“Richey Edwards, who was declared legally dead on Sunday, was the former co-lyricist and rhythm guitarist of the rock band Manic Street Preachers; he disappeared from a London hotel room in February 1995, when he was 27, and there have been no confirmed sightings since.
Musically, Edwards contributed nothing to the band (he didn’t sing, and in the early days of the Manics’ live performances his guitar was often unplugged while he mimed his part). He was none the less a vital component of the group as its polemicist and co-lyricist (with Nicky Wire), and to the band’s fans he was to assume the status of a British Kurt Cobain – an impulse towards self-destruction, evident since his teenage years, was part of his make-up.
Richard James Edwards was born on December 22 1967 at Blackwood, South Wales. His intellectual abilities were evident at Oakdale comprehensive school, Blackwood, where he earned three “A” grades at A-Level. At the University of Wales at Swansea he read Political History and briefly toyed with the notion of becoming a teacher.
Richey Edwards and the bass-player Nicky Wire (real name Jones) were close friends from university, and were joined by James Dean Bradfield as singer/guitarist and his cousin, Sean Moore, on drums. Bradfield and Moore took on the role of composing the music; Edwards and Wire wrote the lyrics, as well as designing the records and the promotional material and taking care of the band’s public image.
Gradually they began to make an impact on the charts. Their single Motown Junk made it to 92; You Love Us got to number 64; and Stay Beautiful reached number 40. After signing to Sony (to the irritation of indie fans), in 1992 they produced a commercial rock double-album, Generation Terrorists, which charted at number 13.
A second album, Gold Against The Soul, followed in 1993, featuring songs written by Edwards about insomnia, the impossibility of love, and the problems of becoming an adult. By this time, however, he was becoming increasingly disturbed. In May 1991, after a gig at Norwich, he had used a razor to inscribe “4 REAL” on his forearm, an act which necessitated a visit to hospital and 17 stitches. He had been a habitual self-harmer since his schooldays, and in an early interview with a teen magazine had once urged his fans to kill themselves before they reached the age of 13. He once said of his self-destructive impulse: “When I was young I just wanted to be noticed.” Later on, he said, cutting himself helped him to concentrate.
He was also becoming increasingly dependent on alcohol and was showing signs of anorexia. By the time of the band’s third album, The Holy Bible (1994), for which he wrote many of the lyrics, Edwards’s mental state had deteriorated badly. In July that year he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Cardiff and, later, to the Priory in London.
Edwards appeared to respond to treatment, and he rejoined the band for their autumn tour. He was on stage for a performance at the London Astoria on December 21 1994, at the close of which they smashed their equipment. It was to be his last appearance.
On February 2 1995, when the Manics were about to embark on a promotional trip to the United States, James Dean Bradfield went to collect Edwards from his room at a hotel in Bayswater, London. Getting no response, he and others broke down the door to find 30 sheets of lyrics but no sign of Edwards. His father found his son’s passport and credit cards at Richey’s flat in Cardiff; and on February 17 the police found his car at a service station near the Severn Bridge. It was widely assumed that he had committed suicide, although his body has never been found.
For the past 13 years Edwards has been the lost figure of rock, the industry’s equivalent of Lord Lucan…”
- Daily Telegraph, 24 November, 2008