Released on: Motown Junk (Single #2) Heavenly Records, 21 January 1991
Peak UK Chart Position: #94
Band Ranking: #6
Although unreleased until it became the B-side of ‘Motown Junk’ in January 1991, ‘Sorrow 16′ had already existed for some time; most significantly, it had been on the setlist for the Manics’ first gigs in London in 1989. Then, it was written as ‘Sorrow Sixteen’, had partly different lyrics and was played at a significantly faster pace.
Some attempts were made to update the song to the band’s 1991 standards, not least the inclusion of some playfully whining guitar figures between the lines. The end result, however, still paled in comparison to the A-side not least because of the thoughtless lyrics. “Kill yourself and censor health” in particular surely ranks as one of the weakest lines the Manics had yet set to music, although “cut your hair in front of businessmen” can at least to be said to be one of the oddest lines ever.
A degree of redemption is achieved, though, by the song’s conclusion. Although spelling out words for dramatic effect ranks right up there with the worst songwriting conceits, Bradfield’s exhausted bellowing of “B E A U T I F U L” at the end of ‘Sorrow 16’ somehow works, exemplifying the band’s ability to turn hackneyed ideas into genuine highlights.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“oh the road is beautiful / you live stoned in obedience”
‘Sweet Sixteen’ – the title of ‘Sorrow 16’ is arguably a allusion to this phrase (meaning a sixteenth birthday, typically of a girl), or one of the various songs with this title.
Perrier – a brand of bottled spring water produced in Vergéze, France.