And what a song! I couldn’t get it out of my head all day, mentally positioning it alongside Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers” and Nena’s “99 Luftballons” as the deathless post-punk Cold War anthems. The song drew me to investigate her 1979 album of the same name as well as her rich career before that.
At some point I stumbled on a picture of Faithfull in a French fashion magazine called Mademoiselle Age Tendre, and eventually I found these strange pictures of Faithfull literally “dolled up,” posing as a kind of real-life Barbie doll being taken out of its box. The date is hard to read on this magazine cover, but it appears to be January 1967:
So, yeah, it’s a cute idea for a shoot and all, certainly an innocent idea, and one might argue that we shouldn’t be too hard on the magazine personnel of that era, impose our perception of gender equality on them, who could not know better and all that. But you know what? Naaah. We don’t have to crucify the people behind that shoot to point out that some ideas date well and others do not, and objectifying women is a pervasive problem in our society that is always best avoided. The pictures may not have played as creepy then, but they play as creepy today.
By the way, above you can see a picture of Faithfull from 1979, the year she released Broken English. Note the absence of a box for her to come out of.
It’s tempting to call A Secret Life, Marianne Faithfull and Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti’s lushly orchestrated and emotional 1995 collaboration a “lost” album but frankly, I don’t think it was ever really “found” in the first place. Although it’s a superb record, how many people have ever heard it or even heard of it? Can something be called a “cult” album if no such cult for it exists?
It’s too bad, because A Secret Life is a fascinating album. I picked up my copy in a cut-out bin right after it came out for a dollar and although I’ve always liked it quite a bit, I don’t think I know anyone else who knows it and I’ve never had a conversation with anyone about it. There’s very, very little to read online about it. You can find it for 50 cents used on Amazon. I’m not saying it’s “rare” when you can just click on a YouTube link and hear the entire thing, but certainly the case can easily be made that there’s been a certain unfair indifference to the album, which other than a greatest hits collection, is probably the single best thing in Faithfull’s catalog. But unless you’re a big fan of hers, where would you have ever have heard it?
Bookended by spoken word recitations of passages from Dante and Shakespeare, A Secret Life plays out like a tragic concept album about a doomed love affair from the woman’s point of view. Although I’m not sure that this was necessarily the intention of the artists, if you listen to it like that it becomes a more powerful experience and the poetry of the lyrics become that much more potent and just… sad. It’s one of those albums that really demands to be listened to from start to finish.
In any case, the occasion for this post is that I pulled the CD of A Secret Life out the other day for the first time in… well, a very long time, and it still packs quite an emotional punch. I looked on YouTube to see if there were any clips of her promoting it on TV when it came out, and there wasn’t much, mostly a music video and a great performance of the album’s penultimate (and best) song, “The Stars Lined Up” on Later… with Jools Holland. If you find this intriguing, again, you can buy the CD on Amazon for fifty cents. I daresay it’s worth a lot more…
Whether for his avant-garde work of the Berlin Cabaret scene or his later Broadway scores, Kurt Weill is synonymous with forward-thinking musical theater. It’s hard to imagine the 20th Century pop canon without standards like the indelibly swinging “Ballad of Mack the Knife” or the sentimental “September Song,” and in 1985, producer Hal Wilner conceived a tribute album, featuring a lineup of talent that ranged from actual rock stars like Sting and Todd Rundgren to avant/underground figures like Henry Cow/Art Bears singer Dagmar Krause and Downtown NYC jazz figurehead John Zorn.
The album, Lost in the Stars, was the third in a series of composer tributes put together by Wilner, whose prior similar projects included the Nino Rota tribute Amarcord and A Thelonious Monk Tribute called That’s the Way I Feel Now that featured admirably counter-intuitive contributors like Was (Not Was) and Peter Frampton. Wilner’s well-received tribute series may well have helped kick off the fad for tribute albums in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s; his Stay Awake and Weird Nightmare albums, tributes to Disney soundtracks and Charles Mingus, respectively, certainly benefited from appearing towards the beginning of that long-lived vogue.
Here’s Lou Reed, doing “September Song.” He’d record that song again ten years later, and it would serve as the title track to yet another Wilner tribute to Weill. That later album was more focused on historical recordings, and aside from excellent contributions from Nick Cave and William S. Burroughs, it mostly lacked the underground appeal of Lost in the Stars.
Tom Waits doing music from The Threepenny Opera isn’t exactly a stretch, but it’s as awesome as you’d think. His version of “What Keeps Mankind Alive?” and much much more after the jump…
News that Marianne Faithfull had copped to her ex-boyfriend Jean de Breteuil’s (alleged) involvement in Jim Morrison’s death sent me back to a poem I’d read in 2011. That poem, “The Final Times of Jim Morrison” by Ed Sanders of the Fugs, gives a concise account of how de Breteuil was (allegedly) connected to Morrison, Morrison’s longtime companion Pamela Courson, and Marianne Faithfull.
A very compressed summary of Sanders’ story follows. In the summer of 1970, Pamela was living with de Breteuil, a French count and heroin dealer, in Los Angeles. When Janis Joplin overdosed on de Breteuil’s uncut shit, he freaked out and fled with Courson to Paris; Pam left Jim a note, “which upon reading he burned.”
“Some time in the several months thereafter / de Breteuil hooked up with / Marianne Faithfull / meeting her in London / while he stayed at Keith Richards’ house.” Around Christmas, while the Doors were finishing L.A. Woman, Pam returned to L.A., telling Jim to quit the band and move to Paris with her. He agreed, and moved into a Right Bank apartment Pam (“now a stone junkie”) found for him “through connections of de Breteuil.”
Comte Jean de Breteuil
In June 1971, de Breteuil returned to Paris from London, bringing Faithfull with him and displacing Pam, who had been living in his Paris digs. Pam moved in with Jim. She scored pure Chinese H from the count. Jim and Pam spent the night of July 2 watching home movies and hoovering rails of scag. (“In between reels / they honked down strips of the powerful horse.”)
Jim gurgles. Pam slaps him awake. Jim gets in the tub. Jim pukes blood and pineapple. “After considerable vomiting / She later claimed Jim said to go back to bed / He felt better.”
Pam calls de Breteuil and tells him Jim is dead. De Breteuil rushes to the apartment and tells Pam to flush the drugs. Though he is in a big hurry, he can’t help beating up Marianne Faithfull before rushing her out the door and onto a plane to Tangier.
You’ll like the poem better. It’s got prosody, diction, rich detail—you know, a poem. Sanders’ most famous book is The Family, but did you know he was hired by Glenn Frey in the 70s to write a biography of the fucking Eagles? The 800-page manuscript, still unpublished, should be their Cocksucker Blues, but sadly there are no bootleg copies.
A 1968 episode of William F. Buckley’s Firing Line, featuring a drunken Jack Kerouac, The Fugs’ Ed Sanders and confused academic Lewis Yablonsky discussing the “Hippie” movement.
I’ve written here before about how I used to go fanatically out of my way to collect memorabilia related to the movie Candy, in particular items emblazoned with photos of the film’s titular heroine, who was played by the comely Ewa Aulin, a one-time Miss Teen Sweden. Candy, which I didn’t actually see until much later was a “holy grail” movie for me, but when I saw it, my opinion was not favorable. (Nothing could have lived up to my high expectations to begin with, but Candy really sucked. But this isn’t about Candy, you can read what I wrote about that film here).
Another 60s goddess who I have a ridiculous amount of photos, movie posters, picture sleeve records, sheet music and even fine art photographic prints of, is Marianne Faithfull. Of all of my pantheon of 60s goddesses (Ursula Andress, Paula Prentiss, Francoise Hardy, Raquel Welch, Jane Birkin, Sandie Shaw, Joni Mitchell, P.P. Arnold, Claudine Longet) I’d have to say that Faithfull is, by quite a wide margin, my #1 favorite. Quite simply, there was no female anywhere on the planet as cool and as sexy as she was during the 1960s. She was born with one of the most classically beautiful faces of all time and she just had that look which embodied the era as no other woman could, not even Twiggy. A goddess, she was and still is.
A film titled Girl On a Motorcycle, alternatively known as Naked Under Leather, was made in 1968 to capitalize on Faithfull’s libertine reputation, acquired as the result of her allegedly having only a fur rug wrapped around her otherwise naked body during a drug bust at Keith Richard’s home the year before. In the film, Faithfull famously wears a black-leather catsuit with fur lining. Meow.
There’s not a whole lot of dialogue and even less plot in Girl On a Motorcycle. In a nutshell, Faithfull plays a young woman bored in her marriage who decides to escape, riding through the countryside on a Harley-Davidson to meet her lover (Alain Delon). The audience hears her thoughts and existential musings. There are some spicy sex scenes with Delon that earned the quite-tame-by-today’s-standards film, an X-rating. It’s a little hard to follow and doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, but who cares? That’s not why you’re watching it, is it?
What we basically have in Girl On a Motorcycle is one of the quintessential swinging 60s time capsule relics of psychedelic sexploitation. Is it a “good movie”? No. Is it a feast for the eyes. YES, indeed it is, and not just because of the gorgeous Ms. Faithfull, either. The European scenery is also brilliantly captured by director Jack Cardiff, a well-respected cinematographer who also shot classic films like The African Queen, The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus—not to mention Rambo: First Blood II—and directed The Liquidator. There’s also the excellent psychedelic jazz score from Les Reed to recommend the film.
In summation: Girl On a Motorcycle, it’s 90 minutes of great shot after shot of one of the hottest women ever born riding a motorcycle, “naked” under a leather catsuit or else having that same catsuit unzipped by a Frenchman’s teeth. With great music and some solarized psychedelic stuff thrown in for good measure (and to foil the censors). At the end she hits a truck and dies! I kid you not…
This is the trailer for Girl on a Motorcycle. Picture this going on for about 90 minutes and… you’ll get the idea: It’s streaming in HD on Netflix.
In 1990 Marianne Faithfull was filmed in concert at St. Anne’s Cathedral in Brooklyn along with a crack band consisting of The Band’s Garth Hudson, Dr. John, her longtime collaborator Barry Reynolds , Marc Ribot, Fernando Saunders (Lou Reed’s longtime bass player), drummer Dougie Bowne (John Cale, Iggy Pop, Arto Lindsay and the Lounge Lizards) and Lew Soloff on trumpet and flugel horn.
The set was released as Blazing Away on CD and VHS in 1990. According to Maggie Bee (who uploaded the video with Faithfull’s expressed permission) the record label actually lost the video master.
Prisons Du Roy
Falling From Grace
Working Class Hero
When I Find My Life
The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan
As Tears Go By
Why D’ya Do It
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
Marianne Faithfull sings “Hier ou Demian” (“Yesterday or Tomorrow”) in a scene from the incredible 1967 French TV movie musical, Anna. Directed by Pierre Koralnik, and with songs written by Serge Gainsbourg (who also appears in the film). Anna starred Godard muse Anna Karina. The film is practically a musical pop art paean to her beauty. Suits me just fine.
A gorgeous young Faithfull, who never looked better (and that’s saying a lot), singing a Gainsbourg-penned tune. What more could you ask for? The entire film? Well you’re in luck, because you can purchase a copy of Anna (with English subtitles) from Mod Cinema.
In February Marianne Faithfull discussed her thirteen favorite albums with The Quietus’ Joel McIver. Her list was eclectic: folk, jazz, rock, blues, and country, including Dolly Parton’s The Fairest of Them All, The Band’s The Band, and Johnny Cash’s American IV.
In her description of Jack White’s Blunderbuss Marianne said:
I love everything about Americana, which is why you’ve got albums by The Band and Dolly Parton on this list, and I work it myself. Would I go that route myself? Well, I think doing a whole country album wouldn’t suit me. It wouldn’t be Marianne Faithfull.
Except that she kind of did one.
In the mid-‘70s Marianne recorded the country song “Dreamin’ My Dreams,” written by Allen Reynolds and made famous by Waylon Jennings in 1975. The success of this song inspired her to record a country album with members of The Grease Band. Although she had recorded an album’s worth of songs with producer Mike Leander in 1971, they were rejected by Bell Records and not released until 1985, on Rich Kid Blues. So in 1976 Marianne hadn’t had a new release on the market since 1967’s Love in a Mist. A lot had happened in the interim, not the least of which were health problems, drug addiction, eight months in rehab, and disastrous personal relationships. Dreamin’ My Dreams was to be a comeback album and because of this opportunity she began writing songs again, something she hadn’t done in years.
Marianne wrote in her autobiography, Faithfull:
The first incarnation of the New Marianne was a sort of country-western Marlene Dietrich on “Dreaming My Dreams.” Marlene singing torch songs at the Dodge City Saloon. Probably my German blood coming through… “Dreaming My Dreams” is Middle European weltschmerz and country melancholy; a swooning country ballad in waltz time. Perfect, dribbling piano music for crying in your beer. (The band used to call it “Creaming My Jeans.”) I wanted to have a lingering, smoky quality as if time was suspended while you listened to it.
“Dreaming My Dreams” was released in Britain to a resounding silence. And then, out of the blue, a deejay in Ireland by the name of Patrick Kenny started to play it on his show and it went to number one on the Irish charts for seven weeks. (The Irish love a waltz.) Okay, it was a fluke, but it gave me hope. Getting on the charts was a kind of forgiveness. We don’t care what you did, we like it anyway. I don’t know whether it’s the Church in Ireland or the drinking, but these people do know how to forgive.
Now I had a chance to make an album and what I wanted was to do a country album. At the cottage I’d been listening not only to James Brown and Otis Redding but also to an awful lot of Hank Williams and Jimmy Rodgers. During the sixties everyone had been trying to emulate black music, but I had now begun to wonder what white blues would be. I came to the conclusion that it would sound like Hank Williams. After that revelation I felt I wanted to do a new kind of country album, not imitating Waylon or Willy and not recorded in Nashville or Austin but done in England, a sort of country roots album with Celtic vibes. I’ve got loads of old Druidic longing and melancholy in my bones, on account of my Welsh blood.
When I began making Faithless this was my plan: an English country album. It would have been an interesting experiment to come at country music from such an elliptical angle, and it would have worked. I still plan to make that album someday, because Faithless certainly wasn’t it. Faithless wasn’t exactly what NEMS had in mind. I found myself in the compromising position of having to include a lot of material on the album because they were songs NEMS happened to publish in Europe. Typical music-biz crap.
NEMS re-packaged all the tracks from Dreamin’ My Dreams with four new country songs – “Wait for Me Down by the River,” “That Was the Day (Coke Came to Nashville),” Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” and a cover of the Kitty Wells classic “(It Wasn’t God Who Made) Honky-Tonk Angels”— and released it as Faithless in 1978. She called this move “yet another seamy bit of NEMS monkey business.”
She might not have made an entire album of the English country music she envisioned (I once heard someone describe Lindisfarne’s music that way), but the sampling of songs she did record succeed in conveying that feeling. After all, “Lady Madelaine” is about her friend Madeleine D’Arcy, the doomed lover of “Spanish Tony,” The Rolling Stones’ friend and drug dealer (also mentioned in the song), and “That Was the Day (Coke Came to Nashville)” must be the only country song referencing the M1 motorway.
Marianne performing “Dreaming My Dreams” on Supersonic, circa 1976, below:
Photographs of Marianne Faithfull from when she was a baby.
Marianne’s mother was Eva von Sacher-Masoch, Baroness Erisso, who was originally form Vienna, and related to the notorious, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the author of Venus in Furs, the erotic novel that gave the world the word “masochism.” From her maternal side of the family, Marianne inherited the title Baroness Sacher-Masoch. Her father was Major Robert Glynn Faithfull, a British Army officer, and a professor of psychology. Her parents divorced when Marianne was six-years-old.
Looking at these pictures, I can’t help but think: o, what a world of wonder awaits this darling child.
“I know I can’t sing—I’ve said this and I know I can’t—it’s just a funny sort of voice with perhaps a certain amount of charm.”
It’s so odd to hear a fresh-faced Marianne Faithfull speak about herself at 19 years of age, not yet a household name. Stories of her life tend to focus on addiction or tumultuous relationships, and this is before any of that had ever happened. She’s completely insecure, self-critical, and already suspicious of the industry that’s about to eat her up. In a few months she’ll be married, in less than a year she’ll have a baby, and shortly after that she’ll leave her husband for Mick Jagger.
He blew his mind out in car, he didn’t notice that the lights had changed. These are the lyrics from The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”, which immortalized the death of sixties socialite Tara Browne.
On the night of December 18th 1966, Browne, together with his girlfriend, Suki Potier, drove through the streets of South Kensington in his Lotus Elan. The couple had just left a friend’s apartment at Earls Court around 1am, and were now in search of food. Browne sped through a stop signal at the corner of Redcliffe Square and Redcliffe Gardens. As he swerved to avoid an oncoming vehicle, Browne crashed his car into a parked van. His last minute actions saved Potier from certain death, but left Browne fatally injured, and he died in hospital the following day.
Browne was 21-years-of-age, a member of the Irish aristocratic family Oranmore and Browne, and heir to the Gunness fortune. He looked like a cross between Paul McCartney and Peter Cook (more of which later), was said to be barely literate - having walked out of a dozen schools, lived with his mother, Oonagh Guinness and her boyfriend a “show designer” Miguel Ferreras, drank Bloody Marys for breakfast, smoked Menthol cigarettes, and according to his friend Hugo Williams lived the life of a “Little Lord Fauntleroy, Beau Brummell, Peter Pan, Terence Stamp in Billy Budd, David Hemmings in Blow-Up.”
‘Tara could hardly have failed to be a success in Swinging London. While I was wandering around the globe in ’63 and ‘64, he embarked on the second and last phase of his meteoric progress. He got married, met the Stones and the Beatles, opened a shop in the King’s Road and bought the fatal turquoise Lotus Elan in which he entered the Irish Grand Prix. He let me drive it once in some busy London street: ‘Come on, Hugo, put your foot down.’ I had just got my first job and our ways were dividing. His money and youth made him a natural prey to certain charismatic Chelsea types who turned him into what he amiably termed a ‘hustlee’.
He reputedly gave Paul McCartney his first acid trip. The pair went to Liverpool together, got stoned and cruised the city on mopeds until Paul went over the handlebars and broke a tooth and they had to call on Paul’s Aunt Bett for assistance. There is still a body of people — and a book called The Walrus is Paul — who believe that Paul is dead and is now actually Tara Browne with plastic surgery.’
A month after his death, January 17th 1967, John Lennon was working on a song when he read a newspaper article on the coroner’s report into Browe’s death:
‘I was writing “A Day In The Life” with the Daily Mail propped in front of me on the piano. I had it open at their News in Brief, or Far and Near, whatever they call it. I noticed two stories. One was about the Guinness heir who killed himself in a car. That was the main headline story. He died in London in a car crash.’
Lennon further explained his inspiration in Hunter Davies’ biography of The Beatles:
‘I didn’t copy the accident. Tara didn’t blow his mind out. But it was in my mind when I was writing that verse.’
However, more recently, in the authorized biography, Many Years From Now by Barry Miles, Paul McCartney added his tuppence worth:
‘The verse about the politician blowing his mind out in a car we wrote together. It has been attributed to Tara Browne, the Guinness heir, which I don’t believe is the case, certainly as we were writing it, I was not attributing it to Tara in my head. In John’s head it might have been. In my head I was imagining a politician bombed out on drugs who’d stopped at some traffic lights and didn’t notice that the lights had changed. The ‘blew his mind’ was purely a drugs reference, nothing to do with a car crash.’
Whichever version is true, Tara Browne is still the man best associated with lyrics. Here is Tara, and his Lotus Elan, in some incredibly rare footage from a short French TV feature, where the aristocrat drives around London and mumbles in French about his car, art, fashion, music and life. There are no English subtitles, but they’re not really necessary as the film is easily understandable. Appearances from Paul McCartney, Marianne Faithfull and famed gallery owner Robert Fraser.
This, as DM pal, film-maker Alessandro Cima, writes: “might be the most beautiful film you will see all year.” It’s Derek Jarman’s Broken English, his superb interpretation of three tracks by Marianne Faithfull - “Witches Song,” “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” and “Broken English”.
As Mr Cima writes:
The montage and superimposition going on in this film is simply stunning. It’s full of dark pagan ritual, sex, violence, romance, adoration, and mystery.
Say what you will about Facebook but the fact that I can befriend life long heroes such as Zappa/Beefheart LP sleeve designer / visual muse Cal Schenkel and get a glimpse of his middle-of-it-all perspective is a wonderful by-product of selling out my privacy to gawd-knows who, really. Cal was gracious and generous enough to allow me to share these marvelous snapshots he took in 1968 at Zappa’s Laurel Canyon compound, known as The Log Cabin which once stood at the corner of Canyons Laurel and Lookout. The basement jam session here was also well documented in John French’s recent book as well as Bill Harkleroad’s Lunar Notes, which I quote here in order to give a small sense of what we’re looking at:
It turns out Frank was trying to put together this Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus thing, which The Stones later put together without him. I don’t know how many Rolling Stones were there at the time, but Mick Jagger certainly was, as were The Who and Marianne Faithfull. She was so ripped she was drooling - but what a babe - I was star struck! It was funny because Jagger really didn’t mean a whole lot to me at that point. I’d played all their tunes in various bands. To me he really wasn’t a signer - he was a “star”. But when I actually met him, all I can remember thinking is, “How could you be a star? You’re too little!” ....I ended up in this jam session in a circle of people about six or seven feet apart and we’re playing Be-Bop-a-Lu-La”! Done was to my immediate left wearing his big madhatter hat and to his immediate left was Mick Jagger and right around the circle all these people were playing, Frank included. So I’m jamming with these guys almost too nervous to be able to move or breathe. I started to ease up after I noticed that Jagger seemed to be equally intimidated. Then we went into Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ & Tumblin’” and a couple of blues things and that was it. It was such a strange experience - somehow just out of nowhere I’m down in Hollywood meeting Frank Zappa and this whole entourage of famous people like Jagger, Marianne Faithful [sic] and Pete Townshend. What an audition! There I was 19 years old and I’m very taken with these big important people.
Don Van Vliet and Mick Jagger
FZ and Miss Christine
More photos and a link to Cal’s online shop after the jump…