Twitter Facebook RSS Feed
No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Saturday 25th March 2006

Pete Doherty: Last of the Rock Romantics by Alex Hannaford

Ebury, £16.99, pp.344

Does the world really need another book about Pete Doherty? "Junkie Pete" has already been the subject of two biographies and his multi-volume diaries--Books of Albion--are available for free on the Internet. That seems more than enough attention for a modestly talented singer-songwriter whose principal claim to fame is that he may or may not be going out with Kate Moss.

This poses a problem for Alex Hannaford, an experienced music journalist who's saddled himself with the task of writing this book. You get the impression that, deep down, he knows Doherty isn't really worthy of a full-scale biography, but he feels obliged to justify his choice of subject matter nevertheless. Thus, Doherty is "one of the most charismatic individuals, not just in rock, but of his generation" and The Libertines, his short-lived band, are "so closely connected with England's capital" that they've become "as much of a London mainstay as...The Jam, The Clash and The Sex Pistols". When Max Carlish, a Channel 4 documentary maker, is allowed to watch Doherty composing song lyrics while "chain-smoking heroin" he knows he's "in the presence of genius".

Can any of these claims possibly be true? The Pete Doherty who emerges from these pages is a self-absorbed, not very bright 26-year-old whose only real talent is for self-promotion. When another documentary-maker, this time from the BBC, asks Doherty a question that he regards as "inappropriate" he responds by breaking a glass, cutting his own chest, kicking the camera over and beating up the cameraman. Such outrage over the invasion of his privacy is a little hard to take from Doherty given that he has often sold stories about himself to the tabloids.

Hannaford gamely tries to defend such antics by claiming Doherty is a tortured soul and comparing him to a host of romantic poets, including Byron, Keats, Shelley, Rimbaud and--most ludicrously of all--Emily Dickinson. But Hannaford's heart isn't in it. Byron may have been somewhat dissolute, but then he did write Don Juan. Excusing Doherty's bad behaviour on the grounds that he's composed a few top 10 hits, by contrast, seems a bit of a stretch. Remember, this is the man who vomited in front of 4,000 people at a Norwegian rock festival and then pelted the crowd with champagne bottles.

With no direct access to "Potty Pete", and a limited number of poetic geniuses to compare him with, Hannaford is quickly reduced to padding out the biography with yard after yard of extraneous material. For instance, we're told that Dad's Army--one of Doherty's favourite television programmes--was "a comedy about the Home Guard during the Second World War", while David Letterman, who's show Doherty appeared on in 2002, "has been a mainstay of American television since the 1980s". After informing us that Doherty was sentenced to six months for burglary in 2003, Hannaford embarks on an endless digression in which he painstakingly records every instance of a rock star being sent to prison.

To be fair, Hannaford is quite good on why it is that so many modern-day folk heroes feel obliged to self-destruct on the public stage--and the sections in which he dissects this rock 'n' roll archetype are the best parts of the book. But it's a bad sign when the filler material in a biography is actually more interesting than the book's subject.

Last year, Blur's Damon Alburn joked that he'd like to launch a new protest movement: Make Doherty History. "Junkie Pete" was smoking crack in the lavatories when it was announced that the Libertines had won Best New Band at the 2003 NME Awards and if he carries on in that vein it won't be long before Alburn's wish is granted. But I suspect that, like most tabloid sensations, Pete Doherty will disappear in a less dramatic way, simply fading into the background as another drug-addled demon occupies his place in the national psyche. Come in number 666. Your fifteen minutes are up.

[ FIXED LINK ] Bookmark and Share

Twitter “Hate crime” link  (1 hour ago)


Why the left keeps losing by John Gray -
The closing of the conservative mind: Politics and the art of war by John Gray -
Cambridge and the exclusion of Jordan Peterson by Nigel Biggar -
The shocking truth about Jordan Peterson by Wesley Yang -
The intellectual dark web by Bari Weiss -
How identity politics is harming the sciences by Heather Mac Donald -
The fall of the German Empire by Ross Douthat -
How Tom Wolfe became Tom Wolfe by Michael Lewis - Vanity Fair
The neuro-diversity case for free speech by Geoffrey Miller -
The Age of Outrage by Jonathan Haidt -
The Warlock Hunt by Claire Berlinski -
Is classical liberalism conservative? by Yarom Hazony -
The Implosion of Western Liberalism by Patrick Lee Miller -
The Eton of the East End - Daily Mail
The reactionary temptation by Andrew Sullivan -
The book that scandalised New York intellectuals by Louis Menand -
To understand Britain today, look to the 17th Century by Adrian Wooldridge -
The crisis in France by Christopher Caldwell -
A Visit to Michaela School by Patrick Alexander -
Why parenting may not matter by Brian Boutwell -
Trump Establishment's Cultural Significance Explained by Michael Wolff -
Branching histories of the 2016 referendum by Dominic Cummings -
Putin's Real Long Game by Molly K McKew -
The Flight 93 Election by Publius Decius Mus -
How the education gap is tearing politics apart by David Runciman -
What's wrong with identity politics by Graeme Archer -
Grammars and the grain of truth by Jonathan Porter
Anti-Brexit: Britain's new class war by John O'Sullivan -
The English Revolt by Robert Tombs -
Democracies end when they are too democratic by Andrew Sullivan -
Human beings really are making progress by Steven Pinker -
What ISIS really wants by Graeme Wood -
A society ripe for Submission by Douglas Murray -
Why I'm a Conservative Teacher by Jonathan Porter -
Corbyn's Inconvenient Truth – He wanted the IRA to win -
Why I've become Tory scum by Tony Parsons -
Inside Westminster's free school -
Robert Conquest obit -
Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite – it's so much worse than that -


Andrew Lilico
Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
Bagehot's Notebook
BBC News
BBC Sport
Benedict Brogan
Brendan O'Neill
Bruce Anderson
Coffee House
Conservative Home
Damian McBride
Damian Thompson
Dan Hodges
Daniel Hannon
Ed West
Frank Furedi
Guido Fawkes
Harry Phibbs
Iain Dale
Iain Martin
James Delingpole
James Wolcott
Joe Murphy
John Rentoul
Labour List
Mark Steyn
Matt Drudge
Mehdi Hasan
Melanie Phillips
Michael Wolff
Nick Cohen
Nick Robinson
Nikki Finke
Paul Waugh
Peter Hitchens
Political Betting
Right Minds
Rob Long
Rod Liddle
Sophy Ridge
Stephen Pollard
The Arts Desk
The Corner
The Daily Beast
The First Post
The Omnivore
The Onion
Tim Shipman
Tim Stanley
Tom Shone


AA Gill
Aidan Hartley
Allison Pearson
Allister Heath
AO Scott
Boris Johnson
Charles Moore
Cosmo Landesman
Daniel Finkelstein
David Brooks
Fraser Nelson
George Monbiot
Giles Coren
Henry Winter
James Delingpole
Jan Moir
Janan Ganesh
Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Warner
Jim White
Jonathan Freedland
Lloyd Evans
Manohla Dargis
Martin Samuel
Mary Ann Sieghart
Matthew d'Ancona
Matthew Norman
Maureen Dowd
Michiko Kakutani
Owen Jones
Patrick O'Flynn
Paul Krugman
Peter Bradshaw
Peter Oborne
Philip Collins
Polly Toynbee
Quentin Letts
Rachel Johnson
Rod Liddle
Roy Greenslade
Tim Montgomerie
Trevor Kavanagh
UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on

  • Buy the book on

  • UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on

  • Buy the book on

  • Audio Book Cover

  • Buy the audio book from
    Whole Story Audio
  • DVD Cover

  • Buy the DVD from

  • Buy the DVD from

  • IMdb Page on the film