DATE March 28, 2005 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Marianne Faithfull discusses her music career and new
CD, "Before the Poison"
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
Marianne Faithfull has a new CD called "Before the Poison." We're going to
listen to an interview I recorded with her a few days ago. Later we'll hear
an excerpt of our 1994 conversation. Faithfull's first record was the 1964
hit "As Tears Go By," which was written by Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger and
(Soundbite of "As Tears Go By")
Ms. MARIANNE FAITHFULL: (Singing) It is the evening of the day. I sit and
watch the children play. Smiling faces I can see, but not for me. I sit and
watch as tears go by. My riches comes by...
GROSS: Marianne Faithfull was 17 when that record was released. At 18, she
was married and became a mother. When she 19, she began an affair with Mick
Jagger and lived in the middle of a scene of parties and celebrities that
millions of teen-agers yearned to be part of. But by 1970 she and Jagger had
split up, and she had become addicted to heroin. At her low point she lived
on the street.
She started recording again in the late 1970s, and her voice was no longer the
pure, innocent, uninflected voice of "As Tears Go By." In the past couple of
decades she's been singing many original songs, as well as songs by Kurt
Weill. Her new CD, "Before the Poison," features several songs she co-wrote
with P.J. Harvey and Nick Cave. This song, "The Mystery of Love," has words
and music by P.J. Harvey.
(Soundbite of "The Mystery of Love")
Ms. FAITHFULL: (Singing) When you're not by my side, the world's in two and
I'm a fool. When you're not in my sight, then everything just fades from
view. The mystery of love belongs to you. The mystery of love belongs to
you. Tell me that you changed your...
GROSS: That's Marianne Faithfull from her new CD, "Before the Poison."
Marianne Faithfull, welcome back to FRESH AIR.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Thank you. It's nice to be back.
GROSS: Now do you--this song was by P.J. Harvey, who collaborates on several
of the songs on...
Ms. FAITHFULL: It's written by Polly especially for me, actually.
GROSS: What are some of the things you think you have in common with her?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, I didn't know, you know--well, the first thing we had to
do was meet her. I'm a huge fan of her work. I really like what she does,
and I like her attitude. So there's that. But, of course, we had to meet to
see if we liked each other. And we did meet in Los Angeles while I was still
recording "Kissing Time," and we did like each other. And what we decided we
wanted to do was make a very, very dark record...
GROSS: You succeeded (laughs).
Ms. FAITHFULL: ...darker than any Marianne Faithfull record that has ever
GROSS: That's some stiff competition.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, I don't know if we managed it, but pretty dark.
GROSS: Now your voice is very dark. Your voice is very different from the
way it was at the start of your career.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, obviously.
GROSS: Yes. Well, some people's voices change more than others.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Yeah. Mine was always--you know, I studied singing at school
when I was young. And my singing teacher used to say to me, in hushed tones,
`You know, you have a soprano now, but I think, if you're very, very lucky, it
will become a contralto.' And it did.
GROSS: And why did your teacher think that that would be good luck if it
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, it's very rare thing to have. It's Kathleen Ferrier.
You know, there are very few real contraltos, and I'm one of them.
GROSS: I don't know what you'll make of this, but I think of you as being
similar to Billie Holiday and Lotte Lenya as having--as great singers whose
voices were very different at the beginning and the end of the careers.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Indeed, yeah. Of course. But that's partly technical, like I
told you, but it's also experience. In my case--I mean, thank you very much
for comparing me in any way with my great heroines, Billie Holiday and Lotte
Lenya. But in my case--and I'm sure in their case--you know, a lot of it is
down to experience. You get the voice you really want. You get what--I
suppose a writer would call it `finding my voice.'
GROSS: Was there anything that you missed about that pure soprano that you
had? You know, the high notes or that...
Ms. FAITHFULL: Oh, sure.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Yeah. I mean, if I hadn't been discovered by Andrew Oldham
and gone into the pop business, I would've probably either become an actress,
or I might have gone to the Royal Academy of Music in London and I could have
sung Mozart. I would have enjoyed that. But, on the other hand, you know, I
kind of--it was very exciting to be in the beginning of a new thing, which is
what was happening in London in the early '60. And I was right there.
GROSS: You know, it's interesting. Like, "As Tears Go By," which is your
famous first hit, you're singing in an almost uninflected voice.
Ms. FAITHFULL: That's what Andrew wanted.
GROSS: That's what he wanted? Why?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Mmm. I...
GROSS: This is Andrew Loog Oldham. He was your producer and he was The
Rolling Stones' producer.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Yeah. Yeah. He was your manager.
GROSS: Oh, I'm sorry. OK.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Yeah. And I suppose he was the producer, too. Yeah.
GROSS: So why did he want it uninflected?
Ms. FAITHFULL: I don't know. I think he wanted me to sound like Mick.
Ms. FAITHFULL: I really don't know. You'd have to ask Andrew (laughs).
GROSS: It's so interesting because there's so much drama in your singing now.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, yeah. But that's my natural thing. Maybe I didn't have
GROSS: Mm-hmm. Well, you know, you mentioned that...
Ms. FAITHFULL: I was only 17.
GROSS: Right. Right.
Ms. FAITHFULL: I don't think I had any.
GROSS: Any drama (laughs)?
Ms. FAITHFULL: No. And I was terribly, terribly nervous. So probably the
natural thing I did was just sort of do what I do when I'm very frightened--is
pretend I'm very small and stay very still and do as little as possible.
GROSS: Now you mentioned that Lotte Lenya is one of your music heroes.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Hmm.
GROSS: So I thought maybe we could listen to a recording in which you sing
Ms. FAITHFULL: Hmm.
GROSS: And you made a recording--you've done a lot of Kurt Weill over the
Ms. FAITHFULL: I've done two records...
Ms. FAITHFULL: ...of the Brecht-Weill canon. The first one was the cabaret
record, which was "20th Century Blues," which I love. But my actual total
favorite of all time is "The Seven Deadly Sins." But play something from
"20th Century Blues." Play "Pirate Jenny." I like "Pirate Jenny" 'cause it's
GROSS: And Paul Trueblood is at the piano, and he sounds very good, too.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Paul Trueblood is such a great musician, and I was so lucky
to work with him. And I'm very fond of him.
GROSS: Well, let's go for the drama and hear "Pirate Jenny." And this is
from Marianne Faithfull's album "20th Century Blues," with Paul Trueblood at
(Soundbite of "Pirate Jenny")
Ms. FAITHFULL: (Singing) You lads see me wash the glasses, wipe the floors,
make the beds. I'm the best of servants. You can kindly throw me pennies and
I thank you very much, and you see me ragged and tattered in this dirty
(censored) hotel. You don't know in hell who's talking. You still don't know
in hell who's talking. Yet one fine day there will be roars from the harbor,
and you'll ask, `What is all that screeching for?' And you'll see me smiling
as I dunk the glasses, and you'll say, `What's she got to smile at for?' And
the ship, eight sails shining, 55 cannons wide, sir, waits there at the quay.
You say, `Work on. Wipe the glasses, my girl,' and just slip me a dirty
GROSS: Marianne Faithfull, how were you introduced to the music of Kurt
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, I sort of grew up with it, you know. Both my parents--I
don't know how they did it. I don't know how my mother did this, but she
brought 78s with her from Vienna. And a lot of the songs on "20th Century
Blues" are my mother's favorite songs or my father's favorite songs. Like, my
father's favorite song was "Falling In Love Again."
GROSS: Huh. Now...
Ms. FAITHFULL: And he loved Cole Porter, and he loved all sorts of things
like that, yes.
GROSS: So is that, like, the first music you heard?
Ms. FAITHFULL: I suppose it is, yes. Yeah.
GROSS: Was your mother a singer? I had read that she...
Ms. FAITHFULL: No, no, no, no, no, no.
Ms. FAITHFULL: My mother was a dancer.
Ms. FAITHFULL: She was very young, of course. And she was only 24 when Mr.
Hitler marched into Vienna in the Anschluss, but she was a dancer in Berlin.
And she, as she would be coming into the theater to rehearse and record a
ballet for Mr. Rhinehart(ph), would see Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht
staggering out in the morning, having been up all night writing "The Three
Penny Opera." And they would all bob a little curtsy and say, `Gut morgen,
Mr. Weill. Gut morgen, Mr. Brecht.'
GROSS: When you were growing up, did she have, like, clothes from her
costumes from when she danced in the closet?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Not much, no. I just have a very beautiful piece of chiffon
and some beads. I have very little. She didn't bring any of that much with
her, you know. I don't know what happened to it.
GROSS: But that sense of theater was...
Ms. FAITHFULL: It's as if she wanted to leave it all behind and have a new
life. She'd had quite a hard time, you know, during the war. My grandmother
was Jewish, you know, and she met--my father was a spy--I mean, it's so
incredible it's amazing--and she was his contact in Vienna. So it was
really--I think she was really happy to marry my father and get out.
Unfortunately, of course, the marriage was a disaster, but who knew that?
GROSS: But I think they separated when you were six or something. Right?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Yes.
GROSS: And then you lived with your mother.
Ms. FAITHFULL: I did, yes.
GROSS: You know, while we're talking about theater, you were just starring in
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, I wouldn't call it a musical...
GROSS: Well--oh, OK.
Ms. FAITHFULL: ...I'd call it a theater play with music.
Ms. FAITHFULL: You mean "The Black Rider"?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Yes. Well, that was a wonderful experience; very, very hard
work, of course, because I did not go to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
but just became a pop singer. I'm not really trained up to do that sort of
every-night matinees, one day off a week. It was incredibly hard work for
me. But, of course, what could I do? Bob Wilson offered me the part of the
devil. I couldn't say no to that, could I?
GROSS: So this was like a text by William Burroughs, music by Tom Waits...
Ms. FAITHFULL: Text by Bill Burroughs, my old friend; music by Tom Waits,
also my old friend, and my new friend, Bob Wilson.
GROSS: This is the theater director, Robert Wilson. Now this play was
written by William Burroughs. What was it like for you--you eventually became
a friend of his, but I imagine that you read him before you knew him.
Ms. FAITHFULL: I did, yes.
GROSS: How old were you?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, no. Actually, no.
Ms. FAITHFULL: I met him in London in the '60s...
Ms. FAITHFULL: ...but he certainly wasn't interested in a little girl like
me. But I did become great friends with him much later, you know.
GROSS: What reaction did you have to his writing? What impact did it have on
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, I thought that that was exactly what I had to do, so I
took it very, very literally.
GROSS: What was it that he did that you felt you had--which aspect of the
life that he used to have...
Ms. FAITHFULL: Oh, please don't make me say it.
GROSS: Are you talking about the drugs or just the bohemian lifestyle?
Ms. FAITHFULL: I'm talking about going out and--you know, blah, blah, blah.
Don't make me say it.
GROSS: Right. Right. Did he make it seem romantic?
Ms. FAITHFULL: No, he just made it seem absolutely the only way to live.
`What a great thing to do?' I thought to myself. I guess by then, fame and
fortune and all that stuff was beginning to grate a lot.
GROSS: My guest is Marianne Faithfull. Her new CD is called "Before the
Poison." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Marianne Faithfull. She has a new CD called "Before the
And now I want to mention another song that seems a little out of character
for you on your previous CD, which was...
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, my previous CD, which I do love--you mean "Kissing
Ms. FAITHFULL: ...was, in fact, a very experimental work. I wanted to learn
about the new technology. That's why I did it. And so I went to the best
people, like Billy Corgan, like Beck, like Jarvis Cocker, like Damon.
GROSS: Well, a song here that strikes me as a really interesting choice, a
very kind of out of character, is "I'm Into Something Good," which was...
Ms. FAITHFULL: Oh, that was just fun.
GROSS: Yeah. Well, it--I mean, that was a Herman's Hermits hit in 1964.
Ms. FAITHFULL: I loved doing that.
GROSS: Yeah. Just...
Ms. FAITHFULL: And this is--you know, you got to remember when we did
"Kissing Time," the world was a different place. And we could have fun, and
we did. And we loved it, Billy and I.
GROSS: Well, you know, the year that that was a hit, "I'm Into Something
Good," 1964, was, I think, the year...
Ms. FAITHFULL: It was the year of "As Tears Go By" was.
GROSS: Yeah, the year--and I think it was about that time that you started on
tour. And you went on a tour, not with Herman's Hermits, but...
Ms. FAITHFULL: Not with Herman's Hermits.
GROSS: ...with Freddie and the Dreamers and The Hollies.
Ms. FAITHFULL: And The Hollies. They were good.
GROSS: Gerry & the Pacemakers.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Yep.
GROSS: Where did you see yourself fitting in as...
Ms. FAITHFULL: I didn't fit in. I was completely out of place. And I
actually believed that I would go back to school when the tour was over and
pick up my life again.
GROSS: Was it--were you, like, the only girl in the tour?
Ms. FAITHFULL: I was. And what I was doing was reading my A-level books,
GROSS: Oh, 'cause you were still in school.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, that's what I thought I was, yes.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. FAITHFULL: But I do remember very well how kind The Hollies were to me,
GROSS: Did the guys on the tour try to be protective or try to take advantage
Ms. FAITHFULL: No, of course they didn't. I mean, I kind of was like--you
know, I did learn the meaning of the word `tour romance,' and I thought that
was rather fun. Why not?
GROSS: Well, I'm going to play "I'm Into Something Good" from your previous
album, "Kissing Time."
Ms. FAITHFULL: Good.
Ms. FAITHFULL: I think it's charming.
GROSS: Me, too.
Ms. FAITHFULL: And, you know, now in this world, I could never do something
like that again. That's why it's called "Before the Poison."
GROSS: That's why the new CD is called that.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Yeah. But let's remember the days when we could do something
GROSS: OK. So this is Marianne Faithfull from her previous CD "Kissing
(Soundbite of "I'm Into Something Good")
Ms. FAITHFULL: (Singing) Woke up this morning feelin' fine. There's
something special on my mind. Last night I met a new guy in the neighborhood.
Oh, yeah. Something tells me I'm into something good. He's the kind of guy
who's not too shy, and I can tell he's my kind of guy. He danced close to me
like I hoped he would. Oh, yeah. Something tells me I'm into something good.
GROSS: That's Marianne Faithfull from her previous CD, "Kissing Time," the
1964 hit "I'm Into Something Good." And she has a new CD called "Before the
Ms. FAITHFULL: Much darker.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: At what point did you start getting to know the--and I assume that you
did at some point--the Andy Warhol Factory crew?
Ms. FAITHFULL: I didn't.
GROSS: You never knew them?
Ms. FAITHFULL: No, I never did.
GROSS: It just seems to me you'd have connected at some point.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Never. Never, never, never, never. I went to New York once
with Andrew, and what I did do was meet up with Al Grossman and Bobby
Neuwirth. And it was the time when Bob Dylan had had his motorbike accident.
And I think I had my first joint with Bobby Neuwirth, and I was up all night
GROSS: From the joint?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Mm-hmm. I was 18 (laughs).
Ms. FAITHFULL: So I wasn't able--didn't know anything. I just couldn't deal
GROSS: Hmm. So, you know, I'm wondering what you thought--'cause you must
have been aware of this, whether you knew The Velvet Underground personally or
Ms. FAITHFULL: Oh, I thought they were wonderful...
Ms. FAITHFULL: ...but I had a sense of self-preservation, which told me, `Do
not go to New York. You will die.'
GROSS: Right, 'cause you'd get so deep into it with...
Ms. FAITHFULL: I would be--it would have been another Edie Sedgwick. You
know, it was quite bad enough in London, if I may say so, but, I mean, it
would have been too much for me. At least I knew London.
GROSS: What did you make of it when The Velvet Underground recorded "Venus in
Ms. FAITHFULL: I didn't really think about it.
GROSS: I ask this in case our listeners are confused. Your...
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, no. My great-great uncle...
Ms. FAITHFULL: ...was Baron Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who gave his name to
masochism and wrote a book called "Venus in Furs." Yeah. I mean, I sort of
noticed it, but didn't really notice it. There were other songs on "The
Velvet Underground" that I thought were better. I didn't think that was one
of the best.
I'm a huge and was always a huge fan of Andy Warhol. Before I got discovered
and all that stuff happened, my mother took me to see a huge Andy Warhol
retrospective at the Tate. I went to see the Picasso retrospective. I went
to see the surrealist retrospective. It was wonderful. You know, I had a
wonderful life before all that stuff happened (laughs).
GROSS: Marianne Faithfull will be back in the second half of the show. Her
new CD is called "Before the Poison."
I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of "Before the Poison")
Ms. FAITHFULL: (Singing) Before the poison, I was in town. If you'd been
there, if you'd been around, I couldn't hear, couldn't hear a sound. I
GROSS: Coming up, we listen back to a 1994 interview with Marianne Faithfull,
and we conclude our recent conversation.
Also, book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews a lost classic now back in print.
(Soundbite of "Something Better")
Ms. FAITHFULL: (Singing) He walks along singing his fairy song, picking up
magic that grows at his feet. She sets her same hair peculiar way, dreaming
good fortune on everyone's street. Say, hey, have you heard, blue whiskey's
the rage? I'll send you a jug in the morning. It is absurd to live in a
cage. You know there's got to be something better. As they go by, don't look
with eagle's eyes. Smile on your jailers until they grow weak. Nothing can
compare to something that's almost there, the cherry cool madness that all of
us seek. Say, hey, have you heard, blue whiskey's the rage? I'll send you a
jug in the morning.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Marianne Faithfull.
She has a new CD called "Before the Poison." Before we get back to the
interview I recorded with her a few days ago, we're going to hear an excerpt
of the conversation we had in 1994 after the publication of her autobiography.
It told about her music career and the heroin addiction that nearly killed
her. She wrote that when she was in rehab in 1985, as part of the therapy
process, each person was expected to tell his or her story. That's when she
realized there was a blank in her life. She had a sense of being part of the
Rolling Stones scene when she and Mick Jagger were lovers in the '60s, but she
had no idea what her own story was.
Ms. FAITHFULL: I think that's one of the saddest things in the book, that bit
where I'm in the Hazelden and they ask me to tell my story, and I actually
rang Ellen Smith, my publicist, and said to her, `Please send me "Up and Down
with the Rolling Stones" because they want my story.'
GROSS: Which was a book about the Stones.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Yes. (Laughing) That's what I--that is sort of very telling,
GROSS: What led to that feeling that you didn't know what your personal story
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, I didn't know when I said that that I didn't have a
story. I mean, I still thought that my story was the same story as the
Rolling Stones. I didn't learn--I didn't figure this out for another year.
I'm very slow.
GROSS: So tell us the story of how you met Mick Jagger.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, I went along to a party with my first boyfriend, John
Dunbar, who was a friend of Peter and Gordon. And Paul McCartney was going
out with Jane Asher. It's so hard to remember all these things. And
somehow--John was always up for a party and, especially, then, when we were
very young. I mean, I was 17. He must have been 19, 20, no more. But, you
know, it was just a party, but it was a dead glam party, I suppose, even for
London, and it was a lot of fun, I suppose, yes. I mean, it's somewhat sort
of colored, in my imagination now, by the fact that I was discovered there.
GROSS: What do you mean you were discovered there?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, that's where Andrew Oldham saw me. I was discovered by
several people at that party, actually. Andrew Oldham was the only person I
gave my address to.
GROSS: And he was the producer of your first records and of the Rolling
Ms. FAITHFULL: Yes. Yes. He managed the Rolling Stones, made their early
GROSS: Now what did he discover in you? Was it your look or did he know that
Ms. FAITHFULL: I don't know. Oh, no, no, he didn't know I sang. No, that
was just a sort of bit of luck, I think.
GROSS: In your memoir, you reprint a press release that was written for when
"As Tears Go By" was released. And it says, `Marianne Faithfull is a little
17-year-old blonde who still attends a convent in Reading. Daughter of the
Baroness Erisso, she is lithesome and lovely with long blond hair...'
Ms. FAITHFULL: Lots of alliteration in this press release, isn't there?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Yes.
GROSS: `...a shy smile, and a liking for people who are long-haired and
socially conscious. Marianne digs Marlon Brando, Woodbine cigarettes, poetry,
going to the ballet and wearing long evening dresses. She is shy, wistful,
Now what did you think of that image of yourself?
Ms. FAITHFULL: I thought it was a hoot. I remember taking it back to my mum
and sitting in Milman Road(ph), reading it to my mother and Chris(ph), my
brother, and we just fell about laughing, you know? I never in my wildest
dreams thought that people would think I was like that. Although, I did dig
Marlon Brando--that's true--and I was at a convent, and my mother was a
baroness. But apart from that--but then again, you know, I can't be too sort
of sticky about this because it's quite obvious that none of us really see
ourselves as others see us.
GROSS: Now you ended up doing a lot of drugs, doing a lot of heroin.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Hmm.
GROSS: How did you start doing heroin?
Ms. FAITHFULL: I used it as a coping mechanism, I think.
GROSS: For coping with what?
Ms. FAITHFULL: For coping with my life.
Ms. FAITHFULL: And it worked for a while, but it did have a tremendous
drawback, which was that it was addictive and it would kill you.
GROSS: How long did it take you to figure that out?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Ages.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Very long time. But I did figure it out eventually, thank
GROSS: Now I want to play a song that you wrote the lyrics for called "Sister
Ms. FAITHFULL: Mmm.
GROSS: ...that was released in England in 1969. Tell me a little bit about
where you were in your life when you wrote the song and what the lyrics are
Ms. FAITHFULL: I don't know. It's a very weird thing about "Sister
Morphine" because, you know, it was knocking about the house for six months;
Mick was playing it all the time.
GROSS: Playing the melody?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Yes, the basic beat--da-da-da-da-da, that beat all the time.
So it went into my sort of whole sort of nervous system, blood, bones,
everything. I really had it in my head--I knew it by heart, let's say that,
you know? And then, I mean, I remember it--and I'm sure Mick does, too--it
was very peculiar. I just sat down, picked up a legal pad and a pencil and
wrote it out, you know? And there it was. But I do that sometimes. And it's
obvious--I work on it in my head, and then when it's all ready, I do it.
GROSS: Why don't hear "Sister Morphine"? This is Marianne Faithful recorded
(Soundbite of "Sister Morphine")
Ms. FAITHFULL: (Singing) The scream of the ambulance is sounding in my ear.
So tell me, Sister Morphine, how long have I been lying here? What am I doing
in this place? Why does the doctor have no face? Oh, I can't crawl across
the floor. Can't you see, Sister Morphine, just trying to score.
GROSS: Marianne Faithfull is my guest, and she's written an autobiography
called "Faithfull." The record company, Decca, you say, yanked this record
about two days after it was released.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Mmm. They took it off the shelves.
GROSS: What was their objection?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, there were many. The lyrics were very ahead of their
time. It's one thing for Lou Reed to sing "Heroin." Obviously, it was
completely--this was something I really didn't understand, that this thing
about me being this beautiful little angel was real. I never really believed
that. I couldn't believe it. So I suppose for Decca--you know, the last
thing they put out by Marianne Faithfull--I can't remember what it was--it was
"Summer Nights," let's say--I think it was. That was in 1965. And then in
1969, they're given "Sister Morphine," and they couldn't handle it.
GROSS: You say that after you became a junkie that it actually brought you an
anonymity that you hadn't known since you were 17, that is.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.
GROSS: You were living on the street.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Mmm.
GROSS: I'm sure that wasn't exactly, though, the kind of anonymity that you
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, I hadn't wanted celebrity from the first place. I just
went to a party and got discovered. And I hadn't had time to think about
whether I wanted it or not. So the anonymity I got in the street was very
valuable to me.
GROSS: Where were you living? How did you live during those years?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, I lived on a wall. I lived on a wall in SoHo. And it
was an amazing time for me. When I really couldn't take it, I could always to
back to my mother's, you know? It wasn't like I had nothing. I wasn't
exactly the same as the street people, but they didn't mind that.
GROSS: Marianne Faithfull, recorded in 1994. We'll hear more of our recent
interview and more music from her new CD after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: Let's get back to the interview I recorded a few days ago with singer
and songwriter Marianne Faithfull. She intended her new CD, "Before the
Poison," to be her darkest record, and she collaborated with two dark song
writers: Nick Cave and P.J. Harvey.
Did you feel--I mean, you've lived in a very unconventional world your whole
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, I--I don't know what--my whole life as a child, if I may
GROSS: That's what I was wondering. Yeah.
Ms. FAITHFULL: My parents were extremely unconventional, and I was brought up
in a delightful Bohemian manner. So I sailed right into swinging London with
GROSS: Tell us a little bit about the delightful Bohemian manner that you
were brought up in.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, my father was a real idealist. After the war, he formed
a commune, not like a '60s commune, a '50s or even a '40s commune, more like
an Iris Murdoch kind of thing. And the purpose of this place, which was
called Braziers Park, was to change the world and to teach people--only
Europeans, he couldn't really go further than that--to live together in
harmony so that war would never happen again. And that was my father's
mission. My mother was also an idealist in a way but not quite as serious as
my father. And she didn't really like it at Braziers Park. She didn't like
living in a commune. And they split up. And she thought she was marrying an
English gentleman, you know? And she thought she would have a much more
conventional life. She didn't realize she was marrying this wonderful
GROSS: Did you live on the commune at all?
Ms. FAITHFULL: I used to go at weekends. I had a wonderful time.
GROSS: What was it like as a girl...
Ms. FAITHFULL: And there was a farm.
Ms. FAITHFULL: There was a farm. I watched calves being born. I had a
friend who had a pony. I didn't have anything to do with the commune. I was
just out from dawn till dusk.
GROSS: Now did your father talk to you about the philosophy behind it?
Ms. FAITHFULL: No, not till I got much older, and then I found it very
interesting. You know, he used to give courses on Alexander Pope and things
like that. Before I wrote my book, he did a course, specially, really, for
me, on the writing of autobiography.
GROSS: You're kidding.
Ms. FAITHFULL: No.
GROSS: How did it affect the writing of your 1994 autobiography?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Oh, he really helped. He was a really great teacher, you
know? He was a professor at Bedford College in London. He taught me a lot.
He--for instance, I learned in his course about autobiography that it was
absolutely essential to put dialogue in or it got very boring.
GROSS: Well, that's always interesting to me 'cause I read so many
autobiographies and I always think, `Who has the memory to really remember
what somebody said and what you said back?'
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, you can't, really, but you can make a rough guess. I
wrote it from my perspective. I don't put thoughts and feelings into other
people. I wrote about me and what I felt and what I did. And I remember
everything. And I remember how I felt. I remember my motives. I remember
what I did and what I thought of things I saw around me. And in fact, I was
very, very hard on myself. I realize that now. But I didn't see any other
way, any other honorable way to be.
GROSS: How far away does the really hard times seem to you, when you were
Ms. FAITHFULL: It seems like a long, long time ago, really.
Ms. FAITHFULL: I know I was very lucky to get through it. There was
obviously something I needed to learn. And in a strange way, I learned some
very positive things, you know.
GROSS: Have you asked yourself why you think you survived...
Ms. FAITHFULL: No.
GROSS: ...why so many other people don't?
Ms. FAITHFULL: I guess every--no junkie dies in vain. Everybody who dies,
for each one who dies, another survives. That's--I don't really know why I...
Ms. FAITHFULL: ...survived. I tried incredibly hard not to. But finally I
did accept that I had to survive, and there must be some reason why I had to
survive, and I might as well accept it. And when I did that, everything got a
lot easier, of course.
GROSS: You occupy a kind of unique spot in pop music now because, you know,
you were a teen-age pop star. But what you're doing now is somewheres
Ms. FAITHFULL: A pop princess, no less.
GROSS: Yeah. What you're doing now is a kind of...
Ms. FAITHFULL: Excuse me.
GROSS: What you're doing now is a kind of hybrid of cabaret and theater music
and pop and rock and...
Ms. FAITHFULL: I don't really do cabaret. I do rock 'n' roll, sort of...
Ms. FAITHFULL: ...with a lot of drama. I don't know what I do. I do what I
do, you know.
GROSS: And if you don't mind my mentioning your age, is that...
Ms. FAITHFULL: I don't mind.
Ms. FAITHFULL: I've just turned 58.
GROSS: Right. And, you know, back when you were starting in the '60s, there
still was the sense of: What do rock 'n' rollers do when they get older?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, I didn't think I would.
GROSS: You didn't think you'd live that long.
Ms. FAITHFULL: No way. I thought--I mean, I thought "Broken English" was the
end. I thought after that I would die. You could have knocked me down with a
feather when I had to make another record.
GROSS: And "Broken English" was--What?--1979.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Yeah.
Ms. FAITHFULL: I thought that was it. I thought, go out in a blaze of glory.
Off you go.
GROSS: Before the interview started, you mentioned to me that you stopped
smoking about three weeks ago.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Three weeks now, yeah.
GROSS: And why did you decide to stop after all these years?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, I'd been wanting to stop for about a year because I've
got the beginning of emphysema. And my mother died of emphysema and
alcoholism. So I kind of didn't really want history to repeat itself. So I
did everything I could. I went to a hypnotist. I read Allen Carr. I did all
these things. Nothing worked. And just before I came to America, I got
really bad bronchitis, really bad, and I could not even think of smoking. So
I didn't; I stopped. And I'm using a patch, of course. I'm beginning to not
need the patch now. It's sort of getting easier. I've done this whole
interview without a patch. They make me sick. They actually are rather like
Ms. FAITHFULL: But, you know, time went by. The bronchitis got better. I've
had some terrible moments where--of craving. But my doctor in Paris
said--it's very like giving up drugs, you know. They don't last long, the
cravings. They last about five minutes. So you just find something else to
do. You talk to somebody; you put your makeup on; you do anything. You wash
your knickers, anything you can think of, and the craving will pass, and then
GROSS: What is the action that you typically take that seems most incomplete
without a cigarette?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, the one I'm really worried about is face-to-face promo,
because in that, I wasn't using nicotine just as a drug; I was using it as a
prop and as a smoke screen.
Ms. FAITHFULL: That's going to be pretty scary. I've got to think of
something else to do with my hands, and I've got to give myself a smoke
screen. Joss sticks? I don't know. A candle? I can't think--I've got to
think of something.
GROSS: Dark glasses?
Ms. FAITHFULL: No. I think people should see my eyes.
GROSS: So do you feel...
Ms. FAITHFULL: But that's not a bad idea. Dark glasses is a possibility.
But, you know, I think that's been kind of covered by Yoko...
Ms. FAITHFULL: ...God bless her.
GROSS: Do you feel like your speaking or singing voice is changing at all,
or that you're breathing better when you sing?
Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, not yet, no. But I think that will come.
GROSS: Marianne Faithfull, thank you so much for talking with us.
Ms. FAITHFULL: Thanks, Terry. It was a pleasure.
GROSS: Marianne Faithfull's new CD is called "Before the Poison." Here's
another song from it, "Crazy Love." The music is by Nick Cave, the lyric by
(Soundbite of "Crazy Love")
Ms. FAITHFULL: (Singing) Hated by all and everywhere he goes, blazing
contempt for human life and lies. Murder as art and what he knows, he knows
from life and fear in other people's eyes. Crazy love is all around me. Love
is crazy, love is kind. But I know somehow you'll find me. Love is crazy,
love is blind. She walks the boulevard without a care, knowing too much but
having come so far, pretending life is just a game you play for nothing,
loving no one and nowhere. Crazy love is all around me. Love goes crazy
given time. But I know somehow you'll find me. Love is crazy, love is blind.
GROSS: Coming up, book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews a new novel in the
Lost Classic Series. This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: Newly published volume of Margaret Millar's pulp stories
called "The Couple Next Door"
TERRY GROSS, host:
In her nearly 50-year career as a mystery writer, Margaret Millar pioneered
the subgenre of psychological suspense. Her best-selling novels were hailed
by Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler. But Millar's restlessness as a
writer may have been her undoing. She abandoned two popular detective series
in favor of newer forms, fresher challenges. Most of her books are out of
print, but a new volume of Millar's pulp stories called "The Couple Next
Door" has just been published. Book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review.
MAUREEN CORRIGAN reporting:
Call it the case of the lady who's all but vanished. It begins in a small
town in Canada in the 1930s. High school classmates from opposite ends of the
track meet up again after graduation. His name is Kenneth Millar; hers,
Margaret Sturm. They fall in love and marry. He begins teaching high school;
she has a baby and is misdiagnosed with a heart ailment which confines her to
bed. To keep from going stir-crazy, she writes a novel, a mystery called "The
Invisible Worm," that's published in 1941 and introduces one of the first
psychoanalyst detectives into the genre.
Margaret Millar starts churning out more mystery novels, which attract the
notice of such fans as Agatha Christie, W.H. Auden and Truman Capote. Her
books are hailed by discriminating mystery reviewers as humdingers and real
sockeroos. She'll ultimately be named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers
of America and credited with fashioning the psychological suspense school of
mystery fiction later perfected by Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters.
But I'm getting ahead of the case here. During World War II, Kenneth Millar
serves in the Navy while Margaret works at Warner Bros. on a screenplay of one
of her novels. Inspired by his wife's success, Kenneth also begins writing
mysteries. It takes his work some time to catch on. For the first 20 years
or so of their life together, Margaret's literary career far outdistances her
Then the wheel of fortune turns. Kenneth, under his pen name Ross MacDonald,
is eventually lauded along with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler as one
of the holy trinity of traditional hard-boiled mystery writers. Margaret's
reputation begins to slip-slide into its long goodbye. She dies in 1994, and
these days all but a few of her novels are out of print.
That's where the Lost Classics Series enters into the picture. This
small-press operation is dedicated to rescuing stories from the crumbling
pages of the pulp and slick magazines where they were first published. Lost
Classics has just brought out a Margaret Millar volume called "The Couple Next
Door." It contains two near novella-length stories and four short tales by
Millar, and it's edited and introduced by Tom Nolan, author of a widely
praised 1999 biography of Ross MacDonald. Nolan aims to trace Millar's
development from a writer of comic mysteries to something else: a chronicler
of the weird in human nature.
His critical reasoning is sound, but unfortunately it means that the kickoff
tale here is, to my mind, the weakest. "Mind Over Murder," written around
1941, is a stiff-jointed curtsey to Agatha Christie's quarantined island
thriller "And Then There Were None." It features Millar's popular series
shrink detective, Dr. Paul Prye, and a cast of zany neurotics, including the
requisite nymphomaniac who tells Dr. Prye that she thinks her trouble is that
she's swarming with hormones. All are delivered to a colony for mental
hygiene on a remote island in Lake Huron where the murder victims begin piling
up higher than the whodunit cliches.
The stories that better serve Millar in this collection are the ones where her
Gothic sensibility seeps through, those where characters are undone by
Promethean ambitions whose consequences they can't control. In "McGowney's
Miracle," for instance, a foolhardy funeral parlor director believes he's
found the key to cheating death.
But the story here with the strangest aura is a 1961 tale called "The People
Across the Canyon." It features a lonely eight-year-old girl named Kathy(ph)
whose parents cherish their privacy and their TV shows more than they do her.
One evening, Kathy's mother notices the blue light of a TV screen shining from
a previously empty house across the canyon. And Kathy, much to her mother's
consternation, begins to make friends with the elusive young couple who've
moved in. Like Jack Finney's classic story "Invasion of the Body Snatchers,"
"The People Across the Canyon" is a creeper whose power derives both from the
reality with which it imbues the supernatural as well as from the way it uses
the conventions of the supernatural to talk about everyday horrors, like the
loss of loved ones to age, to changing loyalties and to death.
Margaret Millar lost her husband, Ross MacDonald, to the ravages of
Alzheimer's in 1983. Until his death, as Nolan demonstrates through letters
and anecdotes, the two were a relatively rare phenomenon, a successful
literary couple who were each other's biggest fans. It's somehow appropriate
that through this collection, Ross MacDonald's latest biographer is the one
who's giving Margaret Millar her boost back into the spotlight.
GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She
reviewed "The Couple Next Door," a collection of stories by Margaret Millar.
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
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