A Likely Lad by Peter Doherty – an appetite for self-destruction

Squalor, Kate Moss, prison, class A drugs… the indie frontman and tabloid fixture’s memoir is lucid, candid and, ultimately, hopeful

Peter Doherty had, for a period in the mid 00s, the kind of fame that made him recognisable even in silhouette. Like his friend Amy Winehouse, he was a fixture on tabloid front pages, whether in disrepair or ducking out of a courtroom. Doherty had gone from a cultish figure as co-frontman (with Carl Barât) of the Libertines – a band with a devoted following and tantalising capacity for implosion – to a threat to the nation’s impressionable youth and himself. His drive to self-destruction was served up as cartoonish sideshow, his trajectory fast-tracked from public health risk to pitiable train wreck, amplified by his relationship with Kate Moss, a famously guarded A-lister. Playing up to the “why him?” angle, the couple duetted on a tellingly titled song, La Belle et la Bête.

Doherty has made it out the other end of flashbulb infamy but, as A Likely Lad makes clear, it was touch and go. The book is an “authorised biography” put together by the music writer Simon Spence from more than 60 hours of conversations the pair had during lockdown. Spence has organised its chronology but hasn’t put words in Doherty’s mouth. As the singer notes in the foreword, he’d been clean of drugs for more than a year when they began the process and he’s a lucid, honest presence, admitting at one stage part of him had wanted to be “the most fucked-up person in the world”. Doherty reveals that beyond the tabloid hoopla, it wasn’t all brinksmanship and squalor; there was joy too, in the excess, in his relationship with Moss – at times “an Evelyn Waugh scene”, we learn, all secret rendezvous and four-poster beds – and in the camaraderie among bands, especially in the Libertines’ more ramshackle days.

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