[The following was written in Summer 2000 by Anna. She is solely responsible for its content. Sorry, as of Spring 2005, she will no longer allow me to contact her.
There's an article about Manic fandom, from 1998, which includes another personal account of Richey, in the "Articles: (1996 - 1998)" section. It's listed as "Terminate! Terminate!" from The Troglodyte, Issue #1, December 1998. I can't say definitely who wrote it, but, it seems suspiciously similar to this, and what I know about Anna that she didn't put in here. - Vivian]
No part of this text is to be reproduced without permission.
Vivian asked me to write something for her site as "you knew Richey personally". Well, that's somewhat of an exaggeration. I sat in the same room as him for a period of time on several occasions. I spoke with him. I did a lot of lurking and watching while my more confident friends chatted with him. I observed with considerable interest as he determinedly destroyed himself.
So I thought I'd write about how Richey looked from the other end of the myth. For anyone learning about Richey after his disappearance, it must be impossible to see him without the distorting glass of the great Angst Myth getting in the way. That's not an anti-new-fan statement of the kind hyped up by the media, it's just an inevitable consequence of the passage of time. Not that anybody can really look at Richey without the Angst Myth distorting things now, but it does help if you can remember the time when no such thing existed.
In 1991, there was this really strange, original band who had about three fans. At first it was difficult even to work out which member was which, because they dressed similarly and seemed to speak with one voice in interviews, but after a while you got the hang of it. And you loved their intellect, their bite and their style - not necessarily in that order, depending on your taste, but those were the qualities you loved them for. In 1991, Richey becoming an Ian Curtis-style angst icon seemed about as likely as Sean marrying Madonna or Nicky becoming a flag-waving nationalist. And that image lasted. At the years progressed, it became clear that Richey had some mental health problems, but they were relatively unimportant in the overall framework of the band. For the first couple of years, Richey's mental troubles looked no more significant than, say, Nicky's physical ones.
You're in the band's dressing room in 1993. You see Richey, in an alcoholic stupor, being literally lifted out of a chair and pulled off to the tour van by the long-suffering tour manager. Again. You do not think "oh my suffering hero." You think, even while you are in awe of him, "what a dork".
The media-generated polarities of, on one side, sensitive people understanding Richey's artistic suffering and, on the other, callous jaded types telling him to get over it, are stereotypes. It might be possible to think one of these two ways if you are just casually flicking through a magazine and spot the ruins of the latest angst hero, but nobody who actually had any contact with Richey could think in such a limited way. The same goes for the question of whether intrusive fan adulation pushed Richey's frail psyche over the edge into despair. The reality of a bunch of people in a room at some unhealthy hour of the morning is so much more complex - and more forgiving to both sides - than these cold theories.
It's early 1994. You see Richey blundering about the hotel bar like somebody's taken the key out of his back. You do not think "oh my suffering hero". You think "Christ, come over here and talk to us. Normal human interaction might do you some good."
Normal human interaction wasn't something Richey was very good at. He was a rock star who mainly spoke with his bandmates, roadies and media types, which surely couldn't be good for anybody. Even before the band decided, some time in 1994, that they were going to deliberately keep him away from fans because they were bad for him, Richey was often nowhere to be seen after a gig. Most of the time he was off shagging something unsuitable, either at the hotel or just in the back of the tour van. Richey liked to say that he only slept with hardened groupies, who were getting what they wanted from him and suffering no ill effects. And sometimes he did do this, but he also carefully targeted impressionable girls who he knew were in love with him, often observing them for long periods of time before actually moving in. He would use his "I'm suffering" act as a turn on, for example strolling around a backstage party with his shirt undone to show off his fresh chest wounds, and leaning over the object of his interest so that she got the full benefit of the view. Sure enough he gave his chosen ones what they wanted - a flirtation, or sometimes a night with their hero. But he didn't have to see what invariably happened afterwards. The period of sustained delusion, the gradual realisation that he wasn't interested in them any more, the hysteria, the tears and the occasional nervous breakdown and/or attempted suicide.
The people who had to mop up these messes as best they could were the other fans. And then the media accused us of driving our suffering idol over the edge with our unquestioning hero worship. We got a bit pissed off by this. I mean, wouldn't you??
As a result, to love Richey also meant frequently wanting to eviscerate him with a fishhook. The bastard revelled in the contradiction, as well. "You look really ugly in those glasses", one of my friends pointed out to him during his mid-1993 period of wearing horrible lenseless black glasses. "That's the intention," he responded. Talk about self-disgust is self-obsession. But his gaucherie could be so charming, too. Did you know he used to keep unopened tins of baked beans in his fridge because he thought they'd go off otherwise? You've just got to laugh! But you laugh affectionately.
I remember walking into a hotel bar where a few roadies and record company types were milling about. Richey was kneeling in the middle of the floor, obviously the worse for his vodka, sucking the inside of his elbow. Occasionally he paused to wail, "mauauau!" He was grinning and looked perfectly happy. Everybody stepped around him, politely ignoring him. After all, what else could they do? Richey had to be got along with. People couldn't spend 24 hours a day reacting to his symptoms, they had jobs to do and their own lives to lead. Richey just did things like that, and people accommodated him. He was part of the band, so he had to be humoured. The juxtaposition between the strangeness of his behaviour and the nonchalence of the people around him struck me, even in my exhausted, tour-addled, vaguely starstruck condition... but the more important thing was that he got up, smiled his amazing smile and began to talk to us. He did have plenty of charisma, no doubt about that.
Later he decided to give the assembled throng (6 female fans and Dave Eringa) a tour of the gents toilets. So we all trooped into the lofty marble chamber, followed by panicked glances from staff who only knew that 2 male rock stars plus 6 girls in a toilet = very bad news.
They didn't know the Manics very well. Richey was giving us a tour of the fittings while Dave sat in a sink laughing. "They stand in here," said Richey, waving his arms at the sinks. "And they piss over here," he indicated the urinal. "Sometimes," he admitted, when my friend asked if the pissing gentlemen ever missed their target. After a while the group's collective vivacity gave out, and I ended up leaning against a wall about three foot from Richey. We stared at each other because moving away would have been too much effort. Richey said he liked my T-shirt. This went on for a while. So I suppose I can boast to my grandchildren that I once gazed deeply into Richey's eyes for a sustained period. Unfortunately, the only thought going through my head was "I'm so knackered it's a wonder I'm still conscious... oh look, there's Richey three foot away, staring at me... I'm so knackered it's a wonder I'm still conscious... oh, Richey's still there..." etc etc until Richey went to bed (lightweight) - without a groupie, for a wonder.
The charisma and the disease and the intellect were mixed in together to make this... bloke.
His most amazing physical feature was not his gorgeous big brown eyes, or even his scars, but his amazingly knobbly feet. I've never seen anything like them, before or since.
It's the end of 1994. You're in the front row on Richey's side of the Manics' third Astoria date, and the band seem to have taken it upon themselves to reduce their instruments to matchsticks. Richey has smashed his guitar and is now walloping himself over the head with one of the loose pieces. You watch him affectionately, wearily and sourly. You do not think "Oh my suffering hero". You think "Oh for christ's sake, here we go again. If that goes flying and hits me, I'll sue you for everything you've got."
If you look very, very hard at the recording, you'll see some of us doing just that. After the show, one of my friends said, "That felt final". "Don't be silly," I told her. "They're only going to America for a couple of months". At the time it seemed that way. The band was going to trundle on, and Richey's illness was going to trundle along with it - not coming to a head, just draining the emotional reserves of everyone involved at the usual rate. Then suddenly, slam! A portcullis came down, and everything about Richey was frozen in time. No more man, just a myth, which I suppose was always what he wanted. Bastard. We loved him.