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Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Sister Morphine"

Marianne Faithfull - Sister Morphine (1969)

Best I can tell, this is the original 1969 single version mentioned in the book.

Written by Faithfull, Richards and Jagger, at least according to the credits; but Keith doesn't play on this version, so I wonder if he really wrote it at all. Best I can figure it, on the Faithfull single, they were all three credited, but only Mick and Marianne really wrote it. Richards and Jagger were almost always credited together in those days, just like Lennon/McCartney. The single was pulled when the big wigs at Decca figured out that the song was about a man who was begging for relief as he lay dying in hospital from a car accident. The single died of course without support from the record company. Later, The Rolling Stones recorded the song for their 1971 classic album Sticky Fingers. Keith Richards played guitar on that version, and he and Jagger were the only credited songwriters on the album version. People claim that they were protective of royalties, others claim that they were trying to keep Faithfull's manager from getting any money, but payed Marianne on the sly. Richards was instrumental (according to Faithfull's autobiography as well as his own) in getting her the credit for the song that she deserved.

Musically the song is a organ heavy blues. Jagger is playing acoustic guitar, and Ry Cooder adds the slide guitar that makes it sound so country blues. The drums are really understated, (that's a Charlie Watts trademark) letting the rest of the instruments shine. Faithfull's voice here is unlike everything she was known for in the late 60s. She always sang quiet safe and melodic tunes. This would have really broken her out of that label had it ever really seen the light. The most crazy messed up couplet in the song: What am I doing in this place? Why does the doctor have no face?

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