Thursday, March 15, 2007

MP3 Frenzy: Madonna remixed

Back in the 80s, when McFly were born, singles came on small discs of shiny black plastic. They were incredibly fragile - susceptible to scratches and liable to break if they were dropped. They also had very sharp edges. If you threw one hard enough you could take someone's head clean off. I don't know how we coped.

Because this was the era of capitalist greed and yuppies (a type of Japanese fish in a business suit) people decided the single should be bigger. Overnight, it grew from a humble seven inches to a honking great twelve inches [insert your own penis joke here].

Initially nobody knew what to do with all the extra space. It was filled up with instrumental versions and "extended" mixes - essentially six minutes of a drum machine followed by the actual song. But people soon started to get creative, messing about with song structure, adding counter-melodies and in some cases throwing the entire song out and starting over again.

By the mid-80s I only bought records in the 12" format. As an aspiring musician, they were actually quite educational - the teased out bass lines and harmonies actually taught me a lot of the basics of song-writing. I'm not so keen now, though. Dance music essentially gave remixers the excuse to overlay the original track with a turgid thump-thump-thump drumbeat and leave it at that.

Anyway, to get to the point: Madonna was the queen of remixes. This is partly because her songs were strong enough to withstand being pulled apart, but also because she's always chosen her collaborators very well. Indeed, most of her recent albums have been produced by remixers (William Orbit, Stuart Price) who started out re-working her singles.

A couple of weeks ago my oldest friend in the world, Graeme Moore (we bonded over a mutual appreciation for the works of Five Star) sent me a couple of CDs of rare Madonna mixes. This set me off on a massive, and expensive, eBay nostalgia-fest. I thought I'd share some of the results with you... Enjoy!

::Justify My Love (William Orbit Remix)
Orbit takes Justify My Love to pieces and re-casts it as a spooky electric dub track. A vast improvement.

::Like A Virgin (Extended Dance Remix)
This doesn't do anything other than give you an extra two minutes of dancing time. But what more could you ask for?

::Keep It Together (12" Extended Mix)
Shep Pettibone remixed most of the singles for the Like A Prayer album before Madonna dragged him into a recording studio and made him write Vogue - which ended up as the b-side of this single before it caught on in clubs and became a hit in its own right. This remix is one of Pettibone's best. The drum break at 1:02 is the most exciting thing you will ever hear.

:: Sorry (PSB Maxi-Mix)
Featuring new vocals from Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant. So good Madonna used it on the Confessions tour.

:: Love Profusion (Raphi Rosario House Vocal Mix)
Because sometimes overlaying a thump-thump-thump drum beat actually improves the song.

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