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The Libertines came, saw, recorded, conquered and fell apart over Pete Doherty’s drug habit and the mounting tension between him and Carl Barât. Ahead of their return to the stage next week, Lauren Murphy looks at how they won the hearts of a generation
THAT YEAR’S NME Yearbook declared that “2004 was a bittersweet year for the sons of Albion. Yes, they scored their highest-ever single placing when Can’t Stand Me Now reached No 2 in August, while their staggering, self-titled second album topped the charts. But, after several spells in rehab, founding singer/guitarist Pete Doherty was excommunicated from the band in July. It looks unlikely he will return.”
It was an irrevocable summation of one of the most polarising British bands in recent years, but an accurate one – until March 31st, 2010, that is. On that day, a press conference was held at London’s Boogaloo bar to confirm that, yes, the rumours were true: The Libertines – Doherty, his co-frontman Carl Barât, bassist John Hassall and drummer Gary Powell – would reunite to play at the Reading and Leeds festivals on August 27th and 28th. Their fee? Rumoured to be a whistle-through-the-teeth-inducing £1.2 million (¤1.5 million).
It’s a chin-scratcher. The Libertines have hardly been a band adored on a Beatles-like scale by the majority of the music-buying public (although their fanbase is renowned for being fiercely loyal), and during their relatively brief recording career they gained a bigger reputation for tabloid notoriety thanks to Doherty’s criminal antics.
As the rumours of in-fighting between Doherty and Barât gained momentum, so did the former’s drug habit. Studio sessions for their eponymous second album were fraught