Thursday, 1 September 2011

Madonna: UK Singles 1996-1999

If the R&B slushiness of “Bedtime Stories” and the balladeering tones of “Something To Remember” had been part of an attempt to realign Madonna with the mainstream, then the final part took place during the remainder of 1996, continuing through to 1998. In 1996, Madonna starred in “Evita” - a film role she had longed to play all her life, and in doing so, achieved not only a lifetime’s ambition, but also got the mainstream public to fall in love with her again. And then, bam! 1998’s “Ray Of Light” was a revelatory pop record, the best Madonna record since “Like A Prayer”, and the sound of a woman hitting the highs with nearly every note. It may as well have come with a sign saying “all other pop stars retire now, the Queen is back”.

Although there have been a few wobbles since, “Ray Of Light” was pretty much the second coming, and was ultimately responsible for some of the genius records that followed. Kylie, Lady Gaga and co may have tried to topple her, but not one of them has made a “Ray Of Light”, so Madonna’s position as the high priestess of pop remains unchallenged. In terms of collectibles, the period from late 96 to mid 99 as regards Madonna on 45 is interesting - from the dull as ditchwater releases from “Evita”, to the fun “non chart eligible” bonus formats from “ROL”. Here, I shall run through the UK singles from the period, again noting the odd important overseas rarity from my own collection. Please note - jukebox 7” singles, being “non commercially released” items, are excluded.

You Must Love Me

The first single from “Evita”. Three were released in total, each appearing in reverse order to where they actually appeared in the film. “You Must Love Me” was more or less one of the final songs on the soundtrack, and appeared on just two formats - CD and Cassette. Another Madonna sung track from the soundtrack appeared as the B-side on both, with the CD adding a Madonna-less orchestral version of the A-side, which may not even be of interest to the completists.

As far as I can recall, the three Madonna singles lifted from the LP were the only three singles taken from the soundtrack at all - so no Antonio Banderas or Jimmy Nail singles in the charts at the time. Furthermore, whilst several of the songs on “Evita” consisted of Madonna duetting with a co-star, or in some cases, just singing a fraction of a song alongside two or three other vocalists, the three singles were all “Madonna Only”.

Given the “mainstream” nature of the “Evita” soundtrack, it comes as no surprise to note that there was no decision to release multiple remix 12” singles, or fancy picture disc 7” releases. Furthermore, B-sides were restricted to “Evita” related material only, so no bonus live tracks from Madonna gigs this time around.

You Must Love Me/Rainbow High (Cassette, Warner Bros W 0378 C)
You Must Love Me/Rainbow High +1 (CD, Warner Bros W 0378 CD)

Don't Cry For Me Argentina

The biggie. Totally showbiz, arguably a bit too middle of the road, but every man and his dog knows this one, so it was no surprise Warners knocked this out in time for the Christmas 96 chart battle. They actually released it a bit too early, so it started to drop down the charts some weeks before the Xmas chart was announced.

B-side wise, it’s even worse than “You Must Love Me”. A non Madonna song on the Cassette. Two of them on the CD. The single still charted well, simply because of what it was, but still, a poor show. But then came the third format - and arguably the campest Madonna release ever. A series of “hands in the air” banging remixes of the title track had been made, and a second CD containing them was issued thereafter. It came in a slighty tacky sleeve, with a big red star with the legend “The Dance Mixes” all over the cover, but it did the job - here was new Madonna material, and as such, the week after this CD was issued, the song went back up the charts. The remixes were, as you’d expect, slightly ludicrous - was this really the right song to be given the “Miami Mix” treatment? Brilliantly mad.

Despite the fact that it’s difficult to disassociate this song from the movie, and the famous scene it appears in, Madonna has on occasions slipped this into her live shows - but only usually when playing in Argentina.

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina +1 (Cassette, Warner Bros W 0384 C)
Don’t Cry For Me Argentina +2 (CD1, Warner Bros W 0384 CD)
Don’t Cry For Me Argentina (Miami Mix Edit)/(Miami Spanglish Mix Edit)/(Miami Mix)/(Album Version) (CD2, bordered p/s, Warner Bros W 0384 CD2)

Another Suitcase In Another Hall

On the face of it, a pointless single, but it was actually released to coincide with the Oscars ceremony. Madonna’s hope of winning an Oscar for her performance were dashed, but “You Must Love Me” was nominated in (and won) the best original song category, and Madonna turned up to sing the tune.

The single was issued on two different CD’s, with slightly altered track listings but in otherwise near identical covers. Although there was nothing on these singles that hadn’t already been released before, the decision to issue each CD as a four track EP was a nice retro touch - as opposed to just adding three mixes of the a-side as so called “B-sides”. All of the extra tracks were “Madonna only” songs from the soundtrack, with one of the remixes of “Argentina” making the first CD. Either CD just seems so much more interesting than the likes of the “You Must Love Me” or ‘non-remix’ “Argentina” CD’s.

A cassette single was also issued, a 2-track job with one of the remixes of “Argentina” on the flip, thus making a debut on this format for the relevant mix. However some, if not all, copies listed a different mix to that remix which actually played.

Another Suitcase In Another Hall/Don’t Cry For Me Argentina (Miami Mix Edit)/You Must Love Me/Hello and Goodbye (CD1, Warner Bros W 0388 CD)
Another Suitcase In Another Hall/You Must Love Me/Hello and Goodbye/Waltz For Eva And Che (CD2 with 3 free postcards, Warner Bros W 0388 CDX)
Another Suitcase In Another Hall/Don’t Cry For Me Argentina (Miami Mix Edit) (Cassette, Warner Bros W 0388 C)


And so, after the preview of those “Evita“ singles, the comeback was completed with this single. Actually one of the weaker songs on “Ray Of Light” IMO, this slice of chilled out electronica successfully moved Madonna away from the MOR leanings of the “Evita” material, and back into the world of pop. It went to number 1, Madonna did the rounds on TV plugging the single, and suddenly, she was back in vogue again. As part of her Kaballah leanings, newspapers told you how to copy her fancy hand painting designs, and the remix brigade lined up to give this (and subsequent) singles a good going over.

The Cassette edition was quite exciting - for a week at least. It included a new song, “Shanti Ashtangi”, but as this was actually on the forthcoming LP, it wasn’t so exciting once the album arrived. The CD single offered up four mixes plus the album version, whilst a “completists only” 12” surfaced including three of the four mixes from the CD only.

The concept of the “non-chart eligible” single hadn’t quite taken off just yet at this point, and so all versions of the single issued in the UK counted towards the chart placing and eventual total sales. Madonna would eventually issue a number of such releases in the UK, although by the mid-noughties, the concept had once again died off.

Frozen/Shanti Ashtangi (Cassette, Maverick W 0433 C)
Frozen (Extended Club Mix)/(Stereo MC’s Mix)/(Meltdown Mix - Long Version) (12”, Maverick W 0433 T)
Frozen (Album Version)/(Stereo MC’s Mix)/(Meltdown Mix - Long Version)/(Extended Club Mix)/(Widescreen Mix) (CD, Maverick W 0433 CD)

Ray Of Light

This was the one. An absolute stormer of a single, yes, it heavily borrowed from an old folk song, but this was Madonna at the peak of her powers. One of the highlights of the album, Warners really went to town on the B-side/remix material as well.

The cassette featured a new song, “Has To Be”, which is still unavailable on CD in the UK. The 12” and CD offered up four versions of the A-side, including the original LP mix. A week or two later, Warners put out a non chart eligible second CD, the first time they had done this for a Madonna single - but it was not to be the last. The second CD came in a different sleeve design - same photo, but printed twice “mirror image wise” on the cover - and featured four new remixes. Nice work.

The “non chart eligible” release, in order for it to be ‘identified’ as a bonus format, had to be released at a later date. Such singles still had barcodes on so the sales could be calculated at the tills, but the sales did not count towards the chart position. Being ineligible for the charts also meant that the running times of such singles could be longer than the “official” length of a single, but acts didn’t often go down this route, instead offering up just an EP’s worth of material on such formats.

Ray Of Light/Has To Be (Cassette, Maverick W 0444 C)
Ray Of Light (Ultra Violet Mix)/(Liquid Mix)/(Calderone Club Mix)/(Album Version) (12”, Maverick W 0444 T)
Ray Of Light (Album Version)/(Ultra Violet Mix)/(Liquid Mix)/(Calderone Club Mix) (CD1, Maverick W 0444 CD)
Ray Of Light (Sasha’s Twilo Mix)/(Sasha’s Strip Down Mix)/(Victor Calderone Drum Mix)/(Orbit’s Ultra Violet Mix) (CD2, diff p/s, Maverick W 0444 CD2)

Drowned World (Substitute For Love)

My word, two classics on the trot. An absolute masterpiece, the stunning opener to the album, “Drowned World” remains one of the most unconventional singles Madonna has ever put out. Yes, the basic “Verse Chorus Verse” structure is there, but it’s a song that builds and builds and as such, feels more like a long and flowing piece of art, rather than a conventional pop song. It also came with an equally inventive promo clip, shot in London whilst Madonna was plugging the album - and in some ways, was the start of Madonna’s Anglophile leanings that would culminate in the marriage to Guy Ritchie some years later.

Quite why the US arm of Warners declined giving it a Stateside release is beyond me. In the UK, the b-sides were a mix of remixes of both “Drowned World” and a “ROL” album track, “Sky Fits Heaven”. Two CD Singles were issued, using the same basic photo, but with CD2 housed in a “white bordered” picture sleeve. The cassette single, aimed at non-CD owners and completists, offered two of the three tracks from CD1.

Here’s where it gets confusing. Warners decided to issue a non chart eligible 12”, featuring the same songs as CD1 but in a different order. However, copies were pressed in Germany and then exported over to the UK. Although the single was allocated a UK catalogue number (W 0453 T), this was nowhere to be found on either the labels or the sleeve itself - instead a German catalogue number starting ‘9362’ was all that was to be found.

However, the exported copies had the UK catalogue number scratched into the run out groove of the vinyl itself, and in most instances, this was the only way to identify the catalogue number. However, some shops (primarily HMV, maybe others) had a tendency at the time to produce their own barcode price stickers, with the W 0453 T catalogue number printed on the label, so any “Drowned World” 12-inches with a HMV price sticker are almost certainly going to be a UK copy. What I don’t know is if any of these German pressed singles were produced without the catalogue number scratched into the vinyl, and thus only sold in Germany. Any takers?

Drowned World (Album Version)/Sky Fits Heaven (Sasha’s Remix Edit) (Cassette, Maverick W 0453 C)
Drowned World (Album Version)/(BT And Sasha’s Bucklodge Ashram Mix)/Sky Fits Heaven (Sasha’s Remix Edit) (CD1, Maverick W 0453 CD1)
Drowned World (Album Version)/Sky Fits Heaven (Sasha’s Remix)/(Victor Calderone Remix Edit) (CD2, white bordered p/s, Maverick W 0453 CD2)
Drowned World (BT And Sasha‘s Bucklodge Ashram Mix)/(Album Version)/Sky Fits Heaven (Sasha’s Remix Edit) (12“, Maverick W 0453 T)

The Power Of Good-bye/Little Star

What a strange release. “Little Star”, Madonna’s ode to her young child, was not issued as an A-side anywhere in the world, except in the UK, where it appeared as a AA side with “The Power Of Good-bye”. Madonna did not even release a video for it, and probably wasn’t even aware it was being issued as a single with another “ROL” track.

As a result, the Cassette edition of the single is a pointless exercise - album versions of two album tracks, and nothing else. Chart rules at the time prevented any bonus tracks from being included as well. The CD adds a remix of “Power”, but there was no space - due to chart rules yet again - to include any more than the one remix, despite the fact that numerous mixes had been produced.

The 12” however, is quite an interesting oddity, as it was NOT issued as a AA, but instead just offered up four versions of “Power” and nothing else. However, even this is something of an academic release as in Australia, the CD single issued there (Maverick 9362 44591 2) included all of the UK 12”, plus an extra “unavailable in the UK” Luke Slater mix of “Power” (the “Filtered” mix).

The Power Of Good-bye/Little Star (AA-side Cassette, Maverick W 459 C)
The Power Of Good-bye/Little Star/The Power Of Good-bye (Dallas’ Low End Mix) (AA-side CD, Maverick W 459 CD)
The Power Of Good-bye (Dallas’ Low End Mix)/(Luke Slater Super Luper)/(Fabien’s Good God Mix)/(Album Mix) (12”, Maverick W 459 T)

Nothing Really Matters

A cracking 45, housed in one of my favourite Madonna covers (it might just be because she is flashing her knickers on three of the four editions). A slightly jerky rhythm, with correspondingly jerky looking video, it's far better than “fifth single of the album” would have suggested.

The cassette single offered up the original LP version, and a radio mix by Club 69. CD1 added a bonus Kruder & Dorfmeister Mix, whilst CD2 - which used a zoomed in version of the cover, along with yellow flash across the top of the sleeve - used a series of Club 69 mixes, including the radio mix.

After failing to issue a non-chart eligible release for “Power”, Warners knocked out a 12” for this release, which included all of the remixes from the two CD singles. Unlike the mystery of the “Drowned World” 12”, this one was a proper UK release, with catalogue number present and correct in all the right places. A quick look at the track listing also reveals that by including four mixes, it’s thus longer than the standard formats, and therefore would have been ineligible for the chart had it been released as a third format instead of - say - the second CD.

Nothing Really Matters (Album Version)/(Club 69 Radio Mix) (Cassette, Maverick W 471 C)
Nothing Really Matters (Album Version)/(Club 69 Radio Mix)/(Kruder & Dorfmeister Mix) (CD1, Maverick W 471 CD1)
Nothing Really Matters (Club 69 Radio Mix)/(Club 69 Future Mix)/(Club 69 Future Dub) (CD2, diff p/s, Maverick W 471 CD2)
Nothing Really Matters (Club 69 Future Mix)/(Club 69 Future Dub)/(Kruder & Dorfmeister Mix)/(Club 69 Radio Mix) (12“, Maverick W 471 T)

Beautiful Stranger

More pop genius, as Madonna goes all 60’s Psychedelia/”Light My Fire” on this one off single, recorded for the “Austin Powers 2” soundtrack. Any concerns that, post “Ray Of Light”, Madonna would struggle to reach the levels of genius of that album were immediately dispelled with this blistering piece of work. However, it’s follow up - 2000’s “American Pie” - was deemed a disaster, meaning Madonna had to work that bit harder with the next LP to stay at the top of the pop tree.

After all the fun and games with the multi formatting and non chart eligible 12” releases from “ROL“, “Beautiful Stranger” was a bit of a dull release in terms of collectible formats. The cassette included the original mix and a Victor Calderone remix, with the 12” and CD including both tracks and an extended Calderone version. So, just like “Frozen”, no need to buy more than one format here.

Like many other “stand alone” a-sides, “Stranger” has since appeared on a Madonna compilation, although as with most Madonna singles, the remixes here remain exclusive to these original pressings, thanks to a complete absence of any sort of Madonna “rarities” boxset.

Beautiful Stranger (LP Version)/(Calderone Radio Mix) (Cassette, Maverick W 495 C)
Beautiful Stranger (LP Version)/(Calderone Club Mix)/(Calderone Radio Mix) (CD, Maverick W 495 CD)
Beautiful Stranger (LP Version)/(Calderone Club Mix)/(Calderone Radio Mix) (12“, Maverick W 495 T)

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