Being called a “fucking squirrel” by James Dean Bradfield, aged 15, was a very special moment for me. Having chatted with me about my home town for a good five minutes, he was incredibly gracious as I kept flinging items in front of him to be signed. Sat in the confines of Cardiff Castle, having just been privy to, the still to be released, ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’ on some truly massive speakers, I was in my element. The sudden appearance of James next to me marked the first time I ever felt what you might call star struck. Having won a competition to attend the launch of the Manics’ fifth album, I was more than a little giddy that evening. Furnished with an information pack which contained an A4 booklet with each of the tracks’ lyrics, page by page, along with a selection of press photos, already seemed ludicrously exciting to my teenage mind without the addition of an actual Manic to scribble all over them. It marked the culmination of three years ascending to fever pitch over anything and everything the Manics had released. I’d come late to the party, I’d only really known them as a three-piece, but I was totally hooked. They were my band, as they have been to so many people at various points over the last twenty years. They’d grown up thirty miles down the road from me, felt no pressure to fit in and were endearingly caustic yet frank in interviews.
For many months thereafter, ‘This Is My Truth…’ was my album of choice more often that not. It’s not their best, it didn’t top the majesty of ‘Everything Must Go’, but it defined a moment for me and listening to it today I found I could remember almost every word. A new Manics album was a proper event for me, whether I heard it sat in the same room as James or by doing battle with a dial-up connection and the nascent days of Napster, and I’ve realised today that that hasn’t really changed. As is transparently obvious to anyone who regularly reads this site and follows the associated Twitter feed, I’ve had ‘Postcards From A Young Man’ since the end of July. I had to write a review of it after only four days of, admittedly solid, listening. I’ve continued to play it furiously in the intervening weeks, still backing in its all-out power-pop glory and massive riffs. However, being able to pick up the various editions today, in person, from Spillers Records brought back all of those memories of pre-ordering ‘This Is My Truth…’ from Woolies to make sure I got an embossed cover and of diverting my dad from ferrying me to a university interview in London to Sister Ray to acquire ‘Know Your Enemy’.
This tremendous set of songs, one of their best I would argue, is beautifully packaged and, out of all of the versions available, the 2CD set housed in a hardback book probably represents the best value for money, containing pages from Nicky’s scrapbook, early versions of lyrics and demos of the whole album on the bonus disc. This week, I intended to write at great length about this record and why I find myself slightly surprised at how much it means to me. As you’ll have noticed, Just Played is going to wear a slightly different outfit for the week. Should you dislike the Manics intensely, all will be back to normal by Monday 27th.