One of my favorite moments in rock ‘n’ roll comes after the first verse of Patti Smith’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger,” when Patti shouts out, “Lenny!” and Lenny Kaye takes over the vocal for the second verse.
Lenny was special guest at Tammy Faye Starlite’s Cabaret Marianne at Pangea last Thursday night—the third of her Thursday in October residency performances of her terrific Marianne Faithfull tribute–and he had plenty more moments chiming in on guitar and vocals on songs made famous by Faithfull and now infamous by Tammy Faye.
Lenny first joined Tammy Faye’s band (Faithfull’s actual collaborator Barry Reynolds on acoustic guitar, violinist Eszter Balint, guitarist Richard Feridun and pianist David Dunton) on Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe,” which Faithfull covered on her 1967 album Love in a Mist. No songwriting slouch himself, Kaye took a verse from Starlite on “Ghost Dance,” which he co-wrote with Smith and sings with her. Gracious as Tammy Faye was to give him the spot, she also, as Faithfull, seemed almost to scold Kaye in extolling Smith, who, she proclaimed repeatedly, “doesn’t take shit!”
But Lenny had to back off further when Tammy Faye, again as Faithfull, knowingly insisted that Kaye was one of any number of men who had sex with Smith—to put it more politely than she did. It should be added that Kaye, of course, denied it—though Tammy Faye would have none of it.
Tammy Faye always stays in character, more often than not scarily so. She was pissed off early on by her scan of Elvis Costello’s newly published memoir and its “slight” by leaving out one of the “l”‘s in Faithfull. She railed angrily at ex-Faithfull love Mick Jagger, lauding his late love L’Wren Scott for successfully getting under his skin by offing herself. She further warped reality with constant bickering with Reynolds, whose “Times Square,” co-written with and sung by Faithfull, provided a high point–and features one of my all-time favorite lyrics:
If alcohol could take me there.
I’d take a shot a minute
And be there by the hour.
But Cabaret Marianne is a Faithfull career retrospective. Tammy Faye/Marianne recalled an early tour of the U.K. with The Hollies and paramour Gene Pitney, whose “penne,” she reported, looking down at someone’s meal at a front table, “was not impressive.” Fast forwarding, she declared that Beautiful, the Broadway hit about Carole King and the Brill Building era, was too conceptually flawed to merit attendance.
“Why would anybody go see somebody pretend to be a singer who’s still alive?” she asked, Reynolds behind her clearly biting his tongue.