Pete Doherty flew into Ireland yesterday for a visit to Trinity College and a memorable appearance on RTÉ's Late Late Show.
The best gig in town last night turned out to be Pete Doherty’s visit to Trinity College where he joined the likes of Al Pacino, Salman Rushie, Desmond Tutu, Johnny Marr, Chris Blackwell and Helen Mirren in being made an Honorary Patron of their student Philosophical Society.
Doherty, chain-smoking and wearing his trademark fedora, arrived almost two hours late for the presentation but it was delays at Heathrow rather than his own tardiness that were to blame.
Before being introduced to the 250 students who’d queued all afternoon to guarantee their place in the Graduates’ Memorial Building, Doherty limbered up in his dressing-room with an acoustic version of ‘Ticket To Ride’, featuring high-pitched “my baby don’t care!” backing vocals from his manager Andy Boyd and Hot Press’ very own Stuart Clark (the Master of Ceremonies for the night) who apologises to Paul McCartney and the Lennon estate for any distress caused.
Macca was one of the topics of conversation in the hour-long public interview and Q+A session that followed, with Doherty recalling how he was let out of rehab to interview the former Beatle for The Guardian – “I didn’t even recognise him to be honest, with the medication I was on.”
Being asked about the Teenage Cancer Trust gig he played last month in Bristol with Roger Daltrey was the cue for Pete to break in to a rousing rendition of ‘Substitute’.
His Jack Daniel’s emblazoned guitar, borrowed for the night from his pal Wolfman, earned its keep with Doherty, who looked fit and well, also playing a Queen’s Park Rangers terrace chant (we’ll explain all in our next issue), ‘Back From The Dead’, ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’, ‘Last Of The English Roses’ and ‘Albion’ to the rapturous approval of the crowd.
Other topics of discussion included how he first met Shane MacGowan (“on the floor at a party”); his pre-Christmas sojourn in Paris and how a drunken Carl Barat was given short shrift when he turned up on his doorstep there; his time as an army brat in Lisburn; Johnny Borrell; hanging out with Elton John; Oscar Wilde and his other dead friends; working on his forthcoming solo album, Grace/Wastelands, with Graham Coxon and Stephen Street; the joys of solitary confinement in Wormwood Scrubs; meeting God, a.k.a. Lee Mavers of The La’s; being peed on by the family of cats who’ve set up home in his current Wiltshire abode; and why he thinks Dirty Pretty Things breaking up is an elaborate publicity stunt.
The most poignant moment of the night was when he was asked about his little lad Astile, who can be spied on YouTube doing some fine windmill guitar movements.
“It’s quite a difficult subject really,” he reflected. “I don’t know if I am so much of a father to be honest, I don’t think I spend enough time with him to warrant being called that, which is pretty much why I had his name put on my neck. I see so little of him, and I do so little for him, that that’s my feeble way of saying ‘I love you.’”
He also had a very considered reply when addressing how the public perceive him: “The more shit that’s written about my lifestyle, the less people know. It’s always distorted. It’s like an evil twin, this character that’s being created.”
Final question from the floor answered, it was off to RTÉ to meet Pat Kenny, which is where Pete’s night started to go somewhat awry…
Pre-announced by Pat Kenny alongside Enya and ‘the panel that elected the current government – Eoghan Harris, Eamon Dunphy and John Waters’, Doherty was actually the first guest of the night on the Late Late Show, writes a Hot Press reporter. It became obvious from the start that the interview would emphasise the drugs rather than the music.
“Pat Kenny is very good at what he does,” one industry insider commented, “but he got it badly wrong on this occasion. There was a lack of respect there that wasn’t right. And he also seemed to be talking down to Pete. It looked and felt condescending.”
At times, the interview with the Babyshambles frontman made painfully riveting television. Questioned about his addiction, Pete Doherty spoke quietly and intelligently – but he was obviously increasingly ill-at-ease as the interview progressed, shifting in his seat, stretching and conspicuously rubbing himself in anxiety. He acknowledged that he had been a disappointment to his father. “As long as I’m using at all, he won’t speak to me,” he said.
He was pressed by Pat Kenny about how difficult it must be for his family, being confronted by the coverage in newspapers. “But things are distorted and exaggerated by the newspapers,” he responded, adding that he didn’t remember his father buying the Sun or the Mirror – so he couldn’t understand why he’d take what they said as being ‘gospel’ now.
There was a difficult moment when the host mentioned Shane MacGowan as having a fondness for drink “to put it mildly.” The camera was on Pete Doherty’s face; it was just as well that it didn’t catch Pat Kenny’s laugh, the tone of which suggested that he was becoming almost as ill-at-ease as his subject.
“That is a terribly limiting way of looking at people,” Doherty countered. “I don’t understand why this has to be the be-all and end-all of how you look at someone and judge someone.”
Asked about himself as a role model, Pete was unflinchingly honest. “I don’t know how anyone could see someone who has fucked up their life the way I have as a role model,” he answered, or words to that effect.
He was less polite when the subject of Kate Moss was raised. He took off his hat, put it over his face and snored pointedly.
“I think the fact that there was no reference to music in the questions said it all,” one fan responded. “It was if no one had any idea of how great a songwriter Pete Doherty is.”
That point was eloquently made by Doherty himself. As he visibly tired of being asked about drugs and Kate Moss, he turned the situation around. “I don’t know if you could name a single song I’ve written,” he put it to Pat Kenny. He had hit the nail on the head. “Probably not,” Kenny replied. It was not a good moment for the Late Late Show.
Asked about his ambitions, Doherty revealed what the interview had entirely missed: that he is a poet and a musician first and always. “I’d like to imprint a song on your heart,” he told the Late Late Show host – at which moment it’s hard to imagine that Pat Kenny felt anything other than a deep sense of how misdirected the interview had been.
Doherty finished by singing ‘The Last Of The English Roses’, from his upcoming debut solo album, which is produced by Stephen Street.
“Around the snooker table she danced the frutti tutti/ She spilt the lager, toasting girls of great beauty/ All the girls together/ All the boys together now/ She's the last of the English roses/ She's the last of the English roses…”
The Late Late Show studio audience gave him a big round of applause.
“Where can I pick up the cash?” Doherty joked, as he departed. The boy has a sense of humour, but it was symptomatic of the occasion that it went over everyone else’s heads.
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