SUEDE - 'Autofiction'

Published on 16 September 2022 at 12:01

By Paul Laird

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Storytelling and creation are very close to the centre of what magic is all about…All of humanity’s  Gods, since Paleolithic times, are, in some senses, fiction. That is not to disparage the entities in  question, I hold fiction in very special regard. I think that some fictions have a life of their own.  Nobody wants to use the words “mind control”, but in some way that is what all art is,  manipulating people’s emotions…We use our talents…to actually change the reader's  consciousness.”  

(Alan Moore in conversation with Bill Baker) 


And our lives too will pass…and the words we use are like future ghosts”  

('Personality Disorder', Suede


I don’t know who I am. 

I can’t remember who I was. 

There is a version of the past and the present me that I only vaguely recognise, but the idea of  trying to imagine the future me, of trying to envisage a future, is so terrifying as to be hilarious. 

I am haunted by friends who never were. 

Worse, I am possessed by bad decisions, wrong turns and missed opportunities with love, and  lust. 

The filth and the fury

The first house I can remember living in was 14 Gilchrist Crescent in Whitburn, a small town  inching towards Scotland’s West coast. 


My bedroom is behind the dormer window. On  

Saturday mornings, my mum would return from  

her nightshift at the local hospital and bring ten  

pence mixtures and comics. The Beano and  

Whizzer and Chips. Sometimes The Eagle. The  

narrow window, to the left of the front door, is for  

the bathroom. My earliest, and most vivid,  

memory is a dream I had.  

In the dream I am standing in the bathroom,  

staring directly into the mirror which hangs  

above the sink. Behind me is a ghost. A white  

sheet ghost. Black eyes. No mouth. No form.  

He doesn’t speak, but I know what he wants.  

He wants to control me. He is bad. I am good.  

Darkness and light. 


I had been raised on a diet of broken biscuits and tales of frontier prophets in America who had  visions of God and angels. I knew what sin was. I knew who Jesus was and what he expected of  me. Dogma but no dog. 


That dream has returned, at various points, throughout my life. Whenever I watch “The Shining”  and Danny stands in front of the mirror, demanding that Tony show him why he doesn’t want to go  to The Overlook Hotel, I am reminded of the dream. A supernatural presence in the mind of a little  boy, and now not so little man, with a natural propensity for worry, anxiety, fear, guilt and shame.  A toxic combination. 



Memories and narratives. 

Youth and manhood. 

Reality and myth. 

Did I really have that dream about a ghost? 

I think I did, is that enough? 


How much distance lies between me then, and me now? I don’t live in that house, or that  town now. It is almost forty miles away? I am no longer 5 years old, that is over forty years  away? Forty miles and forty years apart. But I am still him, and he became me? Maybe nothing  separates us. Nothing but life, love and experience. 


I have always thought of myself as an outsider. 


A religious boy surrounded by agnostics and atheists who didn’t know that’s what they were. A  sober head among drunken limbs. A celibate cry, drowned out by bodies entwined. Oscar Wilde  poking out of my pocket, at a time when that same pocket should have been home to condoms,  drugs or lust filled notes. Anxious and angular at the exact moments when I should have been  most liberated. 




A mind lost to the birds. 

Insatiable appetites that I could never begin to think about satisfying. 

Dead on the inside. 

Impersonating life on the outside. 

A dark star. 

Or something. 


I have memories about Suede too. Stan and Heather tell me about them, but I don’t think that  can really be true. They lived in England. There was no email. Were they visiting? Why? I can  see a flyer for something with the painted woman from “The Drowners” on it. Heather is raving  about them. Is this before the other memories? Before the time I lay on my bedroom floor  listening to a BBC evening session of the band playing live in…Newcastle? I have a notepad and  I am writing out the lyrics as best I can. Or did I have a bootleg tape of that show? Did that  happen before I saw them that first time? Did I go with Claire to see them the night before at King  Tuts? I have told people I was there, but I’m not sure I was. Claire got a drumstick. Buying “New  Generation” from Stereo One in Paisley. The Plaza gig. Lying naked with another someone, the  end of our first date, all the rules and restrictions of our faith cast aside and “She” playing in the  background. Do you remember the first time? Wrong band. Memories. Moments. Events.  People.  


With me and within me, Suede have been here, and there, and everywhere else. How could they not be? 

I am filled with love and poison too. 


We are each other.

This is the only way I know how to love, to be loved. Through memories and moments.  Storytelling is magic. 


Art can change our consciousness. 


Contrary to what some religions will tell you, we are not born sick. We are born complete. Then  society, structures, press upon us, impress upon us, what it means to be a good citizen. We  suppress aspects of ourselves that don’t fit…we are fractured, accepting this part of ourselves,  rejecting and suppressing that part of ourselves.  


Suede, more than any other band, have reminded me of those darker, “unacceptable”, aspects of  myself, and offered a means to accept them, to accept myself. Perhaps the “peculiar” parts of  me need not be locked in a box, maybe, just maybe, I can accept myself. 

It is no different now than it was then. 

March 1993 seems like a long time ago. 

I was living far away from where I am today. 

Different towns, different places and different faces. 


But the me who wandered from Linn Park Gardens to the record shop to buy “Suede”, hand in  hand with the girl who understood all of it, and all of him, better than he did at that point, is the  same person who is sitting listening to “Autofiction” today. The same person, just different. 


Suede are the same band. 

Just different. 

These are not the young men. 

This are the new men. 

What does it sound like? 

Is it any good? 


Anything I have to say about that would be unsatisfactory. Write your own autofiction.