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Brett and Little Dick? Oh no. The star of Suede’s winter campaign was Neil Codling, the ‘Lizard Man’ with the revolutionary ‘doing sod all’ stage presence. Just what is he playing at?
Neil Codling looks bored. So far he’s smoked half a packet of fags, sorted out the contents of his trouser pockets and devoted a considerable amount of time to just running a hand through his 70’s meta-public-school mop and staring off into middle space. Seemingly laughing at a half -remembered joke, he doesn’t’t even flinch when a sweat and beer-soaked Brett Anderson, bathed in green light, slams his microphone into the stage and cries, at full volume “I’m aching end I need more heroin!”
It may be nearly halfway into Suede’s performance at Liverpool Royal Court, the whole venue might be rattling down to it’s post-war foundations and Brett Anderson may well appear on the point of physical collapse but Neil Codling, Neil Codling doesn’t even appear to have touched his keyboard yet. In short, he looks a complete star.
“When Bernard left a of people lost confidence. A lot assumed we were over “Brett Anderson
‘He just had this absolute confidence…the confidence of being good “Mat Osman on Richard Oakes.
If there was one overriding preoccupation of Suede’s November interview in Select it was ‘with that word ‘confidence’. It had been lost and now, not surprisingly, they wanted it back. While ‘Coming Up’ was one of the outright albums of the year, exuding both chemically-enhanced arrogance and bold pop immediacy, for many people, Suede were still the band who, since the departure of Bernard Butler, had spent two awkward years in a wilderness of ‘difficult’ tours, endless drug accusations and ‘gayanimalsex’ T-shirts - a band with little real sense of unity and a dwindling fanbase.
Those who had witnessed January 1996’s fan club gig at London’s Hanover Grand and the later October dates at Kilbum National, however, knew that something had changed. It was evident in Richard Oakes’ new-found assurance, in the band’s choice of a Bernard-free song-set and in the barely concealed violence of Brett’ s performance. But, most of all, it was visible in the presence of the reptilianly-handsome fellow on keyboards and backing vocals - the one who appeared to do nothing at all, very well indeed.
Still, despite word-of-mouth assurance that the new-look ‘Coming Up’ Suede are a frighteningly good live proposition, it’s not surprising that a large majority of tonight’s capacity Liverpool crowd are made up of many who are “just down for a look”, the curious, the sceptical and a fair few for whom ‘Coming Up’ is the first Suede album they’ve ever bought. Nevertheless, despite a reluctance to call themselves fans, a large number of tonight’s audience will stay behind, calling for encores long after the main lights have gone up and the band have retired to the threadbare Painteresque surrounds of the lounge bar.
“Do you know Neil Codling?” enquires one of a gaggle of beatific Mersey teens extricating themselves from the still-applauding stagefront scrum, “Is he a mysterious man?” Her pal, equally in awe, is only capable of a small whipser. “Neil Codling. Very handsome.”
As Simon Gilbert and Neil natter quietly with friends and fans and various glum members of Liverpool City Council enquire after the whereabouts of “the singer”, an elegantly wasted Brett Anderson lurks in the corner of the ‘function area’. He is studying a fan-bought copy of Patrick McGrath’s The Grotesque, musing on the band’s turbulent history and why Suede now feels like a completely new band.
There’s a sense of unity now. Richard and Neil, they’ve restored a sense of balance.”
What do fans think of the new look Suede?
“We’ve got different types of fans. Each member of the band now has his own fanzine. Simon’s got one called Simply Simon, there’s Little Richard, Mon Petit Mat, and Neil’s got one called New Boy, and some fucking Neil Codling and Geneva fanzine. Actually, d’you now that I’m the only member of Suede who hasn’t got his own fucking fanzine?” Suede’s keyboardist, has 22-year-old Codling decided to adopt the role of the grand poseur, a man who spends more time smoking tabs and staring into space than actually playing his instrument? Not since the mid-’70s art-school conceits of such wacko performers as Sparks’ Ron Mael and all of Kraftwerk has a musician placed himself arrogantly at the front of a stage and ably demonstrated an aptitude for doing very litte indeed. And not since Richey Manic has there been a figure who, through image and style alone, so aptly represents the ethos and confidence of one band.
“I’ll agree,” nods Codling, barely interested, “it’s a weird thing.”
Offstage, Neil Codling cuts a far less self-assured dash than he does on stage. He’s still annoyingly handsome in the fashion of some cold-blooded Left Band gamin, but in his awkward shifting and genial Midlands burr, he’s quite a regular guy, a fact well
hidden from all those craning necks down the front row. Gone are the steely glances, the regal posture - he appears almost normal. Almost.
Fittingly, for a band who’ve always courted an image of decadent glamour, Suede now have an onstage presence that perfectly matches their recorded tales of bohemian drug excess. Complementing Anderson’s ongoing transformation into a handsome laudanum-ravaged cad, Oakes now takes the part of his precocious artful-dodger sidekick, while Codling as their Dorian Gray figure, the nonchalant young gentleman caught in the midst of a gentle opium revelry, elegantly bored by the whole thing. Significantly, the role of Mat and Simon in all this seems to have become that of the workhouse slumkids, pushed to the back of the stage, providing probe bass-and-drums power for the dirty three’s immodest pop pleasures.
How exactly does the ringmaster feel about all of this, young Neil replacing the old guard at the front of the proscenium arch? “Part of it is logistical,” asserts Brett, “Matt needs to be at the back, close to the drums. If Mat was at the front of the stage it’d look ridiculous. Then, on the other hand, Neil’s a show-off. Neil needs to be at the front.” Why, as
So what is going on in his head when he’s up there onstage?
“The thing is,” he drawls, “you can over-analyse anything. With the fan club gig none of us thought, ‘What shall we do with Neil?’ When we set up the stage, there I was, squeezed to the front. I guess it’s quite fortuitous. I get a lot of breathing space.” Ah yes, breathing space. Exactly what does Neil Codling do during those moments of dead time when Brett Anderson is wrapped up in microphone cable and attempting to throw himself off the top of Simon Gilbert’s drum-riser, except kick back, put his feet up and stare out into the audience?
“I enjoy communicating,” he grins, “I could stare at my shoes or gaze at a certain spot at the back of the room, but I’m in front of these people who’ve paid money to see us. I can’t dance, so I’m usually just listening to the songs and looking at everyone. It’s quite funny. When you stare out at people, sometimes they just stare back but sometimes they’re quite unsure of what to do.” There are even occasions when Neil simply pushes his microphone stand away, rests his head on his hands and watches the rest of the band perform. Why doesn’t he just go offstage?
“I revel in that situation. It’s a perfectly natural thing for me. With songs like ‘So Young’ they’re playing that and I think ‘Right, I’ve got a contribution to make,’ but if not, I can just relax for a bit. There’s a real strength in silence. It’s got presence. Once you’re confident about how the music’s coming across you can pretty much do anything.”
The following night, in an X Files-wash of purple stage light there can be seen the bobbing glow of Mat Osman’s fag tip at the back. As white light breaks through and Simon Gilbert starts up a roisterous glam drum intro, enter Neil Codling, taking time out to light up a tab as he strolls acrossstage. He sits down just in time to hit his first keyboard cue and hear a manic Barbie-waisted Brett Anderson belt out the start of the sneering, arrogant ‘Filmstar’ - complete with that etirely apposite line, “Elegant sir / In a terylene shirt / It looks so easy.”
By the time of ‘She’, the band outlined in banks of red light, Brett has, once again, slammed his mic stand into the stage and is whirling the microphone around his head in an enormous arc that barely misses the heads of Oakes, Osman and Codling. In their neo-beatnik costumes of black shirts, black hipsters and black leather jackets, the image is one of not-quite-right rebellion, a pill-popping ad copywriter’s notion of mid-’60s New York Cool.
Only Richard Oakes, pristine in blue denim, playing the guitar almost apologetically as if it were a nervous twitch, looks in any way out of place. Last night, in Liverpool, Oakes was like an afterhought, as if someone had brought him in at the last minute to replace the stingy black-clad guitarist who’d croaked the previous night..
Tonight, however, Suede are faultless. There’s a bit of unnecessary lighter action during the unearthly lament of ‘By The Sea’ but thankfully, ‘Animal Nitrate’ is up next and such a Bic-related nonsense is ditched in favour of proper rock-pit scrummage. Similarly, Brett can’t help but slip back into hisold mannerisms - holding the mic out to the audience and encouraging all to join him in an hilarious chorus of “Over twentywu-uh-urn, wu-uh-urn.” The experience is only enhanced by the sight of Neil sitting for the duration of the song with legs crossed, fag in mouth, like some bored checkout girl at the end of her shift.
Next up it’s ‘The Wild Ones’ - another one that’s got nothing to do with him - so Codling simply rests his head on his hands and watches the rest of the band, seemingly in awe of the sepctacle in front of him. This carries on into ‘So Young’ until, about halfway in, he decides to make a contribution. Flicking his fag away, mid-smoke, in an arc of red sparks, he taps out single plink-plink piano notes on the keyboard, notes that add a certain hilarious bathos to the sight of a frantic Brett Anaderson, again wrapped in microphone lead, his black shirt oily with sweat, singing “Let’s chase the dragon” like a man possessed.
With the whole venue now joining in on the “lalalala” refrains, show-closer ‘Beautiful Ones’ sounds uncannily like some off-the-rails ’60s Health Authority jingle exonerating excessive drug use. Codling, only joining in on backing vocals after another leisurely drag on a fag, finishes his performance by crossing his arms, shirvering, delivering a small bow and exiting stage left, still smoking. “I dunno, I guess he feels less connection with early songs…” Backstage, and Brett is failing to convince in his attempts to rationalise Neil Codling’s performance in terms of things like musicianship. So he gives up.
“You know that walk that he does from the side of the stage?” grins Brett. “He times that walk, times it so that he sits down at exactly the right time, just as he plays his first note.”
It’s very Neil. “Everything he does is like that, very Neil. He’s a professional. Neil Codling is a 24-hour job.”
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About The Toques
The Toques were formerly known as
Buick 6. The Toques have got the harmonies, melodies and songs that will be sure to capture the wide open spaces of your heart. Whether as an acoustic foursome, or as a full-on electric band, The Toques captivate audiences with their heartfelt and beautiful sounds.
Their debut single through Winnebago Records under the guise of Buick 6 was just the first in a long line of material that the band plan to unleash on the public…..next up is their long-awaited debut LP “Me vs The Tiny Nail”, an acoustic recording produced by the band themselves and chock full of songs of lost love, redemption, passion, drinking and more. But it’s been a while in coming…… …..From the ashes of a previous incarnation of Buick 6, Craig Hamilton (vocals, guitar, harmonica) and Jez Ince (bass, mandolin, vocals) sought out new musicians to help create a band that could flesh out the country-tinged material they were writing.
On the very first day of searching Craig spotted an advert placed by J Bill Summerfield (guitars, vocals, harmonica), himself looking for like-minded musicians. From their first rehearsal the three knew they were onto something. J Bill’s fine guitar playing and songs cut from a similar cloth augmented the sound, and when the three-part harmonies they came up with worked immediately they decided to become a band. For a few months they gigged as an acoustic three-piece, writing and recording over 30 songs together and establishing their name on the Birmingham circuit.
In summer of 1999, Anna Russell (vocals, piano, Hammond) agreed to join the band, adding her fine voice to the mix of harmonies, and also becoming the fourth songwriter in the band. Competition for a place in the set list became ever more fierce and the band spent a few months honing their material and creating a better and better collection of songs.
They were joined by ex-Novac drummer Phil Robinson (drums) and began to gig as a five-piece to great acclaim. Regular live favourite “Drunk on my Porch” became the obvious choice for the band’s debut single, which was released by Winnebago in the August of that year as a double a-side with “Southern Trail”. The band then set about expanding their sound and recruited a variety of musicians in order to bring out hidden aspects and melodies in the material.
Though never becoming permanent members of the band (the players come and go in a revolving door policy due to other commitments and the needs of the Toques), they do help The Toques fulfill their strong potential with instruments such as the dobro, violin, cello and you can expect to see one or more of these extras at any Toques show.
The Toques changed their name to Friends of the Stars in 2004 and they released their album “Lightining and Electrical” with Commerically Inviable Records in 2006.
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Barry O’Neil is singer Harriet Cawley and Suede’s guitarist Neil Codling. Their music has been decribed as “an intoxicating blend of lo-fi pop-songs, wisful folk melodies and windswept Americana” and “glorious, emotive, heartfelt pop with a blues flavour”
The duo is back and will perform Thursday 4th November, 7:00pm during The Accidental Powercut night, at Quintessentially Soho, The House of St Barnabas.
Be sure to take pictures/videos if you go!
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Suede’s newest member, the 22 years old keyboard-player Neil Codling, confirms in an interview with Vi Unge that a tour with the second biggest band in Britain is about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
The pretty boy name is Neil Codling, the keyboard player in Suede and the latest arrived member. In an exclusive interview to Vi Unge, he speaks about the life on the road for the latest 6 months. Neil Codling has, like the rest of us, always been a big Suedefan. Neil was advantaged by the fact that his cousin’s name is Simon Gilbert and he is the drummer in the second most popular band in Britain - after Oasis. He joined the band during the jam sessions, but Neil can now see himself as a valid member of Brett Anderson’s band. From being an ordinary schoolboy, he was thrown into the recording process of Coming Up, which reached 40.000 sold copies in Denmark, and then into a 6 months tour. From December the band will take a well-earned vacation until March when they will start to travel again around Europe. Vi Unge called Neil in Wales to know what it was like for a new member to get thrown into such a chaos. Suede is currently touring in the U.K., and Neil is just back from the soundcheck.
- It’s been incredible hard and very hectic. But it’s also been funny - says an exhausted Neil and adds - I didn’t expect it-
Suede started their tour in Denmark at Midtfyns Festivallen, and will be back for the 4th time, to play at the Danish Grammy party on the 1st of February. For Neil, the concert on Midtfyn was his first visit in Denmark.
- It was amazing. I knew that the others like Denmark a lot, and I did too. That’s also why we started our tour in Denmark, and now will be back for the 4th time, he says.
Is it like they say “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll”, when you’re on tour?
- Actually yes, Neil admits. - But the most important thing is music, he just gets to say.
Can you handle it?
- Yeah, yeah, he says. There’s nothing that’s too rock ‘n’ roll to me.
What about the success and playing to sold out venues every night?
- At first, it was a shock to me, but you get used to it and start concentrating on the music. I’m already looking forward to the next tour, confesses Neil.
Before that it’s necessary to write new material to a new album (Neil’s also involved in the composing process).
- We haven’t really had the time to write the songs for the new album, because, first of all we had to write some b-sides for the next singles. But after Christmas, we’ll start to write the new album, which probably won’t be out until the end of next year.
Fairly after Blur and Oasis have released their respectively new records.
- I really don’t care about those two bands. We’ve got nothing to do with them, says Neil. - We don’t feel that we’re competing with them.
Neil even tells us about the life on the road, and that Suede like “throwing darts after a Peter André poster” in their spare time!
Among the other rituals before going on stage, he mentions that they flip to each other and say various swearwords, in all friendliness of course.
- We hit the walls in the backstage room and wear funny socks. Besides that, everyone warms up to their favourite song. Neil’s favourite song is “Picnic By The Motorway”, which Suede just have started to play live.
- At the moment we’re working as one big family - more happy than before, concludes a satisfied 22 years old keyboardboy in Suede.
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You voted Neil Codling the fourth sexiest person in Britain in MM’s recent Readers’ Poll, beaten only by Jarvis, Geri Spice and James Manic. So we found out what makes Suede’s elegant, enigmatic Lizard King tick.
“Got your mother in a whirl / Cos she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl…” - David Bowie, Rebel Rebel
What is this strange creature before us? A snowy January night in the mid-Ninities, and Suede are playing a secret show at London’s Hanover Grand, for the fans. And the fans are confused. They can see the band has grown a fifth member. But for three quarters of the show (until Brett hepfully announces, “This is Neil”) they can’t decide which sex it is.
“Oh, I’m quite used to that. I get it quite a lot in the street. Especially from people walking behind me.”
Neil Codling pushes out two alarmingly long legs, and stretches back into the black leather sofa, like a yawning panther.
“I suppose I’ve never been manly enough.”
Not that you’ve gone too far out of your way…
“To redress that?! No. I don’t think it’s too much of a camp act. It’s just one aspect people have picked up on. And I’m not going to put them straight.”
A year on from the Grand, most of Suede’s audience have decided the keyboard enigma is sex. The MM Readers’ Poll placed him fourth in the Sex Symbol of the Year category; behind Jarvis, Geri and Bradders, but above Liam and Easy V. (Brett Anderson came nowhere.)
“Hmm. Good company.” He even has his own fanzine (“New Boy”). The Cult of Codling has reached the point of critical momentum. It cannot be stopped.
“Yes, it’s careeting away, weaving its merry way… I’m not really bothered. Sometimes, it’s difficult to step aside and have an objective opinion on things like that. Because it’s going on almost in spite of what you do. You have complete control of the music you make, but the areas that you can’t control go down a completely different path.”
Neil Codling has slightly too little skin for his skull, the sort of hair you only on showroom dummies, and cheekbones you could open letters with. He looks handsome yet alien. As well as being voted one of Britain’s Fanciest Pieces, he’s also been dubbed Lizard Man. Which wasn’t so nice…
“No, that wasn’t particularly flattering.”
So when you look in the mirror, what do you see? Sex god… or reptile?
“Ha ha! Depends on the time of day. You can’t approach this vision in the morning, and look at it with all the baggage that comes with having your face plastered in the papers…”
Codling speaks with something I previously never knew existed : a posh Midlands accent. When he talks, he’ll gaze straight ahed for long periods without blinking, then suddenly turn and flash you a scary “the Man who Fell ton Earth” stare.
“…I dunno, in a certain light, preferably dark, things are… acceptable”
In time, you will no doubt be appreciated as an accomplished musician and composer. For now, there’s no escaping it: you are The Thinking Girl’s Bit Of Trouser. Crumpet. Totty. A himbo.
“The only time you notice it is when people ask, ‘What’s it like?’”
“It’s in the context of a pop group. It comes with the territory.”
On a stage, The Cod is a god. When he isn’t doing anything in particular (most of the show, in fact), he is poise personified: one hand holding a cigarette just so, one cheek tilted at the perfect angle into the green spotlight, one eyebrow arched in sarcastic boredom. A suavely nonchalant counterpoint to Brett’s raging blur of motion. Still life.
“Yeah, well, you get a lot of time to think, when you aren’t doing anything! People say ‘Why do you look so bored? C’mon! Don’t you like being in a band?’ But that annoys me in a way. I’m not bored.”
Does you mum ever ask why you don’t smile on TOTP?
“Ha ha ha! Um, yeah… It’s usually people in the crowd at TOTP, pulling faces (puts one finger in each corner of mouth and stretches into unnatural skeletal grin), going, ‘SMILE!’”
Codling spent three years at the Hull University studying Drama. This, one assumes, did not go to waste. (Famously, he times his walk onstage so that he sits down at exactly the moment he plays the first note).
“If you’re onstage, part of it is a show. Suede have priorities beyond the way we look, but you do have to consider the way people perceive you. And in order to communicate things, then I suppose there’s a sense of that. But it isn’t planned or choreographed. It’s not method acting, that look of relaxed boredom. It’s not cultured or put-on, ‘How can I be a counterpoint to Brett?’ I was doing a phone interview the other day, and someone said, ‘Do you always sit like that?’ And I realised that I actually was sitting like that! (holds a cigarette in a position more common among anglepoise lamps than humans.) I don’t put on airs and graces. It’s how I am…”
More than anyone, Codders reminds me of Nick Rhodes, the spectacularly beautiful keyboardist who viewed the other sweating peasants in Duran Duran with thinly-veiled disdain (a comparison that means nothing to Neil).
“It’s not disdain. I’ll practice in front of the mirror and see if I can get a new look for ‘97: cheery.”
Have you ever done anything uncool onstage?
“The main hazard is avoiding being hit by flying tambourines and microphones. The only reason I have a monitor next to me is to stop Brett’s mic stand from whacking me in the face every 10 minutes. Bless ‘im”
None of the other members of Suede, not even his cousin, Simon, can remember exactly when, or how, Neil joined.
“I just started coming down to rehearsals. I joined by a process of osmosis. Like a sponge.”
You do seem like a very Suede kind of person.
“Yeah. I was always a big fan from the word go. I’ve never been a fan of live music. It always lets you down, things get lost in the event. But Suede really impressed me.”
When you moved to London, what were you expecting to do for a living?
“I don’t know! Signing on, waiting for something to happen.”
If you weren’t Neil Out Of Suede, would you still pay the same attention to style, grooming and deportment?
“Yeah, I always have. Before I was in the band, people still used to say ‘Oh, that’s a big coat,’ or ‘You’re preening,’ or ‘You look like a girl.’”
So do real girls throw themselves at you?
“They’re actually quite restrained. It’s all by proxy. Marriage proposals by post, rather then in the flesh.”
Are they scared then?
“Sometimes. There’s an aura of arrogance about the band, and myself, which really isn’t true. People don’t know whether there’s a person behind it.”
And is there? When you’re not being Neil Out of Suede… what are you like?
“Well, it’s been a 24 hours-a-day thing recently : six months of writing, followed by six months of gigging, here, and abroad in Europe. When you get time off, you try to readdress the thing you used to do, and you can’t remember who you were! It’s like a blank sheet of paper. I can’t spill the beans : What are you really like?’ Cos I don’t know anymore…”
[Interview: Simon Price, Melody Maker, January 25, 1997]
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Rocky Horror actress, the wonderfully gregarious Patricia Quinn (aunt of Snow Patrol drummer, Johnny Quinn) is the star of Your Number’s Up, a touching and darkly comic short film written and directed by Jonson D’Angelo. […] Shot on location last year, Your Number’s Up, produced by Karlene Page of Big Hug Limited and backed by the award-winning Trevor Beattie (Moon) – who instantly loved the script – premieres this Saturday as part of the Belfast Film Festival. It follows the loud, gaudy, eccentric, Bingo-loving Bernie from the Falls Road, as she whiles away her days since her husband’s death scouring the local paper and deciding which wake to gatecrash next.
The main theme was composed by Neil Codling.
Your Numbers Up’ has been showed as part of the 10th Belfast Film Festival at the QFT, Belfast on Sat 24 April 2010.
I wrote to the director to ask about the future release of the movie, I’ll keep you updated with the details.
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Songs of Grace and Redemption gives us a chance to redress this balance. Theatre 503’s new production brings the music man’s role to the fore and that man is Neil Codling. Anyone who was a teenager during Britpop might recognise the name, as he played keys and guitars in Suede, watching serenely from the side while Brett Anderson camped it up at the front.
Before we get to Neil, an introduction to the play, which shows the struggles of five young urbanites in the modern world. They decide to rescue themselves and each other by performing random acts of kindness. This, and the individuals’ personalities, are where Neil had to find inspiration to compose the music. As opposed to Brett Anderson’s snake hips.
“This way of working gives you lot of freedom,” he says, “it is more like doing a soundtrack or soundboard for a character, as opposed to being confined to song format. So you don’t have to be radio-friendly, there is no verse-chorus-verse-chorus-end, it doesn’t just have to be something catchy the milkman can sing. You get to really communicate the characters and it is really exciting.”
The result is a soundtrack that drops in everything from orchestral to ambient to heavy metal. Although it is infinitely more subtle than I have made it sound.
And, just with an actor’s interpretation developing over a run, so does Neil’s soundtrack. “I do change bits, mainly to throw actors off, keep things fresh! Although you need six months till you can tell what a soundtrack will be like, so you are always dealing with the details. It is always, does that tambourine sound crap?” as opposed to, “does this whole piece sound crap?’.”
All a far cry from the heady 90s, when he was “spending 23 hours a day in a plane or on a bus somewhere” as part of one of Britain’s most exciting bands. The band is still on good terms and occasionally bump into each other in their local west London boozers. Away from the theatre, Neil is a “gun for hire”, touring as keyboardist for Natalie Imbruglia and Faithless, among others.
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Suede played two gigs in important places such as Paris and Madrid without the keyboard player Neil Codling. His absence was the result of a punch up between him and guitarist Richard Oakes which took place in a street of the French capital.
According to anonymous sources, Oakes declared :«Brett [Anderson, the leader of the band] won’t be happy about this story».
(from Rockol 24 May 1999)
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