by Andrew Strickman
British courts to close case of Richey James Edwards
After seven years of waiting, U.K. rockers Manic Street Preachers will say a formal goodbye to Richey James Edwards, their band mate who disappeared February 1, 1995, on the eve of an American tour.
Without finding a body, British law requires a person to remain missing for seven years before declaring him or her dead. Morrison-esque disappearance theories aside, and unless he miraculously appears on Friday, the courts will so rule. The declaration will both open a can of worms about what to do with his reported millions of pounds in royalties - which have sat in a frozen bank account - and also provide closure to family, friends and fans across the world who have waited for this day.
Edwards was the tortured soul in a band of scruffy, glammed-out angry young men who sprung out of the South of Wales in 1991 ready to take on the world - politically, socially and musically. He started life with the band in the late Eighties carting their equipment, but soon became an integral member of the group, writing many of the band's lyrics and channeling their "Generation Terrorist" attitude through his frequent self-mutilations. He will be forever known as the rocker who dug the phrase "4 Real" into his arm with a knife in front of a music journalist in 1991.
He was frequently spotted in a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol, allowing his depression to become a public face, and culminating in what is considered the group's artistic masterpiece: 1994's The Holy Bible. Edwards was absent in the aftermath of the album's release, admitted to a clinic, while allowing band mates Nicky Wire, James Dean Bradford and Sean Moore to handle promotional duties.
There is irony in the fact that the band's first hit single, in 1992, was a cover of the theme to M*A*S*H*, "Suicide is Painless," because in interview after interview over the years, Edwards maintained that the desire to cut himself was in no way foreshadowing death. "Self-mutilation is a very different issue to suicide," he said in 1994 just after Kurt Cobain's suicide. "It is a controlled pain personal to you, allowing you to live/exist to some degree."
It was these type of statements, along with a bizarre set of choices he made before disappearing, which led many people to think that he hadn't killed himself, but just decided to disappear in the way that a favorite author of his, J.D. Salinger, had appeared to nearly thirty years before.
Having checked into a London hotel the night before a planned promotional trip to the U.S. in preparation for a tour, Edwards inexplicably decided to drive back home to Cardiff, Wales, on the morning of February 1st. He dropped off his anti-depressants at the house, and left his passport sitting on the table.
Edwards car was found with the battery dead on February 12th next to the Severn Bridge, which joins England and Wales. The bridge was known as a frequent suicide attempt point, but for weeks prior to his disappearance Edwards reportedly withdrew cash from an ATM every day - which conspiracy theorists say point to a plan to leave without a trace. Edwards' body was never found, and reported sightings of him over the ensuing years have sent his family flying to India and the Canary Islands searching.
A few months after his disappearance, his band mates chose to carry on without him. The Manic Street Preachers' next two albums, 1996's Everything Must Go and 1998's This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, were hugely successful in the U.K., yet never achieved wide success stateside. The group's latest album, last year's Know Your Enemy, was reviewed worldwide as the band's first major misstep.
Larger than life, when living, Richey Edwards left behind band mates, family, friends and fans without ever saying goodbye. Tomorrow the British courts will do it for him.
[Originally published: rollingstone.com, 31 January 2002]