[A41] ‘From Despair to Where’

Released on: From Despair to Where (Single #10) Columbia Records, 7 June 1993
Peak UK Chart Position: #25
Band Ranking: #29
Also on:
Gold Against the Soul (Album #2) Columbia Records, 14 June 1993
Track: 2

Later released as the second track on the Manics’ second album Gold Against the Soul, ‘From Despair to Where’ was released just seven days earlier as the only promotional single to be put out before the album itself. This was the band’s first recorded output for eight months, and the first public hearing of the significantly different direction they had chosen for the new record – the record they once claimed would never be made.

Although it soon gives way to a fearsome shout, Bradfield’s soft vocal approach in the opening bars of the song and his similarly subdued opening guitar notes hinted that the overblown all-or-nothing style of the previous record was giving way. The prominent organ in the verses and the strings in the instrumental section would also prove to be a hallmarks of the new and more textured sound of Gold Against the Soul; all of the guitar work is also much more considered than the merciless assault that characterised much of Generation Terrorists. Perhaps most crucially, Moore’s live drums are given the prominent role they would have throughout the album and the rest of the band’s career, far from being relegated to B-sides as they had been during the era of the previous record.

‘From Despair to Where’ is a good example of the extent to which the tide was changing lyrically, too. While it does deal largely with the tedium and unreality of modern life, hardly an unlikely Manics theme, the song looks at the issue from a personal perspective that had been rare in their work before 1993 but would dominate it on Gold. The third verse in particular demonstrates the increasing cohesiveness and drive of the lyrics Edwards and Wire were putting together by this point.

Given its memorable chorus and powerful but textured arrangement, ‘Despair’ was probably a natural choice for first single. Dave Eringa’s fairly glossy ’90s rock production might well have assisted the song as it reached a respectable #25 in the UK singles chart. Like the other singles from the album, this song has gone on to be one of the most widely respected songs from the GATS era among fans, as well as one of the few songs from the period to be played live regularly.

The chart position some way below the expectations of Manics co-manager Martin Hall, who apparently claimed upon hearing the song that it would be the band’s first international #1 hit, as was ‘Maggie May’ for Rod Stewart. The inclusion of the phrase “Heavenly Versions” to describe both [B12] ‘Spectators of Suicide (Heavenly Version)’ and [B13] ‘Starlover’ on the cover sticker was the origin of the confusion over ‘Starlover’, which was only ever recorded once, for Heavenly. Using a term like “Heavenly Recordings” might have made more sense.

The promo video for the song was directed by Peter Scammel and features the band playing in a house, accompanied by a pack of white dogs and some interesting visual effects such as a red tint, split-screen and elaborate transitions.

Choice Lyric
“outside open-mouthed crowds / pass each other as if they’re drugged”

Video
‘From Despair to Where’ Promo Video (Directed by Peter Scammel)

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