Bob Morris -I was the Fifth Libertine -Two Years with the Band

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/i was the fifth libertine -two years with the band bob morris zani.j

Well, not exactly the 5th – about 11th – but certainly in the squad. It’s funny but when I did university, one of the few lectures I actually turned up for and enjoyed was about group dynamics and the sum of the parts being bigger than the whole: that’s the key to all the best bands I’ve ever liked. Weller was never as (consistently) good as The Jam, and Strummer and Jones, Brown, yes yes, they’ve all made some blinding stuff afterwards but what can compare with what they did in the band… why?

What’s the funny monkey boy from Oasis gonna do without his dour brother and his cab-driving Burnage mates? Or thingy out of Toploader? Oh ok, sometimes you just don’t give a monkeys.

Any way, back to the Libs… I wasn’t sure about the reunion until I read the excellent NME special that’s just come out and it brought back so many good memories: the band that restored mine, many cynical old musos and others’ faith in British rock‘n’roll.

It was sometime in 2001 that the ex-manager of Mantaray (Britpop 2nd division title contenders) and top NME smudger Roger Sargent started banging on about The Libertines: “You gotta see this band, they use your catchphrase in a song, ‘Twooo Boarb Carnt,’” he’d say, in his well-clipped posh accent (this often changed to ‘cor blimey’ cock-ken-ney in front of the band I noticed). By the way, Roger and any other of you cunts that think you know me ‘cos you’ve poked me on Facebook, it’s ‘Big Bob’ not ‘One-eyed Bob’. Anyway, I crept down the Rhythm Factory near Christmas and was fucking blown away by these four gorgeous-looking lunatics dressed up like Mods after a bank holiday fight… well, what were they playing? The Clash, SLF, The Jam, probably a bit of it all, but it was The Libertines’ sound that blew me away; even through a shit PA the songs were just brilliant.

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The riot started about half way through the fighting and stage invasions… “Fuck me, these cunts are gonna be big, I thought” – screaming birds, camp freddies, chavs, Shoreditch wankers and the odd bitter-and-twisted muso in the audience testified to that.

We went for a beer afterwards but I was working on the Busking scheme (more of that later) at the time so canning it was out of the window. This is probably why I remember so much… perhaps it’s true, drinking and sniffing does kill brain cells. The band are a tight unit and they need to suss you out before you get inside the gang but what a fucking gang: our first few meetings were curt and it was like auditioning for the A Team ‘cos they fucking were. They even impressed The Scream and you can’t get much more “seen it all before” than that gang.

Anyway, the next time I saw them was down in the studio recording ‘Up the Bracket’. I was sitting in reception when their “manager” Bani, who I’d met before several times, came up to me and asked me, as “the voice of the street”, my opinion on the first NME cover – cheeky I thought, considering I’d forgotten more about the business than she’d ever picked up at business school. I picked my faves. The boys had theirs and then Mick Jones came through and gave me a big hug. Carlos said in front of Bani: “You really do know EVERYONE in the business don’t cha”? Nice one Carlos – even though you didn’t know what you did, I thought “What a top chap for a suburban poof”. Then a few beers in the pub and once again I chipped. On the subject of the “manager”, she told me on the first tour that Pete hadn’t turned up in Sheffield. I went mad down the phone and almost got on the train. She was dead calm and said, “it was a Libertines thing”. I said it was unprofessional and from that day on we decided a change of management was needed to keep this rabble under manners.

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Peter and I also bonded around this time. His love of football and my love of taking the piss out of QPR really set things off. He loved my stories of the good old days of terrace violence so much so they wrote a couple of songs about it: ‘Hooligans on E’ for the proposed Irvine Welsh film, ‘Soul Crew’, and ‘Sheepskin Tearaway’ about someone with loads of scars on his heart and his face. It could have been about anyone, proving the boys to be Old Romantics at heart.

As for the other two, Gary “Camp Freddy” Powell and Johnny “boy” Hassel (the human jukebox), they were simply the best musicians in the band and lovely geezers. John could play and sing any song you asked him unless of course you asked him to play anything not in the Beatles songbook! And Gary, possibly the campest drummer I’ve ever met but on the sticks he was funkier than a tramps armpit. However, at gigs I would have to shout for him to “keep your shirt on son” as he did tend to show off his beer belly.

I think we all really bonded down the legendary Theater Bar in Charing Cross Road one night when they all challenged me to arm wrestling and I lost. These fuckers were skinny but strong like D-wing lady boys.

I didn’t hear it but they commented to Roger that I wasn’t “so tough”. He laughed and threw his tousled locks back and said, “You’ll see!”

As we left the club for another swift half, a group of young men pushed passed our group in the road. I was at the back with my record box and watched the gang separate like the Red Sea as these two idiots barged into them. I dropped my box and waited, the first one barged into me and a swift left/right combination left him lying in a heap up against the door of blood brothers. I asked his friend politely if he wanted some too: he declined all the time I was standing my ground with my feet over my box of singles, and we retired to the next watering hole. I’d swapped jackets with Roger and according to witnesses, the bloke got to his feet a few minutes later and was screaming that he was Russian mafia and wanted the “Fat Man”. A bit fucking late my old son as we were having a pint in the Spanish by that time you came to and who you calling fat? Anyway lets just say the Libs never questioned my credentials again, however I did nearly break Camp Freddies arm once…

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The boys did like a bit of larking about with me, trouble is, I can’t really play fight and they would climb on my back and run into me and it would always end up in “man love” or “prison exercise” as we called it. Either that or damage to one of them or a building.

In Gary’s case, it was up to the Islington Academy to watch Super Taffs 3 Colours Red. Camp Freddy jumped on my back and I slammed him into the wall smashing his arm, as you would. The second UK tour was going to start in two days and he had to have it looked at by a specialist the next morning in Harley Street. I knew he was going to be ok as Dr Pete used his magic sponge then told him to run it off: I don’t know what he was a doctor in, Chemistry I think…

As for Peter, well during a visit to the Albion Rooms by the boys in blue, we got the boys to the safety of Pete’s room after a raid, when Peter jumped on my back and, rather than giving him one up the bottle, I slammed him up against the wall (as per usual). Trouble was, this “wall” was the front window and it went through almost with Peter, only he held on tight to my back. We all looked out of the now windowless window and guess who was below? Yes, you guessed it, the van-load of pigs, I had to go downstairs and once again apologise to the Sargent as the nancy boys quivered in the corner of Pete’s room. Mind you, this is the band who split up because The Kooks were too tough looking.

Talking of that night at the Albion Rooms, Anthony Thornton’s book ‘Bound Together’ starts like this:
 
‘It was the evening of 21 march 2003 when a woman wielding a claw hammer above her head began screaming obscenities at me. The profanities were punctuated with a shrill whine of, “It’s not fair, how dare they”. This woman, it was obvious, had the misfortune to live next door to a den of comings and goings and parties and music. Clearly she had been subjected to long nights of psychological torture at the hands of bash street urchins with a sound system to spare.’

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Hold on, this woman had told me that she was in a German POW camp during the war; she described many things that had hurt her and I felt so sorry that she was being driven mad by my mates upstairs, and I told her it was only 9pm and it would be over by 10pm but she went inside and came out with a claw hammer and went for me. The police restrained her and asked me to go upstairs.

Anthony’s book goes on to describe that he’d been with some “crazy” bands like “Toploader” and once witnessed the bloke out of Blue throw his canapés at a dressing room door, but this was “proper” – he could be indie music’s very own Danny Dyer.

This old lady had at least had a life and I’m sure Anthony is happy in his semi in Esher writing for the Snodley Gazette. She probably died sad and lonely in the East End with her memories of War and heartache still with her.

It was during a night at the Albion Rooms when I was on the Door taking a tenner fee from the punters. Next door lived a 110-year-old Polish woman who’d survived Auschwitz, but her new neighbours had finally pushed her over the edge. I gathered all this in a series of confrontations during the evening finally ending with her coming at me with a hammer swinging it from side to side, with me dancing down the road. Another neighbour THEN called the police and I was accused of all sorts, however we kept the old bill out for long enough for the boys to finish the set upstairs.

Anthony Thornton turned up in a taxi during the end of the event and I ushered him straight upstairs to the flat. He never witnessed it or was involved in any way, but he heard me tell the story after! I pulled him up on it some time after and he claimed it was artistic license, but I just think it’s typical of the beardy vicarious wanker to turn a working class woman’s pain into colourful violent porn without any understanding of the woman or her pain and anger. That and the fact the cunt wasn’t fucking there, he was in the front room “rocking” out to the “coolest band ever”. He always looked like a rapist anyway, he wasn’t even on the bench when it came to the team: he bought a ticket but watched it on MOTD.

/the libertines bob morris  the albion rooms  zani 1.

By the time Alan McGee got involved, the band were already on their way to oblivion after being able to do what they liked for two years and it all ended as it began but with the story unfolding in the tabloids.

What’s really sad about this story though is the fact that once again down to drugs and bad management we lost one of the greatest bands to ever grace this sceptred isle, but they say it’s better to die young and burn brightly than to not…they did that with great aplomb.

LIBERTNES ALL STAR ELEVEN

Safe hands – Roger ‘Slim’ Sargent

R/B - James ‘Curly’ Endecott

L/B – Tony ‘drinkin’ Linkin

Stopper – Alan ‘Pop’ McGee

L/W – Carlos ‘El Gusto’ Barat

R/W – Chev ‘the Rev’

Midfield general – Johnny ‘Psycho’ Hassell

Feeder – Peter ‘bite yer bum’ Doherty

Center forwards – ‘Queens of Noise’ Mairead/Tabatha

Goal hanger – Gary ‘Nosher’ Powell

Coach – ‘Big’ Bob Morris

Physio – Caron ‘Bushwacker’ Malcolm

© Word – Bob Morris/ ZANI Media
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Read 5015 times Last modified on Friday, 08 May 2015 15:58
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