[B78] ‘Dead Passive’

Released on: A Design For Life (Single #17) Epic Records, 15 April 1996
Peak UK Chart Position: #2
Band Ranking: #2

Now here is something a little intriguing. ‘Dead Passive’, despite being released on one of the most successful Manics singles ever, was not included on Lipstick Traces and as a result has faded to fairly serious levels of obscurity. And yet, much is notable about it – it is a rare example of a Manics song which specifically deals with romantic relationships (albeit the vacuous nature of those enjoyed by celebrities), it has an unusual structure which emphasises the verses over the choruses, and it contains a very rare appearance of a flute.

Because of its lilting feel and especially Moore’s drums, the song has a kind of march feel to it which heightens its pervasive sense of oddness. The lyrics and vocals are surprisingly bitter given the fairly upbeat tone of the music, and point the finger at people who lead perfect looking rather than genuinely active lives. The chorus references four celebrity couples of the period, and the song in general could be said to reflect the fact that the band’s cynicism about relationships was persisting despite Edwards’ absence.

The really intriguing line comes right at the end of the song and appears to pour scorn on others who contributed, as the Manics did, to the 1995 charity compilation The Help Album. “We’re so passive / do our bit for charity”, it begins, adding “from Bosnia to London / we do it all for free”. Bosnia was one of the main countries for which War Child was trying to fundraise, and the album may well have been recorded in London. The clear implication seems to be that the targets of this line are model Kate Moss and actor Johnny Depp (the “Kate and Johnny” mentioned in this song), who were then a couple and appeared on Oasis’ contribution to the compilation, ‘Fade Away’. Presumably, Wire felt that the couple’s contribution to the album was somehow less than genuine, went home, and incorporated the sentiment into ‘Dead Passive’. A fascinating bit of celebrity animosity there, for those who are into that kind of thing.

‘Dead Passive’ is hardly revelatory but it is quite unique within the discography and is something ardent Manics fans should definitely seek out, even if its absence from the rarities compilation was hardly surprising.

Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“I’m so passive / a hopeless fucking mess”

Kate and Johnny – Kate Moss (1974 -), British model previously referenced in [T69] ‘4st 7lb’ and Johnny Depp (1963 -), American actor, then a couple.

Adam and Naomi – Adam Clayton (1960 -) bass player for U2 and Naomi Campbell (1970 -) British supermodel, engaged for a time.

Michael and Helena – Michael Hutchence (1960 – 1997) frontman of rock band INXS and Helena Christiansen (1968 -) Danish model, together in the early ’90s.

Hugh and Elizabeth – Hugh Grant (1960 -) British actor and Elizabeth Hurley (1965 -) British actress who came to fame largely as a result of her relationship with Grant.


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