Friday, 10 August 2018

Brett Anderson: Coal Black Mornings

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.

15 comments:

  1. I'll add it to the, ever expanding(!), list

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  2. Well reviewed C. I'd be tempted to read it now even though I'm not a massive fan of the band.

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    1. Thanks. Honestly I don't think you even need to like or care about Suede one bit to enjoy the book... what happened next is kind of incidental. There's just so much to relate to elsewhere and he reflects on it with the comforting self-awareness that comes (usually!) with age.

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  3. Like John Medd, I will add it to the vast stack of yet to be read books that will one day topple and pin me down. :o)

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    1. I know what you mean! One thing I will say is that it's quite a short book - you could probably get through it in a day or two!

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  4. One I've seen in the shop and thought about adding to the list. Maybe ask for it for Christmas. - Rol

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  5. Was already on my long "must read" list, now just moved up a few places.

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    1. Good to know - and it's only 209 pages so hopefully you can fit it in!

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  6. We like personal blogs around here. Also the fact he hasn't been asked to write to order, and is now a man of a certain age, means it could also be one for me to add to the ever-growing list. (Incidentally everything I've read after being recommended via the blogging community has been a winner - Stands to reason really.)

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    1. I'm sure you'd enjoy it, Alyson. Not sure whether or not you like Suede? - but it really doesn't matter here as it could be the tale of many a man who grew up in the '60s and '70s, got into music, formed relationships, experienced love and loss and formed a band, regardless of the later outcome. He is such a likeable, honest, modest character, I think it would be hard not to like him.

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    2. Obviously yes, if he's 'likeable' it would be hard not to like him, d'oh!

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  7. I like it when you review things, C. I've not forgotten that you pointed me in the way of Colin Macinnes ages ago and am indebted to you for that. On your recommendation I'll read this too at some point.

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    1. Thanks John - and for mentioning the Colin Macinnes. I don't read anywhere near enough books these days, I go through phases - but I can only reiterate what I've said above and definitely recommended this one. I'm sure you'd enjoy it.

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