Mark Kamins. DJ at Danceteria, met her in those days: Madonna was special – young and a little bit naive. She had her own style -always with the little bellybutton showing, the net top, and the stockings. But she always knew what she wanted to do. She had a tremendous desire to perform for people. When she’d start dancing, there’d be twenty people getting up and dancing with her.
It was Mark Kamins – yes, he was a boyfriend too – who gave her her first big break. She persuaded him to play her demo cassette at Danceteria one Saturday night. The song was Everybody. Mark loved it and so did the club regulars. He took it round to the record companies. Sire immediately signed her to make three 12-inch dance-orientated singles. Once again it was as much her personality as her music ability that got her the record deal.
Seymour Stein, the president of Sire Records, is one of the shrewdest and most discerning figures in the New York music business. Not known as a sucker for pretty young girls, he nevertheless was struck by Madonna’s specialness.
I was in hospital when I heard about Madonna. From what I’d heard I wanted to meet her immediately. So Mark Kamins brought her in and I signed the contract there, right in the hospital. You know, you normally don’t care what you look like when you’re in hospital. But I shaved, I combed my hair. I got a new dressing gown. From what I’d heard, I was excited to meet Madonna. And there was something that set her apart immediately. She was outgoing, strong, dynamic …
Oh no, I’d say … self-assured.
The first two singles, Everybody and Burning Up, were big disco hits, but. with very low-key promotion, made only a slight impact in the pop charts. At this stage, many of Madonna’s disco fans actually believed she was black. Her success in the discos convinced Sire, and their parent company Warner Brothers, to release an LP with the third single and to wheel out the big promotional guns, which are vital for breaking into the pop charts in America,
The single, Holiday, went Top 20 and became a summer anthem in America. It is perhaps the quintessential Madonna song – a catchy tunc and a disco beat wrapped in a crisp New York production, elegantly straddling all the racial and stylistic boundaries that compartmentalise the American charts.
And that was without a video. The ncxl single, Borderline, was promoted with a very neat little video. Madonna plays a leather-clad street girl frolicking around Manhattan’s Lower West Side with cars, spray painl, and, of course, boys. When American youth got their eyes on her – those clothes! those lips! those crucifixes! that bellybutton!! – there was no stopping it. She had made the Big Time.
Now with hat she calls the Warners’ star machine solidly behind her, there can be little doubt that the best is yet to come. The latest single, Like A Virgin, reached Number One in the US with the help of a video in which Madonna goes to Venice to cavort with gondolas, lions, and – no prizes for guessing -boys. Its cost is believed to have run into six figures. The second LP, also called Like a Virgin, is produced by Nile Rogers, ex-Chic, after his work with David Bowie, once again the hottest producer in New York.
Her music is developing, refining the early disco dolly style into a purer pop, but also straying into other areas of black-influenced music. There are some refreshing echoes of Motown on the new LP – as well as an unfortunate sacrilege to the memory of the old Rose Royce song Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.
But however much the music may be developing, Madonna’s image seems fixed immovably in the role of the sex kitten.