On November 26 1987, Who’s That Girl – Live In Japan was released on VHS and LaserDisc by Warner-Pioneer Video, exclusively for the Japanese market. Recorded in Tokyo on June 22 1987, the show initially aired as a television special in Japan in conjunction with Madonna’s sponsorship agreement with Mitsubishi. The special was the first ever television broadcast to make use of Dolby Surround Sound technology.
Elements of the Japanese release were also incorporated into the international 1988 release of the Who’s That Girl World Tour, Ciao Italia: Live From Italy, which was also released in Japan on LaserDisc in 1988 and on DVD in 2001. Meanwhile, the complete Live In Japan release has since been deleted from circulation.
On July 25 1990, Blond Ambition Japan Tour 90 was released on VHS and LaserDisc by Warner-Pioneer, exclusively to the Japanese market.
Recorded in Yokohama, Japan on April 26 1990, the show had originally aired as a live television special in Japan. Due to high winds impacting the outdoor stadium during the concert, no stage curtains were used in the performance, allowing viewers the ability to see some of the normally hidden set changes in the darkened background.
It was the only official VHS release of the tour worldwide due to a sponsorship contract which granted Pioneer rights to issue the tour exclusively on LaserDisc in other regions. For this reason, copies of the Japanese VHS were in high demand from fans in other countries that shared the Japanese NTSC video format, with imported copies selling for approximately $100 USD.
On July 15 1992, Truth Or Dare was re-released on VHS in the U.S. and Canada, priced for retail purchase. The new edition featured bonus performances of Hanky Panky and Like A Prayer filmed in Paris, following the film’s credit roll.
While bonus features were a relatively uncommon addition to VHS releases, even more unusual was the omission of these same special extras from all other releases of the film, including the subsequent DVD and Blu-ray editions – formats that would normally include any bonus content available. The most likely explanation is that the extra footage has been lost. A recent interview by Queerty.com with the film’s director Alek Keshishian appears to support this when he noted that neither he nor Madonna’s management have been able to locate the whereabouts of any of the film’s outtakes.
The original 1991 VHS release of the film, which had been priced for the rental market at nearly $100 per copy, featured alternate packaging and no bonus content.
On June 23 1998, the music video for Ray of Light was released by Warner Reprise Video as a limited edition video single of 40,000 VHS copies. It sold 7,381 copies within its first month of release, becoming one of the best-selling video singles of the Nielsen SoundScan era. Madonna’s previous video single release, Justify My Love, which predated SoundScan, was certified quadruple-Platinum by the RIAA (for shipment of over 200,000 copies).
The reason behind Ray of Light being issued as a video single were twofold. Madonna was very pleased with the outcome of her first collaboration with director Jonas Åkerlund and her record company felt that there would be enough interest to warrant its commercial release. Secondly, Warner’s marketing team correctly sensed that the song’s then-experimental sound would be a tough sell at radio, so the decision was made to pull out all the stops to ensure the release outperformed on the sales chart. Another prong in this strategy was the inclusion of album outtake Has To Be as the b-side to the two-track single, while excluding it from the maxi-single in an attempt to persuade fans to purchase the single in multiple formats. The strategy proved successful, with the song’s number-five debut and peak on the Billboard Hot 100 mainly due to its sales strength. According to Billboard, the music video single boosted its first-week sales by roughly 7%, helping it to secure its place in the top-five.
Shortly after Ray of Light‘s release as a video single, Billboard magazine published an article musing on whether renewed interest in the relatively obscure format could ever prove lucrative for the music industry. A video buyer for a major retail chained remarked:
“Madonna’s Ray of Light video single is a success because she has a fervent fan base. There are very few artists with videos that consistently get people’s attention, but Madonna is one of those artists. It’s too early to tell if there’s a true market for video singles. Right now, it seems like record companies are trying video singles to see what happens. I think we’re going to see the lines becoming more blurred in how audio and video singles are marketed.”
Indeed. Within the next five years (and two Madonna video singles later), the emergence of online file sharing would obliterate the physical singles market in North America, and video streaming sites would soon spell an end to the prospect of marketing music video singles as a physical format. In digital form, however, music video singles may be selling in larger numbers than ever due to increased availability through iTunes. Strangely, however, sales of music videos through iTunes are not reported to Billboard and no longer count towards a single’s chart position (reportedly due to iTunes’ monopoly on digital sales of the format), while streams of music videos through sites like YouTube and Vevo are used in Billboard’s chart methodology.
On April 26 1994, The Girlie Show – Live Down Under was released by Warner-Reprise Video on VHS and laserdisc.
The concert – recorded on November 19, 1993 at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia – was a re-edited version of the concert special that had aired live on HBO. It was directed by Mark “Aldo” Miceli, who directed the live screens on Madonna’s 1990 and 1993 tours, as well as the Blond Ambition Japan Tour 90 VHS/laserdisc release. The Girlie Show – Live Down Under was nominated for a Grammy in 1995 for Best Long Form Music Video and was also one of the first concerts to be commercially issued on DVD in 1998.
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.
Do you still have your VHS copy of Justify My Love?
On November 27 1999, Madonna: The Video Collection 1993-99 hit #3 on the Billboard Top Music Videos chart.
Heather Phares from Allmusic gave the release five out of five stars and said:
“Madonna’s Video Collection: 1993-1999 adds to her status as one of the best represented artists on DVD. Though it doesn’t offer much in the way of DVD-specific features, the artistry of directors like Mark Romanek, Stephane Sedaoui, David Fincher, Jean-Baptiste Mondino, as well as Madonna herself, is on full display with videos like ‘Take a Bow’, ‘Bedtime Story’, ‘Human Nature’, ‘Frozen’, and ‘Ray of Light’. All in all, it’s a worthwhile collection of memorable videos from one of pop’s trendsetters.”