Gunga Din

Album: Anthems for Doomed Youth (2015)

Songfacts®:

  • The first new song to be released by The Libertines in a decade, the band debuted the tune during their performance at the Best Kept Secret Music Festival in the Netherlands on June 19, 2015.
  • Libertines frontman Pete Doherty told NME about the song: "Gunga Gin is a true Libertines amalgamation, in the proper old-fashioned sense of the word. There is a lot in there – there's a Peter Wolf lyric in there, which you'll probably pick out: 'Woke up again, to my chagrin'. We're not really pessimistic on that level, that's pure Peter Wolf pessimism. There's a middle eight borrowed from Billie Holliday: 'I've got those Monday blues, straight through Sunday blues', from the song 'Good Morning Heartache'. There's a nice Doherty and Barat singalong chorus. I think there's a bit of Gary in there as well to be honest."
  • The video was filmed by photographer and film maker Roger Sargent, who accompanied The Libertines doing their time in Thailand, shooting a documentary about the recording of the album. It was filmed in the city of Pattaya, which is known for its huge number of go-go bars, massage parlors and transgender cabaret shows. "Pattaya was sort of like Mordor on the horizon for us," guitarist Carl Barat explained to NME. "It's one of the world's sex capitals and it's mental. There was an American base there in the Vietnam war, so they started opening brothels. There were Miss Saigon vibes going on."
  • In 1892 Rudyard Kipling published his collection Barrack Room Ballads, which included the five-stanza poem "Gunga Din." A rhyming narrative from the point of view of an English soldier in India, the work tells the story of a badly-treated but loyal Indian water-bearer who saves the soldier's life.

    "Tho' I've belted you and flayed you,
    By the livin' Gawd that made you,
    You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!"


    The poem inspired a 1939 Hollywood adventure film of the same name starring Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joan Fontaine, and Sam Jaffe in the title role.
  • The faithful Indian water carrier has been the inspiration for a number of other songs including Jim Croce's 1966 adaptation titled "Gunga Din."

    Kipling's line, "You're a better man, than I am Gunga Din" has been referenced in several tunes including Bobby Darin's "That's the Way Love Is," The Yardbirds' "You're a Better Man Than I" and Aerosmith's "Livin' On The Edge."
  • The song is full of self-flagellation as Pete Doherty and Carl Barat reflect on their self-destructive behavior and troubled history together, which resulted in the dissolving of The Libertines for several years. "Self-loathing's one of those things, isn't it? It's a bit of a f--ker as they say in the academic circle," Barat reflected to Digital Spy. "'Gunga Din's like a couple of mug shots from after our hiatus. That was our starting point to carry on from."
  • This was the first song that the Libertines wrote when they first got back together again in 2014. Carl Barat told Q magazine: "It was where me and Pete met, to start this journey again, with both of us singing our verses about things in life, and both coming in with a different musical part. They just happened to go together so well. It was the first track we recorded, and once that was out of the way, it was like, 'Yes, this is working nicely, let's go.' So it means a lot to us."

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