I was not among the earliest fans of Madonna, on the dance floors of New York. I was a skinny little teenager in podunk Whitehall, Ohio. But very, very shortly after I heard Madonna's first radio hit, Holiday, I wanted to know more. Like many people, I thought she was black at the time. This seems very odd today, but there was no visual to go with the record at first. The single just said "Madonna."
How could an artist so known for her changes of appearance have started out with few knowing what she looked like? Anyway, that changed very quickly. This was the advent of MTV after all, and no one used the medium quite as skillfully as. Ms. Ciccone. After Holiday, the next video to burn up MTV was Burning Up. I don't think it even charted on radio playlists, but we all got a little taste of what she was about with the end of that video.
The hits flew quickly after that. Lucky Star showed off her Catholic imagery, and a bit of the "underwear on the outside" thing. We also learned she could dance. Right after that, Borderline turned out to be more than just a pop tune and a throwaway video. This was already turning into art. 80s art, but art nonetheless.
After that, the chronology was kind of a blur. As I was transitioning from high school to college, Madonna released her second album, Like a Virgin. By this time, her image was solidly in place, right down to her "Boy Toy" belt buckle. In addition to hits like the title track, Madonna was also charting extra songs from movies like Desperately Seeking Susan and Vision Quest. From the former came Into the Groove, a song that got tons of play, and it wasn't even a single. And from the second album, the track that would become a nickname for Madonna for years, Material Girl.
All along the way, Madonna was morphing from a "street urchin", to a ersatz Marilyn Monroe to her own creation. By 1987--and after a Playboy and Penthouse mini scandal--she was a very slick, sleek phenomenon. Her True Blue album continued to prove that she wasn't a flash in the pan, and generated several hits, including my favorite, Open Your Heart and the almost forgotten title track, True Blue.
Two more tracks from that album are much more likely to be covered in any retrospective, the pro-choice/pro-life (take your pick) Papa Don't Preach and La Isla Bonita. By this time, Madonna was already a bona fide superstar, eclipsing virtually all other 80s pop stars. And there was a lot more to come.
To be continued in a future edition of Blast from the Past. For now, happy Monday!