Released On: If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next (Single #21) Epic Records, 24 August 1998
Peak UK Chart Position: #1
Band Ranking: #5
Closing one of the most creatively and commercially successful Manics singles is ‘Montana/Autumn/78’, which is another B-side often held in very high regard (although, unlike [B101] ‘Prologue to History’ it was not included on Lipstick Traces). The song was written by Wire about Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the American terrorist known as “the Unabomber”. Kaczynski was an accomplished academic turned serial bomber, who killed three and wounded many others with home-made bombs over a 17 year period between 1978 and 1995. His nickname came from the FBI’s realisation that he was mainly targeting universities and airports.
The song’s title comes from the US state, season and year in which Kaczynski secluded himself in a cabin to undertake his crimes. In addition, a significant number of the lyrics can be clearly seen as references to the the bomber, such as the use of the term “Luddite” – Kaczynski’s motivation for his bombings was his opposition to what he saw as technology’s damaging effect on society.
Opening with a buzzing synth line which persists for much of the song, it’s immediately clear that ‘Montana/Autumn/78’ continues the experimentation with sound that typifies this period of Manics history. Owing to the emphasis on keyboards and the frantic pace, the song is very much an appropriate counterpart to single’s other B-side, ‘Prologue to History’. The most fascinating aspect is probably the very odd sense of pacing in the vocals – in the chorus Bradfield accelerates to almost Holy Bible-esque singing speeds for the line “your ego will destroy itself”.
The sense of exciting experimentation and and hectic pace of this song are key to its success and successful it certainly is: a gripping B-side which grapples with the edges of a fascinating subject (the Unabomber was a killer, but his ideas have been defended and expanded upon by a number of thinkers even as he remains in prison). It is interesting that these two B-sides are so upbeat, given that the then soon to be released This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours album would be largely quite subdued. The experimentation with instruments would certainly carry over to the album material, however.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“those skies must drive you wild”