The story of The Libertines' What a Waster

3 June 2024, 18:45 | Updated: 3 June 2024, 18:48

The Libertines in 2002 with their What A Waster single inset
The Libertines in 2002 with their What A Waster single inset. Picture: Eva Edsjo/Redferns/Getty, Press

By Jenny Mensah

The Libertines' debut single is 22 years old, but why wasn't it initially on their album?

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The Libertines What a Waster is 22 years old today.

The band's debut single saw them pulling no punches and despite it being one of their most-loved songs to date it had very little love on the radio airwaves.

There's absolutely no denying the power of The Libs' banger, but what is it about and what makes What a Waster so controversial?

Remind yourself of the indie banger here:

What a Waster

What a Waster was released on 3rd June 2002. The first ever single to come from the Camden-based rockers comes from the writing partnership of Pete Doherty and Carl Barât and tells a depressing tale of drugs and excess.

Apparently dubbed by Pete Doherty as "the most self-explanatory song in the history of pop," the expletive-driven song conjures up images of a woman who appears to have fallen on hard times, but spends what she does have irresponsibly as it goes "straight up her nose".

What a waster
What a f***ing waster
You p***ed it all up the wall

- The Libertines - What A Waster (2002)

Perhaps understandably, the song wasn't played very much on the radio at the time, due to its excessive use of expletives alongside its adult themes.

However, the single was released to much hype and praise, causing excitement across the alternative music scene and making its way to early indie dance floors.

On the week it was released, the band graced the cover of NME for the first time - with an iconic by Roger Sargent, and the single made it to No. 37 in the UK singles chart.

Despite this, What a Waster didn't even feature on the original UK edition of the band's debut album, Up The Bracket, which was produced by Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, and released on 14th October the same year.

The Libertines' Up The Bracket album artwork
The Libertines' Up The Bracket album artwork. Picture: Press

When the album was reissued on 8th September 2003, What a Waster was added as a bonus track to the album at number 13 - earning its rightful place on their debut, which contained some of The Libertines' most raw and crucial material.

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