What sort of cultural stuff did your parents introduce you to?
I got my interest in Lotte Lenya and the Brecht-Weill canon from my parents. And I love classical music—I got that from my parents. I love Cole Porter—that I got from my dad. And I had Oscar Wilde’s fairy stories read to me.
Can you remember the first performance you saw?
I don’t know. The first opera I went to see was Maria Callas singing Tosca. When I was 14, I went to see the Everly Brothers; that was really an experience for me. Just to see their faces together. It was such an incredible sight—they looked like lovers.
What were some of your early art experiences?
I went to the big Picasso retrospective at the Tate in the sixties, and I think I went to an Andy Warhol retrospective at the Tate in the sixties, too. My mother was very good at taking me to things like that. We lived in Reading, but we went on these cultural trips to London.
Who was your role model growing up in Reading?
Oscar Wilde. I don’t know why, but he was. Maybe because I grew up in Reading—you may have heard of The Ballad of Reading Gaol. I remember my mother taking me to Reading jail to see the cell that Oscar served in. I was very shocked that there wasn’t a plaque on Oscar ’s cell saying OSCAR WILDE SERVED HIS SENTENCE FOR HOMOSEXUALITY HERE. [Laughs.]
In your teens, what kind of art or literature made an impression on you?
One of my big moments was reading Candide. I liked a lot of pre-Raphaelite things. I loved William Blake’s drawings—I got that from my father. Salvador Dalí was also a big one. I went to see a big Surrealist exhibition with my mother at the Tate. I remember that Magritte painting with the fireplace with the train coming out of it. That was a very open age to see it. Surrealism has made a lifelong impression on me.
Did your taste in art change at all when you dated Mick Jagger?
Not really. But I did get very into an illustrator named Edmund Dulac. He used to illustrate fairy stories. I bought a lot of books by Dulac back then, and they’re probably very valuable now. But I couldn’t hang on to them.
Mick took them! [Laughs.]
Musically, what did Mick introduce you to?
Mick was a wonderful teacher. I got into the Motown canon, the blues. And when I met Andrew Oldham, I got into the Beatles and the Beach Boys. Andrew had this wonderful car, and he used to play the Four Seasons and a lot of Phil Spector.
I’m curious about what kind of culture besides music Mick was into.
Ballet and theater. We went to Covent Garden to see Nureyev. I was an actress then, and Mick came to see me in Three Sisters and Hamlet. I was playing Ophelia. We also went to see the notorious production of Edward Bond’s Saved where a baby was killed in a pram! [Laughs.] And we saw Glenda Jackson in Peter Brook’s production of Marat/Sade. That was the first time we’d ever seen Glenda. It was wonderful.
I’d love to know what your influences were during the dark seventies.
Where I fade out a bit! [Laughs.] I’m in my mother’s cottage taking a lot of drugs and drinking and listening to Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, and Hank Williams; by then I discovered country music.
Were you reading at all?
Well, yes, I was reading, but it was complete trash.
What sort of trash?
Oh, God, you wouldn’t even know. English historical romances that I’d buy at the train station on my way back to where my mother lived in Berkshire.
Let’s talk about what was influencing you during a slightly happier time, with the comeback record Broken English in the late seventies.
I really didn’t give a fuck! Actually, I did give a fuck, or I wouldn’t have made Broken English. I made Broken English just so I could say to myself, “Well, at least I did one thing that shows who I am.” But I do remember that I got the idea for one of the songs from the Baader-Meinhof.
What are you reading now?
Lots of stuff about Marie Antoinette. Just got a very nice book called Cash: An American Man, by Bill Miller. Philip Roth’s I Married a Communist. The Iliad. Oscar Wilde. And, of course, I had a fantastic time reading Bob Dylan’s Chronicles. I can’t wait for Chronicles 2.
Before the Poison