Today in Madonna History: November 16, 1989

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On November 16 1989, Madonna’s eponymous album was ranked #50 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 100 Greatest Albums Of The 1980s.

Here’s what Rolling Stone had to say of Madonna’s debut album:

Five years after arriving in New York City from her hometown of Pontiac, Michigan, Madonna Louise Ciccone had little to show for a lot of work. By 1982, she had managed to get only a few gigs singing with drummer Stephen Bray’s band, the Breakfast Club, at clubs like CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, and the future looked far from bright.

“I had just gotten kicked out of my apartment,” Madonna says, “so the band let me live in their rehearsal space at the Music Building, on Eighth Avenue. Stephen had keys to all the rehearsal rooms, so when I decided to make my own demos, we’d go into other people’s studios at night and use their four-track machines.”

Armed with a tape, Madonna began making the rounds of New York’s dance clubs. “I had heard that a lot of A&R people hung out at the clubs,” she says, “and I thought trying to go see them at their offices would be a waste of time.” It proved a good strategy: Through Mark Kamins, the DJ at Danceteria, the tape found its way to Sire Records, and Madonna was signed by label president Seymour Stein. “Seymour was in the hospital at the time,” she says. “I got signed while he was lying in bed in his boxer shorts.”

The contract with Sire guaranteed just one single, but it had options for recording albums as well. With Kamins producing, Madonna cut the moody disco track Everybody as her debut single. But when Sire picked up its option to record an album, she decided to try a different producer. “I wanted someone who’d worked with a lot of female singers,” she says.

Reggie Lucas, the Grammy-winning songwriter who had produced Stephanie Mills and Roberta Flack, was selected. After recording the album’s second single, the Lucas-penned Physical Attraction, he and Madonna cut the rest of the album, with the exception of Holiday, which was produced by Jellybean Benitez.

“Things were very informal and casual,” Lucas says of the sessions. “It was my first pop project, and she was just a new artist. I had no idea it would be the biggest thing since sliced bread.”

Indeed, initial response to Madonna gave no indication of the mania to follow. It took a year and a half for the album to go gold. But its assured style and sound, as well as Madonna’s savvy approach to videos, helped the singer make the leap from dance diva to pop phenom, and it pointed the direction for a host of female vocalists from Janet Jackson to Debbie Gibson.

“It influenced a lot of people,” says Madonna, who cites Chrissie Hynde and Debbie Harry as her own musical heroes. “I think it stands up well. It just took a long time for people to pay attention to me —and I thank God they did!”

Today in Madonna History: September 24, 1983

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On September 24 1983, Madonna performed Physical Attraction, Everybody, Holiday and Burning Up at Uncle Sam’s Club in Levittown, New York.

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Today in Madonna History: June 4, 1983

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On June 4 1983, Burning Up/Physical Attraction spent its third and final week at its peak position of number-three on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in the U.S.

Available only on 12″ single in the U.S., the release charted as a double A-side single. Its run on the Dance/Club chart spanned a total of sixteen weeks, seven of which were spent in the top-five. In a rather strange marketing twist, a music video was produced for Burning Up while only Physical Attraction was promoted to radio – with an edited version of the latter being featured on both sides of the rare 7″ promo.

To further confuse matters, the version of Burning Up that was featured on the 12″ was in actuality not a remix, but rather the original Reggie Lucas production of the song. Instead, the two distinct versions of the song that later turned up at separate times on her debut album were in fact remixes by John “Jellybean” Benitez. Physical Attraction was also remixed by Benitez, although his version appears on both the single and the album.

Today in Madonna History: May 21, 1983

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On May 21 1983, Madonna’s Burning Up/Physical Attraction hit #3 on USA Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart.

Burning Up was written by Madonna and Physical Attraction was written by Reggie Lucas. Both were produced by Lucas with additional remixing by Jellybean Benitez on the latter.

Interestingly, the original copyright claim filed for the song Physical Attraction, which remains on file at the U.S. Library Of Congress, lists Madonna as its sole writer and Only Child Music (who handled Madonna’s songwriting publishing prior to the creation of Webo Girl) as its publisher, with no mention of Lucas or his publishing company, Likasa Music.

Burning Up went through several incarnations both before and after its official release. The earliest recording of the song to have surfaced is a live performance by Madonna with her band Emmy, likely from 1980. Although the lyrics underwent only minor revisions in later years, its initial guitar-driven arrangement and melody were relatively loose – if not underdeveloped. A more focused beat-driven version was recorded by Madonna with Stephen Bray in early 1982 and was featured on the four-track demo tape that brought her to the attention of Sire Records. In addition to the originally released version that appeared on the 12″ single, there are also two noticeably different album mixes of Burning Up. Early vinyl pressings of her debut LP featured a longer version with alternate guitar and synth parts and more prominently mixed backing vocals. This alternate album mix resurfaced in 1985 as the b-side to the Angel single in the UK, but it has never been officially released in digital or CD format.

Today in Madonna History: December 24, 1983

On December 24 1983, Madonna was named runner-up for Top Dance/Disco Artist Of The Year in Billboard magazine’s year-end issue, while Michael Jackson took top honors.

The double-sided club hit Holiday/Lucky Star peaked at #3 on the Top Dance/Disco Singles Of The Year tally, while Madonna’s second entry at #26 combined points from her first two single releases, Everybody and Burning Up/Physical Attraction.

Today in Madonna History: August 14, 1984

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On August 14 1984, Madonna’s self-titled debut album was certified platinum by the RIAA to commemorate U.S. sales of more than one-million copies.

The album would eventually be certified five times platinum in the U.S.

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.

“I’ve refrained over the years in addressing aspects of Madonna’s career because I’m not a person who likes negative discussions. But what I will say is that in Madonna’s ascent to fame and fortune, there’s been a pretty vicious competition for credit in being involved. In other words, someone will say, ‘I launched Madonna.’ If I talk to a lot of people today, I will say I was Madonna’s first producer. I produced six of the eight tracks on her first record. I would say nine times out of 10, their response will be, ‘Oh yeah, I thought Jellybean did that.’ But Jellybean didn’t do that. Jellybean was a remixer, and we didn’t have time to remix records. It wasn’t something that I was interested in doing. Somewhere in this process of publicists and personal relationships, somehow he came out as the guy. Just for the record, one tires in a lifetime of hearing someone taking credit for something that you’ve done. Jellybean produced ‘Holiday’ and he remixed a couple of tracks, but remixing tracks for radio isn’t the same thing as producing one of the major breakout pop stars of the 1980s…it’s almost like I was fired or something. I wasn’t fired. I finished the record…and they put it out and sold a bunch of records. And everybody else ran around trying to take credit for it because it was so big that they couldn’t help themselves. … I must say, Madonna was great to work with in the studio. She really put in the work. She was a creative person.”

— Reggie Lucas, producer of Madonna’s first album.

Although its authenticity is unconfirmed, this is said to be an early track list of the album.

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