Libertines call in lawyers as split looms over royalties

First the frontman burgled his co-star's flat. Then they had to be kept apart by bouncers when they recorded the second album. Now The Libertines' rapid descent into rock'n'roll history as one of the country's most acrimonious bands has hit a new low.

First the frontman burgled his co-star's flat. Then they had to be kept apart by bouncers when they recorded the second album. Now The Libertines' rapid descent into rock'n'roll history as one of the country's most acrimonious bands has hit a new low.

The band's latest album, called The Libertines, is being dissected by opposing legal teams, in a dispute going some way to rivalling the great squabble over whether McCartney should go before Lennon on The Beatles' credits.

The row marks the latest episode in the extraordinary life of The Libertines and their one-time lead singer, Pete Doherty, ousted for his unrelenting heroin use. Doherty is understood to have been angered at being handed a 50 per cent share for "co-writing" the tracks, even though several first surfaced as his own solo efforts.

The punk-influenced Libertines had been championed by the music paper NME as the greatest band of its generation. Fans and critics were dazzled by the axis of singer-guitarists Doherty and Carl Barat, whose complex and once indestructible friendship fuelled the deeply personal songs they wrote together. Last month, NME named the pair as the cool icons of 2004. But since finding fame with their debut album Up the Bracket, The Libertines have had a troubled and protracted disintegration due to Doherty's drug problems.

In 2003 Doherty burgled Barat's flat and was subsequently jailed. He later rejoined the band for the recording of a second album, but relations in the studio were so strained that bouncers were employed to stop fights breaking out.

Many of the songs for the album dated from sessions 25-year-old Doherty had written for his side project Babyshambles and were first posted on the internet. By the time the second album was recorded, the band's original manager, Banny Poostchi, had quit, exasperated by Doherty's drug use.

Numerous efforts to wean Doherty off hard drugs failed, including a spell of the hardline regime in a Thai monastery, and he was ejected from the line-up before the second album was released. It went to number one in September. The latest album makes no reference to the songwriters, unlike the first album, which credits songs to Doherty/Barat.

Reflecting on his treatment in an interview for BBC2's Newsnight last week, Doherty said: "They left me by the side of the road with a plastic bag and all kinds of bitterness." A source close to Doherty told The Independent on Sunday he wanted "an honest division" of the songwriting royalties.

Theoretically the door is open for Doherty to return to the band when he cleans up, but the NME editor Conor McNicholas feels there is little chance of this and without him the band is sunk. "Frankly I don't think any of them really want to go on without Pete," he said. "[The Libertines] come from a legacy of bands that are utterly iconic and change everything around them. The sad thing is it's pretty much all over now."

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