Shadows allowed to gather over fate of Preacher James

Ian MacKinnon on the silence that has followed the disappearance of a troubled pop star

Six months ago this morning, Richey James walked calmly out of his west London hotel - and that was the last anyone saw of him.

The disappearance of the troubled guitarist from the cult band, the Manic Street Preachers, cast a pall over the pop world. Young fans who identified with his plight wrote in droves to give vent to their feelings of depression.

Yet almost uniquely, the music press and the record industry has been restrained in its coverage, despite the lurid theories over his fate or whereabouts that constantly swirl around this gossipy world.

"It's incredibly difficult," said Andrew Mueller, a writer with Melody Maker. "There is a major story but no one knows what it is. You can't put in pieces every week saying 'Richey James still missing'."

Prior to his disappearance, James, the 28-year-old lyricist and guitarist with the band, had already fallen victim to alcoholism and depression. It was closely bound up with his tendency towards self-mutilation - he once slashed his chest in front of a photographer. But after a spell in a private clinic last summer, he and the other members of the band, who grew up together in the Gwent village of Blackwood, seemed to be progressing towards a bright future in the United States.

On the night before he walked out of the London Embassy Hotel, Kensingston, the band, which has the Sex Pistols and The Clash among its influences, had been rehearsing for a 30-date American tour.

But after leaving his room at around 7am on 1 February, seen only by a staff member, he stepped into his silver Vauxhall Cavalier and drove down the M4 to his Cardiff Bay flat.

No one has seen him since, though his car turned up a few days later, parked at a service station overlooking the Severn Bridge, spawning speculation that he had committed suicide.

The uncertainty over the fate of James, who was educated at Swansea University, inevitably left music commentators with a dilemma over how best to deal with it.

"We have been restrained about the whole thing in the wake of what happened with Kurt Cobain's death last year," said Stuart Bailie, assistant editor of NME. "The first time he had an overdose in Rome it was almost like a bit of sport. People felt Kurt was messing everybody about.

"But when he died everyone was very upset. Then when Richey disappeared everybody took it very emotionally. It was felt 'let's not make a big thing about it'."

Even their record company had resisted the urge to cash in on the noteriety of his dis- appearance. "When someone dies record companies usually whip out a couple of compilation albums and fill the shops. They love cashing in on corpses. But even though Richey's only missing, they've been very low key," said Mr Bailie.

Likewise, when the music press hacks run into members of the band, talking about Richey is almost taboo. "We see them out quite a bit. But no-one asks about Richey. They have enough horrible problems without us adding to them. This is a rare occasion when we've been gentle."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living