They say you never forget your first love and I can honestly say the torch I've held for the Manic Street Preachers still burns as brightly as it did for the 13-year-old that discovered them.
To my young, impressionable ears, the Manics were he most exciting and important thing I'd ever heard or seen. Coming from a small town that was so lacking in everything it felt like the arse-end of nowhere, they gave a voice to the boredom and banality felt by teens like myself who were stranded in exactly the same existence.
It was the critically acclaimed 'Everything Must Go' that brought them to my attention, but it was immersing myself in their back catalogue that led me down the path of music awesomeness and onward to an eternal love of good music and good books.
I have the Manics to thank for drawing my attention to a lot of things that have been life changing. Without them I'd never have found The Clash, a band whose presence has made my life all the richer for it, or Jack Kerouac, whose 'On The Road' beatnik adventure completely captured my heart and made me fall in love with America long before I got there.
From the aggression and attitude of 'Generation Terrorists' to the dark, thought-provoking depths of 'The Holy Bible', the Manics' music has always encouraged he listener to think outside the box. While other bands worked hard to fit whatever music mould was trendy that year, they distanced themselves with lyrics inspired by the library, rather than the ladies.
They supplied their fans with not just a list of musical influences, but a whole library's worth of books that would enrich lives. Joining the Manics clan was only partly about expanding your CD collection, mostly it was about expanding your mind and your bookshelf. For every single, every album, there was a specially selected quote, a clue to the possibilities that lay ahead were you to just tag along on their educational ride.
The Manics also revelled in being different. In the early days their sound was an awkward fit, but their look was even more striking. Eyeliner, feather boas, women's blouses and the tightest of tight white jeans. You think the emo look was an odd one? The Manics took the best and worst of female style in the early '90s and ran with it.
They were a band out there on their own - what's not to love?