Years ago, I tuned guitars for a band called The Family Cat. They were good – never made a record that really reflected this accurately – but good, really quite good. All in all I did something like 320 gigs with the band, humping gear and waiting for things to break. Over time they were supported by their fair share of artists who went on to achieve success to a greater or lesser degree, the likes of PJ Harvey, Blur, Carter USM, and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, even glorious one-hit wonders like White Town got a look-in. The one band that really sticks in the memory, however, are the Manic St Preachers.
If memory serves me correctly, it all started when the band received a letter from guitarist Richey, which went something along the lines of “Hello. We are Welsh punk. We are great. Can we support you?” Ever willing to oblige, they were provided with a pair of support slots, one at the Polytechnic of Central Wales and a second at Bristol’s long-running Fleece & Ferkin venue.
They were absolutely shocking, quite possibly the worst band I’d ever seen. Apart from all the faux-punk histrionics, Richey was obviously miming, or at least turned down so low in the mix that no-one could hear him. All this from a band no-one had ever heard of. To be honest, I really didn’t get it at all.
At the second gig I decided to give them another chance, but twenty minutes into the set my mind was made up. They were worthless, and I was going to let people know. I returned to the dressing room, almost apoplectic with rage and indie snobbery. “They’re shit,” I compained to the nearest person, before launching into a thoughtfully prepared critique of the band’s art. “They’re shit. The drummer is a midget. They’re shit. The singer is hopeless. They’re shit. The guitarist can’t play. They’re shit. The bass player is a cunt. They’re shit.” And so on and so on.
So anyway, the Manics finished their set, wandered backstage, and turned off the tape recorder. Yes, turned off the tape recorder. This is in the days before a crew of nine hundred and their own toilets at Glastonbury of course, they’re by themselves, and they’ve decided to record their show on a boom-box left in the dressing room. A boom-box that I’ve been sitting next to for ten minutes.
Suffice to say, you couldn’t hear much on the tape apart from me, and I kept an extremely low profile for the rest of the evening despite the apparent strength of my convictions. Years later I met singer James Dean Bradfield in a hotel bar and was too scared to bring the subject up, but I guess it’s safe now – this happened well over a decade ago, after all.