There were times during the dark heroin-crazed mid-Noughties when we feared this day would never come, but – as sure as a dunderheaded drugs bust five minutes after a court acquittal – it’s happened. Pete Doherty has reached the distinguished old age of 34. It hasn’t been easy… Well, now and then it’s been way too easy, but on the whole the last 34 years have been a festival of peaks and troughs as our louche hero has clocked up stellar exam results and rather more cloudy blood test results. In the interest of balance, here side-by-side are a few of his more heady highs and grisly lows.
High – Giving Johnny Borrell the slip
Only messing, Johnny. The associated high was signing to Rough Trade as model student Doherty realised his rock star dreams and set himself and Carl Barât up as the new Lennon and McCartney/Jagger and Richards/Goss, Goss and Logan, inking a deal with the legendary indie at the end of 2001. Borrell was too busy pursuing the rock’n’roll dream in snow-white jeans to turn up to the label showcase.
All that Rough Trade cash went to good use as The Libertines’ debut album ‘Up The Bracket’ rocketed to, er, No.35 in the charts on the back of solid-gold steamers ‘Time For Heroes’ and ‘Boys In The Band’, and 10 more ramshackle, pissed-up belters. Pete and Carl traded vocals like Sonny and Cher across a debut that NME would later nail down at No.2 in its albums of the decade. The future looked rosy – the only thing that could derail The Libs now would be Pete getting hepped up on a toxic cocktail and burgling Carl’s flat.
Things had already taken a turn for the worse in early 2003, with Pete’s drug use getting out of hand and his side-project Babyshambles occupying more and more of his time. By the time he failed to show for an overseas tour, his berth on the good ship Libertines was looking shaky. On 25 July, with the Doherty-less band touring Japan, Pete broke into Carl’s flat and nicked an antique guitar, a laptop, a mouth organ, a CD player and more – and was sent down in early September.
Low – ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ closes the book
The Libertines managed to regroup – as they continue to even now – but they were about as sturdy as a wafer skyscraper. Although ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ was the NME’s best single of 2004, its triumphant was bittersweet as it told the Ballad of Pete and Carl in stark detail and ended up an epitaph. A low then – but going out on a high.
Operation Babyshambles was go, and first big single release ‘Killamangiro’ breached the Top 10. If Doherty could keep on the straight and narrow this band had legs. If, however, he sank further into a dissolute lifestyle with a supermodel girlfriend then the tits could only go one way: up. Still, in December 2004 there were even higher peaks to climb. Pete bagged a coveted Newsnight interview with Kirsty Wark.
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Their eyes met at a party in 2005 and it was hearts and flowers, happy ever after. Until Kate ditched him for the thousandth and final time in July 2007 as the tabloids wept salt tears, and we all mourned the demise of rock’n’roll’s somewhat tarnished golden couple. They were only together for a couple of years, but Pete still managed to get his collar felt for various drugs and driving offences at least a dozen times during that period. Moss must have the patience of Mother Teresa – a rare comparison.
High – Shotter’s Nation
In the few days he was actually out of custody, Pete managed to get together with his Babyshambles pals and record a second album, the surprisingly smart ‘Shotter’s Nation’ – NME’s 14th best album of 2007, only 13 places below Klaxons’ ‘Myths Of The Near Future’. Those were the days, eh? Watch out for third albums from both bands later this year. Put your house on it.
Pete eventually turned jailbird once again though, locked up for six months in May 2011 for cocaine possession following the death of filmmaker Robin Whitehead at the Hackney flat where she’d filmed Doherty smoking crack. Six weeks later he was out.
Out of the rat race, away from the pap race. Pete took up on-off residence in Paris four years ago, looking to find some respite from malign influences and the loving gaze of the press. Yep, Paris, boho paradise, where all the best rock stars go to clean up. Ain’t that right, Lizard King? Mind you – has Pete been making unwanted headlines recently? He still admits to using heroin but he’s now avoiding the catastrophic mishaps that have littered his career.
Low – Confession of a Child of the Century
Apart from this one, obviously. Pete’s big feature film debut – unveiled at Cannes last year – has enjoyed a paneling from the critics, with our hero’s acting skills likened to those of a kid in a nativity play or the gurning triumphs of those titans of stage and screen, Phil Collins and Sting. The kind of brickbats that would fell a man of less fearsome constitution, but not our Pete. He can survive anything.
Happy Birthday, old boy.