I interviewed Marianne Faithfull before Christmas for a piece that can be currently read by anybody who reads the free Metropolitan magazine on Eurostar.
It begins like this. (Or at least it would do if my intro hadn’t been changed.)
Who is Marianne Faithfull? She’s a 1960s icon who had four chart hits, a marriage and baby, three Rolling Stones and a drugs bust before she was 20. She’s a blue-blood aristocrat who spent the 1970s in a narcotic haze, homeless in Soho. She’s the Queen of Goth, the Princess of Excess, a 64-year-old woman who has eyes to die for and which have seen more of life than most of us dare dream.
Who is Marianne Faithfull? Well, why not ask her yourself. ‘I’m a musician. I’ve always known I’m a musician. I’ve just been a hardly-known, little-understood and not-appreciated musician, which is something to be, but I’d rather I wasn’t. My fans are loyal and I cannot fault them for that, but I’d like a few more of them.’
I’ll be honest and say this is not a commission I was particularly looking forward to. Faithfull has earned a reputation as being ‘difficult’, partly as a result of living to excess for decades but mainly because of this vicious article by Lynn Barber.
To make things worse, I was informed at the interview that Faithfull was tired because her journey had been delayed by seven hours. And she’d been travelling on Eurostar, which is who I was interviewing her for.
In the end, she was magnificent. Intelligent, generous, witty, occasionally outspoken but above all thoughtful, which is really all you are looking for from an interviewee.
She also has a bullish determination that surely kept her alive through the years of alcohol and narcotic abuse. At one point I asked her if it was harder being an older women in music and film. She looked at me steadily and said: ‘It’s always harder for women, all the way and it goes on being harder. But that can be surpassed by not accepting the rules. And there are a lot of women like that. I like to focus on the women I admire like Jeanne Moreau and Catherine Deneuve. They’re beautiful, they’ve put on weight but they are stunning and they are still working. A lot.’
I liked her. A lot.