Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we reflect on notable records and the reissues they could someday see. It’s been three decades since one of the most popular and influential performers of the last 50 years released her first full-length album, and a new deluxe edition is long overdue. Here’s a look back at the first album by Madonna.
If you’ll pardon the anachronism, it wouldn’t have been unforgivable to look at Gary Heery’s photograph for the cover of Madonna’s first album and ask “Who’s that girl?” Was this really the face of the girl who’d been filling floors of New York dance clubs with her bubbly, synth-funk jams and distinctive-if-untrained voice? Someone so young, so…white?
Of course, the bottle-blonde hair, the seductive stare and the chunky, bangled jewelry are some of Madonna Louise Ciccone’s first visual hallmarks; we couldn’t have imagined her any other way in her first few years on the scene. And while we could never really have predicted the astounding upper reaches of pop and art she’d reach in the decades to come from this record alone, Madonna, released July 27, 1983, is an impressively sturdy foundation that certainly bears rediscovery.
What follows, as always, is our Reissue Theory-style look back at the album: its creation, its impact and – finally – what it could look like if Madonna and the powers-that-be ever rolled out a deluxe edition of this album. After the borderline – er, jump – we’ll take you back to 1983, where nobody quite knew how familiar they would be with that one-named pop singer.
The Madonna as pop star story has its “Issue #1” moment with the release of Madonna, or maybe closer to the release of its first single, “Everybody,” in the fall of 1982. But the origin story, in a nutshell: Michigan-raised Catholic girl loses mother at a young age, becomes a somewhat rebellious but intelligent young woman, drops out of dance school and pursues her musical dreams at the bottom of the totem pole in New York City.
After a brief stint in the New Wave band Breakfast Club with future collaborator Stephen Bray (the band would have a Madonna-less Top 10 hit, “Right on Track,” in 1987), she began assembling her own material to shop around, starting with tunes “Ain’t No Big Deal” (later a non-LP B-side), “Burning Up” and “Everybody,” the latter of which would become her signature song at the time. Danceteria DJ Mark Kamins enjoyed the response to her rough version of the song, and offered to produce a new version which would be shopped to labels. Ultimately, Seymour Stein of Sire Records took a liking to the 24-year-old singer and put out “Everybody” as a single, which peaked at No. 3 on Billboard‘s dance charts. (Notably, the original sleeve of “Everybody” didn’t feature Madonna at all, leading to some confusion as to her identity – some assumed she was a black session singer.)
When it came time to assemble an album after the success of “Everybody,” Madonna turned not to Bray or Kamins (whose original “Everybody” was untouched on the album) but Sire/Warner Bros. staff producer Reggie Lucas. Lucas, who’d worked with “Juicy Fruit” hitmakers Mtume (and won a Grammy writing “Never Knew Love Like This Before” with James Mtume for Stephanie Mills), penned two of the album’s best tracks, the yearning “Borderline” and the sensuous “Physical Attraction,” while Madonna brought in some new compositions including “Lucky Star,” one of her own favorite tracks for the album. (The song nearly lent the album its title.)
Ultimately, though, Lucas and Madonna did not see eye-to-eye on production, and he left before the album was finished. Madonna then turned to another local producer/DJ, with whom she was romantically involved with as well: John “Jellybean” Benitez. Jellybean would remix “Lucky Star,” “Burning Up” and “Physical Attraction,” and brought in one last jewel for the record, written by Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens of pop act Pure Energy. “Holiday” gave the album even more of a party feel than before, with Madonna vocally reaching for the stars over an inescapable hook.
Preceded by another dance hit single, “Lucky Star,” Madonna really took off that fall, when club spins and fashionable videos (featuring Madonna in her first of many iconic looks: big bows, lace, sunglasses and armloads of bracelets) put a further three (of a record-breaking 38, through her whole career thus far) singles into Billboard‘s Top 40: “Holiday” (No. 16), “Lucky Star” (No. 4) and “Borderline” (No. 10). (All were Top 20 U.K. singles, with “Holiday” and “Borderline” each peaking at No. 2. The album itself earned a new lease on life in Europe in 1985, after Like a Virgin attained critical mass; it was reissued as Madonna: The First Album.) The album has since shipped 5 million copies in the U.S. and, with 168 weeks on the Billboard 200, has been on that chart longer than any of her LPs.
Owing to both the twisting-and-turning process of making the record and its success in the clubs, Madonna would certainly make a satisfying two-disc set. Highlights of such a set would include:
- Original self-made demos of early cuts “Everybody,” “Burning Up” and “Ain’t No Big Deal” (re-recorded and released on the B-side of “Papa Don’t Preach” in 1986)
- Demos recorded with collaborator Stephen Bray, many of which were re-edited and released in 1997 on an unauthorized album assembled by Bray
- Madonna’s version of “Sidewalk Talk,” a song she wrote and ultimately gave away to Jellybean, whose version was a Top 20 hit
- Rare period remixes of all of Madonna‘s singles: “Everybody,” “Burning Up,” “Holiday,” “Lucky Star” and “Borderline,” some of which were only released in Europe
One could certainly round up promo videos and live performances – including the above American Bandstand clip where she presciently declares her intentions to “rule the world” to Dick Clark – and include a DVD proving definitively of Madonna’s prowess in the full audiovisual medium of the age.
Madonna/The First Album: 30th Anniversary Edition (* denotes unreleased tracks)
Disc 1: Original LP (released as Sire LP 23867, 1983) and original single mixes
- Lucky Star
- Burning Up
- I Know It
- Think of Me
- Physical Attraction
- Ain’t No Big Deal (Mark Kamins Version) (intended B-side to “Everybody” single) *
- Holiday (7″ Edit) (single A-side – Sire 7-29478, 1983)
- Lucky Star (7″ Edit) (single A-side – Sire 7-29177, 1983)
- Borderline (7″ Edit) (single A-side- Sire 7-29354, 1984)
- Everybody (U.K. 7″ Remix) (single A-side – Sire W-9899, 1982)
- Everybody (U.K. 7″ Dub) (single B-side – Sire W-9899, 1982)
- Ain’t No Big Deal (B-side to “Papa Don’t Preach” – Sire 7-28636, 1986)
Disc 2: Remixes and Demos
- Everybody (Madonna Demo) *
- Burning Up (Madonna Demo) *
- Ain’t No Big Deal (Madonna Demo) *
- Sidewalk Talk (Demo) *
- Crimes of Passion (Demo) *
- Stay (Demo) *
- Everybody (U.K. 12″ Version) (12″ A-side – Sire W-9899 T, 1982)
- Burning Up (12″ Version) (12″ A-side – Sire 0-29715, 1983)
- Borderline (“New Mix”) (12″ A-side – Sire 0-20212, 1984)
- Lucky Star (“New Mix”) (12″ B-side – Sire 0-20212, 1984)
- Burning Up (Alternate Mix) (issued on European vinyl pressing of album – Sire WX22, 1985)
- Everybody (Dub) (12″ B-side – Sire 0-29899, 1982)
- Borderline (Dub) (12″ promo B-side – Sire PRO-A-2120, 1984)
- Everybody (U.K. Dub) (12″ B-side – Sire W-9899 T, 1982)
Disc 3: DVD
- Everybody (promo video)
- Burning Up (promo video)
- Holiday (promo video)
- Lucky Star (promo video)
- Borderline (promo video)
- Holiday (Top of the Pops)
- Burning Up (The Tube)
- Holiday/Interview (American Bandstand)