“The already legendary…Suede”

 

16th of February, 1993.

Inside the Alexandra Palace the great and the good of the music industry have gathered to drink champagne and dance all night, under electric candle light.

It is the Brit Awards.

Richard O’Brien is hosting.

The list of winners from that night reveals just how out of touch the music industry was with what was happening across the country…

Annie Lennox, a fine singer and a wonderful human being for sure but not what you would call “cutting edge” at that point or even relevant, headed home with best album and best British female.

Simply bloody Red also won an award as did Mick bloody Hucknall for being Ed Sheeran’s dad or something.

Somebody called Tamsin Archer was the best British newcomer.

Nirvana were the best international newcomer.

Ah yes, Nirvana…at this point in time it was impossible to pick up a magazine without Kurt Cobain’s face being plastered all over the front cover and usually the accompanying interview detailed quite how miserable he was; “I hate myself I want to die”.  To be fair to Kurt if I was wearing clothes as filthy as his were I would have been miserable too.  The message of grunge was one of hopelessness…a scuzzy, unwashed, nihilistic, hopelessness.  Where British bands like The Smiths or Joy Division had tackled that sense of despair and angst with humour, wit, poetry and intellect the grunge invasion sounded, to these cloth ears like whining.  Clearly, in the case of Cobain, a deadly combination of depression and drugs would lead to him tragically taking his own life but that doesn’t change the fact that the music and the message were alien to British ears.

Somebody in the bowels of the organising committee of the Brits had decided that it might be a good idea to have a British band under the age of 47 on the bill that night and so, for reasons that may never be made public, a call had been made to Suede.

Yup.

Suede.

What followed was one of, if not the, most thrilling moments in pop music history.

It starts with Richard O’Brien introducing the band as “The already legendary Suede” which, one cannot help but feel, was a bit sarcastic given the fact that nobody in the room had any idea who the Hell Suede were.

A smattering of nearly polite applause follows as the camera cuts to the band.

Matt Osman on bass standing to the left…long hair, a brown shirt that would have been the height of fashion in 1973 but that was noticeable in 1993 for not being plaid.

Simon Gilbert on drums…all John Lydon red hair and crisp white shirt.

Bernard Butler on guitar to the right…dressed in a blue shirt and holding his guitar like an assault rifle.

Centre stage, prowling, is Brett Anderson.  A black chiffon blouse that barely covers his navel, black flared cords and a haircut that Phil Oakey would have rejected as being a bit much.

As the band start to play “Animal Nitrate”, Brett turns his back to the audience and begins to beat his arse with his microphone…it’s barely in time with the music and the message couldn’t be any clearer; “We don’t like you.  We are not like you.  This isn’t for you.”

The band play with a fury that makes Mike Tyson look like Frank Spencer.

The grunge boys may well have been loud but not a single one of them could match Suede for passion, rage, filth and fury.

It is Brett though who is the most astonishing thing about this.

This is his moment.

Rather than play ball with the suits he decides to simply play with them.

He preens and prances, sneers and shouts, howls and yelps, twists and turns and channels the soul and the spirit of Bowie, Lydon, Morrissey and goodness knows how many other heroes and delivers something utterly unique.

Watching the footage back now 25 years later the greatest joy lies in those brief moments when the camera focuses on the audience…dinner jackets, perfectly groomed trophy wives, cigars and champers and not a single one of them knowing where to look or what to make of what is happening in front of them.

Frankly you can smell the fear.

At home I watched captivated.

I had seen Suede on their first Scottish dates at King Tuts in Glasgow and then at the Venue in Edinburgh…life changing experiences.

I was already a fan.

By the time the music ended and Matt had dropped his bass to the floor, Brett had performed the first mic drop, Simon had tossed his sticks away and Bernard was left alone on the stage listening to the sound of a dozen people clapping I had gone beyond fan and entered into the realm of disciple.

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