Released on: The Holy Bible (Album #3) Epic Records, 29 August 1994
Nothing else sounds quite like ‘4st 7lb’. Even in the context of an album on which each track is a significantly different, dark riff on the post-punk formula, this song is one of the most unique Manics efforts of its era. Bradfield’s superb guitars create much of the bleak but perversely exciting atmosphere, and Moore’s drums are constantly shifting and seldom sticking to one pattern for any length of time. The fairly protracted slow, hazy section at the end of the song is perhaps its masterstroke, build around Bradfield’s “underwater” guitar work and creating a sense of life slowly slipping away.
Life slipping away? Yes, ‘4st 7lb’ deals with a brush with death right at the mid-point of The Holy Bible, creating the (accurate) impression that things could actually get darker from here. The song is Edwards’ excellently-written musing on the subject of the eating disorder anorexia, which he himself had suffered. One of the things which makes the lyric particularly powerful is the treatment of anorexia not just as a tragic, shocking condition in terms of what it does to sufferers, but also as a kind of dysfunction of vanity in which the sufferer delights in abusing those around them (“just look at the fat scum who pamper me so”) – easy listening it is not. 4st 7lb is, of course, the weight below which death becomes medically unavoidable – the point of no return.
The song’s devastating chorus is one of the finest aspects, in which the song’s protagonist conjures up fantastic images of slimming into non-existence, romanticising the slow death she is inflicting upon herself. It is notable that Bradfield sings from an explicitly female perspective here – this is perhaps unique within the whole of the Manics discography, and perhaps shields Edwards from the significantly autobiographical nature of what he had written.
Undoubtedly one of the best songs Richey Edwards ever wrote, ‘4st 7lb’ is a devastating piece of work, even in the context of The Holy Bible. Songs like this would not come around again.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“and I don’t mind the horror that surrounds me”
Karen – Karen Krizanovich, formerly of Sky Magazine, agony aunt, journalist.
Kate – Kate Moss (1974 -) English model known for her waifish figure, drug-taking, and association with “heroin chic”.
Emma – Emma Balfour (1970 -), Australian model.
Kristin – Kristin McMenamy (1966 -), American model.
Ryvita – a rye-based crispbread product commonly eaten by people trying to slim.
Kit Kat – chocolate bar made by Nestlé.
Twiggy – Lesley Lawson (née Hornby) (1949 -) English model, particularly famous in the 1960s.