Today in Madonna History: November 16, 1989

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On November 16 1989, Madonna’s eponymous album was ranked #50 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 100 Greatest Albums Of The 1980s.

Here’s what Rolling Stone had to say of Madonna’s debut album:

Five years after arriving in New York City from her hometown of Pontiac, Michigan, Madonna Louise Ciccone had little to show for a lot of work. By 1982, she had managed to get only a few gigs singing with drummer Stephen Bray’s band, the Breakfast Club, at clubs like CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, and the future looked far from bright.

“I had just gotten kicked out of my apartment,” Madonna says, “so the band let me live in their rehearsal space at the Music Building, on Eighth Avenue. Stephen had keys to all the rehearsal rooms, so when I decided to make my own demos, we’d go into other people’s studios at night and use their four-track machines.”

Armed with a tape, Madonna began making the rounds of New York’s dance clubs. “I had heard that a lot of A&R people hung out at the clubs,” she says, “and I thought trying to go see them at their offices would be a waste of time.” It proved a good strategy: Through Mark Kamins, the DJ at Danceteria, the tape found its way to Sire Records, and Madonna was signed by label president Seymour Stein. “Seymour was in the hospital at the time,” she says. “I got signed while he was lying in bed in his boxer shorts.”

The contract with Sire guaranteed just one single, but it had options for recording albums as well. With Kamins producing, Madonna cut the moody disco track Everybody as her debut single. But when Sire picked up its option to record an album, she decided to try a different producer. “I wanted someone who’d worked with a lot of female singers,” she says.

Reggie Lucas, the Grammy-winning songwriter who had produced Stephanie Mills and Roberta Flack, was selected. After recording the album’s second single, the Lucas-penned Physical Attraction, he and Madonna cut the rest of the album, with the exception of Holiday, which was produced by Jellybean Benitez.

“Things were very informal and casual,” Lucas says of the sessions. “It was my first pop project, and she was just a new artist. I had no idea it would be the biggest thing since sliced bread.”

Indeed, initial response to Madonna gave no indication of the mania to follow. It took a year and a half for the album to go gold. But its assured style and sound, as well as Madonna’s savvy approach to videos, helped the singer make the leap from dance diva to pop phenom, and it pointed the direction for a host of female vocalists from Janet Jackson to Debbie Gibson.

“It influenced a lot of people,” says Madonna, who cites Chrissie Hynde and Debbie Harry as her own musical heroes. “I think it stands up well. It just took a long time for people to pay attention to me —and I thank God they did!”

Today in Madonna History: October 14, 2009

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On October 14 2009, Madonna appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, with a classic shot by Herb Ritts.

Inside the magazine, Madonna was asked about how she felt when she first heard Material Girl and Like A Virgin:

I liked them both because they were ironic and provocative at the same time but also unlike me. I am not a materialistic person and I certainly wasn’t a virgin, and, by the way, how can you be like a virgin? I liked the play on words, I thought they were clever. They’re so geeky, they’re cool.

When asked if she could predict whether a song would be a hit or not:

I’ve never been a good judge of what things are going to be huge or not. The songs that I think are the most retarded songs I’ve written, like Cherish and Sorry, a pretty big hit off my last album, end up being the biggest hits. Into The Groove is another song I feel retarded singing, but everybody seems to like it.

Today in Madonna History: September 21, 1989

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On September 21 1989, Madonna was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine for the second time that year (she was also featured on the cover in March 1989).

Herb Ritts took some amazing shots of Madonna for the cover. We’ve shared a few of what we consider to be the best from that shoot. We can’t look at these photos without hearing Cherish in our heads!

Today in Madonna History: June 13, 1991

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On June 13 1991, Madonna was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.  The feature included a photo spread shot by Steven Meisel.

Madonna has no equal at getting attention. She often seems to behave like someone who has been under severe restraint and can now say and do whatever she likes without fear of reprisal. She delights in being challenged, in telling more than she had planned, in going further than she had intended. And judging from her new film Truth or Dare, there is no “too far” for Madonna.

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.