Broken English (album)

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For other uses, see Broken English (disambiguation).
Broken English
Studio album by Marianne Faithfull
Released October 1979 (1979-10)
Recorded Matrix Studios, 1979
Genre Rock, new wave
Length 37:18
Label Island
Producer Mark Miller Mundy
Marianne Faithfull chronology
Broken English
Dangerous Acquaintances

Broken English is the seventh album by singer Marianne Faithfull. Released in late 1979, it is often cited as Faithfull's definitive recording; Faithfull herself describes it in her autobiography as "the masterpiece". The album contains some of her most famous songs, including the title track and "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan", and was notable for the controversy surrounding the final number "Why D'Ya Do It". It was included in the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[1] The iconic cover photograph and sleeve design are the work of Dennis Morris.[2]

Style and themes[edit]

Faithfull's immediately preceding albums, Dreamin' My Dreams and Faithless, had been in a relatively gentle folk or country and western style. Broken English was a radical departure, featuring a contemporary fusion of rock, punk, new wave and dance, with liberal use of synthesizers. After years of cigarette smoking, Faithfull's voice was in a lower register, far raspier, and had a more world-weary quality than in the past that matched the often raw emotions expressed in the newer songs.


Marianne Faithfull recounted how Mark Mundy was brought on as the album's producer: "I don't think I could have handled Broken English without a producer. You can't imagine what it was like. There I am with no respect at all within the music business. ... So I found somebody who wanted the break, and that was Mark Mundy. He wanted to be a record producer, and he had some great ideas."[3]

The album's title track took inspiration from terrorist figures of the time, particularly Ulrike Meinhof of the Baader-Meinhof group.[4] "Guilt" was informed by the Catholic upbringing of the singer and her composer Barry Reynolds.[4] "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan", originally performed by Dr Hook, is a melancholy tale of middle class housewife's disillusionment; Faithfull's version became something of an anthem[citation needed] and was used on the soundtracks to the films Montenegro (1981) and Thelma & Louise (1991). "What’s the Hurry?" was described by Faithfull as reflecting the everyday desperation of the habitual drug user.[4] Her cover of John Lennon’s "Working Class Hero" was recorded as a tribute to her own heroes such as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, and Lennon himself.[4]

The last track, the six-and-a-half-minute "Why'd Ya Do It?", is a caustic, graphic rant of a woman reacting to her lover's infidelity. The lyrics began with the man's point of view, relating the bitter tirade of his cheated-on lover. It was set to a grinding tune inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s recording of Bob Dylan’s "All Along the Watchtower". Poet and writer Heathcote Williams had originally conceived the lyrics as a piece for Tina Turner to record, but Faithfull succeeded in convincing him that Turner would never record such a number.[4] Its plethora of four-letter words and explicit references to oral sex caused controversy and led to a ban in Australia.[citation needed] Local pressings omitted the track and instead included a 'bonus' 7" single of the extended version of "Broken English" . The ban did not extend to import copies, and the song was also played unedited on the Government-funded Double Jay radio station and Brisbane community broadcaster 4ZZZ.[citation needed] It wasn't until 1988 when Island re-released the album in Australia that "Why D'Ya Do It" was finally included.

Release and aftermath[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars [5]
Robert Christgau A− [6]
Pitchfork Media (8.7/10)[7]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars [8]
Smash Hits 8/10[9]
Spin Alternative Record Guide (9/10) [10]

Faithfull notoriously performed the title track and "Guilt" on Saturday Night Live in February of 1980 where her voice cracked and she seemingly strained to even vocalize at times. This less-than-perfect performance, which some have called one of the worst on the live show, has been attributed to everything from her continuing drug use to her nervousness due to her former lover Mick Jagger making contact with her right before the performance.[citation needed] The show was hosted by Chevy Chase. In 1981, Marianne Faithfull was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for this album.

Broken English made #57 in the UK album charts and #82 in the US. "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" was released as a single simultaneously with the LP in October 1979. The title track was issued as a single in January 1980. Faithfull included five tracks from the album on her 1990 live recording Blazing Away: "Broken English", "Guilt", "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan", "Working Class Hero" and "Why D'Ya Do It". In 1996, "Witches' Song" was covered by Juliana Hatfield for the soundtrack of the film The Craft.

An extended remix of the title track (5:46) was released on 12" vinyl in 1979 and included as a bonus 7" with the Australian pressing. An unofficial remix produced by Baron von Luxxury led to the song being re-added to numerous DJ playlists, including BBC Radio 1, in early 2008.[citation needed]

2013 deluxe reissue[edit]

The deluxe reissue was released in a cardboard sleeve and features the original album remastered by Jared Hawkes with the first disc consisting only of the original album along with a 12 minute film directed by Derek Jarman. The film was designed to be shown in theaters and had never been released for home video before.

The second disc features the original mix of the album which, in some cases, sound quite a bit different and, in the case of "Why'd Ya Do It" runs nearly two minutes longer than the album version. Supplemented by single edits, 7, 12 inch remixes and Faithful's re-recorded version of "Sister Morphine", which had previously appeared on a 12 inch release, the second disc with the original mix was Faithful's preferred mix of the album. The original mix receives its release for the very first time as part of this reissue.

The spoken word track "The Letter" (not to be confused with the song by The Box Tops and Joe Cocker) is not included as it was recorded after the album was completed even though it did appear in some countries on the b-side of the 12 inch remix for "Broken English" (the single also included "Sister Morphine").

The 24 page booklet includes photos of the various sleeves and album cover variations that appeared In different countries.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Broken English" (Marianne Faithfull, Barry Reynolds, Joe Mavety, Steve York, Terry Stannard) – 4:35
  2. "Witches' Song" (Faithfull, Reynolds, Mavety, York, Stannard) – 4:43
  3. "Brain Drain" (Ben Brierley) – 4:13
  4. "Guilt" (Reynolds) – 5:05
  5. "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" (Shel Silverstein) – 4:09
  6. "What's the Hurry" (Joe Mavety) – 3:05
  7. "Working Class Hero" (John Lennon) – 4:40
  8. "Why'd Ya Do It" (Heathcote Williams, Reynolds, Mavety, York, Stannard, Faithfull) – 6:45
    • Original Australian pressings omitted this track for a bonus 7" of the extended version of "Broken English". However, "Why'd Ya Do It" was included on the Australian re-issue of the album, which was re-released on Island in 1988.

Disc two of the deluxe edition[edit]

(Features the previously unreleased 'original album mix' with the songs in the same order as the 1979 release, plus 5 bonus tracks.)

  1. "Broken English (Original Mix)" – 4:46
  2. "Witches' Song (Original Mix)" – 5:02
  3. "Brain Drain (Original Mix)" – 4:09
  4. "Guilt (Original Mix)" – 5:09
  5. "The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan (Original Mix)" – 4:19
  6. "What's The Hurry (Original Mix)" – 3:20
  7. "Working Class Hero (Original Mix)" – 4:43
  8. "Why'd Ya Do It (Original Mix)" – 8:48
  9. "Sister Morphine (12" Version)" (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Faithfull) – 6:08
  10. "Broken English (7" Single Version)" – 3:04
  11. "Broken English (7" Remix Version)" – 3:04
  12. "Broken English (Long Version)" – 5:51
  13. "Why'd Ya Do It (12" Remix Version)" – 6:32




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  2. ^
  3. ^ Farber, Jim (June 1983). "I Got Here by the Skin of my Teeth". Record 2 (8): 1, 30. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Faithfull: An Autobiography, Marianne Faithfull (1994), Cooper Square Press
  5. ^ Floyd, John. "Broken English – Marianne Faithfull". Allmusic. Retrieved 17 March 2006. 
  6. ^ Christgau, Robert (31 December 1979). "Christgau's Consumer Guide: Marianne Faithfull: Broken English". The Village Voice. Retrieved 17 January 2012.  Relevant portion posted in a revised version at "Marianne Faithfull: Broken English > Consumer Guide Album". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
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  9. ^ Starr, Red. "Albums". Smash Hits (November 15–28, 1979): 31. 
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  11. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
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  18. ^ "Chart Stats - Marianne Faithfull - Broken English" (PHP). UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
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  23. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 1997 Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association. 
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  27. ^ "Les Albums Or". (in French). SNEP. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  • Marianne Faithfull with David Dalton (1994). Faithfull: An Autobiography

External links[edit]