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: February 15, 1985

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On February 15 1985, the Vision Quest original motion picture soundtrack was released on Geffen Records. To promote the release, music videos for Crazy For You and Gambler were both serviced to MTV together in late January.

Despite Gambler only being released as a single in markets outside North America, its video received moderate rotation from MTV nonetheless – possibly due to the fact that there were no competing videos produced for the final two singles from Like A Virgin.

Gambler was Madonna’s last entirely self-written single until the 2007 release of the charity single, Hey You. Other singles for which she received sole writing credit include Everybody (which was in fact a Stephen Bray co-write, however a publishing arrangement granted him sole credit for another of their collaborations, Ain’t No Big Deal, in trade), Burning Up, Lucky Star and Sidewalk Talk. Album tracks Think Of Me, I Know It and Shoo-Bee-Doo were also entirely self-written.

Gambler LOC entry 550

A third Madonna song that was recorded for the Vision Quest soundtrack, Warning Signs, was eventually dropped from the project. A cassette copy of the song, which is also credited to Madonna alone, was submitted to the Library of Congress for copyright registration in February of 1984, at the same time as Gambler.

Warning Signs LOC entry 550

With Stephen Bray having confirmed his involvement in the song’s production (which he described as “a cool synth track”), it appears that its production credits would mirror those of Gambler, which was produced by Jellybean Benitez and arranged by Bray. Given that early press for Vision Quest (including an on-set interview with Madonna herself) mentioned the inclusion of three new songs, footage of Madonna performing Warning Signs was likely filmed but ended up on the cutting room floor. Surprisingly, this additional footage has never resurfaced and the song has never leaked.

Today in Madonna History: January 30, 1990

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On January 30 1990, Keep It Together was released in North America as the fifth and final single from Like A Prayer. It also received a commercial release in Japan, Australia, Ecuador and the Philippines, while some European markets opted to include it as the b-side to Madonna’s next single, Vogue.

As fate would ironically have it, Madonna’s soulful ode to remembering ones roots would turn out to be the last Madonna-performed single co-written and co-produced with longtime collaborator Stephen Bray, whom she had befriended (or by some accounts, dated) during her days as a student at the University of Michigan. A final collaboration written by the pair, Get Over – which is speculated to have been written as a potential new track for The Immaculate Collection but was instead given to fellow Warner recording artist Nick Scotti – was released as a single in 1993, after first appearing on the Nothing But Trouble soundtrack in 1991.

Although no music video was produced for Keep It Together, the maxi-single – jam-packed with memorable remixes by Shep Pettibone and DJ Mark “The 45 King” with Stephen Bray – made the single a must-have for fans around the world. And despite its exclusion from her greatest hits releases, Madonna’s show-closing (and show-stopping) performance of the song during her legendary Blond Ambition Tour – and its accompanying documentary Truth Or Dare – has also served to keep the song alive in the hearts and minds of fans.

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.

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