Released: Epic Records, 20 May 1996
Peak UK Chart Position: #2 (2x Platinum Certification)
Although The Holy Bible had met with a fairly muted commercial response, by the start of 1995 the Manic Street Preachers were full of aspirations and ideas. Edwards was already envisioning that the next album would sound like “Pantera meets Nine Inch Nails meets [Primal Scream’s album] Screamadelica” and with Bradfield, was scheduled to go on a promotional tour of the United States; the band had written and recorded a song intended for the soundtrack of the 1995 Judge Dredd film, which might also have improved their commercial standing in America. Given his stay at the Priory which had disrupted the efforts to promote The Holy Bible, some must have thought that Edwards’ mental and physical problems were abating. But as the all-too-familiar history records, Edwards disappeared on February 1st 1995. It was naturally a shattering event for the band personally, but also creatively – their thoughts of Edwards have come up in interviews countless times over the years, including as they relate to their musical decisions.
Most obviously, the horrifying event of Edwards’ disappearance factored enormously into the creation of what became Everything Must Go. Although some expected the Manics to break up, the band decided to continue as a three-piece, and shelved any prior ideas of how the album should sound, deciding that to persist in that specific direction without Edwards would be false. Instead, the album took what could be loosely described as an anti-Holy Bible approach – where that album stripped the band’s sound down, EMG amped it up, including many more orchestral touches such as string arrangements provided by Martin Greene. Meanwhile, the traditional rock band component of the sound was less wiry and more muscular, produced in a clean and contemporary style by Mike Hedges.
The recording locations were also much more salubrious – in addition to Big Noise Productions in Cardiff, the band also worked at Chateau de La Rouge Motte in France and Peter Gabriel’s spacious Real World Studios in Wiltshire. Hedges owns the Chateau and prides himself on his extensive collection of high-quality analogue recording equipment, including some rescued from the vaults of the legendary Abbey Road studios. This must go some way to explaining the altogether richer sound the Manics were able to achieve with Hedges, and which contributes much to the feel of Everything Must Go.
Abandoning any original plans for the album did not mean that Wire had to write all of the lyrics himself – in fact the band recorded three songs with lyrics entirely written by Edwards before his disappearance (hit single ‘Kevin Carter’, ‘Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky’ and ‘Removables’) and two he had co-written with Wire (the opener ‘Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier’ and ‘The Girl Who Wanted to Be God). Still, the writing task left to Wire was a huge one and marked the beginning of a major increase in his creative contribution to the band. In addition to the seven lyrics he wrote single-handedly, he also earned his first music writing credits on three songs. The workload took its toll – by fourth single ‘Australia’, Wire was exhausted and suffering from writer’s block, so all of the single’s B-sides were covers.
The commercial response to the more accessible songwriting and production and Wire’s more personal and resonant lyrics was immediate. The lead single ‘A Design For Life’ was a #2 hit on the UK chart in April 1996, giving the band their biggest ever singles success. The album also hit #2, spending a huge 82 weeks on the chart. The Manics won Best British Album and Best British Group at the 1997 Brit Awards, and were nominated for two others (Best British Single and Best British Video, both for ‘A Design for Life’). Mike Hedges was also nominated for Best Producer. These successes saw the band’s debut album Generation Terrorists shift another 110,000 copies – the Manics had truly arrived as a commercial force and they would be changed as a band forever, although never at the expense of their original ideals.
As Simon Price put it, they had achieved “enormous success, artistically and commercially, albeit at a cost they could never have imagined”. With Everything Must Go, the second great phase of Manic Street Preachers began.
1) [T80] ‘Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier’
2) [A76] ‘A Design For Life’
3) [A81] ‘Kevin Carter’
4) [T82] ‘Enola/Alone’
5) [A83] ‘Everything Must Go’
6) [T84] ‘Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky’
7) [T85] ‘The Girl Who Wanted to Be God’
8) [T86] ‘Removables’
9) [A87] ‘Australia’
10) [T88] ‘Interiors (Song For Willem De Kooning)’
11) [T89] ‘Further Away’
12) [T90] ‘No Surface All Feeling’