by Raj Rudolph
Facebook and Twitter was a buzz over the weekend about Madonna's very first single "Everybody" celebrating it's 30th year since it was originally released and all the talk really got me feeling nostalgic about how the Queen Of Pop has had such a big influence on my life.
Yesterday, I started to mentally catalogue all the different life scenarios that Madonna has played in my life, and in my youth particularly and thought it would be fun to blog about this morning to share with all of you.
Madonna is the one woman who defined pop culture for nearly three decades and this is my life through her music and how she has played such a role in who I am today.
I rarely blog about Madonna. She's hard to criticize mostly and well – she's Madonna.
- My introduction to Madonna came through a strange teenage girl named Bobbie who used to help my mother clean hotel rooms. She used to listen to Madonna constantly and fight with her oler brother in the car about what cassette tape to listen to. It was usually Madonna versus Duran Duran. Madonna won the battle most times.
- My mother thought Madonna was a bit too racy and I had to hide my Madonna cassette tapes from her. My mother never really great taste in music anyways – I get my music genes from my father.
- My best friend Stacy Perkins (also a huge Madonna fan) went through this phase of colouring in things with a pink ink pen and one day she got a hold of my Madonna (the first album) cassette and coloured Madonna's lips pink and put pink streaks through her hair and signed her name next to that iconic album art. I wanted to die. I felt violated. To this day, I love Stacy to death (we talk all the time) but I still won't forgive her for doing that.
- My very first 12 inch record was Madonna's "Into The Groove" with "Angel" on the B-side. I only ever bought Madonna 12 inchs. 12 inch records were works of art because they were so big! Those Madonna 12 inch records were actually decorations for my bedroom alongside the hundreds of Madonna pin-ups that my friend Lynn Lee used to give me from Bop and Tiger Beat magazines and lyric pin-ups from Smash Hits magazine that I used to buy at the local grocery store.
- Although my mom really wasn't pro Madonna, my father was. On weekends where I got to hang out with my father, he fostered my love for Madonna. I could watch MTV as much as I wanted, he would buy me records and thought nothing of me sitting in front of of the TV for hours watching "The Virgin Tour" on repeat from a VHS tape he copied from the local video rental store. Perhaps it was my version of cartoons. When my mom and I used to argue (as you do), my father always told me over-the-phone that the best way to control the situation was to go to my room and listen to Madonna – a mantra I still use today.
- Things started to become "problematic" when I became obsessed with Madonna at home and would spend my time learning ALL the dance moves to the "The Virgin Tour" (that VHS copy got A LOT of traction) and telling people that I wanted to be a dancer for Madonna when I grew up. My friends would come round to play with their Transformers and Go-Bots and I'd be dressed up in black parachute pants with black and white O-Rings adorning my arms asking my friends and sisters things like "do you want me to teach you the dance moves to Into The Groove?"
- When the "True Blue" album came out – it changed my life. I used to ride my 10 speed to school in the 6th grade and strap a cassette player to it (an early form of iPod kids) and play the iconic album all the time. "Papa Don't Preach" was my favorite song. I ordered a black promotional t-shirt from Columbia House that had the "Papa Don't Preach" artwork on the front and back and used to wear it to PE class. I had a bully who always used to taunt me saying look it's "Porky Don't Preach". Bullying never seemed to bother me for some reason. I always knew they were losers and I'd be someone, someday. I like to think he died many years ago 😉
- When the "Who's That Girl" movie came out around the same time as the "Who's That Girl" World Tour my father bought me and my aunt a nosebleed seat to see Madonna perform at the Kingdome in Seattle, Washington. Truly this was a life changing moment for me and probably the biggest act of kindness ever displayed from my father. With each ticket purchase you got a 45 record of the "Who's That Girl" single that I played CONSTANTLY. I still can hear my mother proclaim "can't you listen to anything else?" I begged my local video store for the cardboard marquee of "Who's That Girl" the movie – it was HUGE and they gave it to me. It barely fit in my bedroom but I was so proud to own it.
- My first gay crush was with a boy named Danny Garcia that I met at a Tommy Page concert. Danny was a massive (still a complete understatement) Madonna fan that I still am friends with today thanks to Facebook. We became pen pals (pre-internet kids) and although the words "gay" never touched down on our letters, I think we both knew. I used to sneak away and take the bus to Seattle (a five hour journey) to visit him. We had the best time ever hanging out and taking photos all around Seattle. It was all very innocent and "like a virgin" but I can remember thinking – wow, he's so cute, really into Madonna and there is definitely someone else like me in this fucked up world. Whilst in Seattle, I always used to come home with at least one piece of Madonna memorabilia, my favorite being a ginormous "Desperately Seeking Susan" original movie poster.
- When the "Like A Prayer" music video came out my freshman year in high school, I used to get in public debates with my Bible thumping Marketing teacher about how sinful Madonna was being. I actually video-taped Madonna's infamous Pepsi commerical that aired in the "Like A Prayer" era and literally NOT DOING ANYTHING on days when videos for "Express Yourself" and "Cherish" premiered on MTV. I laugh at the kids who make Lady Gaga videos an "event" these days, but I really used to do the same thing when I was their age.
- I think I actually went to the movie theatre five times to see "Truth Or Dare". The Blonde Ambition Tour never made it close to where I lived in Eastern Washington at the time, so this literally was like going to see her in concert – sometimes in matinee shows where I was the only one in the audience – bliss.
- I was obsessed with "Vogue". I was in massive LUST with all her backing dancers in that music video and again learned ALL the dance moves from the music video. I remember being on a school marketing trip to Portland my senior year in high school and a girl named Carrie bought the cassette single for the road trip and secretly I was proclaiming "bitch – I owned this 3 weeks ago the day it came out". Diva. I also was obsessed with "Now I'm Following You" from the "I'm Breathless" soundtrack homage album to Dick Tracy and being MESMERIZED by Madonna performing "Sooner Or Later" at the Oscars.
- When I moved to Boston, Stacy came to visit me and we went to see Evita in the movie theatre and cried our eyes out. We lovingly still refer to that movie theatre in Boston as the "Evit-ah Theat-ah".
And there you go – my formative youth captured in Madonna events and moments. This really did feel a bit self-indulgent but the old saying that music is the soundtrack to our lives is very much true. When I moved to London as an adult and lived out the "Ray Of Light" era to the current "MDNA" era, there are still hundreds of moments that I can think of that all can be traced back to Madonna. It's hard to believe that "Everybody" is now 30 years old. Madonna has made music for pretty much my entire life that has resonated with me and defined MY culture.
It's nice to know that the youth of today have someone like Lady Gaga doing the same for them – someone of this generation who can define our times, identify ourselves with, push the buttons that need to be pushed and creatively make art that is not only important, but helps give us definition and light during our short stay here on Planet Earth.
Madonna – I love you.