Excluding the fact I may well change my mind again in a few weeks, for October I thought I’d go into detail about the tracks from one of my all time favourite records – the 1998 album This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours by Manic Street Preachers.
“The future teaches you to be alone, the present to be afraid and cold, so if I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists”.
So, reads one of the best remembered lines from the lead single of the 1998 album This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours, titled If You Tolerate This, Then Your Children Will Be Next, by Manic Street Preachers.
The song itself is an anti-fascist anthem, written about and effectively dedicated to the role of the Welsh Volunteers who joined the International Brigades in the fight against Francisco Franco and the fascist Falangists in the Spanish Civil War.
Aside from being the first single of the first album of which the lyrics were solely written by Nicky Wire, three years on from the still unsolved disappearance of co-lyricist and band mate Richey Edwards, it was the Manics first number one.
In the process, it achieved two rare distinctions. A song about fighting fascism reaching the top of the charts, and achieving a world record for If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next for it is the longest song title without brackets or any break in the title such as commas, dashes or full stops to get to number one. Remember that for the pub quizzes, it’s a genuine piece of trivia.
If You Tolerate This, as I’ll shorten it to in order to save my wrists and your eyes, was never intended to be a single. Indeed, it wasn’t actually ever intended to be an album record at all, for the Manics had written it as a B-Side, with the elegiac Be Natural intended to be the first single from the album.
However, it was picked up from the potential darkness by the A&R representative at their record company, who immediately sensed a hit, and he was right.
The line I mentioned at the start of this piece, was a quote given to a news reporter by a Welsh farmer who went over to join the aforementioned International Brigades. When asked why he had left Wales to fight a war in Spain, it is reported that he told the reporter: “Well, if I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists.”
If you’re familiar with the Manics, then you’ll know their discography is littered with references to literature, art, films and everything in between. This track is no different; for among the lyrics is the line “I’ve walked Las Ramblas without any real intent”; a direct quote from the book Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, a first hand account of the war.
Oh, and what of the title? That too has a hint of history, for it takes its name from a republican poster warning of Franco. More specifically, the picture features the body of a child with war planes going over the top of it. Below is a warning, which reads…
If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next.