Manic Street Preachers was formed in the small town of Blackwood, Wales, in 1986, by school friends James Dean Bradfield (vocals and guitars), Nicky Wire (bass) and Sean Moore (drums). The first name adopted by the band was Betty Blue. But later on, the trio chose Manic Street Preachers.
The cover of the first single ("Suicide Alley") was designed by guitarist Richey James, who soon after became a member of the group. The influences were evident, the cover was inspired by The Clash's first album. The sound was influenced by punk and hard rock. The second single, "New Art Riot", was released in 1990. The compositions of Manic Street Preachers had as main themes politics and social criticism. The audience was interested and grew with each presentation. Called a retro socialist punk group, the group sold T-shirts related to socialism. The beginning of the group was full of controversies. The band said it would release a single CD to sell 16 million copies and end the career. The goal was not to sell to success, but the controversies only gave the group more visibility.
The first hit, "Motown Junk", was released by Heavenly Records. The single became a classic of the group. "You Love Us", second quarter, was more controversial. It was a response to the media that did not take them seriously. It worked, the song entered the British chart and gave a boost to the band's career. The result was a UK tour in 1991. The Manic Street Preachers showed once again that they loved a story that spread through the media. At one of the shows, in Norwich, New Music Express journalist Steve Lamarcq was present, one more than doubting the seriousness and authenticity of the group. After the show, during the interview with Richey, as the journalist did not seem very convinced of his statements, the guitarist took a razor and wrote "4 Real" on his arm. The story ended at the hospital and Richey took 17 points. The result of so much controversy was the contract signed with Sony Music.
In 1992, the first album came out, Generation Terrorists. Several songs made it into England's Top 40. The single "Suicide In Painless", relaunched, reached the Top 10 and was the subject of the film M * A * S * H. The song "Little Baby Nothing" was recorded as a duet by James Dean Bradfield and porn star Traci Lords.
In 1993, the second album, Gold Against the Soul, was released. James Dean Bradfield continued in the media, sometimes for controversial phrases, sometimes for alleged health problems. But it was in 1994 and 1995 that the headlines about the band multiplied. First was Richey James' hospitalization for nervous breakdown in a clinic. Then came the third album, Holy Bible, a more introspective and depressing recording. And, finally, the tragedy. On February 1, 1995, Richey left his hotel in London, leaving his passport and credit cards in his room. His car was found fifteen days later, near a bridge, a place known as the stage for suicides. James' body, however, was never located. There have always been reports that he was seen in unlikely places. The musician's tragic disappearance gave the band a mythical aura.
A few months later, the band recovered from the tragedy and decided to continue without Richey after talking to the guitarist's family. In 1996, the band released the album Everything Must Go, still with some songs by Richey. The album sold two million copies. The success grew and at the Brit Awards 1997 they took home the awards for Best Band and Best Album (repeated in 1999).
This is My Truth Tell Me Yours came out in 98 and the single "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next" went straight to the top of the charts. In 2001, Manic Street Preachers released Know Your Enemy. Recorded in El Cortizo, Spain, the album features 16 tracks. One of the songs, "Baby Elian", was inspired by the case of Elian, the Cuban boy brought to the United States without his father's consent and who occupied the pages of newspapers worldwide. The tour also included a historic show in Cuba.
The concert in Cuba, the first of the tour, was held at the Karl Marx Theater in Cuba, making the band the first western band to perform on the socialist island and still with Fidel Castro in the audience. Legend has it that James tried to warn Fidel that the show would be very noisy. "It will be noisier than the war," was Castro's response.
In 2002 and 2003 there were two compilations, Forever Delayed and Lipstick Traces / A Secret Story of Manic Street Preachers, and with them rumors that it would be the end of Manic Street Preachers' career. But in 2003, they went into the studio to record another album, produced by Tony Visconti (producer who worked with David Bowie, among others), which resulted in Lifeblood, the band's 7th album. In 2005, the EP God Save the Manics was available for download only. In 2007, the band returned to the scene with another album. This is Send Away The Tigers. The first single on this album, "Your love alone is not enough", was recorded in a duet with Nina Persson, lead singer of the Swedish band The Cardigans.
In 2009, the band released the album Journal for Plague Lovers, which includes lyrics written by Richey James. The following year Postcards from a Young Man came out, Manic Street Preachers' tenth studio album.