Many are surprised to learn that the song that won Madonna over to Sire Records company president Seymour Stein has never appeared on any of her own albums. Madonna’s first Warner Brothers single “Everybody” was released in October 1982 and was produced by club DJ Mark Kamins (a rare remix by Rusty Egan (track time 5:53) was used on the vinyl 12″ for the UK release only; catalog number W9899T). “Everybody” first charged on the dance charts in Billboard the week of November 6, 1982. Stephen Bray revealed, “Everybody was supposed to be her second release, not her first.” After Madonna was signed in late 1982, several versions of “Ain’t No Big Deal” were recorded with different producers in an effort to get the most out of the song. The first production was a 24-track master recorded with Stephen Bray. The second production was done with Mark Kamins, and the third version was done with Reggie Lucas. The final production was a remix by Jellybean Benitez based on the Bray version. Once the record company decided to spend the time to produce several different versions of “Ain’t No Big Deal”, “Everybody” was issued as Madonna’s first single instead.
Bray however got the sole writing credit for “Ain’t No Big Deal” and in the meantime sold his publishing rights to July Fourth Music. Disco act Barracuda then recorded and released their own version on Epic Records before Warner Brothers had selected which Madonna version to use for her release. The song was then dropped from her first album and Madonna’s then boyfriend Jellybean Benitez found and produced what would later become Madonna’s first American top 40 single “Holiday” as the replacement. Years later the Reggie Lucas production of “Aint No Big Deal” was released on the B-side of the “True Blue” single, but the other versions remain unreleased. Bray added; “There was also another version of “Everybody ” that Madonna used during club performances remixed by Jellybean Benitez, which has also has never been released.”
In 1983, Madonna teamed up with producers Don and David Was for what would later become one of her least known recording sessions. Stephen Bray explained to Goldmine how it all happened after he joined Dan Gilroy to reform Breakfast Club; “After EMMY devolved, Breakfast Club hired me to play drums (in 1982). That (lineup) featured Dan and Ed on guitar and Gary on bass. This was the line up that was signed to ZE records (without Madonna) in 1983, and then MCA Records in 1986. (When) we got signed to ZE Records the label’s A&R guy paired Madonna up with Was (not Was). They recorded “Shake Your Head (Let’s Go To Bed)” for the Was (not Was) album “Born To Laugh At Tornadoes”. They later replaced her lead vocal with Ozzy Osbourne for the release of the album (in 1983)”. This portion of the lyrics could be considered very Madonna-esque, but the arrangement resembles new wave;
“You can’t sue Buddha for liable, You can’t re-write the bible, Shake your head
You can’t hit homers like Babe Ruth, Can’t put your finger on the truth
Shake your head, shake your head, Shake your head, Let’s go to bed”
During the 1980’s Bray wrote and produced dozens of hits with Madonna while participating as a full member of Breakfast Club, the band that she had left previously. Breakfast Club charted their own American hits including “Right On Track”, “Never Be The Same”, and “Expressway To Your Heart” in the late 80’s. The band broke up shortly thereafter, and the second album that they recorded for MCA remains unreleased. A few years after the Madonna & Was (not Was) session Don Was explained to an UK newspaper; “We brought her up and she sang really well, but I’ve always imagined the vocalists as extensions of ourselves, and I couldn’t relate to female vocals being our voice”. Madonna was thanked in the album credits along with her club DJ boyfriend of the time, Jellybean Benitez. Don and David Was eventually planned the release of a Was (not Was) Greatest Hits collection with resurrected Madonna vocals, but she reportedly requested that her vocal not be released. The song was then re-released with a new mix by Tommy Musto and new vocals by Kim Bassinger in Europe in 1992.
Another obscure song from 1985, “Sidewalk Talk” written by Madonna was released on under Jellybean’s credit for his debut album. It features most vocals by Catherine Buchanan with Madonna on backup. This version topped the American dance charts in 1985, and it is common item in any Madonna collection. Bray revealed to Goldmine however, that there is another unreleased version produced by Madonna and Stephen featuring Madonna on all the vocals.