Before The Poison, to be released January 25, 2005, is Mariannes first album since Kissin Time at the start of 2002. The long wait, however, has been utterly vindicated by an album of extraordinary power, fuelled by collaborations with and contributions from such artists as PJ Harvey, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Damon Albarn and film composer Jon Brion. Indeed, this could well be the finest recording in Marianne’s long career.
Her story, of course, has been well documented, not least in the Faithfull autobiography published in 1994. Marianne was introduced to the Rolling Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham at a London party in 1964. She was then 17-years-old and still at school! Oldham, captivated by the way she looked, offered to make a record with her. A few months later Marianne launched her music career with As Tears Go By, the first song ever written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richard. It was a Top 10 UK hit in August 1964.
As Tears Go By was the first of four hit singles. She also recorded two Top 20 albums, both reflecting an impressive balance between plaintive folk influences – with material by such writers as Bert Jansch and Tim Hardin – and rock. Marianne also embarked on a parallel career as an actress, appearing in the film Girl on a Motorcycle and on stage in Chekhov’s Three Sisters (with Glenda Jackson) and Hamlet, directed by Tony Richardson and co-starring Anthony Hopkins and Nicol Williamson.
By the end of the Sixties, however, it was Marianne’s personal life – and her relationship with Mick Jagger - which primarily occupied the media.
She withdrew from the public eye, emerging only briefly in the mid-Seventies with a country-tinged album called Dreamin’ My Dreams recorded with the Grease Band. The album attracted little attention in the UK although it was a huge hit in Ireland, where she resumed touring for the first time in a decade. It wasn’t until 1979, however, that Marianne Faithfull properly rekindled her career with the groundbreaking Broken English.
That once-innocent voice had been transformed into a dark and husky instrument, the signature for all her subsequent work. It was a revelatory moment, the folk themes of her early career replaced by the biting incisiveness of such tracks as Why Do‘Ya Do It? Working Class Hero and the title track, Broken English. The album also included Shel Silverstein’s The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, a song originally recorded by Dr. Hook but now utterly owned by Marianne Faithfull.
Broken English was followed by such albums as Dangerous Acquaintances, A Child’s Adventure and, in 1987, Strange Weather. By the time of the latter album, Marianne was increasingly fascinated by the dramatic feel and mood of Kurt Weill’s music from the Twenties and Thirties. Although none of the tracks on Strange Weather were by Weill, his pervading influence was clearly etched across the timbre of the album.
Marianne’s interest in Kurt Weill and the music of the Weimar Republic was consummated in 1996 with the release of 20th Century Blues. It was followed, in 1998, by Marianne’s recording of the Kurt Weill / Bertolt Brecht opera, The Seven Deadly Sins, an album which received its live premiere at the Salzburg Festival in Austria. Indeed, such was the response to The Seven Deadly Sins that the album hit the upper reaches of the classical charts throughout the world.
During all this time Marianne’s mainstream musical career was virtually put on hold, although she was involved in various collaborative projects. Marianne, for instance, wrote a television theme called Hang It to Your Heart with Blur’s Alex James – a precursor to the collaborations with Damon Albarn on both Kissin Time and Before The Poison.
Marianne returned to her ‘day job’ with the release of her acclaimed Vagabond Ways album in June 1999. Among the tracks were Incarceration of a Flower Child, a previously unrecorded Roger Waters song written in 1968, together with a For Wanting You, a new Elton John song, and Marianne’s version of Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song.
Marianne also returned to her acting career, co-starring in director Patrice Chereau’s Intimacy, the winner of the Best Film Award at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival. She also completed work on Far From China, a film by director Christian Leigh. The movie was released in the UK at the start of 2002.
Following Kissin Time release Marianne embarked on a worldwide concert schedule, her most ambitious touring commitment in many years. Even when she was on the road during those months, however, Marianne was planning her next album, which was to be underpinned by her writing and, indeed, performing partnerships with PJ Harvey (5 songs) and Nick Cave (3 songs). She also collaborated with Damon Albarn and Jon Brion on two songs. The result is Before The Poison, an album that easily stacks up with the finest moments of Marianne Faithfull’s long and distinguished career.