Stay Faithfull: A revealing audience with Marianne FaithfullCancer... heroin addiction.... tabloid scandal... The Rolling Stones.... even a convent education.... Marianne Faithfull has survived it all. And now she is taking on the toughest role of her professional life: playing a sex worker in an acclaimed new film
Interview By James Mottram 26 April 2008
At 61, Marianne Faithfull defies that old maxim that if you can remember the Sixties you weren't really there. "I know everybody who wasn't there is jealous – well, tough!" she cackles. "It's not overrated. It was great. I can remember it, and I really was there." In truth, she has no right to this recall. The former girlfriend of Mick Jagger, she's been close to death, destitution and drama for much of her life. But then Faithfull is a survivor, not a casualty. The words she famously uttered after recovering from a drug-induced coma back in '69 – "wild horses couldn't drag me away" (poached by the Rolling Stones' lead singer for the song "Wild Horses") – provide a fitting motto for one who has lived life to extremes.
Her face now creased and smudged by time, Faithfull remains the living embodiment of riding in the fast lane. Just listen to her: while one critic once complained that her voice had been "permanently vulgarised" by a steady diet of whisky and cigarettes, it now fits her like a bespoke suit. When we meet on a chilly afternoon, she sounds a little raspy, due to a slight cold, though she's remarkably proud of her husky tones. "I've got the right voice for me. It gives an edge to everything. It's perfect. I don't have to act out. I don't have to do anything. I just have to open my mouth and there it is."
And right now, her voice is full of defiance. In her own words, she's "had a rough two years". In September 2006, she discovered that she had an early form of breast cancer. In fact, she was getting sick four months previously, when she was in Cannes to promote the anthology film Paris, je t'aime, but didn't then realise how serious it was. "I'm not good at this – recognising signs. I think, 'Oh, the show must go on.' But that's not true – the show must not go on. I must go on! The show will keep." Cancelling her autumn tour, she had an operation immediately and was given the all clear by Christmas. "I was very lucky. I had very good doctors. My partner was wonderful. My friends were really wonderful. My family ... it all kicks in."
You get the impression that illness just doesn't suit her. "I've been Marianne Faithfull now for 42 years – and I love it and I do it very well," she says, hinting at how much she sees her public image as a persona. "But it's like a car, isn't it? I know I can work on six cylinders. And I like working on six cylinders. I don't want to work on two or four." Today, refreshed and revived, she's all about promoting her new film, Irina Palm, which may be why she looks very business-like, in a white blouse, charcoal trousers and patent black high heels. Only a black woollen jacket, with frayed collars and cuffs, wouldn't cut it if she were going for a job interview. Oh, and that swallow tattoo on her wrist might need covering up too.
A bittersweet comedy, Irina Palm, which opens here in June, has given Faithfull the role of her career. It's already won her a Best Actress nomination at last year's European Film Awards – though she lost out to Helen Mirren for The Queen. She plays Maggie, a 50-year-old suburban widow forced into finding a job to pay for her grandson's lifesaving medical treatment. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, she walks into a Soho strip-joint called Sexy World after seeing an advert for a hostess position. To her horror she discovers the job does not entail greeting customers at the door – but providing hand relief through a hole in the wall. Reluctantly taking the job, she discovers a knack for it – it's all in the wrist, you might say – and adopts the pseudonym Irina Palm.
If it sounds seedy, it isn't; in truth, it's a sweet, moving film about the lengths one goes to for family. "It's such a good script and such an interesting part," says Faithfull, moving a strand of her ash-blonde hair from her face. "And, of course, I like the whole idea of doing something, playing a character so not like me. Although there are several things in common with me ... like putting your foot down! What I really like is the journey – when we meet Maggie she's one person and then we watch her change." Could she ever do what Maggie did? "I don't think that I'm capable of going to the lengths that she went to. She's a very brave woman." Does she relate to her character's willingness to do absolutely anything for the sake of a child? "I don't know if I'd be able to do that! I'm lucky that I don't have to!"
While she has acted on and off throughout her career – perhaps most memorably, clad in black leather for 1969's Girl on a Motorcycle – Faithfull has recently found herself working with some major directors, albeit in minor roles. She played a bag lady in Patrice Chéreau's Intimacy, an adaptation of Hanif Kureishi's novella of infidelity. In Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, she was the French Queen's mother, Maria Teresa. And she had a blink-and-you'll-really-miss-it role in Gus Van Sant's short film Le Marais, part of the Paris, je t'aime compendium. Irina Palm, however, is unquestionably her most substantial role to date. "I didn't know whether I could carry a picture," she says. "I did what I always do – which is put one foot in front of the other and do it. It's very simple, really. You know your lines, you don't worry about the next day."
The film took Faithfull back on to the streets of Soho, bringing back painful memories. After she and Jagger split, she became a full-time heroin addict and anorexic for two years in the Seventies, living in squats and on the streets of the area. At her worst, she was existing on 25 shots of heroin a day – after a friend had got her into an NHS drug programme. "I don't know how I survived," she says. "My parents didn't have any money. I didn't sell my body." Keeping away from the sex industry, she says, helped her when crafting the naïve Maggie, who like Faithfull had never set foot in a strip club before. "I'm not interested in that world. I have had friends who were prostitutes, but we never really talked about their work. They didn't really like to."
No doubt such revelations would make her parents shudder. While Faithfull may have been born in Hampstead, north London, her mother, Eva, was a Viennese baroness, a descendant of Leopold Baron von Sacher-Masoch, author of the masochistic classic Venus in Furs. Her father, Glynn Faithfull, was a British spy during the Second World War, whose own father had invented a sexual device called the Frigidity Machine. Ironically, Faithfull revealed in her frank 1994 autobiography Faithfull that her mother did not enjoy sex, only marrying her father to escape post-war Vienna. So it perhaps came as no surprise that when Faithfull was just six, her father abandoned the family.
Packed off to a convent and raised as a Roman Catholic – a world far away from what she later dubbed her "Dionysian life" when she hung out with the Stones – Faithfull actually planned to go to university and drama school. "I was immature and naïve and very insecure, and I would've been the kind of girl that really needed that three years, and that's really what university or college is all about. You might learn something, you might not – but what you do get is three years before you have to go into the world as such. I was the kind of girl who really would've benefited from that and it didn't happen. So I had to do my growing up in public. It was an on-your-feet job. And I made a lot of mistakes."
Most of those, of course, involved Jagger. Introduced to him at London's Indica Gallery – co-owned by her first husband, the artist John Dunbar, whom she married in 1965 – Faithfull began her association with the Stones when she recorded "As Tears Go By". When her marriage to Dunbar collapsed, principally due to his heroin addiction, she moved in with Brian Jones and Anita Pallenberg, whom she befriended, and began a relationship with Jagger. During the infamous drugs bust at Keith Richards' Sussex mansion in February 1967, she was found by police wearing only a fur rug. Worse was to come, as an apocryphal tale involving a Mars Bar spread rapidly. According to the tabloids, Jagger was discovered enjoying a bit of "candy bar cunnilingus", as one wag dubbed it – a story that she's always fervently denied.
A year later she found herself pregnant with Jagger's child – but she miscarried and their relationship burnt out. "They hurt my feelings. All those busts and harassment," she says, recalling her decision a decade later to leave England for good. "I'm not saying I behaved that well, but I didn't really do anything that terrible either. I remember it very well – it was when Mrs Thatcher was in government. I put on my telly, and on one channel was the casualty list of the Falklands War, and on the other channel, the Pope was playing Wembley. So I thought, 'Right! I think it's time I got out of here!'" So has she forgiven us? She lets out another throaty laugh. "I got over it! It's so typical of me – to be resentful towards a whole country for 20 years."
Even after leaving Britain, she still struggled with drug addiction. After a spell in Hazelden, the Minnesota clinic she attended in 1985, Faithfull attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings for five-and-a-half years. In many ways it was music that saved her, gave her focus – beginning in 1979 when she released the critically lauded album Broken English. Since then, her musical career has been eclectic to say the least, whether it was playing the part of Pink's mother in Roger Waters' Berlin performance of The Wall in 1990, appearing in a version of Brecht's The Threepenny Opera or singing back-up vocals for Metallica's 1997 song "The Memory Remains". The new millennium has seen her work with numerous musicians – with the 2002 album Kissin' Time featuring collaborations with Beck, Jarvis Cocker and Dave Stewart. Two years later, Before the Poison saw her work with Damon Albarn, P J Harvey and Nick Cave.
Having completed her delayed touring commitments last year, Faithfull spent December in New York recording the bulk of her new record, Easy Come, Easy Go, which she hopes to release in the autumn. She's reluctant to talk much about it or with whom she's collaborated – "I hope that it will be a wonderful surprise" – but she admits she's currently exploring the possibility of a winter tour to promote it. "I love performing, but I hate touring," she says. "It's so exhausting. I don't know how I continue to do it." Partly she has to, she's realised, in order to create a "financial safety net", something her illness brought home to her. "I've never made a lot of money. It made me realise that I've got to start to save for my old age, actually, for things like this – and take care of myself."
Faithfull now divides her time between her home in County Waterford, Ireland, and Paris. "It's a lovely mix," she says. "Lovely Ireland, bit scruffy, all that. And, of course, Paris is a very nice place to be for a lady of a certain age! The French, they don't wipe you away. You're still somebody. You still exist." She is dating her manager François Ravard, but as soon as I broach the subject, she clams up. "I'm not talking about that," she says, rather haughtily. Even her 2007 book Memories, Dream and Reflections – a follow-up to Faithfull – tellingly contains no pictures of him. Married three times in all – she has one son, Nicholas, from her marriage to Dunbar – Faithfull says she is no longer "the marrying kind".
Neither is she into the rock'n'roll lifestyle any more – though given her health scare that's no surprise. "If you knew the truth!" she cries. "I'm so boring! I work very hard. I don't drink. I hardly smoke." – she points to the nicotine patch on her arm – "And I don't do drugs ... I save my energy for my work. I'm in retreat." It's why she still likes performing, she says. "I don't see very many people, I don't go to parties, I hardly do anything ... I do go to exhibitions, I go for walks, I see my friends, I go to movies, but I don't really do that much. And if I didn't have my work, I would lose something. I need that connection with people. Everybody does."
As for the Faithfull "legend", it has its own life. "I don't have to worry about it. It just does its own thing, really, and I do mine." Nostalgia, meanwhile, Faithfull doesn't do. "I don't have to have nostalgia. I'm in touch with Keith [Richards]. Mick called me in hospital, when I was having my intervention. I see Charlie [Watts]. I see [Charlie's wife] Shirley. I see Anita [Pallenberg]. I'm in touch with Yoko [Ono]. I bump into Yoko in New York. I know [her son] Sean. It's not nostalgia – it's right now, right here. It's never stopped." If nothing else, it's good to see that the protracted legal negotiations over receiving credit for writing "Sister Morphine", a track from the Stones' Sticky Fingers album (her name finally appeared on the 1994 re-release), has not dented their friendship.
Whatever she says, Faithfull is not above getting wistful. She lovingly recalls her last time in Sydney, when she sat with another dear friend, Bob Dylan, on a balcony overlooking the Harbour Bridge, and talked about music. The next night she saw the Stones play the 2,000-seater Enmore Theatre. "François and I went backstage to say 'Hello', and we had a lovely time and saw everybody. It's really odd – like going back into a strange, dysfunctional family. I know the crew, I know all the musicians ... it's really like that. It's just amazing. And I'm treated like a queen! I had the best seat in the house. Literally. The front seat of the first gallery, in the middle."
She avoided being portrayed in Stoned, Stephen Woolley's 2005 film about the death of Brian Jones, and Faithfull says she has no wish to see her story up on screen. It would make a good movie, I suggest. "For you, maybe, but not everybody else. I love my friends. I have a lot of respect for them all. I'm not dead. I am alive. I can control what happens. There's a way of doing it, with archive footage, very respectfully – and not having actors playing you." As for her film career, she's not looking to capitalise on the success of Irina Palm. "I'm not out there actively pursuing roles," she claims. "I've never been very aggressive about acting, although I love it very much. Music is still my full-time job."
Yet it's quite an irony that in her finest role she plays a woman who adopts a persona to disguise her real self. If there's a parallel between Maggie and Marianne, the actress suggests it may have something to do with the way she has come to terms with who she is – or has been – since the days of dating Jagger. "What I've been trying to do, and I think I've done it rather well, is bring the persona – or what was a false persona in the beginning – and me together. So that they become one. When I've really done that, I'll be very happy."
If anything, surviving cancer has made her more determined to enjoy her remaining years. "One of the things I would like is to be a nicer person. I'm never going to become a complete conformist. But I hope I've mellowed."
Birth name Marian Evelyn Faithfull
Born 29 December 1946 Hampstead, London, England
Genre(s) Rock, pop, folk, jazz, blues
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, actress
Instrument(s) Vocals, keyboards
Voice type(s) Soprano (early career), Deep contralto (later career)
Years active 1964–present
Label(s) Decca, Deram, London, NEMS, Columbia, Island, RCA, Instinct, Sanctuary, Anti, Naïve
Associated acts Andrew Loog Oldham, Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones, Nick Cave
Marianne Faithfull (born 29 December 1946) is an award-winning English singer, songwriter, actress and diarist whose career spans over four decades. Her early work in pop and rock music in the 1960s was overshadowed by her struggle with drug abuse in the 1970s. After a long commercial absence, she returned late in 1979 with the landmark album, Broken English. Faithfull's subsequent work, very frequently the subject of great critical acclaim, has at times been overshadowed by her personal history.
Over the course of her long recording career, Faithfull has continually reinvented her musical persona, experimenting in different musical genres and collaborating with such varied artists as Angelo Badalamenti, Beck, David Bowie, Nick Cave, The Chieftains, Jarvis Cocker, Billy Corgan, Marcella Detroit, Emmylou Harris, PJ Harvey, Antony Hegarty, Rupert Hine, Joe Jackson, Alex James, Lenny Kaye, Daniel Lanois, Sean Lennon, Metallica, John Prine, Barry Reynolds, Keith Richards, Sly and Robbie, Teddy Thompson, Tom Waits, Rufus Wainwright, Roger Waters, Steve Winwood and Patrick Wolf.
Faithfull was born Marian Evelyn Faithfull in Hampstead, London.
Her father, Major Dr. Robert Glynn Faithfull, was a British military officer and college professor in psychology.
Her mother, Eva von Sacher-Masoch, Baroness Erisso, was originally from Vienna, with noble roots from the Habsburg Dynasty and Jewish ancestry on her maternal side. Erisso was a ballerina for the Max Reinhardt Company during her early years, and danced in productions of works by the German theatrical duo Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill.
Faithfull's maternal great-great-uncle was Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the infamous 19th century Austrian nobleman whose erotic novel, Venus in Furs, spawned the word "masochism".
In regard to her roots in nobility, Faithfull commented in March, 2007 prior to beginning the European leg of her tour, "I'm even going to Budapest, which is nice because I'm half English and half Austro-Hungarian. I've inherited the title Baroness Sacher-Masoch — it comes from one of my great uncles who gave his name to masochism."
The family originally lived in Ormskirk, a market town in West Lancashire 13 miles NE of Liverpool, while her father completed a doctorate at Liverpool University. She spent some of her early life at the commune formed by her father at Braziers Park, Oxfordshire. After her parents divorced, when she was six years old, she moved with her mother to Reading, Berkshire. Living in rather reduced circumstances, Faithfull's girlhood was marred by bouts with tuberculosis and her charity-boarder status at St Joseph's Convent School. While at St. Joseph's, she was also a member of the Progress Theatre's student group.
Music career and personal life
Faithfull began her singing career in 1964, landing her first gigs as a folk music performer in coffeehouses. Faithfull emerged as a fashionable, vivacious teenager and soon began taking part in London's exploding social scene. In early 1964 she attended a Rolling Stones' launch party with John Dunbar and there a chance meeting with Andrew Loog Oldham, who discovered Faithfull. Her first major release, "As Tears Go By", was penned by Oldham, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and became a chart success. She then released a series of successful singles, including "This Little Bird", "Summer Nights" and "Come and Stay With Me". Faithfull married artist John Dunbar on 6 May 1965 at Cambridge with Peter Asher as the best man. The couple lived in a flat at 29 Lennox Gardens in Belgravia just off Knightsbridge, London SW1.
On 10 November 1965 she gave birth to their son, Nicholas. She then: "...left her husband to live with Mick Jagger...' and told the 'New Musical Express' that: 'My first move was to get a Rolling Stone as a boyfriend. I slept with three and decided the lead singer was the best bet".
In 1966 she took their son to stay with Brian Jones and Anita Pallenberg in London. During that time period, Faithfull started using marijuana and became best friends with Pallenberg. She also began a much publicized relationship with Mick Jagger that same year. The couple became notorious and largely part of the hip Swinging London scene. She was found by British police while on a drug search at Keith Richards' house in Redlands, while wearing only a fur rug. In an interview 27 years later with A. M. Homes for Details, Faithfull discussed her wilder days and admitted that the drug bust-fur rug incident had ravaged her personal life: "It destroyed me. To be a male drug addict and to act like that is always enhancing and glamorising. A woman in that situation becomes a slut and a bad mother". In 1968 Faithfull, by now addicted to cocaine, miscarried a daughter (whom she had named Corrina) while retreating to Jagger's country house in Ireland.
Faithfull's involvement in Jagger's life would be reflected in some of the Rolling Stones' best-known songs. "Sympathy for the Devil", featured on the album Beggars Banquet (1968), was in part inspired by The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, a book which Faithfull introduced him to. The song "You Can't Always Get What You Want" on the Let It Bleed album (1969) was written about Faithfull; the songs "Wild Horses" and "I Got the Blues" on the 1971 album Sticky Fingers were also influenced by Faithfull, and she herself wrote "Sister Morphine". (The writing credit for the song was the subject of a protracted legal battle; the resolution of the case has Faithfull listed as co-author of the song.)
In her autobiography, Faithfull said Mick Jagger and Keith Richards released it in their own names so that her agent did not collect all the royalties and proceeds from the song, especially as she was homeless and battling with heroin addiction at the time. Faithfull appeared on the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus TV show, giving a solo performance of "Something Better".
Faithfull dissolved her relationship with Jagger in May 1970, and lost custody of her son in that same year, which led to her mother attempting suicide.
Marianne's personal life went into decline, and her career went into a tailspin. She only made a few appearances, including a 1973 performance at NBC with David Bowie, singing Sonny Bono's song (recorded in 1965 by Sonny and Cher) "I Got You Babe".
Faithfull lived on London's Soho streets for two years, suffering from heroin addiction and anorexia nervosa. Friends intervened and enrolled her in an NHS drug programme, from which she could get her daily fix on prescription from a chemist (pharmacist). She was one of the program's most notorious failures, neither controlling nor stabilizing her addiction as the NHS intended. In 1971, producer Mike Leander found her on the streets and made an attempt to revive her career, producing part of her album Rich Kid Blues. The album would be shelved until 1985.
Severe laryngitis coupled with persistent cocaine abuse during this period permanently altered the sound of Faithfull's voice, leaving it cracked and lower in pitch. While the new sound was praised as "whiskey-soaked" by some critics, journalist John Jones of the (London) Sunday Times wrote that she had "permanently vulgarized her voice". In 1975 she released the country-influenced record Dreamin' My Dreams, which reached the top of the Irish Albums Chart. Faithfull moved into a squat without hot water or electricity in Chelsea with her then-boyfriend Ben Brierly, of punk band The Vibrators.
Faithfull's career returned full force in 1979 (the same year she was arrested for marijuana possession in Norway) with the album Broken English, one of her most critically hailed album releases. The album was partially influenced by the punk explosion and on her marriage to Brierly in the same year. In addition to the punk-pop sounds of the title track (which addressed terrorism in Europe, being dedicated to Ulrike Meinhof), the album also included "Why D'Ya Do It", a punk-reggae song with aggressive lyrics adapted from a poem by Heathcote Williams.
The musical structure of this song is complex; though on the surface hard rock, it is a tango in 4/4 time, with an opening electric guitar riff by Barry Reynolds in which beats 1 and 4 of each measure are accented on the up-beat, and beat 3 is accented on the down beat. Faithfull, in her autobiography, commented that her fluid yet rhythmic reading of Williams' lyric was "an early form of rap". Broken English also revealed an astonishing change to Faithfull's singing voice. The melodic vocals on her early records were replaced with a raucous, deep voice, affected by years of smoking, drinking and drug use
Faithfull began living in New York after the release of the follow-up to Broken English, Dangerous Acquaintances, in 1981. Despite her comeback, she was still battling with addiction in the mid-1980s, at one point breaking her jaw tripping on a flight of stairs while under the influence.
In another incident her heart actually stopped. A disastrous appearance on Saturday Night Live was blamed on too many rehearsals, but it was suspected that drugs had caused her vocal cords to seize up. Rich Kid Blues (1984) was another collection of her early work combined with new recordings, a double record showcasing both the pop and rock 'n' roll facets of her output to date. In 1985, Faithfull performed "Ballad of the Soldier's Wife" on Hal Willner's tribute album Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill. Faithfull's restrained readings lent themselves to the material, and this collaboration informed several subsequent works.
In 1985, she was at Hazelden Clinic in Minnesota for rehabilitation. She then received treatment at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. While living at a hotel in nearby Cambridge, Faithfull started an affair (while still married to Brierly) with a dual diagnosis (mentally ill and drug dependent) man, Howard Tose, who later committed suicide by jumping from a 14th floor window of the apartment they shared. In 1987, Faithfull dedicated a thank-you to Tose within the album package of Strange Weather, on the back sleeve: "To Howard Tose with love and thanks". Faithfull's divorce from Brierly was also finalized that year. In 1995, she wrote and sang about the experience of Tose's death in "Flaming September" from the album A Secret Life.
In 1987, Faithfull again reinvented herself, this time as a jazz and blues singer, on Strange Weather, also produced by Willner. The album became her most critically lauded album of the decade. Coming full circle, the renewed Faithfull cut another recording of "As Tears Go By" for Strange Weather, this time in a tighter, more gravelly voice. The singer confessed to a lingering irritation with her first hit. "I always childishly thought that was where my problems started, with that damn song," she told Jay Cocks in Time, but she came to terms with it as well as with her past. In a 1987 interview with Rory O'Connor of Vogue, Faithfull declared, "forty is the age to sing it, not seventeen.
The album of covers was produced by Hal Willner after the two had spent numerous weekends listening to hundreds of songs from the annals of twentieth-century music. They chose to record such diverse tracks as Bob Dylan's "I'll Keep It with Mine" and "Yesterdays," written by Broadway composers Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach. The work also includes tunes first made notable by such blues luminaries as Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith; latter-day beat-virtuoso Tom Waits penned the title track. In 1988, the singer married writer and actor Giorgio Della Terza, but they divorced in 1991.
When Roger Waters assembled an all-star cast of musicians to perform the rock opera The Wall live in Berlin in July 1990, Faithfull played the part of Pink's over-protective mother. Her musical career rebounded for the third time during the early 1990s with the live album Blazing Away, which featured Faithfull revisiting songs she had performed over the course of her career. Blazing Away was recorded at St. Anne's Cathedral in Brooklyn. The 13 selections include "Sister Morphine," a cover of Edith Piaf's "Les Prisons du Roy," and the controversial "Why D'Ya Do It?" from Broken English.
Alanna Nash of Stereo Review commended the musicians whom Faithfull had chosen to back her—longtime guitarist Reynolds was joined by former Band member Garth Hudson and pianist Dr. John. Nash was also impressed with the album's autobiographical tone, noting "Faithfull's gritty alto is a cracked and halting rasp, the voice of a woman who's been to hell and back on the excursion fare—which, of course, she has."
The reviewer extolled Faithfull as "one of the most challenging and artful of women artists," and Rolling Stone writer Fred Goodman asserted: "Blazing Away is a fine retrospective—proof that we can still expect great things from this graying, jaded contessa.
As her fascination with the music of Weimar-era Germany continued, Faithfull released a recording of The Seven Deadly Sins and performed in The Threepenny Opera. Her interpretation of the music led to a new album, Twentieth Century Blues, which focused on the music of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, and a successful concert and cabaret tour.
A Collection of Her Best Recordings was released in 1994, containing Faithfull's updated version of "As Tears Go By," several cuts from Broken English, and a song written by Patti Smith scheduled for inclusion on an Irish AIDS benefit album. This track, "Ghost Dance", suggested to Faithfull by a friend who later died of AIDS, was made with a trio of old acquaintances: Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts and guitarist Ron Wood backed Faithfull's vocals on the song, while Keith Richards coproduced it. The retrospective album also featured one live track, "Times Square," as well as Faithfull's return to songwriting with "She," penned with composer and arranger Angelo Badalamenti. The next year she recorded A Secret Life, with more songs written with Badalamenti. Faithfull also sang background vocals on Metallica's song "The Memory Remains" from their 1997 album ReLoad and appeared in the song's music video; the track reached #28 in the U.S. (#3 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart) and #13 in the UK.
In 1998 Faithfull released A Perfect Stranger: The Island Anthology, a two-disc compilation that chronicled her years with Island Records. It featured tracks from her albums Broken English, Dangerous Acquaintances, A Child's Adventure, Strange Weather, Blazing Away, and A Secret Life, as well as several B-sides and unreleased tracks.
Faithfull's 1999 DVD Dreaming My Dreams contained material about her childhood and parents, with historical video footage going back to 1964 and interviews with the artist and several friends who have known her since childhood. The documentary included sections on her relationship with John Dunbar and Mick Jagger, and brief interviews with Keith Richards. It concluded with a 30-minute live concert. That same year, she ranked #25 in VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Rock and Roll.
Faithfull has released several albums in the 2000s that received positive critical response, beginning with Vagabond Ways (2000). It included collaborations with Daniel Lanois, Emmylou Harris, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, and writer (and friend) Frank McGuiness. Later that year she sang "Love Got Lost" on Joe Jackson's Night and Day II album.
Her renaissance continued with Kissin' Time, released in 2002. The album contained songs written with Blur (title track), Beck, Billy Corgan, Jarvis Cocker, Dave Stewart, David Courts, and the French pop singer Étienne Daho. On this record, she paid tribute to Nico (with "Song for Nico"), whose work she admired. The album also included an autobiographical song she co-wrote with Cocker, called "Sliding Through Life on Charm".
In 2005, she released Before the Poison. The album was primarily a collaboration with PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, though Damon Albarn and Jon Brion also contributed. In 2005, André Schneider performed a cover version of her song "The Hawk", and she recorded (and co-produced) "Lola R Forever", a cover of the Serge Gainsbourg song "Lola Rastaquouere" with Sly & Robbie for the tribute album Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited. In 2007, Faithfull collaborated with the British singer/songwriter, Patrick Wolf on the duet "Magpie" from his third album The Magic Position and wrote and recorded a new song for the French film Truands called "A Lean and Hungry Look" with Ulysse.
Faithfull currently resides in Paris, with her manager and boyfriend François Ravard. Marianne and François recently split.
In March 2007 she returned to the stage with a touring show entitled Songs of Innocence and Experience. Supported by a trio, the performance had a semi-acoustic feel and toured European theatres throughout the spring and summer. The show featured many songs she had not performed live before including "Something Better", the song she sang on The Rolling Stones' Rock & Roll Circus. The show also included the Harry Nilsson song "Don't Forget Me" which features the line "When we're old and full of cancer, it doesn't matter now, come on, get happy" seen as a celebration of her surviving the disease.
Recent articles hint Faithfull is looking to retirement, in hopes money from Songs of the Innocence and Experience will enable her to live in comfort. The 60-year-old said: "I’m not prepared to be 70 and absolutely broke. I realized last year that I have no safety net at all and I’m going to have to get one. So I need to change my attitude to life, which means I have to put away 10 per cent every year of my old age. I want to be in a position where I don’t have to work. I should have thought about this a long time ago but I didn’t."
Recording of her studio album Easy Come, Easy Go commenced in New York City on 6 December 2007; the album is produced by Hal Willner who also produced her 1987 album Strange Weather. A version of Morrissey's Dear God Please Help Me from his 2006 album, Ringleader of the Tormentors is one of the songs featured, and the album is available both a standard 10-song cd and as an 18-song cd-dvd combination. A collectible vinyl pressing is also available. The EU release on Naive was November 10, 2008.
On January 20, 2009, the blog on Faithfull's MySpace page announced: "The US, UK and Australian release dates for Marianne's new album are as follows...US release: March 17, 2009 on Decca, UK release: March 16, 2009 on Dramatico, Australian release: February 14, 2009 on Shock records.
On March 31, 2009, Faithfull performed The Crane Wife 3 on The Late Show .
In late March, Marianne began the Easy Come, Easy Go tour, which will take her to France, Germany, Austria, New York City and London.
On Thursday, April 16, 2009, while preparing to board a British Airways flight at London's Gatwick Airport bound for a concert appearance in Bologna, Italy, Francois Ravard, accompanying Faithfull, was detained and then later arrested. In a statement, British Airways said: "A male customer became aggressive and abusive at check-in when he was refused travel on a flight from Gatwick to Bologna. He appeared to be intoxicated on arrival at check-in. In such circumstances, an assessment is made as to whether the passenger is fit to travel. When he was refused travel, he became physically and verbally abusive. Police were called and he was arrested. Such behaviour will not be tolerated."
Faithfull, however, had not been drinking and was allowed to board. The pair was flying to Italy on a leg of her world tour promoting Easy Come, Easy Go. According to her spokeperson, "Marianne was at Gatwick airport but was not involved in any way in the situation that occurred and she managed to travel on to Bologna as planned. Her gig tonight there will go ahead as planned, and Francois travelled from Britain to join her yesterday. Marianne hadn't been drinking at the time of the incident and she does not drink alcohol. She is enjoying life and loving it as she is sober and clean."
On Saturday, April 18, 2009, Faithfull revealed separately in an interview, reported in The Daily Mail, that although Ravard was still her manager their 15-year relationship had ended some months ago. According to the interview quoted, Faithfull stated, "I'm all right but I have had a bit of an adventure - my relationship broke up. I felt very betrayed and lonely. I am much, much better now, but it is not good for your self-esteem."
In addition to her music career, Faithfull has had a career as an actress in theatre, television and film.
Her first professional theatre appearance was in a 1967 stage adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, at the Royal Court, London, in which she played Irina, co-starring with Glenda Jackson and Avril Elgar. Before that she played herself in Jean-Luc Godard's movie Made in U.S.A.. Faithfull has also appeared in the 1967 film I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name alongside Orson Welles (where she notedly became the first person to say "fuck" in a mainstream studio picture), in the French television movie Anna, starring Anna Karina (in which Faithfull sang Serge Gainsbourg's 'Hier ou Demain', a video available on YouTube), as a leather-clad motorcyclist in the 1968 French film La Motocyclette (English titles: Girl on a Motorcycle and Naked Under Leather) opposite Alain Delon, and in Kenneth Anger's 1969 film Lucifer Rising, in which she played Lilith. In 1969, Faithfull played Ophelia opposite Nicol Williamson's Hamlet, directed by Tony Richardson and featuring Anthony Hopkins as Claudius.
Her stage work also included Edward Bond's Early Morning at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in which she played a lesbian Florence Nightingale, The Collector at St. Martin's Theatre in the West End opposite Simon Williams, Mad Dog at Hampstead Theatre opposite Denholm Elliott, A Patriot for Me by John Osborne, at Watford Palace Theatre and The Rainmaker, which toured the UK and in which Marianne's co-star was TV actor Peter Gilmore. Other film roles in the 1970s included Stephen Weeks's Ghost Story (AKA Madhouse Mansion) and Assault on Agathon.
Her television acting in the late 1960s and early 1970s included The Door of Opportunity (1970) with Ian Ogilvy, adapted from W. Somerset Maugham's story, followed by Strindberg's The Stronger (1971) with Britt Ekland, and Terrible Jim Fitch (1971) by James Leo Herlihy, which once more paired Faithfull with Nicol Williamson.
In 1993, she played the role of Pirate Jenny in The Threepenny Opera at the Gate Theatre in Dublin. Later she performed The Seven Deadly Sins with the Vienna Radio Symphony, a CD of which was released in 1998.
She has played both God and the Devil. She appeared as God in two guest appearances in the British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous opposite friend Jennifer Saunders, with another close friend, Anita Pallenberg, playing the Devil. In 2004 and 2005, Marianne herself played the Devil in William Burroughs's and Tom Waits's musical, The Black Rider, directed by Robert Wilson, which opened at London's Barbican Theatre, toured to San Francisco, but from which Marianne was forced to withdraw prior to performances at the Sydney Festival, owing to exhaustion.
In 2001 Faithfull appeared with Lucy Russell and Lambert Wilson in C.S. Leigh's Far From China. She has also appeared in Patrice Chéreau's Intimacy (2001) and, in 2004, in Jose Hayot's Nord-Plage. Faithfull appeared as Empress Maria-Theresa in Sofia Coppola's 2006 biopic, Marie-Antoinette, in which the most affecting aspects of her performance were her spoken voice-overs. She starred in the film Irina Palm, released at the Berlinale film festival in 2007. Faithfull plays the central role of Maggie, a 60-year-old widow who becomes a sex worker to pay for medical treatment for her ill grandson.
Faithfull lent her voice to the 2008 film Evil Calls: The Raven, although this was recorded several years earlier when the project was still titled Alone in the Dark. She has appeared in the 2008 feature documentary by Nik Sheehan on Brion Gysin and the Dreamachine, entitled FLicKeR.
In October 2008, Marianne's website and MySpace page announced Marianne's tour of readings of Shakespeare's Sonnets, drawing on the "Dark Lady" sequence. Marianne's accompanist on the tour is the cellist Vincent Segal.
Career as a diarist
In 1994, she published an autobiography, entitled Faithfull, in which she discusses her early life, career, drug addictions, experimentation with bisexuality and significant relationships with her parents, the various Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan.
In 2007, Faithfull released a second volume of autobiography called Memories, Dreams and Relections. The book, published by Fourth Estate (an imprint of HarperCollins), was a more personal history than Faithfull and contains a wide range of material, including a detailed early history of her mother's life in Austria, her recollections of friends who have passed away, and her assessments of various recent health issues.
Nominations and awards
On 4 November 2007, the European Film Academy announced that Faithfull had received a nomination for Best Actress, for her role as Maggie in Irina Palm. At the 20th annual European Film Awards ceremony held in Berlin, on 1 December 2007, Faithfull lost to Helen Mirren.
On March 5, 2009, Faithfull received the World Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 2009 Woman's World Awards. "Marianne’s contribution to the arts over a 45 year career including 23 albums as a singer, songwriter and interpreter, and numerous appearances on stage and screen is now being acknowledged with this special award." The award was presented in Vienna, with ceremonies televised in over 40 countries on March 8, 2009 as part of International Women's Day.
In the past five years, Faithfull's touring and work schedule has been interrupted 3 times due to various health issues.
In late 2004 she called off the European leg of a world tour, promoting Before The Poison after collapsing onstage in Milan, and was hospitalized for exhaustion. The tour resumed later and included a US leg in 2005.
In September 2006, she again called off a concert tour, this time after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The following month, she underwent surgery in France and no further treatment was necessary owing to the tumour having been caught at a very early stage. Less than two months after she declared having the disease, Faithfull made her public statement of full recovery.
On 11 October 2007 Faithfull revealed she had the disease Hepatitis C on UK television programme This Morning, and that she had first been diagnosed with the condition 12 years before. She discusses both the cancer and Hepatitis diagnoses in further depth in her second memoir, Memories, Dreams and Relections.
On 27 May 2008, Faithfull released the following blog posting on her MySpace page, with the headline "Tour Dates Cancelled" and credited to FR Management - the company operated by her boyfriend/manager Francois Ravard: "Due to general mental, physical and nervous exhaustion doctors have ordered Marianne Faithfull to immediately cease all work activities and rehabilitate. The treatment and recovery should last around 6 months, we all wish Marianne a speedy recuperation period and look forward to her new album release and tour in 2009."
Marianne Faithfull: 'I've been given another life...'
By PAUL HEDERSON 3 March 2007
Marianne Faithfull awoke with a jolt. She was in a hospital bed in a Parisian clinic recovering from emergency surgery to remove a cancerous lump in her right breast.
It was one in the morning, the lights were dim, there were few staff around and the phone beside her bed was ringing.
After taking a few moments to take in all these facts, Marianne picked up the receiver and put it to her ear. The voice on the other end was unmistakable.
"Ello Marian darling. How are you?' he said in a Thames estuary drawl.
"He didn't say who he was - he didn't need to," Marianne recalls.
"No one else in the world calls me Marian - as in Maid Marian. It could only be Mick Jagger and I knew it was him right away.
"He asked me how I was and I told him I was fine and getting through it.
"We spoke for a while, like musicians do. I knew he was on a world tour and asked him where he was. He said somewhere like Miami.
"I asked how his voice was holding up. He didn't say much but I could feel his famous shoulders shrugging at the other end."
It is clear from her retelling of the story that Marianne was deeply moved to receive the call. "All the time I was thinking, this is so kind. He hadn't called me for 35 years and here he was on the phone, making sure I was OK.
"I didn't expect him to contact me and I was extremely touched that he'd made the effort to call. He's a good man.
"He loves me and I love him. The fact that our relationship ended in 1970 doesn't matter. If you love someone, you love each other for ever - it never stops.
"I found out later that Mick had phoned around agents and all my friends to get my number in the clinic. He went to a lot of trouble. That's a classy guy."
As she sits beneath the shade of a giant palm on a hotel terrace overlooking the rugged southern coast of Jamaica, it is clear that Marianne, now 60, has retained her extraordinary blue-eyed beauty despite the tell-tale wrinkles and lines bequeathed by a life lived to the limits.
Her voice is deep and husky with beautifully modulated middle-class vowels and a raucous throaty laugh - a legacy of a 40-year cigarette habit she has been unable to kick, despite her cancer diagnosis.
Even dressed-down in blue jeans and an old black T-shirt above a feminine lacy top, she has an aura of proud, if somewhat faded, grandeur.
It befits a woman who was one of the quintessential rock starlets of Sixties London before her life went so disastrously off the rails.
And of all the gossip and half-truths written about Mick Jagger over the decades, there can be no doubt that the simple act of seeking out his old girlfriend after so many years to offer a few words of encouragement as she lay in hospital is one of the most touching incidents - a gesture from one of rock's great survivors to a former lover who has led an altogether more complicated and painful life.
She was publicly disgraced after being discovered naked in a rug during an infamous police raid on a Rolling Stones party in 1967, was a pop star at 17, a married mother at 18 and a heroin addict during much of the Seventies.
As such, she endured the unutterable squalor of two years living rough on the streets of Soho before dragging her life back on track and releasing a series of bitter-sweet, commercially successful albums.
Now dividing her time between homes in Dublin and an apartment just off the Champs-Elysees in Paris - she left England in the early Eighties because she felt unable to escape her notorious past - this convent-educated daughter of an English professor and an Austrian baroness makes no bones about the fact that being diagnosed with cancer is the most frightening thing that has ever happened to her.
She has not spoken about it before but the tropical warmth, the sound of the blue Caribbean sea crashing on the rocks and the occasional sip of a cold Cuba Libre - white rum and cola - might make the experience seem somehow less terrifying.
The operation to remove the tumour six months ago has been pronounced a success, she says.
"Because they caught the cancer very early, I didn't need chemotherapy or radiotherapy. But the operation was one of those things that had to be done immediately - there was no time to wait.
"The first I knew about it was when I felt very unwell last summer. I just felt I had the blues and I couldn't explain it, so I went to see a doctor in Paris and he told me I had to have some checks.
"I was terrified when the results came back. I was told I had breast cancer, and hearing those words for someone of my age is truly frightening. When I grew up, cancer meant only one thing - death.
"A million thoughts went through my mind - I want to keep living my life, I want to see my grandchildren grow up, I want to be there for my friends, I want to be able to love and to work."
She knows that she was lucky. Lucky to seek medical advice so early. And lucky that she happened to live within a few miles of the Institut Gustave-Roussy, the world-renowned private cancer clinic where Kylie Minogue was also treated for breast cancer.
The doctors there who diagnosed Marianne's tumour decided it had been caught early enough to be dealt with by surgery alone.
The urgency of the operation meant that she had to cancel a major tour of Europe and North America last autumn.
The series of acoustic concerts, titled Songs Of Innocence And Experience, has now been rearranged, beginning next week in Budapest.
Pausing to light yet another Marlboro from a battered pack on the table in front of her, she inhales deeply and begins to ponder the sheer self-destructive folly of a cancer survivor continuing to smoke.
"I know we all die sometime, but I would like not to be stupid about it,' says Marianne. "I hardly drink and don't do drugs but I do smoke.
"I've tried everything to give up - hypnotism, acupuncture, patches - and I've read Allen Carr's book on how to stop smoking. But I've been smoking since I was 19, and so far nothing has worked. But I'm determined to kick it.
"I'm going to take a new pill when I get back to Paris to get off cigarettes. I've just turned 60, I am a singer and I am still smoking. How stupid is that? But I've been very fortunate - I have been given another life to live.
"First I was going to die and then I wasn't. Then I find out how much I am loved. The whole thing has been a lot for me to process."
Marianne also ponders the irony of the reason for her visit to what she describes as 'my favourite place on the planet' - the splendidly languid Jake's Hotel at Treasure Beach on Jamaica's south coast.
She is here to mourn the death, at 70, of the hotel's owner Perry Henzell, who also directed and co-wrote the legendary 1972 Jamaican film The Harder They Come, featuring reggae star Jimmy Cliff.
"I had to be here to mourn Perry, who died in November," she says.
"I came to help his widow Sally and her son Jason get over their bereavement and to come to terms myself with the fact that my very good friend is not here any more.
"Before he died I had a wonderful phone call from Sally and Perry goading me to come here to help my recovery. I told Perry I was fine, but now he's not here and I am very lucky to be alive.
"Perry died like I would like to die - he died in his sleep lying in bed next to Sally.
"He chose his time beautifully. His cancer was about to become unbearably painful and he told me he didn't want to go to the Jamaican premiere of his latest film, No Place Like Home, the following day."
Has her brush with cancer forced her to reassess her own life? "Sure," she says. "The first thing I want to say is that everybody must check, check, check. For men it's to check for prostate cancer and for women breast cancer."
And she admits: "I also now know I would like another ten years to work because I have never saved money. I have been appallingly bad with money and I would like to earn enough to look after myself in my old age."
Marianne reveals that she still gets stage-fright, but says: "I'm really looking forward to performing again. I'm playing at the Pigalle Club in London in two weeks' time and then at the Shepherd's Bush Empire as part of a European and North American tour. I'll release my next single in November. Life's looking great again.
"I'm even going to Budapest, which is nice because I'm half English and half Austro-Hungarian. I've inherited the title Baroness Sacher-Masoch - it comes from one of my great uncles who gave his name to masochism." This is the 19th Century aristocrat Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, infamous for his erotic novel Venus In Furs.
"I might even put it on my passport," she laughs before stopping to take a sip of Cuba Libre. "But there's no one quite like Marianne Faithfull. No one does what I do."Indeed, even though she remains most famous for being Mick Jagger's girlfriend for five years at the height of the Swinging Sixties, for her chart-topping cover version of the Stones'.
As Tears Go By and for her part in that infamous drugs bust, it is her more recent work as a singer and actress that has brought her most satisfaction and most commercial and critical success. But it is also clear that the pain of some of the most hurtful episodes of the Sixties is still close to the surface.
Four decades after the police raid at Keith Richards' country estate at Redlands, Surrey, in February 1967, she still seethes over the indignity of being associated with the untrue Mars bar story.
"When a woman loses her reputation at 19 she loses everything," she says angrily. "What people thought of me and the Stones was downright unfair. And I so object to the Mars bar story - it's offensive.
"Even Keith Richards has gone on record as saying it's ridiculous. He said I was too classy for that."
But has she any regrets about her tumultuous life? "Look, it wasn't my intention to hook up with Mick," she says.
"When we were together it all went by so fast. I didn't understand it. I loved this guy and hoped it would be for ever. It didn't work out, but I would not have missed it for anything. I wanted to work and do my own thing and Mick was supportive of that - well, he was of my acting. He laughed at my music, which did get better."
"But it's your job if you are with him to be Mick's consort. That's how life works out. Stuff happens and you have to deal with it.
"Of course I've got regrets," she admits, without revealing what they are. "But now I've been given a second chance. I've been to the brink and come back again.
"And, because of that, I've realised that what is most important to me now is my family and friends and my work."
She confesses that she could not return to live in Britain again. "Too much has happened there," she says. "I prefer my homes in Dublin and Paris. But I do go back to London to see my son Nicholas [from her short-lived 1965 marriage to artist John Dunbar] and my grandchildren.
"I've also realised more than ever how important friends are. When I was recovering from my operation, I really appreciated all those calls and emails and letters from Mick, Keith, Yoko Ono, John Galliano, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and Chris Blackwell [the founder of Island Records].
"They all came through for me, either to wish me well or to help me.
"And I've come to the conclusion that I can't retire - I'd croak if I did. Look at B.B. King, still on the road at the age of 81. Bob Dylan recently became the oldest man to top the American charts at 65.
"Having cancer has been one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. But life goes on - and it's up to me to make the most of it."[top]
'You know, I'm not everybody's cup of tea!'
Late, rude and unapologetic... and then the interview goes from bad to worse. But after some prompting and wine, Marianne Faithfull talks to Lynn Barber about finding a new lover at last, what she really wore under the infamous fur coat and why Intimacy may be her best film ever
Lynn Barber 15 July 2001
Marianne Faithfull once said, 'I am a Fabulous Beast, and as such, I should only be glimpsed very rarely, through the forest, running away for dear life.' How wise she was. If I were ever asked to interview her again, I would turn into a Fabulous Beast myself and hightail it to the forest. I first glimpsed Her Fabulousness ages ago at a restaurant in Notting Hill, 192, where she was sitting all alone at lunchtime reading the papers. 192 is a very sociable sort of table-hopping restaurant, so I thought there was something faintly sad about her solitude. But then a man joined her - it might even have been my future nemesis, François - and she simply handed him a slice of newspaper and carried on reading right through lunch. It was so devastatingly drop-dead cool that all the chattering at the other tables somehow died - we farmyard animals knew we were in the presence of a Fabulous Beast.
Intimacy Release: 2001 Countries: France, Rest of the world, Spain, UK Cert (UK): 18 Runtime: 119 mins Directors: Patrice Chereau Cast: Kerry Fox, Marianne Faithfull, Mark Rylance, Timothy Spall More on this film So when I heard she was coming to London (she lives in Dublin) to publicise the film Intimacy, I jumped at the chance to interview her. It all seemed quite straightforward: she would go to David Bailey's studio at 12.30pm to have her photo taken - she likes David Bailey, they 'go back a long way', to the 60s - and I would pick her up at 4pm and interview her till 6pm when a car would take her to the airport for her flight back to Dublin. My only worry (ha ha, in retrospect) was where I could take her between 4pm and 6pm, because I thought as a reformed junkie she wouldn't fancy a wine bar. Silly old me.
At 1pm, the publicist phones to say Marianne has not yet arrived at Bailey's - she was still in bed when they rang at 12.45pm - so everything has been put back an hour. Fine, or fine-ish. I arrive at Bailey's studio eager-beaver at 5pm, and walk into an atmosphere you could cut with a knife. Marianne, trussed like a chicken in Vivienne Westwood with her boobs hanging out, ignores me, Bailey likewise; half a dozen assorted stylists, hairdressers, make-up people stand around looking tense. The PR is friendly but apologetic - she says the photographs will take at least another hour and I should push off and have coffee. A Frenchman who looks like Woody Allen but without his suavity and charm introduces himself as François Ravard, Marianne's manager. I wait for some apology or explanation of why they are running two hours late - it never comes. Finally I say, 'You're running late?' 'Ah yes,' he says with a shrug. 'You know how it eez - it eez always the same.' Really? 'But don't worry,' he adds, 'we have dinner later.' Thanks a million, mon frère - I was supposed to be having dinner with friends. I push off to make calls cancelling my evening.
When I return to Bailey's, the atmosphere is even worse. No sign of Marianne - she has gone off to change - Bailey looks like thunder. Various sotto voce conversations are going on around me and I hear the ominous phrase from Bailey 'as long as it takes'. Time for my tantrum, I feel. Choosing my spot carefully, I stamp my feet like a flamenco dancer and address the studio at large. 'There is no point in taking photographs,' I warble, 'unless there is an article to stick them in. And there is no article unless I get my interview now.' The hair and make-up people stare blankly - so uncool! - but Bailey's assistant and the PR seem to get the point and agree that they will shoot one more pose and finish at 6.15pm. This news is relayed to Bailey with much fierce muttering and hostile staring at me. I decide to go outside and do some deep breathing.
When I get back, Bailey is at the camera; Marianne, in a black mac and fishnet tights, is sprawling with her legs wide apart, her black satin crotch glinting between her scrawny 55-year-old thighs, doing sex kitten moues at the camera. Oh please, stop! I want to cry - this is sadism, this is misogyny, this is cruelty to grandmothers. I wonder if Bailey actually hates her - I wonder if this is her punishment for turning up late. I hear the agent and the Frenchman muttering behind me - 'They won't use this, they can't.' So why is Bailey shooting it then?
Suddenly, the session is over, and we - Marianne, the Frenchman, the PR and me - emerge into the street where a chauffeur-driven limousine has been waiting all this time. It is now 6.45pm and Faithfull has still barely said hello. The PR says we can eat at the Italian restaurant at the end of the street. Marianne says she can't possibly walk, so we pile into the limousine to drive 50 yards to the corner. It is a sweet, friendly, family-run Italian restaurant that has no idea what hell awaits them. No sooner have we been ushered into a private room downstairs than Marianne is muttering, 'What do you have to do to get a drink around here?' Order it, seems the obvious answer, but that's too simple - François has to order it for her. Unfortunately - my huge mistake - I have let him and the PR eat downstairs with us, albeit at a separate table, and even more unfortunately I have placed Marianne against the wall, where she can see François over my shoulder. I could smack myself: what's the use of serving all these years in the interviewing trenches if you still make such elementary mistakes?
Suddenly, Marianne is shouting at François: 'Get it together!' and he is shouting back: 'What do you want , Marianne?' 'I don't know . What have they got ?' she counters, drumming her feet under the table and moaning: 'I. Can. Hardly. Bear. It.' François keeps asking whether she wants wine or a cocktail. I'm thinking rat poison. Eventually she tells François a bottle of rosé. The waiter brings it with commendable speed and starts pouring two glasses. She snatches mine away - 'We don't need that. Where's the ice bucket?' The waiter goes away and comes back with an ice bucket. 'I'll have the veal escalope,' she tells him. He waits politely for my order. 'Veal! Vitello!' she snaps - she can't understand why he is still hanging around when he should be off escaloping veal. 'I'll have the same,' I say wearily.
I'm already fed up with her and we haven't even started. But at this point - a tad late, in my view - she suddenly flicks the switch marked Charm and bathes me in its glow. 'Cheers!' she says. 'Sorry I yelled. A slight crise there. It's been a long day.' (Really? She was still in bed at one, it is now seven, hardly a full shift at the coalface.) But anyway, she is - finally - apologetic. And I in turn put on my thrilled-to-meet-you face and tell her that I deeply enjoyed her autobiography Faithfull (1994), which I did. It is a truly amazing story - a pop star at 17, a mother at 18, Mick Jagger's girlfriend at 19, reigning over Cheyne Walk - and yet by her thirties she was a heroin addict living on the street in Soho. Even if she didn't write a word of it (David Dalton was co-author), she deserves some credit just for living it. For a while she basks in my compliments and then switches off the charm and snaps, 'But I'm not going to talk about the book, I want to talk about the film.' Huh? Too late I realise my mistake with the placement - obviously there has been some signal from François.
So then she launches into her spiel about Intimacy - how she saw Patrice Chéreau, the director, in a Paris restaurant and rushed over to tell him she loved his film La Reine Margot and to ask: Can I be in your next film? He said yes, and started writing a part for her that night. It is quite a small part, as a loopy bag lady, but Chéreau evidently convinced her it's the pivot of the film. Did she mind having to look so unglamorous? 'I did and I didn't. The first time I saw it, it was a shock. But I would jump off a cliff for Patrice. I don't know why, but I really fell in love with him and I want to work with him again. He's one of the reasons I'm doing this interview. I want the film to be a success - I want Patrice to go on making films in English so I can work with him again.'
Actually, I would have thought that Patrice Chéreau's career could survive without the services of a ratty old rock chick. But let that go - she is very good in the film, however briefly. She has always had the potential to be a good actress, but four years ago she told the Radio Times, 'I was never an actress. That's a waste of my time.' So is she an actress or isn't she? 'Well, you know I love acting, but I haven't ever made it my priority. Maybe that was a mistake. But I couldn't help it. Music really is my life. And nearly every film I've been on has been crap, except Hamlet [with Nicol Williamson], which is brilliant. And I've ended up very fond of La Motocyclette [Girl on a Motorcycle] although it was a horrible experience to make. But honestly, the rest of the filmwork I've done has been ghastly. So I used to feel, till now, that I hadn't had the opportunity to be in really good films with really good directors. Because I could have been a really good actress - and I still could.'
Yet, judging from her book, she had endless opportunities to be a good actress, but invariably blew them away by turning up to work drugged to the eyeballs or not turning up at all. It might have been an obscure desire to punish her mother who had huge ambitions for her little princess. But also she was hell-bent on becoming a junkie from the moment she read The Naked Lunch - she wanted to be a junkie more than she wanted to succeed as an actress or to marry Mick Jagger. Jagger was surprisingly patient for a long time - he took the rap for her in the notorious drugs bust at Redlands when he claimed her pills were his. (Incidentally, she says about the drugs bust that, yes, she was naked under a fur rug - but it was a very large fur rug - and no, there was no Mars bar involved. But she hasn't eaten one since.)
She split with Jagger in 1970 and became a full-time heroin addict, living in squats and on the street. But she was lucky in that friends got her on an NHS drugs programme, which meant she could get her daily fix on prescription from the chemist. She had one of the highest dosages going - 25 jacks of heroin a day. It left her with poor circulation which is still evident in her angry red, mottled arms.
It is a mystery what she lived on in the 70s - she says it's a mystery to her, too. 'I don't know how I survived. There was a time after the 60s, when I was - I call it depressed - where there was absolutely no income. But I managed somehow. My parents didn't have any money. I didn't sell my body. I don't know how I managed. Flying through life on charm, I suppose. But I never took unemployment, welfare, ever. I have a thing about it.' Scratch an old hippie, find a Thatcherite, as Julie Burchill always says. Faithfull was far too hoity-toity to do anything as common as signing on. She always made sure people knew her schoolteacher mother was a baroness (Austro-Hungarian, natch). There is a theory that Jagger only embarked on his social mountaineering to impress Faithfull, because she sneered at him for being middle class - of course he totally gazumped her within months. Anyway, she 'lived on her wits' and according to Chris Blackwell of Island was very good at touching people such as doormen for the odd fiver or tenner.
What drove her to drugs? 'I don't know that anything drove me. I didn't even like it that much either; I just think it was like a good anaesthetic.' But she says in her book that she always had an attraction to the 'Dionysian' life. 'And I still do!' she grins. 'I'm always going to be drawn to that sort of fantasy. Though nowadays I don't do anything about it.' Does she still take drugs? 'Occasionally. I'm not going to go into it. Obviously no heroin. And I don't at all trust all these new drugs; they're not a good idea. But you know I'm a very decadent person, I really am. Whether I'm on drugs or not, it doesn't change anything. I can see why I liked them, and I can't sort of put that down. It's just if you want to do anything else in your life, it doesn't really go.'
She had one failed detox in England in the early 80s, and then went to Hazelden, the Minnesota clinic, in 1985 and cleaned up. She stayed completely clean, and went to NA meetings for five-and-a-half years. She also moved to Ireland, to the remote and beautiful Shell Cottage on a country estate in County Wicklow, and lived very quietly, alone. She had friends three miles down the road, but she couldn't walk that far and couldn't drive. 'It felt very lonely, and I was there nine years, and it's a long time to be all on your own. But I'm very glad I did and it was really great for my spiritual life.'
But four years ago she moved in to Dublin. The papers reported that she was chucked out of Shell Cottage after a rowdy birthday party caused £5,000 worth of damage. She says not so. 'I gave it up because I was lonely. It did have rats . And I'd lived there just long enough. It was self-protection, and there was a moment when it was over. I know the landlord didn't really like me. But you know, a lot of people don't really like me. I'm not everybody's cup of tea!'
I like her for saying that. Unfortunately, liking someone, with me, always provokes a disastrous urge to give good advice, and out it pops. Surely, I tell her, she shouldn't be drinking, surely Hazelden taught her that sobriety was the only salvation? 'I'm not going into all that,' she snaps. And somehow she must have signalled an SOS because suddenly the PR is beside us, telling Marianne, 'I'm really sorry to interrupt, but I do think we need to lead it slightly more to Intimacy . I know you've got lots to say about the film.' François simultaneously explodes behind me, 'I knew it! I knew this would happen! It's always the same - this is going to be the last time, Marianne.' 'Why don't you join us, François?' I say, thinking I'd rather have him in sight than shouting over my shoulder, but Marianne says quickly, 'Oh, you don't want that!'
Heroically, like a good Girl Guide, she pulls herself together and starts yakking about Intimacy until everyone has calmed down. We both rave about the sex scenes between Kerry Fox and Mark Rylance - she says they remind her of Lucian Freud paintings - she says they're almost like seeing sex for the first time. And, she adds, the orgy scene is brilliant. 'Though of course I've never been to an orgy.' Oh come, Marianne! 'In my mind. I've never actually physically been to an orgy. But it does fascinate me - how do you show decadence onscreen? And I'm sure that it's not about chandeliers and opulent surroundings, it's exactly like in Intimacy. True decadence is an empty room with one bare lightbulb.' In the book, she confesses that sex was always her Primal Anxiety. Every 60s male fantasised about going to bed with the Girl on a Motorcycle - but she suffered terrible stage fright before the act and would do almost anything to put it off. She once spent days hanging around Bob Dylan, seeing off the other groupies, until he finally made his move and then she told him, 'No - I'm pregnant.' Was it performance anxiety? Did she think she was a lousy lay? 'No. I am sexy, we all are - but people saw me as some kind of illusion and I always had a problem with that. But it doesn't really come up any more because, you know, I have a lover and I don't have to worry about it.'
'Who is it?'
'I'm not telling you. I just thought I should explain that when I say I'm not worried about it any more, that doesn't mean I don't have sex any more. It's just not an issue in the sense that one isn't having to take one's clothes off and go to bed with strangers.' Is this a long-term relationship? 'Yes. A deeply committed and serious relationship. But private.' Might they marry? 'I'm not the marrying kind.'
'It is a man, is it?' I blurt, suddenly remembering that her book includes several scenes with women. 'Yes. I'm not gay. I would never rule it out, but it's obviously not my thing - although very nice and perfectly sexy and so on. And anyway I've moved on from that, because I'm in love.'
No amount of questioning from me will yield any more, and she segues smoothly into talking about her life in Dublin. 'I take care of myself. I go swimming. I read a lot. I see my friends. I talk on the phone. I watch telly. I go to bed quite early.' She is scared to live in London because 'it's too on' and she thinks she would be pestered by paparazzi. But she sometimes dreams of having a second home in London so she could see more of her son and grandchildren. She had her only child, Nicholas, when she was just 18, and lost custody of him when she became a junkie. But they are on good terms again now. 'I'm really glad I had Nicholas - though I never ever meant to have children. But I had this sort of force that guided me and I knew that if I didn't have Nicholas I'd never have a child - and I never would have, either. But I could see myself going out with my beautiful grown-up son. And I did that last night - we went to see Beck at the Brixton Academy and it was wonderful. I never quite saw the grandchildren!'
Over coffee, I ask her about François. ' Darling François!' she exclaims, 'I'm sorry he's a bit grumpy - he's had so much of it. He's been my manager for seven years.' Just for acting, or for music as well? 'The whole thing. The whole treatment.' She says this almost with a wink and suddenly - how can I have been so slow? - bells ring, scales fall from eyes, and I squeal, aghast, 'Is he The Man?' She says she won't talk about it, but the answer is all too obviously Yes. Good God. 'Well, I find him very difficult,' I tell her. 'Yes,' she says, 'but that's partly his job.'
François has obviously been earwigging again, because he suddenly looms over me and shouts, 'Are you talking of me? I hate this fucking tabloid paper. Sex and drugs and all that. I just allowed this interview for Patrice, because Marianne loves Patrice. If I could put it back, I will.' Marianne hisses at the PR, 'You let him get drunk, you fool.' François, meanwhile, grabs the bill from the waiter and plonks it in front of me. 'Oh,' says Marianne sarcastically, 'is this on The Observer - that dreadful tabloid newspaper? Sorry, Lynn.' François shouts at her, 'Don't be sorry, Marianne. Don't apologise. You will see the piece, it will just be sex and drugs, always the same shit. Trust me, for seven years I am telling you the truth.' The PR intervenes brightly, 'I think everything's OK' only to get a blistering from Marianne: 'Well, no. Everything is not OK. I mean, I'm cool, but François is not pleased. Don't let's go into denial - it's not a river in Egypt.'
So then François snarls some more insults at me and I pay the bill and flounce out. The poor chauffeur is still waiting outside and for a moment I think, 'Tee hee, I could take the limo home and leave them to grub around for a taxi.' But then I think how furious François would be and how he'd take it out on Marianne, and decide I don't really want to punish her quite that much. Though remembering her performance with the waiter I'm fairly torn. I don't for a minute believe in their nice cop-nasty cop routine. If François is bad, she's bad too - in fact, maybe worse: she chose him, after all.
Oh, she is exasperating! She is so likeable in some ways but also such a pain. The question that was spinning round my head the whole time was: Who does she think she is? She is a singer with one good album (Broken English) to her credit, an actress with one or two good films. Really, her main claim to fame is that she was Mick Jagger's girlfriend in the 60s, but of course she would never admit that. She thinks she's a great artist who has yet to unleash her full genius on the world. Maybe one day she will, and then I will beg to interview her again on bended knee. Till then, back to the forest, you tiresome old Fabulous Beast.
February 4, 2011
Marianne Faithfull: Sister Morphone Gets Current