[T69] ‘4st 7lb’

Released on: The Holy Bible (Album #3) Epic Records, 29 August 1994
Track: 7

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”

References
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.

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One response to “[T69] ‘4st 7lb’

  1. >and perhaps shields Edwards from the significantly autobiographical nature of what he had written.

    I don’t have a way to prove it, but I don’t believe this song is written from an autobiographical perspective. The closing lines in particular (“I’ve finally come to understand life…”) indicate to me that Edwards is patronizing those who partake in anorexia as a form of connecting with him.

    Many songs on “The Holy Bible” could be construed as being voyeuristic: “Yes” and “Die in the Summertime” come to mind first, and other songs, such as “Archives of Pain,” are arguable. As I’ve gotten older, I’m more inclined to take Richey’s explanations at face value, rather than trying to discern some buried hint of his own mental state through the lyrics. I used to think “Die in the Summertime” was the most explicitly autobiographical song on the album, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve thought it best to believe it really was about the old pensioner Edwards described. I don’t think he would be so uncouth as to provide explanations of his lyrics that were misleading, as that would be antithetical to the entire spirit of the album. As such, I think “4st 7lb” could be included in this group of voyeuristic lyrics.

    At the very least, I think he is treating it with dark humor, and his humor is something he receives far too little credit for.

    Whatever the matter, we don’t sit around scrutinizing the lyrics of Katy Perry like this, do we? That’s the real gift of the Manics.

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