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Pete Doherty

+ {Babyshambles}

Rock music has served up a plethora of heroes and villains over the past half-century, but none that could fit both billings as much as the marmite-esque strummer/singer, Pete Doherty, leader of post-LIBERTINES alumni, BABYSHAMBLES. Whether one loves or loathes the Englishman in question, and that probably depends on your age and your intake of the powdered stuff, there’s no doubt the merits of Doherty – when he manages to surface with an album. Almost subconsciously working to become the next STRUMMER, or, indeed, VICIOUS, only time with tell if he’ll spiral from his “Killamangiro” fantasy status.
Born Peter Doherty on 12th March 1979, Hexham, Northumberland, his mother and father were both high up in the British Army. Teaching himself guitar at the age of 11 and, duly having a penchant for poetry (he won a competition and passed 4 A-levels at 16), Pete took up residence in his grandmother’s flat in London. Subsequently befriending fellow musician and university dropout Carl Barat (a one-time beau of Pete’s elder sister, Amy-Jo), the pair formed The LIBERTINES, in 1997. Although little was heard from the combo outside the confines of their noisy “Albion” flat, the advent of indie New Yorkers The STROKES, in 2001, paved the way for a raft of cross-Atlantic bands to subsequently emerge from out the shadows. The hype and glam of Doherty’s drug-related column inches and the commercial success of two albums in 2002 and 2004 respectively, The LIBERTINES became almost household names to indie buffs around the nation, but the relationship between Pete and Carl was straining under the pressures of touring and attendant partying. Meanwhile, Doherty was looking for a different band to augment his “Albion” days project he’d kick-started in 2003.
Together with drummer Gemma Clarke (of The Suffrajets), lead guitarist Patrick Walden and bassist Drew McConnell, PETER DOHERTY – as he was credited – delivered the eponymous `BabyShambles’ single into the Top 40 in spring 2004; a month previously he’d been credited on fellow Rough Trade-signed poet, Wolfman (Peter Wolfe), on the Top 10 chart hit, `For Lovers’. BABYSHAMBLES came into effect toward the end of the year on the equally effective, `Killamangiro’ single. Not long afterwards, Gemma thought it wise to bail, her vacancy filled by Adam Ficek.
Former CLASH/B.A.D. man Mick Jones – who’d worked on The LIBERTINES debut set – bravely took on production duties for a much-touted BABYSHAMBLES album, as the wildly erratic Doherty courted controversy by the day: seemingly endless drug-related brushes with the law and the media, painted bad boy Pete as the proverbial accident waiting to happen; an increasingly tragic figure with the needle and the damage already done. Nor did a shambolic duet of MARC BOLAN’s “Children Of The Revolution” (with Sir ELTON JOHN) under the media glare of Live8 help his cause.
While the bloody shambolic BABYSHAMBLES did eventually manage to get some product on the market (the single `Fuck Forever’ gate-crashed the Top 5), the delayed DOWN IN ALBION {*6} finally surfaced at the end of 2005; the spawned `Albion’ single also cracked the Top 10. Bigger news than the album’s disappointment was Pete’s paparazzi-frenzied relationship with supermodel Kate Moss (she featured on set opener, `La Belle Et La Bete’). Amid further class-A drug revelations, court appearances and general career threatening rumours, the engaged couple inevitably split in July 2007.
In stark contrast to winning the Naomi Award for “Worst Live Act” to Pete winning the er… “Sexiest Man Award” at the 2006 NME yearly, BABYSHAMBLES again found themselves in the Top 20, this time via a version of The CLASH’s `Janie Jones’, that raised readies for the late JOE STRUMMER’s “Strummerville” charity foundation. Guitarist Mick Whitnall was already in place for Walden when the group returned with their Parlophone Records debut, `The Blinding EP’.
Exhaustive column inches for Pete were put to one side again when album number two, SHOTTER’S NATION (2007) {*7}, hit the Top 5. Produced by Stephen Street, enthusiastic reviews umbrella’d some tabloid lacerations from the likes of the Times and the Independent, although they were very unlikely to affect Pete. Featuring The STROKES’ Albert Hammond, Jr., as guest guitarist, plus some words purchased from IAN BROWN (on `French Dog Blues’) and an au revoir from former fiancee, Moss (on minor hit, `You Talk’), highlight of the set had to be 60s-ish Top 10 smash, `Delivery’. The almost obligatory DVD/CD, OH! WHAT A LOVELY TOUR {*6}, was released the following June, and probably as much of interest to concert goers at Glasgow’s SECC than the rest of the nation.
Retaining Stephen Street, a solo PETER DOHERTY (not Pete) found some maturity in cheeky-chappy set, GRACE/WASTELANDS (2009) {*7}. Augmented by his ‘Shambles, plus GRAHAM COXON, the flamboyant and swashbuckling of old was missing from the raw and poetical set, while a song each with DOT ALLISON (`Sheepskin Tearaway’) and Peter Wolfe (`Broken Love Song’) – tipping his hat to Oscar Wilde – were almost autobiographical. Although it only landed him a Top 20 spot, while spawned 45s such as `The Last Of The English Roses’ failed to generate renewed interest in the man outside his decreasing circle of fans, `Arcady’ and the JOHN BARRY-esque `A Little Death Around The Eyes’ were heartfelt and emotional.
Fed up with hanging around for further notice to appear, Adam Ficek took off to embark on his sophomore Roses Kings Castles album, “British Plastic” (his first was an eponymous one in 2008), while his berth was duly filled by former SUPERGRASS-er Danny Coffey, and, in turn, STEREOPHONICS sticksman, Jamie Morrison. SEQUEL TO THE PREQUEL (2013) {*6} was again shrouded by mixed reviews and a quick-stop Top 10 peak chart position; only the guardians of toxic-tonsil troubadours, the NME, coming to Pete’s rescue as it portrayed the singer, up there, with the great songwriters of our generation. A long way from the classic riffs of The LIBERTINES’ “Can’t Stand Me Now” and “Up The Bracket”, only time will tell if the skanky ska of `Dr. No’, `Farmer’s Daughter’ and the ironically-titled flop, `Nothing Comes To Nothing’ will emerge as contenders for a Ivor Novello award – me thinks not.
Allowing himself little time to sparkle solo-wise after the riveting LIBERTINES comeback set (`Anthem For Doomed Youth’ in 2015), PETER DOHERTY steered his ship outside the safe-haven confines of the capital to record at Hamburg’s prestigious Clouds Hills studio. Not at all bad in its spontaneity and shambolic sprawl, HAMBURG DEMONSTRATIONS (2016) {*7} showcased the true romantic soul of the 37 year-old. Sadly, with its “demo”-styled title, several reviewers initially dismissed it out of hand, and arriving in early December – a time when virtually no-one is scheduled to release fresh material – it suffered a commercial backlash of sorts; peaking at No.61. `Kolly Kibber’, `Down For The Outing’, `Birdcage’ and versions1&2 of the intimate `I Don’t Love Anyone (But Not Just Anyone)’ – the second with an interpolation of “Johnny Comes Marching Home” – were worthy of the admission price. Apart from the odd bit of indulgence, the demo aspect came in the shape of the groovy `A Spy In The House Of Love’, while Pete was inspired by the year-on Bataclan attacks in `Hell To Pay At The Gates Of Heaven’. Whatever happened to the likely lad? It’s all ‘ere.
The rebel rouser turning 40 was marked by a new album in spring 2019.
PETER DOHERTY & THE PUTA MADRES {*7} was credited with a bona fide band (Jack Jones, Miki Beavis, Katia de Vidas, Michael “Miggles” Bontemps and Rafa Rueda), who’d helped him out on a retread of `Kolly Kibber’ in 2017. The 10-strong song set raised the bar once again for the swaggering, swigging sultan of London’s pill-popping indie fraternity. As with the majority of the man’s output, the hit or miss factor was par for the course – his trademark slur registering on best bits: `Who’s Been Having You Over’, `Paradise Is Under Your Nose’, `Someone Else To Be’ and the 7-minute `Travelling Tinker’; not forgetting their cover of The VELVET UNDERGROUND’s `Ride Into The Sun’.
© MC Strong 2006/GRD / rev-up MCS Sep2013-May2019

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