It’s hard to imagine Madonna’s namesake debut album — which came out 35 years ago, on July 27, 1983 — without “Holiday,” the classic party anthem that became her first mainstream hit and has given people all over the world cause to celebrate on the dance floor. But the song almost didn’t happen: It was a last-minute substitute for another track on her first LP.
“Madonna’s album was finished,” says “Holiday” producer and New York DJ legend John “Jellybean” Benitez, who was dating Madonna at the time and had been hired to do some remixes for her. There was just one problem: Madonna found out that a song she had recorded called “Ain’t No Big Deal” had already gone to disco act Barracuda, so the track was no longer an option. “She wasn’t so thrilled about that,” says Benitez.
With the “Madonna” LP then down to just seven songs, a replacement was urgently needed. “And I had a demo of ‘Holiday,’ so I played it for her, and she loved it,” the producer says.
Benitez, who had remixed “tons of records” but had never produced one from scratch, was given a one-week deadline by Madonna’s label, Warner Bros., in February 1983. “They said, ‘If you could have this song done by next Friday, you can make the album.’ I started on Monday and finished on Friday, and we delivered it.”
And deliver it did: After “Everybody” and “Burning Up” failed to make the Billboard Hot 100, “Holiday” became Madonna’s first single to hit that chart, reaching No. 16. The track also became her first No. 1 dance song (as a double-A-side single, with “Lucky Star”).
While “Holiday” jump-started one of the biggest careers in pop history, the tune was written by ex-spouses Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens-Crowder for their own group, Pure Energy. “I started out playing that chord progression as a ballad,” recalls Stevens-Crowder of the song’s keyboard inception. “But as I kept playing it over and over for a couple of days, I sped it up. And then Curtis came up with that bass line.” read more →