T in the Park: Peter Doherty - Who's the man
Few have divided opinion like Peter Doherty. David Pollock polls the great and the good on the eternal genius or hopeless loser debate
‘I first saw The Libertines at Camden Monarch in 2002,’ says Anthony Thornton, NME writer and author of the group’s autobiography Bound Together. ‘I was there to see The Vines, who were supposed to be the next big thing, but The Libertines were supporting and they blew me away. They were so good I took the next Friday off work to go and see them in Bristol.’
After Kate Moss, a litany of drug offences and a continuing musical career that lacks the input of songwriting soulmate Carl Barat, Thornton’s words aren’t ones you hear used about Peter (nee Pete) Doherty very often these days. But Doherty’s life in the public eye was founded on much more than supermodels and mischief. The Libertines were a band, like The Smiths and Oasis, whose worldview their fans bought into as much as the music.
‘A lot of bands who are now seen as influential were ahead of the pack,’ says Glasgow promoter Paul Cardow, who put on The Libertines’ earliest Scottish shows. ‘They influenced what people were doing around them and caused a whole wave of similar bands to follow on behind. People were still discovering them when they split up, so when – if – they get back together, they’ll have more fans than they ever did the first time round.’
The reformation question, of course, largely depends on Docherty’s ability to control his problems. ‘The Libertines were one of the last true rock‘n’roll bands,’ says Janine Bullman, who worked as a press officer with the group and in the early days of Babyshambles. ‘They weren’t always on time, they weren’t always sober, but they were the real deal – enthusiastic, great fun to be around and committed to this bohemian ideal. Then it got a bit darker as Pete’s drug problems got worse, he became more withdrawn and you’d see less of him. It was sad to see his charm and beauty fade, and particularly to see his relationship with Carl go, but it seems things are getting better for him these days.’
Friend and singer with The View Kyle Falconer thinks that ‘Pete’s a bit hard to speak to sometimes because he’s always got a lot going on, but he’s a great guy when you get to know him. The press talk up his bad points and they follow him about all the time, but I don’t think he cares who knows what about him. He just does his own thing.’ On just why this obviously complicated and sensitive man has become such a national bête noire, though, Thornton has his own theory.
‘Pete’s not so much self-destructive as he is indulgent,’ he says. ‘His big problem isn’t that he’s lived the life he has wanted, more that he’s flaunted it – and there’s nothing like flaunting it and not caring what people think to get up the noses of the tabloid press and public.’
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