Richey James Edwards
Richard James Edwards (born 22 December 1967, presumed deceased on or after 1 February 1995) was rhythm guitarist and lyricist with the alternative rock band Manic Street Preachers, from Blackwood, Wales. He was known for his politicized and intellectual song writing which, combined with an enigmatic and eloquent character, has assured him cult status. His lyrical masterpiece is the album The Holy Bible. Edwards mysteriously vanished on 1st February 1995. He was declared presumed deceased in November 2008. The ninth Manics album Journal for Plague Lovers, to be released on 18th May 2009, will feature lyrics left behind by Edwards.
Richey Edwards grew up in Blackwood, where he attended Oakdale Comprehensive. Between 1986-1989 he attended University of Wales, Swansea and graduated with a 2:1 degree in political history. He has one sister, Rachel (born 1969 in Pontypool).
Edwards was initially a driver and roadie for Manic Street Preachers, but he soon became accepted as the band's main spokesman and fourth member. Edwards showed little musical talent - his real contribution to the Manic Street Preachers was in the words and design. More often than not he was miming on the guitar during early live performances, but was, along with bassist Nicky Wire, principal lyricist. Edwards is said to have written approximately 70% of the lyrics on The Holy Bible. Both are credited on all songs written before Edwards' disappearance, with Edwards receiving sole credit on three tracks from the 1996 album Everything Must Go, and co-writing credits on another two. Despite Edwards' lack of musical input, he nevertheless contributed to their overall musical direction, and according to the rest of the band on the Everything Must Go DVD, he played a leading role in deciding the approach of the band's sound. It is possible that had he not disappeared, the album that would have followed The Holy Bible would have been dramatically different from the melodic, accessible rock heard on Everything Must Go, Edwards having expressed a desire to create a concept album described as "Pantera meets Nine Inch Nails meets Screamadelica". However, Bradfield has since expressed doubts over whether the band would have produced such an album: "... I was worried that as chief tune-smith in the band I wasn't actually going to be able to write things that he would have liked. There would have been an impasse in the band for the first time born out of taste..."
On May 15 1991, he gained notoriety following an argument with NME journalist Steve Lamacq, who questioned the band's authenticity and values, keen to ensure the punk ethic was not abused, after a gig at the Norwich Arts Centre. Lamacq asked of Edwards' seriousness towards his art, and Edwards responded by carving the words "4 Real" into his forearm with a razor blade he was carrying. The injury required hospitalisation and seventeen stitches.
Edwards suffered severe bouts of depression in his adult life, and was open about it in interviews: "If you're hopelessly depressed like I was, then dressing up is just the ultimate escape. When I was young I just wanted to be noticed. Nothing could excite me except attention so I'd dress up as much as I could. Outrage and boredom just go hand in hand."
"Gets to a point where you really canít operate any more as a human being Ė you canít get out of bed, you canítÖmake yourself a cup of coffee without something going badly wrong or your bodyís too weak to walk."
He also self-harmed, mainly through stubbing cigarettes on his body, and cutting himself ("When I cut myself I feel so much better. All the little things that might have been annoying me suddenly seem so trivial because I'm concentrating on the pain. I'm not a person who can scream and shout so this is my only outlet. It's all done very logically."). His problems with drugs and alcohol were well documented. After the release of the band's third album The Holy Bible, he checked into The Priory psychiatric hospital, missing out on some of the promotional work for the album and forcing the band to appear as a three piece at the Reading Festival and T in the Park.
Following release from the Priory, the Manic Street Preachers as a four-piece band toured Europe with Suede and Therapy? for what was to be the last time. Edwards' final live appearance with the band was at the London Astoria, on the 21 December 1994. The concert ended with the band infamously smashing their equipment and damaging the lighting system, prompted by Edwards' violent destruction of his guitar towards the end of set-closer "You Love Us."
Edwards disappeared on 1 February 1995, on the day that he and James Dean Bradfield were due to fly to the U.S. on a promotional tour. In the two weeks before his disappearance, Edwards withdrew £200 a day from his bank account, which totalled £2800 by February 1. He checked out of the Embassy Hotel in Bayswater Road, London at seven in the morning, and it has been proven that he then drove to his apartment in Cardiff, Wales. In the two weeks that followed he was apparently spotted in the Newport passport office, and the Newport bus station. On 7 February, Anthony Hatherhall, a taxi driver from Newport, supposedly picked up Edwards from the King's Hotel in Newport, and drove him around the valleys, including Blackwood (Edwardsí home as a child). The passenger got off at the Severn View service station and paid the £68 fare in cash.
On 14 February, Edwards' Vauxhall Cavalier received a parking ticket at the Severn View service station and on 17 February, the vehicle was reported as abandoned. Police discovered the battery to be flat, with evidence that the car had been lived in. Due to the service station's proximity to the Severn Bridge (which has been a renowned suicide location in the past) and Edwards' depressed state at the time, it was widely believed that he took his own life by jumping from the bridge. Many people who knew him, however, have said that he was never the type to contemplate suicide and he himself was quoted in 1994 as saying "In terms of the 'S' word, that does not enter my mind. And it never has done, in terms of an attempt. Because I am stronger than that. I might be a weak person, but I can take pain."
Since then he has purportedly been spotted in a hippie market in Goa, India and on the islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. There have been other alleged sightings of Edwards, especially in the years immediately following his disappearance. However, none of these have proved conclusive and none have been confirmed by investigators.
The investigation itself has received criticism. In his book Everything (A Book About Manic Street Preachers), Simon Price states that aspects of the investigation were "far from satisfactory". He asserts the police may not have taken Edwards' mental state into account when prioritising his disappearance. Price also records Edwards' sister Rachel as having "hit out at police handling" after CCTV footage was analysed two years after the disappearance. Price records a member of the investigation team as stating "that the idea that you could identify somebody from that is arrant nonsense". While his family had the option of declaring him legally dead from 2002, they had chosen not to for many years, and his status remained open as a missing person, until 23 November 2008, when he became officially "presumed dead". However, the band still put away 25% of their royalties for him in a bank account.
Literature and other cultural influences
As well as an interest in music, Edwards displayed a love for literature. He chose many of the quotes that appear on Manics records and would often refer to writers and poets during interviews. This interest in literature has remained as integral to the band's appeal as their music. Albert Camus, Philip Larkin, Yukio Mishima and Fyodor Dostoevsky are known to be amongst his favourite authors.
Edwards' lyrics have often been of a highly poetic nature, particularly on the band's third album The Holy Bible, and at times they reflected his knowledge of political history.
His icons and heroes affected his work and his sensibilities. Many of them, like Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis and Sylvia Plath, committed suicide at a young age following a short but exceptionally productive life; J.D. Salinger became a recluse, living a hermit-like existence after releasing his novel, The Catcher in the Rye, now recognised as a classic. It was this interest in the unusual that helped shape Edwards's own career, particularly during the early days, with the promise of releasing one classic album and then burning out.