Today in Madonna History: October 3, 1985

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On October 3 1985, Geffen Records released Gambler as a single in Europe. It was the second Madonna single released from the Vision Quest soundtrack.

Concerned about potential overexposure, Warner Brothers successfully managed to suppress a North American release of the track, although the music video was serviced to MTV. It was issued as a single in most other major markets – including Japan, Australasia & South America.

Gambler was written by Madonna, produced by Jellybean Benitez and arranged by Stephen Bray. Extended and instrumental remixes by Benitez were also issued commercially outside North America.

Today in Madonna History: May 13, 1983

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On May 13 1983, Madonna performed Physical Attraction during a track date at the FunHouse in New York City.

Located at 526 West 26th St, the FunHouse (1979-1985) was a breeding ground for the new electronic sounds of the street and helped to make its resident disc jockey, Jellybean Benitez, one of dance music’s first superstar DJ’s.

Of course, Jellybean’s close association with Madonna certainly didn’t hinder his growing popularity either. His first working collaboration with Madonna was to remix Physical Attraction, the b-side to her sophomore single on Sire Records, Burning Up/Physical Attraction, which may explain why it was chosen over the more frequently performed lead track for her performance at the FunHouse. The same remix of Physical Attraction was later used on her debut album, together with new remixes Jellybean provided for Burning Up and Lucky Star alongside his first full production for Holiday.

Today in Madonna History: February 15, 1985

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On February 15 1985, the Vision Quest original motion picture soundtrack was released on Geffen Records. To promote the release, music videos for Crazy For You and Gambler premiered on MTV on the same day.

Despite Gambler only being released as a single in markets outside North America, its video received moderate rotation from MTV nonetheless – possibly due to the fact that there were no competing videos produced for the final two singles from Like A Virgin.

Gambler was Madonna’s last entirely self-written single until the 2007 release of the charity single, Hey You. Other singles for which she received sole writing credit include Everybody (which was in fact a Stephen Bray co-write–however a publishing arrangement granted him sole credit for another of their collaborations, Ain’t No Big Deal, in trade), Burning Up, Lucky Star and Sidewalk Talk. Album tracks Think Of Me, I Know It and Shoo-Bee-Doo were also entirely self-written.

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A third Madonna song that was recorded for the Vision Quest soundtrack, Warning Signs, was eventually dropped from the project. A cassette copy of the song, which is also credited to Madonna alone, was submitted to the Library of Congress for copyright registration in February of 1984, at the same time as Gambler.

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With Stephen Bray having confirmed his involvement in the song’s production (which he described as “a cool synth track”), it appears that its production credits would mirror those of Gambler, which was produced by Jellybean Benitez and arranged by Bray. Given that early press for Vision Quest (including an on-set interview with Madonna herself) mentioned the inclusion of three new songs, footage of Madonna performing Warning Signs was likely filmed but ended up on the cutting room floor. Surprisingly, this additional footage has never resurfaced and the song has never leaked.

Today in Madonna History: February 2, 1985

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On February 2 1985, Sidewalk Talk peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Play chart. The song was written by Madonna, who also contributed vocals on the chorus and bridge while the verses were performed by Catherine Buchanan. Madonna gifted the song to producer/remixer/DJ/boyfriend Jellybean Benitez for use on his debut EP, Wotupskii!!?! and it was promoted to clubs by EMI Records in October, 1984. It was eventually issued as a commercial single, climbing to #18 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Sidewalk Talk was arranged by Stephen Bray & Benitez with vocal arrangement by Madonna, according to the album’s liner notes. Madonna’s lyrics to the song recall her early years in New York and some of the challenges she encountered adjusting to big city life.

Today in Madonna History: October 20, 1984

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On October 20 1984, Madonna’s Lucky Star hit #4 the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart in the USA.

Jellybean Benitez said this of the Lucky Star recording session:

“She was unhappy with the whole damn thing, so I went in and sweetened up a lot of music for her, adding some guitars to Lucky Star, some voices, some magic.  I just wanted to do the best job I could do for her. When we would play back Holiday or Lucky Star, you could see that she was overwhelmed by how great it all sounded. You wanted to help her, you know? As much as she could be a bitch, when you were in the groove with her, it was very cool, very creative.”

Today in Madonna History: July 27, 1983

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On July 27 1983, Madonna’s eponymous debut album was released by Sire Records. The record was renamed Madonna: The First Album for the 1985 international re-release of the album.

The album was released with 8 tracks (produced by John “Jellybean” Benitez, Mark Kamins and Reggie Lucas):

  1. Lucky Star
  2. Borderline
  3. Burning Up
  4. I Know It
  5. Holiday
  6. Think of Me
  7. Physical Attraction
  8. Everybody

Five singles were released from The First Album:

  1. Everybody (October 6 1982)
  2. Burning Up (March 9 1983)
  3. Holiday (September 7 1983 – UK)
  4. Lucky Star (September 8 1983)
  5. Borderline (February 15 1984)

“Madonna was unhappy with the whole album, so I went in and sweetened up a lot of music for her, adding some guitars to ‘Lucky Star’, some voices, some magic… I just wanted to do the best job I could do for her. When we would playback ‘Holiday’ or ‘Lucky Star’, you could see that she was overwhelmed by how great it all sounded. You wanted to help her, you know? As much as she could be a bitch, when you were in a groove with her, it was very cool, very creative.”

— John “Jellybean” Benitez talking about Madonna and the album.

Today in Madonna History: April 25, 1988

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On April 25 1988, Spotlight was released as a single by Warner-Pioneer. Issued exclusively in Japan, it was the only commercial single release from the remix album You Can Dance. The song was written by Curtis Hudson, Madonna and Stephen Bray and was produced by Stephen Bray. Madonna wasn’t given a co-producer’s credit on the track – odd considering it was a leftover from the True Blue album sessions, for which she co-produced every song. The track was remixed by John “Jellybean” Benitez for its inclusion on You Can Dance.

In a 2012 interview with blogcritics.com writer Justin Kantor, Curtis Hudson recalled the circumstances surrounding the creation and release of Spotlight:

“During the time right after Holiday, when we’d go to her place and write, I presented Spotlight. I gave her a complete song, Spotlight. I had actually written it in case Warner Bros. asked her for another Holiday. She said she loved it and felt spiritual about it. But she didn’t use it or contact me again about it. It sort of popped up out of nowhere when she was getting ready to do You Can Dance. Her lawyer contacted our manager and said we needed to talk. We went over and met with him. She and Stephen Bray had already done the song; but I hadn’t even heard the version they had done.They took the demo I had given her and worked it into a different song. They gave me credit since I had the original song copyrighted. I would’ve collaborated and made changes. But I was told, ‘Well, she’s too busy. She’s overseas doing a movie.’ I was okay with it, though, because they gave me credit. But the original song had a certain magic, and the changes took that essence away. The original Spotlight was another Holiday—the rhythm, the basic groove. I think they were trying to get away from that sound. Sometimes artists don’t want their sound to be identified with specific writers.”