Babyshambles & Copyright
Pete Doherty – described on his Wikipedia page as an English musician, songwriter, actor, poet, writer and artist – was born on 12 March 1979. He gained fame for four things in particular. The first was through his role as co-frontman (with Carl Barat) of the indie rock band The Libertines. The second was by fronting another successful indie band, Babyshambles. The third was on account of his relationship with the super-model, Kate Moss. And the fourth was his much-publicised dependence on drugs.
In the early hours of a night in June 1983 (so when Pete Doherty was a four-year-old), I and my Beech Terrace neighbours were woken at around 2 a.m. by a very loud dispute. A couple living just over the road from me, were immersed in the row which would end their relationship. Moments later, clearly drunk, the man left the house and got into his car. It shot forward, did one U-turn, followed by another, and then slammed into the parked car of another neighbour, before careening up the road and away. His wife was left back-lit and brightly framed in the front doorway, dressed only in her nightwear, rain pouring torrentialy around her. Motionless, she stood, spot-lit by a single streetlamp, loudly and repeatedly mouthing one word: “Bastard…! Bastard…! Bastard… !”.
In December 2007, I was phoned up by a journalist from the UK daily paper, The Sun. He asked if I’d heard the new Babyshambles album, Shotter’s Nation. When I said I hadn’t, he suggested that I go on line, listen to a track called Baddies Boogie, and then phone him back. I listened. Its chorus was word-for-word the same as in Stiff With A Quiff.
This incident became the main inspiration for Stiff With A Quiff, a poem-cum-lyric which I began that night and finished a few days later, modelling the title character partly on another neighbour and partly a member of my own family, both aging rockers who often came home drunk. The chorus was ‘It’s a lousy life for the washed-up wife of a permanently plastered pissed-up bastard.’ It became a popular piece in my performances to adult audiences, was published in several magazines, and recordings of me reading it were included on a number of cassette compilation albums. It’s in my 1991 book The Meat Boutique and is the opening track on my 2004 Not-a-Rioty album, Selfish Men.
As a song lyric, I worked on it with the Scarborough skinhead band, The Burial, recording it with them in April 1984. The following year it was on the Syndicate Records album, The Oi! Of Sex, credited to Nick Toczecks Britanarchists. The album proved popular, so I forgave Gary Bushell (who compiled it) for omitting my apostrophe and misspelling my name! That same track also appears on my 2007 Mutiny 200 album Totally InTOCZEKated. Suffice it to say that I’d clear proof that the words were mine.
Following a piece in The Sun (28 Dec 2007) the story appeared in other papers worldwide and there was massive coverage and discussion on the internet. I found a lawyer who took the case on free of charge because it was such an obvious and provable copyright infringement. Legal wrangles meant that the whole business dragged on for four-and-half years but eventually, in the summer of 2012, I was paid around ten thousand pounds and was granted 50 per cent of the rights to the song.
Nick Toczek, May 2018