Madonna found immense popularity by pushing the boundaries of lyrical content in mainstream popular music and imagery in her music videos, which became a fixture on MTV. Her videos depicted controversial subjects such as teen pregnancy, racism, religion, sex and violence. She received the Video Vanguard Award for her contributions to the world of music video.
While there’s no denying Madonna was an early innovator in the art of music video, little did MTV – or those of us watching – know at the time that her most artistically groundbreaking work in the medium was yet to come.
Two things we did know at the time, however:
- Madonna’s insistence on sending Nikki Finn to collect awards on her behalf during this period was cute and everything, but mostly it just seemed…well…reductive.
- Madonna really liked that dress. But was it a dress?
On August 28 1986, Madonna and Sean opened in David Rabe’s Goose & Tomtom at Lincoln Centre’s Mitzi Newhouse Theatre, in New York.
Here’s a snippet of an article that Dena Kleiman published about the play:
A Revival that may not revive (New York Times August 19, 1986):
Madonna and Sean Penn are quietly dashing in and out of Lincoln Center these days in connection with closely guarded rehearsals of David Rabe’s Goose and Tomtom that may never be opened to the public.
But maybe, said Mr. Rabe, who is also directing the play, he will invite a special audience to come next week to a free performance – or even two. And after that? ”I’ve reserved the right not to show it,” Mr. Rabe said.
The rehearsals, in which Harvey Keitel, Barry Miller and Lorraine Bracco are also taking part, have been described by Mr. Rabe as a ”work in progress” for a play that was previously – but in his view unsuccessfully – produced. He said he believes he has a better handle on the play now, but is still not absolutely sure.
In the play, Goose (Barry Miller) and Tomtom (Sean Penn) are a pair of jewel thieves, who, in collaboration with a sexy woman named Lorraine (Madonna), amass a collection of gems only to have them stolen by a rival gang.
”I’m in the process of trying to understand it,” said Mr. Rabe, who is currently working with the actors on the stage of the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. ”I wrote it without understanding it, and it has taken a long time to grasp.”
On July 26 1986, Papa Don’t Preach spent its third and final week at number-one on the UK singles chart. It was certified Gold by BPI on August 1st, 1986 for shipment of over 500,000 copies, based on certification thresholds at that time. With a chart run extending for 15 weeks, the single ranked #8 overall in the UK’s year-end charts tally.
The song was a massive hit across Europe, topping the Eurochart for an incredible eleven week stretch from August 2nd through October 11th, 1986 when it was finally overtaken by none other than Madonna herself with the follow-up single, True Blue.
Although Justify My Love is often cited as being the first-ever video single, it is interesting to note that it was actually not the first Madonna music video to be marketed commercially as a single. Possibly an attempt to cash-in on the success and controversy surrounding Papa Don’t Preach or more likely as a means of testing out new marketing possibilities for a hybrid laserdisc/cd format, Warner issued limited quantities of Papa Don’t Preach as a CD Video in the US, UK and Japan containing three audio tracks along with the music video. Perhaps anticipating the limited appeal of the format, Warner did not bother modifying the track-listing to include the appropriate b-sides in either the UK (Ain’t No Big Deal) or Japan (Think Of Me), instead opting to issue the US b-side (Pretender) on all three pressings. Stranger still was the release date – 1988 – two years after the standard single hit stores. Needless to say, this early attempt to market a music video single did not stir public interest the way it would in 1990, and the concept went into hibernation mode until Madonna gave audiences a video single they were willing to pay for.