In 1964, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and the Stones’ manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, gave a song they’d written to a folk singer from the coffee shops of London, and the 50+ year career of Marianne Faithfull was born:
At the time she had a smooth voice, and a perfectly 60s look, so with the Stones behind her she was a can’t miss star. After a few hits she left her (new!) husband for Jagger, and the two stars quickly became became the hip couple of London’s famous social scene. There she was a mod queen, rock royalty, inspiring men from half the bands in England to write songs about her, such as:
But this was rock’n’roll, and this was the 60s, so things couldn’t possibly end well. By the end of the 60s she’d gone from on top of the world to living on the streets, addicted to heroin, alienated from the Stones (mired in legal battles with them, in fact), and completely out of the music business.
A decade passed without any new music from Faithfull, and then, as suddenly as she’d disappeared, she resurfaced. Life, and heroin, had permanently altered her voice, made it rougher and more worldly, so bubbly folk pop was no longer an option. Trying different directions, she first forayed into country in ’76:
Quickly realizing this was not who she was, she and her new voice found their niche a few years later, with her 1979 album Broken English, which remains her best. (The first of these 3 is NevenremotelySFW!!! I am NOT kidding, but it’s worth it, I promise):
The transformation from innocent mod girl to gritty bad girl was complete, even if accompanied by occasional flights of pop fancy (like, say, a song written by Shel Silverstein). I mean, you know you’re doing rock right when New Zealand bans your album, amIright?!
Anyway, she’s been making music pretty much non-stop since ’79, some of it pretty good, some of it forgettable. Her latest offering, perhaps her best since Broken English, was released late last year. Reportedly conceived, if not written, while she was laid up for months on (and apparently addicted to) morphine as a result of a back injury suffered while on tour in 2013, it includes collaborations with Roger Waters:
Nick Cave and his teenage sons (who it seems figured the writing credits meant they’d soon be rich!):
And with Steve Earle (unfortunately I can’t find a good version of that one online). There’s even a Leonard Cohen cover. If I’d paid any attention to it at the end of last year, it would undoubtedly have been on my Best of ’14 list, but unfortunately didn’t start listening to it until January. I’ve since been listening compulsively:
Even with the many collaborations, it’s very much Marianne Faithful showing herself to the world, and given the life she’s led I find it captivating. For the most part, when you hear the albums of aging 60s rock stars they feel distant or forced, but this is a very personal project. It’s a look into the mind and soul of an aged rock star. Here Faithfull’s angry, bitter, hopeful, sexy, but above all still oozing with creative juices. She is definitely worth listening to, even if you’ve never heard of her before now.