Author of "The Birth And Impact Of Britpop: Mis-Shapes, Scenesters And Insatiable Ones"
“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.
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 has 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.
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.”
(Our Sound Music, 16/09/22)
That is what I had to say when the album was released.
I stand by every word.
After Britpop was hijacked by Loaded and lads, after it stopped being about arch, camp, eccentric, foppish, creativity and artistry, it became something utterly toxic, cut through with xenophobia on its best days, rampant misogyny, and a lack of voices from minority groups. Suede saw all of that before it happened. I wish I had been so wise. And now as many of the bands from that period make their money, maintain their presence, by re-re-releasing things that were hardly worth a release the first time, and making new music that is indistinguishable from the old music, Suede are releasing music that still matters. Fiercely intelligent, brutally emotional, and constantly moving you…Autofiction.