On November 30th, 1980 Emmy recorded a four cut studio demo which was later distributed on TDK cassettes around New York. Today they are surfacing on various bootleg CD’s. I asked Stephen Bray to describe what he remembered from these songs, and he commented on each this way;
“(I Like) Love For Tender” – “Sort of our Byrds thing. Nice song, arrangement was too long though”.
“No Time”-“This was a giddy up tempo romp, with drums and rhythm section stuff inspired by the fast-playing Police and XTC attitude, but with a pop top.”
“Bells Ringing” – “Our most Psychedelic number I recall, too long again. It had a definite Stone’s -ish attitude”.
“Drowning” – “The best tune of the moment, I always thought.”
The Emmy demo was recorded at the Music Building on 8th Ave. in New York City, and Bray revealed;”…I believe in room 1002 which belonged to Regina Richards.” Better known as just “Regina”, she cracked the American top ten with what was considered to be the first Madonna sound-a-like hit called “Baby Love” in 1987. It was released as Madonna reached her apex with the “True Blue” album. Apparently Madonna was not amused according to Bray; “Regina Richards is a pro at imitation, she can do it all, and any singers style of voice. Madonna was not too happy with it.” Contrary to popular belief, Madonna did not help write this song under another name, and there is no Madonna demo of this song. Bray commented; “She wouldn’t do anything unless it had her name on it”. His association with Regina also runs deeper. Her husband operates Black Lion Music and holds the publishing for Stephen Bray’s compositions. This includes his portion of the publishing he splits with Madonna on their collaborations.
Eventually Emmy disbanded and Madonna moved forward with her first manager Camille Barbone of Gotham Management. She tried to cultivate Madonna into a solo artist in the style of Pat Benetar. Stephen Bray joined the studio band that provided the music to this August 1981 recording session. Madonna ‘s first solo demo included “Take Me (I Want You)”, “Love On The Run”, “Get Up”, and “High Society (Society’s Boy)”. Bray made a special point to clear up an inaccuracy in reported Madonna history; ” The Gotham tape was recorded at Media Sound, which was NOT Camille’s (Gotham Sound) studio. Media Sound was a converted church where Camille got “spec” time with engineer Alec Head and Jon Gordon (he went on to produce Suzanne Vega). Gordon produced and played guitar. (Camille’s) Gotham studio was a writing studio only. I don’t believe anything but “room sound” tapes were made there”. This revelation by Bray explains why there are very different studio and rehearsal versions of these songs, which have started to surface in the collectors market.
According to her July 22, 1981 Gotham contract, Madonna was supposed to get $250 for every unreleased master, and $500 for every released master plus a 3% royalty on the retail price of every record sold. This demo would eventually be circulated and turned down by the likes of Geffen and Atlantic Records. The ownership of the songs recorded during these sessions remained in a legal battle for years when Madonna later signed to Warner Brothers Records.
Stephen Bray and Madonna also recorded their own songs independently at The Music Building between 1980 and 1982. Some of these have appeared on Bray’s high quality independent label release “Pre-Madonna” in 1996 and was not authorized by Madonna. However, it’s not a bootleg since Bray owns the masters. Today, the remaining CD copies are now available through Bray’s Soultone Entertainment web site. Featured on the disc are the previously unheard “Laugh To Keep From Crying”, “Stay’81” and “Crimes Of Passion”. An obvious highlight on this release are the original versions of four songs produced by Madonna and Steve Bray which got Madonna her Warner Brothers contract with Sire Records in late 1982. These are “Ain’t No Big Deal”, “Everybody”, “Burning Up”, and “Don’t You Know”.
Once Madonna signed to Warner Brothers, much of her material from her first three Sire albums started out as demos produced by Madonna, and Bray. Bray described the process this way; “I would call her up and say ‘I have another track for you’, then we would get together. I am used to collaborating with others, so we would just work on a few songs, and she would use some of them later.”
At first this author tried to group these recordings into album “sessions” for Goldmine, but as Bray described; “We would just get together and work. If there was something she had them in mind for, she never told me.” Often recordings from the same session would end up on different albums. Often recordings from the same session would end up on different albums. Therefore, this author has listed Madonna’s unreleased studio titles alphabetically following this article.
Early Bray-Madonna collaborations were apparently divided into individual song writing credits once Madonna got her album deal. “Everybody” was originally submitted to the copyright office as “Everybody, Dance” written by both Madonna and Stephen Bray. Later Madonna alone would get authorship for this song on her self titled debut album as Bray explained; ” There was an agreement between Madonna and I not to consider “Everybody” as a co-write, but I guess the Library Of Congress never got word of the change in ownership.” In the end, Bray received credit alone for “Ain’t No Big Deal”.