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Marianne Faithfull: salvaging treasure from life’s shipwreck

Songs Of Innocence And Experience is a rhapsody for Bohemian queen Marianne Faithfull

Songs Of Innocence And Experience cover art
(Image: © UMC)

The long and chequered life of Marianne Faithfull is celebrated in this double LP/CD from the Decca and Island labels. With skilfully chosen tracks it chronicles her progression from winsome 60s chanteuse to seasoned performer of intensely personal songs. 

As well as survival, her creative superpower is her ability to interpret the work of other artists, be it Donovan (Sunny Goodge Street), Dr Hook (The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan) or Bob Dylan; her version of the latter’s It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue is definitive. It marks the point where she ‘lost‘ her sweet voice and the angelic persona projected on to her by male fantasy and found a more authentic self-expression. 

Among the rarities are her original recordings of Sister Morphine and Something Better (as heard on The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus), plus the previously unreleased The Calm Before The Storm, partly written by Lou Reed

Tracks from Faithfull’s 1979 album Broken English, her ravaged but defiant comeback, include a live version of Brain Drain, amid the woes of ‘Trying to get high without having to pay’. Sweet or dark sides, imbibed together they’re intoxicating. Faithfull stayed afloat in a sea of decadence, salvaging treasure from life’s shipwreck to inspire a late-life burst of artistry.

Claudia Elliott is a music writer and sub-editor. She has freelanced for BBC Radio 2's Sounds of the 60s, Uncut, History of Rock, Classic Rock and The Blues magazine. She is a 1960s music specialist.