I was probably around 14 when I first discovered The Libertines. I think it was “What a Waster” and I think I heard it on, like, AOL radio. Or something like that. They had been, at that point, broken up for almost two years. I think.
Regardless, the mythology that comes along with a band like The Libertines means that, despite them having broken up, I was still able to completely immerse myself in all things Libertine. And I fucking did. Being a fan meant much more than following the bands that emerged, weak and shitty, from The Lib’s ashes—Pete’s Babyshambles and Carl’s Dirty Pretty Things. For me, being a fan meant….a whole lot of shit.
I feel weird saying a band “changed my life,” because it’s trite as fuck. But denying it would be untrue.
The Libertines were mine. In England they were huge; Pete was tabloid-ed all over the damn place, and NME was an acronym people understood. But not in suburban D.C., where I grew up. None of my friends knew who The Libertines were. We were 14, and they had broken up two years prior. No one gave a flying shit. And yet, I gave so many shits. I would read (but never participate) in The Libertines forum (that Doherty used to post on, when things were less crack-encrusted) every damn day. I watched/read countless interviews. Mostly with Pete. I had no school girl crush on the guy, but I wanted to engulf his brain. You’re thinking: “LOL THAT CRACKHEAD.” I’m thinking: “HE’S A GODDAMN POET.” I know I’m embarrassing myself, but it doesn’t matter. Because in order for you to understand why The Libertines (sorta, maybe) reforming in a “real” way is important, you need to understand how important these guys are to me. And to SO MANY PEOPLE across the Atlantic, too.
So the interviews. Doherty led me to Oscar Wilde, to Morrissey, to William Blake. The Libertines got me listening to Blur, The Smiths, New Order. I didn’t write poetry until after I read Doherty—and everyone who (he said) informed his work. These are the tangible things: The books on my shelf, the records in my crate, the writing in old journals. But there’s a lot more to it. The Libertines, like I said earlier, are a band with a mythology. (One that, after reading this, I thought had died along with the “reformation.”) But not at the time. Back then, thinking about riding the good ship Albion on over to Arcadia—that’s the stuff that really makes me say, ashamed but certain: The Libertines changed my life.
It’s difficult to articulate. I think, in essence, being a fan of The Libertines got me analyzing the merits of a hedonistic outlook on life. For good and for bad. And—thinking about that—led me to consider a lot of other things in a new way, too. The ideology attached to The Libertines informed my way of thinking in a fundamental way—and at a pivotal moment. And, truthfully, I believe that influence to be so integral to my development as a human, that pointing out the specific impact would be impossible.
So, now, about their kind of being back together. I’m holding tight (with bated breath), but here’s the deal:
Back in April, they announced they would be reforming for some big festivals. Pete said he was strapped for cash. Seemed fishy, seemed lame, seemed like the nail in the coffin that was The Libertines.
But they’ve since talked about playing more shows. About releasing new stuff. And, I started to think, that maybe this was for real. Maybe they aren’t teasing us this time. Maybe The Libertines are really getting back together.
So, this show. Their Hyde Park show. It was…magic.
One NME blogger described it: “…there were the little subtle signs that maybe the fractions that once existed within the band were healed, that this could be the real deal. Signs like Pete and Carl’s matching red, white and blue tape stuck to their right legs. Pete’s ‘What about Carl Barat?’ when relaying a tale about being told he’d got nothing to fly the Union Jack for. The pure joy on the duo’s faces when, as the last notes of ‘I Get Along’ played out, they flung their arms around each other and jumped around until they pulled each other to the ground. A quick burst of the hokey cokey and a spine-tingling recital of Siegfried Sassoon’s Suicide In The Trenches, delivered by Pete and Carl over one mic, faces almost burrowed into each other, capped things off with the feeling that this was just like the peak of The Libertines but on a grander scale.”
I got goosebumps reading that. Because it means that maybe, for the first time in my life, I’ll be a Libertines fan while The Libertines are an actual band.
Like I said, I’m crying.