Why I ❤️ Rush's A Farewell To Kings, by Manic Street Preachers bassist Nicky Wire

Nicky Wire and the A Farewell To Kings album cover
(Image credit: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images/Mercury Records)

“I got into Rush through my older brother; A Farewell To Kings was the first Rush album he bought, around 1980. When I first heard it I didn’t get it – we’d been more into metal than prog – but the title track that really brought me in. It’s one of Neil’s greatest lyrics: ‘Cities full of hatred, fear and lies/Withered hearts and cruel tormented eyes’. From some bands you might think it was medieval gobbledygook, but I don’t think it is. 

"In fact, the whole album deals with some heavy themes. It’s almost Nietzschean: God is dead, that’s all gone, on to the future. There are a lot of ideas about things fading away, about precious things that are lost. Closer To The Heart had a big philosophical draw: everybody’s good at something, and being a plumber is equally as important as being a politician or musician. And this from a rock drummer who wrote By-Tor & The Snow Dog

In Beyond The Lighted Stage you saw how Neil’s notebooks are laid out, and that made me admire him even more. His lyrics are incredibly underrated. Xanadu’s one of the greatest instrumental sections of all time. The bass playing is as funky and cool as anything, the drumming’s phenomenal, and I think that the riff is a precursor to Sweet Child O’ Mine."

"Geddy’s bass is very direct, not as ‘cultured’ as on later records. He’s got the strongest fingers, and it sounds like he’s whacking the shit out of that Rickenbacker, the hardest bass to play. 

"I can’t deny that the album means more to me because it was recorded in Rockfield Studios in Wales. I’m 99 per cent sure we own the very desk they used. It’s in our studio now. Kings sounds very earthy, there’s an edge to it. Permanent Waves only came out three years later but sounded much more modern, a different kind of feel. 

"It’s my favourite Rush album, alongside Moving Pictures. I remember the cover quite disconcerted me, it’s such a bleak landscape. The whole album’s imbued with isolation and melancholia, and drenched in intelligence. It’s a deep fucking record, like a prog version of The Smiths.”

This feature originally appeared in the Rush: Clockwork Angels fanpack. Nicky Wire was speaking with Grant Moon. Manic Street Preachers' new album The Ultra Vivid Lament is released on September 3.

Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.