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"My manager asked me to make up a list of people I’d like to work with in my head. I actually don’t like to make lists, but I did, and then he got hold of them all. And they said yes."
——Marianne Faithfull on making Kissin' Time,
KISSIN’ TELL
An exclusive HITS dialogue with Marianne Faithfull
by Harvey Kubernik

Legendary Mick Jagger girlfriend and rock chanteuse Marianne Faithfull has just completed a 100 date-worldwide tour and a current U.S. trek supporting last fall’s release of her Virgin Records album Kissin’ Time, her first new disc in three years. It’s a series of collaborations and specially commissioned songs from a stellar lineup of Faithfull devotees, with Marianne penning the lyrics to eight of the 10 songs.

The album features collaborations with Beck, Billy Corgan, Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, Blur’s Damon Albarn and Eurythmic Dave Stewart, among others. The woman who made her mark by covering the Stones’ "As Tears Go By" has also returned to her acting career, co-starring in director Patrice Chereau’s Intimacy, which took the Best Film Award at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival. She has also completed work on a new movie, Far From China, by director Christian Leigh, due for release in early 2003. Old pal Harvey "Wallbanger" Kubernik sits down with the lovely Ms. Faithfull for some nudging and reminiscing.

How did the concept for the album come together?
Very organically. My manager asked me to make up a list of people I’d like to work with in my head. I actually don’t like to make lists, but I did, and then he got hold of them all. And they said yes.

You’ve been collaborating all your life.
That’s because I can’t play an instrument. The nature of my writing has to be with other people. This is just the first time I’ve written with so many different people.

Is the approach to writing lyrics different when you know it’s going to be a collaboration?
Not really. What’s great fun is that some of these things were really eyeball to eyeball, and some of them weren’t. For instance, on "Song for Nico," Dave Stewart gave me some very rough sketches, and it just had "French vibe" on it. And it took a long time really until I realized what I wanted to do with it. Then I got the idea for the song, sang it back to him, and his jaw dropped. He was very pleased and surprised. Not what he was expecting. So that’s always fun. I enjoy that sort of thing.

This album continues the use of narrative or spoken word in your work.
That’s what Beck wanted for the track "Sex With Strangers." He was very, very clear about that. It’s a great joy to work with people who really know what they want. We did that at Sunset Sound in Hollywood.

That room has a lot of history for you when you used to go to Rolling Stones’ sessions like Beggars Banquet.
It was wonderful. And we all felt it. So many great records were done there. It’s a place that means a lot to Beck, too. His favorite records have been made at Sunset Sound.

"Nobody’s Fault" is from Beck’s Mutations album, featuring his band.
We were really working like equals. And I don’t think my age came into it. He’s not a kid—he’s a young man. And a real human being. I had to practically beg him to let me do "Nobody’s Fault." I went with my son to see him play at the Brixton Academy in London. And he did "Nobody’s Fault" like my version.

"I’m on Fire" was written and produced by Billy Corgan.
That’s coming out of Brian Wilson. On the farewell Smashing Pumpkins tour, they were playing in Dublin, and I was in my flat, watching television when I got a phone call from Billy. "We’re playing tonight at the Olympia Theatre. Would you like to come?" I knew their music, but didn’t realize they were playing that night. So I got into a taxi, saw the show and absolutely loved it. The whole thing was so beautiful. Afterwards I went backstage to say hello, and to hang out with Billy. As I was leaving, Billy gave my manager his private number and told him, "If you want me to work with her call me." That was it. It was a delightful thing and we are friends.

"Sliding Through Life on Charm" was written by Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, but it’s based on your autobiography.
I asked Jarvis to do it about three or four years ago, and it was meant to be on Vagabond Ways, but it would have been completely wrong for that album. I’d been trying to write "Sliding" for 20 years and could never get a handle on it at all. Which you know is really frustrating. And I saw him and thought, "That’s the guy who can write this." He’s a really good lyricist, incredibly clever, a cool, laid-back dude and very English. And three-and-a-half years later, I got the song on a tape in the mail with Jarvis singing it and the lyrics written on the back of an envelope in pencil. And that was just as I was starting to work on Kissin’ Time. I had no idea what he was going to do. And I didn’t tell him what to do.

I recorded it with Pulp, but they didn’t let me in until the end. I was shy. I wasn’t there during the process as with Beck, Billy and Blur. It was Jarvis’ song, my title, their track, so I was a bit sad ’cause I would have loved to see how they worked. I came in at the end and did the vocal.

David Courts is a co-writer on "Love & Money." You’ve worked with him before.
He’s an old friend. Actually, he’s my ex-husband John Dunbar’s best friend. He’s a jeweler. He made Keith Richards’ skull ring. I’m the only person Dave writes songs with. We wrote "Vagabond Way" together, too.

Then there’s "Kissin’ Time."
Damon from Blur was on my initial wish list, but he was very hard to catch. He just created this beautiful melody, and it was actually while he was working with Gorillaz, so it’s no accident. You can hear that it’s kinda from that moment. So I had this demo of Damon singing just a few words, and I had real fun with that. I listened to it a lot and wrote five or six different versions. I kept trying to pretend to understand what he was saying, but I couldn’t.

Why a whole album with men?
Mostly because I hadn’t thought of working with women, and hadn’t known Polly [P.J. Harvey] yet. It had to be very organic. We did this record and then sold it to Virgin. It can’t be made up. It’s not a duet record—it’s a collaboration.

While I was in L.A. working with Beck, I had a great first meeting with Polly at a hotel. I was doing the Harry Smith concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall. We decided to write together, and as we speak, I have a CD of four songs from Polly, really beautiful. I’ve got some lyrics but haven’t put them in yet.

The next step is for Polly and I to meet up and work on them again. Polly can have a good time. It’s the same problem people have always had with me. Because she is very serious about her work, and some of it is very dark, they think she is just a dark person. And she’s not. She’s a load of fun. I can tell you, just between you and me, she’s a lot of fun. We talk a lot on the phone.

How do the songs from Kissin’ Time sound on-stage?
They’re playing well. I don’t do the whole album. We’ve tried a few things. "Sex With Strangers" is quite hard on stage. "Like Being Born" is a dream. "Nobody’s Fault" is a dream. "Where I Go" is wonderful. I love doing "I’m Into Something Good." And I do "Song for Nico," which is a very high moment. Nico was fantastic. I’ve always thought how weird it was they didn’t use her more. I really like her work.

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