Richey Remembered - by Karen Herbert (February 2004)
As we all know Richey left the Embassy Hotel in London on February 1st 1995 and hasn’t been seen since. Whilst we’ll never know why Richey chose to do what he did, the previous 12 months hadn’t exactly been a picnic. 1994 had been a bad year for Richey. It started with the band coming to terms with the death of their manager/mentor Philip Hall. This was someone who had believed in the band from the start, shared their vision when everyone else thought that Manic Street Preachers were a joke. Richey took this very hard, as he saw it as someone he’d gotten close to, leaving him.
That April, Kurt Cobain took his own life. The media later drew comparisons between Richey and Kurt., as they saw these two icons as self destructive It was also around this time that Richey’s only friend at university (apart from Nicky) took their own life. Richey was thrown into further turmoil and his health began to take a turn for the worst. Naturally this became a growing concern for his bandmates. It was in August that Richey was hospitalised for “nervous exhaustion”. He was first admitted to an NHS hospital in Cardiff, but the band saw that Richey wasn’t being treated properly, so he was then admitted to the Priory in London. Many celebrities have been treated here for all sorts of addictions/breakdowns and it was hoped that Richey would get better. By the time he left the Priory he had beaten his drinking problem, but he left the Priory with a 65 a day smoking habit.
Prior to his disappearance, Richey had another setback. His beloved 17 year old dog Snoopy had died. As a tribute to Snoopy Richey and his sister Rachel planted a tree in their parents garden. This was to be the last time the Edwards family saw Richey. In the days leading up to Richey’s disappearance, the band had been working at House In The Woods studio. It was here that they demoed songs which later emerged on the “Everything Must Go” album. The band were also working on their contribution to the “Judge Dredd” soundtrack (this track was later scrapped due to Richey’s vanishing. It later emerged as “Judge Yr’self” on the “Lipstick Traces” CD).According to Nicky, “Richey was back to being Iggy/Keith Richards, as opposed to Ian Curtis”.
Fast forward to 31st January 1995. Richey alog with James was staying at the Embassy Hotel, before flying to America to promote “The Holy Bible” album, at the time the group’s current release. The pair were staying in adjoining rooms. They spent half an hour freshening up, after which James walked into Richey’s room. Richey was in the bath, so James decided to give his friend another half hour. James threw the suggestion of browsing at a nearby shopping centre. Richey suggested a cinema trip, to which James agreed. Richey later changed his mind and decided to stay in, whilst James went out instead. Richey decided to ring his mum and during his call he told her that he wasn’t looking forward to going to America.
James and Richey were to meet in the hotel lobby on the morning of February 1st. When Richey didn’t turn up James was naturally concerned, as Richey was known to be punctual. With the help of hotel staff, he broke into Richey’s hotel room. Richey was nowhere to be found. A box had been placed on the table. The box was covered in literary quotes collages and pictures (which included Bugs Bunny and a Germanic looking house). Inside the box were various books and videos of “Naked” and “Equus”. The box had been addressed to a girl named Jo, said to be a girlfriend of his, with a note that read “I love you”. Richey had left the hotel at 7 am. He’d driven his car along the M4 back to his flat in Cardiff. This is all we know for certain.
Since then there have been various reported sightings but as yet, Richey hasn’t turned up. Everytime a body appears on the banks of the River Severn the press automatically jump to the conclusion that the body is that of Richey. This really angers me. The media focus so much on their “story” so much that they seem to forget that Richey was a person. He has loved ones who are still hoping that one day, Richey will walk through the door and back into their lives.
I never got to meet Richey (I wasn’t an MSP fan until 1996), so I can’t make any judgements on the man. I only know about Richey through what I have read about him, or what the band have said about him. I think that Richey was an incredibly gifted lyricist and by what I’ve read about him, he sounds as if he was a perfectionist, as I recall Nicky saying to me backstage at the Witnness festival last year, that Richey was upset about the shade of pink on the American “Generation Terrorists” cover. Whenever I mention to people that my favourite band are Manic Street Preachers, I am often asked about Richey and whether he has ever been found. I also get asked whether I think he is still alive. I always try and think positive and hope that Richey has done a “J. D. Salinger” – locked himself away somewhere, away from the rest of the world. Wherever Richey is, I hope that he’s happy. This piece is dedicated to Graham, Sherry (Richey’s parents), Rachel (Richey’s sister), James, Sean & Nicky: Richey’s contribution to Manic Street Preachers was invaluable. He will never be forgotten.