Saturday, July 27, 2013

Madonna - Madonna

Today (July 27th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of the self-titled debut album from Madonna. In the early 80’s, the Detroit-born singer-dancer was living in New York City with her boyfriend Steve Bray (of the Breakfast Club) and working on demos. She convinced a local DJ to play one of her songs and that started her on the road to her record deal and a notable career.

The multi-Platinum selling Madonna, co-produced by her then boyfriend John “Jellybean” Benitez, charted at number 28 in Germany, number 20 in Japan, number 16 in Canada, number 15 in Austria, number 10 in Australia, number 8 in France and on the US Billboard Hot 200, number 7 in the Netherlands, number 6 in New Zealand and the UK and number 2 in Sweden.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked the album at number 50 on its Top 100 Albums of the 80’s list. Entertainment Weekly, in 2008, ranked it number 5 on its list of the Top 100 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years.

Side one starts with “Lucky Star”, which was released as a single first in the UK in September of 1983 where it charted at number 14. Released world-wide after that in early 1984, it went to number 8 in Canada and number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100. I like how the opening synths (played by Dean Gant) dance across speaker channels and back again at the start; it is a perfect opening effect. The guitar hooks (played by Ira Siegal) and the bass synths have a very funky groove to them as well.

The final single “Borderline” charted, in 1984, at number 36 in Germany, number 25 in Canada, number 23 in Switzerland, number 12 in Australia, number 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 4 on the US Dance chart, and number 2 in the UK. The song has a softer, sentimental side as she sings of a girl who has given all the love she can to an unappreciative boyfriend. Even though it has an up-tempo dance beat, it still made me a bit sad sometimes back in the day; it was my go-to song for unrequited feelings. The backing vocals on this track and some of the others are done by Chrissy Faith, Gwen Guthrie and Brenda White.

“Burning Up”, her second single, was released in March of 1983 and went to number 13 in Australia and number 3 on the US Billboard Dance chart. The mix of instruments, driven by the Reggie Lucas’ drum machine, creates a slinky, stalking strut that makes for an instantly hot dance number.

“I Know It”, released as the B-side to “Holiday”, closes out the first half. I like the bouncy beat and the subtle saxophone (played by Bob Malach) on this one, as well as how Madonna stretches out the word “hopeless” in the early verse.

Side two begins with festive celebration that is “Holiday”. Released in September of 1983, this single went to number 37 in France, number 32 in Canada, number 22 in Italy, number 18 in Switzerland, number 16 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 9 in Germany, number 7 in New Zealand, number 4 in Australia, number 2 in Ireland and the UK, and number 1 on the US Dance chart. My favorite parts of this one are the tropical percussions by Bashiri Johnson and the funky bass by Raymond Hudson.

“”Think of Me”, the B-side to the final single, is next up. Here, Madonna reminds her boyfriend that he needs to focus his attention on her or she will walk out the door. It is actually the perfect pairing with “Borderline” as she now decides to stop being ignored.

“Physical Attraction” was the B-side to her second single; the album version is over six and half minutes of dancing goodness. Ironically, it ties with “Borderline” (the other song on the album written by Lucas) as my favorites from this debut

“Everybody”, the closing track, was the first single Madonna ever put out. Released in October of 1982, it went to number 107 on the US Billboard chart and number 3 on the US Billboard Dance chart.

I will never forget the exact instance when I first heard the entire Madonna album. We were doing move-in for new students at my college (Rochester Institute of Technology) in late August of 1984. Yes, it was over one year after the album debuted. While spending the day in the parking lots unloading cars and putting the new students’ things on the trucks to be brought up to the dorms, one of the girls on our orientation team Joann Corrado had her boom box and a cassette. Joann was an energetic gal who liked to make things fun; thanks to her we all were dancing to the Madonna tracks as we worked. It made the long day go faster.

Shortly after that I made a trip across town to House of Guitars and picked up a copy of the album on vinyl. As I loved to dance (still do), it instantly became a favorite of mine and remains so to this day. For me, it is a solid, over forty minute long, dance workout. If I definitely need to be put into a good mood, the tracks from Madonna do just that. It is for that reason that it is on my “carry everywhere” list (on my iPhone and iPad as well as my iPod).


HERC said...

Been waiting for this one...

Get comfortable, it's a long one...


I was on pretty good terms with Frank, the night clerk at hollywood records (lower case intentional) here on 22nd Street and Prudence. Used to ride my bike over and talk to him about music for hours, even help him close up the store sometimes. When I got old enough to drive, it was first place I applied for a job. Only ever saw four different people manning the stool behind the counter in front of the wall of cassettes, usually smoking something.

One night in the Fall of 1982 shortly after I started Junior year, I'm in there talking to Frank, no one else in the store and he's processing the day's incoming package shipment, a four foot tall stack of record and tape boxes. He opens one of the thinner boxes, like Columbia House records used to come in, and pulled out three records. He said something like "fresh meat" or "new grooves" and walked over to the store's turntable underneath the cash register and replaced the Rush album that was playing (there was always a Rush album playing during Frank's shifts) with one of the new records.

The first sounds were weird, kind of whooshing almost like they were slowed down. Frank said something under his breath and then I watched him hurry back over and duck down by the record player and lifted needle off record. Heard him say "Oops!" and then heard needle drop again.

Sounded better this time around - apparently speed was off and he was playing at 33⅓ rpm instead of 45 rpm. That was first time I heard Madonna. The song was "Everybody": the music was catchy but the lyrics were almost non-existant and still it stuck in my head for weeks. We spent some time looking at the record sleeve the 12" single came in for clues as to Madonna was but found nothing. When record ended, he flipped it over and played the other side which turned out to be a weird sounding and very long (9-10 minutes maybe) dub version, probably one of the first I had ever heard up to that point. It would be almost a year before I heard it on the radio.

Around my birthday in 1983, I asked Frank whatever happened to that record and why hadn't an album been released. He said something about "disco dollies" and handed me a record box with a skull and crossbones drawn on it that had been taped shut - I opened it and pulled out the "Everybody" and another record: the only words I could make out on cover were "Burning Up Physical Attraction". I handed him the box back and he refused it, saying it was for me. I asked him to play the second record but again he refused saying he was "deep into" this new Rush bootleg he was playing. I thanked him and drove home. Fell asleep before I got around to playing record but I played it the next morning. It was a new Madonna single with a different song on each side: a fast side with "Burning Up" and a slow side with "Physical Attraction" with each song running about six minutes long. More groove rich dance music with simple lyrical, shout it out hooks.

HERC said...

Part Two

Recorded the three songs onto a cassette (left the dub version off) and left it in my girlfriend's car. Next day I saw her she was all excited about the songs on the tape, said she kept rewinding it and playing them over and over and her sister loved it too. Said she wanted to hear the rest of the album and I told her that was all there was so far but she didn't believe me. She came by to see me at work later that night and said she found out album was coming out in "the Summer". Sure enough, when the first week of August rolled around she had Madonna's self-titled album on cassete in her Firebird. That tape and one of Def Leppard's Pyromaina were her soundtrack for the Summer. I made her a few mixtapes to listen to but whenever we took her car, invaribly she only had Madonna and Def Leppard to listen to. My favorite songs on the album were "Holiday" (which turned out to be first Madonna song we heard on radio) and the first two tracks on the album: "Lucky Star" and "Borderline".

That's my Madonna story.

A look back at the album is also featured in Entertainment Weekly this week. There is a sidebar to the article that features other great albums from 1983. While the Madonna piece isn't online yet, the albums of 1983 is and has been expanded to a list of 30.

Martin Maenza said...

Herc, as always, thank you for your amazingly detailed stories when it comes to these great records. They are always welcome and appreciated.

HERC said...

All credit goes to you, sir, and your "memory tickler" posts. It's all in my head somewhere, though keeping a journal during my teens looks like a wiser move every day.

HERC said...

Rolling Stone chimed in with a story on the debut album's anniversary as well. It's an oral history with interviews of key players.

Madonna's Debut Album at Thirty