The Stones’ Muse: Anita Pallenberg

June 15, 2017

Anita Pallenberg was an unusual woman. She is probably remembered most for her time in the ’60s and ’70s as the bad girl of rock ‘n’ roll. She attracted danger with a single tip of her feathered hat. She stole the hearts and minds of every man she met and became a muse to one of the most famous rock bands in the world- The Rolling Stones. Anita Pallenberg was a rock star, and she wouldn’t have wanted you to forget it.

At the age of 73 on the 13th June, it was announced that Anita Pallenberg had passed away. As I listened to the news, I instantly thought of that mysterious blonde haired young girl who was always smoking in candid photos of the ‘Stones. Anita was plucked from Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory, an actress and model, and planted in the home of ‘Stones founder Brian Jones in 1966. Together, they were destructive and abusive but their love was unquestionable. Brian began to dress like her and had even died his hair blonde to match. In ’67 the physical abuse began to be too much for Anita who was driven into the arms of band mate Keith Richards.

Keith spoke fondly of Anita in his autobiography Life, “I was fascinated by her from what I thought was a safe distance. I thought certainly that Brian had got very lucky. I could never figure out how he got his hands on her.”

“Anita, sexy fucking bitch.” He continued, “One of the prime women in the world.”

I just can’t be seen with you
It’s for your own sake

You’re better off anyway
It’s too dangerous baby 

-Rolling Stones “Can’t Be Seen”

This love triangle ended when Keith whisked Anita off during the night, leaving a confused Brian behind without so much as a note. Brian never forgave him for his betrayal up until his death in ’69. Though, they had managed to tolerate each other on tour.

With eccentric Anita around, the Stones’ music became more elaborate. She even sang on the song “Sympathy For The Devil”. The effect she had on the band was undeniable, even more so in Keith. Pre-Pallenberg, Keith was a shy, awkward guy that seemed to blend into Jagger’s shadow. Anita’s impeccable sense of style contributed to Keith’s look as it did Brian’s. Keith began to wear her clothes, develop a strut and birthed his iconic style.

Anita continued to act and appear on screen in Barbarella and Candy. Her arguably most iconic role was when she was cast with Mick Jagger for the 1970 film Performance. She starred as one third of Mick Jagger’s menage a trois with Michele Breton. The story involved graphic bedroom scenes that some perceived to be real. While Mick was getting steamy with Anita in the bath, Keith was across town writing “Gimme Shelter”.

Keith, feeling left out, got friendly with Mick’s girlfriend Marianne Faithful. It’s a wonder how these guys are still friends. Despite all this, Anita and Keith stayed together but began taking heavier drugs like heroin. Even whilst pregnant, Anita was still using. Anita had no desire to stop, but Keith did.

After their third child died of a cot death, Keith decided to leave Anita who had become “paranoid” and “reckless”. She was once caught with a large amount of drugs at the airport and was put in prison for her noisey lifestyle. Anita eventually got herself clean and later in life turned her hand to gardening. She also starred in a 2001 episode of Absolutely Fabulous with long time friend Marianne Faithfull. Marianne played an angel and, of course, Anita played the devil.

“When she was having a good time, she was so full of promise.” Marianne Faithfull once said of her, “She gave this incredible smile, which was quite frightening too, all those teeth. Like a wolf, like a cat that got the cream. If you were a man, it must have been very powerful. She was gorgeous because she was so beautifully dressed, always in the perfect costume.”

Anita Pallenberg was a crucial part of the Rolling Stones’ story and had inspired many of the Stones’ hits. Although she had a long battle with drug addiction and went further than Keith Richards would go, she had a sense of style and an attitude that would send men crazy (even Marlon Brando kidnapped her to seduce her with poetry). It’s just a shame that she had never written her own autobiography. Anita Pallenberg, thank you for the memories.

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