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Life lived to the full,
This review is from: Faithfull: An Autobiography (Paperback)
This riveting autobiography charts Marianne Faithfull's life from her earliest childhood dream to 1994. Along the way it also serves as a captivating cultural history of swinging London in the 1960s and the music world in subsequent decades. Marianne describes her family background, dispelling many myths along the way, and provides an absorbing account of how she entered the music business. The sequel, 2007's Memories, Dreams and Reflections, takes the story further.
Her recollections of touring with the popular bands of the time are fascinating, as is the way she entered the Rolling Stones circle. Her first meeting with Bob Dylan is wonderfully juxtaposed with a much later meeting in the 1980s when she explained every song on Broken English to an admiring Dylan. The glimpses into the interpersonal relations of the Stones are enlightening and poignant, specially the way she describes the decline of the ill-fated Brian Jones.
She talks matter-of-factly about her relationship with Mick Jagger and the notoriety she gained with various drug busts. Faithfull doesn't spare the reader any of the detail of her long relationship with a breathtaking variety of drugs, but the most arresting parts are when she relates particular events and circumstances to specific compositions by Jagger and herself.
She discusses all the anarchy and hedonism of the times with a detached air, observing that her generation wanted to see change everywhere but none of them could quite figure it out and it all ended up as wretched excess. The movie Performance and her song Sister Morphine are treated in detail. The saddest part of her life was when she spent about 2 years sitting on a wall in Soho, completely spaced out, but noting how kindly people treated her.
The making of her country album Faithless, a huge hit in Ireland, is described with flair, as well as her big comeback with Broken English in 1979. I really enjoyed her encounters with various musicians like the tragic Tim Hardin who co-wrote the song Brain Drain on Broken English with Ben Brierly. There's even an interesting snippet about Cristina Monet, wife of ZE Records founder Michael Zilkha. Why'd Ya Do It, one of the most controversial songs on the Broken English album, was written by poet Heathcote Williams. Marianne had to beg him for hours to allow her to record it, as he wanted Tina Turner to cover it!
There's no bitterness in any of Faithfull's writing; rather lots of humor and witty observations. She is full of praise for musicians like Barry Reynolds and Van Morrison with whom she has worked. As a great fan of hers and The Stones, I am truly relieved that there were no life threatening sexually transmitted diseases in the 1960s & 1970s because then a whole generation of musicians would have been lost, what with all the intercourse between everybody.
This book confirms why Faithfull is a true survivor and has developed into an original artist with growing stature. The scandal is well balanced by observations on the songs, the times, the making of the albums and the films. There are 45 black and white photographs and a thorough index. I also recommend Mark Hodkinson's biography As Tears Go By, an informative read on her life and career up to 1991.