And so it’s come to pass that, without much fanfare, Filthy Macnasty’s, the key location for the creation of The Libertines, and in many ways their very heart and soul, is to close for good.
It was here that – long before The Libertines set music fans’ (and the rozzers’) hearts racing – that Pete n Carl rubbed shoulders with a crowd of a distinctly music and literary bent. In fact it was this varied mix of imbibers, talkers, artists, writers, poets, musicians and, yes, bullshitters that encapsulated much of what made The Libertines such a heady mix. They were playing here in the late 1990s and early 2000s, long before they got a record deal.
In the biography of The Libertines I wrote with ace photographer Roger Sargent (The Libertines: Bound Together), Filthy Mcnasty’s and its spirit is ever present.
Filthy Macnasty’s was a place that rightly earned a reputation from the early 90s as a home for literary types, busking musicians, vagabonds and storytellers. It was here you would find Will Self, Frank McCourt, Shane MacGowan, 60s’ merry prankster Ken Kesey, Irvine Welsh and Johnny Depp. All just having a pint: no airs and graces.
This was the base where Pete and Carl started plotting their escape from mundanity and it gave them the freedom, and maybe even the permission, to plan this adventure.
Just check out the wide-eyed dreamers in this video. Pete, Carl, Gordon Raphael and a host of others at Filthy MacNasties in 2002 recorded on Super 8 – it looks like something from a much earlier bygone age.
For the London of the late 90s/early 2000s Filthy Macnasty’s was a heady mix of the Algonquin, Bloomsbury, Eric’s, On The Road and on the piss. This was where The drumless Libertines met Gary (dressed in a fur coat in the summertime, naturally). This was where penniless dreamer Pete pulled pints and rubbed shoulders with Shane MacGowan for the first time. And this was where Pete N Carl returned in full guerrilla-gigging glory after the 1993 Freedom Gig.
I saw Pete and Carl play here twice, once with Alan McGee. That one was notable as Alan was just learning about (or coming to terms with?) the phenomenon he’d just started to manage.
And what is take the place of this – pub is too small a word – unique beast? This totem of intemperance? With crushing inevitability it is to be a… [fingers seizing up… cannot…type…this] a… GASTROPUB. So it’s out with literature and in with linguine; out with rock n roll and in with rocket; and out with dark ‘n’ dank and in with overdone lamb shank.
I love gastropubs; I’ve been to a few but, by god, I love rock n roll and literature a whole lot more. Even without The Libertines connection, Filthy’s was a rare beast: a corner of London where you could escape the city boys, the rush to make money, the need to get on, the need to always be trendy or cool. It was the place where, to paraphrase The Kinks, you could be not like anybody else.
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In Filthy’s you could imagine that you’d make a film; write a poem; be in a band and change music. Or imagine you could write a book about a band that would change music. It was, in short, a place where you could dream. But today, in London, there’s one less place to dream.