Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m HIGH
Sometimes I am really down . . .
I can see it, I can hear it
But I don’t know where it’s coming from
19 Sep 2002: Irving Plaza New York City
Are you sure this is the time where we belong
—George Clinton & Bernie Worrell, “Balance” (1972)
This Nightbird’s on Fire
Miz Thang done done It again. Hot damn! With Kissin’ Time and the live blues review in its wake, Marianne Faithfull—once La Llorona of the Glimmer Twins’ Cheyene Walk milieu—is not the herald of her erstwhile Swinging London posse’s descent upon Gotham last week. At Irving Plaza, Miz Marianne represented for blue-eyed soul, kept it real on rock & roll badass tip and reminded the L’il Kims and Lady Madges of planet pop that there can be only ONE Queen Bee.
These are the dolorous and quicksilver hours of the vainglorious queens of yore receding to the misty shoals of Far Avalon led by Little Richard, Tina and Cher in his wake, Koko Taylor and Etta James hanging tough but shaky upon their thrones and Erma Franklin gone to glory with nary a whisper.
At Irving, all one could do is marvel at the mature and wonderfully ripe sexy beast that La Faithfull is—“just a beautiful, little, freaky, stripey beast, dahling”—after the last few years of admiring her across the airwaves on the brilliant and bitter AbFab in company with my supreme ikon, the Empress Anita Pallenberg. The predominantly buttoned-up Boomer audience below who never managed to recapture the chimerical blonde Ophelia of “As Tears Go By” (the obvious back catalogue was eschewed in favor of current experiments)—definitely not my usual show demo—sat in rapt and worshipful silence for the most part, whilst above we nearly tumbled over the balcony’s edge hoping for the merest spray of the woman’s stardust.
The likes of Fran Lebowitz, Bruce Weber and Calvin Klein were nearby, intent but woefully unable to get down. Someone please tell them that I, like defiant and oppressed artiste-negresse Adrian Piper, give out Funk Lessons
for a reasonable fee (hey, every rockbitch needs something to retire on . . . Ain’t you seen the Banger Sisters? Ahem . . .). Meanwhile, Ryan Adams and The Strokes’ table beside me remained empty throughout, signaling that they must’ve been further down the Lower East Side practicing their rock star attitudes and Richard Hell poses at some hipper spot like Lakeside Lounge (Max’s for the Aughties?). A pity, since Wee Ryan, born on the same day as our eternally beloved Gram (lest we ever forget), would rather “entertain” by turning his back on audiences, thinking he can aggrandize himself by mummery of the Kentish lads Marianne’s so successfully outrun and covering that most offensive and problematic bit of Petro magie from the “suburban shits’” songbook: “Brown Sugar”. O, the irony, as two days following, on Saturday, Adams made himself available as studio guest during Courtney Love aka C.Lo’s 24-hour Id extravaganza on MTV2 . . . and who more (than I) wants to “kiss (Marianne’s) snatch” than Ms. Love? The Alt.Country wunderkind/brat prince would’ve done better to witness the awesome power of the Mothership on site, made to fall to his knees and weep before the aesthetic integrity and class he’ll never attain.
As for Les Strokes, they obviously need a listen to Jarvis Cocker’s great “Sliding Through Life On Charm” and Marianne’s own trickster and lachrymose “Song For Nico” there’s no future for these boys, as they used to say back in the heyday of Johnny Rotten, yet Warhol hasn’t rung the end of their fifteen minutes from beyond his plastic grave.
Since the New New Swinging London is continuing its relentless takeover of Gotham—speaking of rock “royalty”, Stella McCartney’s New York flagship opened on West 14th Street in the Meat Packing District (um, ain’t somebody a hardcore vegan??) on Friday night, in the vicinity of this current generation’s only great couturier Alexander McQueen (does this laurel earn me the célèbre “jellyfish” gown, Alex?)—will Kissin’ Time, definitely a chef d’uvre of this zeitgeist, prove to be that gang’s soundtrack (and thus extend its influence across the sprawling Land of the Free)?
Ossie Clark’s my all-time favorite designer too, but he’s beyond unaffordable on a nonexistent rockcrit salary. I’m also a fanatic of Donald Cammell, Christopher Gibbs and James Fox, as well as a Performance idolater, yet don’t carry it to unwieldy extremes. The McCartney, her ex-partner Phoebe Philo, the Sykes twins et al with their Central St. Martins’ degrees, hiring Gibbs for consultations, vintage scavenging and chasing the poor, beleaguered Ghost of Talitha Getty desperately need an influx of fresh ideas and, as we Yanks say, a clue. That was the marvel of Faithfull’s performance at the Plaza; that badass bitch is not moldering on the pedestal Sir Mick wanted to trap her on, nor is she lingering in a ‘60s Myth that never was while pimping the cred from it to her advantage: she looked sensational in her stylish ‘do and wore an impeccably cut black suit from which she gave us brief, titillating peeks at her mesh top and sensually swung her hips in time to her mostly Jock band’s accompaniment to her scornful raps and growls. Customary collaborator Barry Reynolds joined in on guitar, tying shit up, especially working out on Roger Waters’ “Incarceration of a Flower Child”, the supreme stunner from Vagabond Ways.
Oh and then there is that long line of slavering Grunge and Britrock veteran dogs itching to get next to her and raise a leg, at least in song: she dutifully performed contributions by Billy Corgan (“Wherever I Go”), Beck (“Like Being Born”), Blur (“Kissin’ Time”) and what she called a “porno country love song” by the far more shadowy Will Oldham (“A King At Night”).
Sister Girl really strutted her stuff on the full-tilt rockers clustered at the end: “Broken English”, “Working Class Hero”, “Why D’Ya Do It”—following which she echoed the immortal sentiments of Turner: that the tune was done “loose . . . and [she] doesn’t do something the same twice . . .”—and new set closer, the aforementioned “Charm”. Was throwing down with such magnificence at my perch, I wished my friends/Faithfull fans Barney Hoskyns and David Dalton were in the house to see me; they should’ve been impressed. Before arriving at the encore, “Strange Weather”, Miz Marianne had made plain just what kind of millennial diva she is. Benevolent when introducing the band then clasping the audience to her lovely bosom saying, “There’s you and me and we have a show.” Imperious and admonitory when said audience began (inappropriately) calling out requests as if they were at an Aerosmith arena concert, warning, “Just because I take a break, doesn’t mean you can start telling me what to do.” Ma, you got your Amen right here.
Got to second M’Dear’s lyric that “I am a muse, not a mistress, not a whore . . .” On the verge (two month countdown) of my retirement from rockcrit, that refrain more than underscores the travails and tragicomedy pertinent to the saga of a sharp, intelligent woman with intensity, ideals and aesthetic ambition. I may never have possessed (nor can I rival) Faithfull’s beauty, fame and panache but my gift, wit, snakehips and cleverness have gotten me into enough scrapes on my own lowly plane. Thanks awfully, lads, it hasn’t been fun (am only keeping Saint Gram, Gene Clark, the Drive-By Truckers and Donny Hathaway to the rest of you thugs: this pussy hath flown). I have never believed I was second class (either on the African, Indian or female tip) and so behaved accordingly but now y’all done done me in. Alas, great art and shows on the order of Miz Marianne’s are far and few between for rockbitches with an urge for going. If I were born a man, I’d be left to my own devices and peculiar form of brilliance. At least I gave those performers, pen and axe both, a good goddam chase on that Rocket 88. They met their match in me, sho’nuff. Now, facing uncertain future, we’ll see whether I slide through life on charm or shit.
Queue up to kiss my black arse quick two times.