The time: August 1996 to July 1997 The place: world tour The woman: Marianne Faithfull
I've learnt a hell of a lot about myself from the tour I have just finished. In many ways it was like a trip round myself - I went to places that were important to me and felt closer to my parents.

The beginning, at the Almeida Theatre in London, was an amazing experience, because my dad came and he had never seen me perform before. When my mother, Eva, was alive she always came to my shows. My parents had a very acrimonious divorce and Eva was shocking. She would say "Ahh so you going to see your father" in a disapproving voice, "sniff sniff". I felt disloyal, although I shouldn't have. Though I miss my mother terribly, it has made it easier with my father. The great moment came at last, when my dad, stepmother and their children - seven Faithfulls in all sat in the audience. He's quite old now and looks like a character in a Beckett play. I was so proud of him. He was stunned and transfixed. He loved it - one of his favourite songs in the world is "Falling in Love Again" which I performed. He's not the complimenting type but in my family when people are very pleased there isn't much to say. The evening was terribly important to me, at least he now knows that it hasn't all been just effing about. I think he believed that I had a lovely voice and was very musical - but I think he thought I'd thrown it away. However, I've turned into a very good performer and I don't think he knew how good. I was so proud of him, I saw him out of context - away from the commune he has lived in since I was born. It was lovely.

Then there was Australia. I have had this big love affair with the Australians since the mishap in the Sixties in Sydney - my coma from taking 150 barbiturates. There is this very intense bond because they saved my life. There were only three places in the world where they could have done that - Sydney, South Africa and probably America. Anywhere else and I would have been dead. I was pulled through by the spiritual and psychic force of people in Australia - it's really very bad manners to commit suicide in somebody else's country. It made me very fond of them and them very fond of me. Even now there is a special atmosphere.

After Sydney this time came the killer flight, Melbourne to London and 24 hours without a cigarette. In the hour stop-over in Bangkok I smoked almost enough to almost make me sick. Pathetic but I made it. When I arrived at Heathrow, I felt slightly weird and needed to rest but had to go and do a television show in Germany. I still hadn't caught up with myself the next night when I played Hamburg. I've thought about this a lot and asked why the accident happened. I fell over during the first song, "Looking up the moon", which is performed in a spotlight, I missed my step and fell into the front row and cracked my coccyx. I went backstage to recover and was given something for the pain but not something that would knock me out. I returned to the stage determined to finish the show. I had been working up this Noel Coward song as an encore which starts with the lines "Life is very rough and tumble for a humble diseuse" - which is rougher version of a chanteuse. I remember thinking, "Germans, I don't know if they will get it. They might not think this is very funny, but I do". They cracked up and immediately my cred shot up in Germany.

When I look back I can't believe how hard it was - especially getting into high heels every night. However, I learnt from my mother that if you're not pouring with blood and bones sticking out, to go back on, it's normally the best thing you can do. I thought about my mother a lot that night - that was how I knew what to do. I grew up on stories of when she was in the corps de ballet in Berlin. They would be dancing in rows with scimitars which are very sharp. She did not get on with Nijinsky's daughter and whether it was an accident or on purpose she ran her scimitar right down my mother's back. It was pouring with blood but she took no notice and still danced the whole show. I always feel close to my mother but that night I felt even closer. I always had approval from my parents - although they suffered because of me - but now I realise what a great training I had, especially about how to carry on in adversity. I can tap into something I'm not normally aware of. I was in a lot of agony over the next six months after that accident. Sitting down and getting up was particularly painful and all my back muscle ached but I didn't miss a performance.

In many ways it was all too hard. I told my manager that five nights a week was too much and that was why the accident happened. So the tour was lengthened to give me more rests. The ability to set limits and say "no" is something new for me. I'm never going to be good at it in my personal life but at least with my work I can say "I don't think this is a good idea". What's more, I've also learnt that I have stamina and can think very quickly in a crisis.

We finally finished at the Montreal Jazz Festival and I love Canada - I had lived there for five months when I had immigration problems into the States as an undesirable alien. If I ever make real money I will buy a log cabin there.

I really enjoyed being funny in the patter between the songs and making people laugh. Eva always said I should have been a comedienne. I came off course when I went on to narcotics because there is not much to laugh about then. I've made one new rule - "No more doom and gloom" especially after all those Brecht songs I'd been singing on tour. My new single with Alex James of Blur is a step in the right direction. Actually "no more gloom and doom" is a jolly good idea for my personal life too!n

Marianne Faithfull's new single, on EMI, is `Hang It On Your Heart', the theme to the television series `Born to Run'.

Comments