Before Richie Edwards disappeared (eventually being declared legally dead) in 1995, the Manic Street Preachers had scandalised and delighted Britain by turns with one publicity stunt after another, a parade of hit singles and somewhat pretentious albums. The Welsh band considered splitting up, but, with the blessing of Edwards’ family, wisely decided to continue. I say ‘wisely’ because Everything Must Go was a triumphant return to form that yielded certainly one of my favourite singles of all time, A Design For Life (FF 1996 #42), an overwhelming string-backed exhortation to the working class not to lose their dignity. The title was inspired by Joy Division’s A Design For Living EP. However, the line ‘We don’t talk about love/We only want to get drunk’, which was a criticism of people who think the working class are superficial, was misunderstood as encouraging the listener to piss it up. Notwithstanding, the song made number 2 in the UK charts, and kick-started their career again in a big way.
Baby Bird are best known for that big hit with the lingering melody, You’re Gorgeous. However, the band had started as the vehicle for the talents of just one man, Stephen Jones. He made an album of demos for an experimental theatre group in Sheffield which, when it had been released as an album I Was Born A Man in the summer of 1995, was favourably received by the critics. This encouraged him to recruit a keyboard-based band to tour and show off his melodic, whimsical and uplifting songs. Goodnight (FF 1996 #15) is a typical example. The song had originally appeared in skeletal form on Fatherhood, third in the series of demo albums, the year before. Jones’ voice seems to ache with the longing he expresses, and I suspect this is part of his appeal. It climbed to 28 in the UK charts, and set off a train of hits which kept Baby Bird in pocket for the next four years. After that, they split and Jones retired to fatherhood, releasing multiple instrumental albums and two arrests for being drunk and disorderly.