Madonna – Like A Virgin

OMG! Wasn’t she a vixen? Right from the start you could tell that this woman had star quality. Truth be told, I didn’t notice Holiday or the next two releases, but this one, Like A Virgin, her fourth UK release… Whizz! Bang! It’s like onomatopoeia was a word invented for Madonna.

She was every boys dream wasn’t she? Cavorting around on a gondola, wearing that wedding dress, being chased by a lion. Powerful, powerful stuff. Of course in the UK we were also treated to her performance in that pink wig on TOTP.

Vital Stats:

Entered UK Chart: 17-11-1984
Bought by Me: 28-12-1984
Highest Chart Position: 3
Weeks on Chart: 18

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Madonna – Material Girl

So we came to Madge’s fifth UK single. Superficially keeping the image she used to such good effect with Like A Virgin, in the video at least Madonna performed perhaps her first change of look in her homage to Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Much more how she would have liked to have been remembered than that trashy, slushy nonsense by Elton John, but I digress.

It’s often said that Madonna is least proud of this song than any other in her back catalogue. The 80’s were a time of conspicuous excess on both sides of the pond, and with this song it seems that a nickname had been found for Madonna. One that she didn’t much like.

Vital Stats:

Entered UK Chart: 2-3-1985
Bought by Me: 16-3-1985
Highest Chart Position: 3
Weeks on Chart: 10

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Madonna – Crazy For You

Madonna’s sixth UK singles chart release and a tie in with the Matthew Modine film Vision Quest. It was backed by different songs in different territories. In the UK we had the Sammy Hagar offering I’ll Fall In Love Again – a track that joined Crazy For You on the film’s soundtrack. This is perhaps my favourite of the early Madonna offerings. It certainly reminds me now of discos in the village hall with Madonna’s breathy evocation of ‘strangers making the most of the dark…’ If only, eh?!

Vital Stats:

Entered UK Chart: 8-6-1985
Bought by Me: 13-7-1985
Highest Chart Position: 2
Weeks on Chart: 15

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Madonna – Into The Groove

Following on from Crazy For You, in an even more radical departure according to territory, this fine single (taken from the insanely under-rated film Desperately Seeking Susan) was only released as a B side in the US but received fully fledged A side status in the UK. And we responded to this great trust placed in us by sending it to number 1 – Madonna’s first UK number 1 single.

Vital Stats:

Entered UK Chart: 27-7-1985
Bought by Me: 3-8-1985
Highest Chart Position: 1
Weeks on Chart: 14

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Madonna – Angel

Angel was released considerably later in the UK than it had been in other parts of the world. As noted, Angel had been paired with Into The Groove in the US, but in the UK both had been released separately. It’s true that Angel is remembered less well than Into The Groove, even though it must have been considered the stronger of the two when the release strategy was decided. For all of that, it’s a typically spiky performance by Madonna.

Vital Stats:

Entered UK Chart: 21-9-1985
Bought by Me: 4-10-1985
Highest Chart Position: 5
Weeks on Chart: 9

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Madonna – Dress You Up

It’s been said before and probably will be again, that our Madonna is ‘a little bit woo, a little bit weh’. It’s also been said that song lyrics, like any other form of language can be interpreted in anyway the listener or reader chooses, but how on earth could this song have ended up on the Parent Music Resource Center (PMRC)’s list of Filthy Fifteen – you know (or maybe you don’t), the original set of songs which they demanded should have those ridiculous Parental Advisory aka Tipper Stickers.

You can understand songs like Prince’s Darling Nikki or some of the heavy metal ones like W.A.S.P.’s Animal (F**k Like A Beast) with their obviously unsavoury lyrics, but Dress You Up? Maybe it’s me, maybe I am too liberal, but I’d rather be liberal than a reactionary p***k.

Vital Stats:

Entered UK Chart: 7-12-1985
Bought by Me: 14-12-1985
Highest Chart Position: 5
Weeks on Chart: 11

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Madonna – Live To Tell

So we moved into 1986 and Madonna went for an image change. Gone was all the jewellery and instead of layers and layers of makeup, Madonna wore a much more subtle palette. Live To Tell was actually the last of Madonna’s singles that I went out and bought. It is perhaps one of her best singles and one that has stood the test of time, without becoming dated. Great song though it is, Like A Virgin will always sound like 1984 to me, whereas this has a much more timeless appeal.

Vital Stats:

Entered UK Chart: 26-4-1986
Bought by Me: 25-4-1986
Highest Chart Position: 2
Weeks on Chart: 12

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Idol, Billy – Rebel Yell

Billy Idol was a member of the 70’s punk group Generation X.

Rebel Yell was his second solo single. Originally released in 1984, it had failed to make it into the top 60. A year and a half later, after the huge it afforded him by White Wedding, Rebel Yell was released again in the w/e 14th September 1985 and very quickly matched its predecessor’s high mark of number 6 in the UK Singles Chart – I bought my copy on 18th October 1985. In total it spent 12 weeks in the chart.

Co-written with Steve Stevens, Rebel Yell is actually written for a Kentucky whiskey distilled in Louisville. The single was taken from the album of the same name and was backed in the UK with a live recording of (Do Not) Stand In The Shadows. It’s just a great rock and roll blast from start to finish, and knowing that it was Jagger and Richards who in part inspired the writing of the song, I cannot escape the fact that it nods to their song Brown Sugar.

Gabriel, Peter – Sledgehammer

1980’s music. Gabriel, Peter. Top song.

The former lead singer and founder of Genesis, Peter Gabriel had been solo since 1976/77. I’d been alerted to him in my childish way, by his 1977 single, Solsbury Hill and also 1980’s Games Without Frontiers.

By 1986 he’d had a further 5 singles – amongst them Biko, but none entered the higher reaches of the UK Singles Chart (I was unaware of Biko until I watched 1987’s Cry Freedom).

However, by 1986, MTV was becoming a powerful force, as were music videos generally, so the visual impact of Sledgehammer assisted its undoubted musical virtues to lift it to number 4 in the chart.

Backed by Don’t Break This Rhythm it was released in the w/e 26th April 1986 and soon entered the top ten. It was a perennial of the top ten throughout May and June, and I bought it on 6th June.

It is claimed that ‘the lyrics are a mosaic of sexual innuendos’. You think, but this is Peter Gabriel, he would never… and then you reason that like anyone else, he is a sexual being. Therefore, his references to references to bees, pollination, fruitcages, steam trains, big dippers, bumper cars and the like, cannot really be anything else.

Housemartins (The) – Happy Hour

Awesome 1980's music. The Housemartins.

The Housemartins, four lads (some of whom were) from Hull, were a big thing around 1986 when this was released.

Happy Hour was the third of their nine singles before they went their separate ways.  Taken from their debut album, London 0 Hull 4, it was released in the w/e 7th June 1986 backed by The Mighty ‘Ship and I treated myself to it as kind of Independence Day present.  It quickly reached its peak position of number 3 and then stuck around the top ten for a month before finally exiting the chart after a 13-week run.

I immediately loved the vibe of Happy Hour.  The Housemartins and later The Beautiful South had a knack for producing great melodies which underpinned some very challenging lyrics.  This one is a full-frontal on sexism, describing  the antics of lads on a night out with the boss,  ‘… and they tell me that women grow on trees / and if you catch them right they will land upon their knees…’

In a piece of totally gratuitous name dropping, did you know that I was once within a couple of feet of Paul Heaton, at Anfield in Euro 96 during the Italy vs Czech Republic game? He was reaching across us to get Marcello Lippi’s autograph.