Anita Pallenberg, May 1972
In the Rialto Theatre, Montreux, with only their technicians and a TV crew for company, the Rolling Stones were rehearsing for the Exile on Main St tour. It was May 1972, and the first date in Canada was a fortnight away. The small theatre on the shore of Lac Leman was the kind of setting that always showed them to best advantage, far from the stadiums in which they became a rock and roll circus act. The rhythm section locked in as played “Tumbling Dice”, “Shake Your Hips” and various boogie jams. In those surroundings even a sceptic (which I was) could have listened to them all night.
Among their entourage was Anita Pallenberg, the girlfriend of Keith Richards, with their three-year-old son, Marlon, a little blond-haired bundle of energy who wandered freely around the theatre. The previous month Pallenberg had given birth to their second child, a daughter they named Dandelion. It was as if a scene from Nellecôte, the villa above Villefranche-sur-Mer where they lived and where much of the album was recorded, had been transferred 500 kilometres north. If Pallenberg was the prototype rock chick, then Marlon was the prototype rock and roll child, and I remember wondering how things would work out for him.
I’m pretty sure they were in Montreux through the good offices of Claude Nobs, the well connected director of the jazz festival. Nobs’ villa in the hills above the town was a place he loved to take musicians, and they loved being there, partly because his vast record collection was matched by an array of cutting-edge hifi equipment.
BBC2’s The Old Grey Whistle Test was preparing a Stones special, which is why I was there. It was, I think, my last contribution as presenter of the OGWT before handing over, with considerable relief, to Bob Harris. Anyway, it was my good luck to get a rare chance to see the Stones in such an environment, and to spend a bit of time during those days with Ian Stewart, their invaluable sixth member. When the American tour opened in Vancouver a couple of weeks later, the mood was much less laid-back: hundreds of ticketless fans tried to smash their way into the Pacific Coliseum, and 61 policemen were injured in the fray.
The obituaries of Anita Pallenberg are in this morning’s papers, rehearsing all the famous stories from the glory years. She had surprised herself by living beyond 40. And Marlon made it through, too.
I always thought that the influence of both Anita and Marianne had a beneficial effect on both Mick and Keith; they were very attractive, they were well educated and both showed an awareness of arts and culture. They seemed to broaden Mick and Keith’s outlook, this possibly influenced their songwriting after 1967.
Unfortunately, because of the continual blizzard of Stones books, its unlikely that their influence will ever be fully understood. At Leonard Cohen’s lat show at the Albert Hall a few years back, I saw Anita sitting two fronts ahead of me. I would like to have asked her if she was writing a book about her life, and in particular, her interaction with the Stones. I didn’t do so because I thought it would be the height of bad manners. I regret that now.
‘In her later years, she thought of writing an autobiography, but gave up, protesting that “publishers want to hear only about the Stones”’ according to Alexis Petridis
I met AP very briefly at the Sex Pistols reunion gig in Finsbury Park in 1996. She was a very striking presence. It was not just her look but the voice – strong and very resonant. You minded what she said… I met her again 10 years later in Soho at a double-bill of Performance and the BBC Arena documentary Punk and the Pistols which I directed. I think the idea in the mind of the programmer was that the Arena showed a perverse and dark underbelly to the London which spawned punk thus bearing comparison with some of the undercurrents in Performance. I was not going to argue with such a flattering comparison, and then to cap it all Anita Pallenberg turns up at the screening out of the blue. We had a brief chat and one of her entourage was instructed to take a photo of us both. Before I could protest another of her young and boisterous entourage placed an SS officer’s peaked cap on my head and the photograph was taken. Anita then instructed the court photographer to take my address and send me the photograph. I never did receive it but it is not everyone who has an AP anecdote to tell – even if briefly I became some sort of clown in that hat, a parody of the parody – see Guy Peellaert’s depiction of the Stones as Nazi officer class…