Marianne Faithfull – Broken English (1979)

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 & 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. 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.

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. Its plethora of four-letter words and explicit references to oral sex caused controversy and led to 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. It wasn’t until 1988 when Island re-released the album in Australia that “Why D’Ya Do It” was finally included.

Track Listing

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Broken English”
  • Marianne Faithfull
  • Barry Reynolds
  • Joe Mavety
  • Steve York
  • Terry Stannard
2. “Witches’ Song”
  • Faithfull
  • Reynolds
  • Mavety
  • York
  • Stannard
3. “Brain Drain” Ben Brierley 4:13
4. “Guilt” Reynolds 5:05
5. “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” Shel Silverstein 4:09
6. “What’s the Hurry” Mavety 3:05
7. “Working Class Hero” John Lennon 4:40
8. “Why D’Ya Do It”
  • Heathcote Williams
  • Reynolds
  • Mavety
  • York
  • Stannard
  • Faithfull


Schill Score: 8/10


Listen to Album