Marianne Faithfull’s 1979 comeback album Broken English confirmed to the world what most musos already knew — Faithfull was far from simply being an ‘it girl’. The term, somewhat affectionately used to describe the iconic women of the moment, is now more often seen as a thinly-veiled derogatory comment — suggestion that all the said women can be is an ‘it’; a thing without talent or real drive to achieve much else. This was the album that shoved that label up the backside of anyone who dared utter it.
It’s also a landmark album as it came equipped with a promo film from none other than the acclaimed director Derek Jarman, which, in 1979, was a watershed moment for all involved. At the time, very few music videos existed and even fewer to celebrate the release of an album rather than to complement a song. If there was any doubt what Broken English would be about, Jarman and Faithfull made sure it was dispelled by the end of their audacious 12-minute promo film.
Within the film are three songs that highlight Faithfull’s immense talent. Though often lambasted as being simply Mick Jagger’s girlfriend for a period of time, the truth is, Faithfull was a supremely talented singer all along and was only weighed down by her attachment to the great and the good of the burgeoning rock scene of the sixties. It was a scene which Jarman, alongside his fellow punks, torched to the ground when the late seventies beckoned for a new way of thinking. It’s only fitting then that the two artists should meet and create together.
Faithfull had been struggling for some time when she readied herself to release Broken English. The album came at the end of a decade in which Faithfull had spent much of hermoney, energy and vigour on the pursuit of chemical hedonism, spending many years trying hard to kick her drug habit. Byt the time she emerged from her healing process, the world was a different place and a new wave of rock was sweeping the globe. As such, her album arrived as not only a reflection of the journey she had travelled thus far but the world in which she had made the trek.
Likewise, Jarman was also looking to continue his own work and push for artistic purity. The director had been famed for his adventurous work on Jubilee and the homoerotic Sebastienne, therefore casting himself as one of the auteurs of the day. There’s something about these two huge forces of change meeting one another and creating together that can enrich and embolden the viewer.
Bookended by monochrome footage of Faithfull walking the streets of London and playing arcade games, the film features three songs form the new record. There was ‘Witch’s Song’ which sees the film turn most closely to Jarman’s unique style. The following song ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan,’ sees Faithfull projected over scenes of blissful domesticity while the third sees a reflection of fascism that feels all too real.
Faithfull and Jarman shared such a fine relationship that Faithfull would sign on as the singer of the theme tune for his film The Last of England, which featured Tilda Swinton alongside other notable stars. For now though, sit back and watch Derek Jarman’s adventurous promo film for Marianne Faithfull’s album Broken English below.