“Truth Bitter Truth”: Marianne Faithfull opens up in this candid mid-’80s Night Flight interview

By on July 10, 2018

In 1985, Marianne Faithfull gave Night Flight’s Lisa Robinson a very candid interview during her ’80s comeback, which was still in progress at the time.

Watch this very special Night Flight video profile on Night Flight Plus.

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“… I was sort of brought up to not like men very much,” Faithfull tells Robinson at one point.

“You didn’t see them as people that you knew, and you don’t really include them in your life. They’re not really equals, they’re not, um, friends. It’s a war, you know, a war. A battle, between the sexes. And it’s taken me an awfully long time to get rid of all of that conditioning, obviously, and it sort of takes the right kind of man. A lot of men think like that too.”

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The profile features several of Faithfull’s early ’80s music videos, including “Truth Bitter Truth,” “Intrigue” and “Sweetheart,” which were all part of a conceptual video lensed at a country mansion estate in England by Island Records’ art director Paul Henry.

All three tracks were from her eighth studio album, 1981’s Dangerous Acquaintances, which was produced by Mark Miller Mundy, who’d also produced her triumphant 1979 album Broken English (we have more to say about it below, and be sure to watch Derek Jarman’s film Broken English too).

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Mundy and Faithfull had utilized the talents of over a dozen session musicians, giving the album a polished studio sheen but also an impersonal feeling, something music critics were quick to point out in their mostly-bland reviews.

Several of the album’s singles, including “Intrigue,” were co-written by Faithfull’s then-husband, Ben Brierley, a former punk rocker who had gone by ridiculous stage names like “Ben E. Ficial” and “Ben Dover.”

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The album’s title referred to Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 18th-century French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liasions, 1782) some seven years before it would be developed into a motion picture directed by Stephen Frears and starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer.

In the concept video, Faithfull reads Valmont’s letter from the novel, in which he says “If your heart is broken it is not my fault. Go, take another lover as I have taken one.”

The letter also provides the lyrics for her song, “In the End.”

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Read more about Marianne Faithfull below.

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Broken English had signaled a bold new beginning for Faithfull, who had dropped out of convent school at age sixteen and become the innocent beautiful blonde ingénue of Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham.

During London’s Swinging Sixties, she’d ended up having a five year fling with Mick Jagger, who in some interviews she still proclaims was the great love of her life (although he’s not among her three ex-husbands).

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After their tumultuous breakup, she then fell head-first into drug use, alcoholism and anorexia nervosa, culminating with her spending two years on the streets of London’s Soho, shifting from squat to squat.

During this same time she’d also lost custody of her only child to her first husband (London art dealer John Dunbar, who she married at age 18), suffered a miscarriage (Jagger’s child), and in July 1969, days after Brian Jones‘ “death by misadventure,” she’d attempted suicide by taking 150 Tuinals.

She’d also broken her jaw and had her front teeth knocked out after overdosing and taking a tumble down a flight of stairs.

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That soft schoolgirl voice we’d heard on her 1964 hit, the wistful ballad “As Tears Go By,” was now replaced by a throaty register that the NME once called “a posh, parched, cocaine-clogged rasp.”

It was the end result of rampant drug use (heroin/coke), cigarette smoking and so much life lived.

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Lyrically, Broken English was often unflinchingly raw, Faithfull singing about sexual and social violence, pain and endurance, betrayal and tenderness.

With plaintive, delicate precision, she’d deftly covered Shel Silverstein’s “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” and John Lennon‘s “Working Class Hero,” and shocked listeners by dedicating the album’s propulsive title track — about terrorism in Europe — to the late German journalist/terrorist Ulrike Meinhof of the Baader-Meinhof gang/RAF, who had committed suicide in prison in 1976.

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The album’s climactic magnum opus was its six-and-a-half minute closer, “Why D’Ya Do It?,” which poet, political activist and playwright Heathcote Williams had originally written for Tina Turner.

Faithfull turned his stinging X-rated denunciation of infidelity and sexual jealousy — “Why d’ya do it, she screamed, after all we’ve said/Every time I see your dick I see her cunt in my bed” — into one of the more aurally-stunning recordings of the late ’70s.

She took her time recording her next album, Dangerous Acquaintances, and gave a wholly different approach to songs that were more positive and hopeful.

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Dangerous Acquaintances and A Child’s Adventure (released in March 1983) had both been recorded amid her raging heroin habit.

She eventually spent eight month getting clean at the Hazelden clinic in Minnesota, where she met a mentally-unstable drug-addicted former deejay named Howard Tose, who was also bi-polar and had Tourette’s.

After leaving the clinic, they lived together at the Harbor Towers building in Boston,until he committed suicide in April of 1987, jumping from a 36th-floor window.

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During the mid-to-late Eighties, Faithfull also contributed a track to producer Hall Willner’s 1985 tribute album, Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill.

Willner ended up producing her 1987 album Strange Weather, a beautiful collection of cover songs sometimes (correctly) considered her peak as a recording artist. It was dedicated to the memory of Howard Tose.

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Watch Night Flight’s Marianne Faithfull video profile on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.