Everything that follows is true. Obviously. No one would believe it if it was made up.
In the late nineties in the East London squat scene two troubadours and dreamers Peter Doherty and Carl BarÃ¢t meet and bond over music and a common romanticism. They resolve to form a band with a name that reflects their attitude: a libertine is someone who is unrestrained by convention or morality. The Libertines are born.
The LibertinesDecember 2001
Early line-ups included a variety of drummers (including Mr Razzcocks a drummer three decades the pairâ€™s senior) and bass players (including Jonny Borrell later of Razorlight). The line-up settles with Gary Powell on drums. Recognising there is something missing from British music at the time, Rough Trade sign them just before Christmas 2001 on the strength of one gig where they play without a bass player. A former bass player of the band, John Hassall, is invited to rejoin the band shortly after. He accepts. The gangâ€™s here. The boys to entertain you.
They support The Strokes on two dates in late February 2002. However itâ€™s when they team up with then media darlings The Vines for a short tour in March, that they begin to pull in fans. Naturally, they almost derail their entire career when on the first night of the tour in Brighton they play more or less a 20 minute jazz odyssey to a baffled crowd. Nice.
However for the rest of the tour they prove their worth with songs that will become anthems: â€˜What A Wasterâ€™, â€˜I Get Alongâ€™, â€˜Up The Bracketâ€™, â€˜Boys In The Bandâ€™ and â€˜Time For Heroesâ€™. People begin to fall under the spell of these high velocity urchins who are busy explaining their own philosophy of the hallowed dream of Albion and Arcadia. They sing and play and live this life that sits in the previously unexplored point halfway between the urban assault of The Clash and the arch romanticism of The Smiths.
Former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler comes on board to produce their debut single. â€˜What A Wasterâ€™/â€™I Get Alongâ€™ is promptly banned by Radio 1 due to the inclusion of several â€˜fucksâ€™ and at least one â€˜cuntâ€™. On its release on the day of the Queenâ€™s Golden Jubilee they celebrate by playing a gig across the road from Buckingham Palace as an alternative to the massive televised gig in the grounds of the Palace full of tedious backslapping establishment rock stars. For good measure they nick copies of their own single from Virgin Megastore - a feat thatâ€™s recorded for posterity cropping up on the â€˜Donâ€™t Look Back Into The Sunâ€™ video. The single hits the UK Top Forty without any airplay. Theyâ€™re hailed as anti-establishment heroes after just one single. Good work lads.
During the recording of their debut album â€˜Up The Bracketâ€™ (produced by Clash legend Mick Jones) Peter and Carl manage to squeeze in a falling out. A punch-up and a knee to the head later and the band play a Scarborough gig without singer Peter Doherty. Kisses and make-ups follow and the album is finished with more than ample flourish.
The â€˜Up The Bracketâ€™ single goes Top 30 They celebrate by sacking a tour manager for being too strict.
Proving that not even lyric writing is something they can do without getting into trouble. An ex-girlfriend Of Peterâ€™s threatens to sue over the words for â€˜Horrorshowâ€™. The album comes out regardless. Itâ€™s a perfect distillation of where they are - a magnificent insight into world of The Libertines; their passions, hopes and dreams. Highlights include the stand outs from their live set and the outstanding â€˜The Good Old Daysâ€™, a magnificent hymn to passion and music featuring plenty of British mythologizing and possibly their most memorable line: "If you've lost your faith in love and music the end wonâ€™t be long".
The album is shot through with great songs and a rawness thatâ€™s seductive. Reviews are great. However, some elements of the press think they are fakers; that this is a scam like the Sex Pistols. The doubters will shortly be proved wrong. This is already a band like no other.
A star struck band support and meet Morrissey at Brixton Academy, London.
'Time For Heroes' is released it reaches number 20 in the UK.
They headline the NME Awards show. Itâ€™s their biggest and best show to date. A day later they are Awarded Best New Band in The NME Awards.
The LibertinesMarch 2003
The band are forced to cancel their European tour after Carl contracts pneumonia. The dispirited band return home. On getting better they celebrate with a â€˜secretâ€™ gig in their squat, The Albion Rooms, in East London to a tiny audience. Needless to say the police arrive to break it up, and as their boots are pounding on their rickety stairs Pete and Carl serenade them with The Clashâ€™s Guns Of Brixton: "When they kick at your front door/How you gonna come? /With your hands on your head/Or on the trigger of your gun." The police let them off with a warning.
They head out to Japan and then to Coachella where their set is pulled after ten minutes due to another band over-running. There is such an outcry that they are given a full set the following day, they are one of the hits of the festival. In the same month the band record a new single â€˜Donâ€™t Look Back Into The Sunâ€™/â€™Death On The Stairsâ€™ with Bernard Butler.
They record an appearance on David Letterman Show in the US. Earlier in the day Pete and Carl got their kicks by serenading a bemused but impressed Marilyn Manson. Take that God Of Fuck. On the 28th Peter plays solo gig in Gunter Grove west London â€“ the same street where the Pistolsâ€™ Johnny Rotten used to squat â€“ the place is packed, hysteria ensues, lives are changed forever and another chapter is written.
Troubles that have been fermenting bubble to the surface. Peter fails to turn up for European tour after feeling slighted by Carl failing to turn up for a secret gig. In private, Peterâ€™s drug problems are beginning to spiral out of control. With commitments putting them in an impossible position, the band press on with the European tour, drafting in a guitar tech called Nick. Didz of The Cooper Temple Clause pitches in to help out on vocals for a German gig.
Peter feels isolated and resolves to soldier on on his own. The band are very concerned but there is a breakdown in communication. The band look forward to Peter returning when heâ€™s kicked the drugs. The band soldier on through a UK tour without Peter. However many fans are confused why Peter is absent particularly as Peter posts on websites that he doesnâ€™t have a problem.
Peter goes into rehab for a week but leaves before treatment is completed.
On July 25 - while the band are abroad a deeply troubled Peter kicks in the door of his bandmate and burgles it relieving him of antique guitar, video recorder, laptop computer, mouth organ and CD player. Heâ€™s arrested and charged.
Peter forms Babyshambles/The Libertines and continues guerrilla gigging to decreasing returns. On the August 11 Peterâ€™s court hearing is adjourned.
In a disturbing interview Peter admits to being addicted to crack and heroin and says: "I went to speak to Carlos about how I had a drummer and bass player living on my floor. They are on the dole and I needed to pay them because they are musicians. I was going down to Carlos's to say I can't pay them out of my own money and I found myself shouting at him and it turned out I was arguing with my reflection "When I realised, I booted the door in. I was engulfed by complete misery and despair. It wasn't revenge. It was more 'Why are you ignoring me?' â€“ a cry from the darkness. I do feel remorse, I feel sick." â€˜Donâ€™t Look Back Into The Sun' is released â€“ itâ€™s their biggest hit to date reaching number 11 in the UK charts. The band round up the month by playing Reading and Leeds Festival with a stand in guitarist (Anthony Rossomando).
On the 6 September Peter Doherty plays a riotous gig with the Babyshambles at the Hope And Anchor pub. Hopes are high that he will escape a custodial sentence. Two days later Peter is sentenced to six months in prison for the burglary. There is an outcry at the severity of the sentence. In an appeal at the end of the month the sentence is slashed to two months. He goes to Wandsworth Prison where communication with his bandmates is re-established. He is moved to less severe prison on the Isle Of Sheppey. A week before his release Carl attempts to visit him. He's informed that heâ€™s missed his friend whoâ€™s been moved back to Wandsworth in time for his release. How very Libertines.
On Peterâ€™s release date on the 10 October Carl resolves to meet his friend at the gates of the prison on his release â€“ not knowing how he will be received. Peter leaves the prison. They see each other. They hug and resolve to spend the day together. Peter has a low key Freedom Gig at the Tap N Tin in Chatham Kent planned for the same night.
Then, without prior announcement, the band reform on the stage of the Tap N Tin. NME, rightly, named it the live moment of 2003. They do a flurry of gigs together, Regentâ€™s Park at lunchtime in a quaint bandstand and on the boating lake and then at the Rough Trade 25th Anniversary concert. Legendary record figure Alan Mcgee of Creation and Oasis fame becomes their manager. The Albion sails back on course.
While writing songs in Wales Carl suffers a horrific booze fuelled accident slipping in the bathroom and seriously cutting open his face. He almost loses the sight in one eye. Naturally he is calm enough to take a photo for the press after he receives dozens of stitches.
Peter sleeps rough for charity. A bunch of low key gigs by The Libertines ensue with new material pouring out two strong new songs which make it to the album are given their first airing at these gigs: â€˜Likely Ladsâ€™ and â€˜Last Post On The Bugleâ€™.
They play three eye-popping shows at the Forum in London which culminates in a mass stage invasion by fans on the last night. One more secret show of the year and itâ€™s holiday time.
Following a relatively quiet January of writing and secret gigs, the band win Best British Band at the NME Awards. More secret gigs follow and a full, sold out, UK tour kicks off. On the first night in Birmingham they unveil two new songs â€˜The Sagaâ€™ and â€˜Canâ€™t Stand Me Nowâ€™. The latter is their strongest song to date. It marks a new phase of The Libertines in its painfully autobiographical subject matter. The way it picks over Pete and Carlâ€™s relationship is both harrowing and shows how tight they are. The last of three nights at Brixton Academy is marred when Peter smashes his guitar and storms offstage.
The band go into Metropolis Recording Studios in west London with Mick Jones and Bill Price (who worked on Londonâ€™s Calling and with Guns nâ€™ Roses). Songs tipped to be included on the album are â€˜Canâ€™t Stand Me Nowâ€™, â€™The Likely Ladsâ€™, â€˜The Sagaâ€™, â€˜Last Post On The Bugleâ€™ and â€™Narcissistâ€™. On the 16 March, they play Love Music Hate Racism at Londonâ€™s Astoria. The Clashâ€™s Mick Jones joins them for â€™Skag And Bone Manâ€™, â€™Time For Heroesâ€™, â€˜What Katie Didâ€™ and a cover of â€™Should I Stay Or Should I Goâ€™. Itâ€™s the first time The Clash man has played the punk anthem since the band split in the early â€˜80s
Peter collaborates with his friend Wolfman on â€˜For Loversâ€™, the song reaches seven in the UK singles chart. Peter Perrett of new wave legends The Only Ones joins The Libertines at a secret gig in the Rhythm Factory in East London for a version of â€˜Donâ€™t Look Back Into The Sunâ€™ and the Only Onesâ€™ new wave classic â€˜Another Girl, Another Planetâ€™. In a further twist, while The Libertines are out guerrilla gigging, fans demolish an entire venue in Stoke On Trent. The venueâ€™s promoter responds by booking them the following week.
With concern for Peterâ€™s welfare growing on May 14 Peter goes into the Priory Clinic to beat his addictions â€“ the high profile case attracts the attentions of national papers. He leaves a week later but resolves to return.
Peter spends a week in the Priory before quitting and going missing. Not knowing how he will be greeted, Peter resolves to go to the opening night of Carlâ€™s new club â€˜Dirty Pretty Thingsâ€™ to make peace. The pair of them suffer terrible nerves before they meet up. The pair are reconciled and the whole band play a glorious short set using borrowed instruments. Peter resolves the following day to go to Thailand to beat his addiction leading them to cancel an appearance at Morrisseyâ€™s Meltdown and the Glastonbury Festival. He leaves a week later. On his return heâ€™s arrested for possession of a flick knife meant as a gift.
The saga continuesâ€¦