Mick Jagger's ex-love,
convinced she is a great artist, still works on it,
as an actress and singer
The Grand Theatre, Wolver- hampton, in the English provinces, may not sound like the biggest apple on the theatrical tree but to Marianne Faithful) it represented a
welcome haven on her own
particular long and winding road.
She has been touring in Richard Nash's plav "'The Rainmaker," plaving the prominent and only female part, and after
three months she has allowed herself a
qualified pat on the back and a gentle "I told you so."
"I've done it. It's the first time I've been
on the road like this. People said 'She'll never last.' The fact that I got through
means a lot to me."
At one point in the tour it looked as it her critics might be right. She arrived 45 minutes late for an opening night in Swansea. "'I missed my train, that's all."
Marianne is curled up in a large armchair in her dressing room at the Grand. She's wearing jeans and a blue
velvet shirt. Her hair is tied back and she looks younger than her 29 years. And
"Fragile and we,. that's how people think of me. But I'm very strong physically, look." She grips my wrist. She's right. "I'm also tough emotionally. I'm at my best with my back against the wall. I thrive
on crises. I'll invent one if there isn't one around."
She needs to be resilient. The way she lived for the last ten years, she ought at least to look a little worn around the edges. She's pleased that she doesn't, but is
worried that it can't last.
"I have a terrible feeling that I'll wake up on my 30th birthdav and my looks will have gone. I've really got a bit obsessed by it. I had to nurse my ex-husband, John, through his 30th birthday. I held his hand
([Image caption:] Marianne singing; and. above, with Jagger, in Australia for the "Ned Kelly" film in 1969. She was to be sister Kate but collapsed from drugs and was replaced.)
all day. I know it's silly but it really is a turn- ing point."
As the definitive "bird of the '60s," it is
not surprising that she mourns the passing of the last decade. For her it all started in 1964 when the 17-year-old blonde went to a London party with John Dunbar, the Cambridge undergraduate she later married. Also at the party was Andrew Oldham, svengali of the Rolling Stones, who, impressed by her looks and her (authentic) name, persuaded her to let him produce her first song, "As Tears Go By," a strange haunting record.
It set her on the musical roundabout. Thus, fresh from convent, Marianne found herself living out of a suitcase.
"I was very prissy at first. It sounds terrible but I really felt that the guvs we
met on the tours were too common.
Gradually I came round. I fell in love with Allan Clarke of the Hollies, and began to have a great time.
"Oddly enough though, I still felt I was
missing out on a normal social life - I had no early, carefree college years."
When she was 18 Marianne married John and they had a son, Nicholas. '"Yes, I was a bit young but I felt if I didn't have a baby then I'd be too busy later. I was going to be a star.
"I really wanted a baby and I breastfed him for six months, but then I had to go back to work. John is a writcr so we needed the money, but even if he'd been rich I would have had to do something.
"It's hard being so much away from Nicholas - I'm not like his friends'
Back on the road. Marianne found
things had changed. "I knew I had good
taste in music and I knew what I could do
as a woman singer, but I didn't like what I was doing. The record company didn't help. So I thought I'd stop singing until I
had a chance to do what I wanted to do."
Distraction was at hand in the lithe, aggressive shape of Mick Jagger. The kind
of distraction that broke up her marriage and wrapped Marianne and Mick in a whirlwind of notoriety for five hedonistic
"It was wonderful. We were very happy, but we were bothered by the (drug) busts and mainly by being in the public eye. At least I was. Mick enjoys it more. He's a Leo, but I felt very much that I was going to pieces in the aura of this man who is so brilliant and talented. I lost a lot of my confidence and felt very second-rate."
A pause. "No, maybe not that, just jealous artistically. I helped him in many ways and I could have gone on helping him but I felt I was giving up my own
ambitions. So I got out. We were both sad for a long time.
"As I obviously couldn't compete with Mick as a singer, I turned more to acting because I can do that better than he can. That sounds awful, but it's true. I can talk objectively now because I'm not in love with Mick any more.
"It was a rather precious period but it
couldn't last. People always ask me about my regrets: if you do what others consider a sin, everyone feels you should at least be sorry for it. I'm not. It was a great time the '60s, to grow up in."
She leant back and lit a cigarette. "Do you mind if I shut my eyes for a bit? I've
got to go on stage in an hour. I can still talk with my eyes shut." So we talked with her eyes shut about her film "Hamlet" with Nicol Williamson, in which she played Ophelia.
"Even now I'm billed as 'Marianne
Faithfull who gave us one of the best Ophelias of this generation.' It was real, that's why it was good.
"I don't know how to act technically (though I'm learning) so I have to live my part, which can be treacherous. And it was. The minute I finished playing Ophelia I tried to kill myself. I started to become a suicide in my mind. I took an overdose in Australia where Mick was filming 'Ned Kelly.'
"Why? I was stupid, self-centred and sick in my head. It was the beginning of a very bad time. I became an addict on
Happy in the present
"I hid myself away in the country. My
mother came to look after Nicholas. I
didn't see anybody, go anywhere, do anything. I just stayed there with my dope.
"It was all very tragic but I had a good doctor. Getting through it was hard but I respond to hard things. Anyway, I came
out of seclusion and started on the London
live stage, at the Hampstead Theatre Club, and people were terribly kind."
Not content with working on her stage career, Marianne is back in the recording studios, with Ron and Russell Mael, of Sparks, making an album in America which she hopes will widen her musical horizons. For her, New York is a good place to be: it's the home of her current lover, an artist.
"I can't talk about him too much because he's married. I've known him for
years but fell in love recently."
She has not exactly been short of other male company since Mick Jagger's departure. "I've nearly married all sorts of people but I back out at the last minute because it is such a total commitment and
I'm scared of failing.
"I really would like to find somebody, but I don't think I will now. But I am
learning to be happy in the present. You have to work at an attitude to happiness."
So instead of looking for undying love, her happiness lies in concentrating on her dual acting/singing career.
"I'm convinced I'm a great artist in some way, and the only way to find out which way is to experiment. Just go on and on until you find out what you're best at."
Wouldn't it have been a lot easier and less frenetic to marry the duke's son she went out with for three years? She might even have ended up a duchess.
"I don't want to be a duchess. I'm
Marianne Faithfull and you can't be much more than that, whatever that means." W
- JAN ETHERINGTON