Though groups rarely like to admit it, they often need outside help - someone who champions the band. It can be a Rock legend, manager or producer with impressive musical credentials and/or a track record for finding and developing new talent. Having such a person on board prods a record company to spend promotional dollars, which encourages the music press to write about the act. Pretty soon, if all works according to plan, the group gets a buzz going. Then the whole thing takes on its own momentum. But to kick-start the whole process a group usually has to do something fairly impressive.
Guitarist/vocalist Peter Doherty and guitarist/vocalist Carlos Barat started as an acoustic duo playing in London's King's Cross-area. In '02, they added bassist John Hassall and drummer Gary Powell. The group got picked up by Rough Trade where they released the double-sided UK hit single "What A Waster/I Get Along." That success attracted Mick Jones, former guitarist with the legendary Clash, who produced the group's rough-edged neo-Punk, '03 debut album, "Up The Bracket."
During the "Up The Bracket" sessions and the supporting tours Doherty's drug use became more pronounced - and troublesome. The Libertines traveled to New York to record their second album but the so-called "Babyshambles" sessions were abandoned.
Back in the U.K., Doherty was feeling decidedly snubbed. He'd planned a birthday party for Barat as sort of a "peace offering" but Barat passed on the event (on advice from friends to steer clear of Doherty's unpredictable drug-induced ways). In retaliation, Doherty failed to show up for the band's European tour. Tit for tat. A guitar tech filled in.
Barat soon refused to allow Doherty to perform with the band until he cleaned himself up. Now feeling distraught and angry (drugs are really great for sending someone on an emotional rollercoaster), Doherty broke into Barat's flat and was later arrested and charged with burglary.
Meanwhile, the Libertines single "Don't Look Back Into The Sun" ironically became the band's highest charting U.K. effort to date and they continued to perform without Doherty - using guitarist Anthony Rossomando (who later became a member of the Dirty Pretty Things).
Doherty was sentenced to six months in prison but that was reduced to two. Barat was waiting outside the prison when Doherty was released. Later that day, the group played an emotional reunion show at a pub in Chatham, Kent. It was later named NME's Gig Of The Year. That was followed by a successful U. K. tour. Everything back on track? Don't count on it.
Doherty and Barat were involved in several heated arguments during the group's sessions for their second album and had to be physically restrained on occasion by security personnel.
One of the more notable sidebars was Doherty's vocals on the Peter "Wolfman" Wolfe single "For Lovers." The track charted higher than any Libertines single.
With the second album completed Doherty went into rehab, then left, only to later return. Barat occupied himself with a weekly club night called Dirty Pretty Things (later to be the name of his band) at London's Infinity Club. Prior to a show one evening Doherty announced to the group he was headed for Thailand to get clean. This was the Libertines last set with all the original members for several years.
But a Thailand cure proved elusive. Doherty soon left the monastery where he was living and ventured to Bangkok to find drugs.
The Libertines, again with Rossomando, played concerts to promote the album and fulfill commitments.
In England once again, Doherty's troubles continued. He was arrested for possession of an engraved flick knife (an offensive weapon according to the law) purchased in Thailand as a birthday gift for Barat. Doherty pleaded not guilty and was given a suspended sentence.
The Libertines were less tolerant, not allowing Doherty onstage with them. However, they added that "when he cleans up his addictions he will be immediately welcomed back into the band." That didn't appear to be much of an incentive since Doherty, it appeared, was doing just fine as the frontman of Babyshambles.
From "The Libertines," the group's sophomore set, came the singles "Can't Stand Me Now" which chronicled the breakdown of the Doherty/Barat relationship, and "What Became Of The Likely Lads." The former went to #2 and the latter peaked at #9 on the U.K. charts.
Despite the success and critical praise, Barat, unwilling to continue as the Libertines without Doherty, disbanded the group and moved on to become the leader of Dirty Pretty Things.
They said it would never happen - and so did Doherty and Barat. But there was a Libertines reunion in '10 - six years after the band's reckless and unfortunate break-up. They took the stage at the Forum in Kentish Town for a 21 song set before an audience of 300. The show served as a "warm-up" for the band's concerts at the Leeds and Reading festivals just a few days later.
The Libertines reformed in '14 and rolled out "Anthems For Doomed Youth" the following year. It was their first album in over a decade.
2002 Up the Bracket
2004 The Libertines
2015 Anthems For Doomed Youth
Barat was cast in the unfortunate position of being Paul McCartney to Doherty's John Lennon. Barat had to carry the weight for his wigged out partner until it became intolerable. And then, true to form, when it all unraveled Barat was seen as the bad guy. Just like Paul.
The Libertines come close to the Clash at times but they also generate a load of garage snot-Rock. For those seeking no frills high-energy Rock, this is the ticket.
The Libertines debut outshines their sophomore set.