The Libertines Biography

One of the UK’s most fêted bands of the early 00s turned out to be the Libertines, an outfit whose sound was comparable to early punk purveyors such as the Clash and the Jam. The Libertines story began when leaders Pete Doherty (12 March 1979, Hexham, Northumberland, England; guitar/vocals) and Carl Barât (b. Carlos Barât, 6 June 1978, Basingstoke, Hampshire, England; guitar/vocals) relocated to London. After building up their repertoire by writing songs together non-stop, the band’s line-up was rounded out with the arrival of US-born drummer Gary Powell and bass player John Hassall. The quartet built up a cult following by playing a number of free ‘guerrilla’ gigs (an approach they would continue to adopt even after becoming famous). Soon afterwards, the Libertines signed a recording contract with Rough Trade Records (fresh from their success of launching the Strokes’ career), and recorded a single in north London with ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler producing. The resulting double a-side, ‘What A Waster’/‘I Get Along’, hit the UK Top 40, which only heightened interest for a Libertines album. The quartet then re-entered the studio to begin work on their debut album, and once more, had a renowned music figure serving as producer, ex-Clash guitarist Mick Jones. Up The Bracket was released to uniformly positive reviews in October 2002.

Internal dissent ruptured the Libertines the following June when Doherty was not invited to join the other members on their European tour. In a bizarre turn of events, he was then jailed for six months after being found guilty of breaking into Barât’s flat and stealing several items. He was released early in October and the pair reunited and disappeared to work on new material in Wales. Doherty resurfaced in early 2004 to collaborate with eccentric artist Wolfman. The duo enjoyed a surprise Top 10 hit in April with the superb single, ‘For Lovers’. Doherty’s ongoing personal problems interrupted the recording sessions for the Libertines’ second album, and he was arrested in June 2004 on charges of carrying a flick-knife. He was dismissed from the band for a second time but avoided jail when he received a 12-month suspended sentence for the flick-knife offence.

Doherty subsequently concentrated on his new band Babyshambles, enjoying a UK Top 10 hit at the end of the year with ‘Killamangiro’. During this period, Doherty’s notorious drug use and troubled relationship with supermodel Kate Moss established him as a near-permanent presence on the front pages of the UK’s tabloid press. He found himself behind bars again in February 2005 on charges of robbery and blackmail after attacking filmmaker Max Carlish, who had been making a documentary about the Libertines. The charges were later dropped.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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