Published Aug 18, 2015Propelled by the electrically charged creative partnership between Peter Doherty and Carl Barât, the Libertines may have only released two studio albums to date, but Up the Bracket (2002) and their self-titled 2004 album delivered enough searing, sentimental rock'n'roll to revitalize the UK music scene and leave a lasting impression on their frenzied, fanatical followers. After deteriorating into a mess of tabloid gold that included burglary, jail, drugs, fist fights and relationships with supermodels, the Libertines went their separate ways and spawned an array of solo and side-projects. Now, the "Boys in the Band" are back, and will release their third album, Anthems for Doomed Youth, on September 4 through Harvest Records.
This month's Timeline digs deeper into the lead-up and aftermath of a band whose story extends far beyond just a couple of years in the spotlight. This month's print issue of Exclaim! paints the full Libertines picture, but for now, here are a handful of facts you couldn't learn from the covers of early 2000s tabloid magazines.
Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About the Libertines:
1. Carl Barât didn't know who the Smiths were.
Doherty asks the guitar aficionado flatmate his sister has talked so much about to play "This Charming Man," and Barât launches into Blur's "Charmless Man." Apparently, he'd never heard of the Smiths, instead drawing musical inspiration from the likes of the Doors and the Velvet Underground.
2. The Libertines are playing at your house, and the pub, and the chip shop.
By late 1999, in addition to regular pub shows at Filthy Mcnasty's (where Doherty worked as a bartender), the Libertines began to branch out, booking gigs at retirement homes, kebab shops and even at the Prince Charles Cinema (another one of Doherty's part-time employers) before the premiere of The Blair Witch Project.
3. Pete Doherty gave three albums' worth of demos to a random fan and told her to put them online.
Doherty gives The Babyshambles Sessions — containing three albums' worth of songs, including material that will be included on second album The Libertines as well as Doherty's Babyshambles project — to a New York fan named Helen Hsu and allegedly instructs her to share them online. Hsu posts the demos to thelibertines.org forum with the message: "It's not about making and selling records, it's about communication, opening the door to the attic and letting us all in. We are offered a glimpse into their mad world, an invitation to visit for a while, a tender postcard from their journeys thus far. In the vast landscape of cynicism and ultracool, they have redeemed hope, housed in Arcadia, trafficked on the Albion. And I thank them."
4. The man in charge of taking care of Primal Scream and Oasis couldn't handle the Libertines.
Creation Records founder Alan McGee, who has previously managed bands like Oasis, Primal Scream, the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine becomes their manager in 2003. In 2013, The Guardian interviews McGee about his memoir Creation Stories. When asked which of his bands was the most difficult to manage, he replies: "The Libertines, by a mile. I couldn't control it. Everything else, I've been able to control the scenarios. The Libertines were completely out of control."
5. Pete Doherty isn't the only dangerously self-destructive one in the band.
After a whisky and fight-filled writing session at McGee's house in Wales, Carl Barât retreats to the bathroom and repeatedly bashes his own head against the sink, mutilating his face and nearly blinding himself. "That was totally true," McGee recalls. "His eye was hanging out of his head. There was so much blood it was unbelievable. He managed to do £400 worth of damage to a big marble sink." In a post on thelibertines.org, Doherty refers to him as a "sex symbol in an eye patch."