Thursday, 6 October 2011

Madonna: UK Singles 2000-2004

After all the good will surrounding “Ray Of Light”, every so often, it would become the in thing to slag Madonna off. Whilst 2000’s “Music” album saw critics frothing at the mouth with excitement, the same could not be said for the single that preceded it, Madonna’s strange “half a song only” take on Don McLean’s “American Pie”. And the next LP, 2003’s “American Life”, was written off as being ‘unpatriotic’ or simply ‘not very good’.

But this period of Madonna’s career is probably ripe for re-evaluation. Warners went mental as regards the collectors market, often issuing two, sometimes even three, non chart eligible formats for many of the singles at this time. And a quick listen to the four singles lifted from “AL” reveals that they were all actually very, very good pop records.

This is the fifth part of my look at Madonna’s UK singles post-1990, with the final part covering 2005 to the present day due next month. As ever, all formats are listed whilst any “promo only” singles are also listed, with details of the different UK editions mentioned. Promo releases for commercially released singles are omitted, as usual, in the interests of clarity. The non chart eligible formats are listed at the end of each section, I will identify which ones are which as well.

American Pie

Recorded for a Madonna film, “The Next Best Thing”, this was a strange record. The original, a good eight minutes in length, was McLean’s account of the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper. For some reason, Madonna’s cover only involved selected verses, thus making the song completely incomprehensible. Madonna later claimed she was “asked” to cover the song, and by deliberately keeping it to four minutes in length, it was thus perfect “single length”. Was this the sound of a woman selling out to record company demands? And Madonna, of all people? Yes, it seems it was.

The other song on “The Next Best Thing”, “Time Stood Still”, remained exclusive to the soundtrack, but “American Pie” was later added as a bonus track to certain editions of the “Music” album. As - now baffling lyrics aside - pleasantly enjoyable as “American Pie” is (it does have a nice electronic pop feel), it’s shoving onto the end of the “Music” album seems wrong, just as wrong as when Warners shoved The Lemonheads’ throwaway cover of “Mrs Robinson” onto the end of “It’s A Shame About Ray” a decade earlier.

Whatever your feelings on this song, at least from a collecting point of view, it’s quite interesting. At first, two CD’s were issued, plus a Cassette - each in slightly different sleeves, albeit generally using the same image. The first CD concentrated on mixes by Victor Calderone, the second by Richard ’Humpty’ Vission. Warners then issued three non chart eligible bonus releases - two 12” singles and a third CD. In an attempt to try and make you realise which formats was which, the second 12” came with a helpful “Victor Calderone Remixes” sticker. CD3 included all of the tracks from CD2, plus a few more remixes, and came in a “reversed” sleeve. All quite exciting, although whether or not you care about listening to all these mixes more than once, is open to question. I don’t think I have.

American Pie (Album Version)/(Victor Calderone Filter Dub Mix)/(Victor Calderone Vocal Dub Mix) (CD1, Maverick W519 CD1)
American Pie (Album Version)/(Richard ’Humpty’ Vission Radio Mix)/(Richard ’Humpty’ Vission Visits Madonna) (CD2, Maverick W519 CD2, “close up” p/s)
American Pie (Album Version)/(Richard ’Humpty’ Vission Radio Mix) (Cassette, Maverick W519 C, “full length” p/s)
American Pie (Victor Calderone Filter Dub Mix)/(Victor Calderone Vocal Dub Mix)/(Richard ‘Humpty’ Vission Visits Madonna)/(Album Version) (12”, Maverick W519 T, “full length” p/s)
American Pie (Victor Calderone Vocal Club Mix)/(Victor Calderon Extended Vocal Club Mix) (Remix 12”, Maverick W519 TX, stickered “full length” p/s)
American Pie (Victor Calderone Vocal Club Mix)/(Victor Calderon Extended Vocal Club Mix)/(Richard ‘Humpty’ Vission Visits Madonna)/(Richard ‘Humpty’ Vission Radio Mix)/(Album Version) (CD3, Maverick W519 CD3, “reversed” p/s)


If the single before had misfired a bit, then this one certainly hit the spot. If “Ray Of Light” was a bit “earth mother”, then this was pure disco. Complete with a slightly saucy Ali G featuring video, proof that Madonna hadn’t quite forgotten her “slutty” roots, this was a glorious slice of electro pop, that once again put Madonna ahead of the competition.

We have already mentioned, in an earlier blog, the DVD single that was released. Audio wise, at first, three formats were released - two CD singles and a Cassette. The two CD’s used different photos, and again, the cassette used a “close up” version of the CD2 photo. There was also that irregular Madonna rarity, a cassette featuring an exclusive remix (the Groove Armada 7” Edit). If you have a phobia to Cassettes, you can get this mix (and many more) on the Australian Maxi Single edition (Maverick 9362 449252).

When it came to the non chart eligible releases, three 12” singles were issued. Two were issued on black vinyl, using the sleeves from CD1 and CD2 respectively. The third format was a picture disc, Madonna’s first for some years. The front of the disc used the image from the first 12”, the rear the second 12”. In the intervening years, the way in which picture discs were housed had changed, and this release featured no backing card, nor any info on the actual disc, but instead had a sticker at the top of the front of the sleeve with all the gen. All subsequent Madonna 12” picture discs have usually been issued in a similar style, with the bardcode on the sticker, but the likes of “Jump“ have listed the track details on the vinyl instead. The old “TP” catalogue suffix for such releases had now been stopped, and the “TX” catalogue was simply used for any “limited 12 inch” format, picture disc or black vinyl.

Music (Album Version)/(Groove Armada’s 7” Edit) (Cassette, Maverick W537 C)
Music (Album Version)/(Deep Dish Dot Com Radio Edit)/(Calderone Anthem Mix) (CD1, Maverick W537 CD1, diff p/s)
Music (Album Version)/(Groove Armada BA 12 Mix)/(Deep Dish Dot Com Remix US Edit) (CD2, Maverick W537 CD2, alternate version of Cassette p/s)
Music (Edited Video)/(Video) (DVD, Warner Reprise Video 7599-38526-2, stickered p/s with booklet)
Music (Deep Dish Dot Com Remix)/(Album Version)/(Groove Armada Club Mix)/(Groove Armada BA 12 Mix) (12” Picture Disc, Maverick W537 TX1)
Music (Deep Dish Dot Com Remix)/(Album Version)/(Groove Armada Club Mix)/(Groove Armada BA 12 Mix) (12”, Maverick W537 T1, in CD1 sleeve)
Music (Calderone Anthem Mix)/(HQ2 Main 12”)/(The Young Collective Club Mix)/(Deep Dish Dot Com Remix US Edit) (Remix 12”, Maverick W537 T2, in CD2 sleeve)

Don’t Tell Me

The whole “Music” promo campaign saw Madonna donning a cowboy hat for the photoshoots, and ended up doing a line dancing video for this single. Go to a Madonna gig, and you will almost certainly see somebody wearing a cowboy hat, no doubt inspired by this video.

I have always found it strange that such an iconic image has been associated with such a weak single. “Don’t Tell Me” is a pleasant enough thing, but sounds like it’s just a song in need of a tune - a drum beat in search of some extra instruments. It pretty much is nothing more than Madonna singing over a very sparse backing, so quite why it became such a huge hit, I’m not that sure. Put it this way - it’s no “Burning Up”.

Maybe it sold so well because the formats were, once again, of much interest. A new Madonna song, “Cyber-Raga”, turned up as a B-side of some formats, having earlier appeared as a bonus on the Australian edition of the “Music” album. Some copies of CD1 featured, strangely, a UK pressed disc inside a German sleeve, and thus had the wrong track listing and wrong catalogue number. The cassette and CD2 editions used bordered sleeves (oval and round, determined by the shape of the packaging, of course), whilst two non chart eligible 12 inches turned up in later weeks - both pressed at 33rpm, with the second on BLUE vinyl. Fabulous.

The US CD Maxi Single (Maverick 9 44910 2) included, amongst other things, the “Thunderpuss 2001 Hands In The Air Radio” mix, which I think is the same as the “Thunderpuss Radio Mix” on the UK formats, but I honestly can’t remember. It might not be, actually. It also includes an edit of the “Vission Remix”, which is not on any of the UK editions.

Don’t Tell Me (Radio Edit)/Cyber-Raga/Don’t Tell Me (Thunderpuss Club Mix) (CD1, Maverick W547 CD1)
Don’t Tell Me (Album Mix)/(Vission Remix)/(Thunderpuss Radio Mix) (CD2, Maverick W547 CD2, “circular” p/s)
Don’t Tell Me (Radio Edit)/Cyber-Raga (Cassette, Maverick W537 C, “oval” p/s)
Don’t Tell Me (Thunderpuss Club Mix)/(Vission Remix)/(Tracy Young Club Mix 1)/Cyber-Raga (12”, Maverick W547 T)
Don’t Tell Me (Timo Maas Mix)/(Victor Calderone Sensory Mix)/(Thunderpuss 2001 Hands In The Air Anthem)/(Album Version) (Blue Vinyl 12”, Maverick W547 T2, “circular” p/s)

What It Feels Like For A Girl

Final single from “Music”, although others were planned, and another stormer. Both brilliantly restrained on LP, and quite energetic in remixed form on the video, the sleeve design was similar to “Don’t Tell Me” - circular border around the edge for the CD editions, oval for the Cassette. There was also a VHS and DVD single release, the latter featuring bonus remixes, and two non chart eligible 12” singles, again using the CD1 and CD2 sleeves for each.

The webmaster has numerous overseas editions of this, although most seem to consist of mixes from the differing UK formats. The exception is the third European CD single, which has the “Tracy Young Club Mix” (Maverick 9362 42370-2). You can also get it on the Australian version (Maverick 9362 323752), which also includes a Spanish version of the a-side, later included as a bonus on the reissued “Music” double-CD in the UK in the summer of 2001, released to coincide with Madonna’s first tour since 1993.

The cassette edition included an edited version of the “Above And Beyond” club remix of the track, unavailable - audio wise - on any other format. However, this mix was the same as that used for the video clip. This was also the last Madonna single for which a VHS was issued (not that there were many to start with) and - for now at least - the last DVD single as well.

What It Feels Like For A Girl (Album Version)/(Above & Beyond Club Radio Edit) (Cassette, Maverick W553 C, “oval” border p/s)
What It Feels Like For A Girl (Album Version)/(Paul Oakenfold Perfecto Mix)/(Above & Beyond 12” Club) (CD1, Maverick W553 CD1)
What It Feels Like For A Girl (Radio Edit)/(Tracy Young Cool Out Radio Mix)/(Calderone & Quayle Dark Side Mix)/(Richard Vission Velvet Masta Edit) (CD2, Maverick W553 CD2, purple p/s)
What It Feels Like For A Girl (Video) (VHS, Warner Music Vision 7599 38593-3, “oval“ border p/s)
What It Feels Like For A Girl (Video)/(Calderone & Quayle Dark Side Mix)/(Richard Vission Velvet Masta Mix) (DVD, Warner Music Vision 7599 38541-2, “oval” border p/s)
What It Feels Like For A Girl (Above & Beyond 12” Club)/(Paul Oakenfold Perfecto Mix) (12”, Maverick W553 T1)
What It Feels Like For A Girl (Calderone & Quayle Dark Side Mix)/(Tracy Young Cool Out Radio Mix)/(Richard Vission Velvet Masta Mix) (Remix 12”, Maverick W553 T2, purple p/s)

Thunderpuss GHV2 Megamix

One of the “forgotten” Madonna albums is the shabbily titled “GHV2” (Greatest Hits Version 2). Whilst 1990’s “The Immaculate Collection” did a very good job of showcasing those early hits, “GHV2” seemed like the ugly sister - no Q Sound remixing here, and a compilation that by being a follow up to “Immac”, automatically falters because the likes of “Into The Groove” aren’t on there. There’s obviously some decent stuff on it, but given that it is filled with hits from albums that a lot of people have a bit of a downer on (“Erotica” especially), it feels like it only makes sense to listen to this record after you have played “Immac”. A shame, because it came in quite a nice cover.

Unlike “Immac”, there were no new songs either - usually seen as an essential part of any “hits” set. However, there was a plan to release some sort of remix album as a companion LP, but the plan fell through, and although a remix CD was subsequently pressed, it remained promo only.

To tie in with this release, several remixers were invited to do a mega mix of material featured on “GHV2”. One such remixer was Thunderpuss, who created several different edits of the “GHV2 Megamix”. There was no plan to release any of these mixes commercially, but instead, a pair of CDR Promo’s were issued with three edits spread across the two discs. In Germany, a “proper” promo CD was issued in a Maverick company sleeve with all three mixes, but as this was actually a German pressing for export around Europe, it falls slightly outside the remit of this article.

Thunderpuss GHV2 Megamix (4.52 Version) (Promo CDR1, Maverick no cat. No.)
Thunderpuss GHV2 Mega mix (Long Edit)/(Short Edit) (Promo CDR2, WEA no cat. No.)

Die Another Day

And here comes Madonna with another movie tie in! “DAD” was the title track from the Bond movie of the same name, in which Madonna had a little cameo. This song would eventually turn up on “American Life” the following year, and you can hear the minimalist electro pulse on this song, which was employed to equally good effect on other songs on the LP. Of course, being a Bond theme, this was then boosted by some orchestral flourishes throughout.

Two CD’s were issued, using the same basic photo but in different colour sleeves, with different mixes as B-sides. A Cassette was also issued, offering up just two tracks of the three found on CD2 - copies originally came shrink wrapped, and any still sealed are worth slightly more than opened copies. The Cassingle format was now on it’s last legs, and this remains the final UK Madonna single to be issued on such a format.

A non chart eligible double 12” followed thereafter, including all four remixes from the CD’s (but not the original radio edit, with the “Deepsky“ edit actually appearing instead in unedited form) plus a bonus “Dirty Vegas Dub” mix. It really is a thing of beauty.

Die Another Day (Radio Edit)/(Dirty Vegas Main Mix) (Cassette, Maverick W595 C)
Die Another Day (Radio Edit)/(Thunderpuss Club Mix)/(Thee RetroLectro Mix) (CD1, Maverick W595 CD1)
Die Another Day (Radio Edit)/(Dirty Vegas Main Mix)/(Deepsky Edit) (CD2, Maverick W595 CD2, black p/s)
Die Another Day (Dirty Vegas Main Mix)/(Thunderpuss Club Mix)/(Thee RetroLectro Mix)/(Deepsky Remix)/(Dirty Vegas Dub) (2x12“, Maverick W595 T)

American Life

Whilst “American Life” - the album - has suffered something of a backlash over the years, there’s no denying that at the time of it’s original release, Madonna was still capable of causing excitement amongst the hardcore fan base. She turned up at HMV in Oxford Circus to plug the album, did a quick mini acoustic set, and made headline news in the process.

It’s also worth pointing out that the singles released from the LP are all really rather good, and that Warners were still happily knocking out plenty of interesting formats to get the punters to shell out their hard earned cash. OK, so it was all just more and more remixes, but compared to the now non-existent singles market, these releases seem extra special as time passes.

The three main formats consisted of two CD’s, in different coloured sleeves, and a 12” in a white sleeve, with a new mix of “Die Another Day” on the flipside. The first non chart eligible format was a double 12” pack, offering up five mixes of the a-side, and the very same “DAD” remix. At a later date, after the LP had been released, Warners issued a “Remixes” CD EP, which had the same five “AL” mixes from the double 12, but replaced the remix of “DAD” with a Richard Vission remix of the same song.

American Life (Radio Edit)/(Missy Elliott American Dream Remix)/(Peter Rauhofer’s American Anthem Part 1) (CD1, Maverick W603 CD1)
American Life (Radio Edit)/(Oakenfold Downtempo Remix)/(Felix Da Housecat’s Devin Dazzle Club Mix) (CD2, Maverick W603 CD2, blue p/s)
American Life (Radio Edit)/Die Another Day (Calderone & Quayle Afterlife Mix) (12”, Maverick W603 T, white p/s)
American Life (Missy Elliott American Dream Remix)/(Oakenfold Downtempo Mix)/(Peter Rauhofer’s American Anthem Part 1)/(Felix Da Housecat’s Devin Dazzle Club Mix)/Die Another Day (Calderone & Quayle Afterlife Mix)/American Life (Peter Rauhofer’s American Anthem Part 2) (2x12”, Maverick W603 T2)
American Life (Missy Elliott American Dream Remix)/(Oakenfold Downtempo Mix)/(Felix Da Housecat’s Devin Dazzle Club Mix)/(Peter Rauhofer’s American Anthem Part 1)/(Peter Rauhofer’s American Anthem Part 2)/Die Another Day (Richard Humpty Vission Electrofried Mix) (CD3, Maverick W603 CDX)


If the single before this one had been a political, trumpet blaring, roar of a single, “Hollywood” was more refined. But this slightly more reflective sounding song worked well, and the electronic rumblings provided Madonna with one of her better “lost” singles. Again, three formats were issued at first, followed by two non chart eligible releases - although all five came in near identical picture sleeves.

Two CD Singles were issued, CD2 coming in a blue bordered sleeve to differentiate it from CD1, with a slightly pointless 12” being pressed which offered up mixes from both CD’s, but not all of them. It did, however, have a great photo of M on the rear cover.

A third CD single was then issued later on. Like other non chart eligible releases, it more or less made the “chart eligible” formats redundant, by including all of the mixes from the earlier CD releases. A second 12” (a double pack again) was released, which offered up a slightly altered track listing, including the exclusive (in the UK at least) “Oakenfold 12” Dub“.

Hollywood (Radio Edit)/(Oakenfold Full Remix)/(Deepsky’s Home Sweet Home Vocal Remix) (CD1, Maverick W614 CD1)
Hollywood (Radio Edit)/(Jacques Lu Cont’s Thin White Duck Mix)/(The Micronauts Remix) (CD2, Maverick W614 CD2)
Hollywood (Radio Edit)/(Jacques Lu Cont’s Thin White Duck Mix)/(Oakenfold Full Remix) (12”, Maverick W614 T)
Hollywood (Radio Edit)/(Jacques Lu Cont’s Thin White Duck Mix)/(The Micronauts Remix)/(Oakenfold Full Remix)/(Deepsky’s Home Sweet Home Vocal Remix)/(Calderone & Quayle Glam Mix) (CD3, Maverick W614 CDX)
Hollywood (The Micronauts Remix)/(Oakenfold Full Remix)/(Calderone & Quayle Glam Mix)/(Jacques Lu Cont’s Thin White Duck Mix)/(Oakenfold 12” Dub)/(Deepsky’s Home Sweet Home Vocal Remix) (2x12”, Maverick W614 T2)

Remixed And Revisited EP

Well, this is a strange one. An oddball combination of remixes, a live track and an ancient outtake, housed in a very surreal sleeve, you wonder what the motivation behind this was. An attempt to breath new life into a critically savaged album? An attempt at making Madonna hip again? Whatever it was, it’s pleasing that this thing even exists, as weird as it seems.

Despite having a running time approaching that of a vinyl LP, it was marketed (and catalogued) as a single, presumably on the basis that most of this release consisted of old songs, albeit in new forms. “American Life” was at one point going to be more “rock” than “electronic”, and as such, a series of metal-esque mixes of “AL” tracks fill up the first half. The live version of “Like A Virgin” was taken from the then-recent MTV awards, where Madonna famously snogged both Britney and Christina Aguilera, whilst “Your Honesty” was from the “Bedtime Stories” recording sessions, but left unreleased at the time.

“Into The Hollywood Groove”, as it’s title suggests, was a mash up of “Into The Groove” and “Hollywood”. It featured in a TV ad Madonna did for Gap, and a US only CD single featuring said song (Gap RRCG 0301) was given away free at Gap stores if you bought a pair of Jeans. This promotion was conducted worldwide, including the UK, but in each country, the CD was the same US edition. The decision to include the track on “R And R” was obviously done to appease anybody who hadn’t shelled out 50 notes on an item of clothing they didn’t want, but it was remixed for the EP - presumably to appease those who HAD shelled out 50 notes on an item of clothing they didn’t want.

Remixed And Revisited EP: Nothing Fails (Nevins Mix)/Love Profusion (Headcleanr Rock Mix)/Nobody Knows Me (Mount Sims Old School Mix)/American Life (Headcleanr Rock Mix)/Like A Virgin (Live)/Into The Hollywood Groove (The Passengerz Mix)/Your Honesty (CD, Maverick W631 CD)

Love Profusion

A quick look at the “Remixed” EP will reveal that the first three tracks were remixes of songs not issued as singles in the UK. Until this turned up soon after.

“Nothing Fails” had surfaced as an A-side overseas, with mixes of “Nobody Knows Me” on the flip of selected formats. This UK release included a mix of mixes of both these songs, plus the a-side itself. In theory, the release was a double A side with “Nothing Fails”, as the ‘radio edit’ of the latter turned up on CD1, but given that no version of this song AT ALL appeared on CD2, it kind of blew that theory out of the water.

The fact that what we have here is almost a triple A side single, I find quite fascinating. Furthermore, even though it was released during what you might call Madonna’s wilderness years, it’s a stunning single. The random nature of the b-sides on the formats makes it’s even more interesting. The 12” is actually a bit pointless again, with the same sleeve as CD1 (just a different sticker) and - selected - remixes from the two CD’s, but I still find this single intriguing. Some of the singles that Madonna released later on were, in my view, less impressive “collectors wise”, and we shall look at these next month.

Love Profusion/Nothing Fails (Radio Edit)/Love Profusion (Passengerz Club Mix) (CD1, Maverick W634 CD1)
Love Profusion (Album Version)/(Ralphi Rosario House Vocal Mix)/Nobody Knows Me (Above & Beyond 12” Mix) (CD2, Maverick W634 CD2, yellow p/s)
Love Profusion (Passengerz Club Mix)/Nobody Knows Me (Above & Beyond 12” Mix) (12“, Maverick W634 T)

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