the force of a veritable groundswell, as I procured my own copy and sat down to listen to it properly.

Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible - Yes

This is the opening track on the album. The first sample heard is from a 1993 documentary about prostitution.

Playing The Holy Bible twenty years later, there is a fierce familiarity etched into every note. We can all say, 'hey, you know this is a good album, have a listen, I like it', but not this one. Not for me.

There's something almost mystical about my reaction to it. Obsession doesn't nearly cover it. These are tunes that became hardwired onto my mind and emotion, flooding in when there were cracks enough for both to facilitate the impression. At my eventual autopsy, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find the coroner recording that this album left vinyl grooves upon my very core.

In short, you're not getting an unbiased opinion here.

I've spent two decades enthralled by these same thirteen tracks. For at least the first quarter of those years, I was too afraid to even mention it to others, in case they didn't love it too. That would have felt too personal, like it was an attack on me.

After that, I grew up enough to know that it didn't matter what other people thought. It wasn't their album, it was mine. It was like a secret weapon against the world; a gift from the universe.

It came as quite a shock to discover that other Manics fans a) existed and b) recognized that The Holy Bible is pure genius.  I probably didn't even suss that until the early 2000s, when I could finally afford to see them live.

Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible - Revol

This was one of the single releases from the album. It's Richey discussing how right-wing people manipulate political correctness to render it bigotry in disguise.

One of my loveliest memories comes from an otherwise quite dodgy Glastonbury Festival. In 2007, it was a mudfest and I had a sprained knee. It wasn't the greatest combination in the world.

However, Manic Street Preachers were playing and I was never going to miss that for all the sitting down and resting alternatives. There was pain. There was freaking agony, but I hobbled and squelched my way to the main barrier behind the mosh pit. It helped support me as I stood there beaming at the stage.

I turned up at the gig wearing a black feather boa and silver plastic tiara - par for the course for old time Manics fans (bit of glam, is it cariad?). Amongst the posse of people around me, that already marked me out, placed me firmly within my time period.

A lad beside me nudged with his elbow and said, "Ah! Richey girl? Yeah?" I lip-read that well enough and nodded happily in agreement.

Most of the opening songs were those crowd-pleasing anthems, which came much later, after the Manics' stars had risen to stadium packing levels. I grinned, sang and did a little swaying thing with my hips, which counted as pain-filled dancing.

Then they played Faster. I've tried to explain Faster elsewhere. Here I'll simply add that if you could condense all of my hyperbolic sentiments about a beloved album into just one track, it would be that one. Faster means more than I could ever write.

Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible - Faster (Glastonbury 2007)

I was not only there but lost myself completely when the Manics played this. It's the most important song on the most important album in my life.

I let go of the metal barrier. I let go of everything! The agony of my knee, all stresses and sense of self. I danced properly in the mud and grime like nobody was watching. When my knee - which wasn't subject to the same emotional determination - finally gave way, that man from beside me caught and held me up. 

He danced with me. Danced to Faster, yelling out, "Yes! You were there! We were there!"

And when the song was over, he led me back to the spot where I'd been supported by the metal bar. He and the lady on the other side of me both held me there, he with his hand under my elbow, she with her hand on my back. She offered painkillers too, but I declined, already on industrial strength varieties.

"Thank you for doing this." I told them, involuntary tears trickling in the aftermath of wonder and pain. But how could I have not danced for that?

He nodded, "For Richey, but."  It was understood.

They didn't know each other. They didn't know me. But we were all three Manics' fans and we had been there for The Holy Bible in 1994. So you see, it's not just me. Amongst my people The Holy Bible might as well be as divinely inspired as its namesake.

What I've recounted is a very real example of what Mark Edwards meant, as he wrote in Stylus magazine, 'The Holy Bible is easily one of the best albums of the 90s - ignored by many, but loved intensely by the few who've lived with it over the years... It puts everything the Manics have done since to shame, not to mention nearly everything else.'

Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible - This is Yesterday

The Holy Bible is generally viewed - by fans and band alike - as Richey's album, but Nicky Wire contributed two songs too. This is one of them - about Richey.

Two decades after its release on August 29th 1994, I'm listening to The Holy Bible again as I write this. Emotion still takes me like a quiet tsunami. There are several things there - fondness, glee, happiness, satisfaction, smug delight, then all of the things that are meant to be engendered by the songs themselves.

But underpinning all is still relief. Not that it suddenly existed, but that it exists. Holding the line from 1994 to now, because you realize I was right there with Richey before I'd even heard of Syd Barrett. I deserve The Holy Bible. It is MY nothing.

It's the 20th anniversary of 'The Holy Bible'. Song meanings should be dated in their grim 'reality as it is' expose of our world. Yet most seem even more relevant now.

Manics Holy Bible T-Shirt

I want this.

More Music from my Own Personal Juke-box in Words

On February 1st 1995, Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers booked out of his hotel in London. He was seen in various locations in Wales, then never seen again.
We've been listening to 'The Whole of the Moon' for three decades! It's on 'This is the Sea', the album which propelled Mike Scott and co. into the public eye.
The stories told about the making of The Madcap Laughs are nearly as legendary as the album itself. Here I go through it track by track.
Performing under the pseudonym of Quiet Loner, Matt Hill strikes a powerful chord in protest against all that's wrong in British politics. He's very good.
Updated: 11/07/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 06/03/2014

<3 :)))

Mira on 06/03/2014

<3 :)))

JoHarrington on 06/03/2014

The Doors and Janis - yes! I was listening to them in the 90s too. Still do on occasion. You forget quite how good they are.

Yay! Someone else who likes Faster! <3

Mira on 06/03/2014

Your excitement is quite amazing. Like Ember, I don't think I've ever felt that strongly about music. Well, maybe, but there were no concerts I could go to, since I listened to Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and Janis Joplin in the nineties. And yes, I'm wondering too where the last 20 years went :-)
By the way, I'm listening to Faster as I write this, and it sounds quite good (can't grasp the lyrics :).

JoHarrington on 06/03/2014

It is making me wonder where the last 20 years went. It doesn't seem THAT long since 1994!

Ember on 06/03/2014

This is amazing. I don't think I've ever loved/had an album mean as much to me as it seems to for you with The Holy Bible.

Are you pretty excited then for the 20th anniversary? Practically for your birthday!

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