Corgan's now a Faithfull friend


March 21, 2001




Raspy-voiced rock icon Marianne Faithfull has always had great taste in collaborators, starting with the Rolling Stones and "As Tears Go By" in 1964.

Now the British singer-songwriter can add a name to her list of famous co-conspirators: Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan.

"I went to see the Pumpkins in Dublin on their last tour," Faithfull said. "I loved the show--I thought it was fantastic and they were all good--but I really thought Billy was an incredible performer. So I went backstage and mentioned I was making a record, and I'd like to write some songs with him. He must have liked me, and I liked him, so we started the last time I was in Los Angeles, about a month ago."

The Great Pumpkin hasn't been idle since his band played its much-ballyhooed farewell gig at Metro in December. In addition to working with Faithfull, Corgan has reportedly teamed with the British dance band New Order to produce its first new album since 1993.

Corgan will make his first post-Pumpkins appearance Thursday with Faithfull at the Third Waltz, which benefits the Neon Street Shelter for homeless teens, at Metro, 3730 N. Clark.

Also on the Third Waltz bill are Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Gary Louris of the Jayhawks, Alejandro Escovedo, Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, David Amran, Sonia Dada and Jon Langford.

The annual charity concert was organized by Chicago bluesman Nicholas Tremulis and his manager Sharyl Holtzman. Faithfull and Tremulis both recorded for Island Records in the early '80s, and the English singer readily volunteered when she was approached by her former labelmate. Corgan famously performed with his father at the first Waltz benefit in 1999.

"It is a good cause, and I'm always pleased to be asked," Faithfull said of the Chicago benefit. "I'd like to help more, but I'm not asked to do things much. I'm really not really in the rock world; I'm sort of outside of it."

Indeed, the chanteuse is famous for chameleonlike reinventions through a career that has spanned five decades. Her initial pop hits in the mid-'60s gave way to a darker sound with 1969's "Sister Morphine" (a song she co-wrote with ex-boyfriend Mick Jagger) and then to a hard-edged punk style in the late '70s via her comeback album, "Broken English."

Most recently, Faithfull has toured in the cabaret act "An Evening in the Weimar Republic" and released an album of understated torch songs, "Vagabond Ways" (1999). For that disc, she enlisted the aid of British colleagues Roger Waters and Elton John.

Now she says she's ready to crank up the volume again--"I'm a rock star!" she insists. To that end, she is working not only with Corgan, but also with fellow Gen X heroes Beck, Damon Albarn of Blur and Evan Dando of the Lemonheads.

"The people I'm working with and the way we're working and the sort of mutual respect [we have]--I can't imagine doing it with people my own age," Faithfull said. "Roger Waters is a friend of mine, and although we didn't write [`Vagabond Ways'] together, he did sort of go through his archives and find it and let me sing it. But it's very much harder to go to people from my own time--they're too busy and this sort of thing.

"Billy sort of reminds me of Roger, and I like that--that incredibly intense sort of thinking about work all the time and being so determined to get it right. Contrary to what people think, I'm no Stones expert, but I can tell you that Keith kind of thinks about music all the time, too; it's not all gone.

"I call these people `lifers.' I'm one, too, and all the people I'm working with on this record are as well."

Though Faithfull does not have a record deal, she's optimistic that her young collaborators will help attract label interest, and she plans to tour with a full rock band. "I know the fans would like it," she said. "I do check the bulletin boards on AOL to see what my fans think, and they're really great--all 200 of them."

As for what she and Corgan will perform Thursday night, Faithfull hopes to duet on Bob Dylan's "You've Gotta Serve Somebody" and possibly the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood." "But that's subject to star approval," she said. "Billy might have a better idea."