Broken English (album)

Broken English is the seventh studio album by English singer Marianne Faithfull. It was released on 2 November 1979 by Island Records. The album marked a major comeback for Faithfull after years of drug abuse, homelessness, and suffering from anorexia. It is often regarded as her "definitive recording" and Faithfull herself described it as her "masterpiece".

Broken English
Studio album by
Released2 November 1979 (1979-11-02)
RecordedMay–July 1979
StudioMatrix Studios, London
GenreNew wave[1][2]
ProducerMark Miller Mundy
Marianne Faithfull chronology
Dreamin' My Dreams
Broken English
Dangerous Acquaintances
Singles from Broken English
  1. "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan"
    Released: 26 October 1979
  2. "Broken English"
    Released: 25 January 1980

Broken English was Faithfull's first major release since her album Love in a Mist (1967). After ending her relationship with Mick Jagger in 1970 and losing custody of her son, Faithfull's career went into a tailspin as she suffered from heroin addiction and lived on the streets of London. Severe laryngitis and drug abuse during this period permanently altered Faithfull's voice, leaving it cracked and lower in pitch. She attempted a comeback in 1976 with Dreamin' My Dreams, which achieved only minor success. Shortly afterwards, Faithfull began working with musician Barry Reynolds, who produced the songs "Broken English" and "Why D'Ya Do It?". The demos attracted the attention of Chris Blackwell who signed Faithfull to his record label Island Records.

The album was recorded at Matrix Studios in London. Faithfull collaborated with producer Mark Miller Mundy on the remaining songs for the album. After the whole album was recorded, he suggested making the music "more modern and electronic" and brought in Steve Winwood on keyboards. Musically, Broken English is a new wave rock album with elements of other genres, such as punk, blues and reggae.

Broken English received critical acclaim. It peaked at number 82 on the Billboard 200, becoming her first album to chart in the United States since Go Away from My World (1965) and giving Faithfull a first nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. It reached number 57 in the United Kingdom and entered the top five in Germany, France and New Zealand. Broken English was certified platinum in Germany and France and sold over one million copies worldwide. Two singles were released from the album, with "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" peaking at number 48 on the UK Singles Chart. The album was included on NME magazine's list of "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" and in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Background 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 and drug use, 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.

The backing band of Barry Reynolds, Joe Mavety (guitars), Steve York (bass) and Terry Stannard (drums) had been formed in 1977 to tour Ireland with Faithfull promoting Dreamin' My Dreams.

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]

Composition edit

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 & the Medicine Show, 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 profanity and explicit reference to oral sex (which earned the album a “Parental Advisory” label on some versions) caused controversy and 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 promotion edit

The deluxe reissue was conceived and compiled by Andrew Batt. It was released in January 2013 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 music video directed by Derek Jarman. The film was designed to be shown in theaters and had never been released for home video before.[5]

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) which has Marianne recite the 'It Was Not My Fault' letter from the French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses was not included. Although the track did appear in some countries on the b-side of the 1982 Island anniversary 12 inch remix/re-issue of "Broken English" it was left off the deluxe edition because it was recorded as the introduction of an extended video for "Intrigue" from her next album Dangerous Acquaintances the title of which was the literal translation of Les Liaisons dangereuses.

The 24 page booklet includes numerous photos from the cover session by Dennis Morris, and examples of the various sleeves and album cover variations that appeared in different countries.

Critical reception edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [6]
The Guardian     [7]
The Irish Times     [8]
Q     [10]
Record Collector     [11]
Rolling Stone     [12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [13]
Spin Alternative Record Guide9/10[14]
The Village VoiceA−[15]

Faithfull notoriously performed the title track and "Guilt" on Saturday Night Live in February 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.[16] 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.

Singles edit

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]

Track listing edit

1."Broken English"4:35
2."Witches' Song"
  • Faithfull
  • Reynolds
  • Mavety
  • York
  • Stannard
3."Brain Drain"Ben Brierley4:13
5."The Ballad of Lucy Jordan"Shel Silverstein4:09
6."What's the Hurry"Mavety3:05
7."Working Class Hero"John Lennon4:40
8."Why D'Ya Do It"
2013 Deluxe Edition (Disc 2)
1."Broken English" (Original Mix)
  • Faithfull
  • Reynolds
  • Mavety
  • York
  • Stannard
2."Witches' Song" (Original Mix)
  • Faithfull
  • Reynolds
  • Mavety
  • York
  • Stannard
3."Brain Drain" (Original Mix)Brierley4:10
4."Guilt" (Original Mix)Reynolds5:05
5."The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" (Original Mix)Silverstein4:16
6."What's the Hurry" (Original Mix)Mavety3:17
7."Working Class Hero" (Original Mix)Lennon4:41
8."Why D'Ya Do It" (Original Mix)
  • Williams
  • Reynolds
  • Mavety
  • York
  • Stannard
  • Faithfull
9."Sister Morphine" (12" Version)6:04
10."Broken English" (7" Single Version)
  • Faithfull
  • Reynolds
  • Mavety
  • York
  • Stannard
11."Broken English" (7" Remix Version)
  • Faithfull
  • Reynolds
  • Mavety
  • York
  • Stannard
12."Broken English" (Long Version)
  • Faithfull
  • Reynolds
  • Mavety
  • York
  • Stannard
13."Why D'Ya Do It" (12" Remix Version)
  • Williams
  • Reynolds
  • Mavety
  • York
  • Stannard
  • Faithfull


  • "Why D'Ya Do It" was omitted for a 7" vinyl of the extended version of "Broken English" on the original Australian pressings of the album.

Personnel edit

  • Bob Potter – engineer, mixing
  • Ed Thacker – mixing engineer
  • Dennis Morris – sleeve photography
  • Mark Miller Mundy - arrangement and production

Charts edit

Certifications and sales edit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[31] Platinum 50,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[32] Platinum 100,000^
Germany (BVMI)[33] Gold 250,000^
France (SNEP)[34] Gold 100,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[35] Platinum 15,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

References edit

  1. ^ Buckley, Peter (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock (3rd ed.). Rough Guides. p. 357. ISBN 1-84353-105-4.
  2. ^ "The 50 Best New Wave Albums". Paste Magazine. 30 August 2016.
  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. ^ "Watch Derek Jarman's Daring 12-Minute Promo Film for Marianne Faithfull's 1979 Comeback Album Broken English (NSFW)". 6 April 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  6. ^ Floyd, John. "Broken English – Marianne Faithfull". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 March 2006.
  7. ^ Petridis, Alexis (31 January 2013). "Marianne Faithfull: Broken English (Deluxe Edition) – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  8. ^ Clayton-Lea, Tony (25 January 2013). "Marianne Faithfull". The Irish Times. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  9. ^ Zoladz, Lindsay (30 January 2013). "Marianne Faithfull: Broken English: Deluxe Edition". Pitchfork. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  10. ^ "Marianne Faithfull: Broken English". Q. No. 357. April 2016. p. 101.
  11. ^ Staunton, Terry (January 2013). "Marianne Faithfull – Broken English: Deluxe Edition". Record Collector. No. 410. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  12. ^ Marcus, Greil (17 June 1997) [24 January 1980]. "Marianne Faithfull: Broken English". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2 October 2007. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  13. ^ Evans, Paul (2004). "Marianne Faithfull". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 292. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  14. ^ Arnold, Gina (1995). "Marianne Faithfull". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. pp. 141–42. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  15. ^ Christgau, Robert (31 December 1979). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  16. ^ "Ten Worst Saturday Night Live Performances". Yahoo! Music. 18 January 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  17. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  18. ^ " Marianne Faithfull - Broken English" (ASP). Hung Medien (in German). Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  19. ^ Library and Archives Canada. Archived 5 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 29 January 2012
  20. ^ " Marianne Faithfull - Broken English" (ASP). Hung Medien (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  21. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste" (in French). Archived from the original (PHP) on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  22. ^ " Marianne Faithfull - Broken English" (ASP). Hung Medien. Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  23. ^ " Marianne Faithfull - Broken English" (ASP) (in Swedish). Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  24. ^ "The Official Charts Company - Marianne Faithfull - Broken English" (PHP). Official Charts Company. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  25. ^ "allmusic ((( Broken English > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  26. ^ "Album Search: Marianne Faithfull - Broken English" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 29 January 2012.[dead link]
  27. ^ " - Jahreshitparade 1980". Hung Medien. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  28. ^ "Les Albums (CD) de 1980 par InfoDisc" (in French). Archived from the original (PHP) on 9 January 2016. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  29. ^ "Top 100 Album-Jahrescharts" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. 1980. Archived from the original on 21 October 2021. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  30. ^ "Top Selling Albums of 1980 — The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Recorded Music New Zealand. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  31. ^ "Platinum and Gold Albums 1982". Kent Music Report. 28 February 1983. Retrieved 26 December 2022 – via Imgur.
  32. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Marianne Faithfull – Broken English". Music Canada.
  33. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Marianne Faithfull; 'Broken English')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie.
  34. ^ "French album certifications – Marianne Faithfull – Broken English" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique.
  35. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – Marianne Faithfull – Broken English". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 5 June 2019.


  • Marianne Faithfull with David Dalton (1994). Faithfull: An Autobiography

External links edit