Chaps. I & II Marianne Faithfull, The Faerie Queene Of The Sixties
November 15, 2012
Marianne Faithfull, The Faerie Queene Of The Sixties
Chapters I and II
She’s one of those girls
Who come with the Spring
One look in her eyes
Makes you forget everything.
Younger Girl- John Sebastian
The sixties came walking in slowly, hands in pockets shuffling along barely recognized going down the road. Few recognized that it was a period of god formation. All the icons of later years came from those days. John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger. The comptetion for goddesses was less crowded, Janis Joplin carried too much baggage, Grace Slick had her shortcomings and the rest were wannabes- except for Marianne Faithfull. She floated through, became entangled with his Satanic majesty, Mick Jagger, crashed and disappeared from sight to reemerge damaged but triumphant. When she resurfaced it was in another guise bearing little resemblance to the Faerie Queene of he sixties.
Perhaps only in retrospect does she appear as the angel of the sixties. Only looking back does she stand head and shoulders above the women of the decade. In her day she aspired to be Guenivere to Mick Jagger’s Lancelot. High expectations doomed to disappointment. Buth then the high, even ridiculous, expectations of the sixties couldn’t hope to be more than failed and fail they did.
The sixties were born in the despair of the World War II, the Korean War and the Atom Bomb. The decade was shaped by the children born from 1934-38 to 1945 most heavily represented by the years of ‘42 and ‘43. The years had their effect on those nborn in the United States but devastated those of England who formed the backbone of the sixties in both the US and England. Stunted by ill nutrition the English boys and girls entered childhood in a world of deprivation, millions of bomb craters, square miles of devastation, limited amounts of food that were rationed until they reached their teens. Nutrition triumphed over genes leaving perhaps a majority stunted almost to the height of midgets. Then in the mid-fifties they came off rations as the country rebuilt and a degree of prosperity returned. Thus the favored members of a generation with low or no expectations burst into an energized prosperity, as the flower of the sixties grew and blown in a trice.
Marianne herself was born in 1946, a baby boomer, in one of those ill-starred marriages of the post-war world. Thousands of young English girls married American servicemen and left the lad of their birth forever. Perhaps more wisely than they knew as the hundred of thousands of English men who never returned live would have left them spinsters all their lives. As it was Marianne’s father, Glynn Faithfull met her mother in occupied Austria returning with her to England where Marianne was born. As might be expected of a marriage made under Third Man circumstances the marriage proved ill matched each partner going their own way. Thus by 1953 when Marianne was seven and rationing was lifted she divided her time between her two parents.
One ponders the effect this had on the psychological development of the girl. Her father was one of those strange utopianists who believed the Holy Grail of personal redemption could be found in fucking so he founded some Jim Jones type of sex retreat where all the inmates were encouraged to copulated indiscriminately and freely.
One doesn’t know Glynn Faithfull’s background. There may have been a couple reasons for this faith in fucking. A significant underground current was Aleister Crowley and his faith in sex magic. Crowley and his disciples with figure in
Marianne’s life in the sixties. His influence would continue to grow during the forties, fifties and sixties. Perhaps more significant was the sex therapy of the one of the centuries most eminent madmen, Sigmund Freud. While generally unaccredited for his sexual influence, his sex theories combined with his bizarre vision of the unconscious did terrific damage to the world’s psyche, especially during the fifties and sixties when his notion dominated psychology.
As a young girl Marianne was encouraged to observe the inmates copulate. They apparently did so in front of open windows in a series of rooms fronted by a ledge or sort of long balcony. As a young girl her father encouraged Marianne to use this ledge to view the couples at play. In the innocence of youth she little knew what to make of this although what effect the flickering memories played in her development she either does not say or doesn’t know.
Her mother removed her from this environment placing her in a Catholic convent school until she was sixteen. The transition from open sex practices to a chastity minded Catholic education must have provided an unusual contrast in the growing memory bank of her mind. At least Marrianne was out of harm’s way for a few years.
Marrianne’s mother, Mrs. Faithfull, was an Austrian. She had witnessed the years of the Anschluss and the Nazi administration of the war years. Necessarily as the Soviet troops moved in she suffered the horrors of the rape of the German women by the Communist troops. This event made the Rape of the Sabine women look like a pleasure romp. History records that when things had settled that there were long lines of pregnant German women before the hospitals waiting their turn for an abortion of a hateful pregnancy.
It was in this environment that Eva met her future husband Glynn Faithfull. It was possibly love among the ruins in which Marianne was conceived. Born out of the ashes so to speak. ;Marianne’s mother Eva was of the Sacher Masoc line; he who gave masochism its name and wrote the Venus In Furs that Lou Reed purloined for the title of his song. Hard core rock and rollers have been in awe of Marianne’s ancestry as though she had a hand in masochism’s naming. Sins of one’s distant relatives and all that.
When Marianne escaped or was released from the nunnery she was ill prepared to deal with life on the streets, but then aren’t we all. So as the sixties dawned this attractive girl with no prospects began to wend her way through life. The Catholics gave her some vocal training of some sort, perhaps Gregorian chant, so Marianne took up folk singing. Rather than the subdued tones of A Years Go By she was more of the bellowing Joan Baez variety. Thus when Andrew Oldham asked John Dunbar if she could sing and John answered yes he was stating a fact.
In John Dunbar Marianne fell into one of the hippest young crowds London had to offer. Dunbar himself was of a Bohemian mentality and he associated with the future historian of the musical and artistic scene of the sixties, Barry Miles. Miles has never gotten the recognition he deserves. To begin with he co-founded the very avant garde Indica Art Gallery with Dunbar. The Indica lasted only a couple seasons but those were two memorable seasons.
The two entrepreneurs were discovered by Paul McCartney who, I don’t know if active is the right word, took at least an active inte3rest in the gallery which led to John Lennon’s eureka moment with the scourge of rock and roll, Yoko Ono.
In the course of time this led to Dunbar’s being invited to the famous party in which Andrew Oldham is said to have gallantly remarked: Who’s the broad with the big tits? Or words very close to that.
It was at that point that Oldham asked the musical question: Can she sing? To which Dunbar unwisely responded yes. Marianne, given that she was already a folksinger, sagely pretended to be at sea so that Oldham was afforded the pleasure of coaching her along. Whether he made it inside the Magic Circle or not he had to come up with a song for Marianne to record. More at sea over this matter the legend has it that Andrew locked Mick and Keith of the Rolling Stones into a closet, toilet or kitchen and said he wouldn’t let them out until they wrote him a song. Thus Marianne indirectly is responsible for the Richards-Jagger song writing team with its ill fated effect on popular culture.
With Marianne Oldham struck gold the first time out. The song Richards-Jagger wrote was a languid ditty titles As Tears Go By sung in a lisping fainting manner by the newly nominated Faerie Queene. Songs are pretty much ephemeral to the time but within the ephemera of the time both Marianne and As Tears Go By were a very major hit. In her way Marianne and her song was the sunrise 1964 was waiting for.
…I trusted you and did my best
To make you happy.
Is this what I get for loving you?
Spector, King, Goffin
Marianne was some kind of folksinger cum chanteuse. She had a high virginal voice. She came from a Catholic convent school that signified purity to the English public. In her early interviews she appears shy, modest, and if I may say, virginal. The very antithesis of the increasing vulgarity of the times. They set Marianne on a pedestal.
In the early sixties rock and roll had not yet driven every other rorm of music off the field as it would by 1970. From 1960 to 1964-65 folk music was the dominant musical form although not of the New York purist variety; more along the commercial lines of Harry Belafonte, the Brothers Four, the Kingston Trio and Randy Sparks’ New Christy Minstrels. Peter Paul and Mary were at their peak not year claiming to ‘love your rock and roll music’ until 1968. In 1966 the Christies spin off The Association was a big hit.
Apart from sappy team acts he Beatles sparked the rock and roll revival although their wasn’t too much difference between them and the sappy teen acts. I never did understand what the public revered in them. Listening to the early Stones recently reminded me why I didn’t like them the first time around either; they sound quite a bit like a bad garage band. Jagger isn’t much better a singer than Dylan, he couldn’t have been much worse. But fate is fate and a hit is a hit. Can’t argue with it.
Marianne then entered the lists with a number nine hit in the UK and a number twenty-two in the US. Her second song Blowin’ In The Wind, didn’t chart while her third, Come And Stay With Me was number four UK and twenty-six US.
She released four LPs in 1965 which is at an exploitative rate. No one at the time realized that the next wave of pop acts would be extremely long lived. No one thought that the Beatles, even though they broke up, would go on dominating popular music for fifty years. No one would have believed that the Stone would be projected a tour fifty years on. No one could have believed that Marianne would still have a career fifty years on. So they were trying to gut the goose that laid the golden eggs as soon as they could. How could anyone at the time have believed that Jagger would become a pop god and Marianne a goddess? Icons for a generation. Unthinkable.
The first two UK albums charted at twelve and fifteen while in he US Marianne Faithful charted at twelve. Her US sales then were somewhere between seventy-five and a hundred thousand copies. She didn’t make the charts with a new title until 1974s Broken English weakly settling on the US charts at eighty-two.
Prior to 1964 most British bands had little presence outside their native England. With the arrival of the Boeing 707 in 1959 the US became readily accessible while the vista for global band was opened. First through the breach, of course, were the Beatles, soon to be followed by Bob Dylan and The Stone and even Donovan. Most people don’t understand how big Donovan was in the sixties; almost an equal to the Beatles and Stones. Thus the era of global popularity was inaugurated changing the face of popular music and group economics. Oddly enough the field was limited to English and American bands for a very long time.
An astute manager with his eye on the future might easily have turned Marianne into a global attraction. However Marianne after jettisoning Andrew Loog Oldham after her first two single signed with some small minded English putzes who were both incompetents and only interested in exploiting her. Somewhat like Edie Sedgwick in New York it was all there waiting to be picked up but no one saw it.
It does seem that they saw the image ready for use but ignored it. Where was that eagle eyed Allen Klein I wonder. Marianne herself was into Queen Quenivere, King Arthur, the Holy Grail and the faerie aspects of the epic. The record people got it. For instance the liner notes on the back of the US Faithfull Forever US release quote from Keats’ La Belle Dame San Merci:
I met a lady in the meads
Full beautiful- a fairy’s child.
Her hair was long, her foot was light
And her eyes were wild.
I made a garland for her head
And bracelets too, and fragrance zone
She looked at me as she did love
And made sweet moan.
I set her on my pacing steed
And nothing else saw all day long
For sidelong she would bend and sing
A fairy’s song.
She found me roots of relish sweet
And honey wild and manna dew
As sure in language strange she said
“I love thee true.”
So there it was. Everything was in place but the management wasn’t there.
It really couldn’t be seen in 1964 that this was the year of myth making in popular culture, actually ‘64, to ‘66. Marianne had all the elements to make her as big and long lasting as, say, Bob Dylan. She already was a myth.
Perhaps Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones surveying the horizon saw this. Ever envious he may have said to himself ‘This woman is a threat to my supremacy; I must destroy her.’ I can’t say but he did sidle up to her, pour some wine down between her breasts and with that introduction proceed to seduce her whispering ‘Come stay with me.’ A couple years later he threw the remains aside.
And Marianne plunged into a deep depression.