Today in Madonna History: May 9, 2020

On May 9 2020, Stephen Bray posted this message in celebration of the 31st anniversary of Madonna’s Express Yourself single:

So many great memories — from recording the demo tracks and vocals at the home studio in Sherman Oaks to all the great players (Pat Leonard, Randy Jackson, and many others) at Pat’s studio in Burbank. Thank you Madonna for bringing so much spirited fire to the lead — and for forcing me to sing the bass part I’d earmarked for Levi Stubbs! The genius of Bill Bottrell raised the ante and it just kept getting better with Shep Pettibone’s amazing remix and David Fincher’s Metropolis music video. Happy 31st Birthday, Express Yourself!

Today in Madonna History: April 27, 1993

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On April 27 1993, Madonna was honoured for Best Songwriting for This Used To Be My Playground at the 8th annual ASCAP Film & Television Music Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.

Today In Madonna History: February 27, 1993

On February 27 1993, Madonna’s Bad Girl hit #60 (second week on the chart) in the USA, after a #75 debut the week before (February 20 1993).

Bad Girl is the only single release off of Madonna’s Erotica album that she did not perform on her Girlie Show World Tour of 1993.

Today in Madonna History: December 7, 1990

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On December 7 1990, Madonna’s Justify My Love was released as the first-ever video single, priced at $9.98.

The music video was considered too sexually explicit for MTV and was banned from the network. Madonna responded to the banning: “Why is it that people are willing to go and watch a movie about someone getting blown to bits for no reason at all, and nobody wants to see two girls kissing and two men snuggling?”

On December 3, 1990, ABC’s Nightline played the video in its entirety, then interviewed Madonna live about the video’s sexual content and censorship. When asked whether she stood to make more money selling the video than airing it on MTV, she appeared impatient and answered, “Yeah, so? Lucky me.” She also expressed during the interview that she did not understand why the video was banned, while videos containing violence and degradation to women continued to receive regular airplay. The video was then released on VHS, and became a bestselling “video single” of all time.

The Justify My Love maxi-single was an especially memorable one, featuring remixes by future songwriting collaborators William Orbit and Andre Betts, a Q-Sound mix, a remix by Madonna & Lenny Kravitz titled The Beast Within which featured Madonna reciting passages from the Book of Revelations, and a new Shep Pettibone remix of Express Yourself.

A second Justify My Love remix by Andre Betts, titled The English Mix, was sadly shelved but eventually surfaced on bootlegs and the internet, in varying degrees of quality.

Today in Madonna History: September 4, 1993

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On September 4 1993, Madonna’s fifth single taken from her Erotica album, Rain, moved to #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA (after 7 weeks on the chart).

Rain is a gorgeous romantic moment from Madonna’s sorely under-appreciated Erotica opus. A slow and seductive rhyme base surrounded by cascading, sparkling, synths inspires a sweet and charming vocal…A wonderfully constructed, memorable tune that deserves as much attention (and airplay) as it can garner.”

– Billboard Magazine

Today in Madonna History: July 17, 1993

On July 17 1993, Rain was released as a single in North America. It was the fourth and final North American single from the Erotica album.

Following a cold reception to Madonna’s previous North American single – the bleak-but-beautiful Bad Girl Rain was given a glossy makeover by French record producer Daniel Abraham (who had recently completed a similar assignment with the video remix of Fever) to help ensure that it would receive a warmer welcome from radio programmers. The U.S. promotional CD that was serviced to radio by Maverick/Warner offered the choice between the sweetened “Radio Remix” (in full-length and edited form) or an edited album version, the latter of which was fittingly used in the song’s gorgeous music video.

As her label had correctly predicted, radio indeed favored the smoother sound of the “Radio Remix” over the darker, more dynamic (and in our opinion, more interesting) production-work of the album mix.

While not an all-out smash hit, Rain was the first single from the Erotica album to impact Billboard’s Hot AC chart, where it reached the Top 10, and it is generally viewed as an initial recovery step following the backlash Madonna had faced in the wake of the Sex book.

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Written and produced by Madonna & Shep Pettibone (unlike the majority of the tracks from Erotica, Tony Shimkin has not been added as co-writer, according to the Warner-Chappel publishing database), Rain was one of the earliest songs conceived during the Erotica album sessions. It appears as the first track on a two-cassette collection of demos from the album sessions submitted to the U.S. Library Of Congress for copyright registration.

The infamously sought-after set is often referred to by fans as The Rain Tapes because of the song’s prominent placement in its sequencing and also due to the likely unintentional visual prominence of the song’s title in the handwritten sleeve notes that accompanied the tapes.

Shep Pettibone created the song’s interesting use of panning percussion by digitally cutting and splicing samples of percussion breaks from an extended version of Scritti Politti’s 1985 hit, Perfect Way (and no, he was not involved with creating the remix). Although no sample credit was given on the album, considering the royalties the band would have earned for their inclusion on Madonna’s Who’s That Girl soundtrack, perhaps she figured that they owed her one.

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The Rain maxi-single was perhaps most notable for its inclusion of a non-album track, Up Down Suite, which was for all intents and purposes a dub remix of album outtake, Goodbye To Innocence (which remained unreleased at the time, aside from some vocal samples used in a promo-only remix of Fever). A new remix (featuring Everlast) of the Erotica album track, Waiting, was also included on the North American maxi-single, while its album version served as the single’s North American b-side.

With its poetically poignant and emotionally charged lyrics, percussive urgency and one of Madonna’s most ambitious uses of layered self-harmonization (not to mention it being accompanied by one of the most beautiful music videos ever created), it isn’t difficult to understand why Rain remains an enduring fan favorite.

“It’s strange
I feel like I’ve known you before
And I want to understand you
More and more and more
When I’m with you
I feel like a magical child
Everything strange
Everything wild

Waiting is the hardest thing
I tell myself that if I believe in you
In the dream of you
With all my heart and all my soul
That by sheer force of will
I will raise you from the ground
And without a sound you’ll appear
And surrender to me, to love”

Today In Madonna History: May 22, 1990

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On May 22 1990, Madonna’s I’m Breathless: Music From And Inspired By The Film Dick Tracy album was released.

In the December 1994 issue of Q magazine, Madonna declared:

“I would have to say the favourite record that I’ve made is the soundtrack to Dick Tracy (“I’m Breathless”). I love every one of those songs… My judgement is never based on the world’s reaction.”

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