The Spedding Tapes - Marianne Faithful

Before getting on with the test, a few words about Marianne Faithful are in order. I had been collaborating with her on a trbute to kurt Weil and Berthold Brecht, and I think I can speak for Marianne in saying the experience was a happy one for us both. Emboldened by this I asked her to be my first subject. Being a brave girl she agreed.
Of the bevy of chanteuses thrown up by the so-called swinging Sixties, Marianne probably would not have attracted many odds as a contender for longevity. Her appeal seemed too finely tuned to the times. Too Ephemeral. Too vulnerable.
but here she is, bless her, still doing it, and still, incredibly, as vulnerable as ever.
And we laugh at ourselves for falling for (we say now) that calculated P.R. image of old. The tip (we say now) of the iceberg. And we applaud oueselves with that delicious wisdom of hindsight that we always knew Marianne would... yeah, yeah, yeah.
But who cares how the metamorphosis took place. Let us rather rejoice that we now have now among us a great lady of song at the peak of her powers.
It may be facile to suggest that Marianne Faithful is rock's answer to Billie Holiday, since Lady Day wasn't asking any questions anyone need to answer, but hell, let's be facile.
Marianne was understandably nervous about the blindfold test. But then so was I. I made a couple of strategic blunders - as you will see.
On the day of the test Marianne received me in the lower Manhattan apartment she shared with drummer Hilly Michaels. Dressed in a bathrobe and looking surprisingly fresh and well rested (we had been working late in the studio the previous night), she left me to set up the tapes while she called up and ordered a bottle of wine. Chardonnay, I think it was.

MF Well, Chris, I don't think I'm going to know exactly all of them.
CS oh yes you are. I'm going to let you in easy with the first one.

1. Dusty Springfield, "Going Back"
MF Ah!
Immediate recognition from Marianne. No further comment was made until the end of the song. I guess it's the sort of record you don't want to talk over. Ducty's vocal grabs you and you just listen and enjoy.
MF Okay. Well that's dusty Springfield and it's a Carole King/Gerry Goffin song. who produced it? 'Cos it's so wonderful and I haven't it in years. The Byrds did it. I've got that one but I've lost my Dusty Springfield one. That was Lovely!
Great! so having allayed Marianne's fears over not gwtting any of them right, I mercilessly brought out some of my heavy artilley.

2. Nellie Lutcher, "Alexander's Ragtime Band"
MF Is it Lena Horne? I can't think who it is. To make any comments about it, it's rather crucial to find out who it is, isn't it? I know it's early. It's Thirties, or is it Twenties?
CS Thirties. Recorded in the mid-Thirties.
MF Because it was written in the Twenties, wasn't it?
CS Mm, Irving Barlin, could be even earlier. Ragtime and all that.
MF Ah, so it is a very old song. Oh, do tell me who it is.
CS It's Nellie Lutcher. Remember 'Hurry On Down (to my place baby, nobody home but me)'? That's the girl who did that.
FM Oh yes! Is she black or white?
CS Black. She's playing that piano in there, too. You can see Nina Simone...
MF ...was obviously very influenced by her. What did she look like?
CS The album cover is really weird... you can't actually tell. I've got a later album by her wheb she's probably in her fifties. There's this photo of a mature black lady....
MF she must be quite young here, though. You can't be so happy and carefree about it unless you're very young. Unless you're an actual comedienne. Then you could do it. but that sort of thing comes from being very young and happy and crefree. She just bombs out!
CS There you are, you see. I knew you'd like it. You didn't know it but you liked it and you had things to say about it.

3. Nico, "Madchen..." from the Camera Obscure album on Begars Banquet
MF Is it Niba Hagen?
CS No.
Marianne was saved by the buzzer. It was the delivery from the liquor store. Our bottle of wine. Obviously relieved to get off the hook even temporarily, Marianne fetched glasses and a corkscrew from the kitchen and showed how truly Americanized she had become by serving the wine with ice cubes! Well, whoever heard of Chardonnay at room temperature? Anyway, suitably fortfield I clumsily tried to steer her back to the matter at hand.
CS Well, do you want to know who that was?
MF Yes, I do.
CS Nico.
MF Oh, is it?
CS Yes. Anadaptation of some Hildegarde Kneff thing.
MF Oh, that's rather interesting I thought the song was a bit dull, though. But now that I know it's Nico, for her it's rather good. She's got herself together a bit to do something. It's very Nico, isn't it? Yes...good! She's done something at last.

4. Huey "Piano" smith, "The Tuberc-a-lu-cus And The Sinus Blues"
MF (Commenting throughout the song.) Oh, I like this. It's like "Sea cruise."
CS Yes, but it's even mopre like "Rockin' Pneumonia." In fact it's exactly the same tune with a different lyric.... Or should I say different diseases!
MF It's a piano's not...Fats Domino?
CS No, quite close, though.
MF It's not Jelly Roll Morton...No, he's a jazz's a black guy...I can't...Oh, tell me!...I can't bear it!
CS Huey "Piano" Smith. He did "Rockin' Pneumonia" too, in the days when you were expected to follow up a big hit with an almost indentical song. Assuming "Pneumonia" came first, this is a rare instance of the follow-up being a better record. In my opinion, anyway.
MF Oh, this is lovely. That's great. Really good. This is really fun.

5. Mick Jagger, "Lonely At The Top"
MF This is Mick. This is from his new album. I like it.
Marianne got this, of course, as soon as Mick started singing. But it was worth a try. She might not have got it. So, shot down in flames, I made an abortive attempt to bail myself out.
CS since you got Mick so easily, see if you can identify the guitar player.
MF It's not it Nile rodgers?...Is it you? No, it doesn't sound like you. Who is it?
Well, folks, this is where Spedding really blew it. I had bought the album only the day before and played it through once to pick a track for Marianne's guesses so far were based on the rhythm guitar riffs and a few liks supporting the vocal. So I told her Jeff Beck seconds before Jeffrey exploded into an outrageous piece of unmistakable Beck-Ola. Hm. Smart stuff, Spedding...
CS Oh, he's fantastic. Playing better than ever. Nobody ever gets anywhere near Jeff.
MF Yeah. I love that.

6. The Shondells, "Ooo, Sometimes"
MF Whatsisname and the Imperials? Little Anthony, that's it.... No, it's not him. Four Seasons?
CS No, this is a difficult one.
MF I don't know it. Who is it?
CS The Shondells.
MF I should have known that. They are not an old band. are they a new band or an old band?
CS Old. On King records.
MF Don't know them. when, the Fifties?
CS I think around the late Fifties, early Sixties. I've got two 45s by these girls.
MF Oh, it's girls. I thought it was boys.
CS No, it says on the label, "Girls Vocal Group with Band."
MF What? Is that how they used to describe it? Are they black?
CS I guess so, yeah. This song is the B side of "Watusi, One More Time."
MF I've never heard of that. I've heard of "The Watusi" Did they do "The Watusi"?
CS I don't know. I don't even know whether they had a hit or anything. Everybody thinks, "Oh, Tommy James and the Shondells," but this is the other Shondells.
MF Ah.

7. Aretha Franklin, "Ain't Nobody Ever Loved You"
MF Oh, I love it....Stevie Wonder.... No, it's a girl...I know the voice. Who is it?
CS Give up already?
MF Sorry.... Oh, it's lovely. I know the voice so well. It's not Diana Ross? Oh, who is it?
CS Aretha Franklin.
MF Aaah! Beautiful. Is it new? Beautiful!
CS Yes, it's her new album on Arista called Who's Zoomin' Who.
I don't know whether it was the wine or the effect of Aretha's music - probably a combination of the two - but all pretense of commenting for publication seems to have been lost at this point. All I can decipher from my tape are incoherent whoops and exclamations of delight as Faithful and Spedding proceeded to "get down" to the strains of the first Lady of Soul. So, after a pause to catch our breath...

8. Charles and Inez Foxx, "Searchin' for My C.C."
CS This is a bit of a trick one.
MF I know that voice.... Is it Tina Turner?
CS I knew you were young gonna say that! No. If it's not Tina, then who is it?
MF I really don't know. I'm going to be furious....
CS Charles and Inez Foxx
MF Aaah!
CS But without Charles singing.
MF Of course. That's where I know that voice. From "Mockingbird."
CS That's why I said it was a trick one. You'd have got it easy with Charles singing along.
MF Yes, I'd have got it immediately. They really did disappear...when? About the end of the Sixties they disappeared. They were great.
CS Tina's doing great now, but...
MF Yes, I thought they were better than Ike and Tina. What's happened to Ike?
CS Don't know.

And on that erudite note from yours truly our first blindfold test comes to a close. Thanks, Marianne, you were wonderful, and a great sport!

Chris Spedding - the journalist