Articulating The Pessimism Of A Generation

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by Judith Davies

Rock star: Father believes that gradual decline led pop musician son to seek treatment

To fans, rock musician Richey Edwards is an idol reflecting the despair of his generation.

Since he disappeared two months ago, his abandoned car found at the Severn Bridge, comparisons have been made between him and American singer Kurt Cobain who committed suicide a year ago.

The Manic Street Preachers singer's disappearance has highlighted the problems of depression and self-injury common to a number of young people and led to more cultural analysis of what has become dubiously known as the 'slacker' generation who have opted out of materialist society.

But the glamour and the complications of disturbed minds of rootless musicians and musings on the modern world are a world away from the feelings of Richey Edwards' father, Graham who is grieving for the lovely boy he misses.

Mr. Edwards is a hairdresser and lives with his wife, Sherry - Richey's mother, in the same house in Blackwood they have been in for years.

He still believes Richey is alive.

"We haven't heard anything to tell us otherwise. We are like any other parents in this situation, trying to cope as best we can from day to day.

The difficulty is that there is nothing there to help us deal with it.

I have racked my brains trying to think of something that will bring Richard back to us and I can't."

It was only 18 months ago that Richey moved out permanently from the family home when he bought a flat in Cardiff.

"We have always got on well, he's a lovely chap. He stayed local because he had no great urge for the bright lights - he was away enough on tour."

Mr. Edwards said that after doing well in school and reading a degree in history at University of Wales, Swansea, Richey set about making a career of the band - all local friends.

"It's not my type of music but what they do they do well and I'm told the stage act is brilliant," said Mr. Edwards.

He had no objections to Richey becoming a rock musician.

"Good gracious no. It was what he wanted and he was very happy with his success. He was travelling the world."

That was until about two years ago when he showed the pain by carving 4 REAL on his arm.

"I suppose it was a gradual decline that led him to seeking treatment," said Mr. Edwards. "But when he was at home he seemed reasonably happy and it was only in June that we realised there was something seriously wrong."

Richey was admitted to a London clinic for alcoholism and anorexia - his weight having dropped to six stones.

Mr. Edwards said he thought things were back to normal. The last he heard his son was going to America when he spoke to him on the telephone a day or two before the band was due to leave. "There seemed to be nothing wrong. He was looking forward to going," he said.

The band's latest record The Holy Bible was released last year and on February 1 they were due to leave for the American tour.

That was the day Richey left the Embassy Hotel in London, since when he hasn't been seen.

Unfortunately for his thousands of fans, many of whom have telephoned helplines in despair at his fate, there are no easy answers why such a talented, charismatic and successful man should walk out of his own life.

[Originally published: Western Mail, 31 March 1995]