Broken English is a 1979 album by singer Marianne Faithfull. 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. The iconic cover photograph and sleeve design are the work of Dennis Morris.
Faithfull’s immediately preceding albums, Dreamin’ My Dreams and Faithless (which in fact shared some tracks), 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.
The album’s title track took inspiration from terrorist figures of the time, particularly Ulrike Meinhof of the Baader-Meinhof group. “Guilt” was informed by the Catholic upbringing of the singer and her composer Barry Reynolds. “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan”, originally performed by Dr Hook, was a melancholy tale of middle class housewife’s disillusionment; Faithfull’s version became something of an anthem 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. Her cover of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”, recorded as a tribute to her own heroes such as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, and Lennon himself, was widely praised.
The last track, the six-and-a-half-minute “Why’d Ya Do It?”, was 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. Its plethora of four-letter words and explicit references to oral sex caused controversy and led to a ban in Australia. Local pressings had grooves of smooth vinyl in place of the track and a ‘bonus’ 7″ single of the extended version of “Broken English” as compensation. 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. It wasn’t until 1988 when Island re-released the album in Australia that “Why D’Ya Do It” was finally included.
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 drug use to Faithfull’s nervousness due to her former lover Mick Jagger making contact with her right before the performance. The show was hosted by Chevy Chase.
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.
The album is rated R13 in New Zealand because it contains offensive language; in North America it has a Parental Advisory sticker. (by wikipedia)
What a great album recorded by a real strong woman !
Dyan Birch (background vocals)
Frankie Collins (background vocals)
Jim Cuomo (saxophone)
Isabella Dulaney (background vocals)
Marianne Faithfull (vocals)
Guy Humphries (guitar)
Joe Mavety (guitar)
Morris Pert (percussion)
Barry Reynolds (guitar)
Terry Stannard (drums)
Darryl Way (violin)
Steve Winwood (keyboards)
Steve York (bass)
01. Broken English (Reynolds/Mavety/Faithfull/York/Stannard) 4.38
02.Witches’ Song (Reynolds/Mavety/Faithfull/York/Stannard) 4.46
03. Brain Drain (Brierley) 4.16
04. Guilt (Reynolds) 5.12
05. The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan (Silverstein) 4.13
06. What’s The Hurry (Mavety) 3.06
07. Working Class Hero (Lennon) 4.06
08. Why D’Ya Do It (Reynolds/Williams/Mavety/Faithfull/York/Stannard) 6.48