RIP LOUIS BARABBAS & THE THE BEDLAM SIX

Image © Steve Hall 2014

Image © Steve Hall 2014

Today, long-standing Friends of ANBAD, Louis Barabbas and the Bedlam Six announced that they were done. The band is no more, save a couple of farewell gigs, which will be great, because their gigs are always great.

(This is the band’s best song, by the way, although I’m not sure if Louis ever agreed with me. Anyway, it’s beautiful and heartfelt and it feels true. Statistically none of us will ever make a song this good, so go ahead and listen.)

I first met Louis in about 2010 in the Castle Hotel in Manchester’s then-seedy-now-glitzy Northern Quarter. We’d been set up on a weird kind of man-date by arch-musical-matchmaker Chris Long, who was then running BBC Introducing Manchester.

Louis and the band had just recorded a cover of Relight My Fire for the show. I had no idea what to think about the band off the back of that, but we hit it off immediately; both of us delighted to discover we had similarly bottomless appetites for ale.

It probably says more about my lax approach to blogging than the band’s output that it then took me 18 months to feature them on ANBAD.

Later, in my PR capacity, I tried my hardest to get their songs to stick at levels a little higher than  previously. Both parties felt a bit icky about doing this: I felt like I was doing Louis’ job and I cared too much about the band; Louis felt like doing PR was not very “Bedlam Six”. We were both probably right.

In the meantime, the band played all over Europe, had a set of genuinely excited and dedicated fans and released a bunch of albums. It was a running joke in our mutual circle of friends that the band had laboured over creating so many great songs, but the one the audience always clamoured for was one where Louis impersonates a dog. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer band.

But now they’re gone, and they get to keep a ton of amazing stories, memories and friends they made along the way.

In his farewell post, Louis touches on the idea of fame, success, and whether they “made it.”

This is the same conversation we had the first time we met, in 2010. Back then, Louis explained that he wasn’t really sure what “success” means, whether it matters, or whether it should even matter.

It doesn’t matter. The whole band have lived richer lives than 99% of the people they will ever meet. What more could anyone want?

Some final notes on the Bedlam Six:

Here’s the most important thing: Louis and the band are arch DIY-ers. Everything was done by them: writing, recording, label services, distribution, promotion, gig booking, roadieing, everything. Their approach is pure punk, the real deal, the 360º deed done dirt cheap. If a young band ever ask me how to “do it”, I point them in the Bedlam Six’s direction. Most nascent bands don’t want to accept the hard truths of the Bedlam doctrine, and I don’t blame them. But the Bedlams had the right idea. Who else gets to have 10-year music career in today’s music biz environment?

• I’m genuinely grateful that I got to have a quick ride on the Bedlam machine. My best memories are mainly of drinking in the pub with the band, but the day I spent getting sunburnt in a street of abandoned terraced houses in Toxteth for a Bedlam Six video as part of Louis’ street dance troupe comes close.

• Louis thinks “Youth” is the band’s best LP, and he’s probably right. Here’s an album commentary I recorded with him for a project I later abandoned: a track-by-track dissection of the album. It’s (honestly) more interesting than it sounds, especially if you’re interested in what the musicians actually think about making and playing songs off a new album:

• Via Louis, I was introduced to artists I’d never have found otherwise, like Walk and TE Yates. It helped that Louis signed these artists to his label, Debt Records, and it’s notable that he works just as hard for his signed artists as he does for the Bedlam Six.

Godspeed Louis Barabbas and the Bedlam Six!

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