Today in Madonna History: July 26, 2012

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On July 26 2012, Madonna performed at the historic Olympia music hall in Paris, France.

The one-off mini show – performed during her MDNA Tour but not part of the tour proper – featured a selection of performances from the standard set list, plus two additional songs: a Beautiful Killer/Die Another Day mash-up (with choreography adapted from the tour performance of Revolver) and a cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s Je t’aime…moi non plus. A live webcast of the show streamed on YouTube.

The show was not without controversy, although the exact nature of the controversy depends on who you believe. According to some, a small group of hecklers in attendance decided to cause a commotion after the show had ended, booing and throwing bottles on the stage. Others suggested there may have been political motivations behind the heckling due to Madonna’s opposition to the platform of National Front party leader Marine Le Pen. Much of the local media claimed that some fans were upset over the short length of the show (45 minutes), as it had not been explicitly promoted as a mini concert, despite the fact that it was likely the lengthiest of any club show Madonna had performed at the time.

Madonna responded to the kerfuffle with the following statement:

Playing the Olympia was a magical moment for me and it was a real treat to do this special show for my fans and be so close to them. Unfortunately at the end of the show – after I left the stage – a few thugs who were not my fans rushed the stage and started throwing plastic bottles pretending to be angry fans. The press reports have focused on this and not the joyous aspect of the evening. But nothing can take away or ruin this very special evening for me and my fans. When I looked out in the audience, everyone I saw had a smile on their face. I look forward to having this wonderful experience again.”

Set list:

  • Turn Up The Radio
  • Open Your Heart
  • Masterpiece
  • Justify My Love (interlude)
  • Vogue
  • Candy Shop
  • Human Nature
  • Beautiful Killer (featuring elements from Die Another Day)
  • Je t’aime…moi non plus

Today in Madonna History: July 25, 1998

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On July 25 1998, the music video for Drowned World/Substitute For Love premiered in Europe. The video was directed by Walter Stern and was filmed on June 26 & 27 1998 at London’s famous Claridge’s Hotel and Piccadilly Circus.

The video caused some controversy when the British press reported that it would feature scenes of Madonna’s car being chased by paparazzi on mopeds, concluding that it was a reference to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the previous year. Liz Rosenberg responded by denying that the scenes were intended to draw comparison to Diana’s death and insisting that the video was about Madonna’s own relationship with fame.

Sadly the video was not serviced to video channels in North America, and with online steaming and downloadable videos not yet prevalent at the time, most fans outside of Europe were only able to enjoy the video for the first time when it appeared on the 93:99 video collection over a year later.

Today in Madonna History: July 23, 1985

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On July 23 1985, Into The Groove was released as a single in the UK.

Not wanting to draw more attention away from the Like A Virgin album following the release of the soundtrack hit Crazy For You, Sire/Warner notoriously relegated Into The Groove to the b-side of the Angel 12″ single in North America & Australia, although they eventually ceded to issuing it as an A-side in most other international territories.

Into The Groove was written & produced by Madonna & Stephen Bray and was their first released co-production to not be reworked by an outside producer (the pair had already been producing their own demos for years). The original demo version was used over the closing credits of Desperately Seeking Susan (seemingly dubbed from an actual cassette copy of the demo–granted, DAT’s were still a few years away), and although the commercially released mix featured a slightly beefed-up and more polished-sounding musical backing track, it kept Madonna’s original demo vocals intact.

In the UK, and throughout most of Europe, the single was backed by the Madonna-penned ballad Shoo-Bee-Doo, while the original album version of Everybody (another song credited to her alone) rounded out the 12″ single…it would be fair to assume that Madonna likely earned some of the biggest single-generated songwriting royalty cheques of her career thus far with this release. It’s interesting to note that despite being one of Madonna’s most enduring dance floor classics, no remixes were produced for Into The Groove at the time of its release. It wasn’t until 1987’s You Can Dance remix compilation that the song finally received an official extended remix treatment.

Today in Madonna History: July 21, 2001

Madonna performing during the first show in the North American leg of her 'Drowned World Tour 2001' at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, Pa., 7/21/01. Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect.

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Madonna performing during the first show in the North American leg of her 'Drowned World Tour 2001' at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, Pa., 7/21/01. Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect.

On July 21 2001, Madonna kicked off the U.S. leg of her Drowned World Tour with the first of two sold-out concerts at the First Union Centre (now the Wells Fargo Centre) in Philadelphia.

For the first time in her career, Madonna altered one of her tour set lists by performing You’ll See in the place Gone at select shows during the U.S. leg of the tour. You’ll See made its live debut at the July 21st show in Philadelphia and was performed again the following night. The decision to alter the set list was rumoured to have been made in response to European reviews of the tour, which despite being generally favorable, often lamented the show’s overabundance of new material and lack of hits.

Personally, we were pleased that the Ray Of Light and Music albums were the primary focus of the Drowned World Tour. If she had instead focused on hits, it is likely that these two essential Madonna albums would have been treated similarly to Bedtime Stories–an album from which she has yet to perform anything other than its four released singles.

Were you disappointed at the time by the lack of hits and the focus on recent album cuts during the Drowned World Tour? Have your views shifted at all in retrospect?

Today in Madonna History: July 15, 1989

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On July 15 1989, Express Yourself peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the U.S.

Express Yourself spent two weeks in the runner-up position, with Simply Red’s If You Don’t Know Me By Now blocking it from the top spot in the first week, and Martika’s lone chart-topper, Toy Soldiers, leapfrogging over it in its second week.

Today in Madonna History: July 7, 2007

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On July 7 2007, Madonna performed Hey You, Ray Of Light, La Isla Bonita/Lela Pala Tute and Hung Up at the Live Earth benefit concert at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Madonna was joined onstage by Gogol Bordello. It was also her final live performance to feature longtime backing singer Donna De Lory, musical director/collaborator Stuart Price, as well as drummer Steve Sidelnyk and keyboardist Marcus Brown.

Today in Madonna History: July 2, 2005

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On July 2 2005, Madonna performed Like A Prayer, Ray Of Light and Music in front of an audience of over 200,000 during the Live 8 benefit concert at London’s Hyde Park. Part of a series of concerts, many of which were held simultaneously at various locations around the world, Live 8 was broadcast live on television and radio to an estimated global audience of two billion.

Madonna is one of only eight acts – and the only female artist – to have been a headlining performer at both 1985’s Live Aid and 2005’s Live 8. Other returning performers were U2, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Sting, The Who, George Michael, and organizer, Bob Geldof. It took a bit of arm twisting on Geldof’s part to win Madonna’s commitment the second time around, as Madonna explained to MTV’s John Norris in a backstage interview after her performance:

Bob Geldof sent me a letter asking ‘will you do Live 8?’ and he didn’t really tell me anything and I went ‘Oh common dude, you gotta do better than that! Prove to me that it’s gonna make a difference and I’ll be there for you.’ And he did!”

In what turned out to be one of the event’s most moving moments, Madonna was introduced to the stage by Geldof with Birhan Woldu – the starving African child featured in the CBC News report twenty years earlier who had prompted Geldof to organize Live Aid. When Geldof had asked Woldu which artist she would like to appear with on stage, she immediately selected Madonna for the simple reason that she was the only artist on the bill that she had ever heard of. In a later interview, Woldu recalled the experience:

The crowd seemed to stretch for miles, but I’d been telling myself not to be nervous. There was just a huge picture of me as a child on the screen. That photo still upsets me. It was taken 20 years ago, when both my mother and sister died. I knew I must be strong for them but when I walked on I could feel my body shaking. Then Madonna took my hand and looked into my eyes, the crowd roared and I realised the world wanted to help my continent. I felt myself grow stronger.”

Madonna’s memorable performance at Live 8 was largely praised by mainstream media and fans alike.