Motorcycle Emptiness

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"Motorcycle Emptiness"
Motorcycle Emptiness.jpg
Single by Manic Street Preachers
from the album Generation Terrorists
Released1 June 1992
RecordedLate 1991
Length5:06 (edit)
3:35 (short edit)
6:09 (album version)
Songwriter(s)James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire, Sean Moore, Richey Edwards
Producer(s)Steve Brown
Manic Street Preachers singles chronology
"Slash 'n' Burn"
"Motorcycle Emptiness"
"Theme from M.A.S.H. (Suicide Is Painless)"
Audio sample
Music video
"Motorcycle Emptiness" on YouTube

"Motorcycle Emptiness" is a single by Welsh alternative rock band Manic Street Preachers. It was released on 1 June 1992, through Columbia Records. It was the fifth single to be released from their debut album, Generation Terrorists.


The track is inspired by S.E. Hinton's book Rumble Fish, about biker gang culture. According to the band, the lyrics are an attack on the hollowness of a lifestyle centered around the consumerism which is offered by capitalism, describing how society expects young people to conform. The line "From feudal serf to spender" draws a direct parallel between slavery of peasants to the lord of their manor under the Feudal system in medieval times and the brand loyalty of people in modern capitalist societies, which the companies use to their advantage in pursuit of profit.

The song was derived from the early Manic Street Preachers songs "Go, Buzz Baby, Go" (with which it shares the chord structure and the phrase "Motorcycle Emptiness" late in the song over the verse chords) and "Behave Yourself Baby", a rough demo with a similar structure, that has the lines "All we want from you is the skin you live within", similar to "All we want from you are the kicks you've given us" in this song.

Some of the lyrics are taken from the poem "Neon Loneliness" (the first line of the chorus, "Under neon loneliness", is a direct lift) by Welsh poet Patrick Jones, the brother of Manics bass guitarist and lyricist Nicky Wire. "Motorcycle Emptiness" was also included on Forever Delayed, the Manics' greatest hits album, in October 2002, and released as a reissued single from the compilation in February 2003.

Release and reception[edit]

"Motorcycle Emptiness" was released on 1 June 1992 by record label Columbia. The song reached number 17 in the UK Singles Chart on 13 June 1992. It remained there for another week and spent a total of eight weeks in the top 75, two weeks longer than any other Generation Terrorists single, and a record not surpassed by the Manics until 1996's "A Design for Life".[5]

In 2003, a re-issue CD containing the title track, "4 Ever Delayed" and "Little Baby Nothing (Acoustic)" was released in Europe as promotion for the band's Forever Delayed greatest hits compilation.

Awarding it 'Best New Single' in Smash Hits, Tom Doyle wrote: "Stripped of their punky backing, the Manics take a bit of a breather with this rousing classic of a tune which even features plucked violins!" He added: "[The single] proves that the Manics are much more than simply a punk parody and that they are capable of occasional brilliance."[6]

Music video[edit]

The video was filmed during a promotional visit to Japan[7] in various locations, including the Shibuya Crossing and Cosmo Clock 21. It features the whole band, but with Bradfield appearing most, standing stationary and performing the song as crowds surge around him. The band appear in non-sequential shots, exploring the sites of Japan. At one point, Edwards appears trying to gain the attention of a tortoise.


The song was remixed by Apollo-440 under their alternative name Stealth Sonic Orchestra as a piece of classical-style music. This remix was available as a track on the single "Australia" (taken from their seminal 1996 album Everything Must Go), and was also used by T-Mobile for an advertising campaign in 2003.

Contestant David Martin performed an acoustic version in 2002 during the knockout stages of the hit UK reality show, Fame Academy (series 1) which was well received by the judges.[8]


In 2006, Q magazine readers voted the song as the 88th best song ever.[9]

Track listing[edit]

1."Motorcycle Emptiness"5:06
2."Bored Out of My Mind"2:57
3."Crucifix Kiss" (live)3:10
4."Under My Wheels" (live)3:01
12" picture disc
1."Motorcycle Emptiness" 
2."Bored Out of My Mind" 
3."Under My Wheels" (live) 
7" / MC
1."Motorcycle Emptiness" 
2."Bored Out of My Mind" 
2003 reissue CD
1."Motorcycle Emptiness"6:02
2."Forever Delayed"3:38
3."Little Baby Nothing" (acoustic)4:54


Chart (1992) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[10] 35
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[11] 21
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[12] 35
UK Singles (OCC)[13] 17


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[14] Silver 200,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ Butler, Will. "Photos: Manic Street Preachers setting Latitude ablaze". Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  2. ^ Scott, Paul (20 September 2006). "Manic Street Preachers: Condemned to Rock 'n Roll". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  3. ^ Burrows, Marc (25 October 2012). "Old music: Manic Street Preachers – Theme from M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  4. ^ Shepard, Sam (29 October 2011). "Manic Street Preachers – National Treasures". musicOMH. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Manic Street Preachers | Artist | Official Charts". Official Charts. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  6. ^ Doyle, Tom (27 May 1992). "New singles". Smash Hits. No. 352.
  7. ^ "Music Videos Filmed In Japan #4 Manic Street Preachers – 'Motorcycle Emptiness' (1992)". 23 April 2013.
  8. ^ "Fame Academy". UKGameshows. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  9. ^ "[Q article]". Q (243): 71. October 2006.
  10. ^ "Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  11. ^ "Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  12. ^ "Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  13. ^ "Manic Street Preachers: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  14. ^ "British single certifications – Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 11 January 2020.

External links[edit]