Over various points over the last month or so, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the NME archives broom cupboard. Housing every issue of NME ever printed, it’s a time warp where, if you open the right big blue bound book, The Others are cover stars, Kurt Cobain is alive and well, Har Mar Superstar has his own column and Alex Turner hasn’t heard of a thing called Clearasil.
It’s also where the entire story so far of The Libertines is documented in all its grotty glory. My task was to haul out the band’s appearances in NME for the new one-off Libertines mag out Friday (July 30) (or NME Icons: The Libertines, to give it its full title).
My obsession (along with NME news reporter Matt Wilkinson’s) with the band is a well-documented one in the NME office. I’ve often been accused of blind loyalty, or dressing up what could be seen as the tale of a band who failed to fulfil any kind of meaningful potential as something more mythical than it actually is.
But nose-diving into those big blue bound books made me realise that I’m right: the story of The Libertines is the greatest of a generation of British music fans. Namely, mine.
The arguments about the music can go on elsewhere – in my mind The Libertines made a frenetically classic British debut album and a second album full of truly great songs unfulfilled, and that in retrospect hasn’t aged well. But the story itself needs no mythologising to make it the greatest of our generation.
Liam and Noel are very funny, but Pete Doherty and Carl Barat’s partnership is the thing musical history is made of, their relationship symbolising the un-learnable magic that touches just a few bands each generation.
Pete Doherty is a source of constant frustration for his fans and followers – and he’s far from the artistic genius he presents himself as. But reading their two years and a bit of un-make-up-able interviews, highs and lows, sordid drug’n’fight tales and eventual reconciliation, has made me confident that I was dealing with a story on a par with that of the Sex Pistols or The Clash.
If you don’t believe me, read an interview with The Killers or Muse, then find a copy of this Libs mag and see if it changes your mind. If you’re still not convinced, then NME’s Matt Wilkinson’s got a bootleg skiffle version of ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ that definitely will…
Get the mag at NME.COM/store.