There is somewhere, not yet burned, a picture of me, looking overly enthusiastic, holding a Dennis the Menace walkman and posing with a casette of Ray of Light. It exists but you won’t see it here or in my memoir… Since that early introduction to Madonna (I was 9), I still remember several memories of Madonna growing up. The multiple times I hired out Like a Virgin at West Wickham library for one, looking at her churlish, punky stare as she eyed the camera wearing the infamous lace boytoy ‘wedding’ dress. I remember experiencing Madonna’s visual past for the first time and thereafter recording Madonna’s best videos (the Immaculate Collection of sorts) on to VHS and feeling aggrieved when, watching Papa Don’t Preach on tv at a later date, I realised that the version I had recorded had several deleted seconds of brooding stares between Madonna and Papa as part of the continuing ‘I’m pregnant, dad, help me’ narrative. I was extremely disappointed at VH1 for their editing of this creative, arguably spellbinding footage and would hector anyone who’d listen that VH1 shouldn’t be chopping and changing greatness. It wasn’t until weeks later that I went down an alternative point of view, which was ‘wow, there was about 10 seconds of Papa Don’t Preach I didn’t even know about,’ It was an exciting time indeed.
Around about 10 or 11 I used to run down the hill to the chain-smoking bottle blonde neighbour to borrow her copy of Erotica, thinking to myself as I held the coveted album in my hand that this had to be really rare as I haven’t seen this in the shops. Clearly this album was in the doldrums (it was pre-internet, you see and if it wasn’t in the shops, it wasn’t hot) and no longer really existed. Continually listening to the album, I was probably a little young to listen to her oft quoted sex text. the title song alone was saturated with unbridled lust, including such lyrics as ‘if I take you from behind’/’If I’m in charge, and I treat you like a child, will you let my mouth go where it wants to’, demonstrating early loyalty to brand Madonna, I was unfazed by this, but there was a little more of the Madonna sex period to come in my education…
I remember being about 11 or 12 and paying with my pocket money for ‘Like a Prayer’ on CD. It was an obvious upgrade from the tedious casette medium, which by now was old school. Years later I discovered when using a computer that you could forward within the individual song (I was pretty slow when it came to technological innovation) – mindblowing! The first time I discovered this was listening to Like a Prayer on Windows Media Player, when I was listening to Till Death do us Part and wanting to go 270 seconds in to the part where Madonna delivers the emotional crutch of the song, which was so different from its jangly pop centred core:
She’s had enough/she says the end/but she’ll come back/she knows it then/a chance to start it all over again/Till Death do us part.
It remained for years her best ‘acting’/dramatic performance.
Speaking of dramatic performances. I remember the thrill/horror of discovering her acting career at 12 or 13. I say acting but I’m mostly referring to In Bed with Madonna. Questions filled my head as I watched Madonna in full vitriolic flow:
Why was she so inexplicably foul in real life?
What did she swear so much?
What was she doing with the bottle?
(And, later on) WHAT IS THIS?
Likewise when catching Body of Evidence late at night on television (the perfect movie for that time slot) and being far too young again, I watched in a kind of detached stupor as she said her lines in a suggestive, baited fashion. The dialogue alone I hardly need mention as being of the sleaziest ilk. One of the first lines for example is a conversation between two police officers when watching a home movie of Madonna’s character fornicating with the soon-to-be-deceased lover. The first intones sarcastically, ‘nice tape’, to which the other officer quickly counters with ‘nice ass.’ Of course the dialogue melded perfectly to the wild abandon of the liberated & licked, cuffed & cunny Madonna that this film showcased.
Lovingly I received this movie years later from a friend who left the price tag on the side of the box, indicating it was a bargain bin purchase. A metaphor, perhaps for her movie career, although having understood at a later age that bad doesn’t always constitute as terrible, I have grown to love this severely underrated classic, but, believe me, it took time.
Back to her music and I did keep up with her releases. Music? check, American Life? check, Confessions? check. And I remember just before a very questionable family holiday to Dorset the time I found a range of vintage Madonna singles for £0.49 a pop. To my 14 year old self, who had previous aspirations of being a collector of anything and everything, this had huge fringe benefits in my mind’s eye. I bought the first half of the singles and then wowed to return for the rest a week later, knowing they wouldn’t be there. Unsurprisingly they were all gone, as was Virgin Megastores soon after.
And in the middle of all this I actually saw her. Briefly, mind where the rehashed, rebranded Live Aid staggered to 2005 and Madonna sang Music to a very listless crowd. She asked why she couldn’t fucking hear us. I promise you, I raved and bellowed at the top of my lungs, but the generally antipathy of the crowd knocked me temporarily for six. Perhaps a forty-something women swearing to appear cool looked a little desperate, even sad.
Post Confessions I remember watching 4 Minutes and thinking, ‘my, this is real bad’ (oddly, it remains Madonna’s last #1 single in the UK) and being likewise unimpressed by Hard Candy (the cover art was appalling) and MDNA. Was this a case of the artist burning out in full HD glow? Well, lo and behold, bit by bit Madonna’s continued media presence, followed by her delicious song, Masterpiece reeled me back in.
Do you see how I kept up supporting this woman? Take this quote about Madonna I found on my favourite internet site, Wikipedia – as a vocalist, musician, dancer, songwriter, or actress, Madonna’s talents seem modest. So I mused to myself the pros and cons of liking Madonna. Reasons to dislike Madonna
- The London years
– avec fake British accent and lady of the manor ambitions.
…although I’m secretly a big fan of her shameless self promotion.
-it just felt kinda wrong.
- Her antipathy towards fans
-so, just to confirm – no hydrangeas. And the reasons to like Madonna:
- Her comebacks
– even I was secretly happy for her when 4 Minutes topped the charts.
- Her refusal to stop shocking
- Body of Evidence/Desperately Seeking Susan
– hey, not all of her films are bad. These two escape the noose with flying colours.
- This Courtney Love video
– oh, so many reasons to include this.
- The Blonde Ambition tour
– which inspired my own blond ambition.
- And finally, all the iconic looks from the wedding dress and Gaultier bra right up to the crypt keeper and Baby Jane styles.
Yes, for some reason she stayed within my psyche from 1998-present. Perhaps it was the piss and vinegar determination, her constant probing of the envelope that impressed me as she played the game to within an inch of credibility. At night I continued to lock the door where nobody else could see, and I stayed well into her groove past closing time. And that’s why, my friends, come hell, high water or selling a kidney I stayed as a paid up member of her love revolution, to get those tickets to finally see her before she gets to the point of complete and utter ridicule. I hope you understand why I still continue to tumble, stumble and fall into Madonna.
Further reading: The Untouched Madonna