Today in Madonna History: April 26, 1994

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On April 26 1994, The Girlie Show – Live Down Under was released by Warner-Reprise Video on VHS and laserdisc.

The concert – recorded on November 19, 1993 at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia – was a re-edited version of the concert special that had aired live on HBO. It was directed by Mark “Aldo” Miceli, who directed the live screens on Madonna’s 1990 and 1993 tours, as well as the Blond Ambition Japan Tour 90 VHS/laserdisc release. The Girlie Show – Live Down Under was nominated for a Grammy in 1995 for Best Long Form Music Video and was also one of the first concerts to be commercially issued on DVD in 1998.

Today in Madonna History: March 17, 1994

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On March 17 1994, the music video for I’ll Remember (Theme From With Honors) premiered on BBC1-TV’s Top Of The Pops in the UK.

I’ll Remember began as a collaboration between Richard Page (of 80’s band Mister Mister) and Patrick Leonard. Leonard had been asked by Madonna to score Alek Keshishian’s film With Honors, and had also been collaborating with Page on an upcoming Toy Matinee album. When Leonard played an early demo of I’ll Remember for Madonna, she loved it and decided to record it with new lyrics she had written. The song was produced by Madonna & Patrick Leonard, with Page providing additional backing vocals.

Madonna had previously crossed paths with Richard Page when he presented her with a trophy at the 1987 American Music Awards.

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Today in Madonna History: December 6, 1994

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On December 6 1994, Madonna’s Take a Bow was released (as a physical single).  Take A Bow was selected to be the second single from Madonna’s sixth studio album Bedtime Stories.

The ballad was written and produced by Madonna and Babyface.

Billboard Single Reviews gave the song a very positive review:

The follow-up to the top five smash Secret is a plush pop ballad that pairs La M with the red-hot Babyface, who has become best friend to many a diva in recent times. As close to perfect as top 40 fare gets, this single has a delightful, immediately memorable melody and chorus, engaging romance-novel lyrics, caressing live strings, and a lead vocal that is both sweet and quietly soulful. A lovely way for the singer to close ’95 — and one more good reason to investigate her essential Bedtime Stories collection.

Today in Madonna History: December 5, 1994

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On December 5 1994, Madonna began filming the music video for Bedtime Story at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, CA.

The video marked her second collaboration with director Mark Romanek and featured cinematography by Harris Savides. To assist in the process of developing her ideas for the video into something more tangible, Madonna again turned to storyboard artist Grant Shaffer, who had previously collaborated on her videos for Deeper And Deeper and Rain.

Madonna recalled the inspiration for the video in an interview with Aperture magazine:

“My Bedtime Story video was completely inspired by all the female surrealist painters like Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo. There’s that one shot where my hands are up in the air and stars are spinning around me. And me flying through the hallway with my hair trailing behind me, the birds flying out of my open robe – all of those images were an homage to female surrealist painters; there’s a little bit of Frida Kahlo in there, too.”

The effects-laden video was shot over six days and has been noted by Madonna as being one of the more grueling video shoots of her career. Filming of a scene that featured Madonna bathing in blue-coloured water yielded unexpectedly colourful results; when Madonna emerged from the water, she later recounted, it quickly became apparent that her skin had been temporarily stained blue.

Fortunately any on-set difficulties were not evident in the final product. Following several months of post-production work, the video’s stunning surrealist imagery was enthusiastically received by viewers upon its release in March, 1995.

A very special thank you to artist Grant Shaffer for generously sharing a selection of his original storyboards used in the development of the Bedtime Story video! We’d like to invite readers to check out more of Grant’s art on his official website – including his sketches for Deeper And Deeper, Rain and Madonna’s Japanese Takara commercial.

Today In Madonna History: October 25, 1994

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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?”