Indie landfill: why Pete Doherty and rock relics are swapping records for real estate

The Libertines frontman has bought a hotel in Margate. Maybe it’s time Johnny Borrell got on the property ladder too?

Modern Toss on pension plans for musicians...

Images of Libertines frontman, occasional poet and former military jacket apologist Pete Doherty polishing off a gutbuster breakfast challenge at a caff in Cliftonville, near Margate, rocked thirtysomething Twitter recently. Four rashers of bacon, four eggs, four sausages, hash browns, onion rings, bubble and squeak, two slices of thick bread, and a quarter-pounder burger and chips disappeared into the Libertine without a trace. A meme was born.

Closer readers would have been just as intrigued to learn that the Libertines have relocated to Margate where they are in the process of opening a hotel and recording studio. In short, they have a business ecosystem: they’ve taken the music and turned it into bricks and mortar. This is far easier to comprehend than how Pete put away those bangers. Hit by the twin calamities of the death of indie and the death of people paying for albums, diversification ought to be the watchword for his musical generation. Yes, 2015’s Anthems for Doomed Youth album peaked at No 3, but the Libertines’ recent appearance at Broadstairs’ Wheels & Fins festival alongside Feeder and Faithless hardly suggests zeitgeist-riding relevance.

Pete Doherty eats big breakfast.
Food for thought... Pete Doherty eats big breakfast. Photograph: Dalby Cafe/PA

The paradox of the past decade has been that digital culture has never been more accessible and never more poorly remunerated, while people are paying more than ever for physical stuff. Instagrammable experience culture has taken the place of all those tenners we used to spend at HMV. Having a band HQ, a site of personal pilgrimage that fans can use to selfie-up, to treat as a pop-up shrine, is a way of taking your cachet and monetising it. Last time anyone heard, Shane MacGowan still had a flat above the Boogaloo bar in north London, adding considerably to the legend of an otherwise unremarkable pub.

Surely, Johnny Borrell could do just as well taking the remaining royalties for America and opening “Borrell’s”, a Soho eatery, foisting small plates of cremated octopus at food buffs with the same cockiness he once proclaimed himself “the best songwriter of my generation”? After all, Interpol’s Daniel Kessler once co-owned New York foodie haunt Bergen Hill, and Pigeon Detectives frontman Matt Bowman was an early innovator, sinking all those Take Her Back royalties into York boozer Montey’s (now Gibsons).

In fact, the only shame is that these early-00s indie extracurricular endeavours have been largely in the hospitality trade. Why not the Darkness’ self-consciously camp Spandex yoga studio? Why not “Reverend” John McClure’s Che-worshipping bong shop? And for the Kooks – recently seen breaking back into the UK Top 10 – how about a very on-trend, mindfulness-inducing silent retreat, eh Luke?


Gavin Haynes

The GuardianTramp

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