Sunday, 4 March 2012
Madonna: UK LP’s 1983-1986
As previously mentioned on this very site, the current vogue for reissuing albums seems not to be based on the quality of the record, but - at times - what’s in the vaults from that period, and thus what you have to pad the thing out with. This may explain why you can get a double-disc version of Squeeze’s “Argy Bargy”, but not the (arguably) superior “East Side Story”. Or why Mercury reissued the second, and weakest, Dexy’s album “Too Rye Ay” as a double-CD set, on the basis that the other two albums the band had released had already been given the “expanded edition” treatment, so they might as well complete the set.
With Madonna, it’s all a bit odd. Soon, “Like A Prayer” will be 25 years old. And yet, the version that you can buy in the shops today is EXACTLY THE SAME as the one you could buy in 1989 - apart from the perfumed sleeve, of course. Now, I am all in favour of record companies not ripping you off by getting you to buy an album you already own in order to get some “previously unreleased (ie. Not very good) material”, but I worry that newer Madonna fans will therefore be unaware of just how important “Like A Prayer” is, because you can get it on Amazon for four quid. If it’s cheap, it must be a bit rubbish, no?
It gets stranger. In 2001, to coincide with her first World Tour since 1993, Warners decided to reissue the first three Madonna Long-Player’s (some countries got a reissue of 1987’s remix set “You Can Dance”, but that’s another story). Quite why only the first three records got this special treatment, I don’t know - some might tell you that these are Madonna’s three weakest records, recorded as they were slap bang in the middle of the 80’s, using 80’s recording techniques, and thus sound very 80’s. I did think that maybe it was because “Like A Prayer”, album number 4, was recorded digitally, and that these three were all done on analogue equipment - but “Like A Virgin” was recorded using digital equipment, so bang goes that theory.
There is a link between the three records - although this is not the reason they all got reissued. In the UK, all three of them had all been reissued before. Some briefly, some very high profile. So, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Madonna’s debut 45 on Sire, and the release of new LP “MDNA” - and Warners own cash-in boxset of most of the older albums - this is the first in a series of randomly timed articles looking at Madonna’s LP’s. Future articles will appear as and when, although the format of each will differ in style, just to make things interesting.
Issued in 1983, Madonna’s self titled debut album appeared in the UK on LP and Cassette. The Compact Disc format was still in it’s infancy, and even though CD editions of the album appeared in selected territories, including West Germany, no copies were either pressed in the UK, or overseas for the UK market.
Madonna’s recording career for Sire had been based around giving the label a single, rather than an album, and with her disco background, Madonna’s first release in the States was the 6-minute long “Everybody”, designed specifically for the 12“ format. It was heavily edited down for the 7” release, and future material written for this LP seems to have been done with a view to possibly releasing most of the songs on the album as 12” singles. Indeed, when “Holiday” and “Physical Attraction” appeared as a-sides in the UK and US respectively, it was the album mixes that adorned the 12” editions of these singles.
Despite the lengthy nature of the songs, and thus the album, (8 songs only, yet with a 40 minute plus running time), several songs were shorter on LP than on 12” - “Everybody” had a minute chopped off from the original 12” mix, but was still longer than the 7”, and both “Lucky Star” and “Borderline” were the recipient of extended mixes when issued on 45 that were longer than the already lengthy LP versions. “Burning Up” appeared in a new mix, or possibly even a new recording, and was a couple of minutes shorter than the original US 12” mix. Of the eight songs on the LP, six of them would appear as a-sides (or at least as a Double-A side) in either the US, UK, or both - and even the remaining two songs would appear as B-sides in the UK.
Although much is made of “Madonna” being a worldwide success, I understand most of the “units” shifted in the UK occurred after it was reissued in 1985. Some of the singles released to promote the original release performed badly, with “Borderline” stalling outside the top 40 altogether when issued as a single in early ‘84.
After “Like A Virgin” catapulted Madonna into the public eye in 84/85, the debut LP was reissued in the UK, under the helpful new title of “The First Album” - just so any “new” fans would be able to work out quite what it was. It used the same typeface as “LAV”, and although a new cover was also used, the photo did still at least date from circa 1983. The reissue appeared on LP and Cassette again, and also on CD. The LP, for some reason, used the same inner sleeve as the 1983 original, so the design of the inner now bore no resemblance to the LP cover. By now, Sire’s UK releases could be identified by the “WX” prefix on the catalogue numbers on the LP and Cassette pressings, although CD’s were still being pressed in Europe for sale in the UK, and thus came with a wholly numeric catalogue number instead, at the time starting “7599” - however, the catalogue number shown on the CD itself and the spine ommitted the first three digits. This oddness would continue for a good decade or so.
Although little mention was made of it, the CD edition of the record differed from the LP and Cassette versions. The original “4.48” mix of “Burning Up” was replaced by a shorter mix, dubbed “The Video Mix”. The reason for this is that “Burning Up” was never issued as a 45 in the UK, and for the video, the US 7” Edit was used as the backing track. This video was included on the 1984 Madonna Video EP, and as this was the first time most people in the UK had heard this mix, it thus became known as the “Video” mix. On the CD edition of “The First Album”, the running time on the back cover next to “Burning Up” showed “4.48”, but the actual timing on the disc itself showed “3.45”. I understand this error was never rectified on later pressings, and similar mistakes were made on overseas reissues, such as the Australian edition.
Part of the 2001 reissue campaign was to try and return Madonna’s albums back to their “original” state. And so, “The First Album” reappeared on CD that year as “Madonna”. The “Video Mix” remained in place, because the original US album had (AFAIK) used this version of the song, so the aim was to try and make the release look and sound like the original American pressing. But this doesn’t explain why the original “4.57” mix of “Everybody” was replaced by the 6-minute long US 12” mix. So, what we now had - ignoring the bonus tracks for a moment - was an album the same length as the original UK LP, but with one song shorter, and one song longer! The only reason I can think that “Everybody” appeared in “extended” form was that when the single was issued on CD in 1995 by Sire in Germany, copies were mispressed, and played the “4.57” mix instead of the 12” version. Was this some sort of apology by the record company? Maybe, but given that the “4.57” mix is now a bit of a rarity, it seems odd. (If you can’t find an original 1983 “Madonna” LP with these original mixes intact, or a vinyl/cassette “First Album”, they can be found on the b-sides of the 1985 UK “Angel” 45 (“Burning Up“), and the 1991 Black Vinyl 12” reissue of “Holiday” (Everybody)).
The decision to return the albums to their former state was slightly ruined by the inclusion of bonus tracks, but for many people, these had the potential to be of interest. However, for some reason, the powers that be decided that each CD should only have two bonus tracks - even though there was space to include more than this. So, “Madonna” got the 12” mixes of “Lucky Star” and “Burning Up” as extras, the latter making it’s first official appearance on a UK release, the former having only been available on the limited “US Remix” 12” in 1984. But even so, with the 12” mixes of “Everybody”, “Holiday” and “Physical Attraction” already in place as part of the main album, it’s a shame that the “missing” 12” mix, that of “Borderline”, could not have been tagged on as well.
Madonna (1983 original, LP, Sire 92 3867 1)
Madonna (1983 original, Cassette, Sire 92 3867 4)
The First Album (1985 reissue, LP, Sire WX22)
The First Album (1985 reissue, Cassette, Sire WX22 C)
The First Album (1985 reissue, CD, Sire 7599-23867-2, with “Video” mix of “Burning Up”)
Madonna (2001 reissue, CD, Sire 9362-47903-2, with “Video” mix of “Burning Up” and 12” mix of “Everybody”, plus 2 extra tracks)
Like A Virgin
The album that catapulted Madonna into the stratosphere, “Like A Virgin” was not too dissimilar in sound to it’s predecessor. The “Minnie Mouse On Helium” vocals were still there, and it was still a wall of drum machines and synths - the only difference was that where “Madonna” sounded like it was aimed at the clubs, “Like A Virgin” had it’s eyes set firmly on the top 40. There were more songs on this LP than the debut, but it had a shorter running time.
Again, the LP was first issued in the UK on LP and Cassette. There was a famous Bulgarian release, on the Bankahtoh label, which came in a completely different sleeve, was retitled “Kamo Geba”, and swapped two of the songs - so “Dress You Up” now appeared at the end of side 1, and Madonna’s Rose Royce cover, “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”, started side 2.
After “Into The Groove”, originally tossed away as a b-side, became a sizeable hit in the UK, Sire reissued the LP with “Into The Groove” as an extra track, as an incentive to get new fans to buy the record. It was included at the start of side 2, in front of “Dress You Up”. The reissue appeared on LP and Cassette, with the “WX” catalogue number in use. The catalogue number of the LP was “WX20”, as opposed to the “First Album”’s “WX22”, which suggests that the ’second’ album was reissued before the first - but this was just a technicality, and both reissues appeared in the shops on the same day. The reissue was also made available on CD, and as a Vinyl Picture Disc - housed in a die cut sleeve, this remains the only Madonna LP to be released - officially - as a picture disc in the UK, and the only Madonna UK picture disc full stop to be housed in a die cut sleeve, Madonna’s UK 12” picture disc singles coming instead in clear sleeves, sometimes with a backing card, but not - so far - in a spined sleeve with the vinyl on show.
The 2001 reissue is a bit shabby in my view. Again, in order to “return to nature”, the decision was taken to remove “Into the Groove”, on the basis that the album had never been reissued with this track in the US. However, by doing so, it meant that the only versions of “Into The Groove” available at the time in the UK were both in remixed form (on 1987’s “You Can Dance” and 1990’s “The Immaculate Collection”), and this ridiculous situation would not be resolved until 2009, when the original mix appeared on Best-of set “Celebration”.
Bonus track wise, well, it’s OK - the 12” mixes of “Like A Virgin” and “Material Girl”. But given that all four of the singles released from this LP appeared in extended form…it’s a bit like dangling a carrot in front of a horse, than snatching it away at the last minute. I would sooner have “Into The Groove” on the record as opposed to a pair of dance mixes, and indeed, my copy of the 2001 reissue is still sealed.
Like A Virgin (1984 original, LP, Sire 925 157 1)
Like A Virgin (1984 original, Cassette, Sire 925 157 4)
Like A Virgin (1985 reissue, LP with “Into The Groove”, Sire WX20)
Like A Virgin (1985 reissue, Cassette with “Into The Groove”, Sire WX20 C)
Like A Virgin (1985 reissue, Picture Disc LP with “Into The Groove”, Sire WX20 P, die cut sleeve)
Like A Virgin (1985 reissue, CD with “Into The Groove”, Sire 7599-25181-2)
Like A Virgin (2001 reissue, CD, Sire 9362-47901-2, with 2 extra tracks)
Madonna’s first “grown up” album, the missing link between “Like A Virgin” and “Like A Prayer”. The voice is deeper, the subject matter darker, and although the album seems, on the face of it, to carry on in the plinky-plonk synth style of the earlier records, there was something else going on here. The first single from the album was the miraculous “Live To Tell”, which in it’s unedited form, was six minutes of epic heartbreak, a bit like Bananarama covering Leonard Cohen. Album opener “Papa Don’t Preach” dealt with teenage pregnancy, “True Blue” nodded it’s head to Frankie Valli, and even the jaunty sounding “Where’s The Party” was a bit miserable - “Don’t want to grow old too fast, don’t want to let the system get me down”, Madonna grumbled. Fairly impressive stuff. And even the more “pop” material has a bit of ‘oomph’ - “Open Your Heart” is thrilling, “White Heat” is enlivened with film samples throughout.
The first single was planned to be album closer “Love Makes The World Go Round”, and it was previewed at the end of Madonna’s Live Aid performance in Philadelphia in 1985, but the plan was shelved - the song was never even played on stage again. Instead, “Live To Tell” got the nod, and came complete with a video showcasing the new conservative looking Madonna - all prim and proper, and married off. Quite what the “wannabes” who had spent 1985 wearing their underwear as outerwear thought of this, is anyone’s guess.
The album was issued in the summer of 1986, appearing in the UK on LP, Cassette and CD. In America, the album appeared in a sleeve which depicted Madonna on the cover, but with no mention of her name, nor the album title. These were only to be found on the spine and the rear cover. In the UK, there was some concern that people might not know whose album it was - this seems unlikely, given that Madonna was now the most famous woman in the world. Anyhow, the decision was taken to print the “Madonna - True Blue” logo from the rear cover on the front as well.
The following year, Madonna conducted her first world tour, including three shows at Wembley Stadium. No toilet circuit gigs for this lady. A fourth show was planned, but due to ‘noise pollution’ issues in the neighbourhood, it was refused. However, promoters believed a Madonna show somewhere else would sell, so a fourth UK show was added for the Saturday before the London gigs, at Roundhay Park in Leeds. Now, I’m not sure if the promoters were from the US, and thought that Leeds looked quite near to London on a map, but suffice to say, London based Madonna fans did not rush to buy tickets for a gig 185 miles away. A week before the event, a sizeable number remained unsold. As it stands, the Leeds show is the one that has passed into legend - Madonna’s birthday was on the Sunday, so there was a chant of “Happy Birthday”, and the show also coincided with more nude photos in “Penthouse”, so there was another chant of “get your tits out for the lads” - batted away by Madonna with the retort “forget about my tits honey, they belong to me” - and a huge cheer from the crowd!
To coincide with the UK tour, Sire decided to repress the vinyl edition of the album. Now, in the days when vinyl sold in huge numbers, albums would regularly be re-pressed, with stickers listing the hits the album had spawned. The later the pressing, the more hits would be printed on the sticker. The tour edition repressing has a sticker listing all five hits (initial 1986 copies only listed two) and included a free tour poster tucked inside, complete with a suitably informative extra sticker. For many years, nobody really seemed to talk about this reissue, but by the time I got my copy in 1993, copies were changing hands for £20 apiece. It’s now valued at double that. It’s a nice item, but you do wonder if all Sire did was get a load of pressed but un-sold copies, stick the extra sticker on the front, shove a poster inside, and voila! Instant collectable time. The catalogue number of the poster edition was the same as the non-poster editions, all that was different was the “poster inside” sticker, and the poster itself. Quite how many of these were issued with the poster, I am not too sure. But it’s all to do with supply and demand, and if there were only, say, 10000 issued with the poster, then that’s the sort of thing that adds to the value. Unlike the first Beatles LP where the label design can be used to “date” the pressing, it’s difficult to know how many different editions of “True Blue” were pressed before the poster edition (at least two, the one with the “2 Hits“ sticker, and one with the “5 Hits“ one), how many had the poster, and how many were issued at a later date without the poster. Post 1987 pressings do exist on LP, as I don’t think the vinyl edition was deleted until at least the late 1980’s.
Unlike the reissues of “Madonna” and “LAV”, musically, the 2001 edition of “True Blue” sounds the same up to the bonus track stage. Again, to return to it’s ‘roots‘, the logo-less US cover was used for this version. And once again, the bonus tracks are a nice extra, but are simply the tip of the iceberg - you get the 12” mixes of “True Blue” and “La Isla Bonita”, but not the 12” mixes of “Papa Don’t Preach” or “Open Your Heart”. And that’s even before we start talking about the Dub mix of the latter, the short and long instrumental mixes of “La Isla Bonita”, or the DJ Edit and 7” mixes of all of the singles. But it’s better than nothing, and of the three reissues, is probably the least ’messy’.
True Blue (1986 original, LP, Sire WX54)
True Blue (1986 original, Cassette, Sire WX54 C)
True Blue (1986 original, CD, Sire 7599-25442-2)
True Blue (1987 reissue, LP with free tour poster, Sire WX54)
True Blue (2001 reissue, CD, Sire 9362-47902-2, with 2 extra tracks)
FYI - all of the 2001 reissues came in cases which had two stickers on - one mentioning “Digitally Remastered” and another plugging the 2001 tour. All were originally shrinkwrapped as well, but sealed copies may not sell for much more than unsealed copies. The forthcoming “Complete Studio Albums” boxset includes all three of these albums, using repressings of the 2001 reissues, with their bonus tracks still intact. “Into The Groove” is still AWOL though. Apart from the aforementioned "True Blue" pressings, it is likely that the first two albums were also repressed enough times to warrant different "includes the hits..." stickers for different pressings. I hope to look at the 1987 “You Can Dance” release later this year.