Has there ever been such a radical overhaul of a fitful, dismantled career as Broken English? By the late 1970s Marianne Faithfull had just completed a disastrous tour of Ireland’s ballrooms hawking a country and western album and nostalgic retreads of her 1960s pop star heyday. She was a self-Has there ever been such a radical overhaul of a fitful, dismantled career as Broken English?
By the late 1970s Marianne Faithfull had just completed a disastrous tour of Ireland’s ballrooms hawking a country and western album and nostalgic retreads of her 1960s pop star heyday. She was a self-destructive shell of her former self, a one-time “dolly bird” pop star who had split up with Mick Jagger, lost custody of her son to her former husband, attempted suicide, lapsed into heroin addiction and spent two years living rough on the streets of London’s Soho.
In truth, punk rock saved not only Faithfull’s career but also her life. Musically, Broken English doesn’t necessarily adhere to punk rock’s typical tropes, but the movement’s attitude seeps through pretty much every song here.
Originally released in 1979, Broken English is reissued here in a bountiful “Deluxe Edition” that includes the original album version, the much sought after “rock” mix of the album, bonus tracks, and a short film by Derek Jarman featuring promo clips for the title track, Witches Song and The Ballad of Lucy Jordon.
Broken English would go down as the record that fractured Faithfull’s connections with the ’60s; that would define her in the public consciousness as a force to be reckoned with; and would be a primary example (alongside Patti Smith) of how a white female rock star could use music and words as a psychologically cathartic scraping tool.
Hence the centrepiece track, Why D’ya Do It?, which details her feelings regarding an unfaithful lover in the kind of language you won’t hear on radio, day or night. Guilt, meanwhile, is ravaged, Catholic, blue-eyed soul, tinged with the type of icy dub figures that Grace Jones would eventually forge a career out of.
In keeping with Faithfull’s own worldview, then, the album comes across as the work of someone who has simply nothing to gain by sugaring an exceedingly bitter pill. mariannefaithfull.org.
Download:Broken English, The Ballad of Lucy Jordon, Why D’ya Do It? Sister Morphine