Today in Madonna History: June 8, 1991

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On June 8 1991, Madonna’s Holiday debuted at #12 in the UK.  It was the third time that Holiday was released in the UK, this time to promote The Holiday Collection.

The first time the song was released in the UK it peaked at 6. The second time it was released it peaked at number 2, only to be kept away from number 1 by her own Into the Groove.  The 1991 released peaked at number 5 during the week of June 15.

Today in Madonna History: April 10, 1985

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On April 10 1985, Madonna’s Virgin Tour opened with 3 sold-out concerts at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, Washington.

During a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone, interviewer Austin Scaggs asked Madonna regarding her feelings and emotions during the tour, since it was the first time she was playing in arenas. Madonna replied saying, “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.”

Madonna had three shows in Seattle – April 10, 12 and 13 – and all three were sellouts by the time she took the stage that first night. The Beastie Boys opened for Madonna and they weren’t well received by the pro-Madonna crowd. The show was a year before “Licensed to Ill” was released.

Their 30-minute set got off to a bad start when one of the Beastie Boys declared himself King of the Paramount, and generally made the pro-Madonna audience feel like a swarm of hillbillies, P-I pop music critic Gene Stout wrote in his review.

“Dressed in what looked like a Boy George outfit, she looked reluctant, almost scared, and kept her eyes on the ground as she and her small entourage swept past a modest gathering of fans,” Stout wrote.

Madonna started the show with Dress You Up, followed with Holiday, and performed Borderline for the first time live as her seventh song. Madonna ended by debuting Material Girl as her encore.

Today in Madonna History: March 16, 1995

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On March 16 1995, Madonna’s The Immaculate Collection was certified 6x platinum (6 million units) in the USA.

Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine (allmusic.com):

On the surface, the single-disc hits compilation The Immaculate Collection appears to be a definitive retrospective of Madonna’s heyday in the ’80s. After all, it features 17 of Madonna’s greatest hits, from Holiday and Like a Virgin to Like a Prayer and Vogue. However, looks can be deceiving. It’s true that The Immaculate Collection contains the bulk of Madonna’s hits, but there are several big hits that aren’t present, including Angel, Dress You Up, True Blue, Who’s That Girl and Causing a Commotion. The songs that are included are frequently altered. Everything on the collection is remastered in Q-sound, which gives an exaggerated sense of stereo separation that often distorts the original intent of the recordings. Furthermore, several songs are faster than their original versions and some are faded out earlier than either their single or album versions, while others are segued together. In other words, while all the hits are present, they’re simply not in their correct versions. Nevertheless, The Immaculate Collection remains a necessary purchase, because it captures everything Madonna is about and it proves that she was one of the finest singles artists of the ’80s. Until the original single versions are compiled on another album, The Immaculate Collection is the closest thing to a definitive retrospective.

Today in Madonna History: January 28, 1984

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On January 28 1984, Madonna’s single, Holiday hit #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA.

Holiday was released on September 7, 1983, and became Madonna’s first hit single and remained on the charts from Thanksgiving to Christmas in 1983. It was Madonna’s first song to enter the Billboard Hot 100, at 88 on the issue dated October 29, 1983 and reached a peak of 16 on January 28, 1984 and was on the chart for 21 weeks. The song debuted at eight on the Hot Dance Club Play chart on the issue dated November 2, 1983 and was Madonna’s first number one single on the Hot Dance Club Play chart remaining at the top for five weeks.

In the United Kingdom, Holiday has been released three times as a single; in January 1984, reaching number six, and in August 1985 reaching number 2 (only being kept from number one by her own Into the Groove single). Its third release in 1991 included new artwork to promote The Immaculate Collection with a limited edition EP titled The Holiday Collection, which contained tracks omitted from the compilation; this version peaked at number five.

The photos for this post are from Madonna’s Solid Gold performance of Holiday.

Today In Madonna History: January 26, 1984

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On January 26 1984, Madonna performed Holiday on BBC1-TV’s Top Of The Pops in London, England during a promotional visit to the UK. She was also interviewed by Number One, The Face and Record Mirror magazines.

With no original music video produced for Holiday, Warner serviced the Top Of The Pops performance to music video stations in some countries, including Canada.

Blogcritics contributer Justin Kantor interviewed Holiday songwriters Curtis Hudson & Lisa Stevens of the group Pure Energy in 2012 about the writing and recording of Madonna’s first pop cross-over hit:

Tell me how you came up with “Holiday.”

Lisa Stevens: I woke up, got on the keyboard and started playing those beginning chords over and over for a day or two. I couldn’t come up with anything else. I just kept hearing those chords. Curt said, “Lisa, I hear something with that.” At first, I said, “Wait a minute. Let me sit with this for awhile.” And then, I didn’t come up with anything. He came up with the hook—”Holiday, celebrate”—and that funky bassline. We just kicked it back and forth.

Curtis Hudson: Lisa wanted to go in a different direction. I was inspired by those first two chords. It kind of sticks in your gut. I wanted to write to it while I had that initial feeling. Maybe a week went by. By the time she said “Go ahead, you can write,” I pretty much had the whole song in mind. I had been feeling it, so it poured out of me.

LS: When I heard that bassline, I said, “Whoa, Curtis! You’re the man.”

What about the verses?

CH: I did most of the lyrics.

LS: I threw in a couple. Curt was looking for a line when I said, “How about, ‘It would be so nice’?”

CH: I pretty much wrote it from my head in 30 minutes. I did most of the lyrics and arrangements back then.

Do you usually have a concept before you start writing?

CH: It just comes together. The music inspires the feeling of the lyrics. At that time, I remember watching the news and thinking, “Wow, things are so depressing. We need to take a universal holiday—just that one day we could get away. That would be a great thing for this world.”

Curtis, you played on the actual recording of Madonna’s version.Tell me about the sessions.

CH: It was a complete arrangement with vocals, percussion, and everything. We took the demo into the studio and matched the new tracks to it. Fred Zarr played keyboards. My brother, Raymond, played bass. I played guitar. We pretty much did the same things we did on the demo.

LS: Fred added a lick in there, the piano solo at the end of the song. Everything else is exactly like we did it for them to follow; except, I sang all the backgrounds on the demo, and Madonna had the vocalists she was going to use—Norma Jean Wright and Tina Baker.

CH: We cut the rhythm track in a day and got the song really poppin’. Everybody was really happy. Madonna was in the studio throughout the recording of the rhythm tracks. She’s a very hands-on type of person. But matching the demo was a big concern for us—down to the string sounds. I didn’t want to get away from that, because Jellybean and Madonna felt the demo had a certain magic. On the demo, I played Rhodes, [programmed] strings, and drums. It was pretty much transferring what we did to a bigger studio. We had used a Linn drum, but Fred Zarr brought in his Oberheim.

However, I didn’t get a production credit on the record. Jellybean presented the song to the label. They had slated him to produce it, as he had an existing relationship with Madonna. It came with the territory that he would be credited as a producer. We debated amongst the group. I wanted a production credit. But we said, “It’s one song. Let that song be the way to get us out there.”

LS: I was there for the recording of the rhythm tracks; but Madonna wanted to do her own thing on the vocals and backgrounds—with no one else in there. She wanted to get her vibe, and she did a great job.

CH: The vocals are one of the major differences between the demo and the master for Madonna. Lisa’s were more soulful, had more of a gospel flavor and were a bit more energetic. Madonna’s style made it more poppish.

LS: But she got some of that soul in there. That’s what the public was saying. I was real happy with the way it turned out.

CH: I think Madonna doing the song is part of the magic of it doing what it did. It was a timing situation. Madonna was ready to happen. Pure Energy needed that one song to legitimize us, to say we can write hit songs. It was a perfect match for Madonna. She’s a hardworking artist. She did justice to it. She stayed true to the melody of the song. She didn’t take anything away from it.

LS: She added her thing to it. I like the fact that she didn’t try to copy me. She put herself into it. She’s a songwriter herself, and a great artist.

Did you know that the song was going to be released as a single?

LS: We didn’t know. “Lucky Star” was supposed to come out first. But the radio stations picked up “Holiday” and started putting it in regular rotation. The song just took off after that. We were happily surprised. It didn’t even have a music video to support it, because Warner Bros. wasn’t prepared.

CH: We would get calls from radio stations that people knew it was a Pure Energy song. They knew our vibe. At that time, a lot of people also thought Madonna was a black artist. When we’d go around doing radio promotions of our own records, people often would tell us that they sensed “Holiday” was our production, even though they saw Jellybean’s name on it. They could hear our stamp all over the song, and they asked, “How could you just give that way?” That could be your number-one song.

Madonna has cited “Holiday” as one of her favorite songs she’s recorded. What do you think makes it stand out to her?

CH: When the song was starting to chart and everybody was buzzing, we would run into her at airports. We were performing in some of the same places. She told us, “Thank you for writing this song. You guys don’t know what you did!” She was really excited about it. I think that might be why it’s a favorite, because the song really put her out there and made her a legitimate artist.

Warner Bros. didn’t produce a music video for it at a time when music videos really started to make songs. Had they done a video, then “Holiday” probably would’ve been a much bigger song than it was at the time; probably #1 pop.

What memories do you have of working with Madonna? Any thoughts on her impact on the music industry?

CH: She definitely knows what she wants—what works for her, what doesn’t work for her. I’ve heard a lot of people criticize her vocals; but she knows what works for her range and how to get the best out of her sound.

LS: You know it’s Madonna when you hear her. She’s got her own sound, her own look. She’s a great businesswoman and very talented individually.

CH: We felt she was going to be a big artist. I remember when she came into the studio: her style of dress was so different. She had these rags and pieces of material attached to her clothes. There was something about her. I remember telling her, “I think you’re going to be a big star next year at this time,” and she said, “You really think so?” At the time, it seemed like she was going through a whole lot of stuff with her management and career.

She knew how the business worked early on. Some people complained that she uses you up; but I never felt that way. I felt that she, being a woman in the industry, knew how difficult it would be. And she wasn’t in a group; she was by herself. She knew the games people play; so she said, “I’m gonna play this game for me to come out on top.” I respected that about her. She wasn’t going in like some artists, who let people take total control of them—what to do, when to do it, how to do it. They don’t know anything about the business; and once their time is up, they’re thrown aside for another artist.

She’s a very hands-on person. I remember when I was cutting the guitar track for “Holiday,” there was a little something I do in the rhythm where she was, like, “Do you have to do that?” I told her that it was part of the funk in the rhythm. She said, “Are you sure you have to do that?” She picked up just that little part in the guitar rhythm and really wanted me to play it another way. I assured her that it was best the way I was doing it. But I was impressed; a lot of times singers don’t notice stuff like that.

Nowadays, we’re missing that element of everybody going in there and doing it. Many times, artists don’t do anything but go in and learn the song from the songwriter’s demo. They then cut it phrase by phrase to the track. That’s it. They have no input. It’s whatever the writer hears. That’s why most writers now are very good singers. Most of the top ones are artists who didn’t get signed. But the artists don’t have any real work to do. They just copy everything, even the ad-libs.

LS: Being a songwriter and producer, she handles things. She was there from beginning to end of the recording session. She’s an on-point performer. A lot of singers can’t get up there and dance and sing at the same time—they go flat. But she stays strong.

CH: A lot of people compare Lady Gaga to her. But there was no Madonna before Madonna. She had no blueprint to go by when she came out. So you really can’t compare the two. Madonna created so many different things that young people can draw from now.

Thanks to blogcritic contributer Justin Kantor for the interview excerpt. Check out the complete interview here.

Today in Madonna History: January 23, 1988

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On January 23 1988, Madonna’s You Can Dance remix album hit #14 (and peaked) on the Billboard 200 chart.

Here is Stephen Thomas Erlewine’s review (from AllMusic.com) of You Can Dance:

Released in 1987 as a stopgap, the remix album You Can Dance reworks material from Madonna’s first three albums. Actually, it keeps the spotlight on her first record, adding non-LP singles like “Into the Groove” for good measure, along with a bonus track of “Where’s the Party.” Since it’s a dance album, it doesn’t matter that “Holiday” and “Into the Groove” are here twice, once each in dub versions, because the essential grooves and music are quite different in each incarnation. It is true that some of this now sounds dated — these are quite clearly extended mixes from the mid-’80s — but that’s part of its charm, and it all holds together quite well. Not essential, but fun.