Monday, 1 August 2011

Madonna: UK Singles 1994/1996


With 1994’s “Bedtime Stories”, Madonna started to win back the public who had questioned the whole “Erotica”/”Sex”/”Body Of Evidence” situation. It was a stab at dreamy R&B, sounding far more romantic than it’s raunchy predecessor. Some people thought it a work of genius, others were unsure - and although some of it sounds a bit dated today, post-”Confessions On A Dance Floor”, it was a record that had it not been made, might have resulted in Madonna’s career heading off on a completely different path.

1995’s ballads collection “Something To Remember”, was a slightly random move on the face of it, but was obviously done to try and showcase the “genteel” Madonna. Again, listening back to some of the new songs that were taped for the project, they veer dangerously close to the middle of the road, but thankfully never quite go into Celine Dion territory. Between them, these two records were designed to showcase Madonna the writer, Madonna the singer. In this blog, we look at the UK singles pressings from the early 94 to mid 96 period - which set Madonna up nicely for the “Evita” project and the “Ray Of Light” album, which between them, successfully put Madonna at the top of the pop tree again.

I’ll Remember

Another one-off single, this song was recorded for the movie “With Honors”, a film nobody seems to remember. Keeping with tradition, the front cover of the UK edition used an old picture again, this time from a 1992 Vogue photoshoot. In the US, they also used an old photo, but the photo was the same as that used for the 1993 UK “Rain” single, and was therefore still more up to date than the UK one!

The 7” and Cassette editions were slightly pointless, but kind of charming, in that they included the standout “Erotica” album track “Secret Garden” on the flip, absent from the other formats. It felt like a proper single, with an A-side and a B-side, no pesky remixes here. The 12”, on the other hand featured four mixes of the same track, including the normal single version. The CD Single had only two of the tracks from the 12”, with the “Orbit Alternative Mix” being replaced by the “Orbit Remix”, and the “Guerilla Groove Mix” replaced by a live version of “Why’s It So Hard”, lifted from the then-new VHS “The Girlie Show Down Under”. A hardback book chronicling the tour, “The Girlie Show”, was released around about the same time, including a free three-track CD with three songs from the video, with “Why’s It So Hard” appearing yet again alongside “Like A Virgin” and “In This Life”. Like the “Erotic” freebie in the “Sex” book, the CD was pressed outside the UK, but copies then sent to the UK for inclusion in UK printed copies of the book.

The original CD Single of “I’ll Remember” showed the wrong track timings for “Why’s It So Hard”, and later pressings rectified this mistake. These later pressings also came in un-stickered sleeves, first pressings with the wrong timings had a sticker detailing the Orbit involvement.

I’ll Remember/Secret Garden (7”, Maverick W 0240)
I’ll Remember/Secret Garden (Cassette, Maverick W 0240 C)
I’ll Remember (Album Version)/(Orbit Remix)/(Guerilla Beach Mix)/Why’s It So Hard (Live) (CD, Maverick W 0240 CD)
I’ll Remember (Guerilla Beach Mix)/(Guerilla Groove Mix)/(Album Version)/(Orbit Alternative Remix) (12”, Maverick W 0240 T)


Secret

The first single from “Bedtime Stories”, this R&B belter, with it’s crunchy hip hop beat, was certainly the subject of much excitement upon it’s release. MTV were so thrilled, they even showed a clip from the unfinished video on their news show, a clip that was later edited down for the finished version.

The 7” was pressed as a picture disc only, and included on the B-side the ‘Rough Mix Edit’ of a brand new Madonna song, not to be included on the forthcoming LP, “Let Down Your Guard”. There is no un-rough mix, edited or not, in official release circles, so this version is the only mix actually available commercially. The cassette used the same two songs.

The CD format saw Madonna tentatively dip her toe in the water of the “Double CD set”, with two different CD’s released with different tracks. The first one added edited and instrumental mixes of “Secret” as bonus tracks, whilst the second, came in a sleeve with a thick white border around the outside, and was subtitled “The Remixes”. It included five Junior Vasquez remixes which whilst providing VFM, was the sort of thing you’d play once and never again. Beautiful picture cover, by the way.

Secret/Let Down Your Guard (7” Picture Disc with backing insert, Maverick W 0268 P)
Secret/Let Down Your Guard (Cassette, Maverick W 0268 C)
Secret (Edit)/Let Down Your Guard/Secret (Instrumental)/(LP Version) (CD1, Maverick W 0268 CD)
Secret (Junior’s Luscious Single Mix)/(Junior’s Extended Luscious Club Mix)/(Junior’s Luscious Dub)/(Junior’s Sound Factory Mix)/(Junior’s Sound Factory Dub) (CD2, Maverick W 0268 CD2)


Take A Bow

Despite being one of the highlights of the album, “Take A Bow” became Madonna’s biggest flop 45 since 1984’s “Borderline”. The reason? Well, despite the fact that a series of remixes were being prepared, the UK single release was scheduled to try and aim for the Christmas Number 1 slot, and was thus pressed before the remixes were available.

If you are releasing a single taken from an album after the album has been released, then you need to offer new material on the single to help it sell. And what did the UK version offer? A radio edit and an instrumental. Bah humbug. No wonder it sold in such poor numbers.

The 7” again was pressed as a picture disc, and to date, remains the last Madonna UK single to be issued on a 7” in any form. The photo used differed from that on the normal picture cover copies, and was a variant on the album cover photo. The cassette used the same two songs. Again, two CD’s were issued, but with identical track listings - the second CD was done as a limited edition, with the cover photo reduced in size and placed inside a thick light blue border, with three free prints tucked inside.

The missing remixes have surfaced on various overseas releases, I personally own them on (a reissue of) the Japanese EP edition released the following year (Maverick WPCR 1514) which also includes some “Bedtime Stories” remixes (the follow up single), and comes in a differently coloured sleeve.

Take A Bow (Edit)/(Instrumental) (7” Picture Disc with backing insert, Maverick W 0278 P)
Take A Bow (Edit)/(Instrumental) (Cassette, Maverick W 0278 C)
Take A Bow (Edit)/(Album Version)/(Instrumental) (CD1, Maverick W 0278 CD)
Take A Bow (Edit)/(Album Version)/(Instrumental) (CD2 with 3 prints, Maverick W 0278 CDX)


Bedtime Story

After the lack of rarities on “Take A Bow”, Warners went mad in the UK with the next release. “Bedtime Story”, a brilliantly strange electronic outing, was issued in no less than three different sleeves, with different tracks on each. The 12” was the most interesting, housed in a heavy “metallic” sleeve, and the only one of the three formats to feature a Madonna picture on the front. The track had been remixed by Orbital (amongst others), which gave Madonna much credibility with the indie crowd, and the mix appeared on both the 12” and one of the two CD editions.

The second of the two CD versions came in a fancy digi pack sleeve, with the cover image of the first CD reduced to a mere inset in the centre of the cover. The B-sides were previously unissued remixes of “Secret”, whilst the A-side was an edited version of one of the Junior Vazquez remixes that filled up the first CD.

The cassette edition, in comparison, paled into insignificance, featuring the same sleeve as CD1, and including nothing more than the two A-side mixes from the two CD‘s. Madonna turned up to plug the song on the 1995 Brit Awards, but was overshadowed by Blur, who won four gongs at the event, and helped take the then growing “Britpop” scene go overground.

Bedtime Story (Album Edit)/(Junior’s Single Mix) (Cassette, Maverick W 0285 C)
Bedtime Story (Album Edit)/(Junior’s Wet Dream Mix)/(Junior’s Dreamy Drum Dub)/(Orbital Mix)/(Junior’s Sound Factory Mix) (CD1, Maverick W 0285 CD)
Bedtime Story (Junior’s Single Mix)/Secret (Allstar Mix)/(Some Bizarre Mix)/(Some Bizarre Single Mix) (CD2 in unique p/s, Maverick W 0285 CDX)
Bedtime Story (Junior’s Sound Factory Mix)/(Junior’s Sound Factory Dub)/(Orbital Mix)/(Junior’s Wet Dream Mix) (12” in “Madonna” p/s, Maverick W 0285 TX)


Human Nature

One of the great mysteries of the world is why this song is so loved by the Madonna crowd. In my view, it’s the worst single Madonna has ever released, a clunky R&B throwaway. The UK cover, with a still from the video, instead of being raunchy and sexy, looks a bit shabby. It can only be it’s “I’m not sorry” lyric, Madonna’s attempt at showing no regrets over the “Sex” book, and it’s sort of pro-feminist statement, that have seen it become something of an anthem. Within the context of the album, it makes sense, but I still have to wonder how this made it into the 2008/2009 setlists, when the likes of “Burning Up” were not getting played instead.

It’s release coincided with more chart rules changes - no more than three formats. The CD single and 12” offered up between them a slab of remixes, each format including at least one “exclusive”. The cassette single, again, was of interest to the completists only, lifting two of the tracks from the CD for it’s tracklisting, but the colour of the cassette edition does differ slightly to the other formats.

The US edition is a thing of beauty. Housed in a sleeve boasting a monumentally better photo, taken from the 1994 “Details” magazine covershoot, the CD version (Maverick 9 41880-2) includes no less than 9 mixes. The titles of some of the US mixes differ totally from the UK pressings, with the “Chorus Door Slam With Nine Sample” for example appearing as the “Howie Tee Clean Remix”. The remixes also add something to the original, and I have to admit, listening to the US version is quite a pleasant listening experience - one of the few examples where remixing a song actually resulted in something quite good being created.

Human Nature (Radio Edit)/(Chorus Door Slam With Nine Sample) (Cassette, Maverick W 0300 C)
Human Nature (Human Club Mix)/(The Runaway Club Mix)/(Master With Nine Sample)/(I’m Not Your Bitch) (12”, Maverick W 0300 T)
Human Nature (Radio Edit)/(Human Club Mix)/(Chorus Door Slam With Nine Sample)/(The Runaway Club Mix)/(I’m Not Your Bitch) (CD, Maverick W 0300 CD)


You’ll See

Whilst “Something To Remember” was obviously an attempt to put Madonna back in the hearts of the mainstream music crowd, it also doubled up as a bit of a rarities set, consisting of several new songs, non album A-sides and alternate versions of old hits.

“You’ll See” was one of two new songs, although her cover of “I Want You” was making it’s debut on a Madonna album (having previously been issued on a Marvin Gaye tribute LP). Complete with a video that was a follow up to the “Take A Bow” clip, it was a sweeping big ballad, with a suitably bombastic chorus - post-”Ray Of Light”, it can sound a bit odd, but it did it’s job.

Being neither punk rock enough to warrant a 7” release, nor dance-y enough for a 12”, the single release was generally rather dull in terms of formats and B-sides - the cassette edition included an edit and an instrumental, the CD added “Rain” from the “Erotica” album. The third format was a limited edition CD, complete with six cards that formed a 1996 Madonna mini-calendar, and which featured photos of the 12 images from the cards across the top and bottom of the front cover - the image from the standard CD was then reduced in size and placed in the centre of the sleeve. The track listing was identical.

At the time of it’s release, Madonna was in London recording the “Evita” soundtrack, and thus took the opportunity to appear on “Top Of The Pops” to plug the single, the first time she had appeared on the show in 11 years. It was, sort of, the start of Madonna the more “accessible” popstar - in the years that followed, in store appearances, increased touring schedules, and more “TOTP” shows followed in it’s wake.

You’ll See (Edit)/(Instrumental) (Cassette, Maverick W 0324 C)
You’ll See (Edit)/Rain/You‘ll See (Instrumental) (CD1, Maverick W 0324 CD)
You’ll See (Edit)/Rain/You‘ll See (Instrumental) (CD2 with free calendar, originally with “tape seal“ preventing case from popping open, Maverick W 0324 CDX)


Oh Father

A strange choice of single, given that it had been released in the US some six years before, but as the obvious highlight on “STR”, it deserved to be elevated to hit single status. Despite being edited for release when issued back in 1989, the version here was the full length mix, although the intro differs slightly from that on “Like A Prayer”, as the closing bars of “Dear Jessie” crossfaded into this track on the original LP.

Issued on Boxing Day 1995, the single offered a sort of fake rarity on the B-side, as an edited version of “Live To Tell” from the “Ciao Italia” VHS was included on all formats of the single. The two CD versions added the live version of “Why’s It So Hard” originally on the “I’ll Remember” single and inside the “Girlie Show” book - quite why one of Madonna’s more forgettable songs kept turning up again and again is beyond me, but there we go.

Like “You’ll See”, the two CD editions were of a limited and not-limited variety - the limited edition came in a different coloured sleeve, with 4 photos. Initial copies of the not-limited variety were factory sealed.

Oh Father (STR Version)/Live To Tell (Live Edit) (Cassette, Maverick W 0326 C)
Oh Father (STR Version)/Live To Tell (Live Edit)/Why’s It So Hard (Live) (CD1, Maverick W 0326 CD)
Oh Father (STR Version)/Live To Tell (Live Edit)/Why’s It So Hard (Live) (CD2 in silver sleeve with free photographs, Maverick W 0326 CDX)


One More Chance

The second of the two new tracks on “STR”, “One More Chance” was a strange choice of single. Nothing more than Madonna singing over an acoustic guitar strum, one wonders if Warners decided to issue this because it sounded vaguely like Extreme’s enormous-hit, “More Than Words”. It’s a nice enough thing, which sounds quite at home on the album, but on it’s own, it feels a bit weak.

The B-side was a Spanish version of “You’ll See”, called “Veras”. The CD editions added a half English/half Spanish version, another odd choice, but it has happened before - see Bowie’s half German/half English version of “Heroes”. The second CD was quite unique - it came housed in a fold out poster bag, the only UK Madonna CD to be issued as such (there had been vinyl poster bag releases for the likes of “Gambler” and “Dress You Up”). The trouble is, a CD is smaller than a 7” or 12" single, so it seemed such a delicate thing, you were frightened to touch it. The CD was housed inside a white bag, to stop the disc from slipping out one of the open sides.

Because of the inclusion of the half English/half Spanish version of “You’ll See”, the decision was taken on this release to make no reference to “Veras”, but to just list the extra tracks as ’Spanish’ and ’Spanglish’ mixes of “You’ll See” instead. Mexican 1 track promos of the Spanish version were indeed credited as “Veras” on the front cover.

One More Chance/You’ll See (Spanish Version) (Cassette, Maverick W 0337 C)
One More Chance/You’ll See (Spanish Version)/(Spanglish Version) (CD1, Maverick W 0337 CD)
One More Chance/You’ll See (Spanish Version)/(Spanglish Version) (CD2 in fold out sleeve, Maverick W 0337 CDX)


Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

The latest in the infrequent series of “Madonna Singles That Never Were”. Originally on 1984’s “Like A Virgin”, and issued as a 45 in Japan and one or two other countries at the time, this Rose Royce cover was given a 1990’s makeover for “STR”, and was then issued as a single in the USA. Madonna filmed a one-take video for the song, and having also filmed a video for “I Want You”, meant that she had filmed three videos for songs from the album, but they were not actually the three tracks issued as singles in the UK!

The single was released in the states in spring 96, but flopped badly, and was probably enough to convince the UK division of Sire to not press ahead with a commercial release. However, a white label 12” was pressed, strangely using a set of new mixes that hadn’t been used on the US release.

The 12”, every copy of which had the labels on the wrong sides, featured three mixes by Mark Picchiotti. The remixes that were named “It’s A Boy” and “It’s A Girl” were a reference to the fact that Madonna was pregnant with her first child when the promo was issued. The Discogs site does/did have a comment claiming that most copies were badly pressed, and jump on at least one mix, but I think my copy plays OK. Such is the rarity factor with this single, that even skipping copies are probably still worth a few quid.

Love Don’t Live Here Anymore (Mark!s It’s A Girl Dub)/(Mark!s It’s A Boy Dub)/(Mark!s Full On Vocal) (Promo Only 12”, Maverick SAM 1880)


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