INTERVIEW : DEBI MAZAR TALKS ABOUT HER FRIEND MADONNA

Actress Debi Mazar dropped by the clubhouse on “Watch What Happens: Live” and Andy Cohen couldn’t wait to ask her a few questions about her BFF, Madonna. The two have been friends since before either one of them had any sort of fame.

Cohen did limit himself to 45 seconds, but anyone who knows how fast he talks knows that  can still pump a lot of questions at her in that span of time. Through his grilling of Mazar he learned that Madge smells like gardenias, loves salted fish and is a feisty Leo. Mazar also said that “Sean” was Madonna’s true love — but when asked to clarify if she was referring to Sean Penn, she said only, “Maybe.”

“Did Madonna ever steal any of your boyfriends?” Cohen asked her. Mazar said yes, but then backed up. She said that Madonna had tried to steal her boyfriend, but it didn’t happen. She also revealed a strange Madonna-Bravo connection. Apparently, Madonna used to get “spiritual baths” and “blessings” from self-professed witch, Mama Elsa of “The Real Housewives of Miami.”

Mazar and Madonna met in an elevator back in the ’80s. It’s a story NewNowNext’s Chris Spargo declared the “Best. Story. Ever.” Mazar was working the elevator at a club when Madonna walked in. “She came into my elevator, and a great song was spinning and she goes, ‘Hey, you wanna dance?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’ And I parked the elevator, and we had a great dance together and then later on we danced some more,” Mazar said. “From there on we became pals and started dancing and hanging out.”

VIDEO : BLAST FROM THE PAST – MADONNA’S VIRGIN TOUR DEBUT IN SEATTLE

Madonna’s “Virgin Tour” 1985 kicked off at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre with the Beastie Boys as her opening act. The KIRO 7 web team dug deep into the treasure trove of archived tape to find a snippet of Madonna’s performance from 1985 — a clip that hasn’t been broadcast since the night of April 10, 1985. It shows nearly a minute of “Dress You Up”, which was the first song she performed that night.

During a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone, Madonna reminisced about that starting point of what became a star-studded career. “That whole tour was crazy, because I went from playing CBGB and the Mudd Club to playing sporting arenas,” she told the magazine. “I played a small theater in Seattle, and the girls had flap skirts on and the tights cut off below their knees and lace gloves and rosaries and bows in their hair and big hoop earrings. I was like, ‘This is insane!’ After Seattle, all of the shows were moved to arenas.”

Source : Kiro.tv

MADONNA AT “THE LIMBO SHOW” IN LONDON

Madonna was present yesterday at “The Limbo The Show” in London.
A 
spectacular new production from the creative producers of 2012 hit show
Cantina, LIMBO explodes into London Wonderground for a strictly limited
season following rave reviews and a sell-out run at the Adelaide Festival.

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For more info about this show , click HERE

MADONNA AND “THE IMPOSSIBLE LIVES OF GRETA WELLS”

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A new book by Andrew Sean Greer is a major event, and The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells is as innovative as the rest of the local author’s impressive oeuvre. I had the pleasure to sit down with Greer before his reading at The Booksmith last week and we talked about everything from what makes a self and the roles of literature to Madonna and a recent phone call that might result in a film.

Greer’s first novel, The Paths of Minor Planets, is a gorgeously rendered tale whose plot is connected to the orbit of a comet. His second novel, The Confessions of Max Tivoli, follows a man who is born with a child’s mind in an old man’s body and ages in reverse. Of that book, which won a California Book Award and is considered “a moment in literature,” John Updike said: “This narrative feat had been attempted before, by Scott Fitzgerald and Gabriel Brownstein, but never at such length or with such loving ingenuity.” (In fact, his review in The New Yorker is worth a read.) Greer’s third novel, The Story of A Marriage, takes a close look at “how we can ever truly know another person” through a lens of love and war in 1950s San Francisco. The book, not without criticism, solidified Greer’s standing as a major contemporary author doing important work (inspired and lyrical are often words used to describe his writing).
In The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, we are again dealing with a unique treatment of time: Severely depressed after losing her brother to AIDS and separating from her longtime lover, Greta undergoes shock treatment and is transported to bygone eras and the lives she would have lived there. Only, everyone in her life comes with her. “I wanted to make time travel without paradoxes of any kind; I didn’t want it to be about visiting another time, I wanted it to be about living in another time,” Greer says. “An entire life in another time period; that’s what interested me.”

Set in 1985, 1918, and 1941, the book presents us with the impact a different set of circumstances might have on the development of a person. In 1918, for instance, Greta’s gay brother is not only alive but married.
“One of the main concerns of the book is what makes a self. Are those three different people? Are they the same person? Well, when you look at your own life and you look at yourself a month ago when you got super drunk and swam across the Bay or whatever: Was that you? Or are there different people that would sort of gather together and make a personality?”

Greer points out that those looking for detailed treatment of the time periods will be disappointed.

“There’s a couple people who have critiqued the book, and have wondered why Greta wasn’t more of an activist trying to change things because she knows the future, and it was very interesting to me because I thought: But we know the future. I mean we know the ice is melting; there’ll be no more fish in 40 years,” he says. “We know the future. We’re running out of oil. Like, it’s not hard to figure out; you can be a denier of it, you can do nothing, but… we do as little as possible, mostly. Most of us — I do. And what I mostly do is I try to take care of the people I love. And so I wrote a book where that’s what she does. It was interesting, though, the fantasy that if you went back in time you would battle against things.”

Others have asked Greer why Greta doesn’t use her knowledge of the future to make a fortune, which we both kind of marveled at: I’m not trying to make a fortune now, I mused, so why would I do that in the past?

When asked what he’s taken personally from this meditation, Greer gets a bit somber. “I don’t put my life on the line to change the world at the moment,” he says. “Honestly, that’s why I think at other times I would not be… I would not change the world. It’s sad to realize that.”

I reassure him that he is changing the world, of course. “Through literature,” he says. “One hopes that one seeds the beliefs of a generation… or something like that, right? And that you create the frame and the words for the discussion about something.” He mentions that he recently befriended an Egyptian feminist revolutionary who often gets jailed for her activism. “Like, she came to my reading to support me. And I’m thinking, what am I going to do to support Egyptian democracy?”

I reply that I got most of my desire to change the world by reading books; it is they that gave me my first taste of universal concern when I was disappointed by the shortcomings I found in the world around me. Greer’s response to this is interesting:

Anne Carson
“I think the poets do the hard work of coming up with new stuff and new ways to talk about things, which, as we were saying, is a way to power: a new way to use language. And novelists read poets. Novelists write the novel. They make it into a movie. It gets into the popular culture, and suddenly everyone thinks about things in a new way. Maybe that’s a terrible way to think about the power of language, but eventually it changes the culture. And it’s not Hollywood that makes up that stuff. It’s the poets. It’s like Anne Carson came up with a new way to think about things. And it’s making its way into the culture.”
I ask about the movie for The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells and discover that Madonna hopes to produce the film. If you’ve read any of Greer’s books you know his prose is a sort of fantastic container for the lofty, and if you’ve ever doubted Madonna’s taste here’s your chance to come correct.

Source : SfWeekly

HOW MADONNA BECAME MADONNA: AN ORAL HISTORY

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Three decades later, looking back on the making of the superstar’s debut album.

Thirty years ago this past week, Sire Records released Madonna’s debut album. Although it only created one pop icon, Madonna the album was the culmination of months of effort by diverse artists, photographers, executives and musicians. “The first new wave disco music,” as one of her friends described it, carried plenty in its DNA: bouncy R&B grooves; traces of the last gasps of the pre-AIDS Downtown NYC culture; and, of course, the force of personality of the future Queen of Pop.

In early 1982, Madonna was 23 years old. In the four years since leaving Detroit for New York City, she’d earned her starving-artist bona fides, working at a Dunkin Donuts, sleeping in an abandoned Queens synagogue and rocking studded bracelets, ripped jeans and bleached, cropped hair. She’d traveled as a backup dancer for French disco singer Patrick Hernandez and auditioned for Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ. She’d also gone into a Times Square studio with her ex-bandmate (and ex-boyfriend) Steven Bray and recorded a demo of four songs. With her music, she hoped to capture the attention of “the kind of people who might like Grace Jones.” It was that hope, and that demo, that she brought with her one Saturday night to the Danceteria nightclub.

Seymour Stein, founder, Sire Records:
Mark Kamins was the best DJ in New York. I followed him to various clubs – I didn’t dance, but I liked the way he spun.  He could mix Portuguse and Indian music with whatever was going on in England at the time. I gave him some work to remix some things for me. One day he said, “I want to be a producer. Let me work with one of your new artists.” I said, “I can’t do that, Mark. You don’t have a track record.” But I said, “Why don’t you bring me an artist. Then the artist is indebted to you.” I gave him $18,000 to record demos for six artists.

Michael Rosenblatt, A&R, Sire Records:
Mark Kamins told me there was this girl who had a demo and was trying to get him to play it over the dance floor. And he was going to have none of that – he didn’t play any demos. But he said she looked amazing, so I was trying to keep an eye peeled for her.

A friend of mine had just signed a group called Wham! They were about to put out their first single, but before they put it out, my friend wanted them to see the New York club scene. So I was taking them to clubs on a Saturday night – I’m at the Danceteria second-floor bar with George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, and I see this girl walk across the dance floor and up to the DJ booth to talk to Mark. I figured she had to be the girl with the demo. So I walked up and introduced myself as an A&R guy, and we started talking.

She came by on that Monday and played me that demo. It wasn’t amazing. But this girl sitting in my office was just radiating star power. I asked her, “What are you looking for in this?” I always ask that, and the wrong answer is “I want to get my art out,” because this is a business. And Madonna’s answer was, “I want to rule the world.” The next step was getting her signed. I had to play [her demo] for Seymour Stein.

Seymour Stein:
I was in the hospital, hooked up to a penicillin drip. I said, “Send it over, please.” I listened to “Everybody” – it was the early days of the Sony Walkman – and I loved it.

When Madonna came by, I was caught with dirty pajamas with a slit up the back of my gown. I needed a shave and a shower. But I got it together to meet with her. When she walked in the room, I could tell she wouldn’t have cared if I was like Sarah Bernhardt lying in a coffin. All she cared about was that one of my arms moved, that I could sign a contract. What I saw there was even more important than the one song I heard. I saw a young woman who was so determined to be a star. I shook hands on the deal.

Michael Rosenblatt:
And then we did the deal. It was simple. There was no bidding war. Nobody else wanted to sign her. Cut and dry, easy and cheap.

Seymour Stein:
I told her, “The first night out of the hospital, let’s go out to dinner, you, me and Mark.” But I forgot about it. I get back to the office, I get a call, it’s Madonna. She says, “Where are we going tonight?” I said, “Oh my god, the Talking Heads are in town, I’m going to see them at Forest Hills.” She said, “We’ll go together!” I introduced them to Chris [Frantz], Tina [Weymouth], Jerry [Harrison] and David [Byrne]. David gave me a thumbs-up sign. He was impressed.

Fred Zarr, keyboardist:
Mark Kamins brought me in to redo all the keyboards on “Everybody.” When she first walked in, I had my back to the door. I know this sounds corny, but I felt this swish of energy come into the room. I turned around, and . . . she had all the makings of a star. She had the style, the way she dressed, and she was very strong-willed.

Michael Rosenblatt:
You had this girl coming out of the new wave scene doing dance music. I thought if we were able to do it right, we’d be able to capture a lot of audiences. We’d get the new wave kids, we’d get the pop people, and the dance community. We’d be able to get everybody.

I didn’t want her picture on the cover of the “Everybody” single, because I thought I could get a lot of R&B play on that record, because a lot of people thought she was black.

Lou Beach, designer, “Everybody” 12“:
I’d never heard of Madonna before then, and I didn’t get to listen to the music. Warner Brothers told me, “Do a scene of everyday people in the street.” So I clipped images from magazines, and threw them together for the collage. I do remember being a little nervous about using the photo of the black-and-white dog from LIFE magazine, but finally I said, “Fuck it, it’ll be fine.”

Michael Rosenblatt:
Madonna needed somebody who could really help her with her vocals.  Mark Kamin’s strength was grooves, not working with a girl who’s never been in the studio before. That’s when I hired Reggie Lucas, with an eye to giving an R&B feel to this dance/new-wave artist. He was having a lot of success with Stephanie Mills and Roberta Flack.

Reggie Lucas:
When Warner Brothers called me about working with Madonna, I was the big score. It seems ridiculous in retrospect, but I was an established professional and she was a nobody. I met with her at a tiny little apartment she had in the Lower East Side. I thought she was vivacious and sexy and interesting, and had a lot of energy.

I signed on to do the record, and then “Everybody” came out and it made a little noise. It sold 100,000 copies, so I was like, “All right! This artist became a somebody before I even started on the album.” So that was nice, that was encouraging.

Most of the people around Madonna at the corporate level did not get her and for the most part did not like her. You could see them recoil from her bohemianism. Everybody thought she was crazy and gross. I would never say she was a punk rocker, but she used to wear little boys’ shorts, and white t-shirts with holes in them, and then she had little ring things in her ears. She wasn’t the weirdest person I’d ever met, you know? I’d worked with Sun Ra! So after hanging out with the Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Madonna didn’t seem particularly avant-garde.

Michael Rosenblatt:
While Reggie was making the record, nobody at Warner Brothers gave a shit at all. Madonna was just a little dance girl.

Reggie Lucas:
She was poor. She borrowed Jean-Michel Basquiat’s apartment while he was in Paris, and so I spent a good hour and a half during the record meeting with her at Basquiat’s place. He had his art up there, nobody knew who he was.

We had a fun experience. There was no committee rendering judgment from on high, because she was brand new and frankly nobody cared about her that much. And she had a sense of direction.

Michael Rosenblatt:
It was great – there wasn’t any infighting or any of that kind of shit. Reggie wrote two of the songs, “Borderline” and “Physical Attraction.” The rest were Madonna songs.

Reggie Lucas:
“Borderline” has a stylistic similarity to “Never Felt Love Like This Before” [the 1980 Grammy-winning Stephanie Mills song that Lucas co-wrote and co-produced], particularly in the front, with Dean Gant’s electric piano introduction.

This was the first record I ever used a drum machine instead of a drummer. And the bass on “Borderline” is an ARP 2600 synthesizer, but the great Anthony Jackson – who did that intro on the O’Jays’ “For the Love of Money” – is playing along on an electric bass guitar, and they’re playing so tight you can’t tell the difference.

Michael Rosenblatt:
I remember telling Seymour, when he was giving me grief for being in the studio every day, that Madonna was going to be the biggest act he ever worked with. He laughed and said, how big is she going to be? My line was “Seymour, she’s going to be bigger than Olivia Newton-John!”

Seymour Stein:
I dared to believe this was going to be huge beyond belief, the biggest thing I’d ever had, after I heard “Borderline.” The passion that she put into that song, I thought, there’s no stopping this girl. All of her energy – my God, I never saw anybody work this hard in my life. And then make it look so easy.

Michael Rosenblatt:
During the making of the album, we would walk down the street and people would just stop and gawk. This is before she was famous. She just had that look and that vibe; there was no stylist working with her. It was all her. We’d walk into a restaurant and people would stop eating and just stare.

Reggie Lucas:
There’s no way to get around it, Madonna exudes a lot of sexuality. She would curse a lot, talk about sexual things a lot in a joking way. She was more liberated. So you picked up her energy when you were around her. You could tell this was somebody who was going to work with being a celebrity well if she was able to achieve it. That’s what she wanted more than anything. She would always come into the studio with biographies of famous movie stars from the Thirties, Forties and Fifties. She spent time studying what she was thinking about doing.

She’d really put it out there in the studio, and not in a self-conscious way. It wasn’t crude, it wasn’t coarse, it didn’t seem like she was just selling a little sex to sell a few more records. So working with her, you could play off that. She’s a pretty good improviser, on the tags – you know, the ends of the records – and on “Burning Up” when she’s like “I’m burning up, “Unh! Unh! Unh!” me and the engineer were like “This is great, man!” So we’re just like, “Madonna, do it one more time!” So we kept making her do it over and over, just to get off on it. But you hear it on the record; it’s a very erotic record.

We had this really fun guitar thing on “Lucky Star,” and then she had a meltdown about guitarists – she related an experience where a rock guitarist she was sharing the stage with turned up his guitar, and upstaged her with volume. So we never completed that version.

Michael Rosenblatt:
We finished the album, and I wanted another song. Something much more uptempo. I needed to get more money to finish the record. So Seymour said, “Take her down to L.A., have her meet the executives at Warner Brothers.”

Reggie Lucas:
At Warner Brothers, when they first met her – Mo Ostin, Michael Ostin, Lenny Waronker – they said, “She wants to sing black music, so just have her go promote her singles at the black radio stations.” Which is what she did. But they didn’t have a vision of, “Oh my god, she’s going to be an enormous pop star.” Because she expressed an interest in black music, they said, “Oh! Go sell it to the black people, then.” That’s how she was visualized.

Michael Rosenblatt:
But once she went out to L.A., everybody started buzzing. I said to Lenny Waronker, “I need an up-tempo song; will you give me 10 grand?” He said yes.

That trip to L.A., Madonna didn’t have a manager. We decided to get somebody based in L.A. to deal with Warner Brothers. So we met with Freddy DeMann. At the time, Freddy was managing Michael Jackson. So we go into Freddy’s office and we’re having this great meeting, his assistant comes in, and says, “Freddy, you have a call. Can you take it?” He says, “You guys stay here, watch this video, let me know what you think. It’s premiering on MTV in about two weeks.” Freddy puts in a video, presses play, shuts the door. Madonna and I watch the “Beat It” video. As soon as the video ends, I say, “This guy’s your fucking manager.” She says, “Yeah.”

So I went back to New York with the money in hand and went to Jellybean [Benitez] and Reggie Lucas and maybe two other guys, and said, “Whoever comes up with an up-tempo dance song gets to produce it.” Literally three days later, Jellybean comes into the office and plays me a demo of “Holiday,” and it’s like, “You win.”

Lisa Stevens, co-writer, “Holiday”:
Curtis Hudson and I wrote “Holiday” for the group we were in, Pure Energy.

Curtis Hudson, co-writer, “Holiday”:
Lisa was playing [sings opening chords], but she was playing it like a ballad. It wasn’t even in the rhythm of “Holiday,” but I heard something. The whole melody came together in my head over a couple days before I wrote anything down. Then it just poured out of me. We played it for everybody we knew, producers, artists – everybody was excited. Kool & the Gang were like, “Wow, that’s a smash.”

Lisa Stevens:
 We went into Mix-O-Lydian Studios in New Jersey and cut “Holiday.” Our record company said it wasn’t a hit.

Curtis Hudson:
We already had songs that were doing well in the clubs, we just never did break as a pop act. We played the Funhouse, the Paradise Garage, Studio 54. Jellybean was DJing at the Funhouse, so we met Madonna through him. When I first saw her, she had all these rags tied around her dress and all these accessories. I was like “What is she wearing?”

Lisa Stevens:
Jellybean told us Madonna was looking for one more song for the album.  He asked us if we had a song for her, and we said, here – we have “Holiday.”

Curtis Hudson:
So we went into Sigma Sound in New York with Jellybean, and we had the demo tape in the studio, and matched everything to that. I played guitar on it, my brother played the bass, and we brought Bashiri Johnson in to do percussion.

Fred Zarr:
Jellybean hired me to put my own touch on it. I was using new equipment at the time. The Oberheim System, which was the OB-X synthesizer, the DMX drum machine, and the DSX sequencer. I was reading the manual while I was programming in the studio. It was very primitive, but it was state of the art at the time. It allowed me to sort of have 12 hands at one time – to program the drums and sync it to the OB-X and some other keyboards – a bass part on the Moog, some string sounds. Jellybean and Madonna came to my house, I pressed play, the computer played part of the track. They loved it. We went in the next day, and I overdubbed the piano solo. Madonna played the cowbell. A couple of days and it was done.

Curtis Hudson:
We weren’t there when she did the vocal sessions, because she wanted privacy or whatever, so Jellybean said, “Would you guys mind?” We said, “No, if that’s the way she likes to record.” She didn’t know us that well, so maybe with Lisa doing the vocal on the demo, Madonna didn’t want to be influenced. When I first heard it, I was like, “Wow, okay, I’ve got to get used to hearing it without all the soulful riffs that Lisa did.” But once I’d really listened to it, I realized it was going to be more universal. Since she was pretty much sticking to the melody, it was all about the song.

Michael Rosenblatt:
At that point the jig was up. Everyone knew she was a little Italian girl. We originally had a drawing of her. But it was a little too soft, so we decided to go with a photo shoot.

Carin Goldberg, art director:
When I heard the name Madonna, my eyes just sort of rolled back in my head. I thought, “Just what we need, another gimmicky one-name girl singer who will have one album.”

We had a meeting, and she showed me her new loft.  we talked a little bit. Even at that time, she was not warm and fuzzy, she was very focused, very clear about the parameters that this was business and not a friendship. There was no pretense or bullshit, and I really liked that.  She knew what she wanted.

There was no discussion of what she would wear. On the day of the shoot, she showed up at the studio in her “Madonna outfit” and danced to her music while the photographer, Gary Heery, shot. I zeroed in on her bracelets, and borrowed more from Gary’s girlfriend, added those to her wrists and told Gary to focus on them. They were clearly her unique trademark. The shoot took no time at all.

Michael Rosenblatt:
As soon as we saw the proofs, that it was it. It was just perfect.

by SEAN HOWE
rollingstone.com

“MADONNA” TURNS 30 : A LOOK BACK AT THE QUEEN OF POP’S DEBUT ALBUM

30 years ago today, Madonna released her first album. Here’s a look at the chart success of Madge’s magnificent debut

July 27 is a “Holiday” for Madonna fans: Her self-titled debut album was released on this day in 1983.

“Madonna” debuted at No. 190 on the Billboard 200 chart dated Sept. 3, 1983, and eventually climbed all the way No. 8 the following year. The Sire/Warner Bros. Records release spent a staggering 168 weeks on the chart — the longest run of any Madonna album.

It spun off three top 20 hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and four entries on Billboard’s Dance/Club Play Songs tally.

Its first single, “Everybody,” was actually released the previous year, in late 1982. The song became a hit in dance clubs, especially in Madonna’s then-home of New York. The cut reached No. 3 on Dance/Club Play Songs in early 1983 and was initially embraced by the city’s dance radio station, WKTU. The outlet was arguably the first American radio station to play the track. WKTU reported it as a new “Playlist Top Add On” in the Dec. 11, 1982, issue of Billboard magazine, reflecting their station’s playlist for the week ending Nov. 30, 1982. (Fun fact: At the time, former Billboard associate publisher Michael Ellis was the music director of WKTU.)

Madonna told Rolling Stone in 2009 about hearing herself on WKTU for the first time: “I was living on the Upper West Side, 99th and Riverside, and at about 7 at night I had the radio on in my bedroom, on ‘KTU, and I heard ‘Everybody.’ I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s me coming out of the that box.’ It was an amazing feeling.”

“Everybody” was followed by the double-sided single “Burning Up”/”Physical Attraction,” a No. 3 hit on Dance/Club Play Songs in spring 1983. (It was common then for singles to be promoted as so-called “double-sided” singles, when a vinyl record would be sent to club DJs with a different song on each side.)

Next came another double-sided single: “Holiday”/”Lucky Star,” which became her first No. 1 on Dance/Club Play Songs in late summer 1983, just as her album was starting to take off. It was the first chart-topper her storied career as the queen of Billboard’s Dance/Club Play Songs survey. In her career, she’s earned a whopping 43 No. 1s — a record no other artist has neared. Her most recent No. 1 was 2012’s “Turn Up the Radio,” from her “MDNA” album.

“Holiday” eventually became Madonna’s first major mainstream hit in America and her first single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. It debuted at No. 88 on the Oct. 29, 1983, chart and peaked at No. 16 on Jan. 28, 1984.

The hits started to come fast and furious for Madonna after her breakthrough success with “Holiday.” “Borderline” came next, and gave Madonna her first top 10 on the Hot 100. It reached No. 10 on the June 16, 1984, tally. “Borderline” was her first of a record 38 top 10 hits on the Hot 100. (In second-place on the all-time list: the Beatles, with 34 top 10s.)

While “Lucky Star” had been a club hit already, it was then time for it to be promoted to pop radio. It sailed to No. 4 on the Hot 100 the week of Oct. 20, 1984.

One month later, on Nov. 17, 1984, Madonna would debut her fourth hit on the Hot 100: “Like a Virgin,” the title track and first single from her second album.

But, that’s a chart story for another day . . .

 

 

Source : Billboard

SLANT MAGAZINE: 15 GREATEST MADONNA NON-SINGLES

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Madonna’s done it all. And we’ve pretty much covered it all. So when we sat down to decide the best way to celebrate the anniversary of Madonna’s debut album, released 30 years ago tomorrow, we elected to dig up some of the forgotten or unheralded gems scattered liberally throughout her three-decade-spanning catalogue rather than predictably rank her best albums, singles, or videos—which we’ve more or less done on various other lists over the years anyway. With the exception of one B-side, one compilation cut, and one remix, all of our picks can be found on a Madonna studio album—a testament to the singer’s strength as an album artist, particularly in the ’90s. These are songs that, in a more adventurous world, could have been hits, and in some cases where the releases were nixed last minute, almost were, their breadth and depth reflective of an artist unwilling to allow herself to be defined. And just for shits and giggles, we ranked ’em.

15. “Physical Attraction.”
“Maybe we were meant to be together/Even though we never met before.” If that doesn’t sum up the relationship between Madonna and her instant fanbase circa her self-titled debut, I don’t know what does. “Physical Attraction” finds Madonna, still believably coquettish and naïve at this early point, tellingly offering her permission to take things to the next level. The girl was in the driver’s seat from day one, and never slid aside for anyone.
Eric Henderson

 

14. “Easy Ride.”
The literal and figurative denouement to both 2003’s divisive American Life and, more broadly, Madonna’s folktronica period, “Easy Ride” is the ultimate exemplar of Madge and Mirwais’s obsession with marrying acoustic guitars, squelchy synths, and deconstructed orchestral arrangements. Her vocals start off raw, nearly unrecognizable, and eventually grow fuller and richer until she admits what nearly every move of her 30-year career attests to: “What I want is to live forever.”
Sal Cinquemani

 

13. “Over and Over.”
This hi-NRG track from Like a Virgin is an early snapshot of a larger-than-life personality, introducing themes—racing against time, perseverance, and overall (blond) ambition—that would grow ever more pervasive in Madonna’s lyrics as she got older and more famous. The frenetic extended version, from 1987’s You Can Dance remix album, amps up Nile Rodgers’s original production with supersonic synth washes, time-stamped keyboard percussion fills, and—because why the hell not?—ringing alarm clocks. Cinquemani

 

12. “Gang Bang.”
Even before she splattered blood across three-story projection backdrops during her MDNA Tour, the gruesome imagery, the seemingly contemptuous snatches of dubstep, and the purely exploitative application of violence in what is otherwise an exercise in horror as fashion statement (“He deserved it”) within the Nancy Sinatra-swiping “Gang Bang” already positioned Madonna right alongside the new French extremists. There is no statement here, no empowerment, no redemption. Just a thrilling moment of reckless respite, the sort of indulgence only someone who has attained a certain level of renown can truly savor.
Henderson

 

11. “Has to Be.”
Ray of Light may have marked the queen’s return to her EDM throne, but it was her reunion with longtime songwriting partner Patrick Leonard, as well as producer William Orbit’s more subdued ambient soundscapes, that elevated the project above a mere electronica cash-in. Putting the law of attraction to the test, “Has to Be,” the meditative B-side to “Ray of Light,” is an anguished appeal to the gods above from the loneliest, most famous woman on Earth.
Cinquemani

 

10. “Waiting.”
As I wrote in my review of Erotica upon its 15th anniversary, “Waiting” is the ultimate masochism, one that’s entered into with full knowledge of what the emotional consequences will be. The very first lyric, “Well, I know from experience that if you have to ask for something more than once or twice, it wasn’t yours in the first place,” which Madonna utters with the same amount of interest a star of her stature might apply to buying a new pair of shoes, also happens to be one of the best opening lines to a pop song since “I guess I should have known by the way you parked your car sideways that it wouldn’t last.”
Cinquemani

 

9. “Sky Fits Heaven.”
This Ray of Light track is famous for being lyrically inspired by British poet Max Blagg’s 1992 poem “What Fits?” (later used in a Gap jeans commercial), but the song is a marvel not for Madonna’s new-age pontifications, but for its heavenly hook and William Orbit’s impeccable use of both analog and digital technologies, marked by expressive electric guitars and explosive drum fills constructed from tiny fragments of sound.
Cinquemani

 

8. “I Want You.”
Madonna’s haunting rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” is, if not more soulful, infinitely more desperate than the 1976 original. The confidence and determination in Gaye’s voice is replaced here with the kind of naked vulnerability Madonna perfected on Bedtime Stories a year earlier. Her feat is no doubt aided by the song’s transformation from a conga-accented disco number into a more languid trip-hop track, courtesy of Massive Attack and producer Nellee Hooper.
Cinquemani

 

7. “Sanctuary.”
From Marcel Proust to the more contemporary poet Carol Ann Duffy, Madonna has always drawn on literary influences in her lyrics, but it was of particular note on 1994’s Bedtime Stories, in which she artfully co-opted the work of George Herbert on “Love Tried to Welcome Me” and Walt Whitman on “Sanctuary.” On the latter, which musically draws inspiration from Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” she boldly and cleverly pairs a passage from the Book of Genesis with Whitman’s “Vocalism,” effectively likening her existence prior to meeting her object of obsession to that of the Earth before God.
Cinquemani

 

6. “Inside of Me.”
With full, round production by Nellee Hooper, “Inside of Me” on the surface sounds like a warm, intimate sauna of slack slow jack built on a foundation of Aaliyah and the Gutter Snypes samples, but radiating a sensuality that’s all Madge. But like every track on her prior album, Erotica, this song’s breathy hedonism masks an inner devastation: Underneath those tear-stained suggestions of sex mournfully deferred is actually a heartfelt tribute to her mother. Staring down a crossroads in her career, Madonna couldn’t help but make grief sound like fornication.
Henderson

 

5. “Till Death Do Us Part.”
How well the song has aged sonically may be at the mercy of Patrick Leonard’s then-state-of-the-art 1988 Yamaha keyboards, but the producer’s pointillistic use of synthesizers is, like on “Open Your Heart” before it and “I’ll Remember” after it, a thing to behold. No more so, however, than Madonna’s autobiographical account of her turbulent marriage to Sean Penn. In a song filled with lyrics that sting, this is but one: “You’re not in love with someone else/You don’t even love yourself/Still I wish you’d ask me not to go.” That barely perceptible whirring engine at the very end of the song is the sound of her going.
Cinquemani

 

4. “Thief of Hearts.”
Let there be no mistake: Madonna, at the peak of her imperial stage, was no benevolent dictator, and the full-out house assault of “Thief of Hearts” could serve as the national anthem for her jaded kingdom. Ain’t no coup d’état in this house. Just hard beats (if ever there was a litmus test for one’s tolerance of Shep Pettibone’s particularly monolithic production values, this is it), harder beatdowns (“Which leg do you want me to break?”), and the hardest lesson Madonna has ever had to bear: that the “Little Miss Thinks-She-Can-Have-What-She-Wants” she so mockingly sings about is herself, her own worst enemy.
Henderson

 

3. “Sooner or Later.”
For a performer as impenetrable as Madonna likes to make herself out to be, there was no hiding the way her expensive baubles vibrated tremulously from her ears when she performed Stephen Sondheim’s Oscar-winning song from Dick Tracy during the 1991 Academy Awards. It was a “Breathless” performance for what is otherwise one of the most unabashedly confident songs in Madonna’s back catalogue, a rip-roaring jazz pastiche that added another layer of brash shading to Madonna’s Marilyn caricature.
Henderson

 

2. “Impressive Instant.”
Perhaps the closest French quirk-house producer Mirwais got to no-glitch disco in his stint with Madonna, “Impressive Instant” was that close to being released as Music’s fourth single, and did end up topping the dance charts via DJ promo. With a distorted bassline that sounds like fire dancing from the depths of Hades, and Madonna tossing aside her Ray of Light Mother Earth-isms in favor of “I like to singy, singy, singy like a bird on a wingy, wingy, wingy,” the song is one of her most blatant U-turns back into the welcoming arms of dance music.
Henderson

 

1. “Secret Garden.”
The day she ever stops “wanting, needing, waiting” will never happen, a point Madonna drives home at the climax of Erotica when she muses, “I wonder when I’ll start to show/I wonder if I’ll ever know/Where my place is/Where my face is.” Andre Betts’s shuffling breakbeat and the jazzy piano and sax flourishes serve as a musical palate cleanser following Shep Pettibone’s highly icy house beats. But make no mistake, she’s no closer to wrapping up this story, and the way her discontent radiates even through lines about how “the sun has kissed me” is a lens through which her entire rocky career can be viewed.
Henderson

THE ‘VICIOUS COMPETITION FOR CREDIT’ OVER LAUNCHING MADONNA’S CAREER

Reggie Lucas worked in the studio with Madonna as she recorded her self-titled album, which turns 30 this week. But he says he hasn’t gotten his full due.

FIRSTALBUM

On July 27, 1983, the world would be introduced to a budding superstar from the streets of New York City (by way of Bay City, Michigan) named Madonna. On that date 30 years ago, Sire Records released her debut, Madonna. The record would go on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide and spawn five singles, including the hits “Holiday,” “Lucky Star,” and “Borderline.”

Behind the boards during recording was producer Reggie Lucas, who had seen success working with Lou Rawls, Stephanie Mills, Phyllis Hyman, and Roberta Flack, among other artists. Later in the process, Madonna brought in DJ John “Jellybean” Benitez to assist.

In the years since the album’s release, Madonna’s become a household name, one of music’s most influential artists ever, and a source of controversy–including among her collaborators. I spoke with Lucas about recording Madonna, about what made its singer so novel, and about who he think really deserves credit for the album that served as a launchpad for one of the greatest pop acts in history.

Your background was primarily as an R&B and jazz artist. How did that influence you creating the songs for Madonna? Because she was a different kind of artist.

Well, she was a white artist wasn’t she? [laughs] It was the main thing that made her different. When I came to the Madonna record, I came with two things. The first thing was I brought a lot of success and a solid background as a hit producer and songwriter within the R&B world, but it was also with the skill as a composer and rock and roll guitarist. Madonna was simply the first opportunity that I had to play around with other musical interests that I had. You couldn’t make the first Madonna record for Phyllis Hyman. I couldn’t make Miles Davis music for Roberta Flack. Miles was the one place where I got it all out of my system, and that was the beauty of Miles.

As a producer, you understood that your first job was to support people to achieve that end. You challenged the artist just enough to bring out the best in them and introduce them to audiences that they normally wouldn’t be introduced to. When I did “Physical Attraction,” that was just it. She was a little different. Madonna was wilder in terms of her look and image; I don’t know if her music was that much wilder than anyone else back then. I think her music was sexually freer and it predicted what was going to happen in the future. She was definitely an innovator when it became to being more suggestive, which was pretty cool. I thought it was great.

So–mixing that with my musical background, Madonna’s first album was really a hybrid of her interests and mine. “Physical Attraction” was our starting point with that style. It did pretty well and she began to move forward with her career and sound.

How did that dynamic work in the studio?

She had a lot of material that she had written and collaborated with other people on in the course of being signed to a record label. When she met me, “Everybody” was about to come out and she had written “Lucky Star.” My role had been as a creative songwriting record producer. [Musician James] Mtume and I typically wrote a good percentage of the material we produced for Stephanie Mills, Phyllis Hyman, and those artists. So that’s what I ended up doing for Madonna. I would write songs and ask her, “What do you think of this?” “Physical Attraction” and “Borderline” were done specifically during the production process and for her. They weren’t demo songs that I was shopping around.

Madonna and I had an enormous amount of freedom. They would tell us to make the record and we went and made the record. I think, in retrospect, we were happy to come up in an era where the record company played a very small role in creative supervision. Our creative process was very independent.

Did you guys have a set routine that you followed every day coming into the studio?

She was diligent, it was a pretty good experience. She wasn’t the type of artist that you had to go and look for. She wanted to be successful. She was always there when she needed to be. I was used to being in charge of things so I was always there at the studio ready. I made sure everything moved smoothly for her so that the process surrounding being in the studio was fairly transparent to her. She had to come in focused on her music and performing as an artist and it helped my focus as well. The musicians I worked with were guys I had worked with for years. We worked out of Sigma Sound Studios, a studio I worked out of for years as well. She brought some very good people into the situation. It was very comfortable making the record.

We made usage of synthesizers and drum machines. That was the first record that I ever recorded where I used a drum machine. It was one of the big transitions for me. We used Moog and Arp synthesizers, and that was relatively new technology back then. It gave the music a new sound. Madonna was an artist that knew what she wanted, but she wasn’t a record producer. So it was my responsibility to create a sound for her. She would be there interactively. If she didn’t like something she heard, she would say so and I would change it. The funny thing that happened on this record is when we got into the studio together we established this mini-Moog bass sound for her as her key sound. And she stuck with it for a long time.

Were there any challenges in working with a low budget and trying to break a new artist on a new label, Sire Records?

It wasn’t really difficult at all. Sire wasn’t a new label. It was an independent record label that was acquired by Warner Brothers. It had an enormous amount of success with the English punk sound and dance music. Sometimes things just have a flow to them. Madonna’s record had a flow to it. Michael Rosenblatt was always there and I worked with him from the label. He was great, he was a real pro. He knew how to be an A&R person for a record. He didn’t interfere, but he wasn’t so distanced from it that he didn’t have an idea of what was going on.

Michael is probably an unsung hero of launching Madonna’s career. If you can believe it, Warner Brothers had very limited interest in Madonna when she was first signed. You know what they thought? They said that Madonna is this new white artist that wants to sing black–so what they did was send her to the black radio stations when her first record came out, and that’s how they promoted her at first. They just treated her as a black artist. I guess they kind of envisioned her as Teena Marie. Madonna had an intense interest in black music, but she wasn’t Teena Marie. She was something different. But she did it and she went to the black radio stations and held her own. Frankie Crocker was playing her records in New York.

When you bring up the fact that Madonna was pushed toward a black audience, it would explain why “Physical Attraction” and songs like that were at top of the Billboard Black Singles Charts.

You can’t make this stuff up. Warner Brothers really didn’t know what to do with her. See, there was a subtext to Madonna that had to do with her personality. She looked like a punk rocker to a lot of people. When people at record companies, law offices, and managerial places first saw Madonna before she became an established artist, a lot of people were put off by her. They thought she was too crazy and too weird. Being a music person and a human being, I don’t operate that way. I thought she was cool and different. I didn’t really know if she was going to become a big star, but I thought she had something valid to say and I could help her with it. Warner Brothers didn’t get it right away, but Michael Rosenblatt did.

When she took off, there was an immediate, massive shift to move in and establish business relationships with her. In the beginning, she was just this little dance artist that Frankie Crocker gave a few spins to, and some DJs out in San Francisco, and she starts creating this buzz. Then, people at the record label started putting two and two together and got five. They immediately did a 360 and welcomed her with open arms.

Many people think other famous producers launched Madonna’s career. What are your feelings about that?

I’ve refrained over the years in addressing aspects of Madonna’s career because I’m not a person who likes negative discussions. But what I will say is that in Madonna ascent to fame and fortune, there’s been a pretty vicious competition for credit in being involved. In other words, someone will say, “I launched Madonna.” If I talk to a lot of people today, I will say I was Madonna’s first producer. I produced six of the eight tracks on her first record. I would say nine times out of 10, their response will be, “Oh yeah, I thought Jellybean did that.” But Jellybean didn’t do that. Jellybean was a remixer, and we didn’t have time to remix records. It wasn’t something that I was interested in doing. Somewhere in this process of publicists and personal relationships, somehow he came out as the guy.

I was a traditionalist and probably a little naive at the time, but I started out working for Billy Paul. Billy and his wife Blanche were like parents to me. They took me under their wing. I was a little kid. They took me on the road. They looked after me. They supported me. I joined Miles Davis’s band. Miles introduced me to the world of big-time jazz success. I played at the greatest halls in the world and stayed at the finest hotels. Miles was like a surrogate father to the guys in the band. You got credit for the work you did. You were a member of Miles’s band. When I worked for Roberta Flack, Stephanie Mills, and Phyllis Hyman, we made the records and people would say, “Oh, you produced that record.” You produced one good record for Stephanie Mills and take her from selling no records to selling gold records; they would call you back and treat you better.

Sothis Madonna record was my first and worst introduction to the notion that you wouldn’t have a linear continuation with someone who you’ve had success with. It totally blindsided me. I understand it a little bit better now, but not really. Just for the record, one tires in a lifetime of hearing someone taking credit for something that you’ve done. Jellybean produced “Holiday” and he remixed a couple of tracks, but remixing tracks for radio isn’t the same thing as producing one of the major breakout pop stars of the 1980s. Now there’s Wikipedia and you’ll always find these distortions in Wikipedia. My kids find this stuff and they fix it for me. [laughs] I don’t think there’s really ever been someone to clear this up. Madonna certainly hasn’t helped at all. I think if it were left up to Madonna, she wouldn’t talk about anybody.

The bottom line is that, I think, the kind way that Madonna has always tried to refer to me is that I was just an R&B producer. There are two things that I dislike about that. First thing is, that it treats being an R&B producer as pejorative, as if it were something less than being a pop or rock producer. Second thing is, that I didn’t make an R&B record for her. I made a crossover pop record of the highest order. So the notion that she similarly dismissed me because I was just an R&B producer is offensive on multiple levels to me.

It’s hurtful because I didn’t understand it. I did the same thing I always did. I came in and worked my ass off to support the artist and cast them in a good light. Everybody but her reciprocated by saying they liked the record, and let’s make another one. Between her and Jellybean, they try to pretend the records I did weren’t any good. It’s almost like I was fired or something. I wasn’t fired. I finished the record I put it out and they took it and put it out and sold a bunch of records. And everybody else ran around trying to take credit for it because it was so big that they couldn’t help themselves.

Talk me through the process of making some of the songs you were involved with on the album.

I’d write songs and put them on a little cassette player with me singing, and I can’t sing. I’d ask Madonna if she liked them, and she said, “Yeah, it sounds cool. Let’s do it.” I did the demos for “Physical Attraction” and “Borderline” and she brought in her demos for her songs to the studio. And we did what we did to them. Probably the most interesting one was “Lucky Star.” If you heard the original demo for “Lucky Star” and you heard what it came out like, they’re the same song, but barely. We really put a lot of creative energy into that one and it came out beautifully.

I must say, Madonna was great to work with in the studio. She really put in the work. She was a creative person. And it was one of the many reasons why it was disappointing not to be involved in subsequent projects. It’s just one of those things. Look, she picked one of my good buddies, Nile Rodgers, to do the next record. She couldn’t have picked a better person.

I always had a pretty casual process of making songs, but with some formality. I kind of inherited how Miles Davis used to operate. So we would come in and the songs were simple they didn’t require a lot in the way of charts. I would write out a little chord sheet, but the musicians were so good they would learn these things. They were really used as templates to try to find in the studio what we wanted to do with the songs. I’d make a lot of creative decisions and creative additions and subtractions to whatever was going on in the studio. We didn’t spend a lot of time messing around either. I think that’s the trick.

When you make a pop record, you don’t want it to sound sterile. You want to bring some of the improvisational excitement of jazz, but without the actual 15-minute saxophone solo. You can’t have a 15-minute saxophone solo on a Madonna record. You have to find a way to build in this excitement in a way that just works. Being a member of rhythm sections as a guitarist was always helpful to me in terms of understanding how music works from a production-quality standpoint. When you’re a member of a rhythm section, you know when the music is a dud because you’re right there as it happens. I always felt that I was always in tune to the level of energy, precision, and crispness of rhythm section performances. And I think that’s the key to so many records.

As you look back 30 years later, how do you feel about the impact the album made on popular culture after it was released? It’s regarded as one of the most important pop albums from the 1980s.

Well, I don’t know. I think everybody involved in the arts has a tendency to take themselves a little bit too seriously. I made a great record, and I a lot of people liked it. It sold a lot of copies and launched careers and created opportunities for people. And that’s what you want to do. That is supposed to be the outcome of your good work. I don’t think it changed the nature of life in America or anything like that. [laughs] It was just a good record.

theatlantic.com

‘MADONNA’ TURNS 30: A LOOK BACK AT THE QUEEN OF POP’S DEBUT ALBUM

FIRSTALBUM

30 years ago today, Madonna released her first album. Here’s a look at the chart success of Madge’s magnificent debut

July 27 is a “Holiday” for Madonna fans: Her self-titled debut album was released on this day in 1983.

“Madonna” debuted at No. 190 on the Billboard 200 chart dated Sept. 3, 1983, and eventually climbed all the way No. 8 the following year. The Sire/Warner Bros. Records release spent a staggering 168 weeks on the chart — the longest run of any Madonna album.

It spun off three top 20 hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and four entries on Billboard’s Dance/Club Play Songs tally.

Its first single, “Everybody,” was actually released the previous year, in late 1982. The song became a hit in dance clubs, especially in Madonna’s then-home of New York. The cut reached No. 3 on Dance/Club Play Songs in early 1983 and was initially embraced by the city’s dance radio station, WKTU. The outlet was arguably the first American radio station to play the track. WKTU reported it as a new “Playlist Top Add On” in the Dec. 11, 1982, issue of Billboard magazine, reflecting their station’s playlist for the week ending Nov. 30, 1982. (Fun fact: At the time, former Billboard associate publisher Michael Ellis was the music director of WKTU.)

Madonna told Rolling Stone in 2009 about hearing herself on WKTU for the first time: “I was living on the Upper West Side, 99th and Riverside, and at about 7 at night I had the radio on in my bedroom, on ‘KTU, and I heard ‘Everybody.’ I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s me coming out of the that box.’ It was an amazing feeling.”

“Everybody” was followed by the double-sided single “Burning Up”/”Physical Attraction,” a No. 3 hit on Dance/Club Play Songs in spring 1983. (It was common then for singles to be promoted as so-called “double-sided” singles, when a vinyl record would be sent to club DJs with a different song on each side.)

Next came another double-sided single: “Holiday”/”Lucky Star,” which became her first No. 1 on Dance/Club Play Songs in late summer 1983, just as her album was starting to take off. It was the first chart-topper her storied career as the queen of Billboard’s Dance/Club Play Songs survey. In her career, she’s earned a whopping 43 No. 1s — a record no other artist has neared. Her most recent No. 1 was 2012’s “Turn Up the Radio,” from her “MDNA” album.

“Holiday” eventually became Madonna’s first major mainstream hit in America and her first single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. It debuted at No. 88 on the Oct. 29, 1983, chart and peaked at No. 16 on Jan. 28, 1984.

The hits started to come fast and furious for Madonna after her breakthrough success with “Holiday.” “Borderline” came next, and gave Madonna her first top 10 on the Hot 100. It reached No. 10 on the June 16, 1983, tally. “Borderline” was her first of a record 38 top 10 hits on the Hot 100. (In second-place on the all-time list: the Beatles, with 34 top 10s.)

While “Lucky Star” had been a club hit already, it was then time for it to be promoted to pop radio. It sailed to No. 4 on the Hot 100 the week of Oct. 20, 1984.

One month later, on Nov. 17, 1984, Madonna would debut her fourth hit on the Hot 100: “Like a Virgin,” the title track and first single from her second album.

But, that’s a chart story for another day . . .

billboard.com