I recently finished reading Brett Anderson's autobiography 'Coal Black Mornings'. Lucky me, I was given it for my birthday, back in July. I loved it.
"I now feel an urgent need to impart," Brett writes of his decision to finally put something out there. "I suppose I have come to a stage in my life where I want to come to terms with who I am, and exploring my past on my own terms like this is a way to achieve that".
And that's just how it comes across. Brett writes so engagingly, it's rather like reading a lovely, personal blog - very real, very natural - in touch with his feelings, free flowing, idiosyncratic.
He also makes it clear from the outset that this was never intended to be a Suede memoir. "I've limited this strictly to the early years," he explains, "before anyone really knew, or really cared..."
At the time of writing it he had no book deal and this, I think, lends great validity to his words and motive. He isn't relaying clichéd rock'n'roll stories of drugs and debauchery to satisfy the appetites of editors or journalists or even fans; he writes this, the story of growing up and his life pre-fame, honestly and tenderly, for his son.
Even aesthetically the book doesn't seem like a traditional musician/artist autobiography. There are no old photos from his childhood or college days and, whilst they would have been interesting to see, that might somehow have changed the tone. Whereas the resultant product, with its broad white margins and spacious type, lacking the stereotypical orange-brown Polaroids of the 8-year old author on a Spacehopper, is tastefully, perfectly understated.
This understated visual approach complements one of the main things that struck me as I raced through the pages (it was hard to put down) - Brett's modesty. There's no ego. Another thing that really stood out to his credit is the great respect he shows towards other people mentioned within. It's easy to think of Brett in relation to Justine, to Bernard - and then naturally to the things we've read in the past - the sensationalist stuff, the conflicts. But there's no bitchiness, no cynical slagging off or melodrama, instead yes, the lovely and very endearing qualities of modesty and respect. He writes with warmth and dignity.
Brett's early life and family was not what you might call 'ordinary', but the longer I live the more I question what 'ordinary' actually is and whether it exists. It doesn't matter whether you end up in a famous band or not. Most of us, I'm sure, could tell tales about our upbringings, our families or friends and our youthful exploits which might challenge the definition of 'ordinary' to the listener, purely because it's different to theirs.
I also found it to be tremendously relatable. Anyone born in the '60s, growing up in Britain with an interest in the music scene a little outside of the mainstream is bound to find themselves smiling and nodding on reading the many references to records bought, clothes worn and those teenage feelings that preoccupied us. Talking of his friend Simon Holdbrook, Brett writes, "Simon....with whom I felt the thrill of mutual outsiderdom; two small-town dreamers, trapped in a dreary suburban cell, yearning for the thrill and promise beyond. Like a thousand other dreamers in a thousand other suburban towns we were convinced that our experience was unique, but it made it no less special that it wasn't."
I could go on - I keep flicking back through the pages and finding sentences I want to share - so many moments that struck a chord, feelings expressed that demonstrate so beautifully a character with whom I find a surprising affinity - but that would only be my experience of this book. If you're remotely interested in the man and not just the band, I'd really urge you to make it yours too.
With special thanks also to Monkey at Monkey Picks blog who first brought this book to my attention.