Skip to main content

Singer Marianne Faithfull

Singer Marianne Faithfull got her start in the English music scene of 1964, when she dated Mick Jagger and had the hit song, As Tears Go By. In the following years she had a drug addiction that almost killed her, before recovering in 1985 and releasing new albums. Her memoir, Faithfull: An Autobiography published in 1994 tells her story of highs and lows with music and drugs. This interview first aired September 26, 1994.


Other segments from the episode on August 28, 2002

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 28, 2002: Interview with Ray Davies; Interview with Marianne Faithfull; Interview with Pete Townsend; Interview with Colin Blunstone.


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Ray Davies discusses his career with the 1960s rock
group The Kinks

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

It's '60s Music Week on FRESH AIR, from the Brill Building songwriters to the
psychedelic bands. Today, the British Invasion. Ray Davies was the lead
singer and songwriter of The Kinks, one of the English bands that crossed the
ocean after the success of The Beatles. The Kinks have been inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their early hits included such driven songs as
"You Really Got Me," "All Day And All Of The Night" and "Tired Of Waiting For
You," songs that later influenced the new wave bands of the next generation.

After those early records, Davies started writing songs that were social
satires of the time, like "Well Respected Man" and "Dedicated Follower Of
Fashion." Ray Davies performs solo now. I spoke with him in 1995 after the
publication of his autobiography.

The first hit that you had was with your song "You Really Got Me," and you
write in your book that this was considered too risky to record. What were
the problems?

Mr. RAY DAVIES (Singer/Songwriter): Well, it wasn't, I suppose, wholesome
enough to be, for the time, something that could be palatable for radio. Now
it sounds really innocent and, you know, people say, `Well, what's wrong with
the lyric?' But for then, you've got to understand, you know, it was a time
when people still--although The Beatles were supposed to be a rough-and-ready
outfit and The Rolling Stones were--there was still an element of polish about
what everybody did. And The Kinks were a rough-and-ready outfit. There's no
question about it.

And so the record company eventually relented and let us record it, and to get
our character--and that record really epitomizes a lot about the way we feel,
that the fuzzy, raw sound that Dave worked so hard to get is really the way
the band sounded. And that's, I think, why it was a success.

GROSS: Well, it's such a great record. Why don't we hear it? This is The
Kinks' "You Really Got Me."

(Soundbite of "You Really Got Me"; music)

Mr. DAVIES: (Singing) Girl, you really got me going. You got me so I don't
know what I'm doing now. Yeah, you really got me now. You got me so I can't
sleep at night. Yeah, you really got me now. You got me so I don't know what
I'm doing now. Oh, yeah, you really got me now. You got me so I can't sleep
at night. You really got me. You really got me. You really got me.

See, don't ever set me free...

GROSS: What were you thinking about when you wrote this song?

Mr. DAVIES: Not a lot, really. Not a lot.

GROSS: How did the line come to you?

Mr. DAVIES: I'd written a song a few years--as I said, I try to write
instrumental phrases, and I'd been writing those a few years earlier. And
there was this repetitive phrase there, `da-da-da-da-da,' you know, and goings
and strange accents and things. And I just probably sat and we just had
dinner at home, and I went into the front room of the parlor where we had the
piano, a little upright piano, and I--suddenly something, this idea I'd
thought of a few years earlier. And the words just came out. I think the
subconscious was composing. It was not thought out.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: And I think that's the trick. Just the words evolved with the
notes and they match. And looking at the lyric, if I'd brought the lyric, you
know, to somebody and said, `Write music to that,' they'd probably tell me to
get out, you know, because it's not very--doesn't look very inspiring. It's
like all these things, when you put the two pieces together, lyric and music,
it adds up to something in a strange way.

GROSS: Now you say that in your book, that someone in your management said,
`Well, I don't know whether you're singing to a boy or a girl, so you'd better
put a girl's name in there somewhere.'

Mr. DAVIES: That's right, yeah. Well, he was concerned about, you know, who
I was singing to and what my audience was. And I'm thankful, in a sense, that
he suggested I personalize it, because although I didn't use a name at the
end, I thought `girl' would be appropriate. But just thinking about that
change probably gave me the--I know it sounds--it's not pretentious, but maybe
it is--a psychological--my voice, the way I sang, it sounds different. I sang
the thing like I knew roughly where it was directed. And so although I didn't
use Susan or Barbara, whatever--`Barbara, you really got me going'--I sang
`girl,' and I had an image of somebody there.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Now you say in your book that you managed to keep the R&B
feel even though making a pop record. I think--yeah, that's really true. And
also you write that you made a conscious effort to make your voice sound pure
and to sing clearly, which I think is really interesting considering the kind
of really, like, fuzzy, aggressive guitar sound, and you're trying to sing,
you know, purely and clearly. It's a really interesting contrast.

Mr. DAVIES: Hmm. Yeah, I think it's like the old Noel Coward line, you
know, `Remember the lines and speak clearly.' We had made "You Really Got Me"
once before and we'd gone in with the producers and everything, and I'd been
on tour, my voice was a bit croaky, a bit like it is now. And--(singing in
croaky voice) `Yeah, you really got me going,' it's like really down there.
So I remembered that when we came to do the vocal and we only had three hours
to do it, so there I was with, like, 10 minutes to go and it had to be right.
So I thought--I took my voice up a bit, you know, again, thought I was higher,
singing in a higher register than I was. And so emotionally, I was up there
in the mid-frequencies even though my voice was quite gravelly.

GROSS: Let's play another song, another one that you wrote. Let's do "Tired
Of Waiting For You," another early hit. Anything you can say about writing

Mr. DAVIES: Hmm. That's from the original bunch I wrote, instrumentals, two
years before. And there is an interesting story, because we'd just had this
huge hit with "You Really Got Me" at number one, and we were doing our first
album. And we said, `Wow, we found a new writer,' you know. It was me, you
know, and I was supposed to come up with all this material. But I didn't tell
anybody I didn't actually have anything except a few chords. And we went in
and did the back track to that one morning, and they said, `Well, put the
words'--we used to put the vocal down at the same time, and I said, `Well,
I've got a sore throat this morning. Can I just do the back track first, the
instruments first, and then I'll do vocal later?' Because I hadn't written
the lyrics, you know.

And we did the back track and afterwards I said, `Look, I really feel like I'm
coming down with something, the flu or something,' so I couldn't sing that day
and I went home and went out that night and came in the next morning. I made
the words up on the spot, really. And it is another one of those repetitive
lyrics, but somehow it works because even though I didn't think--again, I
don't want to keep belaboring the point, but I thought that I wasn't writing.
I was. I was taking in ideas. Although they weren't going down on note pads
or, you know, written, they were inside my head. They just came out, `It's
your life, and you can do what you want.' And basically, I was telling
myself, you know, I'm on this journey now. I've had this hit record, and it
really is up to me what I write. So it was an interesting combination of
being a bit of a con artist, telling them I'd written something when I hadn't,
and letting myself, letting my emotions, my subconscious take over and do the
work for me. It's very easy, really.

GROSS: So, OK. Let's hear "Tired Of Waiting For You," The Kinks from the
mid-'60s. My guest is Ray Davies.

(Soundbite of "Tired Of Waiting For You"; music)

Mr. DAVIES: (Singing) I'm so tired, tired of waiting, tired of waiting for
you. I'm so tired, tired of waiting, tired of waiting for you.

I was a lonely soul. I had nobody till I met you. But you keep-a me waiting
all of the time. What can I do? It's your life, and you can do what you
want. Do what you like, but please don't keep-a me waiting. Please don't
keep-a me waiting 'cause I'm so tired, tired of waiting, tired of waiting for
you. I'm so tired...

GROSS: We're listening to a 1995 interview with Ray Davies of The Kinks. I
asked him about some of his later songs for The Kinks, like "Dedicated
Follower Of Fashion" and "Well Respected Man," which took him in the direction
of social observation and satire.

Very few songwriters at that time were writing about characters. Songs were
expected to be kind of autobiographical. I mean, like Randy Newman has
confused a lot of people by writing songs, often about very unlikable
characters. So I figure the song that confused the people the most probably
was "Lola," which is about somebody who picks up someone who he thinks is a
woman and turns out to be a man.

Mr. DAVIES: Hmm.

GROSS: So did that song confuse a lot of people? Maybe you could tell us the
story behind writing it.

Mr. DAVIES: "Lola" was a song, really, about not so much confused identity,
but more being protective of my own emotions. I draw on lots of different
characters when I write a song. I don't really--and it's very rare I write
about one thing. The fact that Lola was a transvestite is incidental. It was
really a love song. And all it says really is that I'm in love in with
somebody--or that the singer's in love with somebody who may not be
everybody's taste, or whatever, but he's made that commitment. That's all it
about, really, and the rest is just dressing.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: Or cross-dressing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I like that.

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah.

GROSS: So was it based on someone who you knew, or an incident that happened?

Mr. DAVIES: Oh, no. It was based on an actual incident, that part of it, in
Paris. We used to go to this wonderful club called The Castelle. It was a
bit seedy. It was in Paris. At the time, everybody went there. The Stones
used to go there, a lot of actresses and a lot of models and people. We used
to go down there and dance all night and come out the next morning and go to
work and not worry about a thing, or not notice anything.

And one night, my manager was there and he was dancing, Robert. He's a lovely
guy. He was a stockbroker. Really, he should have stayed a stockbroker. And
he was 6'6" tall and very thin, typical English, you know, Terry Thomas gent.
And he said, `Hey, Ray,' you know, `I'm onto something here, old boy.' I
said, `What?' He said, `Do you see that beautiful girl over there? I'm going
to take her out. I'm going to go home with her.' And then it was OK until he
got into the daylight and realized this girl had a lot of stubble on her face
and it was a guy. And she was really, really attractive to look at until you
got in the daylight.

So I used that story, but that had occurred some years before I wrote "Lola."
So I used that and adapted that and I put that in as kind of a subplot, and so
it ended up being the main focal point of the song, really. But as I said,
the song is really about a love song. It's a love thing; maybe a love that
people shouldn't know about.

GROSS: Well, let's hear "Lola."

(Soundbite of "Lola"; music)

Mr. DAVIES: (Singing) I met her in a club down in North SoHo where you drink
champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola. C-O-L-A, cola. She walked up
to me and she asked me to dance. I asked her her name, and in a dark brown
voice, she said, `Lola,' L-O-L-A, Lola. Lol-lol-lol-lol-lol-lola.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DAVIES: (Singing) Well, I'm not the world's most physical guy, but when
she squeezed me tight, she nearly broke my spine. Oh, my Lola.
Lol-lol-lol-lol-lola. Well, I'm not dumb, but I can't understand why she
walk a woman, but talk like a man. Oh, my Lola.

GROSS: Our interview with Ray Davies was recorded in 1995. Coming up,
Marianne Faithfull. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of "Sympathy for the Devil")

Mr. MICK JAGGER (The Rolling Stones): (Singing) Yeow! Yeow! Yeow!

(Soundbite of music; people making noises)

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm a man of
wealth and taste...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Marianne Faithfull discusses her musical career, dating
Mick Jagger, her memoir and her addiction to heroin

In the mid-'60s, Marianne Faithfull was famous for two reasons: first, her
hit "As Tears Go By," which was co-written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards;
second, for her relationship with Mick Jagger; they were lovers. She was
beautiful and wifelike, and she 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, her heroin addiction got out of
control and eventually left her homeless. She began a comeback in the '80s
with records that showed her off as a fine rock interpreter of cabaret
material. I spoke with her in 1994.

Tell (technical difficulties) how you met Mick Jagger

Ms. MARIANNE FAITHFULL (Singer/Songwriter): 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--you know, he's
still like that--and especially then when we were very young. I mean, I was
17, and he must have been 19, you know, 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. But...

GROSS: What do you mean you were discovered there?

Ms. FAITHFULL: I was dis--well, that's where Andrew Oldham saw me. I was
discovered by several people at the party, actually. Andrew Oldham was the
only person I gave my address to.

GROSS: And he was the producer of your first records...


GROSS: ...and of The Rolling Stones.

Ms. FAITHFULL: Yes, he disc--he managed The Rolling Stones, made their early

GROSS: In your memoir, you reprint a press release that was written for when
"As Tears Go By" was released.


GROSS: And it says, `Marianne Faithfull is the little 17-year-old blonde who
still attends a convent in Reading, daughter of the Baroness Erisso. She is
lissome and lovely with long, blond hair...'

Ms. FAITHFULL: A lot of alliteration in this press release, isn't there?

GROSS: Yeah.


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 mom
and sitting it in Milmum Road(ph) reading it to my mother and Chris, my
brother. We just fell apart 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: You write, `The sexual side of life was never easy for me to handle,
but I'm not really that interested in sex.' That struck me as very
interesting because...

Ms. FAITHFULL: Right. You're the first person to spot that.

GROSS: Oh, but so much of the book is given over to your sexual life...


GROSS: ...your relationships with men and women...

Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, of course; yeah.

GROSS: it was hard for me to imagine you in that situation while you
were thinking that, on the other hand, you weren't really that interested in

Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, it was tha--I mean, you have to remember I wrote this
book. It sort of--it took two and a half years ago, and so it was me now
that's writing this book. I do know that in the '60s, I was much more--I must
have been much more sexual than I am now. But I think it was a very sexual
time in the '60s. It was definitely what dear old David Dalton called the
zeitgeist, which I liked very much. It was a very sexual thing that
zeitgeist, at least it was in London.

GROSS: There are kind of, like, interesting sexual chapters in your family
history. Your...

Ms. FAITHFULL: My great-great-Uncle Leopold.

GROSS: Yeah.


GROSS: Your great-uncle was Leopold, Baron von...

Ms. FAITHFULL: Von Sacher-Masoch.

GROSS: Yeah.


GROSS: And so he wrote the novel "Venus in Furs," and the word `masochism'
comes from his last name.

Ms. FAITHFULL: Yes. He gave his name--gave our name to masochism, right.

GROSS: And then your grandfather on your father's side was a sexologist...

Ms. FAITHFULL: Right, yes.

GROSS: ...who invented something that he called the Frigidity Machine...


GROSS: unlock the libidinal energy.

Ms. FAITHFULL: Well, you know, these stories about poor old Theodore are
actually all my mother's stories. I don't really know--I haven't--I didn't
check with my father, because I just thought they were so funny, the Frigidity
Machine and the whole thing. I wanted to keep it as my mother told me. But
I'm not quite sure if he really was a sexologist. He might have been a
psychiatrist, or something. My mother would have thought that, though.

GROSS: Now you ended up doing a lot of drugs, doing a lot of heroin. How did
you start doing heroin?

Ms. FAITHFULL: I used it as a coping mechanism.

GROSS: For coping with what?

Ms. FAITHFULL: For coping with my life.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Ms. FAITHFULL: And it worked for a while, but it did have a tremendous
drawback, which was that it was addictive and it will kill you.

GROSS: How long did it take you to figure that out?


GROSS: Yeah.

Ms. FAITHFULL: A very long time. But I did figure out eventually, thank God.

GROSS: Now I want to play a song that you wrote the lyrics for called "Sister
Morphine," that was released in England in 1969. Tell me a little bit about
where you were in your life when you wrote this 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
and Mick was playing it all the time. And...

GROSS: Playing the melody.

Ms. FAITHFULL: Playing the--yes, the basic theme. `Da-da-da da-da-da-da,'
that thing, all the time. So it went into my sort of whole sort of nervous
system, blood, bones, everything. I really had it in everything. I knew it
by heart, let's say that, you know. And then I reme--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 is was. But
I do that sometimes. It's obvious--I work on it in my head, and then when
it's all ready I do it.

GROSS: Why don't we hear "Sister Morphine"? This is Marianne Faithfull,
recorded in 1969.

(Soundbite of "Sister Morphine"; music)

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, I'm just tryin' score?

GROSS: Our interview with Marianne Faithfull was recorded in 1994. Our '60s
music series continues in the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross, and
this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of "Brown Sugar")

Mr. MICK JAGGER (The Rolling Stones): (Singing) ...yeah!

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) I said, `Yeah, yeah, yeah--Whoo!' How come you, how
come you taste so good? I said, `Yeah, yeah, yeah--Whoo!' Just like a, just
like a black girl should. I said, `Yeah, yeah, yeah--Whoo!'

(Soundbite of music)


(Soundbite of "Magic Bus")

GROSS: Coming up, Pete Townshend on the first time he destroyed a guitar.
Then we'll hear from Colin Blunstone of The Zombies, a British Invasion band
known for its smart and clean-cut image.

(Soundbite of "Magic Bus")

Mr. ROGER DALTREY (The Who): (Singing) Every day, I get in the queue...

Mr. PETE TOWNSHEND (The Who): (Singing) Too much, magic bus.

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) get on the bus that takes me to you.

Mr. TOWNSHEND: (Singing) Too much, magic bus.

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) I'm so nervous I just sit and smile...

Mr. TOWNSHEND: (Singing) Too much, magic bus.

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) ...your house is only another mile.

Mr. TOWNSHEND: (Singing) Too much, magic bus.

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) Thank you, driver, for gettin' me here...

Mr. TOWNSHEND: (Singing) Too much, magic bus.

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing)'ll an inspector, have no fear.

Mr. TOWNSHEND: (Singing) Too much, magic bus.

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) I don't want to cause no fuss...

Mr. TOWNSHEND: (Singing) Too much, magic bus.

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) ...but can I buy your magic bus.

Mr. TOWNSHEND: (Singing) Too much, magic bus.

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) Oh!

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) I don't care how much I pay...

Mr. TOWNSHEND: (Singing) Too much, magic bus.

Mr. DALTREY: (Singing) ...I want to drive my bus to my baby each day.

Mr. TOWNSHEND: (Singing) Too much, magic bus.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Pete Townshend of The Who discusses his career

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

It's '60s Music Week on FRESH AIR; today's it's the British Invasion. The Who
was founded in 1964 in London and soon became a voice of teen-age rebellion
with anthems like Townshend's song "My Generation," which had the group's
most famous line: `Hope I die before I get old.' Pete Townshend's rebellious
energy was expressed not only in his songs, but in his power chords and in the
way he'd smash his guitar at the end of his concerts.

The Who's bass player, John Entwistle, died in June. I spoke with Pete
Townshend in 1993. Let's start with The Who's 1967 recording, "I Can See for

(Soundbite of "I Can See for Miles," by The Who)

Mr. ROGER DALTREY (The Who): (Singing) I know you've deceived me. Now here's
a surprise. I know that you have 'cause there's magic in my eyes. I can see
for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles. Oh, yeah. If you think
that I don't know about the little tricks you play, I never see you when you
look at me, you look at me, look my way. Well, here's a look at you, you're
going to choke on it, too, you're going to lose that smile because all the
while, I can see for miles and miles, I can see for miles and miles, I can see
for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles. Oh, yeah.

GROSS: When you started playing rock 'n' roll, you really cranked up the
volume and started using feedback and distortion. Can you tell me why you
became so interested in volume and distortion?

Mr. PETE TOWNSHEND (The Who): Well, there are a couple of different things.
I mean, there's, you know, a sort of a sociologist in me on this subject, and
I think that that--and if I can actually talk about Jim Marshall, as an
example here, because I won't talk about me. Let me talk about Jim Marshall.
Jim Marshall is the man who invented the Marshall amplifier, you know, the big
stack that The Who used, that Eric Clapton used, that Jimi Hendrix adopted
when he came to the UK, that big wall of sound thing.

And Jim had a music shop, and one day, you know, I went in--and we'd been
playing at pubs--and I said, `I've got these two American amplifiers, Jim.
I've got a Fend--a Pro amp and a Fender Bassman amp,' and I said, `They're
great amplifiers, they sound great,' and I was already using a certain amount
of feedback, and I said, `But the trouble is that I can hear the audience.'
And he said, `What do you mean?' I said, `Well, I can hear them. You know,
if I'm playing and somebody in the front row and they say "This is junk," I
can hear what they're saying. I don't want to hear them, OK?' And I said,
`So I need something bigger and louder.' And his eyes lit up, and I said,
`Can you do this for me?' And he said--and he got his engineer out, and he
said, `Do you think you can do this?' And the guy said, `Yeah, I think I can
do it. You know, I can do it. I think I can do it.'

And I realized at that moment that what was actually happening was that I was
demanding a more powerful machine gun, and Jim Marshall was going to build it
for me, and then we were going to go out and blow people away all around the
world. And the generation we were going to blow away was the generation
immediately preceding us, the ones who had the gall to tell us that we were
wimps because we had long hair, wimps because we didn't have wars to fight in,
wimps because we couldn't prove ourselves in military service, because we
didn't have it. You know, it was not necessary anymore; we were post-atomic
bomb people--that we were wimps, wimps, wimps, wimps, wimps and that the only
reason that we even had electric guitars and rock 'n' roll was because they'd
paved the way for peace and given everything up, which is, of course,
absolutely true; they had, you know. And Remembrance Day is a day that I take
very seriously. It's just passed, you know. I do remember those guys that
gave us this peace, you know, and I cry for them.

But I think that anger was something that really crossed over generations. It
wasn't just from rock 'n' roll, and it just wasn't from me and my need to
smash guitars. It was right over the whole industry, right through the whole
of show business and rock 'n' roll and the media and everybody. Everybody of
that generation wanted it to be bigger, louder. I wanted it to be as big as
the atomic bomb had been.

GROSS: Now how do you connect this to smashing guitars?

Mr. TOWNSHEND: I think the connection isn't actually--in CD-ROM talk, you
would call it a hyperlink. I don't think it's a direct connection. I think
it was a byproduct of, you know, stage performance, I think. You know, the
first guitar that I broke, I broke in front of my grandmother, you know, when
I was 14. It was...

GROSS: Were you impressing her, or was this a mistake?

Mr. TOWNSHEND: No, no, no, no, no. She came--it was another take on the Jim
Marshall story. She bought me my first guitar, which was a piece of trash,
and I was very upset because my father had recommended the guitar because I
couldn't play the clarinet, and I wanted him to buy the guitar. So I was
angry that she'd bought me this piece of trash, and it was very, very hard to
play, and my dad said, `Well, you know, she has bought it for you, she is your
grandmother. Try and learn to play something on it, and if you can, then I'll
buy you a new one,' and this went on and on and on and on.

And one day, I'm clunking away at this horrible kind of guitar, which was
really fit only to be hung on the wall at, you know, an Italian restaurant
next to the Chianti bottles, and I think that's where it probably came from.
And she came in and she said, `This is a bloody awful row,' you know. `Why
don't you play some proper music?' And I said, `Listen, Nan, we know what
we're doing.' You know, `Leave us alone.' And I was with John Entwistle.
You know, we were little kids, really. And she said, `Now turn it off. It's
a bloody horrible row.' And she said, `If you don't turn it off, I'll smash
it.' So I said, `No, you won't smash it,' and I got the guitar and I smashed
it over the amplifier. I broke an amplifier at the same time, too, a little
kind of tiny amplifier, and she went completely white and walked out of the
room, and John said, `You've done it now.' And I said, `I might have,' but I
said, `John I feel great.'

And, of course, I was able then, you know, to go and look for a decent guitar
and rob and steal to get it, which is what I did, and I found myself a decent
instrument, and from there on, I never looked back, really.

GROSS: Yeah, but once you had a good instrument, why did you smash that on

Mr. TOWNSHEND: Guitars are very good for me to express myself by smashing
them. They're very good for me to express myself by playing them. They're
very good to express myself by pouring lighter fluid over them and warming my
hands. You know, it depends what I'm doing, you know...

GROSS: But let me ask you, how did the feeling you had the first time you
smashed a guitar on stage compare to the feeling you had the 100th time and
the 200th time you'd done it? Did it still feel as good? Did it feel good in
a different way?

Mr. TOWNSHEND: I don't think it's ever felt good at all. I don't it's
something that I expected to feel good.

GROSS: I mean, `good' in the sense of a release.

Mr. TOWNSHEND: I don't think it's ever felt good as a sense of a release. I
don't--you know, I'm afraid it's always been too--you know, I've always used
the instrument that I happened to be playing at the time. And, I mean, as I
see it splinter, I'm thinking, `Oh, my God, $1,000.' But, you know, I've
actually been enough of an artist and believed in the act enough to do it
again and again and again.

GROSS: Well, what does the act mean to you?

Mr. TOWNSHEND: It means a number of things. I think it's a statement mainly
of artistic independence. I mean, it's also an act of--it's in the same tone
as, you know, we want our amplifiers to be loud so that we can't hear the
response. It's like saying, `OK, the show is over now,' you know. `I am
finished.' And in a sense, that all music is over now. `Everything to do
with this particular event is over now. It's finished. You know, the
interaction between me, you and this guitar is over now.'

It's a big, dramatic action, and the reason that it has to, in a way, be
theatrically violent--because I think that's as far it gets. You know, we
used to smash our equipment up and then go back and drink, you know, cups of
lemon tea like--I think that the reason that it needs to be theatrically
violent is, in a way, that it's because the observation--the thing that we're
trying, you know, to get out of the--you know, the response that we want from
the audience is one of absolute reflection at that moment on everything that's
happened up to that point--you know, to stun them, to actually stop them.

GROSS: Pete Townshend recorded in 1993. Coming up, Colin Blunstone of the
British Invasion band The Zombies. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of "You Can't Always Get What You Want")

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Colin Blunstone discusses his career with the 1960s
British group The Zombies

The Zombies were one of the British Invasion bands that followed in the wake
of The Beatles. Their first record, "She's Not There," made it to number two
on the Billboard pop chart here. The next year, they made it to number four
with "Tell Her No." Ironically, the band had already broken up in 1969 when
"Time of the Season" became their biggest hit.

My guest, Colin Blunstone, was the lead singer of The Zombies. Before he
tells us what it was like to be part of the '60s British Invasion, let's hear
The Zombies' first single.

(Soundbite of "She's Not There")

Mr. COLIN BLUNSTONE (The Zombies): (Singing) Well, no one told me about her,
the way she lied. Well, no one told me about her, how many people cried. But
it's too late to say you're sorry. How would I know? Why should I care?
Please don't bother tryin' to find her. She's not there. Well, let me tell
you about the way she looked, the way she had to have the color of her hair.
Her voice was soft and cool, her eyes were clear and bright, but she's not

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: What do you think defined The Zombies' sound?

Mr. BLUNSTONE: Well, I think a lot of the sound really comes from the
writers. We had two unique writers in the band and very prolific writers as
well, and I think possibly especially Rod Argent. His writings, his songs
were, I think, well, truly wonderful. I think they were brilliant songs. And
he also was a brilliant keyboard player. So you've got these great keyboard
breaks that he would keep putting into songs.

Also, he was a very accomplished musician even at an early age. He understood
a lot about music, which, certainly, he was in a different league to me. So a
lot of a chord progressions and the bass notes he put on the bottom of chords
were quite unusual. And he also understood vocal harmonies because he was in
the cathedral choir until he was about 17 or 18. And if we played a gig on a
Sunday night, we'd have to go and pick him up at the back of the cathedral,
where he'd been singing in whatever the thing had been at the cathedral. And
he'd have to be taking off all his church clothes and getting into his rock
'n' roll gear, and then we'd go off to the rock 'n' roll gig. So I think our
harmonies helped to make things a bit different as well.

I think there were lots of things that contributed towards it, but the
songwriting and the vocal harmonies and then maybe there's a little bit of the
interplay between Rod's writing and my voice. I mean, both of them, Chris
White and Rod Argent, used to write songs for my voice. And...

GROSS: What were the qualities of your voice that you think they wrote for?

Mr. BLUNSTONE: Well, especially for those days, I sang in quite a high key,
you know, compared with lots of other singers. Nowadays lots of people do
that. But I think that was one of the things. I think I tend to sing sad
songs better than happy-go-lucky songs, so that often songs would have a sort
of a haunting quality about them. "She's Not There's" probably a good
example. I think they would look for that. Songs in minor keys perhaps would
be another thing they would look for. So lots of little things all added up
to The Zombies' sound.

GROSS: Yeah. A lot of the songs you sang had more to do with vulnerability
than showing how strong you were.

Mr. BLUNSTONE: Yeah, that's right. Well, that's me.

GROSS: Let's hear another one of The Zombies' big hits, and this is "Tell Her


GROSS: Tell us something about the song or the session.

Mr. BLUNSTONE: I think, as I remember, we'd been touring with Dionne Warwick,
who you would call Dionne Warwick, and through that, we'd got very interested
in Burt Bacharach songs. And I have a feeling that Rod Argent, who wrote this
song, was going through a period of being influenced a lot by Burt Bacharach.
With regard to the session, we would record probably three or four, maybe
five, backing tracks in an evening at Decca Recording Studios, and then we
would put vocals on. And it would probably be 12:00 or 1:00 at night before I
got 'round to singing.

And I always remember this session because I was fast asleep when they
finished, and they woke me up to sing "Tell Her No." And, in fact, there's a
mumbled line in the middle of "Tell Her No" because I was half asleep when I
was singing it, and I said, `Hey, listen, guys, I'd better just do that again,
because there's this mumbled line.' And they said, `Oh, no, no. That's fine.
Don't worry about that.' And I've heard stories of people in bands who have
been trying to copy our version of "Tell Her No," and they've been desperately
trying to work out what the lyric is. And after 15 or 30 years or whatever it
is, I have to tell them, `Well, you shouldn't have bothered, because it's just
a mumble. So there is no lyric there, really.'

GROSS: Where is the mumble in the song?

Mr. BLUNSTONE: I'll leave it to you to find out because I can't remember off
the top of my head.

GROSS: Oh, come on.

Mr. BLUNSTONE: No, really, I can't remember. It's something like--you play
the song, and then I'll have a think-about-it while you're playing.

GROSS: OK. Why don't we play it, you listen in and then you tell us what the
line it is?



(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BLUNSTONE: I have to wait to hear the lyric. Yeah.

(Soundbite of "Tell Her No")

Mr. BLUNSTONE: (Singing) And if she should tell you `Come closer,' and if
she tells you wear the charms...

OK, that's all right. Next one.

(Singing) ...tell her no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,
no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Don't hurt me now for her love belongs to me.
And if she should tell you, `I love you,' whoa, whoa. And if she tempts you
with her charms...

This part here.

(Singing) tell her no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no...

Here it is.

(Singing) ...(mumbling) from your arms.

Mr. BLUNSTONE: That's it.

(Singing), no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no...

Did you hear it?

GROSS: Yes, it was the part--I always...

Mr. BLUNSTONE: It's sort of...

GROSS: Yeah, go ahead.

Mr. BLUNSTONE: It sort of sounds like, `Don't love her love from your arms,'
or something, but, really, it's (mumbles while singing).

GROSS: I always heard it as, `Don't hurt me now from her arms.' And I
figured, `Well, I don't know what that means, but it's all right. I get the
gist of it.'

Mr. BLUNSTONE: Yes. But what it means is it was a rather sleepy Zombie who
was trying to do his best, but was a little bit not with it. He was amongst
those not present.

GROSS: I always loved your chorus of, you know, the `tell her no's' with your
`whoa, whoa, whoas' in it and all that.


GROSS: Did you sing it the same way for each take, or did it always come out

Mr. BLUNSTONE: Well, it wasn't something that was specifically written. It
was, `OK, Colin, now do a little bit of something here.' And it probably
would have been similar, but it wouldn't have been exactly the same.

GROSS: When you started performing, particularly when you came over to the
States and started performing, did you get a lot of advice or guidance on what
to wear, what kind of haircuts you should have, what kind of eyeglasses the
guys in the band should wear, all that image type of stuff?

Mr. BLUNSTONE: No, we didn't, actually. And I think that imagewise, I think
it was a weakness in the band. I think--you know, we were together
professionally for three years, although we were together for four years at
school. Towards the end of the three years, I think we were getting the image
thing a bit more sorted out, but it had just been a natural progression for
us. And I think that we probably--we needed help, I think, earlier on. How
could it be any different? Our first record had been a huge hit record around
the world, and some of the guys had just left school. And I don't know how
much other bands thought about image, but we certainly didn't. And I wish
that some shrewd character had given us a bit of help there.

And then you just mentioned spectacles. Two of the guys wore very
heavy-rimmed spectacles. And at a time when--if you're in a teen-aged band,
of course, you want to look fairly attractive for people, and it was very
fashionable at the time for young men in rock bands to wear glasses. And
towards the middle or the end of our professional career, Paul Atkinson
stopped wearing those heavy-rimmed glasses and wore contact lenses, and he was
a very good-looking lad. And I think it might have helped us a little bit if
he'd wore contact lenses from the beginning. But just little things like that
I think we could have looked into.

And I think, also, "She's Not There" is a very charismatic song. It's eerie,
almost could be a little bit sinister. And I think we could have worked on

GROSS: Right.

Mr. BLUNSTONE: Instead of which, we came with a very jolly little "Tell Her
No" number for our second record, which didn't seem to me to follow "She's Not
There" very well, really.

GROSS: In one article that I think was written in an American newspaper or
magazine, an article that's quoted in the liner notes to the new Zombies box


GROSS: ...the band was described as "clean-cut, quiet, well-mannered,
intelligent. They behave like gentlemen." And was that considered good or
a liability at the time, to be so clean-cut in your image?

Mr. BLUNSTONE: Well, it's funny. When you met...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. BLUNSTONE: When you met people in the media, I think they quite liked it
because we turned up on time and, you know, we...

GROSS: You didn't insult them.

Mr. BLUNSTONE: We didn't insult them, we didn't spit and, you know--but when
you actually put that into an article, I think it can put people off.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BLUNSTONE: People want rascals and rogues and naughty boys, you know.
`Man, do you know what he did? Do you know what this guy did?' People love
that, you know. But then they're not having to face it firsthand. So in a
way, I think that it went against us a bit. Mind you, I'm saying all this
with hindsight. I didn't realize it at the time. We were just making it up
as we went along.

GROSS: My guest is Colin Blunstone, the lead singer of the British Invasion
band The Zombies. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR

(Soundbite of "Midnight Rambler")

Mr. MICK JAGGER (The Rolling Stones): (Singing) Did you hear about the
Midnight Rambler? Now everybody got to go. Did you hear about the Midnight
Rambler, the one that shut the kitchen door? He don't give you a hoot. I
don't want. I'm wrapped up in a black cat cloak. He don't go in the light of
the morning. He splits the time the cock will crow.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) I'm talkin' about the Midnight Gambler...

GROSS: It's '60s Music Week on FRESH AIR. Let's get back to our 1998
interview with Colin Blunstone, the lead singer of the British Invasion band
The Zombies.

When you first came to the United States on the first Zombies tour, you
performed with the "Murray the K Show" in Brooklyn...

Mr. BLUNSTONE: That's right, yep.

GROSS: ...and Murray the K was, like, the great New York disc jockey, and
he'd have these great rock 'n' roll shows, in which a lot of, like, you know,
rhythm and blues acts and rock 'n' roll acts performed. Who did you share the
bill with? Do you remember?

Mr. BLUNSTONE: Yes. Chuck Jackson was top of the bill, The Shirelles, Ben E.
King, Shangri-Las, Patti LaBelle and The Blue Belles, as they were then. And
we had to follow them, and they were wonderful. And they used to bring the
house down, and then we had to go on next. And The Nashville Teens--there was
another English band on there. There were probably some other acts as well,
but I don't remember any more. But it was a great experience. You know, we
did five or six shows a day, but, of course, we only sang one or two songs.
It wasn't as if you went on and did an hour. But you had to be there from
early in the morning till late at night and just go on and do your one song.

GROSS: So everybody probably knew everybody else's song by the time...

Mr. BLUNSTONE: I think they did, yeah.

GROSS: ...the tour was...

Mr. BLUNSTONE: Well, one of the things that...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. BLUNSTONE: One of the things that intrigued me was we couldn't go out of
the theater because there were huge crowds out there. And Paul Atkinson, our
lead guitarist, he left the theater once, and this crowd sort of--they didn't
mean to do him any harm, but just because they were so big, they backed him up
against a plate-glass window, and the police came in and got him out. When he
came out, he had no shirt on. He was just about to go through a plate-glass
window. And they said to him--they said, `Well, listen, we've got you out the
once, but if you come out again, you're on your own.' So that was enough for
us. We just had to stay backstage all day.

But then when everyone had gone home, we came out. And, normally, we'd go and
have a quick beer in the bar next door, and then we'd get on the subway
because we didn't really have any money even in those days. I think we were
number one nationally, but we still didn't have any money. So we'd get on the
subway, and people would say, `You're going on the subway late at night from
Brooklyn' to wherever it was, which I think was a fairly tough area, and
people were just amazed. But if the fans had just waited a little bit longer,
they could have come on the subway with us and probably helped us to find our
hotel, I'm sure. We were getting lost all the time.

GROSS: But that's very funny, though, to go from--you know, in just a couple
of hours from complete stardom at the theater to complete invisibility on the

Mr. BLUNSTONE: I know. But, I mean, it's a crazy business, isn't it?

GROSS: Yeah, right.

Mr. BLUNSTONE: And I think you have to learn to switch on and, more
importantly, to switch off, because if you try and live the rock 'n' roll
life, I think you'll be in trouble, and you'd probably be dead.

GROSS: Well, let's pause here and play something from the new Zombies box
set. And this is a previously unissued recording you made I think at the BBC,
and it's a cover of Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love."


GROSS: You had mentioned before that the band had--What?--toured with Dionne

Mr. BLUNSTONE: That's right, the very first tour we ever did, and we were
fantastic Burt Bacharach fans. I still am a big Bacharach fan. He just
writes the most wonderful songs.

GROSS: Were you thinking of Dionne Warwick when you sang this yourself?

Mr. BLUNSTONE: No, because the version I'd heard was by Dusty Springfield,
and I think she had a hit in America with that version, but she didn't have a
hit in the UK. It's funny how that happens. You know, people can have hits
with a wonderful version of a song in one country, and it doesn't mean
anything in another country. Very strange.

(Soundbite of "The Look of Love")

Unidentified Man: And now you're hearing the sweet and swinging sound of The
Zombies one more time in "The Look of Love," written by Burt Bacharach.

Mr. BLUNSTONE: (Singing) The look of love is in your eyes, the look your
heart can't disguise. The look of love is saying so much more than words
could ever say. And what my heart has heard, well, it takes my breath away.
I can hardly wait to hold you, feel my arms around you. How long I have
waited, waited just to love you. Now that I have found you, you've got the
look of love...

GROSS: My guest is Colin Blunstone, the lead singer of the British Invasion
band The Zombies. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of "The Look of Love")

Mr. BLUNSTONE: (Singing) ...that time can't erase. My...

GROSS: Our interview with Colin Blunstone was recorded in 1998. Blunstone
has a new CD with former Zombie Rod Argent called "Out of the Shadows."
They'll tour in September. Our '60s Music Week continues tomorrow.


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of "The Look of Love")

Mr. BLUNSTONE: (Singing) ...feel my arms around you. How long I have waited,
waited just to love you. Now that I have found you, don't ever go. Don't
ever go. I love you so.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


How the Trump White House misled the world about its family separation policy

The Atlantic's Caitlin Dickerson spent 18 months filing lawsuits for documents to put together the story of the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families at the border.


After a career of cracking cold cases, investigator Paul Holes opens up

Veteran cold case investigator Paul Holes talks about pursuing killers and the emotional toll of obsessing over crime scenes and talking to victims of horrific crimes. He has a new memoir called Unmasked.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue