#55: 1996, Manic Street Preachers, A Design For Life

by George_East on January 9, 2011


Yesterday’s Guardian reported that local authorities faced with draconian cuts imposed on their budgets by the Government are looking to library services as a soft target for savings. This appears to be true across the country. 7 out of 12 libraries are to close in Conwy, 20 out of 34 in Somerset and 14 out of 26 in Doncaster the paper reports by way of example.

I don’t blame local authorities for this. Libraries plainly don’t have the immediate obvious importance of housing, social care or education. But what another tragic example of the short sighted ideological craziness of this government. In a knowledge economy the Coalition is to ensure that the one free access to sources of knowledge that everyone in society has – whether through books, public Internet points, CDs or newspapers is to be radically reduced. It is no surprise that it is the most economically disadvantaged who will feel the effect of this the most as they don’t have books or internet access at home.

Which brings me to A Design For Life. In many ways the Manic Street Preachers (particularly post-Richie) sound like a fairly conventional rock band but what other rock band would write a song about working class empowerment which starts with a line as thoughtful as:

‘Libraries gave as power
Then work came and made us free’

The Gallaghers? Exactly. The brilliance of this song is that it captures the way that the old organised working class communities (in their case from the Welsh valleys) had a thirst for knowledge and liberation. It also in its chorus captures how the rest of society so often stereotype those communities:

‘We don’t talk about love
We only want to get drunk’

It says everything that Nicky Wire had to explain to middle class music jounalists that it was not a nihilistic drinking song but others’ representations of that culture his lyrics were directed to.

A band of insight and intelligence at their finest. A band who understand the importance of libraries. Few others can say the same.

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