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For your reappraisal: The Libertines - 'The Babyshambles Sessions'

Unofficial release of 2003's The Babyshambles Sessions
Unofficial release of 2003's The Babyshambles Sessions Copyright Judah Records - Unofficial release - Up The Albion
Copyright Judah Records - Unofficial release - Up The Albion
By Katy Dartford
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In this series, our journalists share their appreciation for an undervalued album that deserves more love. This week: The Libertines - 'The Babyshambles Sessions'.


I was fresh out of university and in my first job in radio when I was brought under the spell of "garage rock revival" groups like The Strokes and the Kings of Leon. 

I had little choice; it was my then-boyfriend's passion and I was dragged to loads of concerts around London and Kent, including a sweaty box in the city, where frontman Pete Doherty played a guerrilla gig as The Libertines began to implode. 

We were late and only caught the last few songs, but Pete did bring on stage another musician Pete Wolfe. It was the first time I'd heard the track 'For Lovers', which remains one of my favourites.

I loved the Libertines, particularly their debut album 'Up the Bracket' and closely followed Pete's tortuous path from "rock star" to "junkie rock star" to "Kate Moss's junkie boyfriend". 

Bandmate, Carl Barât had just formed Dirty Pretty Things, and of course, I'd snuck my way backstage at the 2007 Get Loaded in the Park Festival in Clapham Common, insisting I was a very important music journalist. 

I did manage to get a selfie with Carl, but unfortunately, photographic evidence of this no longer exists.

Meanwhile, as well as Kate Moss, Pete was busy forming his new band, Babyshambles, and I'd already gotten hold of 'The Babyshambles Sessions'.

The sessions were a set of songs recorded by The Libertines whilst in New York, in May 2003. Carl had left the band before the completion of the tapes, which were intended for their second, self-titled, album.

The tracks were made available over the internet at Pete's request (a fact he later denied).

Several of the tracks from the abortive sessions form the template for much of what Pete and Carl would come up with over the next few years, and eventually reappeared on The Libertines' second studio album and Babyshambles' album 'Down in Albion'.

What I loved about the session was the feeling you were in a lock-in with the band. There's talking, mistakes left in, and the tracks have a relaxed, easy-going feel.

'The Babyshambles Sessions' feature many rare cover versions that were never recorded again, such as The Coral's 'Dreaming of You' or Morrissey's 'Everyday is Like Sunday'. You can even hear them working out 'Babyshambles' and 'Don't Look Back Into The Sun', and there are guests like Adam Green from the Moldy Peaches covering 'What a Waster'.

The setlist of 'The Babyshambles Sessions' still has tracks named simply '304' or 'Untitled 108' as no one knew what to call them then. But if you play them, you can hear they are early versions of 'Killamangiro' and 'Side of the Road'.

Listen closely and you can also hear signs of tension too. The cover of The Moldy Peaches' 'Who's Got the Crack' ends with Carl saying to Pete: "Not you, thank the lord!" There's also Pete's grumbling over not playing older songs like 'You're My Waterloo' during the medleys. 

Listening to the Libertines / Babyshambles always brings me back to those post-university days, when I frequently went to music festivals and gigs. But I did get to see Pete since, at the 2017 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, and was delighted to see he still has his 'Artful Dodger' swagger.

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