Today in Madonna History: December 19, 1987

lookoflove_single

On December 19 1987, Madonna’s haunting ballad The Look Of Love peaked at number nine on the UK Singles Chart. The third and final Madonna single from the Who’s That Girl soundtrack, it was released only in select European countries and in Japan.

The Look Of Love was written, produced and recorded by Madonna and Patrick Leonard during the second of a three-day studio session, with the title track of the soundtrack being written and recorded on the first day. Additional musicians were brought in for overdubs and mixing was completed for both tracks by the end of the third day.

Despite being a set-list staple on the Who’s That Girl tour – the song’s limited release, moderate chart success, along with the fact that it has not been included in any of Madonna’s subsequent retrospective collections has led to it being largely forgotten, although fans frequently cite it as an underrated gem.

In a 1991 interview with ICON magazine, background vocalist Niki Haris expressed fond memories of performing the track with Madonna during the 1987 tour:

“My favorite song ever to perform with Madonna was a song called The Look Of Love from the Who’s That Girl Tour [Niki sings: Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide…]. That is one of the greatest songs and Madonna sings it really great. That’s my favorite song of all time as far as singing with her.”

The single reached number six in Ireland, number eight in the Netherlands and number ten in Belgium, while it peaked outside the top-ten in Germany, Switzerland, France and Japan.

Today in Madonna History: December 12, 1986

open your heart promo 550 Open Your Heart Canada CMS 550

On December 12 1986, Open Your Heart was released in North America as the fourth single from True Blue. The song was written by Madonna, Gardner Cole & Peter Rafelson and produced by Madonna & Patrick Leonard.

The single’s worldwide b-side, White Heat, an album track from True Blue, developed a relatively high profile due to its inclusion as the flip-side to two of Madonna’s #1 hits–the aforementioned Open Your Heart and 1987’s Who’s That Girl, released only six months apart. Gaining further exposure as a set-list staple during the Who’s That Girl Tour, the live performance of White Heat foreshadowed some of the dramatic elements that Madonna would expand upon in future tours.

White Heat’s original submission for copyright was registered to Madonna & Leonard under the working title Get Up, Stand Tall with a 1985 date of creation. Notes from the registration on file also list the title Dangerous–but it is likely just another working title that was being considered rather than a separate recording.  White Heat is thought to have been among the earliest songwriting collaborations between Madonna & Leonard to be completed, coming shortly after their first composition, Love Makes The World Go Round, surfaced during Live Aid in the summer of 1985. The sequence of the registration numbers for the two songs suggests that they may they have been completed within a month or two of each other. Madonna’s version of Open Your Heart (which she revised from the Cole/Rafelson demo) is also thought to have been recorded with Leonard during the same time period.

The liner notes of True Blue dedicated White Heat to actor James Cagney, who in 1949 played ruthless, deranged gang leader Arthur “Cody” Jarrett in the Warner Brothers film, White Heat. Several clips of Cagney’s dialogue from the original motion picture were used in the song for dramatic effect.

Today in Madonna History: October 24, 1989

oh father usa sheet music 550oh father set 11 550

On October 24 1989, Oh Father was released in North America as the fourth single from the Like A Prayer album. France, Japan, the Philippines and Australia also opted to issue the single in 1989, while other European markets waited for Madonna’s 1995 ballads compilation, Something To Remember, to promote the song. Oh Father was written and produced by Madonna & Patrick Leonard.

According to the song’s string arranger, Bill Meyers, Oh Father was recorded in a “dingy studio” in New York City’s Garment District while Madonna was appearing in the play, Speed-The-Plow. Since the bulk of the album would be completed in California after the completion of her Broadway run, this would suggest that Oh Father was likely the first song recorded for the project. Leonard recently provided further evidence of this when he shared an image of a demo tape sleeve containing working titles of songs from the latter sessions on his Instagram, noting that Oh Father was not among the tracks listed because it had been completed earlier.

Leonard recalled the recording of the track in a 2014 interview with Billboard Magazine:

My favorite thing that we ever recorded, ever – or wrote – is Oh Father. That to me is the best thing we ever did. So, it didn’t surprise me because we knew when we did it, that there was something about this that was in a way kind of the most real thing.

For that song, the ‘record’ button was only pressed three times. It was pressed to do the track, live, with her singing live. Then we did the orchestra. And then we did a double of her vocal when we were mixing. That’s it. So it’s real. It’s something that I really wanted to do and she was kind enough to say “let’s try this,” and it was not easy.

There’s two or three guitar players playing. I’m playing keyboards. Jai Winding was playing keyboards. There was a percussionist and a drummer – and she’s singing – all at the same time.

These days, people go “wow, that seems crazy.” Those days it wasn’t uncommon for everybody to be playing together even though you’re not a band. But it was one of those things where the arrangement was tricky enough, that it really took some working out to get it all right.

Even all those weird synth overdubs and things – all those things were being done live. We worked out all the parts, had all the sounds. I remember that we cut it live, and then put the orchestra on. You’re not doubling the orchestra, so it’s one pass for the orchestra.

When I say [the ‘record’ button was] pressed three times, it might have gotten pressed 10 times that day, but it was ultimately one that stayed there. If you see what I’m saying. When we were mixing it, [mixer] Bill Bottrell suggested that we double the choruses. I remember even being a little upset about it (laughs). Like, look, “we’ve got an amazing record that we only pressed the record button twice – can’t we leave it?” He said, “three isn’t exactly shameful.” We doubled the lead vocal on the choruses, and that was it.

Today in Madonna History: September 9, 2015

On September 9 2015, Huffington Post interviewed Patrick Leonard and asked about the possibility of them working together again:

If Madonna called you up for her next album, do you think you’re still in a mindset where you could direct her tour?

No. No, I couldn’t because the paths that our lives took are appropriate for what they are. When we met and did the work that we did, I was still in my 20s, or maybe my early 30s as we walked into Like a Prayer. I was still really interested in the pop form. I’m not disinterested in it now, but for the last few years I’ve been working with Leonard Cohen and writing piano music. I’m more of a composer. I just wouldn’t be interested in it, and I don’t think she’d be interested in my ideas anymore. I think we could still write a great song — I don’t think there’s any question about that. But my head just isn’t there at all. It would be fun to see her and fun to think together for a minute, because we were good at that at one point. But that was a long time ago, almost 30 years. I think she deserves better than what I would give her right now, for sure. If she wanted to write an opera, I’d be her guy.

Do you have a favorite Madonna memory?  

Yes. When we were on tour. We were in London and it was her birthday. There was a private party in a club, and all these people wanted to dance with her and hang out with her, and Jessie, my daughter, was with us on tour at that time. She was right around 2 years old. You can find things in the press that are still out there — Madonna sat her up on the bar and put half a glass of champagne in her, or a couple of sips or whatever it was, and danced with her pretty much all night. Jessie stood in the middle of the dance floor and spun in her dress, and the next day you saw all these things in all these tabloids with all these faces of celebrities who wanted to dance with her, and Jessie was their foil all night.That was really fun to just see her embrace my daughter and have fun like that. It was really, really special. There are a lot of memories. She’s a good girl. Madonna is a good girl.

Read the full interview here.

Today in Madonna History: August 10, 1985

into the groove franceinto the groove uk press promodss into the groove ad 550

On August 10 1985, Into The Groove spent the first of four weeks in the #1 position on the UK Singles Chart. It was Madonna’s first chart-topping single in the UK, where she has collected a total of thirteen #1 hits to date.

As an added validation, Into the Groove was Madonna’s first self-produced release (co-produced with Stephen Bray). While artists co-producing their own work is common today, it was relatively unusual at the time, particularly for female artists. The immense success of the single undoubtedly helped convince the powers at Sire/Warner to grant Madonna the artistic freedom to co-produce her next album, True Blue, together with her collaborators Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard.

Today in Madonna History: June 30, 1986

true_blue_album_1 true_blue_album_2 true_blue_album_3 true_blue_album_4 true_blue_album_5 MBYL - Madonna by Herb Ritts - True Blue session 1986 (1)

On June 30 1986, Madonna’s True Blue album was released by Sire Records. She worked with Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard on the album while co-writing and co-producing all the songs.

True Blue was an immediate global success, reaching number one in then record-breaking 28 countries across the world, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. It spent 34 consecutive weeks at the top of the European Top 100 Albums chart, longer than any other album in history. It became the world’s top-selling album of 1986, as well the biggest selling album of the 1980s by a woman and remains one of the best-selling albums of all time with sales of more than 25 million copies worldwide. All five singles released from the album reached the top five on the Billboard Hot 100, with Live to Tell, Papa Don’t Preach, and Open Your Heart peaking at number one.

Today in Madonna History: June 7, 1986

MADONNA Live to Tell

On June 7 1986, Madonna’s Live To Tell hit #1 in the USA. Live To Tell was written and produced together by Madonna and Patrick Leonard.

Speaking of Patrick Leonard, one of our all-time favourite Madonna collaborators — he currently has a Kickstarter campaign going for a new album called Bring The Circus Home, a collection of re-visited and re-imagined songs (piano-only, no vocals) that he and Madonna worked on and released together. Please check out Patrick’s Kickstarter campaign and donate/pledge if you can — this is an all-or-nothing campaign. He will not be able to proceed with the album if the goal is not met by Wednesday July 4.

Jay’s Note: I’m going to pledge $100 so I can get one of the limited edition vinyl releases! Woo-hoo vinyl! 

This beautiful video shows Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard playing a solo piano version of Live To Tell:

%d bloggers like this: