MARIANNE FAITHFULL TALKS NOSTALGIA & HER NEW CD
FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MARIANNE FAITHFULL has never been much for nostalgia throughout a roller coaster career that’s found her constantly reinventing herself.
But when her band played AS TEARS GO BY on her fall U.S. concert tour, she found herself flashing back to where her wild ride began.
“If you’d have told me that at 62, I’d still be singing As Tears Go By to a rapt audience, I couldn’t imagine that,” remarked the legendary singer.
“It’s incredibly moving for me. It’s like turning back the years.”
The song takes MARIANNE back to 1964 when the 17 year old convent school girl turned up at a party at an art gallery owned by her future first husband, John Dunbar. ANDREW OLDHAM, THE ROLLING STONES’ manager, spotted the blonde and asked her if she could sing.
“The first party I went to in London I was discovered by Andrew Oldham – all the Beatles were there and The Stones were there too.”
Soon after, ANDREW OLDHAM brought the soprano with an angelic voice into the studio to record the melancholy AS TEARS GO BY, the first song cowritten by KEITH RICHARDS and soon to be boyfriend MICK JAGGER.
“It’s a strange song to get a 17 year old to sing. It’s all about a woman looking back on her youth, not participating. I couldn’t really feel it. But now I can really feel it and it’s very beautiful. I got to the right age where the woman in the song is.”
MARIANNE now sings the song in her world weary contralto which is roughened by too much tobacco and booze from her colourful past.
But she has little in common with the song’s protagonist who is content to sit and watch as her life goes by.
“I like to be involved in every time as it goes past,” said MARIANNE, interviewed over lunch at an Italian restaurant in lower Manhattan.
“I want to write a new script for myself.”
The latest script is her new album EASY COME, EASY GO, on which she interprets songs spanning nearly a century of popular music from DUKE ELLINGTON to NEKO CASE to THE DECEMBERISTS. It has a contemporary feel thanks to collaborations with younger musicians such as CHAN MARSHALL (AKA CAT POWER).
“It’s not just an old person singing covers. No, thank God,” she commented, distinguishing it from albums by contemporaries like ROD STEWART.
It’s also stylistically eclectic – a mix of jazz, blues, country, folk and rock – because as she explained: “Nobody listens to one style of music. Nor do I.”
MARIANNE is proud of her role as muse to THE ROLLING STONES in the 60s, inspiring such songs as YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT, WILD HORSES and SISTER MORPHINE (for which she belatedly received credit for writing the lyrics).
The album closes poignantly with MARIANNE and KEITH joining voices on MERLE HAGGARD’S death row ballad SING ME BACK HOME, tackling lyrics like Make my old memories come alive.
“I think I’m ready to do that now. I wasn’t before,” commented MARIANNE, who made a successful recovery after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006.
“I’ve been very anti nostalgia all my life, always thinking about what I’m going to do next rather than what I’ve done. I think maybe this is a good moment for me to just sit on my haunches and reflect.”
Today, she says little remains of the sex, drugs and rock & roll lifestyle of her youth that claimed so many of her friends.
“I’m very professional. I don’t use drugs and I don’t drink. I can’t help thinking that that’s one of the reasons that everything is so good in life. I’m a workaholic now,” she commented, sipping a glass of sparkling water.
“There’s always sex.”
MARIANNE teamed again on the album with HAL WILLNER, who produced her last covers CD in 1987 STRANGE WEATHER – her first album after undergoing rehab. It marked her resurrection as an avant garde cabaret artist and masterful song interpreter.
“She is our Lotte Lenya, our Marlene Dietrich, our Edith Piaf. You can’t learn to sing like that,” asserted her producer.
“None of them were trained really and their voice was what they’ve been in their life. Marianne comes from rock and roll and pop, so her roots are different than those classic singers. But I do believe she’s a treasure.”
They selected songs that she felt a personal connection to – many of which are like snapshots into different chapters of her life, like DUKE ELLINGTON’S SOLITUDE, performed by her favourite singer BILLIE HOLIDAY.
“Solitude is probably my natural condition,” MARIANNE confessed.
“I am very solitary. I was an only child. Although there’s a lot of pain in that song too. My long term relationship (with her manager Francois Ravard) broke up just after I made the album. So now when I sing Solitude it has a particular passion.”
SMOKEY ROBINSON’S OOH OOH BABY BABY (performed with Antony Hegarty), which features the line Mistakes, I know I’ve made a few, also hits close to home.
“I wish I hadn’t done drugs. It was a waste of my time and a huge handicap. It didn’t help at all.”
MARIANNE said it’s taken a long time to get over the anger that found voice on her 1979 punk infused comeback album BROKEN ENGLISH – following a lost decade in which she succumbed to heroin addiction and spent time living on the streets of London’s Soho after her tabloid sensationalized breakup with MICK JAGGER. That’s when she established herself as a songwriter in her own right with such songs as the obscenity laden WHY’D YA DO IT?
She thinks EASY COME, EASY GO reflects how much better she feels about herself at this stage of her life.
“I’m proud of this record. It’s coming from a confident and knowing what I want to do kind of a place. I’m really healthy and enjoying my work a lot. I think this really is a very wonderful part of my life.”
ON THE NET: