We’re delighted to see that Marianne Faithfull’s Broken English is getting the deluxe reissue treatment this week — it’s one of the great comeback records of all time, and also one that’s been somewhat overshadowed over the years by its creator’s oft-discussed personal life. We don’t have a great deal of use for rock ‘n’ roll mythology here at Flavorpill; it’s not that we’re anti-drug, but we’ve seen too many great musicians and artists killed by embracing the sex/drugs/rock ‘n’ roll cliché as if it were a prerequisite for credibility and/or creative fulfillment. It’s also frustrating when we see the personal lives of musicians overshadow their work, either because their lifestyle ultimately undermines their creative output, or because a slavering news media insists on focusing on the former at the expense of the latter. With that in mind, here’s a roundup of artists whose work we’d like to see rescued from the haze of their personal mythology.
Even now, Marianne Faithfull’s name is just as likely to evoke images of Mars bars and heroin amongst the chattering classes as it is her music. This is a great injustice, given that she’s been singing for 40 years and her best moments — most notably Broken English, but also her Kurt Weill records (and, of course, her star turn as God in Absolutely Fabulous) — have been way more interesting than her drug problems and her endlessly chronicled relationship with Mick Jagger.
Even in death, Winehouse’s mythology haunts the music industry — she was a drug-fucked Diana for the Internet age, a celebrity whose every travail was lived out on TMZ and lapped up gleefully by a leering, judgmental public. Lost in all this is the fact that she was also one of the great vocalists of our time — the author of at least one bona fide classic, and a songwriter who promised so much more than one album and an untimely death.
Likewise Pete Doherty, with the key difference that he’s still alive. It’s easy to lampoon The Libertines and the tidal wave of hype they spawned, but Up the Bracket was a killer record, and for a brief moment it seemed that the Doherty/Barât songwriting axis would be a genuinely great one. Then, of course, the whole thing degenerated into a drug-fueled soap opera, and Doherty spent the next decade as a living embodiment of how, despite what rock ‘n’ roll mythology will tell you, the level (and quality) of one’s creative output is generally inversely proportional to the level of one’s drug intake.
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