I was asked to write a fan letter last year as a submission for a friend’s book.
It hasn’t yet made it to print, but she said I could give my paean to The Libertines a bit of an airing.
Dear Peter and Carl,
I know this note may seem a painful reminder of times dead and buried, given all that has passed between the two of you since the dismantling of The Libertines; ghosts of the past, and all that. But I’m going to plow on. This letter is long overdue. For all you gave me, albeit unwittingly, it’s time for me to pay something back…
“If Queen Boudicea is long dead and gone
Still then the spirit
In her children’s children’s children
It lives on”
To you both, Messieurs, please know that your band’s legacy burns, unsurpassed, the brightest flame in my chest. It’ll be that way forever, cupped in my burning hands, etched upon my skeleton. It tears me in twain to think that, way back when in those early 00s as you bundled about London’s east in riotous infancy, I lived but a stone’s throw away in splendid ignorance.
There I was, sleeping the frigid nights away in musical hibernation, while you cajoled one another over dueling guitars, silk cravats and dog-eared paperbacks. Inviting kids over the nascent blogosphere to break down the barriers of convention, and the door to your tatterdemalion flat – with whiskey in hand and dreams to match your own. Visions of a new dawn, a new England. A world of old ideals and romance – not to mention the death of the DJ. Hope had a new name and it was Liberty!
“If you’ve lost your faith in love and music
Oh the end won’t be long
Because if it’s gone for you then I too may lose it
And that would be wrong”
Little did I know that I shared that vision, until I heard your voices, yearning in unison, pleading me awake. It’s so unfair I missed you arm in arm, stumbling to a shared microphone, covering each other under enemy fire; your beatific love songs sung to the rafters, as you lay sprawled upon your backs in Whitechapels’ Rhythm Factory, or Islington’s Boogaloo. Why did I only find you when I had returned to the antipodes?
When Peter, you had robbed Carl’s flat and broken the bonds. No longer were you with him, in call and response. His foil. You were wandering your own shaded path. Seeing you, Carl, all alone on that stage, with your light extinguished, jamming a busted cigarette in the guitar headstock, it burning a sad trail of smoke. That must be what a divorce feels like to a child.
“I’ve tried so hard to keep myself from falling
Back into my bad old ways
And it chars my heart to always hear you calling
Calling for the good old days
Because there were no good old days
These are the good old days”
Still, I take succour from that one night, and have since supped on your decadent, foppish tales; of your rekindled Arcady, the return of kingliness, and your embrace of the intellectual. Name checking past heroes in William Blake, Lord Byron and those ‘Great War’ poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon – whose “Suicide in the Trenches” you walked me through, time and again – “I knew a simple soldier boy / who grinned through life with empty joy…”
I’ve even bunched fists in the face of those decrying your antics, Peter – model lovers and the junk. Said, “People of talent like that are different. Genius costs!” And Carl, I bought your albums, those Dirty Pretty Things, even when I knew they rather paled in comparison. I wanted to hold onto something so badly, to keep the dream in wing.
“It’s not about, tenements and needles
And all the evils in their eyes
And the backs of their minds
Daisy chains and school yard games
A list of things we said we’d do tomorrow
A list of things we said we’d do tomorrow”
I know things will never be the same again, but I feel a kind of peace having had you in my life, and still it lives on…
“Arcadian’s dream so fallen through
The Albion sails on course
Let’s man the decks and hoist the rigging
The pig man’s found the source
And there’s twelve rude boys on the oars”
They say good things don’t last. If that’s true then ‘great’ things have even less of a chance…
Though your candle burned briefly, blinking out “into the lonesome dark”, boy, did it burn like a star.
To the good old days.