We Love Them

The Top 20 Manic Street Preachers Songs As Voted By Fans

by Andy Johnson

18 September 2013


10 - 6

10. “You Love Us”
(Generation Terrorists, 1992)

Especially when it was originally released as a single on Heavenly Records in 1991, “You Love Us” was a brilliant early missive from the Manics propaganda machine. Far from being loved by the critical establishment and record-buying public, the band were then one of the most divisive groups in the UK music scene. Today, the song is such a live favourite and so integral to the Manics live experience that it’s actually surprising it didn’t place a bit higher in the list. Besides its many enthralling live outings, the ultimate version of this effort is the 2012 remastered version of the original 1991 Heavenly single. That track includes terrific sound and hilarious backing vocals, and is book-ended by samples of Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” and Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life”—perhaps the best possible demonstration of the Manics’ mission to aggressively smash together high and low culture.

9. “From Despair to Where”
(Gold Against the Soul, 1993)

Even the most bitter detractors of the Gold Against the Soul album tend to celebrate “From Despair to Where”, one of two well-regarded singles released to promote record voted into this list’s top ten. While the song itself claims that “Words are never enough / Like cheap tarnished glitter”, it’s the lyrics—particularly those about the numbing reality of life under capitalism in the late twentieth century—have done much to secure the track’s reputation. Of course, James Dean Bradfield’s vocal and guitar heroics have their part to play, too.

8. “Stay Beautiful”
(Generation Terrorists, 1992)

It’s a testament to how vast Generation Terrorists is that a song as gripping as “Stay Beautiful” was placed all the way back as track 11 (of 18). The song has remained so iconic to the Manics and their faithful that its title has become a common phrase, often used to sign off missives from Nicky Wire. The most memorable moment of the track—in which the phrase “fuck off” is silenced and only a squealing guitar is heard—was a result of studio tinkering by producer Steve Brown. He excised the offending phrase apparently without consulting the band, and today fans are often only too happy to re-insert it. By hitting #40, the single opened a record-breaking run of Top 40 singles for the band.

7. “Little Baby Nothing”
(Generation Terrorists, 1992)

Recording a dramatic feminist rock ballad and bringing in former porn star Traci Lords to complete a duet about exploitation of women was exactly the kind of thing the Manics were all about in 1992, and “Little Baby Nothing” remains one of the key moments on the mammoth Generation Terrorists. Although the song is probably one of the most dated Manics recordings, the lyrics are priceless; the description of money as “paper made out of broken, twisted trees” and the Manics manifesto-of-sorts “culture, alienation, boredom and despair” are particularly memorable. Lords’ efforts weren’t bad either—one wonders how bemused she would be to learn about how popular this track is with today’s Manics fans.

6. “Motown Junk”
(Non-album a-side, 1991)

“Motown Junk”, a song so thrilling and iconic to Manics fans that it is played at every show, and yet so iconoclastic that the Bradfield never sings the controversial line “I laughed when Lennon got shot” any more. The sheer abandon of the playing on this, the Manics’ first “proper” single, reflects their youthful anger, self-belief and supreme confidence. The Manics would go on to state that they would release a debut album, sell millions of copies, pack out Wembley Stadium, and then break up—in the fury of “Motown Junk”, you hear the sound of a band that really believed it. In many of the other songs in this list, you can hear reasons to be glad it didn’t happen.

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