Tales from the Arrowsmith Archives. My Dangerous Acquaintance, Marianne Faithful
The lens of Clive Arrowsmith has seen it all. He is a photographic legend and something of a fashion troubadour. We continue our journey into the Arrowsmith Archives with Clive’s recollection of the first time he met the enigmatic Marianne Faithful. “It was at the studios of the iconic music show Ready, Steady, Go! where she’d gone to sing Ruby Tuesday…”
Words and Photography CLIVE ARROWSMITH
I met her in the Green Room after her performance. I said hello and talked to her and she seemed so demure, beautiful and quiet. I said “I would really like to take some pictures of you as I am a photographer” (as well as being the graphics guy on Ready, Steady, Go!). I booked a tiny studio in Holborn and took the portrait below. As I look back on it there was a sort of future sadness in her eyes, she seemed so open and vulnerable and I wondered how she would cope with the fierce and unrelenting rock and roll world that she was now a part of. She went on to symbolise the swinging sixties and became so synonymous with that era.
We lost track of each other for a while and then Pierre Laroche (Bowie’s make up artist who did the Aladdinsane album cover and who also worked with the Rolling Stones) reintroduced me to Marianne in the mid-70s when I started working with him. Pierre rang me and said “Clive darling, I’m having a bijou party and I’ve invited Marianne, Micheal Roberts, Ossie Clark and Micky Finn to my flat and I want you to come, it’s essential. As I know you always carry a camera, to celebrate my birthday.”
"Looking at this picture now, it was the best of times and the worst of times."
Pierre prepared a gorgeous buffet as only a Frenchman could. His boyfriend who was painted white from head to foot and walked around in diamond encrusted heels, crown and a codpiece and who served us drinks and canapés. As he only spoke very camp French and I only spoke very camp English our communication was very fun as he was adorable but it was somewhat limited. When I asked Pierre his name, Pierre said ‘Darling please call him Mata Hari”. Marianne came looking stunning, it was one of those evenings where she seemed to be completely herself and happy and we all had the most wonderful time together, cruising on champagne and various substances (which I now strenuously avoid having been sober for 26 years). Looking at this picture now, it was the best of times and the worst of times, in that Micky Finn, Pierre and Ossie Clark are no longer with us, in fact Ossie fell asleep immediately after this picture was taken. We all got very laid back and baked that night.
After the party, Marianne and I spoke a few times and then I lost touch with Marianne again. Then my agent called me in 1980 and said “Marianne Faithful wants you to do her new album sleeve” I was surprised and concerned that she was okay as I had read that she had really struggled with heroin addiction. As she had just had a huge success with Broken English my agent reassured me that she would come to the studio for the shoot. She arrived in full make up, with perfectly coiffed hair and wearing a twin set and pearls. I was really shocked and thought she looked like the aristocratic English beauty Lady Antonia Fraser and thought to myself ‘this does not look very rock and roll”.
"The 30 second wait for the polaroid to develop was the longest 30 seconds of my life, while everyone tensely waited around the studio for Mariannes reaction."
I turned to my assistant and said ‘Get a big bath towel and two large bottles of Perrier water” as I started to light Marianne as she was in aristo mode. I said to her Marianne ‘What is the album called” and she said ‘Dangerous Acquaintances’ to which I said ‘What, it looks more like the cover of Country Life”. She looked at me with a blank and slightly disappointed expression as obviously she had gone to a lot of trouble with her hair and make up and had been in the salon for at least three hours preparing for the shoot. I asked the stylist to take Marianne to the dressing room and change her into just a plain shirt. When she came back I sat her in the chair and wrapped her in a huge bath towel and said “Look Marianne, I want you to trust me, please close your eyes” I then nervously poured a large bottle of Perrier all over her head. Through the spluttering cascade of Perrier water she said ‘You bastard”, I said ‘No, wait, trust me, don’t get angry”. I nervously dabbed her down with the towel and dried her of a bit and shot a really quick black and white polaroid to give her a sense of what I was trying to do. The 30 second wait for the polaroid to develop was the longest 30 seconds of my life, while everyone tensely waited around the studio for Marianne’s reaction. I showed her the polaroid and she looked at it, didn’t say anything for a few moments whilst straggling her hands through her damp hair. Eventually, she smiled and said “Oh Darling I love it” and I said, ‘I want the dramatic look you were giving when I poured the water over your head” we carried on shooting and eventually got the album cover. To this day it is one of my favourite albums by her.
I thought that the water pouring experience was quite traumatic for Marianne and we both laughed as we both got absorbed in looking at the polaroids. I thought it was a really great look for her album cover as it conveyed a certain edge in comparison to the way she had arrived at the studio. I was so delighted as I had always adored her and her work. She was not a normal beauty, she was so beautiful that it was genuinely extraordinary and despite her struggles, she still managed to be so creative and soulful. She has a voice that moved so many people in so many different ways.
The next day I spoke to her on the phone to say I had all the contact sheets. She said she was going to the country for a rest at a spa. She said come and see me and bring the contacts so we can go through them. I said ‘I will bring the contacts and a couple of prints with me” and she then said, “Oh Clive can you also bring some champagne”. I drove into the Surrey countryside in my black Lotus Elan wearing a full length leather coat, with the contacts, prints and champagne and drove up the drive of the spa. I stuffed each bottle of champagne upside down, down each arm of my coat as I knew alcohol was contraband. I must have looked very strange and misshapen when I went to the reception and asked for Marianne.
I was shown into her suite and the first thing she said in a slightly desperate voice was “Clive did you bring the champagne?” “Yes”, I said as I extracted it with some difficulty from my frozen armpits inside my overcoat. We drank a bottle out of plastic cups and as the bubbles and some stimulants she had kicked in, we viewed the contacts and chose the album cover. We talked and laughed and then walked hand in hand in the spa grounds and surrounding countryside. I felt for a moment that it was almost romantic (at least from my side), this illusion was cruelly shattered when a farmer with a shot gun under his arm said “Get off my land, I suppose you are from that spa place”. We stumbled back and finished off the champagne and I said a wistful goodbye. I drove back to London still a little the worse for wear, into the oncoming night. Having been to preoccupied to have pee when I was with Marianne, I urgently pulled off the road at Barnes Common to relieve myself in bush. As I was doing this a flash light came from me behind me and a voice said. “Excuse me Sir, is that your car parked at an angle on the pavement” (with the door wide open it has to be said). ‘Yes’ I said hastily adjusting my dress and I apologising for desperately needing a pee. The policeman walked me back to the car and said “Have you been drinking, Sir” I said, “I have had a glass of champagne”. “Well drive carefully” he said, I then drove back to Kensington greatly relieved.