Released on: Everything Must Go (Album #4) Epic Records, 20 May 1996
Also on: Everything Must Go (Single #18) Epic Records, 22 July 1996
Peak UK Chart Position: #5
Band Ranking: #24
Sean Moore has commented that ‘Everything Must Go’ is listed as his best drum performance in Drummer magazine which definitely makes a lot of sense. His work here is particularly complex and dynamic, which suits the stagey and dramatic nature of a song on which both drums and the string arrangements are both more important to the atmosphere than the guitars. Everything added up to making the song a natural choice for the second single to promote EMG, and it was a successful release, reaching an impressive #5 in the chart and marking the band’s second consecutive top ten single in the UK. The song is the first of just two Manics title tracks to ever be released as a single, the other one being ‘Postcards From a Young Man’.
In contrast to the drumming work, the song as a whole is structurally very simple which, in addition to its heavy reliance on strings, is probably the main reason for its failure to become a live staple. Its dramatic nature has seen it described as “the best Bond theme that never was” in some quarters, however. Bradfield recalled the Ian Grimble, engineer on Everything Must Go, was contacted by several of his engineer friends about this song, who asked variations of “what the fuck do you think you’re doing?” This was in reference to Grimble’s uncompromising approach, which meant that the drums had very little in the way of compression, sounding instead “very free and open”.
The lyrics are fairly vague and were written entirely by Wire. It has been suggested that they are about the band’s response to Edwards’ disappearance, but it is hard to find much support for this idea – the words are as much about the future as they are the past, and seem to have some kind of wider societal basis to them (“I look to the future / it makes me cry”). In the tenth anniversary documentary on the album, Wire explained that one aspect behind the lyrics was the idea of trying to say to the audience, “if you don’t like it, fuck off”, in reference to the band’s change of style. It was lucky, in retrospect, that the message was subtle.
The song had an excellent video made for it by W.I.Z., one of his several collaborations with the band. Set within what looks a lot like an art installation which features some giant clocks, the Manics play with hilariously bored or impassive faces while random people mill around them, before a storm of petals covers everyone.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“I look to the future it makes me cry / but it seems too real to tell you why”