A rock 'n' roll history lesson

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As far as introductions with famous people go, “Do you want to fuck me?” is one you tend to hear less of in our PR-controlled age. Dennis Morris was the cherubic-faced in-house photographer at Island Records when he shot Marianne Faithfull for her comeback album Broken English in 1979. The photos above are from a forthcoming exhibition charting it’s making.

Inspired by post punk, the burgeoning electronica movement and the murderous exploits of the class-hating Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany, the album was an artistic if not commercial success, strangely affecting and shot through by her seductive drink-hardened growl of a voice. Some way past her late sixties Girl On A Motorcycle peak when she was squired by Mick Jagger, Faithfull was, by now, a junkie who’d been sleeping rough in St Anne’s Court, Soho. Morris takes up the story of how the session went.

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“Marianne arrived at 8.30 pm, her first words were ‘Do you know who I am? This will make you.’ We left the studio and headed to a nearby pub. I asked her what she’d like to drink. Making sure everyone in the bar could hear her not inconsiderable voice she said, “I am not some cheap hooker you know. It is going to cost you at least £200” (the barman looked at me and winked). “No problem” `I said.

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“After several drinks she declared, ‘I’m hungry, let’s eat.’ We headed for an Italian restaurant, sat down and she proceeded to order everything on the menu but only had a few nibbles. I asked for the bill. Marianne, it seemed, hadn’t been too keen on the food, she promptly turned over the table, stood up and shouted ‘don’t pay, the food was terrible.’ The whole restaurant sat in stunned silence. I paid the bill and we left.

“On the way back to the studio we bought a bag full of wine and plenty of cigarettes. When we arrived she headed straight for the changing room. I waited patiently for quite some time, and then she appeared, glowing like a diamond that had just been unearthed. I had the shot in my head, it was simple, the set was just one armchair and two lights; it was about her: the voice, the seductiveness. ‘Let’s do this’, I said. ‘Do you want to fuck me?’ she replied. ‘No’ I said. ‘You’ll be the first,’ came her reply.”

Marianne Faithfull: The making of Broken English is at Snap Galleries 8 Piccadilly Arcade London SW1Y 6NH www.snapgalleries.com from 11th of June to 31st of July 2010