"I saw an angel with big tits and I signed her." Not exactly the epigram most young women would want to be remembered by, but one which Marianne Faithfull-- the "angel" in question according to Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, circa 1967-- has utilized for her own purposes ever since, turning herself into another kind of cliche altogether. In the course of her 25-year career, Faithfull has gone from disposable blonde popsie to hallowed grande dame of knowing self-ruination; but because the beautiful are supposed to be damned, her constant pose as weary victim of this rough, tough, rotten world is-- at times, anyway-- quite satisfying to contemplate. It's not always entirely convincing, but it's usually rather well done.
While Faithfull may credit herself with writing the lyrics to the Stones song "Sister Morphine" (disputed by the Jagger/Richards songwriting team, which owns its rights), her real talent is her ability to impose her carefully-created mythic persona-- elegant but damaged blues chanteuse-- on any song she handles. The gut-wrenching "Broken English," about female terrorist Ulrike Meinhof, is the apex of this process. Written after two years of junkie-squatting with a band led by her then-husband Ben Briersley, the songs on the album-- not to mention the fact that Faithfull performs them as if singing from a cabaret in hell-- render Faithfull a haggard rock angel, utterly ruined by the Rolling Stones. The title cut, "Guilt," and the extremely blue "Why'd Ya Do It"-- on which Faithfull haughtily spits out venomous lines like" every time I see your dick I see her cunt in my bed"-- are extremely convincing meditations on anger, sex and jealousy, while the modern folk parable " The Ballad of Lucy Jordan " and a cover of Lennon's 'Working Class Hero" make stunning use of Faithfull's flat, scratchy delivery. Broken English is indeed the critical masterpiece it was hailed as.


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