Brett Anderson: Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn
Taking a second plunge into the publishing world, Brett Anderson returns with his follow up memoir to its precursor Coal Black Mornings. Where his debut focused solely on the days before he was hurtled into the public eye as Suede became an improbable household name, Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn brings the next stage of the story, with a brutally honest look back at the band’s spiral to success and the pinnacles and pitfalls that inevitably came along for the ride.
Although he said this was the book he wouldn’t write, the opportunity for people to hear his own view rather the sensationalist click-bait of the headlines has brought about a change of heart. Brett describes reflecting on the period as akin to watching someone else living your life, noting that ‘it’s remarkable how hindsight can lend a clarity that at the time was beyond you’.
The book avoids the often touted glamorous tales of the music world as he talks of journeys supplemented with Silk Cut, Walkers crisps and Batiste dry shampoo. Something that is demonstrated often however is his love and respect for his bandmates past and present, whilst acknowledging the at times difficult relationships therein. The irony of recording Stay Together whilst the connection with Bernard Butler was starting to crumble is not lost; appearances on Top of the Pops and in puppet form on Spitting Image offer reminders of how Suede managed to break through to the mainstream despite, or perhaps because of, their insistence on doing things on their own terms.
© Phillip Williams
For the music fan there are deep forays into the writing, production and performance of the songs. It is interesting to note the desire, even early on, for every musical footprint to be noteworthy, resulting in what he describes as ‘exiling classics to the wastelands of the flip side’ – the likes of My Insatiable One, He’s Dead and My Dark Star all allotted to what for most artists would be the lower echelon of the B-side. There is a clear understanding that whilst a flurry of hype will propel you into the public eye, it won’t hold your place if there is no substance to follow the fanfare.
The story can’t be told without addressing the demons of addiction that could so easily have dictated a much more desolate outcome. Again, there is no glamour or glitz attached to this period as Brett recalls ‘the substances becoming slowly harder, the evenings becoming slowly more humourless, the chances of escape from it all slowly less likely’. Thankfully there was an escape and there was enough strength in Suede as a collective to continue and move forward.
There are lighter notes throughout the book and times filled with humour and positivity. As a south coast dweller, it was lovely to hear mention of an early show at The Joiners Arms in Southampton, where Brett felt there was ‘a moment’ and recalls it as a pivotal point where the band and crowd were in the same headspace, feeling the same thing, the role of the audience so important in making everything worthwhile. (Happily, The Joiners hasn’t met the fate of many an independent venue and still exists to offer opportunities for smaller bands to play and build into something much bigger).
The book takes us to the break-up of the band in the highly anti-climactic setting backstage at The Graham Norton Show, a mark of success for some, the end of the road for Suede – in this innings at least.
© Pat Pope
With chapter names like Dogshit and Diamonds, Crouchenders and Anything can Happen in Life, Especially Nothing you know this will be no run of the mill music biography.
The leap from lyricist to author doesn’t always run smoothly but Brett has a natural skill for storytelling; he’s a compelling raconteur, a graphic scene-setter. The book offers a point of detailed reference for fans, and for any reader an insight into the disequilibrium of a band trying to make a dent on a music scene flooded with Britpop and imported rock ballads. If we didn’t know to some degree what happened next it might be a somewhat despondent ending. However, now that we’ve felt the aspirations fired by the Coal Black Mornings and spent disordered Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn, perhaps Brett will take us along on the next part of the journey and we can witness the evenings of Suede’s story in book number three…
Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn is published by Little, Brown UK tomorrow – 3rd October 2019
Photos with permission of the publisher and copyright of the photographer named
Words by Siobhan
2nd October 2019