What up yo.
I want to talk about Madonna.
I grew up in the era of Madonna.
My brother Derek and I used to call her Madumma.
“Oh great, another Madumma video!!”
This is the 1980’s.
Mom had just passed away.
My Pop had a pretty tough task on his hands so he put out ads for women that would come and stay with us and watch us and help raise us.
We spent time with them, a few of them…and became very influenced by them in the early to mid 80’s.
Watching a ton of movies on cable that Mom wouldn’t have liked and Pop didn’t know about.
Well, we did manage to successfully order The Playboy Channel once. It was like goddamn Christmas.
Till he found out.
And he found out…he put a password on the Cablevision account.
We tried to call them to re-activate it, pretend we were him…we both had and have deepish voices…Derek could always do a great impression of my Pop…
The call went something like this.
Let’s call my Pop Mr.Sam for now.
“Hello this is Cablevision, how may I help you?”
“Yea…this is Mr. Sam.”
“Hi Mr.Sam. Can I have your home telephone number and account number please?”
“Sure. That’s ###-###-####. And the account number is ###########.”
“Ok, is this Mr. Sam at ## Blank street in Huntington, NY?”
“Yea that’s me.”
“Great Mr. Sam, how can I help you today?”
“Yea. It seems that The Playboy Channel isn’t on anymore at my house. Do me a favor, reactivity that for me, would you?”
“Yes Mr.Sam. Well I see that you called us up and cancelled that channel a few days ago…”
“Yea, listen..that was a mistake. Could you just turn that back on for me.”
“Sure, that will be no problem. I’ll just need the password you put on the account and we can reactivate that for you right away.”
“The password…Oh right. Tell you what. Let me call you right back.”
“Derek! He put a fucking password on the account!!”
“What the hell could it be?”
“I have no idea…”
(Derek’s always calm and collected in these situations.
Me, I’m beginning to laugh.
Like nervously laugh.
I’m actually crying with laughter writing this.
So Derek decides to call them back.
“I’ll handle this. Give me that phone.”
(I start hysterically laughing as quietly as I can while Derek starts to dial.
Just un-fucking-controllable laughter.)
“Hello, this is Cablevision, how may I help you?”
“Yea hi. This is Mr. Sam. I just called before, sorry about that..Did I speak to you?”
“Yes you did.”
“Ok. Listen. I want to reactivate The Playboy Channel at my house.”
“Yes Mr. Sam. Again, that will be no problem…I’ll just need that password you set up on the account and we can turn that back on for you right away.”
I’m dying. Here it comes…
“Yea listen. Just forget about the password.”
“Yea, I changed my mind. Just forget about the password. Erase it. No problem.”
“Yes Mr. Sam. I would need the password first to erase it.”
“Oh. Ok. Sure, I understand. Duncan?”
Duncan was our first dog.
Pop didn’t like that dog.
What the hell was Derek doing?
He was on the front lines man, taking heavy gunfire.
Mission Abort, code red!!!
“Yea. Isn’t that the password I gave you?”
“No Mr. Sam, it’s not.”
“Oh. That should be it. Let me call you back.”
We didn’t get The Playboy Channel back.
Pop – 1
Derek & Wes – 0
MTV began in 1981. We knew all the new music, artists and videos because the channel was on constantly. By the time we got into our late teens, our musical taste was closer to that of people 10 to 15 years older than us than that of kids our own age.
Madonna was never my cup of tea (or gasoline for that matter). I liked rock music. I still like rock music. When I was in ninth grade in 1989, the video for Madonna’s “Express Yourself” came out. Madonna was moving into what seemed like the third phase of her of her career already and she’d only been around since 1983.
She was the…
- “Desperately Seeking Susan”, “Like A Virgin” & “Material Girl”
- Then she cut and bleached her hair in 1986, married Sean Penn and became the “Who’s That Girl” Madonna. No one photographed Madonna like the late photographer Herb Ritts did. He shot this for the “True Blue” album cover…one of my favorite pictures from one of my favorite photographers
- And finally, in 1989, the Blond Ambition, “Truth Or Dare” & “Vogue” Madonna was born and unleashed onto the world
At this point MTV had become an essential platform that new artists needed too work with in addition to their music to make it in the music industry. In my opinion, no one…except Michael Jackson…dominated MTV like Madonna did. The first MTV Video Music Awards took place in New York City at Radio City Music Hall in 1984.
Madonna took the stage for the first of many legendary VMA performances and performed “Like A Virgin”. Wearing a wedding dress with her silver “Boy Toy” pin stuck to the front… she rolled around the stage simulating sex in front of the thousands of people in the audience, on a show that would be broadcast to millions, while hosts Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler looked on shocked… And changed the music industry forever.
Derek and I weren’t calling her Madumma anymore.
I’m convinced now that without Madonna, there’s no way MTV would’ve risen to the heights it did.
So back to 1989. It’s the era of “Guns N’ Roses”, the era of “Public Enemy”, the beginning of mainstream ( excellent) rap music, the era of the Supermodel, the era of MTV, the era of excess…
it is the era of Madonna.
Madonna is hot, you get the picture, but she’s not some lazy music celebrity. She’s a worker, she’s a dancer, she’s a performer…she’s an artist.
The first music video I saw from Fincher that woke me up to him, that alerted me to his presence on the face of the planet and made me an immediate fan was Billy Idol’s cover of The Doors “LA Woman”
Take that visual approach, creative and original mind and match it with Madonna. David Fincher and Madonna were a perfect storm.
Both “Express Yourself” & “Vogue” were in this constant rotation on MTV, influencing Pop Culture deeply.
To me, I never like fads or what’s popular. If it’s too popular I avoid it until everything quiets down around it, all the Fad Vampires leave for the next big thing for them to suck on and I can appreciate it fully. That’s how I felt about Madonna. It’s not necessarily my type of music, certainly wasn’t when I was a teenager…but when I began to look back years later, as I got older and my tastes got a bit more refined…as I developed a love for photography and began to understand how visual minded I was due in part to my love of film …and…music videos really…I started to notice her contributions to the music, film and pop culture world. I could see what she had pulled off, what vision and courage she had…and she began to astonish me. Also, and maybe it’s just that I notice this more nowdays… but to me, diverse racial representation in the media in the late 1980s was a fuck a lot better than it is now. There was a unity , a beauty of all colors…a peaceful expression, a natural fluid togetherness in what was presented to the public that I feel has been lost for quite some time now in media. Madonna always seems to represent all races, genders and sexual orientations pretty equally without bias. Maybe it’s just me, but I swear that things have regressed in that way now. Seems to me that by her just being who she was, not giving a fuck about what anybody thought of her, by her being natural, she in fact presented a very positive message to her fans and to the public as a whole over the years. People may argue that, but I’m just saying what I feel and its my blog so I’ll say what I want.
It didn’t seem like she was pushing boundaries as much as presenting her vision of what was beautiful. And I dig that.
I just flat out respect the hell out of her.
Now…onto the videos.
EXPRESS YOURSELF: VIDEO
“Express Yourself” the video. I’m not saying it makes a fuck-lot of sense… cats, milk, men in rain, turning some huge gear like out of a tripped out Thunderdome…but it’s beautiful. Fincher is a master, he is honing his skills here, refining them, developing them.
EXPRESS YOURSELF: MTV PERFORMANCE
She gets onstage at the 1989 VMA’s, the cheers from the crowd alone give you an idea of how excited everybody was to see Madonna perform her new single. Watching the performance is proof , is testimony of her devotion. Up on stage sweating, singing, dancing…with two people at her side…putting everything she has into her performance. She finishes and she is visibly pumped, proud of herself and aware of what she has just accomplished. She dominated. The best part is the final “YEA!!!”
Living in and taking advantage of the moment completely.
You think you’ve seen it all and then Vogue is unleashed. Again teamed with David Fincher, shot in black-and-white (I really hope someday we get a nice remastered version of this), Madonna creates an entire movement. The song is an anthem. If “Express Yourself” was iconic, “Vogue” is career defining. “Vogue” is forever.
VOGUE: MTV PERFORMANCE
The scale of the next year show is visibly bigger, more grand. Madonna would perform “Vogue” on this years show. With the production bigger than anything MTV had ever seen on it’s VMA show before. The number is complex, choreographed to the second. By the time Madonna is carried off stage… she’s a queen, and she knows it.
MADONNA: EXPRESS YOURSELF
MADONNA: EXPRESS YOURSELF | MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS, 1989
MADONNA: VOGUE | MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS, 1990