Suede: Love and Poison: The Authorised Biography By David Barnett

Am going through a Suede phase at the moment, so this is the 3rd time I have read this book. And it's good, a bit corny in places, but that it more to do with the author's style than anything. I suppose my biggest disappointment with this revised edition is that Barnett has decided not to update the book. The first edition came out just before the band first split up in 2003, so doesn't deal with split, the years 2004-2010 before the reunion, and their excellent comeback album, Bloodsports. There are a bunch of footnotes added which does deal with some of that, but not in any great detail. Perhaps there will be a 2nd volume? David Barnett Dogman4star

Haha... see what I did there?
If you like Suede it’s a great book.. if you don’t then you won’t be reading it anyway.
It’s pretty brutally honest..
Q. Just how many songs has Brett written about drugs..?. I lost count..
or was I lost in tv?
Anyway I’m off as Europe’s my playground
TTFN David Barnett Benefiting from being written by someone who has worked closely with the group for most of their career, this is a refreshingly irreverent and enthusiastic (to the point of anorak-ism) biography of one of the most important British bands of the last 30 years. Originally published shortly before Suede's disintegration in 2003, it's been comprehensively updated (mostly through footnotes) to bring it up to date for their 2010 reunion and in many respects benefits from this hindsight. David Barnett Good read about the seminal band which created three now classic albums and a whole poetic world of council houses, drugs, sex, old fashioned romanticism and legendary songs. David Barnett Suede vocalist Brett Anderson once described the career of rock band being formulaic: a story of struggle followed by success, followed by disintegration.

'It’s like the life cycle of a frog. It’s utterly predictable, he said.

Although he chose a more reflective approach for his own memoirs, this predecessor, written by David Barnet, a fan who became part of their entourage, takes a more traditional route.

It is meticulous in its detail and clearly methodically researched and jigsawed to present the band's chronology. Its 'colour' comes by way of the many and varied interviews - sadly Bernard Butler the key omission. How different would this book have been if he had co-operated? Perhaps a contrasting story would have been revealed.

The Suede story charts the band's many successes, it's pressures, the destructive nature of its relationships and the effect of drugs, drugs and more drugs - an ingredient which crucially fractured band dynamics and creative processes almost beyond repair.

My only criticism of this book would be the slightly repetitive nature of its later chapters, the descriptions of the band imploding during the recording of their final album and arduous touring which led to greater division, were somewhat drawn out.

This book was originally published in 2003 and later updated with annotations by the author, making it intriguingly autobiographical and humorous...although sometimes diverting from the flow of the original text.

For those of us who experienced the impact of Suede when they first came to prominence, this book reflects and echoes that miraculous time, the effect that had on their fans and the legacy they left behind which served as a soundscape to our lives. David Barnett


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When they appeared on the British rock scene in the early 1990s—a bastard fusion of the Smiths and Ziggy Stardust—some called them “The Best New Band in Britain.” At the time, the group—based around flamboyant vocalist Brett Anderson and guitarist Bernard Butler—hadn’t released one note of music. What followed was an eponymous album that was to become the fastest–selling debut in British musical history, as well as a decade of narcotic excess, redemption, and fantastic pop music. Now fully updated to include the inside story of the band’s decision to split and Brett’s new solo ventures, Suede: Love and Poison traces the scarcely credible story of a band that went to hell and back. Suede: Love and Poison: The Authorised Biography

IIIWell, it's the only real authorized biography of the band in print, right?

In all seriousness, Barnett does a more than able job of telling the story of the band's nascent years through the heights of success and their demise.

Now with the band in a renaissance with the trilogy of Bloodsports, Night Thoughts and The Blue Hour it's time for a revision.

Also, if you're a Suede or Brett Anderson fan, you need to read Anderson's biographical tomes Coal Black Mornings and Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn and watch Mike Christie's excellent Suede documentary The Insatiable Ones. David Barnett This book is written by a Suede fan. As such, it's a bit of a hagiography, drug abuse and wasted time aside. Still, it's an often funny read about a band that exploded from abject poverty into extreme fame, mainly thanks to the intense partnership between Bernard Butler (guitarist and songsmith) and Brett Anderson (singer and songsmith).

As Barnett acts bitchy throughout the book, and occasionally got me to think oh, when will his self-obsessed ass get edited the right way?, he actually annotated his own words from the first print of this book, when it was called Love and Poison. An example:

The then deputy editor of the NME later confided that, while he enjoyed the book, there were far too many Smiths song references in it for his liking. I counted seven in the first three chapters alone so he may well have had a point.

There's also a lot of taking the piss out of himself in this book, for which Barnett deserves credit. From the preface:

The lion's share of Love & Poison, the first edition of this book, was diligently thrashed out over the long hot summer of 2003 on a diet of Stella Artois and Camel Lights. Unleashed in September of that year, just as the band were disintegrating, it was an instant critical and commercial success and quickly became part of the Suede mythos; increasingly so in recent years when copies became impossible to get hold of, exchanging hands for silly money on eBay and Amazon. Of all the many flattering reviews, the one that meant the most came from Brett Anderson in the form of a no-nonsense email: “The book moved me. Nice one. xBrett.” Indeed, Suede’s singer was the only member of the band to request precisely zero changes to the original manuscript whatsoever, intuitively understanding that the biography’s unblinking snorts-and-all candor made up for the occasionally schizophrenic nature of its prose. (Although I did once see a copy inscribed in his unmistakable hand with the message “This book is crap!” and I’m not entirely sure he was joking).

There's always been a good way from Anderson in terms of retaliation, or just answering idiots:

“Throughout the whole of growing up there was a very vivid undercurrent of violence,” Brett agrees. “They always called me queer. I quite liked it, actually, because when you’re insulted by someone you consider a complete piece of shit, how can it be an insult?”

It is quite lovely to follow the band's formation at times:

“Young guitar player needed by London based band. Smiths, Commotions, Bowie, PSBs. No musos. Some things are more important than ability. Call Brett.” Two people responded. One was “a guy who had a guitar”. The other was a skinny 19-year-old called Bernard Butler.

Speaking of seeking people for the band, a drummer was needed:

“Well, I’m sorry but I’m afraid we’re a London-based band.” “That’s not a problem, I’ve worked with London-based bands before, I can commute. It’s only a couple of hours on the train.” “Who have you worked with then?” “A band called the Smiths. My name’s Mike Joyce.”

Also, when Suede was coming together, Justine Frischmann, playing rhythm guitar and being Anderson's girlfriend, decided to leave both the band and Anderson, going instead for Damon Albarn of Blur:

Remarkably, these circumstances, far from destroying the band as might be expected, actually brought its core elements closer together. “It was a weird period because we’d split up and because of that me and Bernard got closer as well because I didn’t have Justine any more as a friend,” says Brett. “Alan has always been a great friend and was there for me and Bernard was there for me as well, he was there for me as a friend. In the early days me and Bernard were good friends and it’s something that people might not know now. There was a weird period where she was still in the band. I was writing songs like ‘Pantomime Horse’, which wasn’t directly about her, but it was a celebration of my own tragedy. It was definitely kicked off by the fact that I was fucking depressed and stuff like ‘He’s Dead’... I couldn’t have written them if I was happy, they were the product of an unhappy mind.” “’I would die for the stars she said,’ that was a reference to Justine choosing Damon over Brett because he was famous and stuff,” adds Alan. “The lyrics are pretty self-explanatory.”

Simon Gilbert's journal recants some of the most notorious aspects of the band circa the time when they completely broke up with Bernard Butler—or possibly when Butler broke up with them:

June 6: Brett is completely pissed off at the studio. Understandably.
June 7: Meeting at studio with Brett, Saul, Ed, Charlie and myself
June 8: Charlie went to see Bernard – ‘Brett’s obviously a paedophile because he asked ‘Lisa her age, on her birthday!’
June 9: Spoke to Bernard. Seems he has snapped out of it. For now.
June 10: Butler is apparently recording all his telephone conversations.
June 11: E x 4. Coke x 1. Acid x 2.

Still, the band got better and worse.

All in all, this book is a ride, although Barnett's style is its forté as well as its curse; homely as well as far too fan-y, it's a give and take relationship: it gives off a lot of fun, but it's simultaneously like hanging out with a guest that refuses to leave your party. If you hang on, you'll be rewarded, especially if you like Suede and raucous recounts. David Barnett Suede remain one of my favourite bands. I remember vividly their appearance at the Brits (which at the time was still a cosy back slapping corporate event). I've seen them 3 times: I saw them on the Dog Man Star tour (which introduced their new guitarist Richard Oakes) and was lucky enough to see their comeback gig at the Royal Albert Hall. It's the best gig I've ever attended, there was so much love in the room for them that night which considering they'd almost become the forgotten band of the 'britpop' era was immensely gratifying. I also saw them at Brixton when they played 'Coming Up' in its entirety - another excellent gig. This is several levels up from the normal 'cut & paste' Music Biography. The author was a fan/friend/employee of Suede. It's a reissue of a previous book, but instead of undertaking a rewrite the author uses footnotes to add new thoughts & views to the narrative. This actually works quite well. It's certainly not a white wash, it doesn't stint on either the drugs nor the arguments. The band were great and this book does them justice. David Barnett The captivating concealed-autobiography of a toothy prick's adventures in the underworld and underbelly of 1990s Britpop's occasional darlings, Suede.
Or Swayyyyyde, as I prefer to call them.

If you are interested in the 90s UK music scene, and this band's sometimes Roman Empire, sometimes Reginald Perrin, -esque rise and fall within it, then you will like this book!

Worth the price for the photographic evidence of David's peacock-cockatoo-hairdo alone! David Barnett This guy knows his stuff

Written by one of the closest sources possible to the band, there is no doubting the validity of the writer’s knowledge on Suede, and this makes for a fantastically detailed read.

I would be interested in a more objective look at the band too. David Barnett