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.

Today in Madonna History: June 24, 1989

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On June 24 1989, Madonna’s Express  Yourself single debuted at #21 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi Single Sales chart.

The 12″ maxi single included the following:

  1. Express Yourself (Non-Stop Express Mix) – 7:57
  2. Express Yourself (Stop & Go Dubs) – 10:49
  3. Express Yourself (Local Mix) – 6:26
  4. The Look of Love (Album Version) – 4:00

Today in Madonna History: May 30, 1987

On May 30th 1987, Breakfast Club scored their biggest hit as Right On Track peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Madonna became a member of Breakfast Club in late 1979, first as a drummer before branching out to keyboards and guitar, all the while sharing vocal duties (and living quarters) with her boyfriend, Dan Gilroy, and his brother Ed.

Bassist Gary Burke left Breakfast Club with Madonna and Mike Monahan to form Emmy with Stephen Bray in early 1981.

As Madonna was achieving success as a solo artist, Burke and Bray rejoined the Gilroy brothers for Breakfast Club’s 1984 single, Rico Mambo, on ZE Records, followed by a self-titled LP for MCA Records in 1987.

In yet another Madonna connection, Re-Invention Tour back-up singer/dancer Siedah Garrett makes an appearance in the video for Right On Track and also provided backing vocals for the song.

 

Today in Madonna History: April 25, 1988

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On April 25 1988, Spotlight was released as a single by Warner-Pioneer. Issued exclusively in Japan, it was the only commercial single release from the remix album You Can Dance. The song was written by Curtis Hudson, Madonna and Stephen Bray and was produced by Stephen Bray. Madonna wasn’t given a co-producer’s credit on the track – odd considering it was a leftover from the True Blue album sessions, for which she co-produced every song. The track was remixed by John “Jellybean” Benitez for its inclusion on You Can Dance.

In a 2012 interview with blogcritics.com writer Justin Kantor, Curtis Hudson recalled the circumstances surrounding the creation and release of Spotlight:

“During the time right after Holiday, when we’d go to her place and write, I presented Spotlight. I gave her a complete song, Spotlight. I had actually written it in case Warner Bros. asked her for another Holiday. She said she loved it and felt spiritual about it. But she didn’t use it or contact me again about it. It sort of popped up out of nowhere when she was getting ready to do You Can Dance. Her lawyer contacted our manager and said we needed to talk. We went over and met with him. She and Stephen Bray had already done the song; but I hadn’t even heard the version they had done.They took the demo I had given her and worked it into a different song. They gave me credit since I had the original song copyrighted. I would’ve collaborated and made changes. But I was told, ‘Well, she’s too busy. She’s overseas doing a movie.’ I was okay with it, though, because they gave me credit. But the original song had a certain magic, and the changes took that essence away. The original Spotlight was another Holiday—the rhythm, the basic groove. I think they were trying to get away from that sound. Sometimes artists don’t want their sound to be identified with specific writers.”

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