“I don’t really do conventional…” 47 years of creative public life and Marianne Faithfull remains one of the most unique, bewitching and indeed unconventional musical artists Britain has ever produced. In 47 years she’s grown from the quiver-voiced ingénue of her debut single “As Tears Go By” (1964, the first song ever written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards) to her peerless position as profoundly distinctive scorched-earth torch-singer and richly emotive song-writer – as evidenced today on her 23rd solo album, the sonically stunning “Horses And High Heels”.
Recorded in New Orleans with a core of exceptional local musicians, the album features eight cover versions and four original new songs co-written by Marianne, four songs which feature John Porter, a musician/producer friend most noted for his work with Roxy Music, Eric Clapton and The Smiths. The album also includes one song with lyrics specially written for her by Irish playwright Frank McGuiness, two cameo appearances on guitar from another old friend, Lou Reed, plus further cameos from Dr. John and MC5’s Wayne Kramer. It’s all exquisitely produced by long-term collaborator Hal Willner, the soundscape alchemist behind the critically-lauded “Easy Come, Easy Go” (2009), her astonishing collection of covers and duets featuring more of the kind of people Marianne calls friends, from Keith Richards and Jarvis Cocker to Rufus Wainwright and Nick Cave. Two years on and “Horses And High Heels” shimmers with creative life, made by a woman in her 60s more vibrantly inspired than ever.
She is, they say, the Godmother of Goth, emblem of the night, both doomed romantic and ultimate bohemian survivor. She’s lived her life, certainly, on the scenic route. A teenage pop star, rock star’s girlfriend and iconic beauty in the 1960s. Film star and theatre actress in Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’ (1967), ‘Girl On A Motorcycle’ (1968) and ‘Hamlet’ (1969). Bedevilled drug addict lost in the shadows in the 1970s. Resurrected rock star in 1979 via the classic album ‘Broken English’. A flourishing acting career in her 50s and beyond: ‘Intimacy’ (2001), ‘Marie Antoinette’ (2006) and a Best Actress nomination for her starring role in ‘Irina Palm’ (2006). A collaborative magnet across the generations, she’s worked with Billy Corgan, Beck, Blur, Pulp (2002’s ‘Kissin’ Time’) and PJ Harvey & Nick Cave (2004’s ‘Before The Poison’), sung with David Bowie and Metallica and interpreted the songs of Kurt Weill (1995 ‘20th Century Blues’), Tom Waits and Morrissey. A mythologically addictive personality, she’s been teetotal since 2004, survived both a cancer scare in 2005 and clinical depression in 2008 and written two volumes of autobiography, ‘Faithfull’ (1994) and ‘Memories, Dreams And Reflections’ (2007).
No wonder, at the heart of “Horses And High Heels”, is the sound of a worldly, sophisticated joy – an album as colourful, dramatic and artistically liberated as her own extraordinary life.
Marianne Faithfull in the Press:
Interview: Marianne Faithfull (The A.V. Club)
Marianne Faithfull: Reinventing A Rock Legend (NPR)
Q&A: Marianne Faithfull On Her Critics, Her Voice, And The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones (The Village Voice)
Marianne Faithfull Questions Accuracy of Keith Richards’ Autobiography, Considers Iconic Career (AOL Spinner)