Today in Madonna History: October 19, 1981

On October 19 1981, Madonna performed at Uncle Sam’s Blues Club in Roslyn, NY. Her manager at the time, Camille Barbone, had hired photographer George DuBose to capture Madonna’s two sets that evening.

Madonna’s band during the show consisted of Bob Riley on drums (later replaced by Steve Bray), John Kumnick on bass, Jon Gordon on guitar (later replaced by Paul Pesco) & David Frank on keyboards. When Madonna terminated her management agreement with Barbone in early 1982, she continued her working relationship with Bray, Pesco & Frank.

Steve Bray would co-write tracks that would appear on Madonna’s demo tape which landed her a recording contract with Sire Records later that year, and their collaboration remained successful throughout the 80’s.

Paul Pesco played guitar (along with Madonna herself) on the aforementioned demo and would also appear on Madonna’s self-titled debut album and her first concert tour, The Virgin Tour. Years later, he played on the Erotica album and joined Madonna’s touring band again for The Girlie Show in 1993.

David Frank, who soon found success as half of the electronic music duo The System, co-wrote an early version of Crimes Of Passion with Madonna before she decided to rewrite the music with Bray. The System’s hit In Times Of Passion is based on his ideas for the song but feature new lyrics from The System’s vocalist, Mic Murphy. Frank was also involved with the mysterious Otto Von Wernherr demos, believed to have been recorded in early 1982 prior Madonna’s deal with Sire, as he is credited for arrangement on the 1986 Japanese 12-inch release of Cosmic Climb (his name was subsequently omitted from Wernherr’s later releases).

Interestingly, The System’s other half, Mic Murphy, co-wrote the unreleased Erotica-era demo Dear Father with Madonna in the early 90’s. Pesco, who may have played guitar on this demo given his involvement during the album sessions, was also the guitarist for The System.

Today in Madonna History: October 18, 1986

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On October 18 1986, Madonna’s True Blue debuted at #27 on the Billboard Hot 100 Single Sales chart. True Blue spent 10 weeks on the chart, eventually peaking at #4 on November 15.

Today in Madonna History: August 10, 1985

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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: April 11, 1990

On April 11 1990, the Keep It Together single was certified gold for sales of 500,000 units in the USA.

Written and produced by Madonna and Stephen Bray, the main inspiration behind Keep It Together was Madonna’s relationship with her family—whom she dearly missed after her divorce from actor Sean Penn.

Keep It Together became the last Madonna single release to feature a collaboration with Bray—a partnership that had begun romantically when Madonna & Stephen were college students at the University of Michigan. Madonna later persuaded Bray to join her in New York where he became the drummer for her band, Emmy. After briefly falling out over Madonna’s decision to work with more established producers after signing to Sire Records in 1982, the pair quickly made amends and went on to write and produce some of Madonna’s most memorable 80’s hits.

A final collaboration between Madonna & Bray, Get Over, was reworked by Madonna and Shep Pettibone for possible inclusion as one of the new tracks on The Immaculate Collection, but was instead given to Warner Bros artist Nick Scotti to record in 1991. Although Madonna’s background vocals are featured prominently in Scotti’s versions of the song, a full Madonna vocal version has yet to surface.

Today in Madonna History: November 30, 1980

On November 30 1980, Madonna’s band, Emmy, recorded a four-song studio demo which was later distributed on TDK cassettes around New York City.

Band member and songwriting partner, Stephen Bray, was asked to describe what he remembered from these songs in a 1998 interview with Bruce Baron for Goldmine magazine, and he commented on each this way:

  • (I Like) Love For Tender – “Sort of our Byrds thing. Nice song, arrangement was too long though.”
  • No Time – “This was a giddy, up-tempo romp with drums and rhythm section stuff inspired by the fast playing Police and XTC attitude, but with a pop top.”
  • Bells Ringing – “Our most psychedelic number I recall, too long again. It had a definite Stones-ish attitude.”
  • Drowning – “The best tune of the moment, I always thought.”

Today in Madonna History: August 25, 1987

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On August 25 1987,  Causing a Commotion was released as the second single from the soundtrack album Who’s That Girl, by Sire Records. Causing a Commotion was written and produced by Madonna and Stephen Bray, the song was inspired by Madonna’s relationship with then husband Sean Penn, and his abusive and violent nature.

Today in Madonna History: July 22, 1989

 

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On July 22 1989, Madonna’s Express Yourself reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart. Express Yourself was the first song that Madonna and producer Stephen Bray collaborated on for the Like a Prayer album.

“The message of the song is that people should always say what it is they want. The reason relationships don’t work is because they are afraid. That’s been my problem in all my relationships. I’m sure people see me as an outspoken person, and for the most part, if I want something I ask for it. But sometimes you feel that if you ask for too much or ask for the wrong thing from someone you care about that that person won’t like you. And so you censor yourself. I’ve been guilty of that in every meaningful relationship I’ve ever had. The time I learn how not to edit myself will be the time I consider myself a complete adult.”

—Madonna talking to Stephen Holden of The New York Times.
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