Miss Marianne Faithfull:

Miss Marianne Faithfull:
(Born December 29, 1946) Songs she inspired: She Smiled Sweetly, Let's Spend The Night Together, She's Like A Rainbow, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Wild Horses, I Got The Blues, 100 Years Ago, Winter

Miss Anita Pallenberg:

Miss Anita Pallenberg:
(Born April 6, 1942) Songs she inspired: You Got The Silver, Sister Morphine (words by Marianne), Wild Horses, Coming Down Again, Angie, Beast Of Burden, All About You

Monday, February 23, 2009

Graceless lady, you know who I am

When my last relationship had finally fallen to pieces, I wrote He Who Shall Not Be Named a very long letter. In this letter I detailed all of my grievances (which were nothing new, but needed reiterating), but more than anything, it was a plea, a last-gasp effort to make things work. After writing that, I knew I had done everything I could, verbalized my every thought and feeling and truly given all of myself. It was my "Wild Horses". In the letter's final line, I borrowed a quote from the infamous ballad and said, "Please don't let me slide through your hands" (Love, Leith). Obviously, this line was ineffective, because that's exactly what happened, but at least I'm in good company. You have to marvel at the man who let Ms. F slide through his.

In a typical overly dramatic Leith fashion, last night as I was driving home around 11 PM, soaring beneath the stars on an almost vacant George Washington Memorial Parkway (undoubtedly one of the most beautiful roads ever), I pulled off at one of the scenic overlooks. I put the Volvo's high beams on, and climbed over a little rock wall and down to the ledge of the slope above the plunging Potomac River. In my hand, in what felt like a hundred little pieces, were two photos from the past that I had sort of meticulously shredded. I opened my fist and let the wind carry them down.

Earlier last night, I watched The Shawshank Redemption, and believe it or not, it was my first time ever seeing it. When the elderly librarian at the prison is finally released after 50 years and goes out into the real world only to commit suicide soon after... I don't know, something about that was inexplicably moving. The idea that something horrible like prison becomes your identity, and when stripped of that, the only thing you have left, you feel like there's no where you belong. I think the same principle can apply to relationships. When I broke up with HWSNBN, a large part of me felt like now I had nothing, and that a broken relationship with someone I loved was better than it not existing at all. I regretted my decision, started doing the whole bargaining stage of grief (out of order though). I was so worried watching the film that Morgan Freeman's character Red was going to suffer the same fate as the old man and hang himself when he was released. But he took a chance and went to Mexico to join Tim Robbins and the movie had a happy ending. And that's what I'm going to have, too.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Where Do We Go?

I figured I would make this post as a happy way-belated birthday to one of my favorite Aquarians, as it is the last day of this splendid sign: W. Axl Rose, enigmatic frontman of what once was the biggest, baddest band in the world - Guns n' Fuckin' Roses. William Bailey easily ranks among the five people I'd like to have dinner with, and while he's never been my favorite member of Gn'R (that would be the former sumo wrestler of beers, Mr. Duff McKagan), he is definitely the most compelling and incontrovertibly the most fucked in the head. And I dig weirdos.
Axl didn't have the best upbringing as you probably know or could easily surmise; his home life left him with a contempt for women and anger towards authority in general. He was molested by his biological father when just a baby (which he was unaware of until being hypnotized around 1991), and then routinely beat up by his stepfather as a child and adolescent. But Axl is a man of great paradox. He taught Sunday school and sang in the choir (an angelic voice he had) and was pulled towards music and the arts, though records were banned at the Bailey residence. In 1982, William left his home town of Lafayette, Indiana and moved cross country to Los Angeles and hooked up with fellow musician and childhood friend Jeffrey Isabelle. They ditched their names (sort of: Axl legally changed his last name to Rose upon learning via his birth certificate that it was his father's surname, and he kept the W. for William) and hit the Sunset Strip young and hungry. They started making things happen with a band called Hollywood Rose, aided by guitarist Tracii Guns and after a few personnel changes, birthed Guns n' Roses. By now, Seattle punk Michael Duff McKagan was playing with them, and Duff happened to be friends with a band called Road Crew, which featured little-known guitar player Saul Hudson and drummer Steven Adler. When Tracii and Gn'R drummer Rob Gardner didn't show up for a gig one night, Duff called Slash and Steve, and the rest is history. (June 6 1985).

I suppose it's fair to say that Axl was never all that stable to begin with, but as Guns n' Roses finally exploded in the summer of 1988 thanks to second hit single "Sweet Child O' Mine" and held the music world in their palms for the next four years, our hero seemed to psychologically deteriorate. Axl, much like in childhood, was a vulnerable man capable of extreme gentleness and sincerity and also great violence and anger. Both Erin Everly and Stephanie Seymour claimed Axl hit them (which I'm sure is the truth) but they certainly got a fair share of adoration out of him, too. In fact, I don't think he ever got over Stephanie leaving him and I have a feeling some of the songs on last year's mythic album Chinese Democracy were written about her, which is actually really sad.
Axl is a difficult character. On one hand, I think he's slightly megalomanical and generally unpleasant, as in, I don't think his reputation as an asshole is unfair. And the whole violence-against-women thing, that's an issue I feel strongly about and I do not think is justifiable no matter how many times you saw your stepdad hit your mom. But it isn't easy for me to write him off as just that either--some angry, abusive drama queen. Axl is definitely intelligent. In interviews and in his lyrics, he's proved to be articulate and thoughtful. I'll never understand the bizarre beast that is fame, but it seems to me that it played a major role in Axl's demise and reclusive ways. After making an album as celebrated and successful (and just plain awesome) as Appetite For Destruction, there's no where to go but down. While the Illusions sold extremely well and produced hit single after hit single, the lightning that struck in '86-'87 just wasn't there anymore. And I think Axl realized this and knew he was fighting a battle that would ultimately be lost. And because he is crazy and paranoid and difficult by default, when people started abandoning him, he totally lost it. He seemed obsessed with staying true to this vision that he had of his music, and in that way I admire him for always doing things on his own terms. Slash and Izzy may have had the awesome riffs and bluesy guitar solos; Duff and Steven had that in-the-pocket funky groove and rhythm; but Axl was the one with something to say. And for that, I will always love him.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The most beautiful girl in the world

I'm really romanced by learning the backstories to songs I enjoy, especially ones where the backstory involves a female inspiration. And it goes without saying at this point that I am even more delighted when that inspiration is Marianne, Anita, Patti Boyd, or some other blonde 60's goddess with a mind of her own. I'm going to do a post on the former Mrs. Harrison and Mrs. Clapton some time soon, as I've almost finished her book, Wonderful Tonight that I got for Valentine's Day.

But this post is going to mainly be about Marianne, as God knows I have a lot to say about the Stones songs that were written in Anita's honor, and discussing them should also be delegated to its own post (they tend to be more heartbreaking). But that is not to discount Miss Marianne, who came into Mick's life when he was writing chauvenistic lyrics about Chrissie Shrimpton. It's actually quite interesting that so many of the early songs, while set against a sing-song beat, contained many scathing or horrible lines. Societal critiques like "Mother's Little Helper" don't bother me, but songs like "Backstreet Girl" are actually really sad. Let's take a look at some of the things Dr. Jagger had to say about Chrissie in the mid sixties:

"A squirming dog whose just had her day"
"You're obsolete my baby, my poor discarded baby"
"The way she powders her nose, her vanity shows and it shows, she's the sickest thing in this world. Look at that stupid girl."
"Who wants yesterday's papers? Who wants yesterday's girl?"
"You're the kind of person you meet at certain dismal, dull affairs."

Enter: Marianne Faithfull. With liquid blue eyes, perfect lips, angelic features and traffic stopping curves, not to mention class and brains, Marianne inspired words like:

"Have you seen her all in gold, like a queen in days of old?
She shoots colors all around like a sunset going down
Have you seen a lady fairer?"
Mick also wrote "Let's Spend The Night Together", "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Wild Horses" about her. YCAGWYW is his plea to her to stop taking drugs, and "Wild Horses", though I've often read it is also inspired by Keith Richards' sadness upon leaving Anita and baby Marlon to go on the road, is the result of Marianne's overdose in Australia where she and Mick were supposed to film "Ned Kelly" (Marianne was dropped from the film and was in a six day coma). I used to get bored with "Wild Horses" because it was such a "hit", but when I learned it was about Marianne and I listened to the lyrics more closely, I fell in love with it, and it can reduce me to a fit of tears even today. Mick and she were just children when they met, and the things Marianne wanted, he did buy. I'm curious as to his description of her as "graceless lady", since she seemed altogether regal and not terribly clumsy, but oh well. "I know I dreamed you a sin and a lie"... Can't we all relate to this sentiment, turning someone we love into someone different to soothe our own mind? In her autobiography, while certainly critical of some of Mick's personality, Marianne writes that above all, he was always very kind to her, so I believe him when he sings "No sweeping exits or offstage lines could make me feel bitter, or treat you unkind."

Few jobs appeal to me more than the idea of being a professional muse, and that's probably why I'm so awe-struck by these women who had such sensational musicians under their spell. I have to admit that I used to favor Anita Pallenberg to Marianne, for years, even though I worshipped them both, but recently I've decided that I find Marianne more compelling and personally relatable. And, actually, more beautiful. I find it amusing and sad that at such a young and vulnerable age she was swallowed into being a pop star, and her image was molded into this sort of 'rich Catholic school girl sexy'. Although her mother was a baroness, it was a title only, they weren't well off at all, and while I cannot think of a girl more wholesomely alluring, Marianne certainly wasn't this sort of vacous virgin queen. Look at some of the early images of her above: they pose her with animals, teddy bears, a fucking puzzle!! She must have been rolling her eyes while men her father's age were jerking off to those pics. I think a lot of men thought they could control and manipulate and exploit her. When I was a teenager, I felt exactly the same way, albeit on a much smaller scale!

Anyway, let's celebrate this golden goddess, without whom the Stones would never be the same. I have so many pictures of her, due to countless hours of internet searching, but I've posted just a few from when she was really young. It's hard not to post more!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Naked Under Leather

"The Girl On a Motorcycle" is perhaps not the best movie ever made; even Marianne calls it "that horrid film" (and I don't think her experience making it was that pleasant either--apparently Alain Delon was trying to sleep with her the whole time). But good Lord did she look smokin'!