A Design for Life
|"A Design for Life"|
|Single by Manic Street Preachers|
|from the album Everything Must Go|
|Released||15 April 1996|
|Genre||Alternative rock, Britpop|
|Manic Street Preachers singles chronology|
"A Design for Life" is a single released by Welsh band Manic Street Preachers in 1996 and the first to be taken from the Everything Must Go album of May that same year. It peaked and debuted at Number 2 in the UK Singles Chart.
The title was inspired by the debut Joy Division EP record An Ideal for Living. The opening line of the song 'Libraries gave us power' was inspired by the legend at the top of the former library in Pillgwenlly, Newport, some 15 miles from the band's home town of Blackwood in Wales: 'Knowledge is Power'. The next line, 'then work came and made us free', refers to the German slogan Arbeit macht frei that featured above the gates of Nazi concentration camps and which had been used previously by the band in their song "The Intense Humming of Evil" on the album The Holy Bible.
The song explores themes of class conflict and working class identity and solidarity, inspired by the band's strong socialist convictions. Its video included scenes of fox hunting, Royal Ascot, a polo match and the Last Night of the Proms to represent what the band saw as class privilege. The video was directed by Pedro Romhanyi.
The CD single also included the songs "Mr Carbohydrate", "Dead Passive" and "Dead Trees and Traffic Islands", while the cassette included a live version of "Bright Eyes".
The song was the first to be written and released by the band following the mysterious disappearance of figurehead Richey Edwards the previous year and was used as the opening track on Forever Delayed, the band's greatest hits album released in November 2002. Interviewed in 2014 by NME for their "Song Stories" video series, singer/guitarist James Dean Bradfield recalled that the lyric had been a fusion of two sets of lyrics-"Design for Life" and "Pure Motive"-sent to him from Wales by bassist Nicky Wire, while he was living in Shepherd's Bush. The music was written "in about ten minutes" and Bradfield felt a sense of euphoria with the result. The song was credited within having "rescued the band" from the despair felt after the disappearance of Edwards, with Wire describing the song as "a bolt of light from a severely dark place".
The single reached number #2 in the UK Singles Charts on 27 April 1996 and was the first in a run of five consecutive releases to be top ten hits. The single spent 7 weeks in the Top 40 in the UK, being the best performing single by the band in the Top 40, alongside with Your Love Alone Is Not Enough. It has achieved Silver status in the UK (200.000 copies).
With A Design for Life the band also began an amazing run of 11 years where they managed to chart all their singles within the Top 20 in the UK, it would end in 2007, with the single "Indian Summer" from their eighth studio album Send Away the Tigers.
The song is referred to in the song "Slide Show" (alongside Beck's "Devils Haircut" and Oasis' "Wonderwall") on Travis' 1999 album, The Man Who: "'Cause there is no design for life, There's no devil's haircut in my mind, There is not a wonderwall to climb to climb or step around".
In May 2007 NME magazine placed "A Design for Life" at number 30 in its list of "50 Greatest Indie Anthems Ever". In October 2011 NME placed it at number 75 on its list of "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".
On 18 June 2009 the band were invited to officially open the new £15m Cardiff Central Library, unveiling a plaque inscribed with the words to the opening line of the song. At the event, Wire spoke about how his experience with libraries had partly inspired the song. The Cardiff Arms Park Male Voice Choir performed a version of the song, in front of the band, which Nicky Wire described as "spine tingling".
Wire later said in an interview with The Guardian that the occasion had been a great honour for the band: "For us, it seemed like a chance to give something back to Wales. Seeing one of our lyrics – "Libraries gave us power", from A Design for Life – inscribed on the opening plaque was in its own way as affecting as playing the Millennium Stadium." 
"The creation continues incessantly through the media of man. But man does not create... he discovers. Those who look to the laws of nature for support for their new works collaborate with the creator. Copiers do not collaborate. Because of this, originality consists in returning to the origin."
- "A Design for Life" – 4:19
- "Mr Carbohydrate" – 4:13
- "Dead Passive" – 3:19
- "Dead Trees and Traffic Islands" – 3:43 (Music and lyrics James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore, Nicky Wire)
- "A Design for Life" – 4:21
- "A Design for Life" (Stealth Sonic Orchestra Version) – 4:48
- "A Design for Life" (Stealth Sonic Orchestra Instrumental Version) – 4:35
- "Faster" (Vocal Mix) – 5:46 (music: James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore; lyrics: Nicky Wire, Richey Edwards)
|UK Singles Chart||2|
|Irish Singles Chart||17|
|New Zealand Singles Chart||48|
UK Chart Performance
|UK Top 40|
- "Manics' 'humble' library opening". bbc.co.uk. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- "[A76] ‘A Design For Life’". Manic Street Preachers: A Critical Discography.
- "How Writing 'A Design For Life' Saved Manic Street Preachers - Interview". YouTube. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
- "Manic Street Preachers - Official Single Charts". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- 150 Best Tracks Of The Past 15 Years | NME.COM
- "Manics' 'humble' library opening". BBC News. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
- "Music Blog:'If you tolerate this ...': Nicky Wire on library closures". The Guardian. 7 February 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
- "irishcharts.ie search results for Manic Street Preachers". Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- "charts.org.nz". Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- acoustic version James Dean Bradfield, August 2013 at walesonline.co.uk