On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness (1992)
” Motorcycle Emptiness” is a single by Welsh alternative rock band Manic Street Preachers. It was released on 1 June 1992, through Columbia Records. It was the fifth single to be released from their debut album, Generation Terrorists . The track is inspired by S.E. Hinton’s book Rumble Fish , about biker gang culture.
We’re leaving the US today, dear reader, and returning to the UK. We head over to Wales and to Blackwood, a former mining town. It was here that James Dean Bradfield, his cousin Sean Moore, and Nicky Wire formed Manic Street Preachers. They were later joined by Richey Edwards who contributed heavily to the lyrics of their songs. In 1992 the band have released their debut album, Generation Terrorists, and from the 18 tracks 1001 Songs have managed to narrow it down to Motorcycle Emptiness.
Motorcycle Emptiness was inspired by S.E. Hinton’s Rumble Fish which concerned biker gang culture. The band have also confirmed that the song deals with the impact of capitalism on the individual and in particular the damaging effect on young people. The song evokes powerful imagery with phrases such as “slow suicide”, “enslave the ghetto” and “living life like a comatose”. The city itself with capitalism and consumerism comes across as suffocating the life out of angry, young and disillusioned people. The music video captured the essence of the lyrics with the band members in the midst of a city and themselves looking forlorn and lost.
Generation Terrorists was a strong debut from Manic Street Preachers and the band were very much at their peak when Richey Edwards was with them. Motorcycle Emptiness is a sprawling epic and arguably the best song on that opening album. Stirring guitar, thought-provoking lyrics and powerful delivery sealed this one as an early masterpiece. The band survived the disappearance of Edwards in February 1995 and became more commercially successful without him with Everything Must Go being a huge success in 1996. The band continue to this day as trio but Motorcycle Emptiness remains a testament to the genius of the quartet that began the journey out of Blackwood and into the mainstream.
Favourite songs so far: