Gadfly: How did the
idea of Kissin Time come about? The concept of
working with all these younger rock musicians?
Marianne: I said to Francois
[Ravard, Mariannes manager], "I want to do something
completely different. I want to make a happy record, celebrating
love and life." Francois said, "Make a wish list of who
youd like to work with. Well ring them up
and see." We did, and they all said yes.
Although I think
it provides an interesting foil for your voice, I have
to say I was a little put off by the electronica on the
first couple of tracks.
Well, you know, Broken
English was very electronicwe were just twenty-two
years ahead of equipment. One of the reasons I wanted
to make this record was I realized that there was all
this new stuff I didnt know about, and I like to
be in on the beginning of things.
Listening to this
CDand this is true of any album of yours, is like
following the adventures of a voice. In that respect,
its a little like listening to Ray Charlesit
doesnt really matter what hes singing. He
once said, "Man, Id do a Christmas album if I could
find enough songs."
Well, I dont know
about that, but are you trying to say I could sing the
telephone directory? Thank you, darling. I learned a lot
from singing Kurt Weill. It was like going back to school.
You really learn how to tell a story.
For Nico" comes to mind. What a great, sad story, and
its a great song, probably my favorite on the album.
People really dont
understand. They think I wrote it because of my similarities
to Nico, and, of course, there are certain similarities,
but in fact it is a song of contrast. All my life Ive
had people saying, "Oh, your tragic life. What a tragic
life." But I had a mother and a father who, whatever they
thought of each other, and they did not like each other
very much, really both loved me. I had a wonderful name
given to me by my father. I had a reasonably happy childhood,
actually. Stable. No money, but a great education. I came
up to London for my first party at seventeen and bumped
straight into Andrew [Loog Oldham], Mick Jagger and Keith
Richards, who treated me like a queen. I then met everyone
else you could possibly want to meet. I knew Paul and
John before that, and they all treated me like a queen,
an absolute jewel. They would have done anything for me.
At the end of the sixties, I was finished. I was burned
out. I had to save myself. I ran away to my wall. Then
I did save myself. When I had had enough, I came back.
And what a bang
thatwhen you came back! Pop music is all about comebacks
because, basically every three years, you have to recreate
yourself. But your reemergence on Broken English
was astonishing. Coming from the tarnished angel of pop,
your new incarnation was almost like the creature in Alien
erupting out of you. Its still a shocking record
Its just incredible.
Who must they have thought I was? It was a lot of fun.
There was much pleasure. All my life, I have been trying
to get people to come with me into the truth of what I
am. They started off on this dopey image of me, and Ive
been trying to be moving it closer to who I am ever since.
I didnt know Nico. I didnt get around to that
Andy Warhol scene until 1980. I went once to New York
with Andrew. I was so scared. I realized I would die if
I stayed there. What we thought of heavy drug taking in
London was nothing to what was going on in New York. Well,
the point of "Song For Nico" was that I finally decided:
Okay, you want to see a tragic life? Watch this. This
is a tragic life, and I dont even take it to the
that you call her innocent.
She was. What did she ever
do wrong? Really? The most awful thing about the story
is that she falls in love with Alain Delon. Madly in love.
Has that baby. And never, to this day, admits to the paternity.
Never gave her any financial help. When his mother gave
her financial helpvery little because she wasnt
richhe never spoke to his mother again. Thats
the way it ends, as it does, and I just throw it away.
It would be nice if people could understand that song.
The things Nico and I have in common are the least interesting
things. We have nothing in common, except we did heroin
at one point. But I never met her. I didnt know
her. I think The Marble Index is a masterpiece.
Nico is Broken English. I wish she was alive, and
Ive been quite frankly haunted for five years by
Nico about my song. "Wheres my song?" I knew John
Cale very well, and he has written some very beautiful
songs about Nico. I kept thinking Lou would do it. He
was never a lazy bugger. In the end, I realized it was
because I didnt know her that I could really write
the song. I had no axe to grind. What I have in common
with Nico is the understanding of her furious frustration
at not being recognized. And not only did she do all of
this, she did it in a completely foreign language. You
wouldnt believe the stories John has told me. He
was preparing The Marble Index, the music. Talk
about living in your own movie, she really lived in hers.
She had a different time frame to other people. The beats
she heard were not like one-two-three-four or one-two-three,
one-two-three or even six-eight. She had a completely
different one. He had to figure it out somehow. He was
doing that and worrying terribly about the lyrics. Not
only was she writing those wonderful lyrics, like "Frozen
Warnings," that is one of the masterpieces of all times.
She got to the session the first day; she took out this
book, like a huge old ancient Martin Luther Bible, bound
in vellum. And in it, handwritten in German gothic script,
was every lyric in The Marble Index. Thats
an artist. It is very easy to brush people like that away
and say, "Icon this and icon that." Bullshit! She was
just pulling herself together actually when she had that
terrible accident. Its like the death of Bessie
Smith, clinging to death twelve hours on the side of the
road in Ibiza. Yes, obviously I had to write a song for
Nico. I couldnt go on. I was being haunted. She
is pleased. I tell you I can feel it.
"Wherever I Go,"
which precedes the Nico song, is almost like a mock mid-sixties
pop song, like a soundtrack to an Audrey Hepburn movie.
Its a love song.
Well, what Billy [Corgan] decided was that what I needed
was a proper AOR hit. We dont talk about it. Nobody
knows who I love. But, of course, they all did. We wrote
a love song. All these guys knew my early work. What they
did, which was so extraordinaryapart from "Nobodys
Fault"is that all these guys on the album pretended
that after 1966 I disappeared completely. Never ran away
with Mick Jagger; never became a junkie; never did any
of that; never wrote "Sister Morphine"; never made Broken
English; never did anything after "As Tears Go By."
And then, like Sleeping Beauty, I suddenly reappeared
with Kissin Time, as if nothing happened. They
just wiped out the whole middle-eight of my life. Not
to deny it because, of course, it did happen. But they
are just sort of as-if storieswhat we did is impossible,
of course. If I hadnt run off with Mick, not written
"Sister Morphine," not this, not thatall those notsI
could not have made this record. They are all connected.
But still, that is the illusion, and it is a beautiful
one. The lovely little folky Beck song "Like Being Born"
is the same sort of thing.
About your family.
Not really about my family.
The first verse is about my parents. The second half is
about my loverhe touches me lightly with his handit
feels like being born. That is not my father.
voice is like some interior historian who chronicles
the seismic shifts in your life. Like "Im On Fire," when you
say "happiness," you pronounce it with such gothic patina.
Its just a beautiful
word. Its a word Ive never said in a song
before. I dont know where it came from. It
was just a moment; thats all a song is. Its
not the facts, the truth, forever. I did not know
what was coming. If youd said the word happiness
to me three weeks ago, I would have thrown up! Happiness
and no more pain, hah! Im much better now.
Life On Charm," now that one you did with that tree-hugger
group, Pulpnot that I havent communed with
trees in my time.
Yes. So cute, Pulp playing
to all the British trees. Theyre Irish. When they
said they were going to do a tour for all the ancient
forests of Britain and Brittany and Ireland, I actually
imagined they were going to play just to the trees. They
brought me back down to earth, saying, "Well, Marianne,
there will actually be people there, too." What an idea!
There are some of us left.
and music are an ancient pairing. There used to be the
Tree of Hope at the Apollo. It was the trunk of the tree
that actors in the old days used to stand under when they
were looking for parts. In the thirties, it got cut down
and they took the trunk of this tree and varnished it
and put it backstage where the performers come on stage.
Its all shiny from where people have rubbed their
hands on it for good luck. Um, getting back to "Sliding
Through Life On Charm."
this was a great title. Ive had it for twenty years.
It started off as fun, like these ideas do. Then I did
one of my faults. I got hung up on the rhyme and, of course,
that was a mistake. There are five or maybe six rhymes
for "charm" in English: "arm," "alarm," "farm," "calm,"
"marm" and "smarm." These are not the makings of a rock
and roll song. So twenty-two years later, or maybe eighteen
years later, I was in despair. I was flipping. I knew
it was still a great title. I thought, now who can I get
to write it? My eyes lit upon the young Jarvis Cocker,
who was walking one way as I was walking the other way
in a TV studio. I knew hed been to my shows, and
Ive been to his. As we crossed paths, I just grabbed
him and said, "Jarvis, if I give you a title, can you
write the song?" Hes very laconic. "Maybe," he said.
I looked him straight in the eyes and said, very slowly
and very clearly, "Sliding Through Life on Charm." I could
see something happening in his eyes. He does look Robert
Mitchum-like in a very skinny way. He said, "Well, yeah.
Any other information?" I said, "No." We moved on. He
said, "Ill try." Three years later, I got a package
in the mail in Dublin, and it was the demo and the lyrics
scribbled in pencil on the back of an envelope of "Sliding
Through Life on Charm." At first, I couldnt even
understand them. Only when we recorded it did he tell
me what he did. He read your book (Faithfull by
David Dalton and Marianne Faithfull). He took it out of
your book, facts. He told me himself that it was an absolute
revelation. He didnt get it wrong. He decided to
stand up for me. What amazed meand Ive noticed
this with these great, great people, especially these
young onesthey can look into your soul. And what
he did was say what I really think but was too afraid
to say. Because after Redlands [the Stones drug
bust], I was fucking terrified. Ill never recover
really. To this day, Francois says things like, "You know
we could rent the flat that Kate [Moss] is moving out
of." But I am too scared to move back.
The chain saw
thing at the beginning
Not a real tree, of course.
Its a family tree. "The family tree was chain sawed
Wednesday week." Whats interesting is that he [Jarvis]
thought I came from a very grand family with a lot of
money. Not true about the lots-of-money bit, of course.
But on my mothers side, I come from almost as grand
as you can get. Back to Charlemagne, eight hundred years.
Thats quite grand. On my fathers side, theres
the wonderful, nutty Faithfullsmissionaries and
teachers and professors of Renaissance studies and such
like and sexologists running off with circus dancers.
I dont really know what his words mean
I do. I just love 'em. That thing about, "Go ahead, why
dont you leave me to these thugs and creeps who
want to fuck a nun on drugs?" He just nailed it.
had to know how far was going too far" and "I wonder why
the schools dont teach anything useful nowadays,
like how to fall from grace and slide with elegance from
a pedestal I never asked to be on in the first place."
Talk about hitting the
nail on the head!
"Love and Money"
is a lovely little
Dave Courts/Marianne song. David wrote the music, and
I wrote the lyrics. But in a songwriting partnership you
cant say, "I did everything on this level, and he
did everything on this level." You really cant.
Its always fifty-fifty. David isnt a musician;
its his hobby. As you know, hes Keiths
Maker of the infamous
We wanted it to sound like
it came from another era. David and I and David Boyd,
who runs my record company, took it down to Chris Potter,
who is one of the great engineers/producers/mixers of
all time. On Rolling Stones recording time, he mixed it
for nothing. He gave it that sound, as if it had been
lying in a vault since 1967. Actually, it was written
two years ago. David doesnt write for anybody else.
I like that. Hes mine.
is, as you know,
a Beck original from Mutations, and the minute
I heard it, I started jumping up and down. I was saying,
"Thats mine. Thats mine." Beck agreed to do
one song. I knew him well enough to know that if I could
catch him, it would really get his interest. I might be
able to get that out of him, but I was ready for a "no"
and able to take it. He went for it. He was about to arrive.
I was sitting in Olive Garden in Venice, California, staring
at the ducks, holding my notebook, thinking, Ive
got a genius arriving in an hour and I havent got
anything written. I quickly went through my notes of the
last two years and knocked out the final version of "Sex
with Strangers," which had been cooking away quietly for
a while. I took a lot of it from Intimacy. Intimacy
is a film I was in that won the Berlin Film Festival,
and it is about sex with strangers. So thats where
it comes from, not personal experience, darling. I hate
to disappoint you, but its not actually about Beck
or having sex with strangers. Its really a construct.
But a sexy one. I am fascinated by other peoples
sex lives. I insist on keeping my own private, but I am
very curious. And I know from my gay friends especially
about sex with strangers. I personally prefer sex with
friends. I always have. Im too careful a person
to have sex with strangers. But I can imagine it. I ran
into Mick at the Warhol party. He came up to me and said,
"So, Marianne, sex with strangers, huh?" And, thank Christ,
I managed to say, "Yes, Mick, life does go on." In my
heart, I do feel terrible about what became of Mick; he
can be such a phony socially. But what was I supposed
to do, stay with him and save his soul? It wasnt
my job. My way of dealing with Mick at social events these
days is to lie. He laps it up; he never questions it.
Hes completely different when I see him at Marinas
or the [director John] Boormansin private
hes wonderful, the same person hes always
I guess sex with
strangers is more of a male fantasy.
In my song, it isn't. The
way I did it at the Barbican Center on the tenth of March
was in a raincoat with a hat and a cigarette and leaning
against a lamppost. It wasn't any male fantasy.
On Kissin Time,
you really seem to gel with the band.
Like "Nobodys Fault"its
real musicians playing in real time.
The high voice
on Kissin Time
Damon [Albarn], of course. Thats another thing that
people dont realizethe incredible goodness
and generosity of musicians to each other. They didnt
need to do that. All these guys. They did it for nothing.
Theyre all superstars in the middle of huge careers,
particularly Damon. There I was, just behaving as usual,
and Damon would be waiting for me to arrive at the studio
for two hours.
What was it like
working with Beck, Blur, Billy Corgan, Pulp, all these
It was so interesting.
The teen rock star, as far as I know the species from
the boystheyre not boys, of course, theyre
young men I worked with on this recordis that they
are a very interesting generation to work with. Theyve
gone through the early bit where they think theyre
God. They were all at very interesting points of their
own lives. Crossroads. They had a moment to do this. I
am very careful right now. I have great respect for artists.
I would not hustle people. If they didnt want to
do it or didnt have the time, I would respect that.
But they all did want to. I just got an e-mail from Billy
saying, "When do we start on the next record?"
1: The Scattered Selves