Perhaps I’m hard all the same
It is true what they say. Prologue to History is the b-side that could have been an a-side. It’s also one of the few cases where the band has downright stated that the only reason it was left off the album was because of its major stylistic and atmospheric difference to the album it was left out of (This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours) instead of anything to do with quality.
I don’t think it would have been a hit single though. Not like the actual TIMTTMY singles and certainly not like Tolerate. It’s catchy and it’s got a big chorus sure but it’s like dropping an abstract painting in the middle of classic pieces – it’s all art alright but it sticks out and won’t really be appreciated by the same people.
It’s the words and delivery, really. Prologue’s one of Wire’s most personal tracks, somewhat fitting as it was from the Truth sessions which in general were lyrically a lot about Wire’s soulsearching. But instead of the melancholy self-wallowing of the parent album, Prologue is pure spite and rage. The lyrics are spit out in an intense, even hostile tone and the words themselves are a cut through Nicky Wire’s psyche with a fair amount of self-hatred sprinkled on top. It’s the words of a man at his most paranoid with no self-confidence left, trying to defend himself from all the possible accusations flinged at him. It’s Nicky Wire attacking the life of Nicky Wire.
Musically it’s just as brilliant, and just as unlikely to hit the top charts. It’s such a gigantic, energetic, raging force of a musical backing that just goes on and grows more furious with each moment. It never brakes or holds down, it keeps on going like a train. Finally it all explodes into a massive rock orgy before finally calming down, offering a contemplating moment of melody before snuffing out.
Prologue is probably the band’s largest and most praised b-side (alongside maybe Donkeys whose got a random fit of fame for some reason), the “classic hidden track”, that proudly opens the Lipstick Traces compilation. And why not? In many ways it’s possibly the ultimate Manics statement, musically and lyrically.