On stage, London in 1993
|Born||Richard James Edwards
22 December 1967
Blackwood, Caerphilly, Wales
|Disappeared||1 February 1995 (aged 27)
|Status||Missing for 21 years, 6 months and 23 days;
legally dead on 23 November 2008 (aged 40)
|Other names||Richey James, Richey Manic|
|Occupation||Musician, lyricist, songwriter|
|Genres||Alternative rock, hard rock, glam punk, post-punk, punk rock|
|Instruments||Guitar, piano, vocals|
|Associated acts||Manic Street Preachers|
|Fender Telecaster Thinline|
Richard James Edwards (born 22 December 1967, disappeared c. 1 February 1995, officially presumed dead 23 November 2008) was a Welsh musician who was lyricist and rhythm guitarist of the alternative rock band Manic Street Preachers. He was known for his politicised and intellectual songwriting which, combined with an enigmatic and eloquent character, has assured him cult status, and he has been cited by some as a top class lyricist. Edwards disappeared on 1 February 1995. He was declared presumed deceased in November 2008. The ninth album by Manic Street Preachers, Journal for Plague Lovers, which was released on 18 May 2009, is composed entirely of lyrics left behind by Edwards.
Richey Edwards (often referred to during his years with Manic Street Preachers as Richey James) was born and raised in Blackwood, Caerphilly, Wales. He has one younger sister, Rachel, who was born in 1969. Edwards attended Oakdale Comprehensive School. From 1986 to 1989, Edwards attended University of Wales, Swansea and graduated with a 2:1 degree in political history.
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 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 80% 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 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 15 May 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 eighteen 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 can't operate any more as a human being – you can't get out of bed, you can't...make yourself a cup of coffee without something going badly wrong or your body's 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.". 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, 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 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 when he and James Dean Bradfield were due to fly to the US on a promotional tour. In the two weeks before his disappearance, Edwards withdrew £200 a day from his bank account, which totalled £2800 by the day of the scheduled flight. Some speculated that he needed the money for the American trip, and it was also mentioned he'd ordered a new desk for his flat from a Cardiff store- although there was no record of that having been paid for (plus, this would have only explained half of the money withdrawn). According to Emma Forrest, as quoted in 'A Version Of Reason', 'the night before he disappeared Edwards gave a friend a book called Novel with Cocaine, instructing her to read the introduction, which details the author staying in a mental asylum before vanishing'. Whilst staying at the Embassy Hotel in Bayswater Road, London, according to Rob Jovanovic's biography, Edwards removed some books and videos from his bag. These included a copy of the play Equus. He wrapped them carefully in a box with a note that said 'I love you'. He then decorated the box like a birthday present and decorated the outside of it with collages and literary quotations. These included a picture of a Germanic-looking house and Bugs Bunny. The package was addressed to a 'Jo'.
The next morning he collected his wallet, car keys, some Prozac and his passport. He checked out of the hotel at seven in the morning leaving his toiletries, packed suitcase, and some of his Prozac. 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 by a fan who was unaware that Edwards was missing. The fan discussed a mutual friend, Lori Fidler, before Edwards departed. On 7 February, a taxi driver from Newport supposedly picked up Edwards from the King's Hotel in Newport, and drove him around the valleys, including Blackwood (Edwards' home as a child). The driver reported that the passenger spoke in a cockney accent, which occasionally slipped into a Welsh one, and that he asked if he could lie down on the back seat. Eventually they reached Blackwood and the bus station, but the passenger reportedly said 'this is not the place' and asked to be taken to Pontypool railway station. It was later ascertained, according to Jovanovics' account, that Pontypool did not have a telephone. The passenger got out at the Severn View service station near Aust, South Gloucestershire, 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) 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 reportedly been spotted in a 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 has proved conclusive and none has been confirmed by investigators.
The investigation itself has received criticism. In his 1999 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 chose not to for many years, and his status remained open as a missing person until 23 November 2008, when he became officially "presumed dead".
Edwards' disappearance attracted a great deal of media attention, with some of it focusing on copycat actions by fans. Caitlin Moran, writing in The Times, commented that Edwards became "a cause celebre among depressives, alcoholics, anorexics and self-mutilators, because he was the first person in the public eye to talk openly about these subjects, not with swaggering bravado and a subtext of "look how tortured and cool I am", but with humility, sense and, often, bleak humour." Moran dismissed the news agenda of the mainstream media, which was geared towards the idea that Edwards inspired copycat actions in fans. Pointing towards the edition of 8 April 1995 of Melody Maker, Moran wrote of her distaste of the mainstream media treatment: "Arms were flung aloft and tongues tutted two weeks back, when the first anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide coincided with the two-month anniversary of Manic Street Preacher Richey Edwards's disappearance, and Melody Maker instigated a debate on escalating teenage depression, self-mutilation and suicide." The magazine had received a number of letters from fans distressed at both the death of Kurt Cobain and the disappearance of Edwards. The edition of 8 April saw the publication assemble a panel of readers to discuss the issues related to both cases. Moran argued "that Cobain's actions and, to a greater extent, Richey Edwards's actions, have legitimised debate on these subjects".
The 8 April issue was released in conjunction with the Samaritans, with the then-editor Allan Jones placing the inspiration for the special nature of the issue firmly in the hands of the readers: "Every week the mailbag is just full of these letters. Richey's predicament seems to be emblematic of what a lot of people are going through." Jones saw the debate as focusing on the notion of whether "our rock stars are more vulnerable these days, and is that vulnerability a reflection of the vulnerability of their audience? And if so, why?"
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 record sleeves and would often refer to writers and poets during interviews. This interest in literature has remained integral to the band's music and lyrics. Albert Camus, Philip Larkin, Yukio Mishima and Fyodor Dostoyevsky are known to have been among his favourite authors. In a dressing room interview, he also mentioned admiration for Primo Levi.
Edwards often quoted Arthur Rimbaud in interviews as being one of his favourite writers. Edwards also wrote selected quotes of Rimbaud's on his clothing.
Edwards' lyrics have often been of a highly poetic nature, and at times they reflected his knowledge of political history.
Books about Edwards
In 2009, Rob Jovanovic's book A Version of Reason: The Search for Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers was published. A Version of Reason was written with the goal of providing an authoritative factual account, pieced together through testimonials from those close to Edwards before his disappearance.
A novel by Ben Myers entitled Richard: A Novel was published on 1 October 2010 through Picador. Richard purports to be a fictionalised account of Edwards' life "as he might have told it." In an interview in May 2010, Myers said, "I wrote this book for people who have never heard of Richey Edwards, and I thought his story was one that had not been told in a manner befitting his life...I wanted to get beyond that false perception and tell the story of an intelligent young academic from a good home with good friends around him who became the most engaging British rock star of his era. To do that I felt that fiction was the best medium. I don't purport Richard to be the absolute truth, but rather a version of it." Myers also said that although he never met Edwards, he "shared many mutual friends or acquaintances with him...I hope the book is sensitively handled. I also spent months researching it too, so factually it's pretty tight, I think."
Howard Marks has also written a book about Richard, although his name has been changed to fictionalise the story. The book is called Sympathy for the Devil.
Discography and writing credits
- With Manic Street Preachers
- Generation Terrorists (1992)
- Gold Against the Soul (1993)
- The Holy Bible (1994)
- Everything Must Go (1996)
- Journal for Plague Lovers (2009)
- On 24 November 2008, it was announced that Edwards' parents had obtained a court order, issued by the Probate Registry of Wales, naming them as executors and stating that he died "on or since" 1 February 1995. Evans, Catherine Mary "Missing Manic Street Preacher Richey Edwards declared legally dead, 13 years on", 24 November 2008, Western Mail. Accessed on 11 February 2009. Archived on 11 February 2009.
- "Richey Edwards". Telegraph.co.uk. 23 March 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2009.
- Owen, Paul, "The Manics' Lyrics Were Something Special",The Guardian, 27 November 2008
- Clash Music, "Manics Member Officially Dead", Clash Music
- BBC Wales, "Manic Street Preachers – Richey Edwards",BBC Wales
- Evans, "Missing Manic Street Preacher",Western Mail
- "Journal for Plague Lovers"''". Manicstreetpreachers.com. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
- Sullivan, Caroline; Bellos, Alex (26 January 1996), "Sweet Exile", The Guardian, Manchester, pp. T.010
- Bailie, Stuart. "The Art of Falling Apart". Mojo (February 2002) .p.85.
- Hill, Claire (3 November 2006). "Manics frontman talks of artistic differences with missing Richey". Western Mail (Cardiff). p. 7.
- Maconie, Stuart "Everything Must Grow Up" Q Magazine October 1998
- O'Connor, Rob (Producer & Director), Bradfield, James Dean (interviewee), Moore, Sean (interviewee), Wire, Nicky (interviewee) (6 November 2006). The Making of Everything Must Go (DVD). Sony BMG.
- Jinman, Richard (1 February 2005). "Fans keep hopes alive for missing Manic". The Guardian. p. 7. Retrieved 2 February 2007.
- Leonard, Marion. Gender in the Music Industry (2007), Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p.71. ISBN 0-7546-3862-6
- Young, Andrew & Constable, Nick. "After 13 years, the parents of missing rock star Richey Edwards admit he's dead". The Daily Mail, 22 November 2008.
- Smith, Richard (1995) Seduced and Abandoned: Essays on Gay Men and Popular Music, London: Cassell.
- Transcription from the final television interview before his disappearance; video available on YouTube.
- Boden, Sarah (21 January 2007), "25 of the greatest gigs ever (part 2)", The Observer, p. 41
- Price (1999), pp. 177–178.
- Beckett, Andy (2 March 1997). "Missing street preacher". The Independent on Sunday.
- Price (1999), p. 178.
- Price (1999), p. 179.
- Price (1999), p. 183.
- Price (1999), p. 180.
- Bellos, Alex (26 January 1996). "Music: Desperately seeking Richey". The Guardian. pp. T.010.
- BBC staff reporter (1 February 2005). "Ten-year tragedy of missing Manic". BBC. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
- Pidd, Helen. "Richey Edwards case closed: how 14 years of hope ended", The Guardian. 29 November 2008.
- "Amy Winehouse joins iconic stars who died aged 27". BBC. 25 July 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
- "The Last of Richey Edwards?". Richeyedwards.net. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
- Sullivan, Caroline (28 January 2000). "The lost boys". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2007.
- Wills, Colin (2 June 1996). "Is Richey the wild rebel of rock alive or dead?". The Sunday Mirror. p. 62.
- Helan, Stephen P. (30 January 2005). "Living With Ghosts". Sunday Herald. p. 10.
- Price (1999), pp. 183–185.
- Price (1999), p. 186.
- Price (1999), p. 187.
- BBC staff reporter (24 November 2008). "Missing guitarist 'presumed dead'". BBC. Retrieved 24 November 2008.
- Cartwright, Garth (26 November 2008), "Obituary: Richey Edwards", The Guardian, retrieved 30 October 2012
- "Cries that won't go away" The Times (London); 21 April 1995; Caitlin Moran; p. 1
- "Pop paper responds to fans' cry of grief;Melody Maker" The Times (London); 22 March 1995; Dalya Alberge; p. 1
- "Is this music to die for? When the postbag at Melody Maker is opened these days, out pours a bleak litany of angst and agony. Andrew Smith looks at the dangerous, unprecedented trend of young pop music fans identifying closely with the torment of their heroes" The Guardian; 31 March 1995; ANDREW SMITH; p. T.002
- Moran, Caitlin (17 December 2004). "Grow up, for Pete's sake". The Times. Retrieved 10 August 2010.
- "Rob Jovanovic - A Version of Reason - Orion Publishing Group". Orion Publishing Group. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- "January+2010+032.jpg (image)". 1.bp.blogspot.com. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
- Immediamedia (14 May 2010). "The American Indy All-Stars edition Sept 2011". Beat the Dust. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
- Matthew Phillips (14 May 2010). "Give Us Back Our Heroes: How The Digital Era Brought Us Too Close To Our Stars". The Huffington Post Entertainment. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
- Price, Simon (1999). Everything (A Book About Manic Street Preachers) (first ed.). Virgin Publishing. ISBN 0-7535-0139-2.
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