Today in Madonna History: September 29, 1992

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On September 29 1992, Madonna’s Erotica single was released to radio. Originally credited to Madonna & Shep Pettibone, Pettibone’s partner Tony Shimkin was later granted co-writing credit for nearly all of the Pettibone collaborations on the album, including Erotica. The debut release to feature the imprint of Maverick Records, the song was produced by Madonna & Pettibone.

As several leaked demo versions of the song can now attest, the track had gone through numerous incarnations before Madonna settled on lyrics that positioned her in the perspective of Dita – the alter-ego she had created for her Sex book. The song’s original chorus (“You thrill me…”) was reincorporated into the song when Madonna performed it during her 2006 Confessions Tour. Alternate verses were also used to create the track Erotic, which was included with the Sex book – these lyrics were also featured in a William Orbit remix that was included on the Erotica maxi-single.

French art director and photographer Fabien Baron designed the artwork for the single, the album and the Sex book. He also directed the Erotica music video, which included footage he had shot on Super 8mm during the making of the book. Baron recalled his first meeting with Madonna to discuss their potential collaboration in a 2009 interview with Hint Fashion Magazine:

“I met Madonna at her home on Central Park West to talk about working on her Sex book. It was very comfortable but very uncomfortable at the same time, which is a very interesting feeling. She’s very imposing and knows what she wants. She’s very informed and opinionated, which makes her genius. She takes you in and swallows you up — and you don’t mind it –  you actually enjoy it. There’s an unspoken seduction that goes on. I was young…she was young, too – and beautiful. That was an unforgettable era. She put that book out at the best moment. She timed it very well…she knows what she’s doing. And such drive. Some people want to lift stones to see what’s under them. She’ll be on a beach with millions of stones and want to lift every one of them.”

Today in Madonna History: September 10, 1986

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On September 10 1986, True Blue was released as a single in Canada. Written & produced by Madonna & Stephen Bray, the title-track of her third album was a 1960’s Motown-inspired love letter to her husband, Sean Penn.

After including True Blue on 1987’s Who’s That Girl World Tour set list, the song appeared to have been written out of Madonna’s repertoire following her split from Sean. By 2015’s Rebel Heart Tour, Madonna had made amens with both Sean and True Blue, performing the track as a stripped-down, crowd-pleasing acoustic number.

Shep Pettibone’s remixes of the single marked his first of many collaborations with Madonna.

Today in Madonna History: August 15, 1992

On August 15 1992, This Used To Be My Playground spent the first of three weeks at #1 on the RPM Canadian Top 100 Singles chart. In RPM’s year-end tally of the biggest hits of 1992 in Canada, the hit placed at #8.

This Used To Be My Playground was written by Madonna, Shep Pettibone & Tony Shimkin (although he was not originally credited) and produced by Madonna & Pettibone.

In an interview with the fan site MadonnaTribe, Shimkin recalled a last-minute dash to complete the recording of the song’s orchestral parts:

“When we recorded it with Al Schmidt at Ocean Way studio in L.A., we had a 30-piece orchestra and Jeremy Lubbock did the string arrangements, (but) we never included the demo that had the solo string part in it when we had him chart everything out for the orchestra,” revealed Shimkin. “On the day we were recording, we thought we were done and realized we forgot the solo. I quickly sang the part to the copyist, who then charted it out for the violin players, and they got it recorded with one minute to spare on the clock. When you have a thirty piece orchestra, it can be super expensive to roll into a second hour of their time!”

Today in Madonna History: August 8, 1992

Madonna - This Used To Be My Playground - Front (2-2) Madonna - This Used To Be My Playground - Back (2-2)

On August 8 1992, Madonna’s This Used to Be My Playground (and the theme song for A League of Their Own) hit number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA, becoming Madonna’s tenth chart-topping single, breaking her tie with Whitney Houston to become the female artist with the most number-one singles at that time.

The song was written and produced by Madonna and Shep Pettibone, and recorded prior to final sessions for Madonna’s 1992 studio album Erotica. Together with Rain and In This Life, This Used To Be My Playground is one of three Pettibone collaborations from the Erotica sessions that was not co-written with Tony Shimkin, according to the ASCAP database.

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: May 16, 1988

On May 16 1988, Madonna’s Spotlight reached a peak of #3 on the Oricon International Singles Chart in Japan. The single was released on 7″ vinyl and 3″ mini CD single by Sire and Warner-Pioneer Japan on April 25 1988.

Spotlight was originally planned to be included on the True Blue album, but was cut from the line-up and eventually appeared on Madonna’s You Can Dance remix album, released on November 17 1988.

The song was written by Madonna, Stephen Bray and Curtis Hudson.  The song was remixed by Shep Pettibone, with additional mixing done by John “Jellybean” Benitez.

Today in Madonna History: April 7, 1990

On April 7 1990, Madonna’s Vogue single was briefly reviewed in Billboard magazine.

Vogue’s early release to radio and the addition of its music video to MTV’s playlist were also noted in the same issue.

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