Today in Madonna History: June 8, 1992

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On June 8 1992, Madonna began recording sessions for the Erotica album at Soundworks, in New York.

While the writing and recording of Madonna’s previous albums had typically unfolded rather quickly, Erotica marked a change of pace in the creation of a Madonna record. Songwriting sessions for the set had occurred sporadically throughout the previous year with Shep Pettibone, Tony Shimkin and Andre Betts, in between movie projects and photo shoots for her upcoming coffee table book, Sex.

In contrast to the slick production qualities of the albums that preceded it, Madonna wanted Erotica to feature a darker, more gritty and less polished sound. This led to the decision to carry over many of the original demo vocals recorded during the songwriting process at Shep’s home studio to the final versions, with mainly lyrical additions/changes, musical overdubs, background vocals and final mixing taking place during the sessions at Soundworks.

One notable change that did occur in these final recording sessions was Madonna’s decision to swap her original lyrics for the song Goodbye To Innocence (which had gone through various incarnations in an attempt to keep the track off the cutting room floor) with the lyrics of the torch classic, Fever.  An earlier arrangement of Goodbye To Innocence with lyrics intact was later featured on the pro-choice compilation album, Just Say Roe, while a dub version of the same arrangement was retitled Up Down Suite when it appeared as a b-side on the Rain maxi-single. Another rough demo of the same track (streaming above), which is referred to as the “Straight Pass” mix on its original submission for copyright registration (which indicates that mixing of the track had not been finalized and that it is not mastered), leaked to file sharing services in February, 2008.

The “Straight Pass” mix bears some similarity to another unreleased track that was discarded early in the recording sessions, You Are The One. Aside from the lyrical paradox (with “You are the one” flipped to “I am the one”), both feature samples from Arabic singer Fairuz that would be reworked into the released version of the Erotica album’s title track and lead single.

Today in Madonna History: April 8, 1999

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On April 8 1999, American TV newsmagazine Entertainment Tonight (aka ET) revealed the title of the new song Madonna had recorded for the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack: Beautiful Stranger.

Beautiful Stranger launched to radio in mid-May and quickly became a sizeable summertime hit along with the Maverick Records-issued soundtrack album which landed in North American record stores on June 1st, 1999.

Today in Madonna History: February 13, 1999

On February 13 1999, Madonna’s Nothing Really Matters single was reviewed by Billboard magazine.

The North American two-track single for Nothing Really Matters included the album version of To Have And Not To Hold as its b-side.

Prior to the release of the Ray Of Light album, it was reported that Madonna had fourteen tracks mastered but wanted to cut one, as she felt that thirteen was a lucky number. According to the article, Madonna’s final selection was between two songs: To Have And Not To Hold or Has To Be.

As we all know, Has To Be ended up being cut from the final track list (except in Japan, where it was included as a bonus track).

If you had to choose between including To Have And Not To Hold or Has To Be on Ray Of Light, which song would you include? Keep in mind, your selection should not simply be which individual track you prefer – Madonna would also have had to consider how her choice would affect the overall flow and emotional arc of the album, both musically and lyrically.

Today in Madonna History: March 7, 1996

On March 7 1996, Madonna’s One More Chance was released as the third single in the UK and several other European countries, and the second single in Australia and Japan, from her ballads collection, Something to Remember.

The song received positive response from music critics overall, who praised its musical simplicity and Madonna’s nuanced and emotive vocal delivery.  Since Madonna was busy filming the Evita, the song received little promotion and no original music video was produced to accompany the release.

The Spanish version of You’ll See, titled Verás, appeared as the B-side of the single release.

In a January 1996 interview with Spin magazine, Madonna said of the song: “Often in my songwriting, I take things people say to me and turn them around, and put it in the first person. So it’s actually something that was said to me.”

One More Chance was written and produced by Madonna and David Foster. Foster initially did not expect Madonna would collaborate with him, as he believed that his music was not “really hip enough for her.” Madonna and Foster worked on the song during the writing and recording session for Something to Remember, in the third weekend of September 1995. They wrote and recorded three songs for the project, but only You’ll See and One More Chance made the final cut.

Their third track from the sessions, titled I Can’t Forget, was later offered by Madonna’s songwriting publisher to the to the UK electronic/dance group, Tilt, to record. Their version, retitled Come Closer, was released on their 2006 rarities collection, Vaults. Several years after Tilt’s version was issued, Madonna and Foster’s original demo recording of I Can’t Forget surfaced on the internet.

 

Today in Madonna History: January 7, 1998

On January 7 1998, filming began for Madonna’s Frozen music video in the California desert with director Chris Cunningham.

Cunningham recalled the initial concept for the video in his book, Directors Label:

“The original treatment was, like, massive piles of bodies in the desert. All these figurative sculptures made up of bodies that were all multiple Madonnas. They were all going to split and break up and change into ravens and then change into dogs. Just a performance video, but a really elaborate one using her, her clothes, and any shapes that would come out of her clothes.”

Today in Madonna History: August 21, 1989

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On August 21 1989, the music video for Cherish premiered on MTV in the U.S.  The video was the directed by Madonna’s frequent collaborator and friend, photographer Herb Ritts.

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While the single from the Like A Prayer album went on to become another hit single, it’s interesting to note that Madonna had previously written an entirely different song using the title Cherish. Her handwritten lyrics for the unreleased track – along with several others that have yet to surface in musical form – turned up at an auction in 2011.

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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