Thursday, 17 March 2011

Madonna On Video

When in 2009, Madonna released her career spanning “Celebration” set, it should have been the last word regarding Madonna on Film. Whilst the CD and Double CD editions were an incomplete sprawling mess, the abandonment of the chronological order resulting in an uneven listen, the DVD set was a lot better. In order, a lot more songs than the CD, and two discs meaning most of the videos were here. Note the essential word here - most. You would have thought that having two discs would have contained more than enough space to get all of her promo videos on there, and even if not, given that one disc had a shorter running time than the other, that means there was definitely enough space on at least one of the discs.

But no. For some reason, certain clips were missing - including those that had even appeared on previous Madonna video collections. As Madonna’s last release on Warner Brothers, this seemed like a wasted opportunity. But this wasn’t the first time a Madonna video had missed things out. Shocking really, when you consider Madonna was made for MTV. So, where did each of them go wrong?

Despite the fact that Madonna’s debut 45 “Everybody” had originally been released in the US amidst an air of mystery, Madonna did eventually get around to making a promo video for the song. It appeared some time after the original single release, but the clip does exist. But when it came for Warners to put out Madonna’s first video collection in 1984, “Everybody” was nowhere to be seen. I can only assume that, being made “post-event”, Warners have never thought of it as being a proper promo.

The first video release consisted of four songs, and didn’t seem to have a title, so often gets referred to as “The Madonna EP” (VHS, WMV3). It included the clips for Burning Up, Lucky Star, Borderline & Like A Virgin, and came in a slightly oversized case. It was issued on a variety of interesting formats worldwide, including a Betamax version, and a 9” Laserdisc edition in the US. “Holiday” was missing because no “official” video was made. Madonna had originally filmed a clip but after it was completed, she thought it was so bad, so demanded it be scrapped, and the clip has never been seen. Nobody is even quite sure what the video looked like, and why Madonna hated it so much.

Madonna performed the song on the US show “American Bandstand” in 1984, and Warners later issued this performance on a promo video to TV stations. But as it was a “live” performance, it was not seen as being a proper music video, which explains it’s absence from the EP. And, indeed, it's absence from every Madonna “best of” since. The EP was issued again late in 1985, with the VHS this time being issued in a more standard sized box. The rear sleeve was also different, as it featured a plug for the “Virgin Tour Live” VHS, which had only just been released.

In 1990, Madonna released her first Greatest Hits set, “The Immaculate Collection”. As well as being issued in the usual Audio formats, a VHS was also issued (VHS, 7599-38214-3). It came in a different cover, with a photo of Madonna on the front instead of the fancy ”M” logo on the LP. The track listing bore little similarity to the album, with some songs missing and others added as extras, and it also ran in chronological order, unlike the LP. “Everybody” and “Holiday” were missing as you‘d expect, but so was “Burning Up” from the EP. Indeed, so many songs are missing, it’s almost easier to list what it includes instead. But, in the interests of this article, the other tracks missing were: “Angel”, “Into The Groove”, “Dress You Up”, “Crazy For You”, “Gambler”, “Live To Tell”, “True Blue”, “Who’s That Girl”, “Causin’ A Commotion”, “The Look Of Love”, and “Dear Jessie”. Some of these clips were lifted from concerts, or were a mixture of old bits of Madonna footage, so that explains why the likes of “Commotion” and “The Look Of Love” were excluded. But it didn’t explain the absence of “Live To Tell” or “Who’s That Girl”, for which “proper” videos were made. I am sure somebody somewhere will state that by keeping the running time to under an hour, the video was able to retail at a lower price, but that’s simply a rumour I have made up on the spot. Any ideas anybody?

The videos of “Lucky Star” and “Like A Virgin” were different to those found on the EP. The former featured some scenes shot at a higher altitude, effectively looking downwards on Madonna and her dancers, unlike the EP version which was shot entirely at “ground level”. And during the bridge of “Like A Virgin”, the “dur dur dur” keyboard bit before the final verse was accompanied by a lion seemingly sticking it’s tongue out in time to the music - the original featured no such scene.

A rather over-priced box set edition was also issued at the time, entitled “The Royal Box” (VHS, 7599-26464-2). It retailed at £50 - a bit steep for what was included; the CD, the Video, a poster and a set of postcards. To try and convince the buyer they hadn’t been conned, the CD came in a swish silkscreened digipack sleeve, whilst the video came in a cardboard gatefold sleeve with a bonus track - a live (but mimed) version of “Vogue” from the then recent 1990 MTV awards. The postcards came held together with a posh looking sash, and the box itself was 12”x12”, so it looked impressive. When “The Immaculate Collection” was later issued on DVD, it used the tracklitsing from the “Royal Box” VHS, and not the 12 track original.

The audio version of “Immaculate” included - as was now becoming the norm - two new studio songs. The first of these, the raunchy “Justify My Love”, was issued as a single and a suitably smutty video was made. In the USA, MTV went beserk and banned it - the sight of Madonna in stockings and suspenders was deemed to be more corruptive than any video featuring violence or Motley Crue. Warners USA were slightly concerned that they had blown a load of cash on a video nobody was going to see, so they decided to issue a 2 track VHS Single, consisting of “Justify My Love” and the aforementioned MTV Awards version of “Vogue”. MTV Europe hadn’t quite freaked out as badly, preferring to restrict the broadcasting of the clip until ’after the watershed’, but the UK division of Warners decided to issue the single in the UK as well (VHS, 7599-38225-3).

As the millennium approached, the realisation hit home at the label that Madonna had released a chunk of singles between “Immaculate” and the end of 1999. So it was time for a new collection, and “The Video Collection 93 :99” (VHS, 7599 38506-3) was issued at the tail end of the year. 1993? What about all those singles from 91 and 92? Well, the “Rescue Me” clip that did the rounds was just a load of old videos stuck together, “Crazy For You” and “Holiday” were reissues, whilst “This Used To Be My Playground” was used in a movie, “A League Of Their Own”, and the rights to the video were held by the film company. “Deeper And Deeper”, I think, featured some vague drug references towards the end, which explained why MTV always used to fade it out 30 seconds early. It had originally been planned to include the saucy “Erotica” clip, but once it was realised it would no longer give the video a “PG” rating, this plan was abandoned. Therefore, the first clip “available” was “Bad Girl” - from 1993.

Not all clips that could have been included were included - yet again. No “I’ll Remember”, “I Want You”, “You’ll See”, nor any of the promos from the “Evita” film. The “Evita” clips were lifted simply from the film, so the idea behind their exclusion was that you could just buy the film on video, and fast forward to the relevant songs (VHS, EVSD 1234). “The Video Collection” was later issued on DVD, and reissued again when coupled with a reissue of “Immaculate” - this double disc boxset was titled “The Ultimate Collection” (Double DVD, 7599 38519-2).

In 2000, Madonna released the much loved “Music” album. The title track was released as the first single (if you don‘t count the much despised “American Pie“ cover, first issued as a stand alone 45), and the video featured comedy character Ali G. The clip featured just enough innuendo to cause a few concerns at the TV stations, and so a “censored” clip was prepared. Warners decided to issue a 2 track DVD single (DVD, 7599-38526-2), which featured both the censored and uncensored versions. It was quite pricey, 6 or 7 quid for less than ten minutes of music, but when the DVD Single became a chart eligible format in the UK later on, such releases would only allow a second video to be included if it was less than two minutes long, so the belated theory was that you was actually getting some bang for your buck with the "Music" DVD.

Another single from the album, 2001’s “What It Feels Like For A Girl”, was also the subject of a controversial video. Again, TV shows were uncomfortable at showing it - Madonna joyriding with an OAP, after collecting her from the “Old Kuntz” home, and then smashing her car, with it’s “Pussy” registration plate, into a lamppost. Warners decided to also issue this as a single, releasing it both as a 1 track DVD (DVD, 7599 38541-2) and, rather unusually given the format was on it’s last legs, a 1 track VHS (VHS, 7599 38539-3).

As so we come to “Celebration”(Double DVD, 7599-39984-4, also available in a CD sized case). 47 videos, but there could have been more. No “Everybody” or “Holiday”, nor “Gambler” or “Dress You Up”. “Angel” was missing, as was “Commotion” and “The Look Of Love”. “Oh Father”, despite being on “Immaculate” was absent, as was “Rescue Me” and “Playground”. The animated video for “Dear Jessie“ was excluded, not surprising given that this was never a single in the US, and there‘s a good chance Madonna had little involvement in it‘s creation. “Hanky Panky”, being a live clip, was thus also omitted. There was no “Bad Girl” or “Fever”, despite them having been on “93 : 99”, nor the 1996 clip for “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”, also on “93 : 99”. Also absent on “Celebration” but not “93 : 99” were “Drowned World” and “Nothing Really Matters”, a strange decision given that “Drowned World” remains one of Madonna’s greatest ever singles and videos. “American Life” was missing due to the public furore over it’s politically sensitive, anti-war shtick. Meanwhile, the “EP” version of “Lucky Star” was used for this release, but it was the “Immaculate” version of “Like A Virgin” that was used again this time around.

The continued absence of “Playground”, because of the movie company owning the rights, is not a disaster, as DVD copies of “A League Of Their Own” add the clip as a bonus feature (DVD, C823 5931). The missing “Evita” promos can also be found on the “Evita” DVD, issued several years after the original VHS, by simply clicking through the scenes until you reach one of the singles, which is easier to do on this format than the original video. “American Life” aside, the DVD did do a fairly decent job with the post-1999 clips, as everything that could been included was included. Yes, there are still things that have gone AWOL, like the original “Catwalk” version of “American Life”, and the “X-Rated” “Erotica” clip, but you can’t have everything.

So, at least by buying a couple of films, “Celebration” and “The Ultimate Collection”, you could get to see most - but not all - of Madonna’s clips. Several of the “missing” clips listed above, even today, are deemed to be of questionable officialness - the “Rescue Me” clip seemed to have been made purely for (or even made by) TV stations, and lasts for a lot less than the actual single did! But it still feels like “Celebration” was a wasted opportunity, and unless Warners decide to issue a cash-in set now Madonna has left the label, it seems as though those missing clips will stay “missing”.

Below I have added links to what I think are all the “missing” videos. I will admit to being a bit unsure if the “Causin’ A Commotion” one is the one originally shown on TV - but it looks the same, so think of it as a bonus clip in case it’s the wrong one - whilst I have included two “Hanky Panky” clips, simply because I can’t remember if the one shown at the time featured her with her hair up or down, so I have thrown in one of each. The “American Bandstand” clip of Holiday seems hard to find, so I have added a performance from “Solid Gold” instead, as she wears the same outfit!

Further viewing:
American Bandstand:
Dress You Up:
Causin' A Commotion:
The Look Of Love:
Dear Jessie:
Hanky Panky 1:
Hanky Panky 2:
Rescue Me:
American Life:
American Life (Catwalk):

1 comment:

  1. Neither of these videos was the official video for Hanky Panky. The official video was an edited clip of Madonna singing the song live from the Blond Ambition Tour, but with the audio being the studio version dubbed over it. Hence it wasn't sounding live.