Let's take a slightly different track today as we continue on our journey through the most talented yet unappreciated bands of the 70's.
Today, we take a look at a solo performer.....a look at Marianne Faithfull who, even though she started her career in the early 60's folk scene, had a long and distinguished, if not distressing run, as one of the most original female singer-songwriters the English Invasion ever produced.
So, although this doesn't perfectly fit the parameters I set for the bands I am reviewing this week, I am focusing on her second wave of success which began in the late 70's and through the mid 80's as she continued to reinvent herself several times over.
It's easy to say that few stars of the '60s have reinvented themselves as successfully as Marianne Faithfull.
Coaxed into a singing career by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham in 1964, she had a big hit in both Britain and the U.S. with her debut single, the Mick Jagger/ Keith Richards composition "As Tears Go By."
Her version prefaced the Rolling Stones own version by a full year.
Not a songwriter at the outset of her career, she owes most of her fame as a '60s icon to her extraordinary beauty and her long-running romance with Mick Jagger, although she offered a taste of things to come with her compelling 1969 single "Sister Morphine," which she co-wrote and which the Stones later released themselves on the album "Sticky Fingers."
Her early work in pop and rock music in the 1960s was overshadowed though by her struggle with drug abuse in the 1970s.
During the first two-thirds of that decade, she produced only two little-noticed studio albums.
This album is a furious powerhouse work that is probably one of my favorite albums of all times.
Displaying a raspy, scratchy, husky (and I might add incredibly sexy) voice affected by years of smoking, drinking and drug use that had lowered a good octave since the mid-'60s, Faithfull had also begun to write much of her own material, and addressed sex and despair with wrenching realism.
After allowing herself to be framed as a demure chanteuse by songwriters and arrangers throughout most of her career, Faithfull had found her own voice, and suddenly sounded more relevant and contemporary than most of the stars she had rubbed shoulders with in the '60s.
The album was definitely influenced by the punk explosion and the reemergence of reggae.
These influences combined with outstanding guitar work by Barry Reynolds and Guy Humphries and heavy electronic percussion lead to the title track "Broken English" which addressed the terrorism that was a growing issue in Europe at the time.
Another deep, dark yet terrific song "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" relates the sad story of a "white suburban" housewife and her decline into drugs and despondency.
"They hurt you at home and they hit you at school,
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool,
Til you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules"
"You think you're so clever and classless and free, but you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see."
The refrain of the song: "A working class hero is something to be" will burn in your senses for days after listening to the song.
But the dominant song of the album is "Why D'Ya Do It?" a punk-reggae song with sexually aggressive lyrics adapted from a poem by Heathcote Williams.
The musical structure of this song is complex. On the surface it's all hard rock but underneath it is a tango in 4/4 time, with an abrasive opening electric guitar riff by Barry Reynolds.
Faithfull, in her autobiography, commented that her fluid yet rhythmic reading of Williams' lyrics was "an early form of rap."
Still a great album in itself, the work was seen by reviewers at the time as disappointing as the album trades the angry and controversial songs and alternative arrangements of "Broken English" for a more mainstream rock texture.
On this album, she uses over a dozen session musicians and in striving to be more conventional gives a certain anonymous feel to the songs.
The main singles of the album are "Intrigue", penned by the singer's then-husband, Ben Brierley, and "For Beauty's Sake, written by Faithfull and Steve Winwood.
Faithfull followed up quickly with the 1983 release of "A Child's Adventure" but her new work, while critically acclaimed, continued to be tainted and overshadowed by her history of drug abuse.
Faithfull pegged her comeback as a "brutal survivalist persona," but by this fourth album (of her second career) she had definitely mellowed. Gone was the growling anger of "Broken English" and the biting commentaries on "Dangerous Acquaintances."
Her newest offerings find her constructing flowing pop songs that didn't wrap around her enigmatic and tortured lyrics. Most of the songs were a collaboration with her guitarist Barry Reynolds and keyboard player Wally Badarou. Maybe the sound was softened but her lyrics did little to ease the bitterness still torturing her soul.
"A Child's Adventure" is thus more listenable, but less compelling, than her other albums of the period.
In her song "Times Square" Marianne laments:
"Alcohol could take me there. I could take a shot a minute and be there by the hour."
Her music during this period seemed utterly unsentimental yet somehow affectionate. Marianne possesses that rare ability to transform any lyric into something compelling and strikingly personal.
She returned, finally, clean from a 17 year addiction to heroin with a collection of complex covers mostly rhythm & blues and jazz songs on this critically lauded album.
It's almost like overnight she metamorphosed into a Cabaret singer.
Through her song choices, you can sense the turn in her outlook on life......almost. Here she presented her fans with a sadness tempered by optimism, and a despair rescued by humor if not sarcasm. You can barely feel a sense hope of a better reality.
A quick listen to Lead Belly's (Huddie Ledbetter) "I Ain't Going Down to the Well No More" or the Blues masterpiece "Love, Life and Money" and you can tell Marianne has declared a new beginning by facing her past. It almost sounds like a confession.
"Somebody's Gotta Suffer"
"Somebody's Gotta Feel Some Pain"
"If It's Gonna Rain Down Misery"
"Why It's All Gotta Fall On Me"
What really sets this album apart is the way Marianne uses it to define her career. Coming full circle, the newly mended Marianne Faithfull cuts another recording of her first 60's hit "As Tears Go By." There is no innocence or sweetness in this song anymore. This time the song almost generates as she wails in her tight, gravelly voice.
In an interview about the remake, the singer confessed to a lingering irritation with her first hit. Faithfull declared, "Forty is the age to sing it, not seventeen." True Baby Boomer angst !!
She has been on the road for over 50 years. Think about it. Not only is this an incredible milestone for any performer but doubly so for a woman. Male rockers still grace many a large stage. The Rolling Stones, Ian Anderson, David Byrne, Ted Nugent are all still touring the world. We see them as seasoned veterans and accept their advancing years. We cheer them as they prove Baby Boomers can still kick ass.
Women performers, sadly to say, loose their looks or sex appeal and because of this are unfortunately discarded as has beens. Maryanne found a way to constantly transform her on stage persona and stay vital in the music scene.
Think about it.....50 years on the road. She even had a 50th Anniversary tour. A true "Working Class Hero."
"A working class hero is something to be.
If you want to be a hero well just follow me."
During a webchat hosted by The Guardian in February of 2016, Faithfull revealed plans to release a live album from her 50th Anniversary tour.
Below are 3 of her songs from "Broken English" to give you an idea of her range of talent.
In my next musical discourse we will change course just a little bit more and explore the boundaries of Rock and Jazz with the band Passport.
I know you are thinking what the heck was Jay thinking when he was listening to jazz music during the late 70's and early 80's?
Well, this is a very special and unique brand of jazz/rock.
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Forward it on to them or just email them my blog link at www.survive55.com.
The more Baby Boomers we can help; the better place we make this world !!!