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Sliding through life on charm
on 13 March 2006
She was the quintessential rock girlfriend in the 60s, the young woman envied by everyone -- men wanted her, and women wanted to be her. Now Marianne Faithfull offers her own side of the story of during and after that time, with dry wit and fractured nostalgia. If you ever heard the stories about Marianne, then hear what she has to say.
Marianne Faithfull was born the daughter of an idealistic British gentleman and a haughty countess, and schooled in a convent that sheltered her from the outside world. All that went out the window when she came into contact with the blossoming rock'n'roll scene, and was recruited by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham into recording pop song "As Tears Go By." Soon afterwards, Marianne was wooed by rock star Mick Jagger, and left her husband to live with Jagger.
At first, it seemed fantastic; Marianne lived in a haze of drugs, music and glamour with Jagger, the doomed Brian Jones, darkly intriguing Keith Richards, and the fascinating Anita Pallenberg. It was a time of rebellion, shifting sexuality, drugs and general strangeness. But criminal trials, addictions and Jagger's dalliances caused cracks in their relationship. After Marianne and Jagger broke up, she descended into heroin addiction, and her son was taken away. But she pulled herself up out of her addiction and released a new kind of music -- music that reflected her past, in all its darkness.
Marianne's memoir is refreshingly just and honest -- she gives people like Jagger their due, only speaking badly when it's called for. She not only speaks out on the sexism of the press toward her (and their revolting, idiotic Mars bar story), but also about the hideous consequences it almost had for her mother Eva. Looking back on the fur rug and the handling of Marianne's presence, it's hard to believe that such ghastly mishandling of the facts could take place and actually be believed for so long. When the press turned on the Stones, they also turned on Marianne.
And she's the first to admit (many times) that she's made mistakes; if anything, she seems harder on herself than anyone else, recognizing when she should have done better, spoken up, acted differently. (Such as when she blasted Jagger during an emotional moment) What's more, she offers greater insight into Richards, Jagger, Pallenberg, Bob Dylan and others -- not just about them, but the effect they had on people around them.
And she doesn't pretend that her post-junkie life and romantic relationships were idyllic -- there are low points and high points, stumbles and falls. But it's inspiring to see her releasing new music and overcoming her past problems.
The writing is wonderfully vivid, reading almost like a novel at times; Faithfull intersperses her rockspeak with literary and mythologic references (the Lady of Shalott is mentioned multiple times) that give "Faithfull" added sophistication. She also doesn't glorify the drug use that almost killed her; it's pretty horrifying for awhile there despite her initial romantic ideas about it. Faithfull also demonstrates a dry sense of humor that made me chuckle. (Lacking a true finale, she ends the book with cooking tips)
A weaker woman than Marianne Faithfull might have been killed by all she's gone through. But her rise again is an inspiring and honest one, and "Faithfull" is a must-read for fans of rock and roll.