Today in Madonna History: November 26, 1992

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On November 26 1992, a Paris Catholic group called Avenir de la Culture (The Future Of Culture) filed 2 lawsuits against Madonna and her publisher for corrupting the French youth with pornography and to have all copies of the SEX book destroyed.

The lawyer representing the group had this to say about SEX:

“The book is part of a destructive trend which shocks the morals of young people.”

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Today in Madonna History: November 8, 1992

On November 8 1992, Madonna’s Sex book hit #1 on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list.

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Today in Madonna History: November 2, 1992

On November 2 1992, Madonna appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine, with the headline: The Selling of Sex – The New Voyeurism.

Here’s a snippet of the article inside, written by John Leland:

What if Madonna gave a sexual bonfire and nobody came? In the quiet before the inevitable storm a few weeks back, NEWSWEEK asked Madonna about the possibility of failure or, more grievous, inconsequence. What if she released “Sex“—her explicit coffee-table book of erotic photos and writings, celebrating sadomasochism, homosexuality, exhibitionism and other pansexual delights-and the public merely yawned? “If everybody yawned,” she said, armed for this and other contingencies, “I’d say hooray. That means something happened.”

It was one of those neat identity makeovers for which Madonna is justly renowned: after coloring the last nine years with her determination to engage our attention at all costs, here she was, Florence Nightingale, dutiful erotic night nurse, content to slip into the shadows once her services were no longer needed, the patient cured. Now that’s what you call spin.

But for Madonna and for the rest of us, this was no lark. A deft little way to make some money and grab some spotlight, “Sex” also promised our first barometric reading of a turbulence boiling in American culture. Call it the new voyeurism: the middlebrow embrace, in the age of AIDS, of explicit erotic material for its own sake. From Mapplethorpe to MTV, from the Fox network to fashion advertising, looking at sex is creeping out of the private sphere and into the public, gentrified by artsy pretension and de-stigmatized out of viral necessity. Canny marketers exploit it; alarmed conservatives, joined by many feminists, are trying to shut it down. In many ways, as Pat Buchanan asserted at the Republican convention in August, there really is a cultural war going on. “Sex” stood to claim the battlefield. Advance cover stories on the book in Vanity Fair, Vogue and New York Magazine heralded hot like you’ve never seen before.

And from the looks of things last Wednesday morning, “Sex” measured up. Dismissive reviews, splashed across the tabloids like news of Pearl Harbor, couldn’t stop the ambush. Bookstores, record stores, anybody who carried it got swamped. Priced at $49.95 and packaged in a Mylar bag that warned ADULTs ONLY!, the book sold 150,000 copies on the first day, out of 500,000 printed for American distribution. Who says we’re in a recession? Laurence J. Kirshbaum, president of Warner Books, called it “review-proof.” Many stores pre-sold their shipments before they arrived. Others couldn’t restock fast enough to keep pace with demand.

Today in Madonna History: October 21, 1992

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On October 21 1992, Madonna’s Sex book was released by Warner Books, Maverick and Callaway Books.

The 128-page coffee table book of erotica and sexual fantasies was written by Madonna, with photographs taken by Steven Meisel and film frames shot by Fabien Baron.  The book was edited by Glenn O’Brien.

The spiral-bound, metal-covered book was wrapped in a silver mylar bag and included a copy of the Erotic CD single (an exclusive version of the Erotica song).  The package also included an 8-page comic book and it was priced at $49.95 US.

How old were you when you first bought or read through Madonna’s Sex book?

Today in Madonna History: October 13, 1992

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On October 13 1992, the Erotica single was released. 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: December 28, 1992

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On December 28 1992, Madonna was named one of the 25 Most Intriguing People In The World For 1992 by People magazine.

Here’s what People had to say about Madonna in 1992:

The Movies! The Album! The Naughty Pictures! Once Again Madonna Was Everywhere, Shouting, “Look at Me—Every Inch of Me!”

Intriguing: suggests an air of mystery. Madonna: does everything in public but floss her teeth.

Intriguing: wrapped in enigma. Madonna: not wrapped in anything.

Intriguing: means doesn’t appear on-camera in romantic encounters with Evian water bottles. Madonna: does.

OK—so what’s so intriguing about somebody who lets you know that her lovers require a five-cent deposit?

For one thing, she made ya look. Consider Sex, the photo book in which she had her picture taken doing everything but blushing. Besides proving that a naked Madonna could arch backward over a pinball machine without mussing her hair, it also pushed the envelope out to the size of a circus tent. And when the crowds came pouring in, there she was at center ring, cracking her whip.

It only served her purposes that Sex earned sniffy reviews like “The Empress Has No Clothes” and that it was banned in places such as Japan and Ireland. Coming on the heels of her summer film hit, A League of Their Own, the fuss over her book helped to launch her new album, Erotica, and primed the movie audience for her next assault on their sensibilities, Body of Evidence. Her success at getting the world to subsidize her sexual preoccupations—to say nothing of her mammoth self-absorption—is what makes her worth the $60 million deal she cut this year with Time Warner (the parent company of PEOPLE). Madonna is not the first star to find the bucks in buck nakedness. But no one before her has capitalized so well on human willingness to have our fears and desires repackaged and sold back to us.

Yet this most public of women still strains to be a mystery. This year she went through more faces than Lon Chaney—one minute in Baby Jane pigtails, a cupcake from hell; the next in sour milkmaid gear, Heidi with a mean streak. Her changing gallery of faces is one reason that she’s a sex symbol who inspires a lot of heavy breathing from intellectuals. One landmark of the 1992 publishing list—The Madonna Connection: Representational Politics, Sub-cultural Identities and Cultural Theory. You didn’t get this sort of thing for Petula Clark.

But does she really throw such a mysterious light on our culture? More likely it’s just the glinting gears of a giant publicity machine. Yet the sheer magnitude of her achievement in that regard is, well, intriguing. And the grinding of those gears is surely too loud to be ignored. “I’m a revolutionary,” she once sighed. “And yes. it’s a burden.”

Sometimes it’s a burden for her, we sigh in return, and sometimes for us.

Madonna was a busy woman in 1992! What did you enjoy most? A League Of Their Own? This Used To Be My Playground? Erotica? Sex? Body Of Evidence? 

Today in Madonna History: November 21, 1992

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On November 21 1992, Madonna’s SEX book was banned in Ireland (a month after it went on sale). The Censorship Board decided that any future shipments of the book should not be sold. Booksellers and fans voiced their opposition, but an appeal of the decision never occurred. Additional copies of the book were never made available, making the ban a silly waste of time.

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