Today in Madonna History: October 24, 1987

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On October 24 1987, “Causing A Commotion” climbed to its peak position of number-two in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. It remained in the runner-up spot for three weeks, with Michael Jackson’s “Bad” blocking it from the top for the first two weeks and Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” overtaking it on the third.

The song was the second and final Madonna single from the Who’s That Girl soundtrack in North America, while some international markets were treated to a third single – the underrated ballad “The Look Of Love.”

Today in Madonna History: October 17, 1995

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On October 17 1995, the Marvin Gaye tribute album Inner City Blues: The Music Of Marvin Gaye was released. Compiled and released on Motown Records, the album featured a beautifully poignant remake of the 1976 classic “I Want You” by Madonna with Massive Attack.

Motown Records had initially brought Massive Attack on board to produce the track before a lead singer had been confirmed. Early plans sought to have Chaka Khan perform vocal duties, but after failing to turn up for the recording session she was swiftly nixed from the project. Aaron Neville was then lined up as a replacement but plans again fell through when contract issues prevented his participation. Producer Nellee Hooper, who had recently produced cuts for Madonna’s Bedtime Stories album, suggested her as a potential choice. Surprisingly, getting Madonna’s vocal contribution involved less red tape and less prima donna behaviour than either previous option.

Massive Attack’s 3D and Hooper flew to New York and spent two days in the studio with Madonna. 3D commented on the recording session in interviews with The Face (Nov/95) and ChannelV TV (Jun/98) respectively:

“She sang it really well, she had it sorted out, you could tell she knew the song, she’d really worked fucking hard on it. Fucking good.” 

“It was quite freaky for me because I’m just a Bristol boy. She was singing in my ear as we were playing the music down, giving me her version of it. I wasn’t taking any notice at all really. I was just thinking about how mad it is. She is such an icon it takes you a while to adjust. When she was in the vocal room, it was amazing. We did a few takes just to cover it, but she sang it so well we could have done it in one take. It was that beautiful.”

Madonna was equally impressed with the results of the session, opting to include the song as the opening track on her forthcoming ballads compilation, Something To Remember – and book-ending the set with an orchestral version. Initially planned as a jointly-promoted lead single for both albums, a video was filmed for the song by director Earle Sebastien. While the video was put into rotation on music video channels in early October, plans to release the track as a single were scrapped due to label disagreements between Motown – who insisted on releasing the tribute album several weeks ahead of Something To Remember – and Warner. Perhaps fearing that Warner would withdraw their permission to include Madonna’s vocals on the tribute, Motown wisely ceded to its inclusion on Madonna’s own retrospective. The song was later featured on Massive Attack’s 2006 best-of, Collected.

Today in Madonna History: October 13, 1992

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On October 13 1992, the “Erotica” single was released. Originally credited to Madonna & Shep Pettibone, Pettibone’s partner Tony Shimkin was later granted co-writing credit for nearly all of the Pettibone collaborations on the album, including “Erotica.” The debut release to feature the imprint of the fledgling Maverick Records, the song was produced by Madonna & Pettibone.

As several leaked demo versions of the song can now attest, the track had gone through numerous incarnations before Madonna settled on lyrics that positioned her in the perspective of Dita – the alter-ego she had created for her Sex book. The song’s original chorus (“You thrill me…”) was reincorporated into the song when Madonna performed it during her 2006 Confessions Tour. Alternate verses were also used to create the track “Erotic,” which was included with the Sex book – these lyrics were also featured in a William Orbit remix that was included on the “Erotica” maxi-single.

French art director and photographer Fabien Baron designed the artwork for the single, the album and the Sex book. He also directed the “Erotica” music video, which included footage he had shot on Super 8mm during the making of the book. Baron recalled his first meeting with Madonna to discuss their potential collaboration in a 2009 interview with Hint Fashion Magazine:

“I met Madonna at her home on Central Park West to talk about working on her Sex book. It was very comfortable but very uncomfortable at the same time, which is a very interesting feeling. She’s very imposing and knows what she wants. She’s very informed and opinionated, which makes her genius. She takes you in and swallows you up — and you don’t mind it –  you actually enjoy it. There’s an unspoken seduction that goes on. I was young…she was young, too – and beautiful. That was an unforgettable era. She put that book out at the best moment. She timed it very well…she knows what she’s doing. And such drive. Some people want to lift stones to see what’s under them. She’ll be on a beach with millions of stones and want to lift every one of them.”

Today in Madonna History: October 10, 2002

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On October 10 2002, the music video for “Die Another Day” premiered on MTV. Helmed by Swedish directing team Traktor, the action-packed short for Madonna’s James Bond theme remains the second most expensive music video of all-time, with production costs surpassing the six-million dollar mark. The clip made its debut as part of an episode of MTV’s Making The Video – Madonna’s first appearance on the series.

Traktor’s Ole Sanders spoke to Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet about Madonna’s involvement in the clip’s development:

“We received daily e-mails with feedback that was concise, unambiguous and occasionally entertaining. She works extremely hard with gumption and detail, and it was clear to us how she has remained on top for twenty years. It was no use being unprepared with vague ideas disguised as creativity, as there was no place to hide.”

The video was filmed at Hollywood Center Studios in Hollywood, California between August 22 and August 27, 2002 – an atypically lengthy shoot by Madonna’s standards, likely due to the complexities of capturing the special effects and stunts featured throughout the Bond-influenced clip.