The Manics had originally planned on having Kylie Minogue sing on this track, but she turned them down. Traci Lords was available and willing (insert your own joke here). According to Lords, it was very frightening working with them, as they were all insane (James was drinking heavily, as was Nicky, and Richey Manic was in a heavy self abuse phase (cutting, anorexia, that sort of thing, not masturbating)).

It turns out well, as she has a great voice and the text of the song is quite a good match with her life.

The lyrics to this song bothered me when I first read them, for reasons I couldn't yet explain. The song is supposed to be about women, how men use them for pleasure, how fragile they are deemed by patriarchal society. But what I've gradually discovered, after sifting through lyrics and life stories, is that Nicky and Richey enjoyed putting up the front of writing about political issues while many of their songs are about themselves - even love, that tired old topic that Richey so adamantly decried.

The source of my initial confusion came at the end of one of the verses: after supposedly taking on the persona of a 'flaky' woman for the first few stanzas, the narrative of the song suddenly changes without warning: 'Your pretty face offends / because it's something real that I can't touch.' Who is the 'I' here? Up until now, it's been assumed to be the empty woman ('My mind is dead, everybody loves me'). But the references don't hold up. Why would the woman be gazing at another pretty face?

In interviews, Nicky had admitted that the entire song was Richey's except for the last two lines. Eventually, just as an experiment, I substituted Richey for the 'I' of the narrator.

Strange lines started to make endless sense.

No one likes looking at you
Your lack of ego offends male mentality
They need your innocence
To steal vacant love and to destroy
Your beauty and virginity used like toys

Richey could really be talking to anyone here, but who did he think of as impotent and virgintile? Whose lack of ego clashed so often with his own?

My mind is dead, everybody loves me
Wants a slice of me

This sentiment speaks perfectly about the life of a rockstar. Idolized and worshipped, Richey felt himself decay while obsessive fans developed the 'Cult of Richey'. 'Slice' is a particularly potent word in context of Richey's well known self-injury.

Hopelessly passive and compatible
Need to belong, oh the roads are scary
So hold me in your arms
I wanna be your only possession

Mmm, interesting. Why would a random woman be 'on the road'? Rock bands, on the other hand, are always on tour.

Used, used, used by men

'Men' can be used to describe the male demographic, true, but in its more archaic form, the word is representative of the entire population - none of whom Richey felt close to (excepting one).

All they leave behind is money
Paper made out of broken twisted trees

Rockstardom makes you rich, sure, but it's really just paper in the end.

Your pretty face offends
Because it's something real that I can't touch
Eyes, skin, bone, contour, language as a flower

Nicky was the only other band member using language. See Revol.

No god reached me, faded films and loving books
Black and white TV
All the world does not exist for me

It is well documented that Richey grew up in a religious Catholic family, and yet his own faith was extremely limited ('No god reached me'). He made straight As in school because he loved to read. Lyrics on The Holy Bible are evidence of his being incredibly well-read.

If I'm starving, you can feed me lollipops
Your diet will crush me

Richey was anorexic - something Nicky evidently failed to understand.

My life just an old man's memory

Does your dad ever reminisce about 'classic' old bands you've never heard of?

Little baby nothing
Loveless slavery, lips kissing empty
Dress your life in loathing
Breaking your mind with Barbie doll futility

Although Richey was always expressing his hatred of love, he still used sex as an outlet. Physicality was empty for him.

Little baby nothing
Sexually free, made-up to break up
Assassinated beauty
Moths broken up, quenched at last
The vermin allowed a thought to pass them by

This is perhaps the same reference to Tennessee Williams' poem as seen in Removables.

You are pure, you are snow
We are the useless sluts that they mould
Rock 'n' roll is our epiphany
Culture, alienation, boredom and despair

Purity is a state that many anorexics strive toward, and evidenced in Richey's own words, it held a certain divinity for him as well: 'Salvation is purity.' Clearly, there is someone Richey sees as pure, someone he cannot touch, someone who makes him a 'slut' in comparison. The 'Little Baby Nothing' turns out to be Richey himself.

The last lines are Nicky's and, ironically, speak of one of the only ways Richey could voice his opinions and come to inevitable conclusions: 'Rock 'n' roll is our epiphany.'


Lyric source:

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