Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 274
Tues. Dec 31, 2013
“Can’t Stand Me Now (acoustic)”
The first single from The Libertines eponymous album, released after Peter Doherty much publicized prison sentence that was the fire stake that led to demise in the core collaborative friendship between chief songwriters Carl Barât and the soon to be Babyshambles vocalist Doherty. “Can’t Stand Me Now” was supposed to be the song that brought Barât and Doherty back together, ironically, this was the song that ended up breaking up The Libertines.
According to Anthony Thornton and Roger Sargent in their book The Libertines: Bound Together, “Can’t Stand Me Now” was written by the duo Barât and Doherty on a songwriting retreat to Paris to try to reclaim their splinter partnership as Peter explained, “Biggles [Barât’s nickname] has asked me to go away to Paris, just the two of us. We’re going tomorrow. Do some writing.” Thornton and Sargent detailed the session when they wrote, “In the Hotel France Albion in Montmartre [Barât and Doherty] completed two new songs: “Can’t Stand Me Now” and “The Saga.”
Because of Peter’s continuing drug use, the saga continued, Barât and the rest of The Libertines banned Doherty from playing with them until he got clean. Things between Peter and his bandmates went sour fast as detailed in Alex Hannaford’s book Peter Doherty: Last of the Rock Romantics, “The band had been playing ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’—the Pete penned paean to his and Carl’s soured relationship. And that night on stage at Brixton, whether it was due to love lost between them, paranoia from drug use or simply tiredness, Pete took offence at how emphatic Carl had been while singing the words to the song. ‘It had taken six, seven years for him to say it, to say the truth,’ Pete afterwards told journalist Betty Clarke for the Guardian. ‘He sang it to me and I thought, you’re right. We’ve used each other, got here, but underneath it all, you’re not my mate. So I kicked his amp over, smashed up his guitar and cut myself up.” It sounds like Peter took offense when Barât sung Peter’s song, it made Carl look like the victim and Doherty was the villain in their musical drama.
To counter Carl’s rendition, Peter recorded a brilliant acoustic version with one of the most infamous lines that Doherty cleverly added to the lyrics when the now lead singer of Babyshambles sang, “♫ I’ve read every review/they all prefer you. ♫” Commenting on his coy lyric, many years later, Peter once said, “Reviews are always busting their guts with comparisons… but I don’t listen to anything you would know. Apart from Babyshambles and The Libertines. But I don’t even listen to them much. Only if I wanna play an old song for a special reason or concert and I need to remember the parts (shameful moments).”
When Carl was once asked about the meaning behind the Doherty and Barât penned first single from The Libertines album, the singer was famously quoted in Hannaford’s book, “‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ was the most self-explanatory song in pop.” Libertines’ bassist John Hassall had a better explanation of the song when he told Q Magazine in 2008, “The song that stands out is ‘Can’t Stand Me Now.’ Maybe the only thing Pete and Carl could honestly sing about was the situation, what they felt about each other. Almost a sort of therapy in itself.”
It’s probably no surprise that my favorite is Peter’s version; it’s just that Doherty’s acoustic rendition is more honest, naked and emotional than Carl’s. You can feel the aching sadness in Doherty’s vocal. Despite his drug use and actions against his former partner and band, Peter truly felt hurt by the way he was treated by his mates and the way the media made Doherty looked like the drugged out villain. Peter explained his reasons on finally staying away from The Libertines and starting his own band Babyshambles when he said, “Sometimes doing Libertines songs with Babyshambles just doesn’t feel right – for them and for me,” he said. “In the same way that back in the Libertines days…playing certain songs that were all about how much I hated playing song with The Libertines…I wasn’t really happy playing [those songs] with The Libertines. I had to get another band on the go.”
Which ever version you prefer, the original first single from The Libertines final album or Carl’s, one thing you can say about Peter’s acoustic rendition, Doherty doesn’t hold back, the Babyshambles vocalist’s acoustic version is a stripped down tale that singled the end of one of the best bands UK that had so much passion but couldn’t make it through their personal madness. “Can’t Stand Me Now” is the song that broke up The Libertines. Nothing else to say except, when the clock strikes midnight, honor ‘the good old days’ by cranking up Peter’s acoustic classic of “Can’t Stand Me Now” to eleven and just sing along.
Happy New Year!