Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

2. Manic Street PreachersThe Holy Bible

I cannot stress the importance that the music of the Manic Street Preachers on my life. They truly saved me. The first song I ever heard by the Manics was ‘Faster’ and I remember saying thank you to Steve Lamacq for playing it when I met him a few years back, because he introduced me to the band. Their impact on my life was monumental. I wouldn’t have done A Levels, gone to university or even studied if it were not for that band. They were surrogate teachers for me and really all of that comes from The Holy Bible and the layers of knowledge that are there for you to unpack – all the quotations, all of the references, all of the intertextual allusions within the lyrics themselves. Like in ‘Faster’, the line ’I am stronger than Mensa / Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter’, I was writing down those names and going to the library, going to the computer to look them up and ordering them out of area. One of the first things I ordered was Andrea Dworkin’s Mercy, after hearing the Manics quote it. It’s not something you should probably read when you’re like 12 years old, but it was just another important example of all the literature the Manics led me to – and some especially feminist literature. The lyrics always had a domino effect for me, taking me from one author to the next, time and time again. I fell down a rabbit hole with them and the next thing I was applying to study English at university! I can’t explain the importance of that record on me; it made me who I am, completely.

There were other reasons why they became such an important band for me too. At the time I discovered them, I was in my early teens and kind of unsure, like many teens, of where I fitted in the world. I was at a state grammar school with people who were from a much higher socio-economic group than me: I was one of only a handful there on free school meals. I felt a little bit displaced and was searching for where I belong. I think the Manics made me feel like I belonged in a way that my life didn’t. They were singing about class and they were also Welsh – as were my family too. At that age you’re also looking for your roots and your heritage so it also coincided with that. But more than anything, I was just looking for people like me. At school, I didn’t have that just by the fucked up nature that selective education works. Being poor and being at schools like mine was traumatising and the Manics took me away from that every time I played this album.

The Manics contacted me once I started making music, after my first album came out, which was a moment! I met James Dean Bradfield at the Q Awards, when I was there with Simple Minds. He said to me ‘you’re in my favourite band’ and I said ‘you’re in mine’! Later, they asked me to come and sing ‘Little Baby Nothing’ with them at the Eden Project in 2016. I guess they’d probably seen me talking about them quite a lot in the press around my debut, Confessions Of A Romance Novelist, when I was discussing the records that influenced my own life and music. Obviously, I was talking about the Manics a lot because they run through everything I do and with Nicky [Wire] being an avid devourer of the music press, he probably saw me talking about how much they meant to me! I went and supported them and it just sort of became a regular occurrence where they invited me to do things with them. Later, they asked me to duet with them on ‘Dylan & Caitlin’, which was mind-blowing. I think if you’d have told me when I was at school that I would have ended up singing on a Manics record and going on tour with them and had James Dean Bradfield on my record, I just couldn’t have believed it at all. They’ve been so incredibly supportive of me personally and professionally. They say never meet your idols, but that doesn’t apply to the Manics.

Selected in other Baker’s Dozens: Helm, Benjamin Myers, Skindred
PreviousNext Record

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today