||Old Faithfull, cool as ever
Marianne has a new album,
and some wry observations on her storied life
By JIM FARBER
DAILY NEWS MUSIC CRITIC
Survivor: Marianne Faithfull
Marianne Faithfull can't help but register a perverse bit of pleasure when she says it.
"I'm an undesirable alien," she announces with a smile. "So for me, going through immigration is always a trip. It's why I don't come to the States more often."
Her problem, it seems, stems from the '70s.
"Oh, some drug bust," she says with an eye roll, "a very small amount. But it goes in perpetuity. So I'm viewed the same as a child molester. Or a top Nazi. It's insane."
Of course, Faithfull must be used to being viewed as a notorious figure by now. The role has been both a bane to her personal life and a boost to her public legend for decades.
As has been well chronicled in the press, and dealt with in her riotous 1994 autobiography, titled "Faithfull," the 54-year-old singer became famous not only for her highly dramatic music but for her eyebrow-raising romantic escapades with Mick Jagger during his '60s prime. And, of course, there was her roller coaster of addictions, ODs and comebacks.
Faithfull and Mick Jagger made their way through a crowd of photographers in 1967, during their tumultuous relationship.
As open as Faithfull has been about her past, she's more protective of the present. As she sits in a Chelsea coffee shop, she casually alludes to a current lover who lives in Paris. But when asked his identity, she says, "It's one you'll never know."
In fact, Faithfull says, there are only two things people really need to know about her - "My album title and tour dates."
Yet the songs on the new CD, "Kissin' Time" - and her three shows at Irving Plaza, tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday - beg so many more questions. For the new songs, Faithfull indulged in an act of creative cradle-robbing. She co-wrote them with the cream of the alterna-rock generation: Beck, Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker and Blur's Damon Albarn.
"They're all about the age of my son," Faithfull explains, referring to 36-year-old Nicholas, whom she had with her first husband, art dealer John Dunbar. "I wanted to record with people he would find appealing."
As Corgan sees it, "Marianne is still a punk rocker. It's so refreshing and inspiring when you meet someone like that and realize they're still all there."
Faithfull says her collaborators wanted to recapture the pop tone of her early U.K. hits, like "As Tears Go By." "We played a game that went, 'Let's pretend I never ran off with Jagger, never got into drugs and never made 'Broken English' [her first big comeback album] - as if I stopped recording in 1965 and this is my next record.
"Of course," Faithfull cackles, "we never could have made this record if those things never happened."
Faithfull says she collaborated with today's songwriters in a way she never could have back in the '60s. "Then, every woman in my position had to go to bed with the musicians they worked with. If I made this record then, I would have slept with everybody on it. Today you have someone like [Hole bassist] Melissa auf der Maur, whom nobody would dream of not taking seriously."
The contrast inspired Faithfull to write "Song for Nico," an ode to another female star of the '60s who had trouble being taken seriously. Faithfull also sings a song, written for her by Cocker, that sends up her role as an icon of flip debauchery. It's called "Sliding Through Life on Charm."
"It's an 'up yours' to everybody," she says with a smile.
Of course, Faithfull has traded on her mythology at times. She appears in a current Gap print campaign that depicts her as a grande dame of damaged cool.
Yet the singer says she feels "stuck" with being so well-known. "I don't actually care whether I'm famous or not."
But she does continue to cherish her fabled relationship with Jagger. "He treats me like a queen," she says, beaming.
She returns the favor by defending the Rolling Stones against those who have called them old men who won't give up. "Why don't they shut up and leave them alone," she says. "It's jealousy."
Faithfull says the Stones continue to play, as do all performers, "because it's addictive. That's why Nureyev went out on tour with AIDS, and why Dietrich worked until she was 72. We love it."
Luckily for Faithfull, her musical style - a mix of pop, modern art song and gothic cabaret - ages particularly well.
According to old friend and producer Hal Willner, Faithfull "is one of the great rock/blues singers, no matter whether she's doing material by Beck, Kurt Weill, Jagger/Richards or Jerome Kern. It affects you the way great rock does."
While critics and cultists have come around to this view, Faithfull maintains that many people have read her personal life far too narrowly. As she gets up to leave the coffee shop - so she can enjoy one of her beloved cigarettes - Faithfull remarks, "People see me in very black-and-white terms. There's this tendency to see my life as a morality tale with a good ending.
"In fact, there isn't any moral to it," she says with a florid laugh. "It's more complicated than that. It's life."
||I liked her more when she was young! but I was just sperm then!!
the wooden shoe
||She looks like absolute shit! Wow, time can destroy a womans face-"Time waits for no one" Jagger/Richards/Taylor
[Edited by jb]
She looks like absolute shit! Wow, the Stones destroyed" a womans face"
..quite to the contrary...she's perfectly gorgeous in person; )
||For her age?
She looks rather nice, actually.
Not "I want to bonk her" nice, 'cuz that's just nasty. But "Oh, goodness me, she could pass for my mother, while she's old enough to be my grandmother."
-tSYX --- Who's driving your plane?
||Marianne is fabulous
may you come back in the next life as a woman
|| And lots more about her >
Sept. 13, 2002
As The Stones were rolling through the motions across town at Comiskey Park, a women once very closely associated to them proved that despite her age, she doesn't have to rely on nostalgia to pack a venue. Marianne Faithfull may be the former girlfriend of Mick Jagger, but unlike her ex, she could actually stand on a Chicago stage Friday night as more than just an oldies revue, raking in the dough off the songs that have turned into corporate jingles. Instead, she's remained a viable artist that's gained additional relevance with time and doesn't even need to dig back to her Greatest Hits disc for a textbook evening of classy entertainment. Faithfull ditched her past charters (including "As Tears Go By," "Monday, Monday," "Sister Morphine," and "In My Time of Sorrow") revolving her 90 minute set around her latest album Kissin Time. The project is just as diverse as it is classic Marianne, covering a wide array of territory through its many soundscapes and guest appearances by the likes of Beck, Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker, Dave Stewart, and Billy Corgan. As hinted throughout the week of the show, Mr. Corgan was indeed a special guest of that evening, popping out of the crowd from his seat near the soundboard to join Faithfull on guitar 20 minutes into the set (following a splendid opening quartet of effectively spaced tunes "Something Good," "Falling From Grace," "Kissin' Time," and "Wilder Shores of Love.")
Wearing a fisherman's cap and Blackhawks jersey the former Smashing Pumpkin and current leader of Zwan joined Faithfull for renditions of new cuts "Wherever I Go" and "I'm on Fire." The latter came to additional life as Faithfull called out Paris Delane and Shawn Christopher from the soulful Chicago based jam band Sonia Dada to add a bit of gospel flavored background vocals. (Fellow Zwan member Matt Sweeney was the evening's other visitor, taking the stage on guitar during "King at Night.")
Faithfull covered additional new ground with her four piece band, breezing through cuts like the folksy "Like Being Born," the poetic "Song For Nico" (co-written with Eurythmic Dave Stewart), and an organic take on Beck's "Nobody's Fault." Perhaps the only downer of Faithfull's current performance state is the fact that her once sweet and tender voice has turned a bit scruffy and tattered. (Although that's not surprising considering she partied hard throughout the swinging 60s and occasionally puffed a cigarette in between songs at the Park West).
Regardless, Faithfull was able to take such a crutch and play it to her advantage, showing the honest aging of 1979's "Broken English" and allowing the gritty magic and growling mystery to seep out of the new tune "Sliding Life on a Charm." Faithfull also let her garbled wails constructively dominate 1987's "Strange Weather," a track she dedicated to Jimmy Chamberlain (another Pumpkin alum and current Zwan member). That finale cut showed off Faithfull's ability to croon through the metaphorical narrative with captivating ease and fierce power, bringing the evening to an energetic crescendo. Around that same time, it's a safe bet that the Stones were prodding through "Brown Sugar" or "Jumpin' Jack Flash" for the zillionth time, while those exiting the Park West left with only a feeling of "Satisfaction."
Her tears go by
Faithfull's confessional CD ties her to modern rockers
BY MARK GUARINO Daily Herald Music Critic
Posted on September 12, 2002
On her excellent new album, "Kissin Time" (Virgin), Marianne Faithfull makes a confession: "Is it such a sin I never, ever tried too hard?/I had to know how far was going too far."
It's one of many admissions on an album that pins the legendary chanteuse with new generation of such rockers as Beck, Billy Corgan and Brit-poppers Pulp. Going too far and paying a hard price sums up Faithfull's early years, starting in 1964 when she was plucked from obscurity to transform "As Tears Go By," the first song Mick Jagger and Keith Richards ever wrote, into a hit.
A pop career followed, and so did the swinging London scene of the late '60s, in which she reveled with rock luminaries in and out of bed. In her 1994 autobiography "Faithfull" (Copper Square Press), co-written with David Dalton, Faithfull recounts the free love, drugs and general abandonment her peers celebrated on the road to shaping society with their new, post-war sensibility.
When the lights dimmed, Faithfull paid a heftier price than most. A drug bust in Keith Richard's home cemented the Stones' image as notorious rock 'n' roll outlaws, but Faithfull - found naked wrapped in a fur rug - was vilified as a contemptible harlot in the press. Entering the '70s, she was left shattered by the death of Rolling Stone Brian Jones, suffered a suicide attempt, ended up in a coma, ran away from boyfriend Jagger and battled a harsh drug addiction that left her periodically homeless.
A by-product of those years happened to be great art. Most people align Faithfull's name with the classic Rolling Stones songs she inspired - "Wild Horses," "Let's Spend the Night Together" and the one she co-wrote, "Sister Morphine." Her own music - culminating in the 1979 comeback record, "Broken English" - was embraced by the burgeoning punk movement. Faithfull's defiance became a touchstone for female rockers ever since, from Chrissie Hynde to P.J. Harvey to Courtney Love.
These days, Faithfull lives in Dublin and established herself as one of the best living interpreter of German composer Kurt Weill. "Kissin Time" furthers the legend - with its slinky techno beats and self-referential venom, it is playful and seductive.
What follows is an edited transcript of our recent conversation.
Q. Your show this month is the third of a few recent appearances by you here. You showed up with Billy (Corgan) at Metro for the Third Waltz and later made a cameo with his band Zwan at the Q101 Jamboree.
A. The only other time I've ever played to that many people until then was when I played "The Wall" with Roger Waters on the Berlin Wall (in 1990) and that was something like 200,000 people. And then this summer on our tour in Europe at the summer festivals, we did some really big places. They were outdoors, 70,000 people, but it was a fantastic experience. What was it called - the Tweeter Center?
Q. That's it.
A. Yes, strange name. It kind of prepped me up for the experience. Anyway, it was lovely to play with Zwan.
Q. How did you and Billy meet?
A. It was on the farewell tour with the Smashing Pumpkins. And he called me in Dublin and said would I like to come to the show? And I said, "Oh yeah." I went down to see the Smashing Pumpkins and I thought it was really, really good. And I don't go to a lot of live shows, I'm very, very fussy. But I must have known I'd like it and I really did like it. And then I went backstage and met Billy and (drummer) Jimmy (Chamberlin) afterwards and sort of fell in love.
Q. What was the difference between working with Billy and with Beck?
A. Billy particularly wants me to stop smoking and I am going to, and I think he's got a point now. I don't think it's going to change my voice. I think that's what he's hoping, but I don't think it will. My voice is my voice. Beck liked the quirks in my voice, the strange things in my voice, whereas Billy wanted me to reach back and to find my little pop voice and I'm glad he did. I thought of knew I still had it, I mean why wouldn't I? And obviously, it's not as high as it was. But the essence was still there. But I think I needed someone to do that.
Q. Was that the idea of this album - to go back in time?
A. No, it wasn't what we started out consciously doing, but it's definitely what happened, yeah. I can see that now. I sort of saw it halfway through. It was really as if nothing had ever happened, that was our game. We didn't really say it, but I could see that was the game. So you know - I never ran off with Mick Jagger, never made "Broken English," I never got into drugs, I never did any of those things. I just stopped in 1965 and this is the record we made afterwards. But of course that's impossible, and we all know that. But that's the technical game.
Q. Also a mind game.
A. Yeah, sort of a mind game. Nothing wrong with a good mind game. If it's a mind game that doesn't hurt anybody. I can't bear mind games that hurt people.
Q. The song "Sliding Through Life On Charm" tells your life story with particular venom, yet the lyrics were written by Jarvis Cocker of Pulp.
A. I didn't tell him what to do at all. Now I wouldn't do that. I gave him the title and left it with him. And then afterwards, I did say, "How in earth did you do that?" And he did say he'd read the book. He didn't know a lot of things; he also must have guessed, like I was sort of a rich girl playing around with rock and roll, which I also wasn't. But those were his feelings; they happened to be mine as well.
Q. The song about Nico, the Velvet Underground muse, even sounds like it's about you.
A. I know one shouldn't really do this, but I have been reading my reviews. They arrived yesterday from Virgin. Of course some of (the songs) are autobiographical, I would never deny that, but some aren't. "Song for Nico" really isn't. "Song for Nico" is really is a song for Nico. And it's interesting that the people who don't like it are the people who think I'm the same. They think Nico and I are the same person. And it's obviously not true. But they read it as if it's about me. And it's really not.
Q. You were both blonde, beautiful ingenues. Is it difficult to separate your very public history from the song you're singing? Because so much of your personality seems to come through the song whether you're trying to or not.
A. Yeah, but I do that unconsciously. It's not something I have to try for. All that sort of mythology doesn't have anything to do with me. It's just there. And also I'm not going to tell my audience what to think. They are free to think what they want. If that's how they want to see it, that's OK. I feel it's fairly simple. I just like to work and that's why I understood Nico. It was her frustration of being talented and having something to do and having such a hard time doing it.
Q. Something probably true of women in the '60s world of male rock gods.
A. Yeah. I don't know, I can only speak for myself, but it was extremely frustrating. That was the main feeling. It was infuriating. It must have been for her, too.
Q. I was re-reading your book and -
A. How does it stand up?
Q. After every page, I couldn't believe how brutally honest it was. It was refreshing to read something with zero self-pity.
A. Well I'm glad I wrote it when it did. I couldn't do it now.
Q. Why not?
A. I don't know, it's too much of a celebrity culture. When I did it, it really wasn't that bad. I could sit down and write it - with David (Dalton) of course. We did it very clearly, we were aware of the legend. It was hard to stick on track and tell my story and not have it be what other people wanted me to be. But that's sort of my job anyway. To not be affected by all that. This is not a morality tale. Only really now are people realizing how really good it is. At the time they couldn't understand it at all. Because it's not a black-and-white book. There's no villains, no heroes. It's all in nuances and shades of gray.
Q. Also like life.
A. Well mine has been! (laughs)
Q. Early in the book you wrote that you knew as a child that "men in some form or other would be my means of escape." What did you mean by that?
A. Well, just that they held all the cards. At the time. And I wanted to get out of Reading. So when (Stones manager) Andrew (Oldham) offered me a record contract, I took it right away.
Q. You knew that this is how things were set up.
A. Well of course I did. And I can see now that there were other possibilities. That I could have gone to university and to drama school, where presumably but not necessarily it wouldn't have mattered. What I'm saying is that maybe I would have done that all on my talents, but maybe not.
Q. You were 17, a child star, set out on endless tours and hanging out with rock stars. When did you understand you were living in a bubble?
A. I didn't understand it at all. I knew I loved singing and I knew what I found really interesting was being in the beginning of things. I was definitely aware, working with Andrew, meeting Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche, Brian Wilson, that we were making it up, doing a lot of things that were happening for the first time. I remember when I went to see the Andy Warhol retrospective in the '60s that I realized what I was doing.
Q. Which was what?
A. Well I realized, "Ah, this is what I'm doing, it's pop art." It gave me a reference that I could understand.
Q. I imagine that it gave you and everyone around you a particular sense of empowerment the rest of society didn't have.
A. We were part of this movement. Which is why I liked Nico so much. We definitely were in the absolute epicenter of social change and didn't know it. But I can see it now. It wasn't just me of course and it wasn't just the West, it was China, everywhere. It was something that really did happen. For a long time I wasn't sure whether it happened or had been something the press made up. But actually when I realized it did happen was when I read "Wild Swans," it's a book about China (by Jung Chang). Three generations of Chinese (women) in the '60s from the long march on. It was then that I knew there was a wind blowing and it blew all around the world.
Q. You bumped into fame at 17 but now, with shows like "American Idol," fame is something kids scheme for.
A. Now it means nothing. When (you're 17), you're all grown up. But for me, I really was a little girl. I had absolutely no experience of the world whatsoever except what I read in books or seen in paintings. For me, I always liked seeing the world like that, it's grand.
Q. And literature, too. In your book, even when you were strung out on drugs, you were always reading and sharing books with everyone, especially your fellow junkies.
A. Always. That's one of the things I talk to friends about now. When you do get clean, you have to re-read what you read when you were high. That's not such a bad thing.
Q. The Stones were forgiven for their hedonism, but you were demonized. Did the image English society carved of you make you bitter?
A. I had to make my mind up. (laughs) Was I going to spend my life angry, bitter or upset about it or was I going to get over it and cope? It did take a long time but I have gotten over it. It makes me laugh.
Q. In hindsight, your 1967 trial looks so farcical now. That the government would actually set up and publicly punish a bunch of young rock stars because they were considered dangerous.
A. In England ... this is quite serious stuff. Well OK, we broke the law a bit, but so what? That's the attitude here, I know that. That's not the way it is England and Europe. It's just unbelievable now. It's interesting you say that. Because that's what I hang on to when I come to America. That there really are people who understand me and don't see it in this moralistic good or bad way. It was stunning, I know. What I didn't realize until we had done the book, was how fast it happened. I think Mick and I were together for maybe six months and then that happened. So there was obviously something very potent about that relationship for the public. There was something about that relationship that got up their noses. I must say, it did take me awhile to get over it. Because I was very young. I was 19. I believed it. I took it all personally! I really did!
Q. It's interesting it took until your late 40s and early 50s for you to hit your artistic peak.
A. Yeah, well, I had to get my whole physical, mental and spiritual being under control. I had that incredible sort of hard punch very early on and it really took me off track to get over that.
Q. This new record was recorded with a younger generation and it's obvious you're not a tourist - you know their music and connect with it, something not many of your generation are willing to do.
A. Why not? Those are the people I like to be with. And I know all these guys. What do they think I do? I still think they think I lie in a gutter and shoot up. Which obviously I haven't done for 22 years. They can't take it. They still can't take change.
Q. Your show in Chicago is the same night your old friends the Stones play Comiskey Park, of course setting up the expectation that you might show up at each other's shows.
A. I don't think so, no. My focus is my work. I love the Stones and I've seen a lot of Stones shows, but I will be focused on my show and my work and my audience. It doesn't cross-pollinate now.
Q. Aside from your remarkable story, I think your legacy will be your voice. Unlike most female voices today, it sounds like it came from somewhere and has a history to it that's unmistakable.
A. Well I hope so. I mean God knows I wish my voice was technically better, I would be the first to say that. But I've always liked people with funny voices. With men, that doesn't matter. They're expected as people with funny voices. But there's something with women that you're supposed to sound feminine and pretty and blah, blah, blah and I say (crap) to that.
||She looks rather nice?!
This woman's face just looks like shit if you see her on a picture larger than 3 x 4 cm. And it wasn't time that destroyed her face, it was her uncontrolled abuse of drugs. She was liek throwing the gift of her pretty face in the gutter. Alright then, bitch, sing me some blues.
||I think I saw her on a GAP commercial last night...was that her?
||To all of the disgruntled men who insult marianne faithfull...you are: bald (young or old), too short, both, jealous of mick and you have the tone of men who have to pay for sex and resent it deeply! how did you ever find the heart and soul to love the stones?
||"Instead, she's remained a viable......"
By viable do they mean unlistenable?
Christ that article made me mad.
||She looked better in the Gap commercial..special lighting that the older stars use...and I am tall 6'2, not bald, and quite frankly, a very handsome man.
||Okay j.b., I believe you and thanks for your civilized response! I think the best way to avoid drug addiction is not to use drugs in the first place but hey...some people cannot resist. I just think that Marianne and Anita (Keith too) have been through enough hell with their addictions and we should support them! By the time I discovered the stones they were hardcore and high, sort of like a psycho version of crusty the clown and sideshow bob and their message was clear to me....use drugs...look like us!!! I am just thankful they are still alive!!
||I think the reason we respond to their looks, is that Marianne,Anita, and Keith looked so great at one time. Today, are almost different people look wise.
||I agree with jb. They are also diffrent persons voicewise. Listen to "You got the silver", then to "Losing my touch" - you will know what Keith is singin' about.
But I mean why have sympathy with an old runt like Marianne? You can't have the fun (with drugs) AND the sympathy if you look like that. At least Keith rocked out some great music to compensate. But with a woman like Marianne, where are her achievements besides her self-pity and her I'm-so-intellectual-attitude?
mickČkeith - I mean, I even like some of her newer records, her Tom Waits style. The problem is her skin looks like ground zero on 119. Probably you have just seen some of her promo photos. The other thing is, why does this 57 years old woman constantly have to hang her tits out? I don't see it.