Released on: Life Becoming a Landslide E.P. (EP #2) Columbia Records, 7 February 1994
Cover: Originally by McCarthy
While McCarthy enter the Manics discography here in earnest for the first time, the indie pop band had been part of the Manics’ story as a band since the very beginning this cover of their song ‘Charles Windsor’ taps right into that era. Formed in Barking, Essex in 1984, McCarthy have become a cult name among Manics fans for their status as one of the primary inspirations for the band or as Nicky Wire put it, “they are partly to blame for the realisation of Manic Street Preachers”. McCarthy were active for just five years between 1985 to 1990.
In 1986, McCarthy found some degree of exposure when their song ‘Celestial City’ was featured on the infamous C86 cassette compilation released with a copy of NME in conjunction with the indie label Rough Trade. The cassette’s title became shorthand for a whole generation of indie pop bands known for their “jangling” guitar stylings. What marked McCarthy out in particular was their hard-left political leanings, which were the inspiration for their ironic band name (after Joseph McCarthy, who sought to root out communist sympathies in the US during the 1950s).
In 1987, ‘Charles Windsor’ was released as part of the band’s debut album I Am A Wallet. This LP became a particular influence on the Manics – Wire famously described it as “a Communist Manifesto with tunes” and Bradfield ranks it as his favourite British album of all time. McCarthy’s influence on the Manics was mainly lyrical – singer Malcolm Eden frequently wrote songs from the perspective of characters he did not necessarily agree with, which the Manics have also done on occasion – [T68] ‘Archives of Pain’ is arguably one notable example. A rare song which can be seen to have a McCarthy musical influence is the relatively obscure [T130] ‘The Year of Purification’.
As for the Manics cover of ‘Charles Windsor’, the main thing it is is hilarious. While it’s obvious that the Manics are trying to amp up the loudness and aggression, it’s difficult to say if they are trying to be funny or if they are taking their cover much, much too seriously. In any case, Bradfield’s delivery is a real scream in more ways than one, especially his brilliantly daft rendition of the chorus. It’s not difficult to see why the Manics chose to cover this song, given its anti-monarchist theme – but ‘Charles Windsor’ was never one of McCarthy’s strongest efforts and the Manics recording feels like a very enjoyable but ultimately minor work.
At a very brisk 1:33 it is not only a few seconds shorter than McCarthy’s version, but it is also the shortest track officially released as part of the main tracklisting of any Manics album or single or EP (two shorter “songs” appear as bonus tracks on the tenth anniversary edition of Everything Must Go, ‘Glory Glory’ and ‘Dixie’).
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“so many rich men weep in despair / on and on into Trafalgar Square”
Charles Windsor – Charles, Prince of Wales. Eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and heir apparent to the British and related monarchies.
Trafalgar Square – a large public square located in the the borough of Westminster in London. Its name commemorates British victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in in 1805, in which Spain and Napoleonic France were defeated at sea.
The Sun – British tabloid newspaper founded in 1963. It has the tenth largest circulation of any newspaper in the world and the largest in the UK.