Speaking of shambles, what the monstrosity ‘ASADYMHF’ actually means is ‘A song a day you may have forgotten’, it’ll just be a nightmare to fit neatly in a title each time.
This is a new concept of mine, which if it’s anything like 99% of my creative ideas will wither and die by the time I finish this paragraph. The basic gist is that I spend far too much of my life on Spotify and YouTube rediscovering songs I haven’t heard in a long time. Often, they are rubbish, and I put down enjoying them at the time to the mysteries of youth, but other times I come across a track that didn’t really mean that much to me at the time, but listening back my understanding and appreciation of the song is a lot better. I don’t want some of the songs to get lost in the overloaded wasteland of my playlists and favorites online, so I thought it’d be nice to give each track a little bit of love and nourishment, as a belated thank you from me after years of neglect.
The first of these, is Albion by Babyshambles, which was released in March 2006, reached 8 in the UK music charts, and is off the album Down In Albion.
When I was a kid, I loved The Libertines. They were the first rock and roll band who were just about of my time, and their emergence in the music scene came just as I was emerging into my teenage years. I’m a big fan still of both Libertines albums, there are many great tracks on both albums, and I think they stand together as pieces of art loosely tied, rather than being separate beasts.
The Libertines appealed to me because they offered a weird sort of glamour at the time. Looking back now, it’s laughable that I thought the scene they were portraying as a nirvana of sorts – dirty, grimy East London was anything to care about, but the myth they built, in their songs, their interviews, and even in the clothes they wore had an impression on a 13-year-old me. I remember they always used to talk about this place called ‘Albion’, a mythical dreamlike England where poets reigned supreme, and where Dickensian chimney sweepers would strum acoustic guitars. I always imagined that the concept of Albion would make a really good – if pretty dark, Disney film.
Of course, The Libertines split up, and amidst the wreckage came Babyshambles, Pete Doherty’s new band who were, to put it mildly, ramshackle. During this time period, as Doherty flitted in and out of jail, and band members came and went, demos were leaked, and release dates kept being put back, it seemed like the band would never release something official, but they did, eventually releasing two albums, of varying quality, but with some good songs on both.
One such song, is Albion, purported to have been written by Doherty originally as a poem when he was 16. I’ve long wondered if some of the greatest songs are written while people are in their teens. Mick Hucknall sketched out the foundations for Holding Back The Years when he was just 17, while George Michael was the same age when he wrote Careless Whisper. There is a purity in all of those songs, which can be misconstrued as teenage naivety. It’s interesting, all three songs seem to convey feelings that the present has peaked, and the past is the time where everything was okay, which does make sense when you’re that age.
“We could have been so good together, we could have lived this dance forever” – Careless Whisper
“I’ve wasted all my tears. wasted all these years, and nothing had the chance to be good” – Holding Back The Years
“Yellowing classics and canons at dawn, coffee wallows and pith helmets, and an English sun” – Albion
Looking at some sample lyrics of all three of those songs, the sense of nostalgia is high, that feeling you can only get when you’re in your mid-teens that your life has somehow peaked, that all those dreams and aspirations you have are going to be faded away. I think Albion resonates with me particularly because I would have been about 16 years old when I first heard it, and those lyrics would have subconsciously pricked away at my brain, because I too had those thoughts and worries that everything was for nothing, and that nothing was now.
Of course, what I’ve learnt as I’ve got a little bit older, that nothing can be forever if you let it, and more’s the pity, especially in the case of Pete Doherty who seems to have spent the last 10 years of his life living in some kind of crack-tinged groundhog day. Make music, take drugs, attempt to break free from the shackles of narcotics, relapse, repeat. It’s not a life I’d dream on anyone, and it’s sad that in a world at the moment where I think we could all do with a little bit of naive romantic brain pampering, the sort of musicians who can do it, is at an all time low. Doherty is one of those few who can, his back catalogue is proof of that – think of Time For Heroes, or Don’t Look Back Into The Sun, or especially For Lovers, all of those are songs with a quintessential British charm and panache that I just don’t hear at the moment.
It’s a shame that Doherty’s public persona will always tarnish his musical legacy, and that’s partially why I’m starting with this song. If you try to think beyond the human, and actually read the words and hear the melody of a song like Albion, I think there is a lot to be enjoyed. There’s a TV show called Nathan Barley, which was released in 2005, and was a cutting edge mockery of a new type of wanker who started hanging out in East London, some partially inspired by apparent dream-weavers like Pete Doherty. The show was canned after only six episodes, but if you look back and watch it, it’s especially relevant today, as the Shoreditch conspiracy just rumbles on and on.
“Gin in teacups, and leaves on the lawn, violence in bus stops, and the pale thin girl with eyes forlorn”
Albion is the same – it’s a middle of the noughties firing shot to the state of the nation we find in 2012. A distinct lack of heart and creativity, the belief that the meaning of life is found in the bottom of a bottle rather than a book. A nation fed on reality TV, and scaremongering newspapers whose only existence is to dupe you into thinking that you need to read them in the first place. We’re a nation obsessed with politics, but only when it concerns us, a nation of quick opinions and little courage. Of fear of the unknown, and a distinct lack of depth anywhere. This is the Great Britain we find ourselves in. Why educate, when we can wave bunting around? Why try to solve problems when there is already somebody to blame?
There’s surely more to us than that. Isaac Newton, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Darwin, Morrissey, Roald Dahl, Aleister Crowley, Florence Nightengale, Bobby Charlton. They all existed once.
I know that was then, but it could be again – Three Lions
If not, there is always a way out.
Oh come away, won’t you come away, We’re going to, anywhere in Albion