Carl Barat – How I Wrote ‘Death On The Stairs’

I’ve always said ‘Death On The Stairs’ is my favourite track off ‘Up The Bracket’. That’s the one that clangs on my heartstrings. There’s a lot of desperation and hope and optimism in it.

It’s got a number of geneses. The first incarnation of it was a poem I wrote in an old notebook that I called ‘Death On The Stairs’, none of which is actually in the song. Then Peter wrote a play – a dialogue – about someone going for a job interview called Mr Spaniel, and for some reason that was called ‘Death On The Stairs’. And then, finally, I went to the toilet in the Albion Rooms once with a copy of The Times’ Literary Supplement, and I wrote down everything that caught my imagination from that and came out and thrashed it out.

Peter already had the chords, and the riff came when I was lying on my back playing one of those resonator guitars because I was too drunk to do anything useful. Peter was going, “Play the fucking riff, damn you! You fucking lush! You ham!” and that came out. I remember we only had a mobile phone to record it on, and we could only record onto the answerphone too. So he recorded me on the floor doing that against his chords, and then again with the words. That’s how it came about. The bit about Eritrea made it in there because there was a particularly attractive girl who came from there – she worked on the front desk when I used to work in mental health. It’s always been the one for me,
and it kind of still is.

Read the full untold story of The Libertines’ debauched masterpiece ‘Up The Bracket’ in the new issue of the NME, or get this week’s digital issue here.