Coal Black Mornings – Brett Anderson

Back in 1996 I fell in love with the pop rock album, Coming Up, by Suede, said music used to keep me company when working nights a few years ago (and also whilst writing this review).  Combining elements of bouncy pop, glam rock, and melancholy laden tracks, to give it a good balance, the album teeters between throwaway music and the poignant atmosphere of emptiness layered tunes.

Seeing this book in the shops, it was a matter of chance that I chose to idly browse through – as well as hum one of the tunes from yesteryear – whilst waiting for the missus to finish shopping for makeup. Owing to a lack of blurb, and viewing the usual positive quotes with suspicion, I was pleasantly surprised with the writing style and how Anderson conveyed his story.

Although Coal Black Mornings stops short of the those commercially popular times for the band, this is a still very much worth the read even for those who have never heard of the band.   Normally I wouldn’t pick up a book such as this but after having a brief peruse through, I was taken with the way Anderson expresses himself and his critical self-awareness.

The majority of the book is about the author’s early life which takes place in the poverty of a working-class English suburb.  The band only begins to form towards the end of the book so there is plenty of insight into Anderson’s childhood and the way his experiences would go on to inform his lyrics and musical style.

The way this is approached was very effective, with honesty, and a lack of manufactured drama that so many memoirs of this ilk provide.  I found it a compelling read due to its simplicity and erudite literary style.  Although it is fair to note that as this is a book written for his son to understand his father more, there is little reference to the more showbiz part of the story with all its assorted vices.

Of particular interest were the insights into band dynamics and press speculations, the effects and pressure upon the band that stemmed from this, and how music is viewed by the media. Those hidden and personal inspirations and meanings so often lost as the press attempt to intellectualise lyrics, which arguably adds as much as it takes away from the myth of the songs.

Suede managed to tap into the feelings of the marginalised, and effectively started Britpop, as it was eventually termed, which was raw and free of the idealised version now seen through the media today. Anderson’s grimy portrayal of the working-class and the reality of people’s lives in stark light, created a momentum that resonated with many.

Coal Black Mornings builds to an exhilarating, breathless rush towards the end, as things start to come together, the evolving music and lyrical styles, the different band member changes, and the chronicling of hard fought struggles for a chance to be recognised, which in this day of manufactured bands,  will be an eye opener to some.

All in all, this is worth picking up even for those with no knowledge of Suede, or, like me, no clue of most of the other bands mentioned.  It was interesting to explore Anderson’s life through his eyes, to get a taste of that time, and read a success story and an interesting one at that.  The only niggles I had were the repetition of the words ‘hilarious’ and ‘zeitgeist’ which were mildly annoying, as was the title overdone if understandable use of the title, all of which are no reason not to be absorbed in this enjoyable read.

21 Replies to “Coal Black Mornings – Brett Anderson”

  1. It seems strange reading about you browsing in a bookshop while your missus shops for makeup…how times have changed for us all in such a short time… It’s nice to remember normality, however it’s measured…Living in California through the 90s, the whole Britpop era passed me by, except for when those Spice Girls took America by storm, but this book sounds like an interesting read from an autobiographical point of view.

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    1. I usually stay clear of autobiographies and such as a lot tend to veer towards cliché but this one held my attention, and got me back to some of the bands that I hadn’t heard for a while as well, which is always a good thing. Times have changed rapidly, I would love to be window shopping for books now but at least I can finish a few on the TBR pile and actually arrest the rise of it for once.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, you do read a little of everything, don’t you? I’ve only heard of the band Suede once, and knew nothing of their provenance or history. Are they from an area anything like Liverpool?

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    1. Suede were formed in a little known place called London, I believe they were the band that put that city on the map! I do like to mix things up and venture into new spheres of bookishness. Hopefully more will follow in the coming months.

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  3. This sounds like an interesting read. Are you familiar with the actor Robert Downey, Jr.? At first glance, I thought that was him on the cover. Maybe it’s just me. 🙂 Thanks for the review, Ste J. Stay well!

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  4. Sounds like an interesting read. A few years ago, I read The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones by Stanley Booth. It was a compelling read. It’s always interesting to learn about the lives of musical artists even if they use words like ‘zeitgeist’ too much…

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  5. I really want to read this one, I’ve heard it’s good, and he wrote it himself. I always check now, and then look for them crediting their writer on the title page, but this is because I work as the transcriber behind some of the ghostwriters, and I like to see them thanked! But I know he wrote this one himself and I am pleased it’s good.

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    1. I found a copy in HMV, two for a fiver, they have some really good stuff. I did wonder if he had written it himself so scoured the book but was more than happy to find out that he had.

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  6. I love these types of serendipitous finds. How I’d love to browse in a bookstore right now. I’m not familiar with the band, and I’m glad this turned out to be absorbing. Am wondering what else you’ll discover in your TBR pile, now that life has become more insular. The editor should have removed a few of those pesky repetitive phrases that do become distracting when reading an entire work. It’s easy enough to do these days with a quick search and selective delete. Cheers!

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    1. A handy thesaurus would do wonders for those little niggles, still it is a small price to pay for such an enjoyable work. I have quite an eclectic run of books coming up, although some of the names are quite familiar.

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        1. Me neither but sometimes the bullet must be bitten and whilst my laptop is getting slower, it provides a handy way to be productive whilst the circle things spins around on screen.

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          1. Ugh! That circle thing! So many neighbours on-line all day and most of the night as well! We have just agreed to pay an extra couple of pounds a month to get more speed and it’s now slower than it was before the speed-boost!

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            1. That sounds about right, I am convinced that the companies randomly limit the speed. I think I would struggle with my sanity without the internet at the moment. I am getting into obscure books in a big way now.

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