Friday 15 January 2016
The Inventory: Marianne Faithfull
The Inventory: Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull, 69, released her first hit single, “As Tears Go By”, while still a teenager. Her current 50th anniversary world tour covers Europe, America and Australia.
What was your childhood or earliest ambition?

To be some kind of star — a writer, I think. I used to practise ridiculous, fancy noms de plume in my rough book at school; I didn’t realise Marianne Faithfull was a great name.
Public school or state school? University or straight into work?
St Joseph’s Convent in Reading. Then straight into work — when I did “As Tears Go By” I was only 16, or maybe just 17.
Who was or still is your mentor?
I have lots. Oscar Wilde, obviously. William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg.
How physically fit are you?
I’ve had a bad three years. I broke my sacrum — I’ve got osteoporosis. It healed beautifully. I had six months flat on my back on morphine. I then fell on my hip and broke it. Then I had to go on tour and I was in f***ing agony! Adrenaline gets you through.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
I’m more drawn to talent but one does need ambition. When I was studying Buddhist meditation with him, Allen [Ginsberg] said a lot of it was about the ego being the villain of the piece but that you couldn’t be an artist without some ego.
Have you ever taken an IQ test?
Years ago, at school.
How politically committed are you?
I have never voted. But I am being drawn in after what happened in Paris. I’ve always tried to stay in my own bubble but now I’m appalled. And I hate the way the world is run by banks and corporations.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
It isn’t clothes or shoes, because people give them to me, God bless them. It’s just keeping it all together. I walk with a stick, I can’t get out of the bath on my own, I need physiotherapy and a lot of help. It’s all very expensive. And I’m fanatical about good food.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?
Yes, I do. I don’t go anywhere if I can possibly help it.
Do you have more than one home?
I have a little flat in Montparnasse and a little flat in Ireland.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
I think I’ve got everything I need. I’d like a really nice pair of earrings. Sorry, very frivolous!
In what place are you happiest?
At home. And I love being in Ireland and I love being with my son.
What ambitions do you still have?
I want to be a good person.
What drives you on?
My love of music: the joy and the excitement of creating, and working with great musicians. I couldn’t bear not to do that.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Having Nicholas [her son].
What has been your greatest disappointment?
That I wasn’t nicer to my mother. I was young, arrogant and selfish.
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?
She’d be astounded that I’m alive, and that I’ve achieved so much and my dreams have come true.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?
To lose everything is a big thing, I’ve done it before and it’s no picnic. I would be depressed. I don’t know what I’d do. I sometimes think I would love to be an acupuncturist.
Do you believe in assisted suicide?
It’s entirely up to the individual.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
I certainly don’t believe in heaven and hell — those are here and now.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
I’d give myself at least a seven for courage.

Marianne Faithfull is at the Roundhouse, London, February 2

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