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.

“I’ve refrained over the years in addressing aspects of Madonna’s career because I’m not a person who likes negative discussions. But what I will say is that in Madonna’s ascent to fame and fortune, there’s been a pretty vicious competition for credit in being involved. In other words, someone will say, ‘I launched Madonna.’ If I talk to a lot of people today, I will say I was Madonna’s first producer. I produced six of the eight tracks on her first record. I would say nine times out of 10, their response will be, ‘Oh yeah, I thought Jellybean did that.’ But Jellybean didn’t do that. Jellybean was a remixer, and we didn’t have time to remix records. It wasn’t something that I was interested in doing. Somewhere in this process of publicists and personal relationships, somehow he came out as the guy. Just for the record, one tires in a lifetime of hearing someone taking credit for something that you’ve done. Jellybean produced ‘Holiday’ and he remixed a couple of tracks, but remixing tracks for radio isn’t the same thing as producing one of the major breakout pop stars of the 1980s…it’s almost like I was fired or something. I wasn’t fired. I finished the record…and they put it out and sold a bunch of records. And everybody else ran around trying to take credit for it because it was so big that they couldn’t help themselves. … I must say, Madonna was great to work with in the studio. She really put in the work. She was a creative person.”

— Reggie Lucas, producer of Madonna’s first album.

Although its authenticity is unconfirmed, this is said to be an early track list of the album.

Today in Madonna History: April 23, 1983

On April 23 1983, the recording of Madonna’s debut album was mentioned briefly in Billboard magazine.

The fact that Jellybean was producing Naked Eyes at the same studio provides some context for the vocal Madonna recorded for the remix of their single, Promises, Promises. Perhaps Sire didn’t support the idea at the time, as Madonna’s cameo remained shelved for twenty years until the band finally issued it on a scarce retrospective, Everything And More, in 2002.

Today in Madonna History: March 26, 1983

On March 26 1983, the music video for Madonna’s Everybody was briefly mentioned in Billboard magazine along side the music video for Konk’s Konk Party, noting that both videos were directed by Ed Steinberg of Soft Focus Productions. What is not mentioned and likely not known to the columnist (considering they think Madonna is the name of a group!) is that Madonna appears as an extra in Konk Party along with her pals Erika Belle and Martin Burgoyne. Original Sonic Youth drummer and member of Konk, Richard Edson, is also featured in the video. Edson would later appear in the film Desperately Seeking Susan, holding open a newspaper box for Madonna, and is pictured prominently next to Madonna in the film’s cast photo – which is unusual considering the brevity of his time on-screen. He worked with Madonna again in 1988, playing the character of Johnny Crackow in the film, Bloodhounds Of Broadway.

Sonic Youth would explore their own fascination with Madonna with their side project, Ciccone Youth. In liner notes for Sonic Youth’s reissue of their landmark album, Daydream Nation (1988), the band revealed that they had given an advance copy of Ciccone Youth’s The Whitey Album (1988) to Madonna’s sister, who was working in Warner’s art department at the time, seeking Madonna’s approval for the use of her image on the album cover (her songs Into The Groove & Burning Up were also covered & sampled). Word came back that Madonna had no issues with it, adding that she remembered the band from their early days in New York.

Sonic Youth made humourous references to Madonna’s place in popular culture in their promotional artwork throughout the 80’s – typically designed by bassist/vocalist/guitarist and visual artist, Kim Gordon. They were even known to use Madonna’s music as interludes during guitar changes at their shows in the 80’s, bewildering audience members who were not privy to their shared origins as part of the early 80’s underground music scene in NYC.

In another connection, Sonic Youth’s 2004 album, Sonic Nurse, featured artwork from Richard Prince’s acclaimed Nurse Paintings series. In 2015, Madonna used a rotating selection of paintings from her own art collection as backdrops for a series of press junket interviews to promote her Rebel Heart album. One of the paintings displayed was Prince’s Heartbreak Nurse from his Nurse Paintings series.

Today in Madonna History: March 9, 1983

On March 9 1983, Madonna’s second single, the classic double A-side Burning Up/Physical Attraction, was released on 12″ vinyl.

The sleeve of the single featured a series of sketches of Madonna created by her close friend, Martin Burgoyne.

 

Today in Madonna History: February 26, 1983

On February 26 1983, Madonna’s first single, Everybody, spent its 17th and final week on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in the USA. Everybody reached #3 on the chart on November 6, 1982. In addition to spending 17 weeks on the Hot Dance/Club Play chart, the classic dance hit also spent 8 weeks on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart. Not bad for a first single!

Today In Madonna History: February 5, 1983

On February 5 1983, Madonna’s Everybody charted at #37 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs (later renamed the Hot Dance Music/Club Play) chart in the USA.

Madonna’s reaction to the first time she heard Everybody on the radio:

“I was living on the Upper West Side, 99th and Riverside, and about 7:00 at night I had the radio on in my bedroom, on WKTU, and I heard ‘Everybody‘. I said ‘Oh, my God, that’s me coming out of that box.’ It was an amazing feeling.”

Today in Madonna History: January 26, 1983

On January 26 1983, Madonna performed a track date at the Red Parrot at 617 West 57th St in New York City. Also featured on the bill were Planet Rock and Man Parrish.

While unconfirmed, the setlist likely would have previewed the soon-to-be-released Physical Attraction & Burning Up (which were recorded in November, 1982) along with her then-current club hit, Everybody.

A review of the night’s performances was featured in the February 12 1983 issue of Billboard Magazine (pictured with the show’s flyer above).

It may have been the first but it would be far from the last review in which Madonna’s musical talent would be minimized in retribution for her strong visual presence, among other things. Unlike Elvis or Michael Jackson, female artists are often criticized for flaunting the same qualities that make heros out of their male counterparts; for daring to be more than one-dimensional artists. While Madonna is not the first or the last female artist to break through these barriers – and her mission is indeed still a work in progress – one only needs to flip through the pages of Billboard magazine on both sides of the 1983 cultural divide to witness the scope of her impact on music and popular culture.

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