Self-deprecating memoir charts Suede’s rise to a record deal
EVEN before they had released a song, there was a sense of destiny about Suede. In 1993, placed the unsigned fivepiece on the cover and proclaimed Suede “the best new band in Britain”.
Fusing the glam rock of David Bowie with the wistful pop of The Smiths, Suede conceived a soaring, melancholic sensibility that influenced a generation of British indie bands.
the memoir of the group’s founder and lead singer, Brett Anderson, is essential reading for Suede aficionados — but it’s much more than that.
As he reveals the background of early Suede songs, Anderson revisits crucial junctures in Suede’s genesis.
Central are Anderson’s relationships with original members Justine Frischmann (“one of the two great loves of my life”), and Bernard Butler, whom Anderson recruited through an ad for a “no muso” guitarist in the
Yet, couldn’t be more different from the conventional rock memoir. Imbued with fearless candour and written with vivid clarity, Anderson insists the book is “about failure” and closes his compelling narlanders rative on the day Suede sign their record deal.
What is most affecting, however, is the way Anderson evokes his early life. “I was a snotty, sniffy, slightly maudlin sort of boy raised on Salad Cream and milky tea and cheap meat,” he writes.
Providing the bassline of the book, Anderson forensically conjures the Britain of the 1970s and 1980s: The lino of cramped council houses and the smell of sour milk.
Anderson had a complicated relationship with his eccentric, confrontational father (a “collection” of personalities), who would walk around their house dressed as Lawrence of Arabia as he air-con- ducted his favourite classical composers.
In contrast, Anderson nurtured a “blind, primitive love” for his mother. Artistic and devoted, she fostered Anderson’s love of books and, to save money, made all her family’s clothes.
If writing this memoir was partly to gain a better understanding of his father, Anderson has, in interviews about the book, acknowledged that retelling his mother’s death (she died when he was 22) forcefully summoned the devastation of her loss.
The search for self-identity and escape from suburbia are salient themes in Suede’s canon and they serve as touchstones in
Using the money he earned from his paper round, Anderson bought his first album:
Stifled by the conformity of Haywards Heath, the teenage Anderson often walked to the platform of the town’s railway station and looked northwards up the tracks trying to glimpse the promise and elegance of England’s capital.
When Anderson moved to London, he used the gritty minutiae of the city — phrases overheard on the Tube, graffiti scrawled in toilet cubicles — as inspiration for his songwriting.
The music press derided Suede as “the most humourless band since Joy Division”, but a refrain of Anderson’s memoir is his selfdeprecation. He remembers, in 1984, wearing a lemon-yellow suit bought in Topman which he liked to think hinted at the glitter of David Bowie, but, on reflection, suggested rip-off Cliff Richard.
dares to strip away the mythology of rock as Anderson masterfully distils his and his band’s attempts to use their own voice and accent — against a backdrop of bread-line poverty in John Major’s Britain — to celebrate “our ragged hymn, our howl of frustration”.