In a rare example of me being ahead of the curve, I’d not only heard of but had seen Manic Street Preachers a good while before they got anywhere near being famous.
For they had played as a support act at a gig we put on at the Students’ Union.
This was in the year before I became Social Secretary, and so I had nothing to do with them being booked.
And I can’t pretend I was in slightest bit enamoured with them when they did play; I can’t put my finger on quite how I came to this opinion, but I was pretty sure that at least 50% of the four-piece band were miming.
A few months later, when I had taken up my elected post, I was told that we had the chance to book them again.
“Absolutely not”, I said. “They were awful last time they played here, and I can’t see them having got any better.”
Oh, how wrong can a man be.
The Entertainments Manager, who had the final say over who got booked and who did not, decided – rightly, wisely – to ignore my input.
And so, the Friday night they were booked to headline (I say headline, obviously my indie disco was the main draw) rolled around, and as the crew set up, I was charged with looking after the talent, and on this occasion this meant taking them to the college refectory for some food.
We queued with the rest of the students, the band fitting in pretty well to be fair, and then we sat, the four of them with their bordering-on inedable meals in front of them.
Richey noticed I didn’t have any food. “Why aren’t you eating?” he asked.
“Budget doesn’t extend to me, just you chaps,” I replied.
“Have you eaten today?” (I was a lot thinner then than I am these days, or he probably wouldn’t have asked.)
“No, I’ll get a bag of chips on the way home.”
He pushed his plate into the middle of the table.
“Here, have some of mine”, he said, and so it was that I shared a cheese salad with Richey Manic. (Sharing a Cheese Salad with Richey Manic so nearly ended up being the name of this blog.)
This in no way colours my reappraisel of them when they played that night, but everything clicked and fell into place, I suddenly got them. And if they had been miming the first time, they definitely weren’t miming now.
In the years after, when I was working in retail in Cardiff, I sold Nicky Wire the entire Echo & The Bunnymen back-catalogue, and James Dean Bradfield some athlete’s foot powder (in different shops, of course).
But I never again crossed paths with Richey, who went missing a few years later in 1995, never to be found again. He was pronounced “presumed dead” in 2008.
Motorcycle Emptiness remains their finest moment, but for my money this remains them at their most angry, visceral and magnificent. Lyrics all by Richey (I think!):