Today in Madonna History: September 25, 1993

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On September 25 1993, Madonna’s The Girlie Show tour opened with 2 sold-out concerts at Wembley Stadium in London, England.  Over 144,000 fans attended the two shows in London.

The Girlie Show was launched in support of Madonna’s 1992 album, Erotica. The show had the central visual theme of a “sex circus”. Described as “a mixture of a rock concert, a fashion show, a carnival performance, a cabaret act and a burlesque show”, the show had a more complex stage than those from Madonna’s previous tours: it had a runway that led from the centre of the main stage to a minor stage, a revolving elevated platform in the middle of the main stage, balconies in the rear of the stage, and a giant illuminated Girlie Show sign above stage, among other features. The tour was directed by Madonna’s brother, Christopher Ciccone; costumes for the tour were designed by Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana.

Did you see The Girlie Show live in person? 

Today in Madonna History: September 2, 1993

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On September 2 1993, Madonna opened the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards performing Bye Bye Baby.  She cavorted on stage with three scantily clad women in a brothel-style setting, dressed in tuxedos and top hats, in a choreographed, highly sexual routine.  According to choreographer Alex Magno, he wanted to do Justify My Love or The Beast Within on MTV, but Madonna decided that they might be too controversial for live television and abandoned the idea. Nevertheless, Bye Bye Baby was chosen and performed with the choreography they had been practicing for The Girlie Show World Tour, since it represented the whole idea behind the tour.  Louis Virtel from The Backlot ranked the performance at number eight on a list for Madonna’s 11 Greatest VMA Moments. He praised Madonna’s rendition of the song at the Video Music Awards, calling it “a hell of a VMA performance” and a “killer cinematic throwback”.

Today in Madonna History: August 21, 1993

On August 21 1993, Billboard magazine interviewed director Mark Romanek for a feature article about Madonna’s music video for Rain:

One rarely finds the use for such adjectives as “Zen-like,” spare, and sentimental in describing an outrageous, outspoken, and extreme performer like Madonna. Yet the artist’s new Maverick -Sire-Warner Bros. video “Rain,” directed by Mark Romanek for Satellite Films, conjures those very images against the understated elegance of a tenderly soothing ballad. The result is a Madonna who is chic yet vulnerable, glamorous yet sweet.

“The contradiction you face in shooting a Madonna video is that people expect something rather grand from her, and yet the feeling of the times is that things need to be simplified and stripped away,” says Romanek. The director admits he was a bit intimidated by the prospect of shooting a video that would mark a departure from Madonna’s ostentatious antics of the past. “The song is a bit sentimental, and you just can’t do something psychosexual and subversive with it,” he notes. “My challenge was to come up with something that seems glamorous and expensive, yet is spare and Zen-like at the same time.” Romanek chose to interpret “Rain” as an exercise in media manipulation and image-making. The clip is reeled as a video-within-a-video, as Madonna, the doe-eyed ingenue, performs for a Japanese film crew.

Music buffs may recognize the “director” in the clip as the photogenic composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. “By making it a Japanese thing, we made Madonna more vulnerable; she’s away from home, more out-of-place,” says Romanek. “It creates a nice subtext and makes her more sympathetic.” And by shooting a “crew” shooting a clip, Romanek created the kind of prefab, artificial scenario that would underscore the true emotion of “Rain.”

“We knew we needed some rain, but we didn’t want the clip to be too clichéd or too literal,” he notes. “So we figured if we have to have rain, let’s have fake rain.” That fake rain was contained in two tall “walls” that stand on either side of a simply clad Madonna. One shot looks deceptively plain, but as Romanek explains, “the amount of equipment, pipes, and lights that are hidden in that image, so that the walls appear to stand as simply as possible and look aesthetically correct, was huge.”

To further capture the crystalline essence of the song, Romanek and cinematographer Harris Savides chose to lens a number of rare, color closeups of Madonna’s face and features. But they were faced with the technical challenge of updating the traditional “Garbo lighting” used since film’s earliest days to flatter a star’s most arresting features. Madonna agreed to undergo a half day of camera tests, after which a new German lighting fixture was chosen to achieve a thoroughly modern, yet classic, effect. Icy blue eyes stare directly into the camera as full, lush lips sing the lyrics into an old-fashioned microphone. Of all the sequences in the “Rain” video, Romanek says he is proudest of these close-ups. It’s one of the hardest things to make something as simple as that possible,” the director says. “You need that kind of icon, like Madonna, to make a shot like that work.”

The Satellite crew spent four days making sure such aesthetically correct shots would work, including a windswept storm sequence on a stage, and an overhead shot of Madonna surrounded by a bed of open, black umbrellas. In nearly every shot, the graphic image is so compelling that the camera need never move.

Romanek, a founding director of Satellite, shares credit for “Rain” with producer Krista Montagna, stylist David Bradshaw, and editors John Murray and Jim Haygood. The clip’s cinematographer Savides and art director Jan Peter Flack have been nominated for an MTV Video Music Award.

Today in Madonna History: July 8, 1993

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On July 8 1993, Madonna began rehearsals for The Girlie Show World Tour.

The original rehearsed set list included the following songs:

Erotica
Fever
Vogue
Rain
True Blue
Express Yourself
Deeper and Deeper
Why’s It So Hard
In This Life
The Beast Within
Like A Virgin
Bye Bye Baby
Live to Tell
La Isla Bonita
Holiday

Today in Madonna History: May 15, 1993

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On May 15 1993, Madonna’s Fever hit number-one on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Club chart in the USA. Fever was the fourth single from the Erotica album and was the b-side to Bad Girl in North America.

Today in Madonna History: April 3, 1993

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On April 3 1993, Fever entered the UK Singles Chart at its peak position of number-six. Without the support of a proper music video at the time of its release (Warner UK instead issued a rarely seen compilation video of previous clips), the single spent only six weeks on the UK charts, dropping to number-seven the following week.

Strangely, Madonna did eventually decide to film a video for the song in late April  – nearly a month after its release in Europe. By the time the video premiered during the second week of May, Fever was spending its final week on the UK Singles Chart.

In North America the remixes for Fever had been issued commercially on Madonna’s previous international single, Bad Girl. Fever was also serviced to clubs as a promotional single in its own right, but it was not promoted to radio despite the video being added to into rotation on MTV and MuchMusic. While the release of the music video managed to coincide with Fever’s single week atop the Hot Dance/Club Play chart, its number-one status had already been confirmed several days prior to the clip’s debut, making the video’s intended purpose and the timing of its release all the more puzzling.

Today in Madonna History: March 27, 1993

On March 27 1993, Bad Girl peaked at #20 on the Canadian Top 100 Singles chart (RPM).

Although the single fared better in Canada than it did south of the border (it peaked at #36 on the Hot 100), Bad Girl nevertheless earned the undesirable distinction of being Madonna’s lowest charting Canadian single since Borderline at the time, which had peaked at #25 in September, 1984.

The Bad Girl single was backed with the album version of Fever in North America (both songs were released separately in Europe), while the Bad Girl maxi-single focused primarily on remixes of Fever along with an extended version of Bad Girl. Strangely, a music video for Fever was produced only after the single had run its course on the European charts, set to a remix that was not issued was not included on the North American maxi-single of Bad Girl or the Fever 12-inch promo set that was serviced to DJ’s in the U.S.

Despite the unusual promotion, Fever managed to top the U.S. Club chart and the video was put into regular rotation on MTV and MuchMusic in Canada.

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