Thursday, July 25, 2013

'Madonna' Turns 30

   Kinda horrifying to think it's actually been 30 years since Madonna's debut LP was released. I was just reminiscing about how my friend Greg and I both wanted it and Cyndi Lauper's "She's So Unusual" but could each only afford one, so divided and conquered. I can remember being in P.E. class at Dobson High talking to Joel Avery about "Holiday," and everybody thinking it was by some new "black chick" on the scene. As I recall, the big reveal for me was when when MTV started to play a quick clip of "Burning Up" on some sort of teaser ad. (They rarely played the whole video, which irritated me to no end.) The blond tresses and dark roots were pure Debbie Harry, but the sound was something entirely different. Although I frequently cite ""Ray of Light" as her best album, it's probably more true to say that "Madonna" is my favorite album. With "Holiday," "Borderline," "Everybody" and "Physical Attraction" all on one record -- not to mention "Burning Up" and "Lucky Star" -- it's her "Parallel Lines" to "Ray of Light"'s "Autoamerican." Thank you for the music, girl!


Joe Jervis posted this ad from the Copa in Fort Lauderdale, from Memorial Day Weekend 1983.


Alan S. said...

I'm glad you said that about the 'black chick' thing, Kenneth.

The mislead about Madonna being a black artist was probably intentional to a degree, but I've discussed this with friends recently and they don't remember experiencing it the same way. Some say there is no way to mistake her as a black singer, but they know her as MADONNA and don't remember the rest of the music of the time very well.

This may not have been the case everywhere, but the radio stations in my hometown were largely segregated in 1983. Holiday (and to a lesser extent Burning Up & Lucky Star) were being played almost exclusively on the "urban" stations at first and not much on the regular Top 40 stations.

Since we'd have to wait until the Borderline video began being widely played on MTV (the way the majority of us learned what new artists looked like), there was a popular presumption that she was a black girl. She had a similar sound (both her vocals and the production) of many other R&B radio hits that year. That Jellybean dance/pop sound was very 'urban radio' at the time.

I've never heard anyone "in the know" talk about how this was actually a strategy, but I think Warner Music used that ambivalence about her as a marketing strategy to gain her radio play on the 'black' stations. That's why her first mainstream (non-club) single "Holiday" doesn't have a video.

And when the Borderline video finally got into rotation on MTV, some or us where like, "Huh, that's her?"

At least that's how I remember it.

Matthew said...

No way on purpose. But we all thought she was black.

Henry Holland said...

Any particular reason that my comment from yesterday, about how not all of us thought she was black, wasn't posted?

Anonymous said...

The black thing was assumed with Teena Marie too. The record label was afraid to reveal that a white girl was signing R&B (black) oriented music. Once they found an audience, their face appeared on their record covers. Maybe it was their way to get people to appreciate the music and keep an open mind....who knows.

Anonymous said...

Wow...her 1 good album is 30?!

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

@Henry: Must not have gone through.

Henry Holland said...

Thanks for the response, Kenneth.

My point was that not "all" of us thought Madge was a black singer, after 20 years of listening to Bessie Smith, Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight etc., Madonna's thin, wan voice didn't fool everyone.

Wow...her 1 good album is 30?!

Well, no, Ray of Light is 15 years old. :-)

Anonymous said...

Voque, Tide is High, Love H angover, Evergreen, EveryBreath You Take, Dancing in the Dark, Call Me,Rapture, Smooth Operator are hits that stick.

dishy said...

I lived in Boston going to school and was an honored house photographer at SPIT (great night club) - I photographer MARI WILSON!!! and tons of others - when Madonna came on and did her 3 songs with her dance boys singing over her track.

I literally decided NOT to take pictures because she was so awful. Shocked when she became so famous and I could have had 5 rolls of 36 pics of that cunt. I TRIED to listen to the Ray Of Light album today and had to stop at the title song - wow that has not aged well. I think her best are Like A Virgin and Like A Prayer. I think she is a total cunt.