Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running A Label - Alan McGee (2013)
Chapter 20. THE LIBERTINES
It was exciting to imagine how my new record company could be. Creation had become as corporate as a major by the end and I wanted to try to recapture some of the fun and energy of the label’s first days, when we had been a small gang filled with passion. We had six months between the end of Creation and the start of Poptones, during which I’d kept busy with Malcolm for Mayor. Poptones was started with six people, with Joe Foster as a partner and the head of A&R, the very man who I’d first set up Creation with. (Dick Green went with Mark Bowen to start Wichita, which he still runs to this day, and which has had lots of success with Bloc Party, the Cribs, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.) I was more and more interested in the internet. Joe Foster and I had been doing internet radio broadcasts at the end of Creation - great fun - and I wanted Poptones to be pioneering in the way it used the internet.
The initial idea for Poptones was exciting but too ahead of its time: a purely digital label. A website, MP3 downloads, a community and straight to the consumer without the need for record shops. I thought we could change the whole model. We were trying to do iTunes before iTunes had taken off. But the technology and the rest of the industry were lagging behind, and so we ended up pressing records as usual. Our first record was Seventeen Stars by the Montgolfier Brothers, a baroque, cinematic classic that almost no one has ever heard.
In September 2000 my daughter Charlie was born in the Portland hospital. We had music playing and she chose to come out to ‘Higher Than The Sun’. It was an amazing moment. Watching a child being born and growing up humbles you. I was determined to be there for her, that this time things would go right. She’s been the apple of my eye ever since.
Our first big band was the Hives in 2002. I saw them on German TV first actually, on Viva 2. I loved them and so did my young colleagues Ian Johnson and Al Hake, who knew every band known to man. It was just my thing, high energy garage rock. They found out they had two albums out but had only sold about 600 records worldwide. We put an album together from the two they had put out already and called it Your New Favourite Band. I chose the single, ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’, and that became their big record that made them famous. We broke them through TV shows, through the four biggest music shows in the UK including Later … with Jools Holland. Ended up selling about 400,000 copies. It was a hell of a start.
But ultimately Poptones never became what I’d hoped it would be, a forward looking company with the old Creation spirit. We didn’t have the infrastructure and so we ended up doing a deal with Telstar. This was all right for a while; we sold another 200,000 Hives records.
During this time I missed out on selling 4 million records, something my colleague Ian probably still resents me for. He rang me up and said, ‘Alan, I know this isn’t your kind of thing, but I think they’re going to be big and we should sign them.’ It was a band with a sixteen-page feature in Dazed & Confused. ‘Go on, put them on,’ he said. It sounded pretty good to start with, a bit glam, a good riff, but then the vocals came in, a super camp, ultra-high-pitched falsetto: I believe in a thing called love! I just burst out laughing when I heard it.
‘It’s going to sell, it’s going to sell. Let’s do it,’ Ian said.
‘What are they called?’ I asked.
‘The Darkness,’ he said.
So I did what I normally do when I need musical advice. I called up Bobby Gillespie and played it to him down the phone. He had the exact same reaction as I had, and started laughing his head off when he heard the singing. When I heard that I knew I couldn’t sign them. I thought of the list of the great bands I’d worked with being topped off with a band called the Darkness. We had them ready to sign. Ian had found them. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Ian’s their manager now. I’m sure they still fill decent sized venues and make a good living from it.
At the same time, I was tackling one of the hardest challenges I ever faced: managing the Libertines. It’s a sad story.
I know I’m a good manager of bands. My skill has always been knowing how to convert things into cash, and this is why I still get offers to manage some of the biggest acts around. There are bands approaching me now who’ve been at the top of the industry for years, and when they look at their bank accounts they can’t understand why they’re so low. This is why they want me to come in. I’m ambitious and I’m not scared to ask for what I think a band is worth.
But the Libertines were something else. I still feel I could have done so much for them. My failure to get the best out of Pete Doherty is one of the things that I truly regret. Even though the album I worked on with them, The Libertines, was a number one, sold a million copies, and became their biggest ever record, it still feels to me like I have unfinished business with them; I never took the band to their full potential. I couldn’t exert enough influence on Pete. Pete sober would be the biggest rock and roll star in the world, whether he was in the Libertines, or Babyshambles, or something else. I think his better bet is Babyshambles, simply because they all like each other, and would be a better support mechanism to each other. Whether Carl and he would make a better songwriting team, who can say?
He’s got everything. Songs, lyrics, attitude. He’s so sharp, so quick. He could be monumental. And he’s still young, only thirty-four at the time of writing. When I was managing him he was only twenty-two.
But he’s the most nihilistic man I’ve ever met, and in the end I didn’t know how to reach him. I don’t think we’re ever going to find out how great he could have been.
I first became aware of the Libertines in 2002 when I was running my night Death Disco at the Nottingham Hill Arts Club (more on this later).
James Endeacott had signed the Libertines to Rough Trade - Rough Trade distribution had gone bust a decade ago but Rough Trade records were back with a bang after James had signed the Strokes for the UK. James gave Danny Watson at Rough Trade a copy of ‘What a Waster’ to play at the club. Straight away it made me stand up and take notice. I started playing it myself when I was DJing. I loved the lyrics, the energy, the attitude.
It turned out that before they signed to Rough Trade the band had been trying to get through to speak to me for ages at Poptones but no one had let them through. One of the problems with Poptones was that there were too many train-spotters there who thought they knew everything about music. These reprobates had been turned away every time because no one thought they were for real.
So I was a fan. I dropped by the studio when they were recording their great first album, Up the Bracket, in 2002. Pete Doherty and Carl Barât were the two front men and guitarists, two best friends and worst enemies who’d been running riot in London since Pete’s sister introduced them. They wrote all the songs together and the lyrics were brilliant, very British, hedonistic and cocky. ‘It’s to the top of the world or the bottom of a canal,’ Doherty said to Barât and both outcomes were equally possible. The bassist was John Hassall, brilliant, handsome, but told to stay in the background and let Pete and Carl shine. Their first manager Banny Poostchi knew they were the stars of the show who could make them massive. Gary Powell was a great drummer, originally from America, who joined the band in 2001.
The album was produced by Mick Jones from the Clash and he invited me to the album sessions because he knew I liked the band. As soon as I got there Pete Doherty dragged me into a side room and asked if I’d sign his friend’s band. He was very charming, kept calling me Mr McGee, but I knew straight away it was an act.
Banny Poostchi had done a great job managing the band (and dealing with what I was about to have to deal with) but she resigned in 2003, and then James Endeacott started chasing me to be their manager. Pete Doherty had previously called me up and asked me to be his manager when it looked inevitable that the band was going to split, but I’d turned him down despite being tempted. Pete was already addicted to heroin and crack and was about to plead guilty to burgling Carl Barât’s house. He’d kicked Carl’s door down and nicked his stuff. Pete and Carl were so combustible together: they were like fire and petrol. If you put them in a room together you got explosive music, but there was always the chance someone was going to get hurt.
After a lot of encouragement from James Endeacott, I caught a taxi down to Crystal Palace where Pete was staying at his sister’s place. Just as I was getting into the taxi, James said to me, ‘Good luck. I’ll be praying for you.’
I nearly jumped straight out. He’d persuaded me to get a fifty-quid taxi miles away in South London and now he was telling me my life was in danger!
I liked Pete immediately when I arrived. Put on your five favourite records, he challenged me. I put on five Beatles songs. Put on your five favourites, I challenged back. He played me five Chas ’n’ Dave records in a row! He was very funny, we got on well.
I was the first person who told him he was going to go to prison. It was obvious, he’d burgled a house. You have to do time.
‘No one else is saying I’m going to prison,’ he said. He was worried but couldn’t really believe it would happen.
‘You’re going to prison,’ I told him again.
The next Monday the judge sent him down for six months.
He served two months of his sentence. On the day he was released from prison, he was met at the gates by Carl Barât. They hugged and made up - although that was nowhere close to being the end of the animosity between them.
I was in New York on the day of his release. I didn’t want to manage them! Everyone had told me they were bad news, pure chaos. But James had kept on at me: ‘You’re the only man who can do it.’ They thought if I could handle Primal Scream’s drug intake and self-destructiveness then I might have a chance of handling the Libertines.
This was in the two years when I’d started drinking again. I had a taste of red wine at the beginning of 2002, and I went straight back on the sauce again until I packed it in for good in 2004 when Kate gave me a yellow card and told me she wouldn’t be married to a drunk. (I haven’t touched a drop since.) But I was still drinking then, over in New York with my friend Nik Leman at Tribeca Grand. James Endeacott was on the phone: ‘Pete’s out - you have to come to the freedom gig!’
‘I’m in New York!’
‘Get a plane!’
But when I did get back to England I couldn’t resist any more. Pete Doherty wanted me there, and he was such an exciting talent. Even Geoff Travis, with whom I’ve never had a good relationship, wanted me to come and manage them. ‘You’re the only one who can do it,’ I kept hearing, and it was too much of a challenge to resist.
When I first met Carl Barât he was wary of me. He was a bit macho. Someone from the entourage annoyed me and I threatened him. Then someone from the entourage annoyed Carl and Carl threatened him. It was a bit pathetic, but with that out of the way Carl really opened up. He’s a lovely, kind man, and I loved him straight away. The challenge for me now was to find a way to heal his relationship with Pete Doherty and to put them in a room together to write songs. I had a great idea: I’d take them to the house I’d bought in the Welsh countryside, get them away from the temptations of London, and they’d write the next album in a nice peaceful setting.
I took them to the house I live in now, which I’d bought back in the mid-1990s when I was first seeing Kate. I’d bought her a car as a present. It was a little black car; that’s how much I know about cars. It was a sports car and she was a bit embarrassed about driving it. There she was, a good-looking woman in a flash car - a man in a white van threw a sandwich at her once. I’ve never learned to drive and so in some way I suppose the car was a present for me too, as it meant Kate could drive us out of London to the country. I’d bought her a cottage in a village called Crickhowell we could go to - I guess I must have been quite serious about her. Well, I know I was.
One day she asked me if I’d like to go to this bohemian little town, Hay-on-Wye, with loads of bookshops. I’d never heard of the place but it sounded fun, so we drove out there. It was the middle of the summer, August.
Hay is a weird little place. I was looking around and thinking, Yeah, I fucking love it here. I just had that feeling, I can’t explain, like I was being energized by the place.
We walked past the estate agent, and I looked in the window. There was this big fuck-off house with eleven acres advertised for £350,000. Offer accepted.
‘Can we go and see it?’ I asked.
‘Why?’ Kate asked. ‘Even if you wanted to buy it, and you don’t, it’s already been sold.’
‘Can we go and see it?’ I asked again. (I’m thinking Led Zeppelin rock and roll mansion.) This is not long after me banking the big chunk of Sony money I got in 1996.
So we went in and I managed to persuade the estate agent to ring up and arrange a viewing. We were shown in by a posh couple. The place was a wreck, an absolute state.
The posh couple, who turned out to be all right in the end, asked, ‘What do you do?’
‘I’m in the music business,’ I said.
They found this hilarious. Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha! A bit patronizing, you know. I was thinking, You cunts. Very good.
So I had a good look round. The place probably needed hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of work to make it liveable. But I just had this wonderful feeling about the place. I could imagine being completely relaxed there, on top of a hill, looking down over a Welsh valley.
I’ve got this great lawyer Kate Moss told me about, Howard Granville, who can buy houses in a day. He somehow cuts through all the shit. Kate Moss can beat anyone to buy a house because she found this amazing guy. It normally takes months. I don’t know what he does. Perhaps he doesn’t read the papers, but that doesn’t seem very safe, so he must super-read the papers, who knows? He can put them through in a day.
Kate could see the look in my eye. She said to me, ‘Please don’t buy it.’ She’d only been going out with me for a couple of years, and we were always falling out at this point. ‘Please don’t buy it. Please don’t buy it.’
‘Don’t worry, I won’t buy it,’ I said.
So the next day I phoned up the estate agent. ‘How much is the bid?’
‘I’ll pay £370,000.’
‘Sold to you, Mr McGee!’
I told him I’d have all the legal stuff in order tomorrow and buy it then. The estate agent dude thought I was lying.
I phoned up Howard. On Thursday the place was mine. We had looked round it first on the bank holiday Monday.
I phoned up Kate then. ‘I bought the house.’
‘I bought the house. It’s mine.’
‘Yeah, I bought it. Will you do it up for me?’
So, after a bit of persuading, she did. It took her two years. Kate and I got married in 1998 and it was ready in 1999. She started doing it up in 1997.
And I just love the place. The solitude. The view over the hills. I don’t have to see anybody I don’t like. It’s the island that Aleister Crowley speaks about: find an island and fortify it.
No matter what happens, I’ll never move from here. There’s a ley line under us, Strata Florida, which runs straight through the house, all the way from Glastonbury to Aberystwyth castle, with us in the middle. When I bought it, I just saw the house as a holiday home. I wasn’t done with London yet, with the music industry. I was still burning to do something that was as fun as the early years.
And it was to this idyllic country retreat that I took Pete Doherty and Carl Barât.
I’ll give Geoff Travis his props. He phoned me up privately beforehand and said, ‘Do you know what you’re getting involved with here?’
I said, ‘I’ll be fine, I’ve had Oasis.’
‘Alan,’ he said, ‘this is not Oasis, this is way beyond anything you saw with them. Are you sure you want to take them to your house?’
I took the warning but thought he was maybe being a bit soft. And the first two days went quite well. They were talking, getting on, playing guitar and singing. I always saw Doherty as having the best initial ideas for the songs, but then Carl would come in and add something that made them better. Carl is more disciplined, adds some order to Pete’s shambolics. It’s a dynamite songwriting relationship, but unfortunately it’s a dynamite relationship full stop.
Pete would be wandering around my house, putting all my first editions in his bag (he’s a mad klepto when he’s on the gear); Carl would be following him around slowly taking them out of his bag and putting them back on the shelves, because Carl’s a good guy.
I went to sleep on the Wednesday, leaving them together, listening to ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ on the stereo.
At quarter to ten the next morning, I was sitting in the lounge talking to the office when Carl came in. For about five seconds I thought he was wearing a Halloween mask, that it was a practical joke. And suddenly I realized that he wasn’t wearing a mask, that it was his actual face.
His face was completely covered in dried blood, but what really shocked me was that one of his eyes was hanging completely out of the socket.
They’d had an argument, over a girl, I think, and said some awful things to each other. It’s a real love-hate relationship - because they were so intimate and shared everything they know all of each other’s secrets and exactly how to wound each other the deepest. When Carl went back to his room he headbutted the sink, twenty or thirty times, smashed his face up and went to sleep. He did £400 of damage to my sink and nearly lost an eye.
I thought Pete had done it to him. I thought he was going to end up back in prison again.
I phoned up the farmer who rented some of my fields and got him to drive us to Hereford hospital. Of course, when I came in to the hospital with a guy looking like that, I was getting asked some pretty interesting questions. No one believed that someone could do this to himself. They were taking him to the side trying to get him to admit that I’d beaten him up. We must have seemed suspicious because we didn’t want to tell them Pete was staying at my house. He’d only just got out of prison and everyone would have thought it was him. And we knew the press would have a field day if they’d got hold of it. In the end Carl confessed he’d done it to himself.
So that was my introduction to managing them, and that was the end of the songwriting sessions, two days in. I had to take Carl to Harley Street and pay for a specialist to look at his eye. He would have lost it if I hadn’t done that.
We tried again to put Pete and Carl together to write some songs in Paris. I wasn’t going to go with them this time, but Carl came in to see me looking really anxious. He was on the edge of some serious drug problems himself and was worried he was going to fall over the edge hanging out with Pete in Paris. So I offered to come with him and be his chaperone.
The look on Pete’s face when he answered the door in Paris was classic: Oh no, the manager’s here. It was the most disappointed look I’d ever seen.
The next day me and Carl went out and got absolutely pissed together in Paris. We met a band called the Parisiennes, who recognized us, and ended up back at a supermodel’s house who Pete had made friends with. There was a tray going around with every kind of drug known to man. I knew then that I was never going to take drugs again, because I was out of my face on booze, and presented with every possible drug going, and I still didn’t want any.
So we had fun, but there wasn’t a great deal of songwriting going on. It was quite a quiet carriage on the way back home on the Eurostar and I suddenly noticed a funny smell just as we went into the tunnel. I turned round and there was Pete with his crack pipe lighting up. This really was going to be a challenge.
When we got back I booked them for three consecutive nights at the Forum. They hadn’t been doing very big gigs so far, and I was trying to prove a point, that they were a bigger group than Rough Trade thought they were. They had such committed fans. If they were a cult band I knew they were a massive cult band. And we sold the gigs out quite easily.
One of the problems with booking gigs for them was having the anticipation for them undermined all the time by Pete’s guerrilla gigs. Pete was incredibly clever in the way he used the internet to talk to his fans - he’d post demos, chat to them and declare sudden gigs in his flat. He’d do these gigs for his drug money and charge a tenner at the door.
I’d booked them three consecutive nights at Brixton Academy by then, at 5,000 people a night. And to try to stop Pete from doing his guerrilla gigs I’d put him in the smallest flat imaginable. It was big enough for a bed and very little else. But somehow he’d still manage to fit fifty people in there on some nights. He’d do two gigs a night, make a grand and run off into the night to spend it all on crack.
They were such a shambles, Pete especially. On the Tuesday before their three-night run at Brixton Academy, Pete advertised another of his little gigs for that night - Meet at Whitechapel station at 7 p.m. He managed to rope Carl into doing it with him.
I saw Carl the next day, looking incredibly pissed off. ‘What happened?’ I asked. ‘Only five people turned up,’ he said. It sums the Libertines up perfectly, playing to 15,000 people at the weekend and five on the Tuesday before.
I was very involved in the making of the second album. Rough Trade, though they’ll deny it, had pretty much handed them over to me by then. People were becoming more concerned about whether Pete was going to die than about whether or not he’d make another album. But I got them in the Metropole studio and for two months they recorded there.
It wasn’t a normal recording session at all. I had to hire two twins as bodyguards, each seven feet tall and three feet wide, mainly to keep Pete and Carl from killing each other. One was Pete’s and the other was Carl’s: whenever it kicked off between them the twins would pick up their Libertine and carry him to the opposite end of the room. Pete and Carl’s feet would be pedalling around in the air, trying to kick out at the other.
For all of the two months, I think Pete showed up about six times. The hardest job I had was getting him to surrender the songs he’d written. I think he knew then that the relationship between him and Carl was unworkable and he was trying to save his songs for his next band. He really didn’t care at all about the new album and if it was up to him it would have been filled with B-sides. He was at his worst stage, staying up every night, never eating.
I’d heard his new songs though - from the demos he’d post online - and I thought they were great. So when Pete arrived in the studio I’d wait until just after he’d done whatever he’d done in the toilets and say, ‘Why don’t we try this one with the band, Pete?’ He’d go along with it then and we got some of the best songs of the second album that way, ‘The Man Who Would Be King’, ‘What Katie Did’, and ‘Music When the Lights Go Out’. That was what saved the album. We got versions of the new songs really quickly, because the rest of the band were all such great musicians. John Hassall was one the best bassists I’d ever worked with, he was as good as Paul McCartney, and Gary Powell was an amazing drummer too. Carl’s got a knack for really catchy guitar lines and John would quickly work out what to play alongside them and so it didn’t really matter what Pete did on top with his guitar, or whether he was in a fit state to play it. Although, to be honest, you could give Pete ketamine and he could still play guitar; he has the constitution of an ox.
Mick Jones was a great producer, he was the vibe, kept the atmosphere going. I was the logistics, suggesting songs to record, stopping Pete and Carl from killing each other and trying to keep the hangers-on out of the studio. (Carl had as many of those as Pete; it was competitive. If Pete brought five one day Carl would bring six the next.) Rough Trade were paying for the session but were a bit petty. They were complaining about food bills. Food bills! It was a miracle these people were alive and they were concerned about food bills. Pete probably hadn’t eaten for weeks anyway.
I think I did the best job I could have done on getting that second album into shape. Before I got Pete to contribute those extra songs we were heading to a really disappointing follow-up to their debut. The first album’s definitely a better album, but the second has some great songs on it and sold a lot more copies. It’s not a bad achievement for a band with a songwriting partnership who could barely talk to each other by then. I couldn’t repair the band but even sticking them together with Sellotape was an achievement: they were always going to come apart again.
They were too much even for me, with my experience of the Jesus and Mary Chain and Primal Scream and the Gallagher brothers and Kevin Shields. I realized I’d taken on more than I could handle on the British tour we went on. It was spring, March 2004. Each night I had genuinely no idea if we’d be able to play the next night on the tour. Each gig was like Dunkirk. We picked Doherty up at the beginning of that tour with one sock on, one sock off, no trousers. We’d been looking for him and found him in a crackhouse. He was in no state to walk so we wrapped him in a carpet and carried him into the van. Then we bought him some clothes on the way to Birmingham to play the first gig.
The next night, in Manchester, staying at the Britannia Hotel, Pete decided he was going to do a Keith Richards. He was with a Liverpool band at the time, the Bandits. We were all standing around in the hotel room. Pete was smacked off his tits and picked up this crap old TV. He staggered over towards the window and hurled it at it, but it hit the wooden frame in the middle, bounced back, hit him in the face and knocked him out cold.
I was sat over him, slapping his face - ‘Are you alive?’ I was quite worried. He was knocked out for about five minutes. Everyone else in the room was freaking out, going, ‘He’s fucking dead!’ I was thinking how ironic it would be if it wasn’t the drugs that killed him but the rock and roll.
I had some great times with the Libertines. Mad, mad moments. They were great fun to be with. But it was so hard to manage them. It wasn’t just the drugs - it was Carl and Pete’s relationship, how intense it was, how volatile and damaged.
One of the things that really helped blow that band up was the support from the lads, the football fans. I suggested when Nick Love was filming The Football Factory that ‘What a Waster’ would make a perfect song for the soundtrack. Phonogram got in touch with me and asked me to find them music that ‘sounded like acid house for 1998’, whatever that meant. Can you sort it for us? I put in Mogwai, who I was managing then, to soundtrack the end of a blow job scene, and ‘What a Waster’ to soundtrack a scene where little thieves nick a character’s phone and get kicked off the bus. Very Libertines. The central scene of the film really. The DVD sold 600,000 copies and suddenly all those football fans were interested in us.
We delivered the album, The Libertines, and then James Endeacott told me my next job was to try to get Pete sober. Well, that was clear to everyone at the time. It was Pete’s business if he wanted to take drugs, but we all really thought he was going to die if he kept it up. He was so skinny that he looked malnourished. He was hanging around with Peter Perrett, an old punk and the lead singer of the Only Ones in the 1970s, a complete smack and crack fend back in the day. I remember a gig they’d played together: Pete came out of the toilet and there was a mirror and a doorway next to each other. Pete tried to walk straight through the mirror and then slid down the wall. It was at that point I realized I didn’t trust him to still be alive in a month. We all just thought we were going to lose him. It was really sad.
So we tried to rehab him in the Priory. I picked him up in a crackhouse, in bed with a girl, as ever. Hang on a minute, I’ve just got to chase this, he says, and finished burning a load of heroin, sucked it all up and blew it straight in my face. I couldn’t move for about fifteen minutes. I could taste the heroin. My mind was floating off. I had to stick my head out of the window of the room we were in. Finally I landed back on earth and we took him off to the Priory.
A week later his mum rang me up to tell me he’d escaped. I found him in a crack hotel in the East End and then we put him back in the Priory again. The road leading to the place is called Rocks Lane and we found lots of rocks of crack on the back seat after we’d dropped him off. After eight days he clucked again and left. It was gutting. I knew what potential he had, how he could be the biggest star in the world. I still think he could. The Stones are too old. Bono’s going blind, Chris Martin’s a geography teacher. If the Libertines or Babyshambles came back with a straight Pete Doherty, or a straighter Pete Doherty, not totally sober, just functional, a Doherty that’s transportable - it would be a clean-up job. Nearly all the world could be his. They won’t let him into America, that’s obvious. For now anyway. But once people get clean and have stayed clean for a while, then you can start to get lawyers in.
But he’s done it over and over again. Got clean for a while then clucked. It’s the heroin that’s the real problem, and he loses it completely when he’s taking it.
While we were trying to get Pete clean we had touring commitments we had to fulfil, and we did them with a replacement guitarist. We took a huge amount of flak from the fans for that, saying we were abandoning Pete. I was seen as evil Machiavellian McGee who’d thrown Pete out of the band. So the gigs we honoured really harmed the band, and probably sealed the end of the Libertines. But I thought we had to do the gigs. We’d have been sued otherwise. It was a payday for everyone, including Pete, and there was no way on earth he would have survived the gigs. He was in no fit state to show up at the office, let alone go on an international tour.
One of the last gigs on that tour was to 20,000 people in Brazil, with Primal Scream as support. That many people even without Pete. With Pete, when he had his head together, they were the best live band in the world. The Saturday night at Brixton Academy was incredible. They had the world at their feet; we’d genuinely broken them worldwide. But when the tour ended that was that, there was no more Libertines.
The Libertines could only ever be Carl and Pete and reconciliation between them was impossible. Unless their personalities have changed a huge amount, I don’t know how they could ever work together. When it was clear we couldn’t get them together in the Libertines, it was tempting to manage Pete with Babyshambles. But there was no way I’d fuck Carl. Carl is such a fucking nice guy and I couldn’t let him down. He’d be expecting me to let him down, and I wasn’t going to do that to him. So Carl moved on to the next chapter with his new band Dirty Pretty Things, and I became their manager.
At Poptones, we had our big success with the Hives, and also did quite well with Cosmic Rough Riders, who went silver, and then Telstar went bust in 2004 - a disaster. This was when I was riding high managing the Libertines, and we attracted interest from Universal. It wasn’t working out the way I’d hoped being independent and so we did a deal and licensed the Poptones’ name to Lucian Grainge at Universal, the man who pretty much controls the whole music industry. He takes no prisoners, Lucian Grainge. His attitude is that A&R men are like oil fields; if they’re not producing, shut them down. I was never at full speed when I worked for him. I came down with anaemia (the second Libertines manager in a row to get anaemia) and so I was working at full speed for only half of the year he gave me to prove himself. It was too short a time to find anything. After that, he tried to renegotiate the deal and we walked away.
It was a bad decision for Lucian Grainge to pull the plug so early. I discovered Glasvegas just after the deal had collapsed. James Allan’s sister Denise kept getting in touch to tell me her brother was a genius and was going to change music from the working classes - I’d heard it all before. She heard I was in town mixing the Dirty Pretty Things album with Carl Barât and dragged me along to see them, in Glasgow in King Tut’s again. He was a professional footballer at Dumbarton but they sacked him because of his song ‘Stabbed’, where he sings ‘I’m going to get stabbed’ over and over again. They got really good and years later in 2008 they got a deal and their first album Glasvegas was a hit.
But Lucian Grainge missed out on Glasvegas, and Boxer Rebellion, who we found that year too. They’re both big bands, and he could have had the pair of them if he’d had more vision.