Sunday, 28 July 2013

The recording sessions

I must repost this!

Originally posted on February 8, 2010

We all know the story. After The Breakfast Club and Emmy, she decided to do it on her own. She put post-punk and new wave aside to embrace pop and dance music.

The new - and definite - journey began in 1981, the year when Madonna wrote "Everybody", "Ain't No Big Deal" and "Burning Up". She recorded the songs with Steve Bray in a demo tape and carried it in her pocket, while dancing the night away in Danceteria, somewhere in 1982. She met DJ Mark Kamins, he took her to Sire Records and a record deal was signed.

On October 6th, "Everybody" was released. Madonna's first single passed the test: it was a hit, at the underground club scene. An album had to follow. On November, she teamed up with Reggie Lucas to redo "Burning Up" and record "Physical Attraction" (written by him).

Exactly 27 years ago, on February 1983, the recording sessions were officially taking place at Sigma Sound Studios, in New York city. Although Madonna wanted Mark Kamins to produce the album, it was decided that Lucas, a more experienced producer, would do the job. He wrote a second song, called "Borderline". Madonna would also write "Lucky Star", "Think of Me" and "I Know It".

During the sessions, both would disagree about how the final product ought to sound. Madonna called her friend John "Jellybean" Benitez to help achieving the sound she wanted. He remixed the entire album and also produced "Holiday", the song that would replace "Ain't No Big Deal" - Madonna intended to include it on the album, but Steven Bray sold the rights to another label. Written by Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens, "Holiday" had originally been offered to Mary Wilson, one of the original Supremes. Wilson turned it down, Madonna took it and it would become an all-time classic in pop music.

The recording sessions lasted for 20 days. Here is one of my favourite soundbytes, captured by Madonna's microphone:

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The best decision

The whole "Lucky Star" thing was set aside and final decisions were made.

An album title, specially when it marks the debut of a pop artist, must be concise enough to define who's behind it and strong enough to get people's attention. And what better word(s) could do that than her first name itself?

An album cover serves the exact same purposes and Australian photographer Gary Heery couldn't have done a better job: he captured Madonna's essence - a mix of innocence, flirtiness, street rawness, glamour and ambition (yes... blond ambition) - in exquisite fashion, giving the world a first look to the woman who would define pop culture for decades to come.



It could have been... Lucky Star

Legend says, during the recording sessions, Madonna originally planned to name her debut album Lucky Star. There was even a photoshoot inspired by the title, by Swiss photographer Edo Bertoglio.
Fortunately for all of us, things would take a whole new direction...

First tests, Lucky Star album photoshoot by Edo Bertoglio
(friend Martin Burgoyne joined M at some point)
Lucky Star album photoshoot by Edo Bertoglio



 First test for the actual Lucky Star album cover

Martin, Debi and Maripol joining M for some shots


Yes, I do remember...

... not the day it was released, but the day I had it for the first time.

For days I used to stand in front of the window of the record store right across the street, completely mesmerized by the cover - still my favorite, until today.

I remember so well the exact moment I had it: a few minutes from leaving with my family for our Summer vacation, the car already packed with our bags, I told my mother how much I'd love to have "the other Madonna record, to listen to during the holidays" (I already had Like A Virgin).
My mother, beautiful and kind as she always was, told my father to wait a few minutes, took my hand and we went to the store. "That's the one!", I said, unable to contain my enthusiasm. I picked out the cassette, since I could use my sister's radio. I listened to it over and over again, throughout the entire Summer of 1985. I was 7 years old.

Almost 30 years later, I can feel the same thrill as the first chords from "Lucky Star" arise. Like I was entering a whole new dimension, bursting with sophistication and style. And boy, did we all!

July 27, 1983

The beginning of a new era in pop music.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


Like A Prayer is a tapestry of personal symbols, intertwined throughout 11 songs. Rolling Stone stated that the album "as a whole represents the maturation of Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone (...) [who] emerges as a thoughtful, introspective songwriter".

The record's symbolic richness, however, goes way beyond the lyrics. It is deeply reinforced by the astonishing imagery that was created for promotional purposes.

This is Music translated into Photography - we can hear the songs, just by looking at the photo sets - in a way that no one else but the great Herb Ritts could do. Hair, makeup, wardrobe and accessories, the whole styling is flawless. And Madonna's natural beauty, body language and face expressions are just breathtaking.

Definitely my favorite work of Photography for an album.

Love. Spirituality. Incense. Patchouli. Rings & beads. Ornaments. Psychedelia. The Sixties.




Roots. Family. Dance. Childhood. Memory.

Prayer. Contrition. Divorce. Husband. Father. God.