Twenty Years With The Holy Bible

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Happy twentieth anniversary, The Holy Bible. It remains (along with Pet Sounds) my favourite record ever and has certainly helped me through a lot of dark places in the last two decades. That’s the strange thing with THB, people outside think it is a depressing album but actually (despite songs such as ‘Die In The Summertime’ and ‘Mausoleum’) it is a series of songs of defiance, of individuality, of free choice, of being in command. And group sex in the Kremlin. You can’t say that about Sam Smith.

The first hint we got for what was about to be unleashed was the b-side from the last Gold Against The Soul single ‘Life Becoming A Landslide’ – after the gentle drowning motion of the a side, we were hit with Comfort Comes, the first taste of the claustrophobic beating we were about to be clobbered with. Spiky, defiant and pushing forward rather than the Clashisms of GT, Comfort Comes remains one of the best b-sides in the canon, beaten only by the next single…

When ‘Faster’ arrived, everything was different, it was, er, faster but also this was a band suddenly getting in the ring and punching above the weight of every other band out there. Out went the massive luxurious surroundings of Gold Against The Soul and recording took place in Cardiff’s red light district. Bear in mind this was a major label band about to release a record of the holocaust, anorexia, self harm and gender politics. They weren’t looking to hit the Smash Hits Roadshow – although ‘Faster’ did see them on TOTP, getting more complaints than any other band due to Bradfield wearing a balaclava. He didn’t seem to be being controversial though, it DID have JAMES written on it. 

When most albums are released, if you have the funds behind you, then you’ll advertise it on the inner sleeve or the back cover of the NME (or Melody Maker at that point). Instead they took Nicky (30%) and Richey’s (70%) words and displayed them across the middle pages. Another stunning move for a record that was as far away from ‘She loves you, yeah yeah yeah’ as can be, or as Bradfield once famously put it ‘It’s not Abba Gold but there are a few home truths on there…’

A supremely intense (Humming Of Evil) tour followed with Sleeper in support, with Dub War in the middle and this was all leading to the magical world of Astoria Xmas 1994. Three gigs at the Astoria, after which the band smashed up their proper gear, leading to over 25,000 worth of damage. In the long run this would not matter as this would be the end, for a while, due to the disappearance of RJE on February 1st, just before a trip to the states, where The Holy Bible was being presented in a sonically butcher form thanks to remixes from those who had previously worked with Marilyn Manson and Korn. (this mix can be heard on the 10 year anniversary edition).

I travelled to London for the Astoria shows, meeting my friend at Waterloo and then off to town meeting up with a whole gang that knew each other through letters and fanzines – yes kids, no internet for us, just home produced magazines through which we shared poems, thoughts and favourite songs. Kinda like this blog, but you had to wait days to receive it from something called a ‘postman’. As we were walking to the Astoria, we saw Richey outside a shoe shop, we stopped for a chat and he was very relaxed and friendly, very interested in the fact that I was diabetic (he asked to see my pen and smiled and said ‘Inject Yourself With Pleasure’, which I really should get a tattoo of) and how far I had come for the gigs. Later as we waited outside, he came up and said ‘Hello again’, much to the amazement of the front row girls waiting around me. The Tuesday gig I was the first person in the building. YES. Magical, intense, bruising, rocking, astounding. Even if they decide to do some sort of commemorative gigs, these will never be beaten. For the more than obvious reason that THB needs FOUR, not three and it is so much Richey’s record that to play the whole thing without him seems more than a little strange, especially for Wire, who I suspect would need a few glasses of champagne to tolerate it…

Oh yeah, Definitely Maybe came out the same day. I remember it sitting on my stereo for at least a week. Now twenty years on, that record sounds ok, the singles remain great but there was a LOT of filler. (Digsys Dinner? Er, no) On the other hand, The Holy Bible remains on the stereo on a nearly daily basis. Classic, beautiful, horrific. A perfect record from Britain’s greatest band.

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