Tag Archives: longreads

Pete Doherty – Musician, Poet, Artist, Babyshamble & Libertine

10 Sep

“I fall in love with Britain every day, with bridges, buses, blue skies… but it’s a brutal world, man.”– Pete Doherty

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Pete Doherty – an introverted, artistic, daring, kind and romantic Englishman is perhaps the most real person there is out there in the music business and that is one of the reasons the media portrays him as a substance user, bohemian lover and fake poet, at the same time neglecting and purposely ignoring the real Pete Doherty; a musician, a poet and an artist.

Pete Doherty is a product of a comfortable middle class family and though he showed an early interest in music when he started playing guitar in order to impress a school friend Emily whom he fancied, his primary interest was literature; at the age of sixteen he won a poetry competition. After achieving eleven GCSEs, 7 of which were A* grades, he was offered to study English Literature at Oxford; an offer he gladly turned down in favour of moving to his grandmother’s flat in London and working at a Willesden Cemetery where he filled graves. However, most of the time he spent reading and writing poetry while sitting on the gravestones; that really sounds atmospheric. He eventually did go to college Queen Mary to study English literature but he left the course after the first year. After leaving the university, he moved into a London flat with his friend, and a future band member, Carl Barat.

The Libertines is a band formed from a close friendship between Pete and Carl, a friendship Carl has described as having the obsessiveness and jealousy and all the things that come with first love. The Libertines had that kind of raw energy, spontaneity and liveliness so much needed on the British music scene in the first years of the 21st century. However, after the second album The Libertines the group split due to Pete’s increasing drug problems and all the unfortunate events caused by it. No one really sat face to face with Pete and told him that he was kicked out of the band, he had heard it on the radio, read it in the newspaper, and this left him feeling hurt and betrayed. What saddened him the most was the fact that Carl was his best mate and this left him contemplating what was the line people were prepared to go to in order to gain success or wealth. ‘I’d rather starve my guts than stab a friend in the back.’ he said. His response to this was a new band called Babyshambles.

It was in Babyshambles that Pete’s true artistic and poetic character came out of its shell and created an album Down in Albion filled with beautiful, dreamy songs. He did write songs in The Libertines but writing them with Carl has surely been different than writing them on his own. Various literal influences have come to the fore on many of the song featured on the album, most notably A Rebours (title taken from the same named nineteenth century novel by Joris-Karl Huysman). I can’t resist adding that A Rebours was the first song out of all Babyshambles’ that I fell in love with and is my favourite now still. I just can’t forget that line ‘…you ignore, adore, A rebour me..’

Sitting on the marble gravestones and reading books in the long Autumn afternoons, gazing at all those red and yellow falling leaves while the breezing wind brought anxiety and melancholy has surely been useful for Pete who listed his favourite novels as George Orwell’s 1984, Graham Green’s Brighton Rock and Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet along with complete works by Oscar Wilde. From poetry he mentioned Flowers of Evil by Baudelaire and works of Emily Dickinson. He also put particular emphasis on Romantic poets and also on existential philosophers. Judging by his song, the book A Rebours would also be on his list. The deepness of both his lyrics and his characters are often undervalued due to the extreme infatuation the media has with him as a drug addict and a rebel. Pete is a rebel; rebel against conventions, normality, simple-mindedness and elitist aspect of art. He said ‘I don’t really know what “intellectual” means, but if it means you’ve got a desire to learn, you’ve got a desire to look for things that haven’t been presented to you, then, maybe. I think that “intellectual” is quite an exclusive word. I think it’s just for anyone that has a thirst or a hunger to improve themselves, or a yearning to escape from somewhere to get to a better place.’

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On the first sight Pete probably does seem as shallow and fake as the media portrays him, but the real Pete; Pete the intelligent and humble poet, the artist, the libertine is a person worth being inspired by, worth listening too and worth giving respect to. A libertine is ‘one devoid of most moral restraints’ or ‘one who defies established religious precepts’; a freethinker and that’s exactly what Pete is; despite the odds he managed to stay oblivious to the public and media’s opinions and harsh judgements – “I’m not going to be hardened by these people, to these things, I’m not going to let them destroy my feelings or my emotions.” Seems like the public ignores, adores, a rebours him, leaves him washed up begging for more...

It’s important to stay ignorant to public opinions and just stay in your own world which is as beautiful, as romantic, as peaceful and interesting as you have created it. That’s what Pete does; he lives in his own world, leaving the harsh greyness of reality outside the door. He still has that rush, that desire, that absolute contamination of soul with melody and music. (‘I think I only needed something to hold on to. It has never been about depravity. It’s always been about melody. But melody and I met in many depraved situations. Meeting melody is the victory of the empty spiralling nightmare.’) He keeps living his life no matter how fucked up it is, not knowing what’s going to happen next, crossing the borders of reality into the unknown. In some terms Pete’s lifestyle could be compared to some nineteenth century bohemian poets. Every generation has its leader, it is the one who represents all the despair, coldness, alienation and sadness numerous young people feel. Pete sort of has that aura of bohemianism and romanticism about him; his intelligence, open-mindedness, his sensitivity and strangeness connected to him certainly help too in drawing people towards him. Pete is the icon of the 21st century romanticism, like a today’s Lord Byron; he escapes reality into his own world of imagination and praises individuality and honour.

Album Down in Albion is Pete Doherty’s world of imagination. Decision is yours whether you want to enter it or not. It’s a beautiful, melodic album, gentle and dreamy (compared to loud, noisy songs of The Libertines, but let’s not forget that Carl plays his guitar in punk style) and the songs sound so contemporary in a good way, something I can relate to, something touchable and real. Besides the already mentioned song A Rebours I also like songs Fuck Forever (‘And fuck forever/If you don’t mind/See I’m stuck forever/Oh I’m stuck in your mind, your mind, your mind…’), The 32nd of December and In Love with a Feeling. Song Killamangiro is very fast paced and vibrant. Song La Belle et la Bete also sounds very nice, and it’s a duet between Pete and his then girlfriend Kate Moss. I also have to mention one more song, though it’s not on this album it is written by Pete Doherty for The Libertine’s second album, and it’s the song ‘What Katie Did’; it’s very melodic and soft and lyrics are sweet (‘Oh what you gonna do, Katie?/You’re a sweet sweet girl/But it’s a cruel, cruel world/a cruel, cruel world. (…) …You won’t just leave me standing here/And don’t give in/Not to the darkest sins/Oh what you gonna do?/It’s up to you.’) However, on album Down in Albion there is a song called What Katie Did Next, I’m just saying.

Musically the album is seen as a move from The Libertines’ style of music; now we at least know what Pete and Carl’s musical preferences would be like. However, The Libertines are back together again and, wait for it, they are planning to release, what would be their third album, in 2015. This news came like a cherry on top, at least I hope. I know that I am very, very, very exited to hear that since I feel like I’ve missed out on lot of things in music and sometimes it’s nice to be able to listen and love and album released in your lifetime.

P.S. If you want to have more insight in Pete Doherty’s world of imagination, or you’ve been wondering what’s inside his whimsical mind, you can read his diary, or look at I should better say. It is really interesting. I would describe it as a sneak peak into Pete’s mind.

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 “If you’ve lost your faith in love and music then the end won’t be long.”

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Gimme Shelter – The End of The 1960s

18 Jun

There’s no doubt that the 1960s are my favourite decade of the 20th century. It’s a decade that symbolizes the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and hippie movement. For me it’s a wonderful decade inspiring in both musical and fashion sense. However, nothing lasts forever and so this decade came to an end but what it created culturally, musically and artistically can’t be erased.

1964. Pattie Boyd with The Rolling Stones

The year 1965. was year zero for rock and roll. It was the year everything begun. In the early ’60s music for teenagers was sweet, safe and slightly soulless. Radio stations were filled with manufactured pop created by song writing teams in pop factories. Teenage girls’ idols were nice, proper white kids singing pop with a little beat such as Bobby Vee and Bobby Vinton who would went to American Bandstand and lip synched. That sound was manufactured by the American market for the British market. However, people were getting tired of it. The new generation of British teenagers craved for music with more raw, rebellious edge. They found what they were looking for in blues; music of the American black underclass, music emerged from suffering. British working class totally identified with the black America. Blues had that element of underground rage, something which British teens craved for.

Out with the old and in with the new. By 1965. a generation of rebellious teenagers who had grown up listening to black American blues had invented their own adrenaline charged sound: Rock. The Who brought attitude and volume. The Rolling Stones brought swagger and sex. The Kinks came on the music scene with their distorted guitar sound. Even Bob Dylan was inspired by the new sound and with his leather jacket and hairstyle he was almost like a Rolling Stone wanna-be.

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It was playing blues that melted the emotional polar frost of the 1950s post-war English austerity. Because of its emphasis on improvisations it unlocked the creativity in young artists playing it. In 1962. a band was formed in suburb west London – The Rolling Stones when the singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards bonded over a shared love of the blues. When The Stones became more well known they stopped playing at venues such as The Crawdaddy Club. Instead, they gave up their place for the new band whose sound would be the first to denote the true Rock sound – band The Who.

The Who combined the rebellious spirit, Mod-scene image with the bold self-expression of the Pop Art. They were also very interesting because they made fashion statements with their clothes. Guitarist Pete Townshend wore particularly bold and memorable gear. He wore a jacket made out of a flag, for example and the drummer Keith Moon wore Pop Art T-shirts with targets and hearts. Pop Art was popular because it was not as confined as other art movements and consequently became an important part of 1960s culture, and an important part of Swinging London as well.  With The Who exploring more provocative imagery and ideas, it was clear that the new music movement was taking shape.

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Swinging London or the capital of cool, as it was sometimes called, was a place to be in the 1960s. After the initial blues-inspired Rock came something more avant-garde, Rock evolved and psychedelic-art rock emerged from the sound of Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett exploring what he could do with his guitar. In 1967. Pink Floyd released a single Arnold Layne, a song about a clothes-stealing transvestite, introducing a new concept in Rock music – psychedelia. This was rock meets the mad hatter’s tea party. Pink Floyd’s debut album The Piper at The Gates of Dawn was released in August 1967; at the peak of London’s Summer of love. Pink Floyd had previously recorded a single See Emily Play on 23rd May 1967, and released it less than a month later. The song was about a psychedelic schoolgirl whom Syd Barrett had reportedly seen after taking acid and falling asleep in the woods. Characteristics of psychedelic rock in this song are use of echo and reverb, whimsical lyrics and the slide-guitar work done by Syd using a plastic ruler.

Syd Barrett enrolled in Camberwell College of Arts in London in summer of 1964. to study painting. Camberwell proved to be a hothouse of ideas. Actually, art schools developed what we today know as the 1960s Swinging London for they were the place where the creativity came from. Education authorities put those who did not fit in elsewhere into art collages. Entrance qualifications were vague, with academic scores waived when portfolios showed promise. Art schools produced gifted painters, promising fashion designers, artists and musicians. Even in art schools, the ground for psychedelia was set with drab post-war colours discarded in favour of violent pinks, aquas and reds. Art college students liked their music likewise amplified; sharp, short and shocking. Syd felt that art was made of the moment and the springboard to the next work and next moment. Other notable musicians that were attending art schools were Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, John Lennon and Ray Davies.

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So at around 1967. psychedelic culture prevailed over the Mod culture that dominated during the first half of the decade. The Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band released in June 1967, just before the peak of summer of love, marks the transition between pop to the more psychedelic sound. Psychedelia might have opened minds to new ideas, sounds and images but it also propelled rock music into world of hedonism and excess. The Who came to America in summer of 1967. They shocked the hippies with their destructive and aggressive performance but Monterey soon established the festival as an arena for rock ‘n’ roll music, but it also represented the climax of summer of love for the optimism of the ’60s gave way to more volatile and uncertain times.

Utopia of the ’67 could not possibly last for it was not universally accepted. Psychedelic youth and hippies were only one segment of society, and only one fragment of it. You could just feel the change in the air; the atmosphere changed and it all became much more politicized. The Woodstock ’69 festival would see the sun set on the sixties hippie dream. By that time the business started to be more in control of the music; the freedom of the sixties was lost forever. It was a beginning of something; a beginning of the end.

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The Rolling Stones quickly dragged inspiration from the changing mood and uncertainty of those times. They were one of the few bands that found creative zeal in the darkness. There was a new world going on but The Stones weren’t afraid to embrace it. They channeled all that darkness with morbid relish in one song; Sympathy for the devil. It was the theme that fascinated them since they dipped into blues. However, The Stones would be plunged into the darkness of their own in a year marked by controversy and tragedy, from the mysterious death of the guitarist Brian Jones to the murderous chaos of the Altamont festival in California in December 1969. when they recruited Hell’s Angles to provide the security. Hell’s Angels soon caused turmoil and the man was murdered as the cameras rolled. The innocence of the ’60s was lost forever.

In the song Gimme shelter it seems as if The Stones were asking for a shelter, some place safe from the turmoil, darkness and uncertainty that overshadowed the Sun like the dark clouds. (The floods is threat’ning/ My very life today/ Gimme, gimme shelter/ Or I’m gonna fade away) Another song from the same album Let it Bleed released in ’69 called You can’t always get what you want also reflects the atmosphere of the time. Each verse discusses a topic relevant to the ’60s: love, politics and drugs. The song captures the essence of the initial optimism and the eventual disillusion, followed by the resigned pragmatism of the chorus. (I saw her today at the reception / In her glass was a bleeding man / She was practiced at the art of deception/ Well I could tell by her blood-stained hands.) Rock provided a soundtrack for the changing times. It had become an incredible political and artistic force. It had given music volume and attitude.

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Still, the dark atmosphere at the dusk of the sixties had impact on other artists, such as Syd Barrett. Compared to Pink Floyd’s first album The piper at the gates of dawn that mirrors the optimism and decadence of the Swinging London, Syd’s main contribution to the second album was the song Jugband blues whose lyrics show that inside his mind he was still acutely self-aware despite the madness and darkness that had begun to engulf him. The dusk of the sixties proved to be a fruitful period not just for The Rolling Stones but for Barrett as well for its product was his solo album The Madcap laughs.

The Madcap laughs, released in January 1970. but recorded between 28. May 1968. and 5. August ’69, was Barrett’s debut solo album. It was warmly received and the madness of king Syd seemed to have touched a nerve with a generation who had seen the end of the decade take a darker turn with Altamont, the bombing of Vietnam and apparent failure of hippie culture. Its lyrics are introspective and range from lovely, almost child-like songs about love and friendship (Terrapin: I really love you/ And I mean you/ The star above you/ Crystal blue) to deeper and darker subject that mirrored what he was feeling at the time; I’ll take Dark Globe as an example; its a cliche to say that the opening lines are memorable, no, they are much more than that, they are haunting and loveable and strange, dark and crooked at the same time. (Oh where are you now/ Pussy willow that smiled on this leaf/ When I was alone/ You promised to stone from your heart.) In other songs he expresses his sadness and loneliness (You feel me/ Away far/ Too empty/ Oh so alone, I want to come home), something which young people at the time could relate to for they felt slightly betrayed and lost at looking at the ’60s the golden years of their youth gone by.

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1960s faded away, but they left us with achievements that cannot be denied. They produced numerous good bands, ventured into unknown areas of music, brought new and daring fashions and shaped attitudes and ideals that had not been forgotten despite the time gone by.