Thursday, January 23, 2014

Story Behind the Song: "Claudine" by The Rolling Stones

The 2011 reissue of Some Girls by the Rolling Stones included a bonus disc featuring 12 previously non-released tracks.

Some Girls Re-Issue (2011 Rolling Stones Records)
The first of these tracks is "Claudine," a blues shuffle written by Mick Jagger. Lyrically, it points an accusatory finger at French singer and actress Claudine Longet, who shot and killed her boyfriend in 1976.

Her boyfriend, Vladimir "Spider" Sabich, was an American Alpine Skier who had become a star during the 1968 Winter Olympics. After a day of skiing on March 21, 1976, he returned to the house he shared with Longet in Aspen, Colorado. As he stood in the bathroom while preparing to take a shower, he was suddenly shot by Longet. Despite being struck in the abdomen (usually a non-fatal wound area) he lost a large amount of blood. In the ambulance on the way to Aspen Valley Hospital he died, with Longet at his side.

Longet maintained to police that the gun went off accidentally as Spider was showing her how to use it. She also insisted that she and he had a cozy, warm and trouble free relationship. 

Police confiscated a sample of her blood and also her diary.

Cocaine was alleged to have been found in her system, and details in her diary allegedly contradicted what she had told the police about her and Spider's relationship. However, in a blow to the prosecution, the blood and diary were deemed inadmissible to the case because they were apprehended without a warrant.

Claudine Longet: Colours (1968 A&M)
Without this key evidence the prosecution was unable to build a strong case of murder. Subsequently, Longet was convicted of "criminally negligent homicide" - a misdemeanor - and ordered to pay a small fine and spend 30 days in jail. Her time was served at her own discretion, a move allowed by the judge, so that she would spend minimal time away from her children. (Most of her jail time was spent on weekends.) 

Longet was exasperated by the public because of the presumption that she was guilty. In addition, she and her defense attorney, Ron Austin, became involved during the trial and developed an open relationship. Eventually they became married, which they still are to this day. 

Claudine Longet had been previously married to crooner Andy Williams from 1961 until 1975. At her trial, he publicly supported her and her claims of innocence. He was often her ride to and from the courthouse proceedings, despite her new relationship with Austin.

So why did Mick Jagger write a song about Longet? One can only assume that it's because she was young and pretty and wet with mystery. 

The Stones have never been a band to shy away from scandal. Like other great song writers, the Stones cover the gamut as far as song topics go - think Bob Dylan's "Joey" or "Hurricane." 

Longet is the perfect subject for a song. Scarred, broken, and clinging to love, she was a recipient of circumstance. If the police hadn't marred the crime scene, she might not have gotten away with murder.  

Some girls get the shirt off my back, And leave me with a lethal dose...