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Jun 14

THE MANIC STREET PREACHERS – “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next”

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#799, 5th September 1998

tolerate “You can interpret the lyrics,” huffed a Nazi goon caught nicking this song for the BNP’s website, “any way you want.” The specific double meaning of “if I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists” eludes me, but it’s true enough that the Manic Street Preachers’ lyricists had a taste for the oblique. Simple polemic was rarely their style: on their early records they favoured harsh, dense word-blocks, crushed by the transition to song into something barely singable, their uneasy imagery delivered by James Dean Bradfield as a compressed bark. But for all their rough treatment, the words mattered – for The Holy Bible the band took out double-page ads printing the record’s scorched, self-lacerating lyrics in full. They made records About Things, things number ones only occasionally break bread with: self-harm, depression, the decline of class consciousness. And here, apparently, the Spanish Civil War.

But one of those things is not like the others. Why on earth make, in 1998, a record about the Spanish Civil War? Old battles had never been the Manics’ territory: they preferred live issues, current problems of culture and psychology. A song praising the Republicans in the Spanish conflict is not addressing a live issue: and, to be honest, there weren’t a lot of obvious 1998 analogies you could make for it. “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” is a magnificent title, but tolerate what? What line were the band drawing? Was it all a better-read version of Father Ted’s omniprotest: Down With This Sort Of Thing?

So I’d like to suggest that something more is going on here, but before digging into what, it’s worth asking how we got to this in the first place. “If You Tolerate This” is a fanbase record, as surely as anything by Boyzone is. The Manics had been the most startling beneficiaries of the post-Oasis interest in British bands, hitting form and accessibility at just the right time for big, gestural rock to succeed. And to be horribly cynical about it, the tragedy of Richey Edwards established their bona fides as a serious band at the same time as his absence meant they could stumble into the mainstream without lyrics like “He’s a boy / You want a girl so cut off his cock” chewing up their column inches. “A Design For Life” was a remarkable single, a band pushed by guilt and circumstance into speaking plainly, seizing their platform and using it. They released it as a group with sympathy and a small, utterly devoted audience: they left it a band with a huge, solid fanbase.

It made “If You Tolerate This…” – first single off the follow-up album – into a big moment, the kind of release other singles shuffle out the way of. But as is often the case, the fanbase flexed its muscles a record too late. “If You Tolerate This…” has none of the painful confidence of “A Design For Life”. It opens brilliantly – cold, Radiohead-style bursts of treated guitar, pulsing out and back like the respiration of some great, dying machine. But once it gets going and the strings and solos kick off, it’s the band settling into the cement shoes of lugubrious arena rock – footwear they found all too comfortable.

So while it’s lovely to see them at Number One, what’s initially disappointing is that for the first time in their career, it didn’t feel like the group were over-reaching themselves. That had been a large part of their appeal. The earliest Manics made much of a love for Public Enemy and Guns’n’Roses, but the process they applied to those influences was pure indie pop: make a Quixotic attempt to match your idols with a tenth of their budget and technique, and trust that something inspiring comes out of it. They stood in relation to glam metal as Orange Juice stood to Chic and disco – a doomed, glorious tilt at a form that might end up wonderful in a different way.

Everything Must Go took the same trick and used it for stadium rock – gambling, successfully, that rough-hewn attempts at anthemic rock and thoughtful, sorrowful lyrics would rub well together. But it meant that when “If You Tolerate This…” came out, the surprise had become expectation. The band, inevitably, chortled about “subverting the mainstream”. But the idea of the Manic Street Preachers having a hit with a single about the Spanish Civil War felt right: was, instead, instantly comfortable and appealing enough by itself that the weary reality of it could be shrugged off.

What redeems the record – lets it wring dignity from tedium – is that this gap between reputation and reality is exactly what the song is wrestling with. The crucial moment in “If You Tolerate This…” is the breakdown before the final chorus – “And on the street tonight an old man prays / With newspaper cuttings of his glory days”. It’s picking up on the “monuments put from pen to paper” part earlier – the way remembrance of heroism, even well-meant remembrance, turns into romance and abandons the messy subjectivity of the lives in question. And even as it acknowledges this, the song has been playing around in that romance – the title slogan, the rabbits quote, the totems of a long-gone, righteous struggle.

It’s easy to see why this might resonate with the Manic Street Preachers. They had become a group defined by a gap: a vanished friend who was turning into stories and slogans himself. In a season of youth in the charts, “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” was less a subversive gesture, more a memento mori from a band that had finally found their place and were settling into a dependable success. Listen to Bradfield’s despairing, exhausted “aaaand” as he slides into the chorus – “If you tolerate this then your children will be next” is a warning, but not an avoidable one. History itself – the process of sorting and discarding, of turning fighters into forgotten men while their words survive – is the “this” that cannot be tolerated. But always is.

7

Comments

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  1. 1
    Matt DC on 24 Jun 2014 #

    As far as I can remember, “I’d like to see THEM have a Number One hit with a song about the Spanish Civil War” was Nicky Wire’s stock response to criticism from any artist for several years after this.

  2. 2
    Chris on 24 Jun 2014 #

    Wasn’t “Fernando” also about the Spanish Civil War…?

  3. 3
    sleepssundays on 24 Jun 2014 #

    Easily my favourite Nicky Wire bassline, not even top ten favourite MSP songs.

  4. 4
    Tom on 24 Jun 2014 #

    #3 it’s about a Mexican War (independence? vs America? I should know this…)

  5. 5
    Tom on 24 Jun 2014 #

    #5 I went to the bother of working out that it IS in fact my 10th favourite MSP single (belying what I claimed on Tumblr about liking a dozen better).

  6. 6
    James on 24 Jun 2014 #

    I initially hated this when it was released. ‘If you tolerate this then the album will be next’ I said (unfunnily) to the Manics fans at school.

    But now I rather like it. 7 seems about right…

  7. 7
    Tamara on 24 Jun 2014 #

    This is the first song on the whole of the blog that I actually had to hand and didn’t need to youtube. Definitely far from my favorite MSP song though. There’s something a little too mannered and awkward about the lyrics, though I agree that the spark of light is that weary breakdown. There is a certain narrative logic to that awkwardness though, something adolescent about the self consciousness of a line like “and if I can shoot rabbits…” It’s not even someone psyching themselves up, so much making a show of doing so, the would-be International Brigadist’s internal monologue as fetishized theater. Or that may be a little overly charitable, since the song still never quite clicks for me.

    That said, when this was actually a hit, when I was 11, it was something else. This melancholy, incomprehensible thing full of images and ideas that felt as wild as they were inscrutable. I totally loved it then.

  8. 8
    flahr on 24 Jun 2014 #

    One of that band of Number One Singles Whose Title Is Slightly Different From The Title As Sung In The Song I think I mentioned earlier. I think there are four of them, one of which we’ve met (“I’d/I Would Do Anything For Love”) and one we have yet to meet, and this one, and one I’ve, er, forgotten.

  9. 9
    Rory on 24 Jun 2014 #

    No obvious analogies in 1998? Kosovo, February ’98 onwards? Not to mention the breakup of Yugoslavia in the years preceding it, which made Kosovo seem like the fetid icing on a putrid cake. And not to mention one of the most horrific events of the decade a few years earlier in Rwanda. A decade full of war in Europe, genocide in Africa, and the West watching impotently from the sidelines: if you tolerate this, your children will be next.

    This still sounds very fine to me, crunching-gear-change delivery and all. 9.

  10. 10
    Chelovek na lune on 24 Jun 2014 #

    Of course, I love the Manics, and especially the Manics with Richie in: not just the anarchic pushing-the-envelope, semi-coherent quasi-futurist manifestos as lyrics was absent after, but the whole playing with gender ambiguities and questioning masculinity thing pretty much completely disappeared with his loss, but had been a big part of their earlier appeal (the only time I have ever worn lipstick was to see them at the Kilburn National c. 1992….). And to my mind the absence of this factor was the single biggest change in what the band did, and who they were, once they had reestablished themselves without him – more so than the more commercial bent to their sound which is more frequently commented upon.

    This is much more like conventional rock music, albeit done well, and intelligently, than anything else they had done up to that point (Yes, Gold Against The Soul, but man, the Angst there). Although the lyrics are, typically, not entirely coherent (and the analytic cubist use of slogans a little more subtle than previously, but still present) , they are probably more partisan than one might expect of the Manics (really so): they just take for granted that fighting for the republicans/international brigades (who most certainly had allies every bit as totalitarian as those they were fighting) was unequivocally a good thing… elsewhere they had been careful not to take for granted what is essentially conventional “wisdom” on the left (as in their pointed, and in places hilarious, criticism of superficial political correctness on “PCP”; or in their apparent understanding of the legitimacy of capital punishment in “Archives of Pain”)….here they almost do. At least, if one reads the song politically rather than as a kind of memorium. Although I’m not sure one really should read it politically, as one could and probably should do many of their other songs (later than this, as well as sooner)…that sense of detachment, stepping back is oddly strong: but somehow, in its way, this is as almost, but almost, (at least: in the chorus) as anthemic as “A Design For Life”, despite that.

    So, yes, probably about my 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, favourite single of theirs (and probably only the 2nd favourite from this album – “The Everlasting” beats this as a song, lyrically and musically, to my mind) . Competent, pleasing, but less earth-shattering than that to which we had become accustomed, great to see them at no 1, etc, with a decent track.

    Possibly the oddest thing about this, for a MSPs record, is that the music may be substantially superior to the lyrics?

    (Incoherent thoughts like MSP sleeve notes in days of Generation Terrorists)

  11. 11
    Tamara on 24 Jun 2014 #

    I’m the heathen, I know, but if I had to choose, gun-to-head – I might slightly prefer later Manics to early Manics. I appreciate the ambition and the rawness of the beginning, but the songs I just really *like*, and can listen to over and over again – often the quieter, more personal, less overtly political ones – are from later.

  12. 12
    Andrew Farrell on 24 Jun 2014 #

    #10 – I hang out with a fair few Manics fans, fell into a group that used to go to Simon Price’s Stay Beautiful club – one of the (other, possibly related) things I’ve noticed about them is that they’re unashamed and uncomplicatedly pop fans – far from surprising that Shampoo (who will sadly not be appearing here) met as Manics fans.

    On the perennial popularity of the SCW – I don’t know that ‘we have some totalitarian allies’ vs ‘we are fighting actual fascists’ is, er, a fair fight.

  13. 13
    Ed on 24 Jun 2014 #

    So my theory about the Manics, which I would be interested to have confirmed or rejected, is that it is impossible to feel truly enthusiastic about them if you remember the Clash as a going concern.

    I am just about old enough for that: I borrowed Combat Rock repeatedly from Bourne Hall library – that was how we suburban punks rolled in those days – and bought a dusty copy of Sandinista!, unwanted even at its low, low, price, from the independent record shop opposite the Loose Box wine bar. When Mick Jones was sacked, I spent a fruitless lunchbreak trying to convince my prog-loving schoolmates that this was the Lennon / McCartney split of our generation.

    So it really is impossible for me to hear anything that the Manics have done, from posturing adolescence to mature AOR statesmanship, as anything other than second-hand.

    And why do the Manics have a Spanish Civil War song? Well, because the Clash did. And theirs was better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-qcy0-7ngw

  14. 14
    mapman132 on 24 Jun 2014 #

    Never charted in America, although it was MSP’s only single release here according to Wikipedia. Seeing the title in the number ones list was intriguing for me as the phrase “if you tolerate this, your children will be next” sums up my feelings on a lot of things in this world over the past 16 years. Ironically (or not) 1998 itself seemed to be a high point of optimism and good feeling relative to the dark times that have come since. I could go off on many tangents here, but I won’t.

    Back to the song itself. I never heard it or any MSP song until two weeks ago when it appeared in this site’s on deck circle. It seems like one of those songs that grows on me through multiple listens rather than grabs me at once. At first I was wavering between 7 and 8, but after a few times, bumped it up to between 8 and 9. I think I’ll settle on 8/10, but it may well have been a personal 9/10 favorite for me if it had crossed over to the US at the time.

  15. 15
    thefatgit on 24 Jun 2014 #

    The Bunny’s torment is over. I dunno, I’m kind of with Ed, up to a point. I think if I was asked if I had a favourite MSP song, it would be “Motorcycle Emptiness”, but I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t hoover up everything the Manics did, no siree. The Clash comparison re: Combat Rock and Sandanista! has an awful lot of political weight to bear, where the Manics were free to work out their politics on their records, without alienating their fanbase. The Manics never had that “Last Gang In Town” rep, as discussed on the SISOSIG thread. This is of course, the point of view of the outsider. Tom made a great case for MSP fans to pin their colours to the “with Richie” or “without Richie” mast. I’ve heard enough of post-Richie MSP to understand their brand as “stadium angst”, but I still think I’m doing them and IYTTYCWBN a massive disservice.

    Why can’t a #1 be about The Spanish Civil War? Why can’t it be a useful metaphor for Kosovo or Rwanda or Sierra Leone or wherever? That makes sense to me. (7)

  16. 16
    iconoclast on 24 Jun 2014 #

    Not at all bad, but a bit too similar to the complacent stately-without-igniting direction much post-Britpop rock took to be truly convincing. The way things change into the chorus is pretty good though. SIX.

    P.S. I prefer “Motorcycle Emptiness” myself.

  17. 17
    lonepilgrim on 24 Jun 2014 #

    the Manics have clearly inspired their fans to engage with and explore a range of experiences and issues over the years which is laudable. Unfortunately I usually find their music uninspiring and pedestrian and this song is no exception. In the comments for ‘Get off of my cloud’ Frank Kogan @ 22 writes compellingly about the tensions and contradictions between the lyrics, Jagger’s delivery and the band’s performance that all adds up to a complex work of art that invites multiple interpretations. In comparison the Manics songs sound simplistic to me.

  18. 18
    alexcornetto on 24 Jun 2014 #

    This was my formal jumping-on point for the Manics, who then became my favourite band for the best part of the next few years (nine is such an impressionable age to hear ‘Yes’ for the first time…), so I’m always going to look on this single fondly, regardless of how overplayed it is now as far as their setlists go.

    My main memory of this is tied to getting cable at home around this time, and remembering MTV constantly trailing the fact they were going to be premièring the song/video in 10, 9, 8 days etc – before the main event, there was even a film of the band saying “Hello, we’re Manic Street Preachers and this is the first play of our new video, ‘If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next’.” Looking back, I can only imagine what a weird victory that must have felt like for their longer-term fans.

    So thanks for the memories. I’ll agree it’s not their best single (that’s probably Faster/PCP), but it’s definitely their best number one. Ahem.

    9

  19. 19
    daveworkman on 24 Jun 2014 #

    #10 I agree that The Everlasting is the standout track, that took my breath away at the time.

    I will always have a soft spot for this and it’s accompanying album. Although subsequent albums were a bit of a disappointment, the Manics were my transition band, moving me away from the pop of my adolescence. This track seemed important and different, and was the point at which I realised this was music I wanted to listen to and connected with me. I can’t say I’ve stuck with the band or similar bands since, but as I think Tom pointed out, in the sea of what else we had this year (‘my’ year for music) this seemed like something truly other.

  20. 20
    Rory on 24 Jun 2014 #

    I remembered the fuss about Generation Terrorists (and a cynical reaction from some quarters) from my year in England in ’91-’92, but didn’t board the Manics Express until I picked up Everything Must Go from a Soho bargain bin during my ’98 visit to London. From that point on I was sold, and “If You Tolerate This” confirmed it. I am the very model of a major later-Manics fan, having loved Know Your Enemy, Lifeblood, and more recently Postcards from a Young Man. The early albums, by contrast, haven’t grabbed me yet—even Journal For Plague Lovers didn’t—although there are always tracks worth a listen on any of their albums. I’ll be playing Futurology all next week, no doubt.

    By the way, for those who don’t check Amazon’s free MP3 offers, there’s a 4-track live EP available there at the moment for nix.

    On the Manics and pop, let’s not forget their 1997 collaboration with Kylie.

  21. 21
    Rory on 24 Jun 2014 #

    Whoops, let’s try a Kylie link that works in the UK. Annoying YouTube region restrictions.

  22. 22
    alexcornetto on 24 Jun 2014 #

    #20 – and ‘Little Baby Nothing’ from Generation Terrorists was originally intended to be a duet with Kylie. Allegedly SAW never forwarded the request on.

  23. 23
    PurpleKylie on 24 Jun 2014 #

    YES I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS ARTICLE (lemme get my inner Manics fangirl out of the way).

    This song was my first exposure to a band that will eventually become one of my all-time favourites. While TIMTTMY isn’t their greatest album imo, I have a fond memory of the singles that came from it back then. I didn’t discover all the Richey-era Holy Bible stuff until I was about 16 when my fandom “fully blossomed” so to speak after I rediscovered them during the Lifeblood-era (I still maintain it’s an underrated album), the lyrics were a real eye-opener for someone not used to hearing something so dark before. I’m probably one of the few fans who enjoy both sides of the band: their harsh, dense side and their grandiose stadium-rock side.

    As for the song, I do consider it as one of their best even though some purists in the fandom might not agree with me. And I like how the Spanish Civil War was used as a reference as at least in the UK it’s not an event in history that many know about in great detail, which kind of fits in with the Manics’ tendency to use references from literary or historical sources in some of their songs (some of the lyrics in The Holy Bible being an example). And I know that this won’t be the last we hear of them in Popular, so that’s one bunny I’m already anticipating.

    Very well written and well researched article by the way, plenty of info bites on the band and their well-known influences that I enjoyed reading about.

    Also, one useless trivia: I grew up in a small town called Newbridge which is about a 10 min drive from Blackwood (where the Manics famously come from), so I feel a bit proud that they’re from the same part of South Wales as me.

  24. 24
    leveret on 24 Jun 2014 #

    The line ‘If I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists’ is very evocative of the ordinary folk from different parts of the UK (and other countries) going out to Spain to take on the fascist dictator Franco. It conjures up the mixture of bravado and fearful self-doubt that might’ve been felt by a young lad, who takes the odd rabbit for the pot, convincing himself that he can go out to Spain and take on Franco’s men (I think Nicky Wire has said this was the type of scenario he had in mind with this song). The latter two parts of Laurie Lee’s memoirs spring to mind.

    This song always seemed to me to revisit, musically and thematically, ‘La Tristesse Durera’ from Gold Against the Soul (a number 22 hit in ’93), with its tale of an old war veteran selling his medals to pay the bills. The chorus melody and bassline of ‘If You Tolerate This…’ always seemed to me to be a bit of a re-hash of ‘La Tristesse…’

    I wonder how much of a part multiple-formatting with different B-sides had in putting this at number. This was around about the time when 2xCD or even 3xCD ‘sets’ were at their height. I think this was available in 2 different CDs with different B-sides. I bought one of them, which I’d totally forgotten when I claimed a few entries ago that ‘Brimful of Asha’ was the only UK number 1 I’d ever bought.

  25. 25
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2014 #

    I’m never entirely sure who my favourite band is. I don’t know if that makes me a bad music fan, but it’s true.

    That said, if I were to list my Big Four, only one of those bands had a number one single.

    The Manics.

    [Warning – this is definitely a TL:DR, and will probably be split into many sections.]

    For a band to truly MEAN something – to have an existence where a kind of chemical change takes place in the mind of the listener, causing a distinction between ‘Fan of Band X’ and ‘Band X Fan’ is a rare, but notable thing. We’ll be meeting another band in *thinks* eight Popular years who do the same thing, but it doesn’t happen that often. I’m not talking about the likes of Oasis (whose fans often fall into the category of People Who Usually Don’t Like Music), nor am I talking about the likes of, ooh, I dunno, Metallica (a band I utterly adore, but my utter adoration of them is the same thing as the person who Quite Liked Enter Sandman only turned up much louder). This is where being a Band X Fan (I think Smiths Fans might fall into that category, if it helps any) is about More Than Just The Music. In fact, it’s about so much more. And the Manics do that.

    Let me tell you my personal truth.

    One June 3 1996, 14-year-old me finished school and on my way back home, as was normaI, went to Witney Our Price. I bought three albums. I bought “Load” by Metallica (which came out that day, and was the subject of much excitement between me and my mates), “Back In Black” by AC/DC and another album by a band who had made a comeback recently, and whose interviews fascinated me. They’d fascinated me to an extent that I didn’t want to buy their new album, but I wanted to explore their back catalogue. My teenage logic decreed that I should get their debut album, as that was the logical place to start, plus it has the most songs so was the best value for money.

    The band? Manic Street Preachers. The album? “Generation Terrorists”.

    Anyway, I got back, listened to “Load” (which I enjoyed), listen to “Back In Black” (while doing my History homework, an essay about the rise of Hitler IIRC) and then put on “Generation Terrorists”. The first three songs were alright, I thought, a bit Guns’N’Roses-y, but nothing wrong with that.

    Then the fourth track, “Motorcycle Emptiness”, comes on, and I find myself in floods of tears. It’s like my soul had been pierced with Truth, and suddenly bands like Oasis seemed awfully meaningless.

    It really did change my life.

    It changed the way I looked at the world, it changed (to a degree – but that’s another entry, for another time) the way I listened to music, and ultimately, that moment, that Earth-shattering cataclysm in the recesses of my soul, has led me to take an interest in politics (, and made me want to read more, and has led me to meet some lovely people, that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

    None of these thing would have happened had it not been for four blokes from Blackwood, a riff half-taken from one of the solos in “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and the Truth.
    So where next? How does one move on from such a soul-slamming, life changing event? Well, in my case, I ditched the ‘shine on down the line like you’re feeling fine’ bullshit, pissed on the rotten edifice of Manchester, and started to look for this band, this band who were Truth Beyond Truth.

    (A sidenote – I suspect I was always meant to be a Manics fan. What else for an intelligent, Welsh, and slightly pretentious teenager?)

    We all need icons in Rock’n’Roll (Tom, I appreciate you’re probably shaking your head at that – I know you talk of pop, and this ‘ere blog is about pop or it’s about nothing, but Manic Street Preachers – the loud, guitary, outrageous, GnR/Hanoi Rocks worshipping Manic Street Preachers – are Rock’n’Roll. Ignore the protestations of the Priceite Indie Children, because the Manics are a Glam Metal band). I have always tried to seek mine. Yet, until that fateful moment, I considered the Gallagher brothers – in love with the past, never looking to see how Rock’n’Roll can and must remain contemporary, else it becomes pure museum piece, else it attracts the scorn of the smug – to be Rock’n’Roll Icons, when they were only icons of corpsefucking culture suicide. Yet now I had found some True Icons, their very existence a statement.

    Yet who would deny them? Only those for whom Rock’n’Roll is anathema. Either because of a fear of the Real Thing, or else through a denial of who they can be. This was music and words that spoke from the Valleys to the soulless estates of the provinces. How could a cool person, or a public school parasite understand them? How could they, when the hit up Truth in the faces of those who would be too cool. Credibility? I’m yawning!

    When Lennon-worship was at its zenith, who could deny the power of a band who laughed when Lennon got shot? Such a statement was a shock, and it would shock, and it did shock, the futile whores and whorelovers who were somad up. But why say you could ‘live forever’ or that you were ‘alright’ or it was ‘good enough’? Why, when you KNEW ‘death is your birthright?’

    And the ultimate, true icon had a mystery. Where was he? Where is he? Richey lives.

    Oh, they deny themselves truth for shabby imitations. Why hear the truth when you can think you shine, when you think you are the answer? Reality will call. Why hear the truth when you can dress up as your false idols, creating idiot worlds for that you never will be? Reality will call.

    Coming back again.

    One Rockstar. One Band. One Truth.

    MSP=The one band that matters.

    Richey James Edwards=The one rock star who matters.

    What of this song? Again – as ever – a Statement. Intent, intention, truth. A celebration, a commemoration, a warning. An anthem for those who took a stand. And the Manics did take a stand, against apathy, against idiocy, against the unthinking.

    This is the Manics. This is a number one single.

    This is a 10.

    (TL: DR – It’s the Manics at number one! That’s a de facto 10!)

    A brief addendum. I am CONVINCED that I heard Steve Lamacq – the man who made Richey prove that He was 4Real – announce from the Reading ’98 main stage – that this was number one to massive cheers. However, part of me also remembers coming home from Reading and eagerly checking Ceefax to see whether this had, indeed, made number one. So who knows? Funny how the memory works, eh?

  26. 26
    Andrew Farrell on 25 Jun 2014 #

    8 years is a long time, but they say a Sandi Thom only comes along once per generation…

  27. 27
    Your Brother, The Astronaut on 25 Jun 2014 #

    I’ve always struggled to enjoy this single as it always seemed, as some have hinted at above, that it existed purely so that they could say they made a no.1 hit of the Spanish Civil War, without asking WHY you’d want that in the first place. If they wanted to make a statement on Yugoslavia etc. then they probably could have done so easily. The only thing that would have held them back is that they were always happier with dead issues rather than live ones, and its the dead topic of the Spanish Civil War that drags this song away from being vague enough to apply to anything else other than itself.

    Identifying “And on the street tonight an old man prays / With newspaper cuttings of his glory days” as the line to decode the song definitely gives me a different way into the song though. Thinking of it in terms of lamenting history in general, rather than just the Civil War, makes it appealing since so much of the MSPs appeal lies in their attempts to reclaim/pick back up from a discarded past (whether that’s attempting to redirect stadium rock towards intellectualism, or create the dangerous situationist band that so many others are mythologised up as, not to mention the vague socialism). Ultimately though its done so much better on the Lifeblood album (I’m probably one of the few who’s entry point to the MSP was Lifeblood) I struggle to really engage with IYTTTYCWBN. Lifeblood even has the ‘Love of Richard Nixon’, which narrowly misses out on being featured on Popular, and which commits much more fully of the audacity/novelty of having a historical(or even historiographical) hit single and is much more enjoyable for that.

    @23, despite living only 40 minutes away I only recently visited Blackwood and was surprised by how ‘un-Valleysish’ it is; more of an urban sprawl commuter town than the tightly packed semi-rural/semi-industrial enclaves you get elsewhere in South Wales. Not that it really changes anything about the music or the MSP themselves but it says something for the mythical tropes the MSP often dabbled in that I considered Blackwood to be so different than it was (although I admit a lot can change in 20 years).

  28. 28

    I imagined it was perhaps inspired by a viewing of Ken Loach’s 1995 film Land and Freedom — which is also about the Spanish Civil War and the International Brigades and such, which was quite a big deal at the time as Loach’s first foray outside the UK in subject-matter. Googling around hasn’t really confirmed or refuted this, but it does turn up the fact that the “if I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists” line comes from a book called “Miners Against Fascism: Wales and the Spanish Civil War” by Hywel Francis. Don’t know if they saw the film; can’t believe they didn’t read the book.

  29. 29
    will on 25 Jun 2014 #

    Nicky and Richie were contemporaries of mine from Swansea University in the late 80s and indeed were the first band I ever interviewed (for a college arts magazine), so I’ve always felt affectionate towards the MSPs. To my mind they’re probably the best singles bands of the 90s/00s and whilst ‘If You Tolerate…’ isn’t up there with Stay Beautiful, Revol or A Design For Life it’s still one of the solid middle ranking efforts.

    It was great to see this at Number One.

  30. 30
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2014 #

    If I am being rational, this wouldn’t get into my top five Manics singles (Motorcycle Emptiness, Faster/PCP, Motown Junk, You Love Us, From Despair To Where), but it IS in my top ten and I’d probably put it above Design For Life (which is slightly overplayed). That said, there’s a whole load of great stuff that either ended up as album tracks (eg Condemned to Rock’n’Roll, Sleepflower, Of Walking Abortion, Yes, Ready For Drowning) or B-sides (eg Patrick Bateman, Never Want Again, Comfort Comes, Dead Yankee Drawl, Love Torn Us Under, First Republic) that would make doing an actual top 10 Manics songs very difficult.

    And, 4REALly, it’s Richey, not Richie.

    (And I’m not-so-secretly quite relieved that we won’t have to talk about The Love Of Richard Nixon…)

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