[4] The Libertines, ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’

The Libertines

“An ending fitting for the start” – the CD clicked and spluttered in the car stereo until this song became a succession of quickfire tuts. “Is that the Easter Bunny?” asked Junior. I wouldn’t like to see Pete Doherty prancing around my garden, hiding foil-wrapped items among the pine needles.

Earlier she’d sought confirmation that it was two people singing. Fair enough, it’s hard to tell with Doherty and Carl Barât, their voices interchangeable as they exchange barbs and pleas and let their life’s work crumble around their ears. This almost-swansong comes from a patchy second album, but the debut’s vim and swagger trumpeted a band of huge promise – promise squandered by a ghoul-faced buffoon of a smackhead with idiot “light fingers”. Here’s to that solo album, Peter!

Is this record really so great? Does it just profit in context? Something stirs me – the control-free guitar, the sourness and release of the singing, the bye-bye harmonica (“I’ve got a pink one of those, Daddy”). It’s the Noughties ‘Ballad Of John And Yoko’, served up to the same mixed feelings.

The boy kicked out at the world:

[20] The Beatles, ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’

“Beatles!” Junior exclaimed, as I introduced her to the sleeve. “I like Beatles.” She may have meant “beetles”, but managed some booty-swinging to the last verse, a small nod of appreciation for the rock’n’roll version. She spent the rest of the time squeezing between the sofas to fetch the baby doll, complaining about getting stuck. The band themselves were in a bit of a fix, although this sunny record has its head firmly in the sand.
The ditty itself – a tale of John Lennon and Yoko Ono hopping around the continent acting the halfwit – is a solipsistic frippery, but I’m soft on it. My warm feelings extend from its timing: April 1969, and The Beatles are limping to a conclusion, hamstrung by legal divisions and poisonous in-fighting. Yet, amid all this, the two most obviously at loggerheads are working hard together – Paul McCartney indulging Lennon, Lennon enlisting his help with the writing, and the pair of them playing every note of the song, nary another Beatle in sight. It feels like the last true collaboration, two against the world.