Today in Madonna History: November 20, 1993

On November 20 1993, Madonna – Live Down Under: The Girlie Show (taped November 19th at Sydney Cricket Ground) was broadcast on HBO-TV. In Australia, Madonna postponed a scheduled concert at the Sydney Cricket Ground due to severe rain.

Recording of the November 19th show had been intended to serve as both a practice run for the following night, and as a safety show in the event of technical difficulties or cancellation of the November 20th concert. With Madonna apparently satisfied with the safety footage captured on the 19th, neither the December 3rd show at the Cricket Ground nor the rescheduled date (December 4th) served to provide supplemental footage for the eventual VHS/laserdisc release. The only notable differences between the HBO broadcast and the released version were some alternate camera angles and additional audio mixing.

Today in Madonna History: November 11, 1989

Oh Father [Cassette Single] 550oh father set 4 2oh father set 7oh father set 3oh father set 5oh father set 6 oh father 3 550

On November 11 1989, the music video for “Oh Father” premiered on MTV in the US. Filmed at Culver Studios, California in late October, 1989 by director David Fincher, the black & white clip drew cinematic influence from the 1941 Orson Welles film, Citizen Kane. Its narrative expanded on darker elements from Madonna’s life – focusing on the death of her mother, her relationship with her father and the recurring effects of childhood trauma in her adult life. The clip’s icily detached symbolism and heavy subject matter are counter-balanced by overarching themes of forgiveness and inner-strength.

In a 2009 interview with The Guardian, Fincher recalled:

“I had kinda talked Madonna into releasing “Oh Father” as a single and we did this video and were very happy with the video – but nobody ever saw it because the song wasn’t a hit.”

Although the video was put into rotation on MTV, the channel had requested that Madonna remove a scene that displayed a close-up of the deceased mother’s lips sewn shut – a request that she refused to consider. Compounded by a tepid response to the song from radio, where its bleak overtones clashed with playlists of the day, the single stalled at number twenty in the US – her lowest peak on the Hot 100 at the time (excluding her first two singles, neither of which broke into the Hot 100). In Canada the video was put into heavy rotation and the release fared slightly better on the charts, peaking at number fourteen.

Despite its relative lack of commercial appeal, the song and video are frequently cited as a creative triumph for Madonna by fans and critics alike.

Today in Madonna History: November 3, 2000

Letterman (2000) 2

On November 3 2000, Madonna guested on CBS-TV’s Late Show With David Letterman to promote the Music album. She performed an acoustic version of the album’s second single, “Don’t Tell Me.”

The performance featured several firsts for Madonna: her first live performance to promote the Music album; her first TV appearance following the birth of her son Rocco; her first performance on guitar since her pre-fame days in NYC band Emmy; her first unplugged/acoustic live performance; her first live performance with longtime guitarist Monte Pittman; and her first (and only) musical performance on the Late Show.

Despite being promoted as such, it was not, however, Madonna’s first time back to the Late Show after her infamously censored 1994 appearance. She had made a brief, unscheduled visit to the set to drop off a valentine for Letterman during a 1995 taping of the show.

Today in Madonna History: October 30, 1995

you'll see video 2you'll see canadian sleeve

On October 30 1995, “You’ll See”  was released as the first single from the ballads compilation, Something To Remember. It was one of three tracks written and produced by Madonna with Canadian songwriter David Foster during a marathon writing/recording session in late September 1995, with “One More Chance” also making the album’s final cut. A shelved collaboration entitled “I Can’t Forget” was recorded by British electronic group Tilt (retitled “Come Closer“) in 2006 and later by Canadian vocalist Angelica Di Castro. Madonna’s original unreleased demo leaked to the internet in 2010.

A Spanish version of “You’ll See” entitled “Verás” (featuring lyrics by Paz Martinez) was recorded during a brief promotional push for the album and was included on the North American maxi-single alongside an instrumental version and a live recording of “Live To Tell” (taken from 1987’s Ciao Italia! concert release). An alternate version of the “You’ll See” video was serviced to Latin markets to promote “Verás” featuring in-studio footage of Madonna recording its vocals.

Today In Madonna History: October 25, 1994

Bedtime Stories CoverBedtime Stories sleeve 2Bedtime Stories sleeve 3Bedtime Stories sleeve 1

On October 25 1994, Madonna’s sixth studio album, “Bedtime Stories” was released by Maverick Records. The album was produced by Madonna with co-producers Nellee Hooper, Dave Hall, Dallas Austin and Babyface.

When the self-orchestrated media onslaught that accompanied the release of her previous album “Erotica” largely overshadowed the brilliant work it contained, Madonna took a decidedly subdued approach when it came to promoting “Bedtime Stories.” Interviews conducted for its release were mostly in print with a greater emphasis being placed on music – it seemed as though Madonna had little patience at the time for interviewers who insisted on turning her private life into headlines. 

Both a sense of defiance and a hint of impatience with society’s intolerance to her boundary-pushing provocations carried over into the work itself, most notably with album opener, “Survival” and the sardonically biting “Human Nature.” But such sentiments were balanced with songs that were perhaps more personal and more poetic than she had offered on previous albums, with the possible exception of “Like A Prayer”. Feelings of longing, loneliness and loss – along with early glimpses into spiritual rediscovery – are at the emotional heart of the record, with songs like “Love Tried To Welcome Me” and “Sanctuary” containing some of her most ambitiously inspired lyrics, expanding on written works by George Herbert, Carson McCullers and Walt Whitman. 

Perhaps the album’s most notable triumph is for Madonna as record producer, as she successfully manages to design an overarching flow that seamlessly bridges the styles of her various collaborators and co-producers. Indeed, “Bedtime Stories” is a body of work that is much more successful as a whole than it is broken down into individual tracks, which may explain why it is frequently overlooked in comparison to her more singles-driven albums of the previous decade. Even the record’s mega-hit, “Take A Bow” hasn’t maintained the traction in the realm of public consciousness that some of her earlier and later hits have managed to do. But when played from start to finish, “Bedtime Stories” remains surprisingly relevant through its subtleties and nuances – aptly demonstrating that even for Madonna, sometimes less is more.

“So here’s my question –
Does your criticism have you caught up
In what you cannot see?”