Money? Drugs? Trousers? What did Lily Allen and Mick Jagger discuss over dinner?
Posted by Rob Fitzpatrick on 7 January 2009 - 11:29am.
Here is the news. Lily Allen is not only blindingly attractive but she's extremely funny, quite posh, likes smoking fags, laughs like a madwoman and these days, rarely drinks anything more intoxicating than Coca-Cola. If I were 15 years younger, wealthier, two stone lighter and significantly more alluring than I actually am, I still wouldn't have a chance – and I find that strangely comforting.
We meet at the Ivy Club, the private members wing of the celeb-eatery mainstay. The premises are accessed through a magnificently over-the-top florists, right at the top of a long series of illuminated glass steps. If you wanted to make a film about decadent '70s glamour, then you'd be right at home. Lily meets me by the lift – she is a member and enjoys it here very much as the people in charge are very careful about who they invite to join and, crucially, "the fashion pack cocaine addicts haven't discovered it yet".
Lily Allen is 24 years old, and sometimes she really seems it. Some of her insights are still backlit by the first giddy flush of adulthood (religion – confusing and silly; war – bad; drugs – sometimes bad, sometimes not), that time where no one really challenges what you say because they're either your peers and they think exactly the same way, or they're not your peers and they don't want to disabuse you of the last tattered vestiges of your innocence. At other times, you get swept away by the impression that this person has seen and done and tasted and experienced an unimaginable amount more than most other people in their early twenties. Like many 24-year-olds, Allen has indulged in illegal substances, had a couple of dodgy relationships and worked in a record shop. Unlike most other 24-year-olds, she also enjoys a globally successful pop career, is Grammy nominated, DJs for "shitloads" of money at the sort of parties the rest of us only ever read about on the bus, and once recorded a folk album with an ex-member of Joe Strummer's last band. She became famous for all the right reasons and a few of the wrong ones, but the reason she's still here is because she's really good at it. A fact compounded by her new album, It's Not Me, It's You, which is genuinely wonderful. "I get slagged off for going to premieres and showbiz parties," she says, "but my mum's a film producer and my dad's an actor! Those parties are where my family are. It would be more weird if I didn't go, wouldn't it? I know I've been dealt very strange cards. But this is me. This is what I was born into."
My two favourite Lily Allen stories from the last 24 hours are the following: you were working with Damon Albarn and you accidentally flashed him. The other one is that you're organising a sports day to beat knife crime. Is it hard existing between the two absurdities of those stories?
I have no idea how I can be those two people. With the flashing, I was working with Damon in the studio but we didn't come up with anything. I was leaving and it was a bit embarrassing. He was saying he would burn off what we'd done and I was saying I'd work on this and that, but really we both just wanted it to be over. I was wearing this pink vintage shirt that only had three buttons on and when I stood up they all went at the same time. It was the angle I was sitting at, I'm sure. I've not worn it since. As for the sports day, Boris [Johnson] wants me to be an ambassador for youth opportunity. It's not really a sports day; it's more a day where, instead of gaining the respect of your peers by stabbing people, you gain it by...
Being good at the egg-and-spoon race?
No! By winning things – being the best at something. (Pause) It's not going to
solve the problem overnight.
"Him" on your new album deals with God. Have you found the Lord?
No. I'm confused by religion. I was brought up in a Catholic school and they told me gays were bad, adultery was bad and drugs were bad. At the same time, all my mum's friends were gay, my dad was having various affairs and there were drugs in the house when I was a kid – so it was a bit cruel. Why is Songs Of Praise always Christian? Where's the Hindu Songs Of Praise? The Islamic Songs Of Praise? We all pay our TV licence! I don't like Christianity much.
Where would you rank it in the world's leading religions?
Well, Hinduism is cool. I'll put them up near the top. But it's too dangerous for me to rank them. I'll get into serious trouble.
Have you made it up with Elton after the GQ awards?
We never fell out – that was such bullshit. We're friends! I told him to f*ck off, but I tell everyone to f*ck off all day long. He manages me, pretty much. Todd, my manager, works for his company, so it would be quite awkward if we fell out. I'd hate to fall out with him and still have to give him fifteen per cent of everything I earn.
Do you worry about the future of the music industry?
I do! I was having dinner with Mick Jagger the other night and I said to him, "I f*cking hate people like you!"
No, we were talking about the music industry and I told him it really irritates me that I'll never make anything like the amount of money they have and he said, "Well, when we started out there was no money either; then, in the '70s and '80s, there was this huge boom. But it's gone down again now."' But I often think, "I'm really famous and I sell a lot of records, why aren't I a multi-millionaire?" Don't sign a record deal – that's my advice. Do it yourself. And definitely don't sign a three-sixty deal! Actually, I want to start a management company called Seven-Twenty...
In The Fear you suggest that "everyone's at it" – ie, killer drugs – from "older politicians" to "young adolescents". At first it sounds bad, then you think, "Well, at least we know that older adolescents aren't at it too."
Oh well done! It just made the line scan, OK? The point is there's a lot of hypocrisy attached to drug culture – especially from the journalists who write about it as they're all drug addicts and alcoholics. The only story is that drugs are bad and they will kill you. You will become a prostitute or a rapist or a dealer. But that's not true. I know lots of people that take cocaine three nights a week and get up and go to work every day, no problem at all. But we never hear that side of the story. I have no statement to make, I just wish people wouldn't sensationalise this thing that just exists. Some people are bad at taking drugs. But some people are bad at driving and kill themselves and others that way. I don't take drugs. I used to. But I get very anxious around people who are on drugs, because it reminds me of being a kid. I can spot the signs of people being a bit gakked up very quickly. It terrifies me. That's why I took cocaine when I didn't even like it. I felt like a lonely child when everyone else was doing it and I wasn't.
What should people watch out for if they fear someone they know is getting "gakked up"?
Sniffing. A lot of smoking. Talking about themselves a lot in a loud voice. That's the one I used to suffer from a lot! But this record is not a manifesto. I just want people to listen to it. I want them to think, "Oh, she's not as sh!t as people think she is." [Sarcastically] I was going to call the album, Brillyallent. But I thought I was leaving myself open to too much criticism – "Not Brillyallent".
How are you getting with on your label's new owners, Terra Firma?
I read that about Damon's champagne! [Albarn poured scorn on EMI's new owners in Word Magazine 71; their sole contact with him had been to send a crate of booze.] I never even got the champagne. The only thing I get is emails saying, "Where's your f*cking album? We gave you £150,000 last year. Where is it?" I read a piece with Miles – my record company boss – in Music Week the other day, talking about me as his thing for "Quarter Four". It made me feel disgusting, like some cheap product. It's really sad for EMI. I hate Terra Firma. They're wankers and they don't know what they're doing. They will fail. They don't know how to run a creative business.
Have you noticed a change?
Yeah. I got £50,000 for my first album and I sold a lot of records. I worked really hard and was put up in nice hotels and treated well and went on to sell two-and-a-half million albums for EMI. So I expected the next time round for things to get better. But they got worse. I get emails asking if I could go to go to Paris for a week to work with some hot producer. I ask for a hotel and I get a two-star place in the eighth arrondissement on my own. I'm like, "Do you want me to get raped and killed?" [Laughing] Maybe that is what they want? Terror Murder! The annoying thing is, I know that twenty years ago I'd have been booked in at the Ritz with five grammes of cocaine on my table and ten bunches of flowers. Some new clothes. A chauffeur on twenty-four-hour call. Now I'm lucky to get an Oyster card. I'm not snobby, but if I have to go away for work, why can't it be nice for me when it's making you money? I make no money from selling records – obviously – but they're still arsey about hair and makeup! They don't understand anything. They have all these annoying people running the company who have no idea what it's all about. I look at Universal and see they're doing it well. So that's what I think of them. It's an uphill battle. I wish I could get dropped. But it won't happen. But it's not EMI that are the arseholes – it's Terra Firma. The people who work with me from EMI are brilliant.
What's your message to the world?
Stop killing each other. (Pause) And come to my sports day!
Lily Allen: 'I'm not pro-drugs'
After saying that taking drugs might not necessarily kill you, an enraged tabloid response has forced the singer to denounce the use of substances
Getting on their high horse about Lily Allen? It seems that everyone's at it. Following an interview with Word magazine, in which the pop star had the temerity to suggest that drugs might not instantly turn you into an crazed lunatic, the tabloids have enjoyed giving her a good kicking.
"Drugs won't kill you, says Lily" screamed the Daily Mail. "Misguided" ranted drugs charity Addaction. "Lily claims cocaine counts towards your five-a-day" screamed the ... OK, so we made that one up.
You'd think the original interview was some kind of debauched exchange. Actually, the wildest thing Allen said was probably: "The only [newspaper] story is that drugs are bad and they will kill you - I know lots of people that take cocaine three nights a week and get up and go to work every day, no problem. But we never hear that side of the story."
The tabloid furore has forced the singer to state that she's not pro-drugs at all. "At no point [during the Word interview] does [Lily] say that drugs are a good thing or that she condones drug use," reads the statement. It continues: "In fact, she says that 'I can spot the signs (of people on drugs) and it terrifies me' … Lily Allen would like to state unequivocally that she does not condone illegal drug use and has every sympathy with individuals and families whose lives have been blighted by drugs."
So there you go, Lily Allen doesn't suggest you sprinkle crack on your corn flakes after all. Join us next week when Lily apologies for her role in the credit crunch after she's spotting playing the 2p machines on Brighton pier.
The second article should be fucking obvious but I thought I would add it in anyway.