Today in Madonna History: February 13, 1995

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On February 13 1995, Bedtime Story was released in Europe by Maverick Records as the third single from the album Bedtime Stories. In North America, the single was delayed until April due to the sleeper success of Take A Bow, which continued its slow-but-steady climb to the top of the Hot 100.

Bedtime Story was written by Björk, Marius De Vries & Nellee Hooper and was produced by Hooper & Madonna. Björk’s original demo, titled Let’s Get Unconscious, was reworked by Hooper & DeVries and renamed Bedtime Story for its submission to Madonna. Björk later revisited elements of the song’s lyrics in Sweet Intuition–a b-side from her 1995 single, Army Of Me.

In a 2001 interview for NYLON magazine, writer James Servin asked Björk whether it was true that she had written the lyrics to Bedtime Story for Madonna because she liked the idea of her expressing a viewpoint that was paradoxical to her controlled public image:

“I think at the time, yes. But that’s like six years ago, when everything about [Madonna] seemed very controlled. I think she’s a very intuitive person, and definitely her survival instincts are incredible. They’re like, outrageous. At the time, the words I thought she should say were, ‘I’m not using words anymore, let’s get unconscious honey. Fuck logic. Just be intuitive. Be more free. Go with the flow.’ Right now, she seems pretty much to be going with the flow.”

This prompts me to ask Björk if she thinks she might have put those mellowing-out thoughts into Madonna’s head. “Well, I wouldn’t credit myself for that,” she says. “Not at all. That’s a question for you to ask her.”

I sent a fax to Madonna via her publicist Liz Rosenberg, with the question: “Did singing the lyrics Björk wrote for Bedtime Story lead you in the direction of going more with the flow?” A day or two later, I receive this e-mail from Liz Rosenberg: “I wish I could get an answer from Madonna for you. She’s deep into rehearsals for her tour, and I can’t get any info from her for a while. I can tell you that Madonna certainly thinks Björk is inspiring and a brilliant artist. Madonna is a huge fan of her music. I’ve never thought Madonna was a ‘go with the flow’ person before or after recording Bedtime Story. She goes with a flow – but it’s a flow of her own creation, if you know what I mean.”

Today in Madonna History: November 24, 2003

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Today in Madonna History: November 12, 1994

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On November 12 1994, Madonna’s Bedtime Stories was the week’s highest debut on the Billboard 200 album chart, peaking at #3 with sales of 145,000 units.

While the figure represented a 15% drop in first-week sales from her previous long player, Erotica, the album proved to be a commercial grower in America – where the runaway success of its second single, Take A Bow, would push its overall U.S. sales tally well beyond that of its predecessor.

Underscoring urban/r&b music’s U.S. chart domination at the time, Bedtime Stories was held back from the top spot by the Murder Was The Case soundtrack (performed by Snoop Doggy Dogg) and Boyz II Men’s II.

Today in Madonna History: November 5, 1994

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On November 5 1994, Bedtime Stories entered the UK album charts at number-two. It was Madonna’s second consecutive studio album to miss the top position on the UK charts, but it would be her last until 2015’s Rebel Heart, which also topped out in the runner-up position.

Which album denied Bedtime Stories its shot at earning Madonna another number-one debut in the UK? A greatest hits collection by perennial favorite of hockey (or in this case–soccer) moms everywhere, apparently….Bon Jovi.

We welcome you to ease your disbelief with the soothing sounds of the underrated Bedtime Stories album cut, Love Tried To Welcome Me.

“Instead of spring, it’s always winter
And my heart has always been a lonely hunter.”

Today in Madonna History: September 27, 1994

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On September 27 1994, Secret was released as the lead single from Bedtime Stories. Initially credited to Madonna & Dallas Austin upon its release, Shep Pettibone was later given a co-writing credit due to his involvement in the creation of an early demo version of the track entitled Something Coming Over Me. The demo – which has been described by the few who have heard it as having a club anthem vibe without the R&B overtones of the Austin version – was submitted by Pettibone to the Library Of Congress for copyright registration but has yet to leak. The released version was produced by Madonna & Dallas Austin, and is the only song on the album to feature Austin’s untouched production work. Austin’s other contributions to the album were either reworked with new production (Survival) or remixed (Sanctuary) by Nellee Hooper or Daniel Abraham (Don’t Stop)‏.

To promote the release of Secret, Madonna made her virgin attempt at reaching out to fans and potential listeners via the burgeoning world wide web with a playful audio teaser:

“Hello all you cyberheads! Welcome to the 90’s version of intimacy…you can hear me, you can even see me, but you can’t touch me! Do you recognize my voice? It’s Madonna. Often imitated but never duplicated. Or should I say – often irritated? If you feel like it, you can download the sound file of my new single Secret from my new album Bedtime Stories which comes out next month. I just shot the video in New York and will be premiering an exclusive sample of it online, so check back soon. In the meantime, why don’t you post me a message and let me know what you think of my new song. And by the way, don’t believe any of those online imposters pretending to be me…ain’t nothing like the real thing! Peace out.”

While the North American single used only the instrumental version of Secret on its flip-side, many other markets, including European territories, were treated to an unreleased outtake from the Bedtime Stories sessions. Perhaps fearing that the distinctly American R&B influence of Secret may have had limited appeal in Europe, Warner made the strategic decision to include an added incentive for European fans to pick up the single – undoubtedly spurring an increase in the number of copies exported to North America in the process. Although non-album b-sides are a relatively rare occurrence in Madonna’s catalogue given the large number of singles she has released through the years, Let Down Your Guard (written and produced by Madonna & Dallas Austin) is particularly peculiar due to its labeling as a “Rough Mix Edit.” This disclaimer-like appendage seemingly suggests that either Madonna or her record label deemed it necessary to explicitly caution listeners that the song was not indicative of the more polished production work that would be featured on the Bedtime Stories album proper. Indeed, the idiosyncratic nuances of Austin’s production (with its tip-of-the-hat to early Prince material) is largely what makes Let Down Your Guard such an unguarded and enjoyable obscurity – rendering its disclaimer redundant.

Today in Madonna History: August 31, 1996

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On August 31 1996, Madonna’s Take A Bow spent its 38th and final week on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Recurrent chart in the USA at #9.

Today In Madonna History: July 15, 1995

On July 15 1995, Madonna’s Human Nature single peaked at #46 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.

Human Nature was written and produced by Madonna and Dave Hall, with its bass and percussion parts sampled from the track What You Need by Main Source.

The North American Human Nature single was backed with the album version of Sanctuary, which was produced by Madonna & Dallas Austin with additional remixing by Nellee Hooper.

Sanctuary was originally written by Anne Preven and Scott Cutler of the short-lived 90’s band, Ednaswap, best known for Nathalie Imbruglia’s cover of their original song, Torn. Madonna was passed a demo tape of Sanctuary by a friend of Preven and Cutler, who heard an early version of it and thought “Madonna would love this song!” Madonna’s version came out before Ednaswap had even signed a record deal, and the song deviated significantly from the demo. Preven originally thought Madonna had ruined the song, going so far as meeting with Madonna to plead for changes. However, upon hearing the song as part of the whole album, Preven had a change of heart and “understood what [Madonna] was going for.”

The most significant change was Austin and Madonna’s interpolation of Sanctuary with an instrumental demo Austin had created which centers around a looped sample from Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man (the funk-based arrangement from his 1973 album, Head Hunters). Madonna also provided additional lyrical and melodic contributions.

While Austin’s instrumental demo that was worked in to Sanctuary later leaked to the internet, Ednaswap did not release their own version of the song and their original demo recording has yet to surface online.

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