Released on: Faster / P.C.P. (Single #13) Epic Records, 6 June 1994
Peak UK Chart Position: #16
Band Ranking: N/A
Also on: The Holy Bible (Album #3) Epic Records, 29 August 1994
‘P.C.P.’ is an interesting prospect within the context of The Holy Bible and as a joint A-side with [A59] ‘Faster’. As the album’s closer, the song provides a rare moment of relative levity immediately after the crushing darkness of [T73] ‘The Intense Humming of Evil’; fast-paced and with some oddball lines, it is actually quite amusing in places. It is these qualities that made it a natural counterpart to ‘Faster’ on the single, although that role for the song is seldom remembered today (it was not included in the band’s single ranking in 2011, for example).
The track has a kind of darkly playful aspect to it, which is nicely summed up by the clever title, which has fun with acronyms. “PCP” is itself an acronym for phencyclidine, a recreational and hallucinogenic drug, but the letters also contain the acronyms for political correctness, police constable and (perhaps not relevantly) Conservative Party. Political correctness is the song’s main theme; in Melody Maker in 1994 Wire described the idea as “inherently good”, but something that, like socialism, had been abused and could lead its adherents to become not more fair, but almost tyrannical in an Orwellian kind of way. The lyrics are arguably a sort of satire on this idea, which take it to extremes.
‘P.C.P.’ can be seen as an example of a Manics song which deals with issues which, if anything, have gone on to be of larger importance in the almost twenty years since its release – in particular, political correctness is still an issue of debate in the UK, as are designer drugs and the song’s other theme: the increasingly dumbed-down, hollow and grey nature of contemporary society. One of the Manics’ enduringly confusing and mysterious lines is “king cigarette snuffed out by her midgets”: something to do with banning smoking presumably, but midgets?
Musically, the song is one of the most straightforward balls-to-the-wall rockers on The Holy Bible; the otherwise jarring shift from the previous track on the album to this one is softened slightly by the initially quite ponderous, leaden drums from Moore in the intro. After this interlude the song becomes much faster, but in keeping with the humour in the lyrics there are some other softer touches, especially the backing vocals in the choruses.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“systemised atrocity ignored / as long as bi-lingual signs on view”
Oxford Street – Europe’s busiest shopping street, located in Westminster, London.
Pyrrhic victory – a victory which almost completely destroys the victor in the process. Named after King Pyrrhus of Epirus due to his battles with the Roman Empire.
Liposuction – surgical procedure to remove fat from overweight people.
Euthanasia – also known as “assisted dying”. Ending a life in order to alleviate pain and suffering.
Inoculate – term used fairly interchangeably with vaccinate.
Shakespeare – William Shakespeare (baptised 1564 – 1616), English playwright and poet widely regarded as the greatest ever writer in English.
Big Brother – a character in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, enigmatic ruler of the state of Oceania. Subsequently a term for government oversight or surveillance.
Leviticus – third book of the Hebrew Bible. Edwards referred the book being “used by homophobes to justify their hatred”.
Surrogate sex – sex with a specialised sex therapist designed to achieve a therapeutic goal.
Prozac – trade name for fluoxetine, an antidepressant drug.
Bi-lingual signs – this is probably an allusion to the road signs in the Manics’ native Wales, which are presented in both English and Welsh.
“Be pure, be vigilant, behave” – a slogan used by Tomas de Torquemada, puritanical and xenophobic villain in Nemesis the Warlock, a long-running story in British sci-fi comics anthology 2000 AD (Torquemada shares his name with the infamous Spanish inquisitor). Edwards in particular was a fan of 2000 AD; when he was young a picture of his was printed in the comic – he won £3. Later, the 4 Real incident was satirised in a Judge Dredd story by Garth Ennis, and the character Domino wore a Manics t-shirt in the Grant Morrison story Zenith.
“227 Lears, and I can’t remember the first line” – spoken by Albert Finney in the 1983 film The Dresser, based on the 1980 Broadway play written by Ronald Harwood. “Lears” refers to performances of King Lear, Shakespeare’s tragedy play.