Suede (band)

From Academic Kids

Suede was one of the most popular and important bands in the UK in the 90's, and helped start the Britpop movement of the decade. Through their several incarnations, they were able to consistently put out albums that charted well, while still holding the respect of critics. Though they never achieved great success in North America, they were arguably as big in the UK in the 90's as The Smiths in the 80's, or Roxy Music in the 70's.



Early history

Missing image
The bandmembers of Suede circa 1993. From the left: Simon Gilbert, Brett Anderson, Mat Osman, and Bernard Butler.

Suede was formed in London in 1989 by bassist Mat Osman, singer Brett Anderson and his girlfriend, Justine Frischmann, on rhythm guitar. They soon added guitarist Bernard Butler – who was recruited through an advertisement in the NME and along with a drum machine, Suede were signed to RML Records, a label from Brighton.

With Mike Joyce famously filling in as drummer, Suede's first record "Be My God"/"Art", was printed but never released due to a dispute with the label. The few surviving records out of a batch of 2000 are considered amongst the rarest of Suede collectibles. Simon Gilbert soon replaced the drum machine and Suede signed to Nude Records (sans Frischmann, who quit because the band never played any of the songs she wrote.)

The band's first single "The Drowners" was released amid an alternative media frenzy that began before Suede had released any actual note of music. The single created an enormous amount of excitement because of its sharp contrast to the grunge sounds of the time. The two b-sides, "My Insatiable One" and "To The Birds" were stunning, album quality songs that could have been singles on their own. "The Drowners" was a moderate hit, though surpassed by "Metal Mickey" and "Animal Nitrate" a few months later. Their first album Suede became the fastest selling debut since Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Welcome To the Pleasuredome" and was catapulted onto the charts after Suede's ferocious breakthrough performance on the 1993 Brit Awards. The band won the Mercury Prize for best album of the year and had an enormous level of popularity. However, the fan hysteria that surrounded Suede in Britain would be short lived and never duplicated by the American public. Their American success was limited, even though they were touring with the Cranberries, who had support from MTV. Moreover, a lounge singer's lawsuit forced the band to stop using the trademarked American name "Suede" and to record all of their future U.S. albums under the moniker The London Suede.

Middle history

Tensions within the band mounted as they began working on the second album. Anderson and Butler fought constantly; a major issue was the production of the album. Butler quit the band in the middle of the recording sessions, and left behind his tapes which contained his ideas for the songs that had been written. The remainder of the guitar work on the album was reputedly completed, depending on the source, by studio musicians or Brett Anderson himself. Dog Man Star (1994) was released to mixed reviews and though sales were sluggish, the album was generally critically acclaimed.

Suede in 1995.
Suede in 1995.

Butler was replaced infamously by 17 year-old Richard Oakes before an international tour to promote the album. Many critics and fans alike had their doubts about the ability of the band to move on without Bernard Butler, who was an integral part of the songwriting. The band were also joined by keyboardist and backing vocalist Neil Codling in the making of the album that gained the most mainstream success, Coming Up (1996). The album was a hit throughout the Europe, Asia and Canada, but still not in the U.S. It did, however, silence all those doubting whether Anderson and company could produce another hit without Butler.

What followed was a collection of b-sides and rarities entitled Sci-Fi Lullabies, which charted fairly well for a compilation. By the time the retrospective had been released in 1997, the Britpop movement had slowly been waning in popularity, and the band had decided to split with long-time producer Ed Buller for their challenging followup to Coming Up.

Missing image
The bandmembers of Suede circa 1999. From the left: Simon Gilbert, Mat Osman, Richard Oakes, Neil Codling, and Brett Anderson.

Late history and "The End"

Their next album, Head Music (1999) was generally considered a critical disappointment, though it did reach number one on the charts. Suede decided to part company with Nude Records, signing instead to Sony to record their fifth album, A New Morning (2002). This album saw Neil Codling leave the band, citing chronic fatigue syndrome, to be replaced by long-time band associate Alex Lee. In concerts, Lee played second guitar, as well as keyboards, backing vocals and, at one point, harmonica.

The album was a commercial disappointment and failed to crack the top 20. It was produced by famed producers John Leckie and Stephen Street, and is considered a solid outing among fans of the band, but public interest just wasn't there for the aging band. Moreover, Anderson had been addicted to heroin and crack cocaine for a number of years by this time, which was having an increasingly deleterious effect on his health.

In Autumn 2003, after issuing a large retrospective of their work, they played five nights at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, playing an entire album a night – with B-sides and rarities as encores – in chronological order (a mammoth rehearsal task for any band). After the release of their Singles album and single "Attitude", the band announced there would be no more projects under the Suede name for the foreseeable future – effectively announcing the end of the band.

The future?

Their last concert at London's Astoria on December 13, 2003 was a two-and-a-half hour marathon show, split into two parts (plus encore) with the first part being "songs we want to play". Brett made an annoucement that "there will be another Suede album" to everyone's delight, but added "...but not yet". "See you in the Next Life" was their closing remark.

In May 2004 Anderson confirmed rumours that he and Bernard Butler were working together again – they had written 15 songs and were putting together a band. The name was undecided, but would be neither "Anderson and Butler", nor "Suede".

Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler are now at work with their new band, The Tears.

There is currently no talk in regards to whether Suede will reform.


All the chart positions are for the UK, Suede has never charted in the US Top 40.


  1. 1993 Suede No. 1
  2. 1994 Dog Man Star No. 3
  3. 1996 Coming Up No. 1
  4. 1999 Head Music No. 1
  5. 2002 A New Morning No. 24



ja:スウェード (バンド) nl:Suede


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