Marianne Faithfull, The Faerie Queene Of The Sixties

Chapters I and II

 by

R.E. Prindle

She’s one of those girls

Who come with the Spring

One look in her eyes

Makes you forget everything.

Younger Girl- John Sebastian

The sixties came walking in slowly, hands in pockets shuffling along barely recognized going down the road.  Few recognized that it was a period of god formation.  All the icons of later years came from those days.  John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger.  The comptetion for goddesses was less crowded, Janis Joplin carried too much baggage, Grace Slick had her shortcomings and the rest were wannabes- except for Marianne Faithfull.  She floated through, became entangled with his Satanic majesty, Mick Jagger, crashed and disappeared from sight to reemerge damaged but triumphant.  When she resurfaced it was in another guise bearing little resemblance to the Faerie Queene of he sixties.

Perhaps only in retrospect does she appear as the angel of the sixties.  Only looking back does she stand head and shoulders above the women of the decade.  In her day she aspired to be Guenivere to Mick Jagger’s Lancelot.  High expectations doomed to disappointment.  Buth then the high, even ridiculous, expectations of the sixties couldn’t hope to be more than failed and fail they did.

The sixties were born in the despair of the World War II, the Korean War and the Atom Bomb.  The decade was shaped by the children born from 1934-38 to 1945 most heavily represented by the years of ‘42 and ‘43.  The years had their effect on those nborn in the United States but devastated those of England who formed the backbone of the sixties in both the US and England.  Stunted by ill nutrition the English boys and girls entered childhood in a world of deprivation, millions of bomb craters, square miles of devastation, limited amounts of food that were rationed until they reached their teens.  Nutrition triumphed over genes leaving perhaps a majority stunted almost to the height of midgets.  Then in the mid-fifties they came off rations as the country rebuilt and a degree of prosperity returned.  Thus the favored members of a generation with low or no expectations burst into an energized prosperity, as the flower of the sixties grew and blown in a trice.

Marianne herself was born in 1946, a baby boomer, in one of those ill-starred marriages of the post-war world.  Thousands of young English girls married American servicemen and left the lad of their birth forever.  Perhaps more wisely than they knew as the hundred of thousands of English men who never returned live would have left them spinsters all their lives.  As it was Marianne’s father, Glynn Faithfull met her mother in occupied Austria returning with her to England where Marianne was born.  As might be expected of a marriage made under Third Man circumstances the marriage proved ill matched each partner going their own way.  Thus by 1953 when Marianne was seven and rationing was lifted she divided her time between her two parents.

One ponders the effect this had on the psychological development of the girl.  Her father was one of those strange utopianists who believed the Holy Grail of personal redemption could be found in fucking so he founded some Jim Jones type of sex retreat where all the inmates were encouraged to copulated indiscriminately and freely.

One doesn’t know Glynn Faithfull’s background.  There may have been a couple reasons for this faith in fucking.  A significant underground current was Aleister Crowley and his faith in sex magic.  Crowley and his disciples with figure in

Aleister Crowley

Marianne’s life in the sixties.  His influence would continue to grow during the forties, fifties and sixties.  Perhaps more significant was the sex therapy of the one of the centuries most eminent madmen, Sigmund Freud.  While generally unaccredited for his sexual influence, his sex theories combined with his bizarre vision of the unconscious did terrific damage to the world’s psyche, especially during the fifties and sixties when his notion dominated psychology.

As a young girl Marianne was encouraged to observe the inmates copulate.  They apparently did so in front of open windows in a series of rooms fronted by a ledge or sort of long balcony.  As a young girl her father encouraged Marianne to use this ledge to view the couples at play.  In the innocence of youth she little knew what to make of this although what effect the flickering memories  played in her development she either does not say or doesn’t know.

Her mother removed her from this environment placing her in a Catholic convent school until she was sixteen.  The transition from open sex practices to a chastity minded Catholic education must have provided an unusual contrast in the growing memory bank of her mind.  At least Marrianne was out of harm’s way for a few years.

Marrianne’s mother, Mrs. Faithfull, was an Austrian.  She had witnessed the years of the Anschluss and the Nazi administration of the war years.  Necessarily as the Soviet troops moved in she suffered the horrors of the rape of the German women by the Communist troops.  This event made the Rape of the Sabine women look like a pleasure romp.  History records that when things had settled that there were long lines of pregnant German women before the hospitals waiting their turn for an abortion of a hateful pregnancy.

It was in this environment that Eva met her future husband Glynn Faithfull.  It was possibly love among the ruins in which Marianne was conceived.  Born out of the ashes so to speak.  ;Marianne’s mother Eva was of the Sacher Masoc line; he who gave masochism its name and wrote the Venus In Furs that Lou Reed purloined for the title of his song.  Hard core rock and rollers have been in awe of Marianne’s ancestry as though she had a hand in masochism’s naming.  Sins of one’s distant relatives and all that.

When Marianne escaped or was released from the nunnery she was ill prepared to deal with life on the streets, but then aren’t we all.  So as the sixties dawned this attractive girl with no prospects began to wend her way through life.  The Catholics gave her some vocal training of some sort, perhaps Gregorian chant, so Marianne took up folk singing.  Rather than the subdued tones of A Years Go By she was more of the bellowing Joan Baez variety.  Thus when Andrew Oldham asked John Dunbar if she could sing and John answered yes he was stating a fact.

In John Dunbar Marianne fell into one of the hippest young crowds London had to offer.  Dunbar himself was of a Bohemian mentality and he associated with the future historian of the musical and artistic scene of the sixties, Barry Miles.  Miles has never gotten the recognition he deserves.  To begin with he co-founded the very avant garde Indica Art Gallery with Dunbar.  The Indica lasted only a couple seasons but those were two memorable seasons.

The two entrepreneurs were discovered by Paul McCartney who, I don’t know if active is the right word, took at least an active inte3rest in the gallery which led to John Lennon’s eureka moment with the scourge of rock and roll, Yoko Ono.

In the course of time this led to Dunbar’s being invited to the famous party in which Andrew Oldham is said to have gallantly remarked:  Who’s the broad with the big tits?  Or words very close to that.

It was at that point that Oldham asked the musical question: Can she sing?  To which Dunbar unwisely responded yes.  Marianne, given that she was already a folksinger, sagely pretended to be at sea so that Oldham was afforded the pleasure of coaching her along.  Whether he made it inside the Magic Circle or not he had to come up with a song for Marianne to record.  More at sea over this matter the legend has it that Andrew locked Mick and Keith of the Rolling Stones into a closet, toilet or kitchen and said he wouldn’t let them out until they wrote him a song.  Thus Marianne indirectly is responsible for the Richards-Jagger song writing team with its ill fated effect on popular culture.

With Marianne Oldham struck gold the first time out.  The song Richards-Jagger wrote was a languid ditty titles As Tears Go By sung in a lisping fainting manner by the newly nominated Faerie Queene.  Songs are pretty much ephemeral to the time but within the ephemera of the time both Marianne and As Tears Go By were a very major hit.  In her way Marianne and her song was the sunrise 1964 was waiting for.

Gracie

II

…I trusted you and did my best

To make you happy.

Is this what I get for loving you?

Spector, King, Goffin

Marianne was some kind of folksinger cum chanteuse.  She had a high virginal voice.  She came from a Catholic convent school that signified purity to the English public.  In her early interviews she appears shy, modest, and if I may say, virginal.  The very antithesis of the increasing vulgarity of the times.  They set Marianne on a pedestal.

In the early sixties rock and roll had not yet driven every other rorm of music off the field as it would by 1970.  From 1960 to 1964-65 folk music was the dominant musical form although not of the New York purist variety; more along the commercial lines of Harry Belafonte, the Brothers Four, the Kingston Trio and Randy Sparks’ New Christy Minstrels.  Peter Paul and Mary were at their peak not year claiming to ‘love your rock and roll music’ until 1968.  In 1966 the Christies spin off The Association was a big hit.

Apart from sappy team acts he Beatles sparked the rock and roll revival although their wasn’t too much difference between them and the sappy teen acts.  I never did understand what the public revered in them.  Listening to the early Stones recently reminded me why I didn’t like them the first time around either; they sound quite a bit like a bad garage band.  Jagger isn’t much better a singer than Dylan, he couldn’t have been much worse.  But fate is fate and a hit is a hit.  Can’t argue with it.

Marianne then entered the lists with a number nine hit in the UK and a number twenty-two in the US.  Her second song Blowin’ In The Wind, didn’t chart while her third, Come And Stay With Me was number four UK and twenty-six US.

She released four LPs in 1965 which is at an exploitative rate.  No one at the time realized that the next wave of pop acts would be extremely long lived.  No one thought that the Beatles, even though they broke up, would go on dominating popular music for fifty years.  No one would have believed that the Stone would be projected a tour fifty years on.  No one could have believed that Marianne would still have a career fifty years on.  So they were trying to gut the goose that laid the golden eggs as soon as they could.  How could anyone at the time have believed that Jagger would become a pop god and Marianne a goddess?  Icons for a generation.  Unthinkable.

The first two UK albums charted at twelve and fifteen while in he US Marianne Faithful charted at twelve.  Her US sales then were somewhere between seventy-five and a hundred thousand copies.  She didn’t make the charts with a new title until 1974s Broken English weakly settling on the US charts at eighty-two.

Prior to 1964 most British bands had little presence outside their native England.  With the arrival of the Boeing 707 in 1959 the US became readily accessible while the vista for global band was opened.  First through the breach, of course, were the Beatles, soon to be followed by Bob Dylan and The Stone and even Donovan.  Most people don’t understand how big Donovan was in the sixties; almost an equal to the Beatles and Stones.  Thus the era of global popularity was inaugurated changing the face of popular music and group economics.  Oddly enough the field was limited to English and American bands for a very long time.

An astute manager with his eye on the future might easily have turned Marianne into a global attraction.  However Marianne after jettisoning Andrew Loog Oldham after her first two single signed with some small minded English putzes who were both incompetents and only interested in exploiting her.  Somewhat like Edie Sedgwick in New York it was all there waiting to be picked up but no one saw it.

It does seem that they saw the image ready for use but ignored it.  Where was that eagle eyed Allen Klein I wonder.  Marianne herself was into Queen Quenivere, King Arthur, the Holy Grail and the faerie aspects of the epic.  The record people got it.  For instance the liner notes on the back of the US Faithfull Forever US release quote from Keats’ La Belle Dame San Merci:

I met a lady in the meads

Full beautiful- a fairy’s child.

Her hair was long, her foot was light

And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head

And bracelets too, and fragrance zone

She looked at me as she did love

And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed

And nothing else saw all day long

For sidelong she would bend and sing

A fairy’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet

And honey wild and manna dew

As sure in language strange she said

“I love thee true.”

So there it was.  Everything was in place but the management wasn’t there.

It really couldn’t be seen in 1964 that this was the year of myth making in popular culture, actually ‘64, to ‘66.  Marianne had all the elements to make her as big and long lasting as, say, Bob Dylan.  She already was a myth.

Perhaps Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones surveying the horizon saw this.  Ever envious he may have said to himself ‘This woman is a threat to my supremacy;  I must destroy her.’  I can’t say but he did sidle up to her, pour some wine down between her breasts and with that introduction proceed to seduce her whispering ‘Come stay with me.’  A couple years later he threw the remains aside.

And Marianne plunged into a deep depression.

 

Exhuming Bob 11:

Bob Dylan And Toby Thompson

A Review

Positively Main Street

Text:

Thompson, Toby: Positively Main Street, U Minnesota Press, 2008 reprint of the 1971 edition.

Forty Miles Of Bad Road Later

Forty Miles Of Bad Road Later

     Toby Thompson’s self identification with Bob Dylan is an interesting situation.  In a way he predated the Elvis impersonators; blazing a new trail.  That he recorded his infatuation on the spot and got it into print is even more fascinating.

     I suppose people have always identified with important people as the insane asylums full of Napoleon Bonapartes indicate, but when the movies came into existence things changed.  Movie actors were designed to appeal to certain character traits making identification with the actors more accessible.  That the actors came from social strata much like one’s own with no apparent effort or skills made identification easier.  (See the novel Merton Of The Movies by Harry Leon Wilson)  When sound was matched to image one could act like and even talk like these heroes.

     Older people being formed already were more immune than younger people so that the John Wayne imitators, Bogarts, Jimmie Stewarts or what have you began to surface in numbers beginning in the fifties.  Still there was a psychological distance between the people on the screen and oneself while a direct imitation brought ridicule on oneself.

     Then in the mid-fifties Presley burst on the scene.  Here was a guy who drove truck, we were told, one day and was a major recording star the next.  Then, as immediately as it seemed to all of us, more to some of us than others, he parlayed that into becoming a movie star.  That was just about every teenagers dream.  Now that was something we all could do and a great many of the most venturesome did get at least to the level of recording stars but they all wanted the movies.

     Presley was the first who created a legion of impersonators.  The movies formed a cadre of amateur impersonators but Presley spawned a full frontal impersonation for a profit; People who became Elvis Presley as a surrogate for themselves.  This began fairly early in the Presley career too.

     Then as the sixties hit young people were conditioned by phonograph records.  Records were the way the generation communicated with each other; They took the place of movies and literature.  One could still write books or rarely, like Presley, make it into the movies but anyone with enough ambition, little training during the sixties and none in the seventies, could make a record.

     This was no more evident than in the case of Bob Dylan.  Quite frankly my own first impression was that here is a talentless guy putting out records.  If Dylan could do it, if I wanted to, I could.  It then became easy to identify with Dylan.  Plus he was a nobody, had never even been to college.

     After I and many others had written his early records off he surfaced in a way to seize your attention, however his appeal was limited to a certain psychology.  But, now, in the twentieth century via records and radio if there were only a million of any certain type those million could make an artist very, very successful, viz. Janis Joplin.

      When Big Brother And The Holding Company with Janis Joplin released its first CBS disc the record went to the top of the charts on the strength of a small minority of the public.  The vast, and I mean vast, majority of the public had never heard of the band or Joplin.  I was in the record business at that time and was astounded that a relatively few hippies made a group and singer unkown to 9 1/2 out of ten, at the minimum, could send a record to the top.  Hippies were not known to take care of their possessions.  They trashed that record in a week or two playing it perhaps a hundred times or more then coming back to buy another one after another.  Each one of those sales contributed to the accumulation of a million so the entire course of American music was swayed by the success of a record purchased by a very small percentage of the population, and the lunatic fringe at that.

     So with Dylan.  Dylan provoked a violent split in society.  Just as Pat Boone was opposed to Elvis as a role model so Simon and Garfunkle were opposed to Bob Dylan.  In 1966-67 the S & G faction was much larger than Dylan’s.  Bob got more TV attention however.  His cult was as the misunderstood, oppressed genius, the Outsider who was shucking the world.  You can see where his fan base came from.  So, all of us who were in that category became devoted, almost obsessed, advocates of Bob Dylan.  I was one, I’m merely analyzing not being superior.  I never went as far as Toby Thompson in my obsession but then I didn’t think of what he did either and I was six years older.  I already had a life of my own, such as it was.

     The younger people took to the pop stars with ease.  We had Jim Morrisons, various Beatles and Stones or whatever as well as Dylans walking around campus, people completely immersed in the various identies.  I don’t even have to p[oint out the Deadheads and they were truly legion.

     So Thompson’s notion of reliving Bob’s youth in his own person while extreme was not completely imcomprehensible.  Still psychotic but borderline as he never completely lost contact with reality.  Really interesting because unlike Freud’s Schreiber he was able to write a book about it even as it happened.

     Thompson was born in 1944 being  three years younger than Bob thus being able to look up to him as a role model.  Being three years older than Bob I always looked down on him as a younger sibling who was somehow outshining me.  The identification was there nonetheless.

     Through 1966 Bob befogged us all.  Blonde On Blonde was such a towering effort both musically and lyrically that it was incomprehensible.  No one could understand it.  Some of it you couldn’t even listen to but you were convinced it was a work of genius.  The people who called it mere noise weren’t entirely wrong either.  Philistines nonetheless.

     I knew that Bob had peaked along those musical lines and there would have to be a model change.  But then the word came out that Bob was dead, close to it or paralyzed from the eyes down.  He disappeared from the stage for a while but as he wasn’t dead or paralyzed we all stood with out faces turned to Woodstock waiting for news from the East.  We all, being those of like psychology.

     Then Bob dressed like Billy the Kid or some other Western desperado released John Wesley Harding.  the psychology was changed.  What had drawn us in for ’64 to ’66 was the muse using Bob Dylan as an instrument and he now had been discarded.  I dropped him as did many others.

     A year later Toby Thompson conceived the idea of searching out Dylan’s roots in Minnesota.  He didn’t go as a mere reporter though.  He went as a Bob Dylan impersonator.  There was Toby Thompson standing in Bob Dylan’s shoes.

     The Thompson that emerges from his telling is a very disturbed young man of twenty-four.  His intake of alcohol and marijuana was prodigious.   Of course, he’s telling a story, but I can’t recall one day that he wasn’t stone drunk.  He keeps a pint in his glove compartment.  He gets so drunk he stands on his head in the middle of a dance floor and can’t remember it the next day.  The guy must have smelled like a brewery all the time.  I’m sure the fumes coming from him when he interviewed Dylan’s mother in the daytime gave her a very negative opinion of him.  Robert Shelton, Dylan’s biographer, future biographer at this time, had been out to Minnesota the year before.  He was a professional Journalistic persona older than Dylan’s friends.  Thompson was three years younger and appears to have been accepted on a personal rather than professional basis.  After all he had no journalistic history, he was only going to write.

     On that basis he formed an intimate relationship with Dylan’s high school sweetheart, Echo Helstrom.  I’m going to concentrate on that aspect of the book for this review.  Bear in mind that she is three years older than Thompson.

     Thompson’s visit to Hibbing must have had the locals’ heads spinning.  Thompson, in his book, doesn’t seem to be aware of the impression he was creating.  From his description it seems that he appeared among them as a Bob Dylan impersonator.  Bobby Zimmerman left Hibbing ten years earlier, became Bob Dylan, and now ten years later this guy shows up impersonating him.  Doing a good job of it too.

     One can only imagine what Hibbingites thought. 

The idea of this guy pictured below going forth to conquer the world  of popular music appears to be absurd.  We all have known kids who wanted to do the same.  We may even be one of those kids but the odd

Look Out Little Richard

       Look Out Little Richard

of succeeding were about a million and a half to one.  How could anyone even suspect that Bobby Zimmerman, the kid above, from the virtually uninhabited North Country would be the ONE.  Everyone in town must have been laughing up their sleeve, like the guy on the right above, when Bobby Zimmerman sallied forth to ‘join Little Richard’ and conquer the world.

     Now, this guy Thompson using his own name came posing as a journalist but impersonating Bob shows up.  Thompson seems surprised at the reaction of Maurice and Paul Zimmerman, Bob’s uncles, but can you imagine being interviewed by a guy talking and acting like your nephew Bob.  It’s kind of crazy.  Imagine what Beattie Zimmerman, Bob’s mother, thought sitting across from Toby doing Bob.  Maybe that’s what Bob meant when he said ‘This guy Toby Thompson has got some things to learn.’

     Nobody knew what was going on there, did they?

     When Bob and John Bucklen and Echo Helstrom were kids, like many another group of Musketeers, they swore that if one of them made it he or she would help the others along.  Well, Bob made it but he forgot John and Echo.  No big deal.  Teenage vows even spoken in earnest have no meaning after the fact but the promise lives on in the innocent hearts of those who aren’t pulled through by the successful one.  There is a sense of betrayal.  Added to that there was romantic ill will on Echo’s part because of Bob’s eleventh and twelfth grade betrayal.

     Bob is making it big while Echo just has a job.  A young woman trying to make her way has a tougher  row to hoe than a guy.  But, if she knows how to work it she does have a story that’s worth at least a couple three or four years worth of wages.  She doesn’t know how to market it though.  Robert Shelton came out to Minneapolis a year before Thompson and paid her a hundred dollars for an interview.  She held the hundred up to Toby as hint but he wasn’t thinking that way.  She was only going to get screwed by Toby, literally.

     If Toby hadn’t been in an alcholic haze he might have realized that the story Positively Main Street was only subsidiary to Absolutely Sweet Echo.  The money was with Echo.

Echo When She Knew Bob

Echo When She Knew Bob

          As they’re driving up Highway 61 Echo pulls out a hundred dollar bill and says ‘See what Robert Shelton gave me for an interview.’  The light still didn’t go off in Thompson’s head.  He reached into the glove compartment for his pint.

     I am astonished at the amount of alcohol Thompson consumed on these trips.  If he isn’t novelizing the guy was in a virtual stupor the whole time.  When he and Echo arrive in Hibbing they go to a bar where Toby becomes blotto on beer, no less.  He has no memory of the moment but Echo tells him that he stood on his head in the middle of the dance floor as coins and keys showered out of his pockets.

     Echo must have been one tolerant girl or else she was hoping for something to happen.  Perhaps a large part of the charm of Positively Main Street is the stunning unconciousness of Thompson.  The guy was twenty-four years old at the time, not a kid- exactly.  He had been telling Echo he was going to write a book.  When he gets the first trip written up he sends her sixty pages.  Echo writes back:  ‘Sixty pages isn’t enough for a book is it?’  She has reasons to be disappointed.  Heck, Toby is using her to attempt to make his fortune and he hasn’t even promised to cut Echo in for a dime.  Think about this.  The self centered naivete shines through with startling clarity.  For that reason it is one of the most interesting books in the the Dylan canon.

Echo When She Knew Toby

Echo When She Knew Toby

     Now, in these sixty pages Toby has misunderstood what Echo told him about the time Bob called her on the phone and played Bobby Freeman’s Do You Want To Dance claiming to be singing the song.

     In his sixty pages he projects a better story where Bob shows up on Echo’s front porch playing guitar and sings Do You Want To Dance then strutting all through the house singing and playing somewhat like Elvis in the dime store in King Creole.

     Echo points out this error.  Toby liked his version so much he left it in the way he first wrote it.  Then when Echo introduces this Bob Dylan impersonator into his parents home Toby whips out his quitar and reenacts his version of the incident strutting around the house as he plays and sings.  The guy was absolutely out of his mind in his alcohol haze.  He must have smelled like a brewery the whole time.

     One is astonished that he was so well tolerated.  Of course maybe everyone was thinking:  ‘This is amazing, but it won’t last long’ and let it pass.  Waved his car goodbe as he sped away.

     One wonders what Echo’s emotional rection to the Bob Dylan impersonator was.  Toby must have reactivated dormant affections for Bobby Zimmerman as he came on to her strongly in Bob’s persona.  Echo had ten year old memories of Bob and now here he was, his double, coming onto her again.  Frightening actually.

     Toby left again and never returned.  In the book he seems oblivious to the havoc he created in Echo’s life.  In the interview at the end of Main Street given many years later he doesn’t seem to be any more aware.  In fact he seems to be still posing as Dylan’s double.  He mentions that he still contacts Echo, who has moved to LA, occasionally as does Bob but Bob seems to have better success in finding her. 

     Hurt and mystified that Thompson had no more use for her she wrote a poem for him that she mailed to him in far off Washington D.C.

Hey! Toby!

Where can you be?

Somebody told me

That you went back to

Washing Machine D.C.

How can that be?

 

You came to town in your Volkswagen

And I’ll tell you we sure had fun!

And now you’re gone!

 

You played for me on your old guitar,

Took me for a ride in your little car,

Drove me near and drove me far,

We looked at the moon,

And stared at the stars,

You stood on your head in my hometown bar…

How could it be you’ve gone so far?

 

Hey Toby?  Where are you?

– Echo Helstrom

     Toby hadn’t gone anywhere.  Like Bob he’d just never been there.  His fantasy like Bob’s didn’t include anyone else, they were just bit players in his own movie.  Toby was no longer thinking of Echo.  He was married to the bottle.  He was touring bars across the country to get material for his next book.  Echo could just consider herself as one of those bars.  Once Toby had visited it there was no reason to return.

     The tragedy for Echo was that she was betrayed once by Bob in 1958 and then again by a Bob impersonator in 1968.  Perhaps a wound was created in her heart that could never heal.  One wonders what her later history was after she left Minneapolis and drifted West.

I wonder where you are tonight.

I wonder if you are alright.

I wonder if you think of me

In my lonely misery.

There stands the glass,

Fill it up to the brim,

Till it flows o’er the rim,

It’s my first one today.

-Webb Pierce.

     Here’s to old memories.  Bottoms up.