Throughout this blog I have made several oblique references to Pete Doherty. In case you aren't familiar with him, and haven't been reading the papers lately, he is the ex- founder member of The Libertines, frontman of the band Babyshambles, a musician, songwriter and poet. He has also been heavily under the eye of the media for some time now, his escapades are reported almost daily in our newspapers and on television. He has been likened to Kurt Cobain and Sid Vicious, the new punk hope of this generation, a British icon, a genius with a death wish. He has also been again and again dragged through the eye of the gutter press, as "Potty Pete" or the "Druggie Boyfriend", due to his link with Kate Moss last year, and his infamous heroin and crack cocaine habits, numerous arrests, and spells in Pentonville prison.
In contrast, media attention for his music or his poetry has been slight, apart from within specialist music papers and magazines. Some would say that is because the 'phenomenon' of Pete Doherty is all just a whipped up media storm, and that at the eye of it, there isn't much of significance to tell, that he is overrated. It was even going round the internet recently that Pete Doherty was in fact an entirely media created fiction, and that he didn't exist in real life at all, but his part has in fact been played by an Elvis impersonator from Blackpool. But he continues to make records, play gigs, write for a poetry publication, and do the odd poetry reading.
The original catalyst that turned writing my own blog from an ambivalent idea into reality, was watching the "Killamangiro" video from Babyshambles, back in October last year. From that I felt inspired to write a piece ( which became in fact the first piece of writing on this blog) entitled "This Beautiful Hunger That Kills". I liked the title, drank some rum, and from there felt inspired to begin and name a blog after it.
I don't quite know what happened to me in those minutes watching that video, but I felt like I was staring into something profound, something I could not quite locate as either being inside or outside myself, something mysterious. A theme that has figured in my life in a major way ever since I can remember, a riddle, a coan, a bitter sweet truth, an inspiration, a thorn in my side. Something to do with creativity and something to do with destruction, and the line between them. In a sense, though I have many storylines and subplots running through my life experience, this is one of the biggies, one I am continuing to work out, despite knowing, on some level, that to work it out is ultimately impossible.
Lester Bangs tells a story of going to see his therapist. The therapist says to Bangs that the reason he thinks he is so obsessed with the sound of rock and roll music, the likes of Iggy and The Velvets, is because when Bangs was little, his Dad died in a factory fire. And he tells Bangs that he thinks that the feedback noise on all those songs reminds him of the sound of his father burning to death in that fire.
Somewhere, rock and roll, whether the spirit of it, or the music of it, has always figured big in my life. I grew up listening to punk and mod music from the age of seven, my tearaway sisters blasting it out at top volume every day and night without respite. I became fascinated and obsessed with 'alternative' music, heard The Velvet Underground's "Heroin" and "Waiting For The Man" when I was twelve, and nothing was ever the same again.
Family life was always dysfuntional. Violent outbursts, an absent bullying father, self destructive and aggressive sisters, no boundaries or stability. I became the little voice of sanity and order in my family from as young as i remember, dodging flying tea cups and holding my mother's desperate head while she wailed, was as common a part of my life as going to school. As was going to gigs, clubs, experimenting with drugs, from an early age. I lived with the motto that I wanted to try everything illegal before the age of sixteen. I did pretty well.
So I think when I hear certain music, I feel a sense of coming home, and the rock and roll life, with it's mixture of brilliance, blindness, genius, mess, rawness, chaos and addiction, reminds me of how I grew up.
But there is always more. The myth of the tortured poet, and the link between creativity and self-destruction, genius and madness, and my fascination with those themes, is not something I can simply boil down to my upbringing nor to some general psychological model, even if all those elements are there. It is a more mysterious thing, like duende, (something i have also alluded to in this blog), it can't ultimately be rationalised or explained, but has a life and a force of it's own, in fact is the force of life itself, and the wish for death, together, in battle or in union, in dangerous, glorious tension. Not everybody needs the stick of suffering to propel them to create, but most of the artists and poets and songwriters that I love, come from such a breed. And maybe I can say this - the more sensitivity and pain you have in your soul, the more, if you direct that away from destruction and towards creation, it can burn and become a fire of insight and power and beauty. And it's a double edged sword, and that edge is always a slippery one.
Pete Doherty's talents have largely been missed in the mass hysterial exposure. But the 'craziness' of his life, and it's witnessing by thousands of people, seems somehow a part of the picture. He has lurched from being utterly down on his backside, knocking, as it were, at death's door, to the utmost heights of success and brilliance, and back again. You couldn't make up a more impossible tale of highs and lows. And through it all, he has continued to make music, to inhabit that realm of the senses, in that which he himself calls a "complete infection with music and melody". And to me, that constitutes a rare found integrity and purity, amidst all the clear delusion and addiction that seems to be part and parcel of the story.
So this blog entry I am writing here, is partly to explore and explain to you, invisible reader, and to the mysterious universe as a whole (and possibly myself), more of what makes me tick, as a writer, an artist, a human. It is also because I want to, in some way, honour this person who has inspired me, my creativity, and this blog, as someone, who, whatever the rest of the stories and myths around him, is committed to writing and playing music, to breaking creative boundaries and conventions, and who has artistic integrity and spirit. Or to put it another way, to be true to being an artist, you really have to not give a fuck, to be utterly guided by your own drive of genius and not by what other people think. And whatever else, whatever drama and self delusion and evasion, whether or not you like his music even, somewhere I know this guy can walk the walk, and that he's for real. And that inspires me.
And for me, rock and roll is a love, a passion, not my only one, but a significant one. And I believe that when Pete Doherty sings "...I believe in love..", that he means it. Just as in my family, amid the flying cups and broken records, there was always music and singing and dancing and life, and a love so strong it could knock you off your chair.
some video clips: