So I promised that I would share something I think is really great, something I’m unambiguously positive about, something I love. And here it is: I love ‘Death on the Stairs’ by The Libertines. It is basically a description of a shitty life, living with a practice of risk in the everyday where there may be some likelihood that that dying in a public place. It is navigation of the poly drug seeker world: poor, half arsed, ridden with failure, hanging out and desperate for something, or anything, where even being dead on the stairs seems like a good result and possibly the only decent result.
The Pete Doherty story is well known, beautifully stupid and gorgeously wasted; you can’t help but see a puppy with too big feet trying to stand on a broken leg. Carl Barat, somehow McCartney to Doherty’s Lennon, sings the first verse and then they take it in turns. Barat’s verbose expository elision of the actualities of addiction and living rough, his grotesque poetics of urban space, are followed by Doherty’s plaintive and heartbreaking pleas: “So baby please kill me, Oh baby don’t kill me” revealing a hollowed out tree of man, a hollowed out life filled with longing for wholeness.
It is the longing that moves me, produces the love that stirs in my foot tapping, shoulder shaking, nod along responses to ‘Death on the Stairs’. The tabloid awfulness of Doherty’s addiction isn’t part of it for me, being in Australia and not reading tabloids anyway: I’ve already seen Sid and Nancy and read Wonderland Avenue so I know how that story ends. Even the Carl and Pete bromance isn’t in it, I never even heard of the famous 2003 Tap’n’Tin gigs until about two years ago. But the longing, the passion, the deep ambivalence about being here in these times, doing this shit, that’s what I hear and that’s what I love.
Here it is: