Penthouse Serenade


What a lovely vision of domestic bliss, and, even more romantically, sky high city living. Whatever images the word penthouse gives you – be it raunchy porn or top dollar real estate – that is not this song. This being Marianne Faithfull, the grande dame of all things bohemian, what I picture is of course a garret of a kind that Manhattan doesn’t offer anymore. It’s a walk-up in a war-era brownstone, nothing like a playground of the rich. This being Marianne Faithfull, there’s probably cartons of cigarettes, unfinished paintings, a syringe or two in the kitchen sink. It’s a vision of love and squalor. Catnip for those of us who, as with every generation, believes that the previous generation’s artists were better for having had a more authentic squalor, and hence more authentic love, unshmeered by gentrification, hipsters and dilettantes. A fallacy, of course; today’s icon was yesterday’s dilettante. Still, the fantasy persists that bygone squalid rooms and broken hearts were somehow better.

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