Marianne Faithfull’s definitive album ‘Broken English’ is reissued in this luxury package which includes the album version released in 1979, the original ‘lost’ band sessions recording, a mouth-watering selection of bonus tracks and the Derek Jarman directed short film of ‘Witches Song’, ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan’ and ‘Broken English’.
On its release in late ‘79 ‘Broken English’ was an instant critical and commercial success bringing Marianne a new image, an international following, a Grammy nomination and the confidence to record more of her own compositions.
The beautiful blonde muse, the wistful teenager who whispered of tears going by, was reborn.
The Marianne who roared out of the traps on ‘Broken English’ was a different animal altogether: wild, and feral, with a voice ravaged by experience and betrayal. There have been few comebacks as startling as this, few records as unexpected as this..."I thought I was going to die, that this was my last chance to make a record. It’s this sense, that fucking hell, before I die, I’m going to show you bastards who I am."
In his original Rolling Stone review of the album, Greil Marcus called Marianne’s album 'a perfectly intentional, controlled, unique statement about fury, defeat and rancour. It isn’t anything we’ve heard before from anyone. As far as Faithfull goes, there is a gutsiness here, a sense of craft and a disruptive intelligence that nothing in her old records remotely suggested. ‘Broken English’ is a triumph'.
Looking back, Mojo called the album an 'emotional fireball' Marianne had been to Hell and back, and knew the value of life. ‘Broken English’ has the songs to prove it. Unsurprisingly Marianne said that making the album was 'sort of like therapy' and undoubtedly with ‘Broken English’, Marianne Faithfull was finally able to abandon the past and look forward to the future.
With much of the material created on the road in 1978, producer Mark Miller Mundy realised the potential of Marianne and her band, paying for them to record some demos that would lead to Marianne’s creative rebirth. Island Records’ Chris Blackwell was captivated by the demos of ‘Broken English’ and ‘Why D’ya Do It?’ and, with Miller Mundy at the helm, the album was recorded over a three week period at Matrix studios in London resulting in the original ‘lost’ band sessions recording which have remained in the Island vault until now.
With the record mixed and all but finished Miller Mundy and Marianne decided to give the album a more experimental new-wave sound, and so it was agreed that Steve Winwood would lay down keyboards and synthesisers, and the album was remixed highlighting his contribution. It was this production that was released in 1979.
The songs on ‘Broken English’ even if not literally autobiographical, are clearly rooted in Marianne’s own experiences: ‘Broken English’ itself came from a book on the Baader-Meinhof terrorists, and had real currency at a time when bombs were exploding all over the world, whether set off by the IRA, Basque separatists or the Red Brigade. For Marianne, ‘Witches Song’ was 'my version of the sisterhood' my ode to the wild, pagan women I know and have always had around me".
Marianne and then-husband Ben Brierly had befriended the songwriter Tim Hardin and the resultant Brierly/Hardin collaboration on ‘Broken English’ was the pounding ‘Brain Drain’.
‘Guilt’ was Barry Reynolds’s song about addiction and Marianne’s catholic education but if ‘Guilt’ was about addiction, Maverty’s ‘What’s the Hurry?’ was about the junkie’s endless need to score.
Critics expressed surprise at Marianne recording Lennon’s ‘Working Class Hero’, but she justifies her choice declaring "I wasn’t working class, but we were poor and this process he describes, it happens to everybody". For Marianne, Shel Silverstein’s ‘Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’ 'is me if my life had taken a different turn" and on hearing ‘Why D’Ya Do It’ Marianne immediately recognised that the shocking words echoed her own 'heartrending turmoil and seething jealousy'.
Even today, the lyrics still shock, and at the time, EMI initially refused to distribute the album, and the song was banned in Australia, where the album was pressed without ‘Why D’Ya Do It’.
Long before pop videos became a de-rigueur promotional tool, Marianne commissioned the avant-garde film-maker Derek Jarman to direct a short film comprised of three songs: ‘Witches Song’, ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan’ and ‘Broken English’ itself. The film was initially shown in cinemas before the main feature, and it gets its first commercial release on this set.
The short film is full of indelible images of dark pagan ritual, sex, romance, loneliness, violence and mystery. Infused with the sort of punk aesthetic Jarman brought to ‘Jubilee’, the film was a bold original statement that perfectly matched the world Marianne had created in her songs. It is also held to be one of the finest pop videos Jarman ever made.
Also included is Marianne’s co-write with the Rolling Stones ‘Sister Morphine’, a song she had first released back in 1969 but re-recorded for a special Island 20th Anniversary 7" and 12" release of ‘Broken English’ in 1982.
Hearing the album now, over 30 years on, reconfigured in this new edition of Broken English with two different versions and bolstered with bonus material, properly restores the album to the front rank of music from the 1970s.