Page last updated at 11:42 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 12:42 UK
Manic Street Preachers rock on
Manic Street Preachers
The Manics are the great survivors of pre-Britpop rock

The political art-rockers turned pop-rock heroes are still going strong after more than twenty years.

The Manics emerged from Blackwood, fuelled by the radical socialist culture of the south Wales valleys.

They've outlived their own expiration date, survived personal trauma and enjoyed infamy, notoriety and success.

Some say their name comes from the book of the Monty Python film Life of Brian, which lists 'manic street preacher' as one of its characters.

The Manic Street Preachers were born, albeit with a different name, in 1986, when James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire, Sean Moore and rhythm guitarist Flicker formed Betty Blue, although they'd changed their name to Manic Street Preachers by the time they'd cut their first single, Suicide Alley.

All friends from an early age, it wasn't long before Richey Edwards, at first a peripheral member of the group, was absorbed into the line-up.

Manic Street Preachers with Richey Edwards (second left)
Richey Edwards (second left) addressed taboo subjects in his lyrics

After the single failed to make any waves, the band moved to London, where their startling visuals and forthright views prompted some critics to dismiss them as phoney chancers.

Melody Maker writer Bob Stanley thought differently and helped them put together the New Art Riot EP for Heavenly Records. them on and would prove crucial to their future.

Two further singles got the music press talking and led to acres of coverage. Liked or loathed, almost everybody had an opinion about them.

The image threatened to swamp their music, so much so that when rock journalist Steve Lamacq asked the band if they were "for real", the band's protestations were vividly underlined when Richey Edwards cut the words "4 Real" into his forearm with a razor. Six days later the Manics signed a major record deal with Sony.

Their first album Generation Terrorists sold 250,000 copies world-wide, and despite the band's claims that they would make "one great album then split up, throw it all away," they conspicuously stayed together.

The second album Gold Against the Soul disappointed some, and after touring many levelled the accusation that they were losing their direction. Problems worsened with the death of Philip Hall in December 1993, and Richey's emotional problems led to his admission to the Priory Clinic in London.

This turmoil would be documented in the energetic and relentlessly bleak third album The Holy Bible, released to great acclaim in 1994. The uncompromising tone of the record would translate into a similarly charged live tour, climaxing with the destruction of £10,000 worth of their equipment at the London Astoria. It was the last time they would play as a four-piece.

A BBC Wales Today archive report from 1995, three weeks after Richey Edwards went missing

In 1995, just before they were due to leave for the USA, Richey walked out of the Embassy Hotel in London, never to return. His passport and money were found in his Cardiff flat, and two weeks later his car was found beside the Severn Bridge, a notorious suicide spot. His disappearance has become one of the most talked-about in rock history, and would ironically put a bigger spotlight on the band than ever before.

"We decided to carry on," Nicky would later tell The Guardian, "after two months of waiting and feeling ill and exhausted, paralysed and unable to do anything."

By January 1996 they were back in the studio as a trio, resulting in Everything Must Go, a considerably more radio-friendly album than its predecessors, which was met with great critical and commercial success including two Brit Awards. The follow-up, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, attracted some criticism for its comfortably epic sound.

Some felt the Manics were abandoning passion for over-production, and the band agreed. After a break they returned with their punk comeback single The Masses against the Classes, which soared to Number One and heralded a return to a more direct sound. After a triumphant Millennium concert at the Millennium Stadium, Nicky announced that "the fourth era of the Manics is beginning."

James Dean Bradfield on why missing guitarist Richey Edwards' lyrics feature on the band's new album

This new era has seen the Blackwood boys play for Fidel Castro in Cuba, although the greatest hits album and tour at the end of 2002 unsurprisingly prompted whispers of a break-up.

But the trio have continued recording and gigging, and remain one of the most popular acts on the festival scene and live circuit across Europe.

Meanwhile in November 2008 it was revealed that the parents of Richey Edwards had obtained a court order to have him declared presumed dead.

The band's 2009 album Journal for Plague Lovers features lyrics written by Edwards.

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