WORKING CLASS HEROINE Marianne Faithfull

The daring British
chanteuse promises to find herself, darling.

 

BY A.D. AMOROSI

 

45 years into a notorious daring career and it’s
surprisingly Easy Come Easy Go for Faithfull.

That’s just how the dusky British chanteuse, actress and
writer of song and autobiographical book prefers it. For this 22nd album
and tenth collaboration with producer Hal Willner, rather than essay the good
and the mad herself, Faithfull is singing – no, inhabiting – a selection of
other peoples’ tunes recounting tales passion, age, God and country that fit
her sauntering vocal dips and slips most exquisitely.

 

Along with such aching joyful songs come singing partnerships
with friends old (Nick Cave, Keith Richards) and new (Antony, Chan Marshall).

 

Faithfull has seen better (there’s been such great delight
in her life) and worse (she’s bitten and been bit by labels, men, drugs, cancer,
and beaten them all). And that provocative voice of hers shows it all with
every crack, via Willner’s intuitive atmospheric production to warm her. Now
living in Paris, Faithfull took a brief holiday
in Bengal before the start of her Easy tour.

 

 

***

 

 

BLURT: Anything you
miss about living in New York City?

 

MARIANNE FAITHFULL: God yeah. I think it was great for me to
be there. It was like a dream. I was able to fulfill things that I was unable
to do anywhere else. I mean, working with Angelo Badalamenti and the plans made
for “Twentieth Century Blues” and “Seven Deadly Sins” at BAM. Those were the
first times I performed the whole Weimar
cabaret sound. So that was like a wonderful playground for me do the things I
wanted to do.

 

 

 

What are the most
deadly-treacherous, even dangerous, lyrics on Easy Come? The lyrics that might make you uneasy?

Dangerous how? Nothing here’s un-easy. That’s why I chose them. I know how people
like to think, but…

 

 

 

No. I mean dangerous
in the way that “Solitude” explores such desperate loneliness.

 

Well, yes, oh. I see. Of course that. After I’d recorded the
song, I took it all so personally. I could hardy bear to listen to it. Plus my
relationship broke up not long after I got back from recording. My whole love
life fell apart so “Solitude” is particularly haunting and incredibly sad for
me. It took a while to be able to able to hear that one.

 

 

 

Are you luckier at
cards than you are at love?

 

Yes. [laughs] That’s a nice way of putting that. I might just be, BUT I’m loved in
more ways than anyone would expect, you know. You can’t have everything

 

 

From your first single
to the newest album, as bad as the biz has been, record, you’ve navigated it.
How so?

 

I’m very keen and enthusiastic about the entire process. I mean,
I’ve been depressed about it too. I’ve made some wonderful records in the last
few years. Not making conventional pop has often been a problem. I’ve always
known that. But I do want people to like my records. I do.

 

 

 

You’ve used Willner
to record a whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle of your stuff ever since his Kurt Weill
cover project, Lost in the Stars. How
come?

 

Wilner is real, unaffected and not driven by phony commercial
things. Hal’s much more educated and cultured than most people might think.
There are people like that in the music business [snickers]. I know them. Nick is. Keith is – he’s very well read.
Not all of them though.

 

 

 

How did you two snag
songs for this? What were the criteria?

 

I really like songs that grab me that I can put my heart
into – melody and lyric. We chose separately but the thing that really drew me was
the construction of the songs. After all this time, I’ve grown fascinated by
the technical structure and brilliance of the songs. I don’t mean that in a
cold way. And there’s got to be a line or two in a song that means something to
me personally. I’m always fascinated to see just what it is. It could be such a
tiny little thing, but… Even the words “easy come easy go.” I love it. I really
believe that. You know, however hard it is, whatever stuff you’re going
through, I feel like I have to be a ballerina whose feet are bleeding. But who has
a smile on her face.

 

 

 

Know what description
I don’t love for you anymore – “world weary”.

 

Me neither. I like the part where I can put across songs
with great sophistication. But “world weary” implies boredom. And I’m not that.
I’m very involved and never bored.

 

 

 

Though I find every
bit of the album enrapturing, one track is personal to me because acquaintances
of mine wrote it. “Children of Stone” is an Espers song and they’re from
Philly.

 

So is Hal. His father had a wonderful deli in Philly. I know
everything about Hal. I really do. Probably more than he knows I know. I love
that song too. I love the spell it makes. And what Rufus [Wainwright] did with
me. In effect, he made a chorale of it. That song does create a spell. Which is
all I ever really wanted – all I ‘m trying to do is create that magic. You must
see how wonderful it is… when you can do it.

 

 

 

So what do you call
“Sing Me Back Home,” the Merle Haggard song you did with Keith?

That’s another kind-of spell. I didn’t ask Keith to do that for nothing. It was
a carefully considered choice. I remember when Keith used to sing that song
with Gram Parsons. I was there.

 

 

 

You guys have
collaborated before when he produced [1994’s] “Ghost Dance” for you. What sort
of idea must you have in your head so to want to ring him up?

Well I do ring him up, you know, just to talk. We are very good friends. We
don’t see each other as often as I’d like but whenever we can. we do. This
song? I would’ve been very unhappy – gutted really – if he hadn’t agreed to do
it.

Of course he didn’t let me down. I sent him a fax actually
to ask him. And he sent me the most wonderful fax back that I’ve kept. He
finished with “I‘ll do it for you baby if you do it for me.”

 

 

 

What would you say is
your most marked physical trait?

I know this sounds corny but the most important thing about me are my eyes. No
matter what else, my eyes have changed you know?

 

 

 

Marlon Brando used to
hate talking about all this you know – so much so I think he learned to loathe
acting.

 

He should have picked himself up when he got bored. It’s in
your discipline. If you have a great craft – like he had and I do – it behooves
you to treat it with enormous respect. You must respect yourself and your
audiences. He was self indulgent. That’s not to say that I don’t get
disheartened but I come back with hope. I want to do this. I don’t have to be
bored. Maybe it’s because it’s better for me now – a better time. People
change. The press has gotten better to me.

 

 

Have we? What was wrong with us?

Not you, darling, but in Europe, I’ve had
people say to me, “How could you dare sing ‘Working Class Hero’?” Sure because
of the royalty thing. But mostly because of my voice.

 

 

You do sound posh.

 

That’s so depressing. They thought I was so upper class. But
it wasn’t.  I’m an artist…a working
artist. My family’s background is bullshit. I’m a worker like everybody else.
That’s a class in-and-of-itself. And I’m a hero.

 

 

 

So where are your
songs for this record? I really miss them.

 

Wring my own songs? I know I’ve had shit from Nick about it.
He doesn’t like me to sing other people’s songs. He can give me shit if he
likes. You can too. I need a good boot up the ass sometimes. I‘m afraid of
writing at the moment. I’m frightened. I feel as if I often write the same
story. They say that of most writers, don’t they? So I may do as well. I think
I’ll have to change my attitude. I must be more conscious.

 

I’m very un-confident you know? I compare my songs to people
I love, like Lou Reed and Dolly Parton and Duke Ellington.  I may have got a bit overwhelmed with all the
great writing on Easy Come Easy Go.
They’re my favorites. But I’ll find myself, darling, I do promise.

 

 

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