Re-mastered and expanded deluxe version of Marianne Faithfull’s 1979 debut album for Island Records, Broken English
Disc One contains the original album as an enhanced disc which also features the short 12 minute film specially commissioned for the album release and directed by Derek Jarman. It’s basically three promotional videos for "Witches Song", "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" and "Broken English", featuring unique footage of Marianne spliced together with stock footage and some of Derek Jarman’s trademark Super-8 film. This is the first time that this film has ever been commercially available.
Disc Two contains the entire original mix of the album which was thought to have been lost but surfaced during the tape research for this Deluxe Edition. Also included are a re-record of "Sister Morphine" only previously available on the Marianne Faithfull anthology, Perfect Strangers
and four bonus tracks in the form of the 7" and 12" mixes of "Broken English" and "Why’d Ya Do It ?", which appear on CD for the very first time.
Marianne Faithfull didn’t begin as she meant to go on. Debuting as a promising singer-songwriter in 1964, she was soon a wife and mother. But she turned her back on her husband to get together with Mick Jagger, becoming his muse and also something of a drug addict as The Rolling Stones’ notoriety grew in the late-60s.
A split with Jagger in 1970 coincided with her drug habit spiralling out of control. Faithfull lost custody of her son, and began living on the streets, blurring away the days courtesy of a substantial heroin habit. She went as far as attempting suicide, but salvation would await her at the decade’s end.
Years of substance abuse, as well as severe laryngitis, permanently changed Faithfull’s voice. But Island Records founder Chris Blackwell heard potential in a set of demos, and put the newly gruff-toned singer to work on what would become Broken English, released in October 1979.
The album – which followed a first (not-so-successful) comeback in 1976, with the country styled Dreamin’ My Dreams – was recorded twice, the final version featuring new-wave-like keys by Steve Winwood. The original mix is included in this deluxe edition, filling much of the second disc. Also included is the Derek Jarman-directed film Broken English, finally given its commercial debut.
Broken English, the album, is almost autobiographical. Although its title track was inspired by a book about Baader-Meinhof, the other selections could have been penned by Faithfull herself: Guilt was Barry Reynolds’ song about addiction; What’s the Hurry? about a junkie’s endless need to score.
The set’s hit single, a cover of Dr Hook’s The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, was “my life, had it taken a different turn”. Her version of John Lennon’s Working Class Hero was delivered perfectly, raspily, through a gauze of disgust, even though she was nothing like the titular character.
Standout moment Why D’ya Do It is the sort of song nobody wants dedicated to them. Through a Sly and Robbie pastiche skank, Faithfull lets rip with venom rarely heard outside of the punk world in the late-70s, ranting Heathcoate Williams-penned words at a cheating lover. Its radio unfriendliness is exhilarating.
At the time of Broken English’s production, Faithfull had nothing left to lose. And, like so much art made in such circumstances, it’s an absolute tour de force of an album. She has described it as her masterpiece. She’s not wrong.
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