Thursday, October 14, 2010

Some girls: Marianne Faithfull

Mick Jagger-- despite whatever faults you may possess, you have the BEST. TASTE. IN WOMEN. The best. That may sound kinda off coming from me, Mick, but I'm sincere. I was thinking of style icons the other day, and realized that three out of my top thirty are all connected by having long term relationships with the indefatigable frontman of Ye Olde Stones. The glamour of being a Rolling Stone is impressive-- but I'd have to say the glamour of being a well dressed, well heeled woman on the arm of a Rolling Stone is just about as to-die-for. But you have to be THE RIGHT ONE. Note that as neat as Anita Pallenberg and Patti Hansen are, I think Marianne Faithfull, Bianca Jagger, and Jerry Hall are like a holy trinity of examples of the girlfriend to which any girlfriend should aspire to be-- sexy, singular, and breath of frost cool.

Examine, part one of my three part rant, about the lives of the loves of Mick Jagger.

Marianne Faithfull

I read MF's autobiography, Faithfull, sometime in mid-high school, when I was hip deep in a dusty copy of the double album compilation Rocks Off, and high off the mike from Tony Sanchez's Ups and Downs with the Rolling Stones, a quintessential 60's/70's rock fan read. From what I can remember off the top of my head, Andrew Loog Oldman, the manager of the Rolling Stones, met MF at a Stones launch party in the mid 60's and started her off with a her own singing career. On her several charting singles from the sixties', her voice is slightly low, sweet, and clear-- kind of like a less clangy France Gall. "As Tears Go By" was a Jagger/Richards penned semi-hit in 1965.

Some other weird things from the autobiography-- her mother was a baronness, the great-niece of Baron Sach-Masoch, after whom the term "masochism" is named (not sure what the deal is about that without looking it up, but what a strange "claim to fame"). She married John Dunbar in the early 60's, founder of the Indica Gallery, the art space that John Lennon and Yoko Ono first met, at one of Ono's exhibitions. She had one child with Dunbar and then dropped him for Mick Jagger, shortly after having hooked up with Keith Richards (one of those things, I guess). Faithfull said that in the 60's your main hookup line was always something to do with some esoteric knowledge that became a criterion for whether or not you slept with the person. If you asked the guy something about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, or Tristan and Isolde, and he knew it, he was in, otherwise, he was obviously not "cool enough" to sleep with. Ah, the swinging sixties'. If you did that now, you might end up a nun the rest of your days.

I have ALWAYS wanted to wear bangs across my forehead like this tiny slip of a girl child wore bangs across her forehead, yet I was cursed with a half a dozen cowlicks and was never able to make them lay quite like hers do. I do love the girlishness of most of her outfits-- even when she would wear something completely Carnaby, she managed to pull it off with an air of femininity that a lot of the more androgynous mod's lacked. Her STYLE, and pale blonde, fragile sort of beauty is what puts her as tops enough to be a Jagger girlfriend, and yet her post Jagger output is really for what the world should remember her.
It's so weird to me, after all these years, that THIS Marianne Faithfull would later become the Marianne Faithfull we have now-- on the cultural currency level of maybe a Nick Cave or a Tom Waits. To say that you could mention MF and Tom Waits in the same breath, judging only from her sixties' output ,would be akin to saying Cilla Black or Lulu would have any kind of major impact on the New Wave/Punk scene of the early 80's. You'd have to be nuts. AND YET. Take a listen to her breakthrough success on 1979's Broken English, after almost ten years absence from the music scene. Who knew she had it in her?

She has that fey, stepped-out-of-Lewis-Carroll kind of a face in the earlier photos I posted which later, after ten years of hard living aged her twenty, took on such a preternatural, flintily prescient cast, you'd think they were two completely different people. Her sixties' recordings are a less clangy, more mellifluous France Gall...but her back-from-the-grave late 70's and early 80's cuts are much deeper, showing herself as an artist in her own right. I first heard "Tenderness" on a mixtape I bought at the thrift store and went nuts for it, shortly thereafter getting into her work with the Brecht/Weill music of Weimar Republic era Germany. Her phrasing on some of the songs, "Mack the Knife", "Pirate Jenny", "The Soldier's Wife" SO. AMAZING. You wouldn't believe she hadn't been raspily belting out Threepenny Opera et al her whole life.

Next up: Bianca Jagger. People, get ready.

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