Today in Madonna History: May 31, 1986

On May 31 1986, Madonna’s Live To Tell hit #1 for 3 weeks on US Hot Adult Contemporary singles chart.

The haunting and dramatic ballad, written and produced by Madonna & Patrick Leonard, was the first commercially released collaboration between the pair – a songwriting partnership that is viewed by many fans as one of her most creatively successful.

Leonard had previously been involved with Madonna’s Virgin Tour as musical director, and when Madonna agreed to participate in Live Aid in the Summer of 1985, she asked him to collaborate on a new song for the performance, which evolved into Love Makes The World Go Round.

Although both songs would find their way on to Madonna’s next studio album, True Blue, at the time of Live To Tell’s release the album’s title had not yet been decided. Instead, the song was used to promote Sean Penn’s film At Close Range, in which it was featured alongside an original score composed by Leonard.

He had initially composed the music that evolved into Live To Tell for another film he had been invited to score for Paramount, titled Fire With Fire. The producers of the film passed on the theme. Leonard recalled the subsequent series of events that led to the song’s completion in The Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Random House:

“Madonna said ‘This song would be great for Sean’s new movie.’ She wrote the lyrics–she just wrote them on the spot, which is what we always do. I don’t think we’ve ever taken more than three hours to complete a song from start to finish. She sang it on the demo only once and left with the cassette. That day I went to work with Michael Jackson on some transcriptions for material he was writing for the Bad album. The phone rang at Michael’s and it was Sean. He said ‘I’m over at the director’s house and Madonna just brought the song over. We love it and we’d like to talk to you about it.’ … We recut the song, but we used the same vocal. She only sang it once for the demo and that was the vocal we used because it was so innocent and so shy. She had a legal pad in her hand and you can hear the paper. It’s as raw as raw can be and that’s part of what gave it all its charm.”

When the demo recording of Live To Tell eventually surfaced, it became evident that Madonna had in fact re-recorded the first verse, but all remaining vocals do indeed appear to have been carried over from the demo to the final mix (along with a generously added dose of reverb to smooth over the rough edges of the demo take).

Given the song’s dark undercurrents and unresolved narrative, it was a bold choice for a single release. It marked a dramatic shift from the yearning love song, Crazy For You – her only other ballad to have been issued as a single at the time. But any radio programmers who were hesitant to consider Madonna as a serious artist simply couldn’t deny the artistry of the song and nor could record buyers, with the combined support sending Live To Tell straight to the top of the pop charts.

Live To Tell was Madonna’s third #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, and her #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, where it would reign for three weeks.

Today in Madonna History: May 11, 1985

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On May 11 1985, Crazy For You hit number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. for one week. The track had spent the two previous weeks in the runner-up position behind the all-star single, We Are The World. In Canada, Crazy For You took a few weeks longer but also managed to displace USA For Africa’s charity track to become the county’s number-one single on May 25th.

The song was Madonna’s second chart-topping hit, and her first ballad to be released as a single.

Today in Madonna History: April 20, 1991

On April 20 1991, Rescue Me peaked at #3 on the UK Singles Chart after making its debut at #4 the previous week. It slid to #5 in its third week before falling out of the Top 10.

Rescue Me was the third single release from The Immaculate Collection in the UK, where it was issued in between re-releases of Crazy For You and Holiday.

Because the photo on international pressings of Rescue Me had already graced the cover of the Crazy For You reissue, Warner UK chose to market the single using an alternate shot taken from Jean-Baptiste Mondino’s June 1990 spread in Harper’s Bazaar. Ironically, the international Rescue Me cover photo was snapped on the set of the Mondino-directed music video for Justify My Love, although not by Mondino himself. It was instead photographed by another (future) Madonna music video director, Stephane Sednaoui.

Today in Madonna History: November 7, 1995

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On November 7 1995, Madonna’s Something To Remember greatest ballad hits collection was released.  The collection was released on different dates in different markets.

Described as a “love letter from Madonna to her fans and music lovers alike” in the album’s liner note, Madonna further explained:

So much controversy has swirled around my career this past decade that very little attention ever gets paid to my music. The songs are all but forgotten. While I have no regrets regarding the choices I’ve made artistically, I’ve learned to appreciate the idea of doing things in a simpler way. So without a lot of fanfare, without any distractions, I present to you this collection of ballads. Some are old, some are new. All of them are from my heart.

Something To Remember included the following songs:

I Want You
I’ll Remember
Take A Bow
You’ll See
Crazy for You
This Used to Be My Playground
Live to Tell
Love Don’t Live Here Anymore (Remix)
Something to Remember
Forbidden Love
One More Chance
Rain
Oh Father
I Want You (Orchestral)

The Japanese release included La Isla Bonita.

The Latin release included Verás the Spanish version of You’ll See.  

Today in Madonna History: October 12, 1985


On October 12 1985, Madonna’s Gambler debuted at #20 on the UK Singles Chart. The song was included on the Vision Quest soundtrack (along with Crazy For You) and released by Geffen Records. Madonna’s record company, Sire Records, prevented Gambler from being released as a single in the USA.

After two weeks on the chart, Gambler peaked at #4. It also reached #3 in Italy and #10 in Australia.

With Gambler‘s success, Madonna became the first female artist to rack up 8 UK top-ten singles in one calendar year.

Gambler was Madonna’s highest charting single in the UK that was entirely self-written. In the U.S. Lucky Star earned this distinction, reaching #4 on the Hot 100.

Today in Madonna History: October 3, 1985

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On October 3 1985, Madonna’s second single from the motion picture Vision Quest, Gambler was released by Geffen Records in select markets.

Gambler was entirely self-written by Madonna and produced by John “Jellybean” Benitez.

Gambler was never released in the United States, but it went to #4 in the UK.  The single also reached the top-ten in the charts of Australia, Belgium, Ireland, Ireland, Netherlands and Norway.

The music video for the song is an excerpt from the film.

Madonna has performed the song only once, on her Virgin Tour in 1985.

Alex Henderson from Allmusic called the song “an ultra-infectious gem that, unfortunately, isn’t on any of the Material Girl’s CDs” and felt that Gambler should have been a big hit.  

Would you like to see Madonna perform “Gambler” on a future concert tour?

Today in Madonna History: July 18, 2004

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On July 18 2004, Madonna played the first of three sold-out dates at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre during her Re-Invention Tour. Playing to a combined total of over 52,000 fans, the shows were the only Canadian stop on the tour and marked her first concerts in Canada in eleven years.

During the second show Madonna proclaimed to those in attendance that they were the best audience of the tour thus far, while the final Toronto date saw Madonna in an uncharacteristically playful mood. Interrupting the show’s normally swift progression between Papa Don’t Preach and Crazy For You, she joked about the infamous 1990 threats of arrest and whipped the audience into a cheering frenzy with her self-described “unprofessional” behavior.

Clearly the audience (myself included) didn’t mind one bit! 🙂

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