20 years ago today, Suede released their third single, “Animal Nitrate”. A grimy paean to violent gay sex, it became the band’s first top ten hit, thanks to a chorus so big it could swallow continents. For the band’s growing army of rabid, hysterical fans, this breakthrough felt like an extraordinary and unlikely victory. In the first of a two part blog, Pop Lifer Neil – one of those hysterical fans, and probably the first person in Newcastle to own a copy of a Suede single – recalls how the band won his heart and wrecked his life. Singer Brett Anderson and bassist Mat Osman agreed to take a stroll down memory lane for this piece.
1. “Introducing the band”
“I don’t remember us telling people to move to Streatham,” says Mat Osman, looking puzzled and a little aghast.
I’ve been explaining to Mat and Brett Anderson the price I have paid for being a lifelong fan of their band, Suede. There’s the thousands spent going to see their shows, the abuse hurled my way in their early flamboyant phase, the pair of glasses lost dancing at their Royal Albert Hall reunion show and – worst of all – the six months I spent living in Streatham, one of South London’s grottier and noisier enclaves.
Brett Anderson’s face, on the other hand, is suddenly dawning with recognition. “Oh my God,” he starts to laugh. “Because of the lyrics in “The Chemistry Between Us?”” His dry chuckle becomes a throaty cackle, “Oh God, I’m so sorry.”
Yes, in 1997 I finished university and was foolishly entrusted by two friends with the task of finding us all a flat in London, a city I knew almost nothing of. Obviously, I turned for guidance to the lyrics of Suede, my favourite band, and one of the most London-obsessed outfits in pop history. I remembered Brett dreamily singing “maybe we’re just Streatham trash and maybe not/ And maybe we’re just capital flash in a stupid love,” and how it had sounded seductively, romantically scuzzy. It turned out to be scuzzy, at least.
“Well,” Brett says, still laughing, “you should really have done a bit more research. But at least you got to see a bit of the world.”
In fact, Suede had inflicted more profound damage years before this sorry episode. They’d persuaded me back when I was little more than an impressionable child that life was a glamorous undertaking, that England was a land of sordid sex and soaring romance, and that pop music offered meaning and hope to human existence. At least the last point wasn’t a lie.
2. “Slow down, slow down – you’re taking me over”
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind. Continue reading