Today in Madonna History: February 2, 1985

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On February 2 1985, Sidewalk Talk peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Play chart. The song was written by Madonna, who also contributed vocals on the chorus and bridge while the verses were performed by Catherine Buchanan. Madonna gifted the song to producer/remixer/DJ/boyfriend Jellybean Benitez for use on his debut EP, Wotupskii!!?! and it was promoted to clubs by EMI Records in October, 1984. It was eventually issued as a commercial single, climbing to #18 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Sidewalk Talk was arranged by Stephen Bray & Benitez with vocal arrangement by Madonna, according to the album’s liner notes. Madonna’s lyrics to the song recall her early years in New York and some of the challenges she encountered adjusting to big city life.

Today in Madonna History: October 20, 1984

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On October 20 1984, Madonna’s Lucky Star hit #4 the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart in the USA.

Jellybean Benitez said this of the Lucky Star recording session:

“She was unhappy with the whole damn thing, so I went in and sweetened up a lot of music for her, adding some guitars to Lucky Star, some voices, some magic.  I just wanted to do the best job I could do for her. When we would play back Holiday or Lucky Star, you could see that she was overwhelmed by how great it all sounded. You wanted to help her, you know? As much as she could be a bitch, when you were in the groove with her, it was very cool, very creative.”

Today in Madonna History: July 27, 1983

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On July 27 1983, Madonna’s eponymous debut album was released by Sire Records. The record was renamed Madonna: The First Album for the 1985 international re-release of the album.

The album was released with 8 tracks (produced by John “Jellybean” Benitez, Mark Kamins and Reggie Lucas):

  1. Lucky Star
  2. Borderline
  3. Burning Up
  4. I Know It
  5. Holiday
  6. Think of Me
  7. Physical Attraction
  8. Everybody

Five singles were released from The First Album:

  1. Everybody (October 6 1982)
  2. Burning Up (March 9 1983)
  3. Holiday (September 7 1983 – UK)
  4. Lucky Star (September 8 1983)
  5. Borderline (February 15 1984)

“Madonna was unhappy with the whole album, so I went in and sweetened up a lot of music for her, adding some guitars to ‘Lucky Star’, some voices, some magic… I just wanted to do the best job I could do for her. When we would playback ‘Holiday’ or ‘Lucky Star’, you could see that she was overwhelmed by how great it all sounded. You wanted to help her, you know? As much as she could be a bitch, when you were in a groove with her, it was very cool, very creative.”

— John “Jellybean” Benitez talking about Madonna and the album.

Today in Madonna History: April 25, 1988

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On April 25 1988, Spotlight was released as a single by Warner-Pioneer. Issued exclusively in Japan, it was the only commercial single release from the remix album You Can Dance. The song was written by Curtis Hudson, Madonna and Stephen Bray and was produced by Stephen Bray. Madonna wasn’t given a co-producer’s credit on the track – odd considering it was a leftover from the True Blue album sessions, for which she co-produced every song. The track was remixed by John “Jellybean” Benitez for its inclusion on You Can Dance.

In a 2012 interview with blogcritics.com writer Justin Kantor, Curtis Hudson recalled the circumstances surrounding the creation and release of Spotlight:

“During the time right after Holiday, when we’d go to her place and write, I presented Spotlight. I gave her a complete song, Spotlight. I had actually written it in case Warner Bros. asked her for another Holiday. She said she loved it and felt spiritual about it. But she didn’t use it or contact me again about it. It sort of popped up out of nowhere when she was getting ready to do You Can Dance. Her lawyer contacted our manager and said we needed to talk. We went over and met with him. She and Stephen Bray had already done the song; but I hadn’t even heard the version they had done.They took the demo I had given her and worked it into a different song. They gave me credit since I had the original song copyrighted. I would’ve collaborated and made changes. But I was told, ‘Well, she’s too busy. She’s overseas doing a movie.’ I was okay with it, though, because they gave me credit. But the original song had a certain magic, and the changes took that essence away. The original Spotlight was another Holiday—the rhythm, the basic groove. I think they were trying to get away from that sound. Sometimes artists don’t want their sound to be identified with specific writers.”

Today in Madonna History: February 15, 1984

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On February 15 1984, Madonna’s Borderline single was released. Borderline was the fifth single to be released from her self-titled debut album.  It was written and composed by producer Reggie Lucas, and remixed by Madonna’s then boyfriend John “Jellybean” Benitez.

In the United States, the song became Madonna’s first top ten hit when it reached position ten on the Billboard Hot 100 on June 16, 1984.

Today in Madonna History: October 3, 1985

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On October 3 1985, Madonna’s second single from the motion picture Vision Quest, Gambler was released by Geffen Records in select markets.

Gambler was entirely self-written by Madonna and produced by John “Jellybean” Benitez.

Gambler was never released in the United States, but it went to #4 in the UK.  The single also reached the top-ten in the charts of Australia, Belgium, Ireland, Ireland, Netherlands and Norway.

The music video for the song is an excerpt from the film.

Madonna has performed the song only once, on her Virgin Tour in 1985.

Alex Henderson from Allmusic called the song “an ultra-infectious gem that, unfortunately, isn’t on any of the Material Girl’s CDs” and felt that Gambler should have been a big hit.  

Would you like to see Madonna perform “Gambler” on a future concert tour?

Today in Madonna History: August 8, 1984

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On August 8 1984, Madonna’s Lucky Star was released.  Lucky Star became Madonna’s first U.S. top five hit (No. 4), and the first in a string of 17 consecutive U.S. top fives. The video was directed by Arthur Pierson, a stark performance piece bringing together her brother Christopher Ciccone and Erica Bell as backup dancers. The clip was filled with black rubber jelly bracelets, lace and a certain gyrating belly button.

Lucky Star was written by Madonna and produced by Reggie Lucas and Jellybean Benitez.