Marianne Faithful / Broken English • The multi-format vinyl craze of the late 1970s for picture discs, coloured vinyl and sleeve variations was shamelessly designed to exploit fans and collectors. You could argue that the trend was kicked off by Led Zeppelin with In Through The Out Door, and culminated in the Ian Dury album Do It Yourself which sported over 30 different sleeves (apparently nobody is quite certain – so far I’ve got just two!).
The three Marianne Faithful variants of her Broken English album sleeve here mix that artificial collectability with artistic changes. The blue sleeve is the original 1979 Island Records UK edition. Island’s art department were always on the ball, and the cover sports two moody photographs by Dennis Morris (front and back), pushed back into the shadows by the use of a flat blue tint. The only splash of colour comes from the glowing tip of the cigarette and the very simple titling.
Dennis Morris was a busy music photographer from an early age and toured with Bob Marley at just 16 after bunking off school to photograph the band. He became art director at Island Records and did a number of their other sleeves (and designed the packaging for PiL).
Over in America, they wanted a more visible image so chose a pale yellow tint instead, so much more of the original detail of the portrait is visible. The two crossed colour rules break the image up and add a bit of tension to the composition.
The same photo turned up on a number of singles at the time, but that was it until earlier in 2013 when the album was given a Record Day make-over. The album itself was an earlier unreleased mix so to mark it out they ran a magenta wash across the cover and on the back showed the whole portrait rather than cropped as before. On this sort of reissue you might have expected an inner sleeve with notes and more images but despite the hefty price it just has a white bag, so exactly why the mix was not used in 1979 isn’t explained…