“Tonight, we’re honouring a truly great woman of rock. From chart success at a young age, heartbreaking liaisons with infamous rockers, motherhood and tragic drug addictions, this plucky blonde has risen phoenix-like to resurrect her career and her life... Cut!”
“OK, the book – where’s the book?”
“Here’s the book.”
“Cheers. Alright crew – let’s do it! Down this corridor... around this corner... oh bollocks – a dead end. Are you sure we’re not looking for Spinal Tap?”
“Hey, it’s down here!”
“Cool... right, there’s the stage door – sound, you cool?”
“VTR – ready to roll?”
“How's my hair?”
“Yeah - let’s go!”
“Excuse me, Ms Courtney Love? This... is... your... LIFE!”
“Uh, sorry honey, I think there’s been some mistake. I’m Marianne Faithfull.”
“Oh shit. Uh – hang on a minute will you sweets? Ta...”
“Lou – get me a texta will you?”
“Here you go...”
“Cheers – OK now... let’s see... ‘Kurt’ (scribble scribble) ‘Mick’, that’s better - umm... what else? Nah, that’ll do actually... cue tape... Ms Marianne Faithfull, this is your life!”
“Gee, cheers – thanks.”
Well, the parallels are certainly there, however...
Marianne Faithfull first came to prominence in the early to mid-sixties, after being picked out at a party by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham completely based on her blonde, virginal ingénue appearance. Given a Mick’n’Keef song to record entitled As Tears Go By, the to-be-formidable pair’s first songwriting collaboration no less, she soon found herself flavour of the moment, with a huge chart hit, telly appearances and a whole legion of pretty young wannabes copying her every look and move. The success continued with a handful of hits, she got married to John Dunbar, had a little boy named Nicholas, split with him (John, not Nicholas), took up residence as one Michael Jagger’s ‘plaything’ and was around for much of the Stones’ meteoric, yet bumpy, ride to the top. It was on this ride that she was introduced to the infamous ‘60s drug scene, which eventually led to her “scurrilous” fall from grace (as history always tends to remind us, it’s cool and desirable for a guy to be naughty, but if a girl does the same she’s permanently besmirched) and disappearance from the spotlight for quite a number of years as she became virtually destitute.
All this and more, including her many musical re-emergences, through to the present day is covered in this documentary, which features many archival interviews, clips from television and modern day chats with friends and co-conspirators from throughout the years. The lady herself appears in a series of remarkably frank and open interviews – somewhat surprising considering her reputation for being a, how to put this politely? ‘Difficult’ interview subject – virtually chain-smoking throughout. So that’s how she came to sound like a long-lost relative of Marge, Patty and Selma then?!
Appended to this doco is one of those rather famed US TV Sessions at West 54th appearances by Marianne, the two segments together making up the programme’s running time of 89 minutes. With a rent-a-band in tow she performs a selection of mostly better known tracks, including the absolute classic The Ballad of Lucy Jordan – a song that must surely have had quite an effect on more people than just this lowly reviewer – in a fairly laidback, almost bruised style which works rather well. The six songs performed are...
Working Class Hero
The Ballad of Lucy Jordan
As Tears Go By
Dreaming My Dreams
This full frame presentation contains quite a bit of archival footage dating back to the ‘60s, so needless to say quality varies depending upon the source. Overall, however, things are pretty spiffy, with all modern footage, and especially the Sessions portion of the show, scrubbing up particularly well. This newer footage has razor blade sharp vision, with only an occasional hint of aliasing, and a nice balance of colour and pleasing black levels.
Audio also fares well, with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that really comes alive in the performance section, with near crystalline reproduction of the mostly acoustic performance that offers good separation and use of all five speakers – the subwoofwoof is given very little to get involved with. Naturally the sound varies more in the documentary section, as much of the old footage used emanates from mono sources. Still, it is all quite perfectly clear, even the old film clips, it’s perfectly synched (putting aside some mimed snippets that are shown) and in all should have any fan quite pleased with what’s on offer.
Extras? Well, the menus are gently animated and sonically enhanced, as is the photo montage, which runs for 1:41 and is somewhat self explanatory. Musical accompaniment is the remarkably twangy Vagabond Ways. Otherwise, there’s a static page of Umbrella Propaganda, flogging four of the company’s music titles, but offering no previews. And that’s it, unless you count the ability to jump straight to the Sessions portion of the program, or any desired track therein.
This is a somewhat surprisingly in-depth and no skeletons un-rustled documentary about an often enigmatic and seemingly reclusive artist, coupled with a fine live performance that shows the lady may be raspier, but has certainly still got ‘it’. Any fan of Marianne – or perhaps even Rolling Stones trainspotters – should lap up this well-presented disc, it’s certainly an improvement on many so-called music documentaries that are out there on the market.
“Um, heh, sorry about that Courtney stuff Mari – may I call you Mari?”
“NO YOU F*CKING WELL MAY NOT!” (WHACK!!!)