Posts Tagged ‘Rolling Stones’

Donald Cammell’s Performance at Powis Square

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

“Kick-starting the day with a five-skinner and a bath with two naked girls has never seemed so domestically routine.” – Mick Brown

Donald Cammell and his former lover Anita Pallenberg on the set of Performance

Donald Cammell’s film Performance, shot in the summer of 1968, was largely set in a large house in Notting Hill’s Powis Square. This was a part of Notting Hill, featuring large run-down peeling terraces and squares that, a decade earlier, Colin MacInnes in his London novel Absolute Beginners had called ‘Napoli’. It was also, at that time, that is the mid to late fifties, the main stomping ground of the notorious and disreputable landlord Peter Rachman.

The original white working class neighbourhood was having to uneasily mix with a burgeoning West Indian immigrant community which was increasing in size not least because Rachman was willing to house West Indians – albeit at his infamous price. Powis square was where Rachman bought his first major London property – a huge Victorian building – which he had subdivided to such a degree that approximately 1200 tenants eventually lived there.

81 Powis Square in 1968  (number 25 in the film)

81 Powis Square in 1968 (number 25 in the film)

The same property today

The slightly more salubrious-looking property today

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Notting Hill in the mid-fifties

By 1968 the down-at-heel ambience of the area had also attracted a further wave of inhabitants – hippies, who hung around the Portobello Road market and the nearby ‘head’ shops. In other words it was the perfect bohemian part of London in which Performance’s fictitious rock star Turner lived. Turner, of course, was played by Mick Jagger and the film, along with Nicholas Roeg, was directed by the rather dissolute and louche friend of the Rolling Stones Donald Cammell.

Jagger and Cammell 1968

Jagger and Cammell 1968

Cammell was born on 17th January 1934 in the Outlook Tower by the side of Edinburgh Castle to rather bohemian parents – his father, after losing the family fortune in the thirties (his family was part of the Cammell-Laird shipbuilding firm), was an editor of Art magazines. They must have encouraged the artistic side of his nature because by the age of 8 he was exhibiting at the Royal Drawing Society and won a scholarship to the Royal Academy at the age of 16. Good looking, gifted and self-assured, Cammell became a sought after society portrait painter before he was 20. He owned a studio in Chelsea’s Flood Street and was already enjoying a hectic party-lifestyle which in effect continued for two or three more decades.

Cammell painting Bronwen Pugh in 1957

Cammell painting Bronwen Pugh in 1957

In 1954 he had married the Greek actress Maria Andipa and in 1959 they had a son Amadis. A few months previously he and Maria had moved from Chelsea to Hampstead, apparently to be close to the actress Jill Ireland who was living there at the time and with whom Cammell was having an affair. One day soon after the move Maria returned from the doctor with what she thought was happy news that she was having a baby. Cammell completely crushed Maria by saying “I love you, and want to share my life with you, but I don’t want to share it with a child.” True to his word he left almost immediately for New York and cruelly would only see his son twice during the rest of his life.

Cammell's first wife Maria Andipa and son Amadis

Cammell's first wife Maria Andipa and son Amadis

It was in New York where Cammell met and lived with the model Deborah Dixon – he was to be with her for ten years and their relationship finished just before the filming of Performance, although she was a costume designer on the film. He had by now rejected painting society portraits and was now concentrating on work that had a Balthusian lolita-inspired influence (ie lots of young naked girls). While this helped him sate his notable sexual appetite (for much of his life he was irresistible to a good deal of the female sex and Dixon was seemingly happy with this and often shared his conquests) his artistic desires, at least in the form of painting, were waning.

Donald Cammell and his beautiful wife - the model Deborah Dixon

Donald Cammell and his beautiful wife - the model Deborah Dixon

Deborah Dixon 1964

Deborah Dixon 1964

Deborah Dixon 1962

Deborah Dixon 1962

He moved to Paris with Deborah where she continued to model and where he began to try his hand at writing screenplays. She was now a very successful international model and essentially Cammell lived off her money for some years. During this time he collaborated on a script which was eventually made into a bad thriller called The Touchables and subsequently another script which was turned into a very sixties caper movie in 1968 called Duffy (originally called Avec Avec) which starred Susannah York, James Fox and James Coburn. Although Duffy was a better film than The Touchables it was still very flawed and again unsuccessful at the box office and this encouraged Cammell to try and direct the next film himself.

Susannah York during the filming of Duffy

Susannah York during the filming of Duffy

On the poster it said "they try anything" - Monika Ringwald, Esther Anderson, Judy Huxtable and Kathy Simmonds

Monika Ringwald, Esther Anderson, Judy Huxtable and Kathy Simmonds - on the film poster it said 'they try anything'.

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Fox and Cammell on set at Lowndes Square, Knightsbridge where the interiors of the film were shot.

Filming started on Performance in July 1968, a few weeks after the death of Cammell’s father, and the production was later called by Marianne Faithful a ‘psycho-sexual lab’ and ‘a seething cauldron of diabolical ingredients: drugs, incestuous sexual relationships, role reversals, art and life all whipped together into a bitch’s brew’.

The old Harrovian and ex-Coldstream Guard officer James Fox was chosen to play Chas – a professional criminal on the run from his gangland boss Harry Flowers. Fox had recently grown his hair and become a bit of a hippy and had also become a close friend of Mick Jagger’s (for a short while Fox, Jagger, Faithfull and Fox’s partner Andee Cohen were essentially living a menage a quatre and Cammell later even hinted that Fox and Jagger had been lovers). Looking for a hiding place Chas finds himself at the dilapidated Powis Square house of the fading rock star Turner (played by Jagger). Chas announces soon after his arrival – “What a freak show! Druggies, beatniks, free love… a right piss-hole.” Living in the house with Turner were his two girlfriends Pherber, played by Anita Pallenberg then Keith Richards’ girlfriend, and Lucy, played by the 16 year old French waif Michele Breton.

After some sexually-ambiguous explorations with Turner, Pherber and Lucy in addition to a particularly huge mushroom trip Fox/Chas starts to feel more comfortable with staying at the rambling Powis Square house eventually undergoing a personality change and a metamorphis into the Jagger/Turner character. At the beginning of the film Chas says ‘I know who I am!’ by the end of the movie it’s certain that he doesn’t.

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Cammell managed within the film, and to the chagrin of Pallenberg who realised what he was doing, to recreate a menage a trois that had existed between himself, Deborah Dixon and Michele Breton the preceding year. The trio were often seen together in Paris in 1967 but Cammell and Dixon had initially met Breton on the beach in St Tropez in 1966 when she must have been 14 or just 15. Sandy Lieberson, the producer of Performance, described Breton as ‘someone who didn’t care who she slept with. A strange little creature, totally androgynous-looking – the way Donald liked them.’ ‘Everybody was sleeping with everybody’, Breton later remembered, ‘it was those times’.

Indeed the production became infamous for its sex on and off the camera – one person working on the production described it as ‘the most sexually charged film ever. Everyone was fucking everyone. And Donald was a class-A voyeur.’ To confuse everything Pallenberg had also been a former lover of Cammell’s and during the filming of Performance she admitted that she, Jagger and Breton had actually consummated the threesome sex scene in the film. The more graphic footage of which found its way to an erotic film festival in Amsterdam a few years later apparently winning a prize. Keith Richards who never appeared on set but through mutual acquaintances knew something was going on between his girlfriend and his best friend and was often seen during the production fuming in his Rolls-Royce outside or the in the pub down the road. Overlooking all this one imagines a joyous Donald Cammell rubbing his hands in glee.

Michele Breton and Mick Jagger

Michele Breton and Mick Jagger

Pallenberg and Jagger

Pallenberg and Jagger

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Jagger, Breton and Pallenberg

Frames from footage shot by Anita

Frames from footage shot by Anita and which appeared in the magazine OZ

Cammell was not particularly partial to drugs, although he smoked hash occasionally and had tried the odd LSD trip, but perhaps Performance was the first film that portrayed drug-taking that was also made by people who took drugs as a normal lifestyle choice. The drug-taking that went on during the filming of Performance was legendary. The art director John Clark said ‘you took one breath and you were stoned’ and a crew member on the production said ‘you want to get a fucking joint, they’re coming out of your earholes. You want a cup of tea, you’ve got no fuckin’ chance!’

Cocaine, yet to be the rock star’s drug of choice, wasn’t mentioned within the film but the characters all smoked hashish, took mushrooms (when Chas first arrives at Powis Square there is a shot of the mushrooms growing in a tray by the front door along with a couple of mars bars wittily referring to the Redlands’ drug bust the year before) and we also see heroin being injected, as a ‘vitamin shot’, by Anita Pallenberg.

Anita and Mick on set

Anita and Mick on set

Turner tells Chas at one point in the film “The only performance that makes it… that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness.” And the drugs and the psychotic atmosphere on the set seemingly took its toll on the main performers. A year after the completion of filming James Fox, while performing in Doctor in the House in Blackpool was persuaded to join a religious movement called the Navigators and left acting for ten years to become a Christian evangelist.

Anita Pallenberg started taking heroin seriously during the filming and subsequently became heavily addicted to the drug. She said ‘I think Performance was the end of the beautiful sixties – love and all that. That film marked the end for me.’ She continued to be a heavy user of heroin for ten years and eventually split from Richards at the end of the seventies.

Not a lot was known about Michele Breton especially after the film had finished. Cammell later said that she had smoked too much hash and was frequently under the influence of psychedelics. Breton herself said in 1995 ‘I was taking everything that was going. I was in a very bad shape, all fucked up.’ Soon after the completion of the movie Cammell eventually drove her to Paris letting her stay at his flat for a couple of days he then told her that he didn’t want to see her again.

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Mick Jagger, perhaps alone amongst the main protagonists, came out of the experience mentally intact. According to Marianne Faithful, who helped him gain enough courage to act in the film, ‘Mick came out of it splendidly…he didn’t have a drug problem and he didn’t have a nervous breakdown.’ It could be said that the Turner became the character that Jagger used to present himself to the world – androgynous, decadent and sinister.

Donald Cammell’s subsequent directing career after Performance never really took off. The major film studios avoided him from the first screening of the film which couldn’t have gone more badly. One Warner studio executive wife literally vomited on her husband’s shoes while another executive after watching the film said ‘Even the bathwater’s dirty.’ The film was only released, almost two years after its completion, in 1970.

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Joan Chen and Anne Heche in Wild Side

Joan Chen and Anne Heche in Wild Side

Cammell completed just three films in the next 25 years, Demon Seed with Julie Christie in 1975, White of the Eye in 1987 and Wild Side in 1995. The studio behind his last film refused to release Cammell’s version and released an exploitative cut to Cable TV.

A year later Cammell, after a life time suffering from bouts of depression, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. The myth is that Cammell aimed his bullet in such a way that he would be able to experience for several minutes what it was like to die. However according to the coroner he died pretty well instantly.

Keith Richards, who never forgave Cammell for letting Pallenberg and Jagger fuck on camera, once said of Performance ‘The best work Cammell ever did, except for shooting himself’.

Mick Jagger – Memo From Turner

DVD of Performance can be bought here and the soundtrack of the film from here.

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Brixton Prison and Mick Jagger

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

“Just groovin’ on, the same as usual” – Mick Jagger
Jagger, handcuffed and on the way to HMP Brixton

Jagger, handcuffed and on the way to HMP Brixton

On the evening of 29th June 1967 a relatively sober-suited Mick Jagger was taken handcuffed in a white police van to Brixton Gaol. Earlier that day in Chichester Judge Leslie Block had said to him “Michael Philip Jagger, you have pleaded guilty to possessing a highly dangerous and harmful drug (actually just four amphetamine tablets)…You will go to prison for three months”. According to the Daily Telegraph, “Jagger almost broke down and put his head in his hands as he was sentenced. He stumbled out of the dock almost in tears.”
brixton-handcuffed
Brixton Prison today

Brixton Prison today

A couple of months earlier, Mick Jagger, rather pretentiously it has to be said, told the Daily Mirror:
Teenagers are not screaming over pop music any more, they’re screaming for much deeper reasons. We are only serving as a means of giving them an outlet. Teenagers the world over are weary of being pushed around by half-witted politicians . . . they want to be free and have the right of expression, of thinking and living without any petty restrictions.
Weary teenagers

Teenagers weary of half-witted politicians or on a drug comedown - you decide.

More weary teenagers waiting outside court.

More weary teenagers waiting outside court.

It seemed that the great majority of young people at the time were particularly unconcerned about Jagger’s lot, indeed 85 per cent of 21 to 34 year olds thought the sentence was deserved, and 56% thought it should have been more severe. It was a survey result that had the slightly stoned and youthful sounding Pirate DJ John Peel on his show “The Perfumed Garden” bemoaning:

“It’s very sad that there are people that actually feel that way…anyway this is Donovan with a song dedicated to Mama Cass called ‘The Fat Angel…”

Pirate John Peel in 1967

Pirate John Peel in 1967

Not everyone was unconcerned, and William Rees-Mogg, the new-ish editor of the Times, wrote about ‘Mr Jagger’ in his famous editorial with the headline “WHO BREAKS A BUTTERFLY ON A WHEEL”. It’s worth noting that he Times in 1967 ( and pre-Murdoch) would have been seen by most people almost at one with the Establishment. The slightly misquoted line (it’s ‘upon’ not ‘on’) comes from Alexander Pope’s poem “Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot” and means putting too much effort into achieving something minor – the wheel meant a torture device over which someone was stretched over. Rees Mogg wrote that the case was “as mild a drug case as can ever have been brought before the courts”. It appeared that that the ‘establishment’ was almost turning in on itself over this matter.
William Rees-Mogg in 1967

William Rees-Mogg in 1967

Mick jagger, along with Keith Richards (who was sentenced at the same trial for 12 months) had ended up in court when, after a tip-off by the News Of The World, the police had infamously raided Richards’ house in Redlands in West Sussex. During the search they had found a small amount of drugs – but enough to arrest the relevant parties. However, a rumour quickly spread (one that is still heard today) that the police who raided the property found a naked Marianne Faithfull loosely wrapped in a large fur rug using a Mars Bar in a way that wouldn’t have placated her hunger. Marianne wrote about the incident in her autobiography:

The Mars Bar was a very effective piece of demonizing. Way out there. It was so overdone, with such malicious twisting of the facts. Mick retrieving a Mars Bar from my vagina, indeed! It was far too jaded for any of us even to have conveived of. It’s a dirty old man’s fantasy… a cop’s idea of what people do on acid!

Incidentally Marianne may noticed that in 2002 Mars decided to change their famous slogan “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play”. They replaced it with “Pleasure you can’t measure”. Mars, apparently, wanted to increase its treat appeal to the female market.

Jagger and Richards at Redlands in 1967

Jagger and Richards at Redlands in 1967

Marianne at Redlands, look closely at the newspaper headline.

Marianne at Redlands, look closely at the newspaper headline.

The police gave a sparse account of the raid at the initial proceedings. At the full trial at Chichester, however, last-minute witness statements were submitted by the police, mainly to suggest that Richards had known that Marianne Faithfull (during the court case she was anonymously known as Miss X) had smoked cannabis on the property. The police maintained that this ‘got rid of her inhibitions and embarrassment’. Detective Sergeant Stanley Cudmore, the senior CID officer involved in the raid wrote:

As we approached I heard loud strains of pop music. When I entered the room there was a television on but the pop music drowned the sound of the television. There were nine people, two of whom I thought were women. Jagger and a woman were sitting on a couch some distance away from the fire. The woman had wrapped around her a light-coloured fur rug which from time to time she let fall showing her nude body. Sitting on her left was Jagger, and I was of the opinion he was wearing make-up. Sitting on her right was a person I now know to be male but at the time I had thought was a woman. He had long fairish hair and was dressed in what would best be described as a pair of red and green silk ‘pyjamas’. I searched him and this was all he was wearing. I formed the opinion he too was wearing make-up. All the time I was in the house there was a strong, sweet, unusual smell in all rooms.

Mick Jagger, in the end, spent only one night at Brixton Prison although he purportedly wrote lyrics to the songs We Love You and 2000 Light Years From Home whilst there. It was apparently at Brixton when he heard from another inmate about the rumour about Marianne and the Mars Bar for the first time. On the morning of the 30th June 1967 he was released on £7000 bail, pending an appeal, and was picked up by a green Bentley which drove to Wormwood Scrubs where he picked up Keith Richards. They both subsequently had a celebratory pint in a pub off Fleet Street.

Jagger and Richards at Chichester 10th May 1967

Jagger and Richards at Chichester 10th May 1967

Marianne at Chichester 29th June

Marianne at Chichester 29th June

Outside the courthouse at Chichester

Outside the courthouse at Chichester

Mick Jagger at he Appeals Court 31st July 1967

Mick Jagger at he Appeals Court 31st July 1967

Marianne and her Mini outside the court 1st August

Marianne and her Mini outside the court 1st August

A month later on the 31st July the Appeals Court quashed both Jagger and Richard’s sentences. The Lord Chief Justice Parker told Jagger that “You are, whether you like it or not, the idol of a large number of the young in this country. Being in that position, you have very grave responsibilities.” The Lord Chief Justice also said that Judge Block should have warned the jury that there was only tenuous evidence that the girl, dressed only in a rug, smoked cannabis resin and that Mr Richards must have known about it.”

Later that day jagger was picked up by helicopter and whisked off to appear on a special edition of World In Action broadcast by Granada Television that evening. The helicopter wasn’t really needed but it was thought that it would look good ruffling Jagger’s long hair and loose fitting shirt. Jagger was joined on the programme, amongst others, by the Times editor William Rees-Mogg and the Bishop of Woolwich Dr John Robinson to discuss the great moral and cultural divide between the generations. The programme turned out to be rather limp and didn’t come to any particular interesting conclusion. However it did accelerate like a rocket the career of the researcher on the show – a young John Birt.

Jagger on his way to the World In Action show by helicopter.

Jagger on his way to the World In Action show by helicopter.

Mick Jagger on Granada's World In Action

Mick Jagger on Granada's World In Action

John Birt posing for the camera. The Frost/Nixon interview just a glint in his eye.

John Birt posing for the camera. The Frost/Nixon interview just a glint in his eye.

When asked at a press conference the same day how it felt to be free? Jagger said that it felt lovely to be sure of freedom…I’m not celebrating tonight. Just grooving on, the same as usual.” While Keith Richards put the Mars Bar Redlands myth straight by saying “The fur rug – yes. The Mars Bar no. We were out of Mars Bars.”
Rolling Stones performing in 1967

Rolling Stones performing in 1967

Jagger, now free as a butterfly.

Jagger, now free as a butterfly.

On the 18th August the Rolling Stones released We Love You which was considered a ‘thank you’ to their fans for their support. It actually features Lennon and McCartney on backing vocals. The Stones made a film to go with the song where they parodied the trial of Oscar Wilde. However the BBC thought it unsuitable and it was banned from Top Of The Pops.

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