Faithful After All These Years


By Mark Howell


Barry Miles, the British-born biographer of American Beat writers Jack “On the Road” Kerouac, Allen “Howl” Ginsberg and most recently of William “Naked Lunch” Burroughs has finally told us why we Cambridge boys back in the mid-1960s never got to romance pop-singer Marianne (“Come My Way”) Faithfull with whom we were all in love.


John Dunbar, who discovered Marianne, was a student at Churchill College in in Cambridge, while yours truly and my Trinity College roommate Julian, Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, were condemned to hang out with the likes of William Pryor (a Samuel Beckett-obsessed fellow who’d end up writing a book about his life-long heroin addiction) while blessed with the occasional whiff of Syd (Pink Floyd) Barrett floating about the campus withhis guitar.



Marianne was a schoolgirl living with her parents in Reading — her mother was related to Leopold Sacher-Masoch, for whom masochism was named— and had taken to singing folk songs in local cafés and clubs.



One day on a whim, at the age of 18, she caught the train to Cambridge. John Dunbar just happened to be at the station for no particular reason and simply picked the pretty girl up on the platform. He boldly invited Marianne to his digs in London, which happened to be in the home of a surgeon named Dr. Asher, who happened to be the father of a new young TV personality, Jane Asher, and her brother, Peter Asher, who was Dunbar’s best friend and who, along with his singing partner, Gordon Waller, also also had rooms in the house. So did a new guest, Peter’s (and Jane’s) new friend, Beatle Paul McCartney.



John Dunbar encouraged Marianne in her singing, although he’d spend most of his vacation days (“Cambridge is a place in which to recover from London,” he told the newspapers) in the company of his other best friend, Barry Miles, who’d opened a hip new West End bookstore called Indica.



Dunbar later confessed that he was quite shy with Marianne at the outset of their affair (“No Sex Please, We’re British” declared that other West End at the time), and she was with him, later calling him “the great unrequited love of my life.”



The real action in Dunbar’s life was at Miles’ bookstore/gallery, where soon enough John Lennon would meet Yoko Ono at an art exhibition there — and Marianne would be introduced to Mick Jagger and Keith Richard, who then wrote “As Time Goes” for the ingénue singer. The rest is history (or Mars Bar, if you truly know your Sixties history).


Marianne had a baby boy, Nicholas, by Dunbar who was essentially raised by his father. That whole London scene ended up being totally wrecked by heroin addiction: For John and Yoko, for Keith Richard and for many others. Marianne took half her life getting off it.



Meanwhile, between West End acting gigs and her late-in-life “Broken English” hit album, she became essentially homeless for years, living on top of a wall in Covent Garden. One of her more recent boyfriends jumped out of the window of a hotel room they shared and was killed. But she insists she’s clean these days and we hear she’s become a supportive friend of her former boyfriend, Jagger, in the throes of his recent bereavement.



Meanwhile, Jane Asher long ago split up with Paul, married cartoonist Gerald Scarfe (illustrator of Hunter Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”) and is doing well with her design business. Dunbar is making movies these days and Miles continues to write non-fiction.



Question: Which two people do not belong in the following list, and why not?



Adolph Hitler * Joseph Stalin * John F. Kennedy * Billy Graham * Richard Nixon * Harry Truman * Vladimir Putin * Jeffrey Bezos * Mark Zuckerberg * Bill Gates * Barack Obama * and You?



Answer: All of these people were Time Magazine’s Man of the Year except for Billy Graham and Bill Gates. (Hitler was featured in 1938 and “You” was featured in 2006.)