Peter Doherty

Showing 14 posts tagged Peter Doherty

i.

"Libertines Alley," i.e. the alleyway in the Up The Bracket video, is right above Cambridge Heath Station in Hackney, near the crossing of Hackney Road and Cambridge Heath Road. For the future reference of Libs fans reblogging this (since it wasn’t the information I got): the best way to get there is to take Bus 26 to Hackney Wick. Not only does it drop you off literally 50m away, the 26 passes through the touristy parts of the City, so you can hop on from Waterloo Bridge or St. Paul’s Cathedral and sit on the top deck and feel like you are on a legit tour. Also, the alley isn’t called Hare Row, it’s called Grove Passage, accessible via Hare Row. It’s a quarter of a millennium old and invisible on Google Maps, though it rates a teeny dashed line in the A-Z. If you squint. Not quite sunk into London Under, then; but on its way. And it draws just enough power to manifest for some indeterminate time, in the sunlight of London Above, the Arcadian reality of the place (the best example of this odd local phenomenon is, of course, 221b Baker Street). 

The alley is narrow, industrial brick, broken by metal shutters that don’t seem to open often. Barbed wire against blue winter sky (redundantly poignant, that). Locals use it as a shortcut, and a place to pre-drink and leave the beer cans. A passive-aggressive struggle clearly goes on between city council and the international Libertines fandom armed with pocket knives and permanent markers, not to mention the more prosaic sort of spray paint graffiti taggers, but the patchwork effect is visually dynamic, surprisingly so; it gives good photography.

People leave doodles, fan messages, snatches of lyrics. Some get ambitious and write out entire paragraphs of Baudelaire. The notes that touch me, though, are the ones that say simply, “Thank you.” 

For saving my life — that part doesn’t need spelling out. Art is only good for one thing.

Does it matter what else the band has done?

Peter Doherty’s mother believes that he operates, ultimately, according to God’s will. That there is a Purpose to the story. The alley leads Elsewhere, and perhaps one was only ever meant to see his coattails ducking around the corner.

ii.

In 2010, The Libertines were paid a hefty sum — not shocking, but considerable — to get together and play the Reading and Leeds festivals. There had already been a certain rapprochement by this point; Peter and Carl caused some hysteria by playing a show together in 2007, and would occasionally hang out and do regular stuff, if “regular” meant that paparazzi took photos and fans breathlessly analyzed the contents of their plastic supermarket bag. They were both putting out solo work. It had become gradually clear that the major roadblock to the all-out band reunion was (and is) Carl’s attachment to his own hard-won emotional stability, which is difficult to fault him for. But against all historical odds on band dissolutions, the bad break had healed over in affection and not simmering acrimony. At one, priceless point in Roger Sargent’s documentary, There Are No Innocent Bystanders, Carl mentions that much of the volatility in his and Peter’s relationship during The Libertines’ peak years had turned out to be sleep deprivation psychosis. This in a wondering tone, as if the insight had come as a revelation.

With Reading and Leeds, sufficient money flowed that there was a back-end operation to structure the project and keep it rolling, and Peter wanted it enough to show up (mostly). The shows seemed to succeed from a different universe, one in which The Libertines never broke up, though it transpired that they also never made another album as beloved as their first.

As soon as the band were side by side and the cameras were rolling, the old comedy timing resurfaced (I’ve elided this aspect of The Libertines, mostly, but their most endearing trait is that they are simply very funny). Even quiet, sad-eyed John Hassall slotted in seamlessly, as the dude in the back who always, finally, gets up the courage to add to the repartee, only to be roundly ignored as the punchline. This is part of the stage act, though: Roger Sargent captures on film for once what one always suspected, namely that John talks quite a lot when it’s just the band by themselves. He’s been friends with Peter and Carl since the first inception of The Libertines, in their teens. But he mostly still comes across as melancholic, always did and probably always will. Only Peter ever seems to make him laugh.

iii.

As part of the documentary, Roger Sargent takes Carl on a tour of their old, iconic digs, camera in tow. Carl is in high spirits, too much so for Peter to have been a no-show; the outing was probably planned without him. They shoot the exterior of Sasha’s old place, which Carl still insists was a house of ill repute, and the Albion Rooms. Then they go to Libertines Alley, where Carl hadn’t been since they’d shot “Up The Bracket.” It seems possible he didn’t know it existed in its current form.

He’s moved, plays it off like anyone might; reads the messages, smiles, shrugs, deflates the moment with a joke. At one point he comes across the full text of Siegfried Sassoon’s “Suicide In The Trenches,” which Peter uses as a reproach to the masses, and as a protective mantra against the reality it describes; and which he and Carl accordingly had recited together at the NME Awards in 2004, sending English Lit majors into ecstasies worldwide just as the band was breaking up. 

Interested, Carl reads it out loud again:

I knew a simple soldier boy…..
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
And no one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

As he recites, unconsciously, his usual slur disappears: the words fall, perfectly clear.

iv.

This is my last post, so I’d like to thank a few people by pseud: subdee, who was unlucky enough to crash at my place at the beginning of the week, heard out my wailing and gnashing of teeth, participated in my ritual rereading of Phonogram, and suggested a considerable number of Libs details I’d completely forgotten about; my sister, whose chatlogs were an invaluable resource; stopmoving, who lent me encouragement and her A-Z; the gentlewomen of A Livejournal Community That Shall Not Be Named, for creating the space where I first set down most of these ideas; narie, for being the one friend I properly made through this.

And then there’s You! Tumblr Libs fandom! Whom I hadn’t realized existed (but really, really should have). You are Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, because I really, really did not have copies of all those Books of Albion scans. And yes, I was totally skulking and reading your reblog comments. This OWOB would literally not have been what it is without you; hope it’s been as #FEELS for you as it has been for me. A special note goes out to the person who said “Pornography” reminded them of Treviso airport, and the Manics fan who flamed back on a letter some teenager wrote to the NME 15 years ago — you two made my week.

—xoxo, 

Sabina (minimoonstar)

Track

New Love Grows On Trees

Artist

Pete Doherty

Album

Grace/Wastelands

Peter Doherty - New Love Grows On Trees (Grace/Wastelands version)

Here, for instance, is a good song Peter wrote about Carl.

It’s quite old; had hung around as a nearly-finished acoustic demo for years before Stephen Street and Graham Coxon knocked it into shape. Peter’s been known to change the age lyric when playing it live, in case any benighted souls in the audience were unclear as to the person being referenced:

Are you still talking to 
All of those dead film stars 
Like you used to 
And are you still thinking of 
All of those pretty rhymes 
And perfect crimes 
Like you used to love

And if you’re still alive 
When you’re twenty five 
Shall I kill you like you asked me to 
If you’re still alive 
When you’re twenty five 
Shall I kill you 
I know you told me to 
But I really don’t want to

I know it seems like I’m harping on Carl’s period of suicidal ideation, but it’s only because Peter does. It must’ve been traumatizing. The irony is that when it came down to the line, Carl is the one who opted, deliberately and firmly, out of the Club of 27; he felt the story had been done. To death, as it were. Whereas Peter has a weakness for a good retelling.

What would have been on the third Libertines album? 

Not this, I think. The songs about Carl, as opposed to with Carl, were always going to be saved for the solo album everyone knew was in the works. ”Albion” certainly would have made the cut, and “France,” because the two are fan favourites and meant to be pendants; there’s no good reason for “France” to be tacked onto The Libertines as a hidden track, except that — I suppose — Carl could speak for “France” in Peter’s absence. But The Libertines are collaborative* by nature and rock out by design, and their rock numbers were best served by their collaboration. Both Pete and Carl responded to the breakup by veering abrasive and loud, but much of the music that came about as a result is hard to imagine as Libs content: not because it’s confrontational (they still play “Can’t Stand Me Now”!) but because it wasn’t written with each other. The fury of “Fuck Forever,” for instance, was fuelled by Pat Walden, and it’s not very good without him. “Killimangiro,” probably; or “Back From The Dead,” because Carl actually played guitar on the For Lovers b-side version. Hang on, I’ve got it: they would have strung “Bang Bang You’re Dead” and “Back From The Dead” together as tracks 5 and 6.

Otherwise, a question mark. Songs that do not currently exist, even in a reconstructing imagination.


* Peter gave “What Katie Did,” which was pretty much all him, to Carl to sing on The Libertines, in order to make this point. Here is the 2010 reunion gig version, because we’ll actually get to the reunion before I hand OWOB over today, and because it affords the spectacle of Peter almost being able to play guitar competently on a song he wrote himself. Carl usually only sings “Katie” when Peter’s within direct line of sight; he doesn’t seem to feel he has a right to it otherwise.

Peter Doherty - Darksome Sea (studio video)

Here’s an example of Peter Doherty’s impeccable taste, the kind I’m talking about: the whole thing with Wolfman. I mean, seriously? Seriously? But Peter Wolfe actually did write those songs, Doherty just interprets them, which he’s peerless at when the subject matter is sufficiently #albion (here is him covering “Chim Chim Cheree,” I swear to bob, at Jarvis Cocker’s Meltdown Festival omnibus); arguably better than when he writes his own material.

Being that the focus of this OWOB is Doherty/Barât — albeit with a skew toward Pete — I’ll try not to witter endlessly on about "For Lovers," which is one of my favourite songs of the 2000s (was for years before I got into The Libertines); which is probably responsible for my atavistic reaction to Peter Doherty’s vocals; and which nearly won a Novello for the goddamned Wolfman. Instead you get the equally mesmerizing “Darksome Sea” (not least for how horrible Peter’s hair was at the time), because — unlike “For Lovers” or "Broken Love Song" — it never saw a proper release.

One last piece of information you need: according to Roger Sargent’s book, Jake Fior — the bookshop owner and Doherty regular who produced “For Lovers,” as well as the video above — was Dylan Moran’s original model for Bernard Black. You are now picturing Bernard Black out of Black Books as an indie-pop record producer. Take that image where it needs to go. No need to thank me.

Peter Doherty - 1939 Returning (Grace/Wastelands version)

Here is the awful thing about Peter Doherty, that I find hard to forgive: he has. Such great taste. In everything. And he only spells out half of his references, which is the catnip that gets journalists. At one point I outright started using his reading list as book recommendations. Also, he probably only started making up rentboy stories because “Rent” is his favourite Pet Shop Boys song. Also-also, that one time he listened to the Saint Etienne version of “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” so often he broke down and had a Neil Young period. 

Albion/Arcadia is a coherent aesthetic — one can draw a circle around and list what’s included, hashtag it, #albion as it were (in the vein of #seapunk):

  • Britain at War, which is perhaps Britain in its essence: Boadicea, Sassoon, Vera Lynn. Not actual imperialism, but metaphor for an inner reality, in the vein of Leonard “Field Commander” Cohen. The conflation, too, of post-WWII dilapidation with addict dilapidation. (At one point I was waiting for Peter to say or do something unthinkingly racist, simply per the associations of the imagery he likes to play with. He never did. He’s not Morrissey, in other words.)
  • Comedy, music hall. Hancock’s Half Hour, famously. All the kitsch trappings reclaimed: flag and teacup… The red guardsman jackets. In fact the jackets are more Carl, who was the one who kept wearing variations on them in Dirty Pretty Things, not least because he’s into Adam Ant. (Read Mark Sinker’s OWOB post on Adam Ant’s jacket — the Libs thing, which eventually ended up on the Dior Homme runway, is a footnote to a proudly claimed lineage.) But one cannot overstate the fact that Albion (and #albion) belongs to Carl, too, though Peter’s punishment for cutting him out of the band was to cut Carl out of an owner’s say over the aesthetics of their imaginary kingdom (this involved, at times, songwriting credits). He just doesn’t quite succeed: the place needs its Prince Charming.
  • The Apollonian and the Dionysian. Read: those damned ballerinas, following him everywhere since he came of age. It’s like he can’t help it; they just turn up, dancing in his wake. No ripped-off heads so far, though, so there is that.
  • Blood as ink, scuzzing everything up. Blood as Situational gesture (there’s Richey Manic). Junkie/contemporary art/BAD POET.* Kate Moss, mocking: “Who needs blood when you’ve got lipstick?” —This was an actual painting she made, with lipstick, while Peter was making his blood paintings, and sold at auction, possibly just to prove the point.
  • Anglo-Catholicism, in spades. Peter Doherty, a child raised between a soldier and a religious mystic, knows all about the fish hook. Chesterton: “the very word ‘romance’ has in it the mystery and ancient meaning of Rome” — libertinage as a concept implies Catholicism lurking in the backdrop. Rosaries deconsecrated as bling, but talismanic protection also (in the same way that Peter uses the Sassoon poem); Wilde’s deathbed conversion. Greene, Greene, Greene. Brighton Rock: music, pale thin girls with eyes forlorn and hard men in suits, the joy of living for the here-and-now versus the freedom of damnation without repentance. 

"Why, I was in a choir once," the Boy confided and suddenly he began to sing softly in his spoilt boy’s voice: ‘Agnus dei qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.’ In his voice a whole lost world moved - the lighted corner below the organ, the smell of incense and laundered surplices, and the music. Music - it didn’t matter what music - ‘Agnus Dei’, ‘lovely to look at, beautiful to hold’, ‘the starling on our walks’, ‘credo in unum Dominem’ - any music moved him, speaking of things he didn’t understand.

***

It seemed to her that everyone was very kind: there seemed to be a companionship in mortal sin. […] She wasn’t hungry; she was sensible of an immense freedom - no time-table to keep, no work which had got to be done. You suffered a little pain and then came out on the other side to this amazing liberty.

* In fact Peter is an uncommonly talented poet. Undisciplined as fuck, never to reach his potential, but talent to burn. People seem to think the appellation implies an automatic mental pedestal, whereas it’s bog-basic description of fact to point out that Rimbaud, too, never wrote better than he did at nineteen. Or at all, after that, so by a certain light Doherty is ahead.

Track

Albion 1

Artist

The Libertines

Album

Baby Shambles Sessions (CD 2)

The Libertines - Albion (Babyshambles Sessions, CD 2, Version 1)

Arcadia: the realm of infinity. Step sidewise between two raindrops and you’re there.

In 2003, one Helen Hsu — about whom I know nothing except the following and a few email subject headers** — registered Babyshambles.org and uploaded a full studio session leak on Peter’s instructions: three CDs’ worth of demos, practices, and noodling that he’d just cut in New York, both with and without Carl (who walked out halfway through, unable to tolerate the entourage). The confusingly named Babyshambles Sessions were meant as a first run for The Libertines’ second album, but many of the songs only saw official release years later, as Babyshambles tracks. “Albion” is one of these: fan recordings of live performances aside, this rambly session take is the only clue as to what the Libertines arrangement would have sounded like. And they — the widely distributed package, at least — are in 128kbps, because 128kbps was what you got given at the time and said thank you.

Peter later denied that he’d asked Helen Hsu to do any such thing, though of course he must’ve given her the CDs. It’s easy to reconstruct what must’ve happened, there. She waits for him at the Chelsea Hotel (you were famous, your heart is a legend); they go up to his room, hang out and listen to demo tracks on his computer. She asks him for a CD copy, he burns her one. She asks if she can share it with other fans; he says fine, and later he doesn’t remember.

I don’t imagine it exactly that way.

I imagine he planned it in advance. Brought her the CDs ready-made; wrapped in an improvised envelope of blue-lined paper. She’d been the nearest one available, had emailed for a meet-up, and Carl was already gone.

I’m entrusting you with these, yeah?

What’s on them?

A Moment. Pay attention, young private Helen. This is a very important mission.

I play the track in iTunes, and step sidewise into the Moment. They’re alone in the studio, looking for serendipity. For the duration of the Moment things are as they always were. This is an old song, a slow number, but it’s time to give it a go. “See? Give over,” Peter says, teasing, and laughs. He sings, conversational, substituting place names at will — they always change; any town can be a portal. Carl’s guitar winds through and about in overdub, taking its cue from the harmonica line. By the vernissage gig there’s a standard Carl guitar part for “Albion,” but here he hasn’t found it yet, and later on he’ll forget. He apologizes, muffled, for a mistake (but was that before/after, or during?).

They trail off, restart, noodle around. Then someone comes through the door with takeout — it sounds like actual food, not any of the horrors one’s been led to expect.  Peter makes a beeline for it, and the track ends. The next track is an extended intro to the song; the one after that is another full run-through of the same, but Carl is already gone.

I play it again. Step back in.


** That is, the subject headers of a few of her emails to Pete, which are in a google-able index online. Suffice it to say data security is the least of Pete Doherty’s concerns. There is a non-zero possibility that I still have a Bittorrented copy of his old hard drive sitting on storage somewhere.

[Housekeeping note: apologies for the long stretch between posts. I took a cross-pond redeye and am now in London! This has nothing to do with OWOB, particularly, but the timing is serendipitous.

I also added to a couple of the earlier posts: here and here. Are we supposed to edit? I’m not sure, but those pieces now convey the narrative I was going for more successfully.]

About your Manics article (NME April 19). Mr Wells knows the Manics are middlebrow and they probably always have been. Kafka, Camus and Proust sit snugly on shelves in assorted bedrooms around England, but if their owners were led to them by the inside of a CD cover, the true motivation stretches as far as the need to drop an esoteric title into a conversation in the common room. I know, I have to listen - and I have to clear up the mess. You can take a sixth-former to a Penguin Modern Classic but you can’t make him think.

The Marxists, Situationalists, pseudo-bisexual BAD POETS avec eyeliner, pseudo-leopardskin BAD POETS sans eyeliner and the rest of the Cult of Nothing should accept, for the last time, that with Richey went all feeble hopes of purity and guitars and profound graffiti.

Don’t hold it against the lads - they want to do it. They are comfy. And they know that there is more chance of social equality through conformity than through locking yourself in a hotel bathroom and shitting in your purse. Besides which the middlebrow ethos is far more revolutionary than the self-conscious political seriousness school of thought.

Peter Doherty, Somewhere Rather Lonely.

(NME letter section, circa 1997. Original scan sadly lost; if anyone has it, drop me a note. It might have been a reprint, but IIRC just a hilarious find from someone going through an old stack of magazines.)