Number Ones: #78


  • MADONNA Papa Don’t Preach (Sire)
  • Week Ending 12th July 1986
  • 2 Weeks At #1


At the end of 1984, not many people were taking Madonna seriously as a longterm pop star; Cyndi Lauper took the plaudits early on with the first handful of singles from her She’s So Unusual album, and chartwise the two women were at a fairly even level.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Time After Time, She Bop and All Through The Night vs. Holiday, Lucky Star and Borderline.

It was a tighter call in the US compared to Britain, but then the picture altered. Madonna pulled away with Like A Virgin, the single and album. 1985 belonged to her. Cyndi Lauper’s 1985 consisted of Money Changes Everything (the fifth and final 45 from She’s So Unusual) peaking at #27 Stateside and contributing the theme song to the Goonies film.

Madonna became relentless, both in chart domination and workrate. The run of Like A Virgin singles lasted the whole of 1985, interspersed with the soundtrack hits Into The Groove, Crazy For You and Gambler. Come 1986, and Sire didn’t let up, re-issuing Borderline (a #56 UK flop first time round) and watching it nearly make #1.

Yet, in general, although many people were now accepting Madonna’s status as a longterm pop superstar (given the evidence, it was hard not to), not everybody seemed convinced of her artistic credentials. Okay, so Madonna was massively successful and popular and the hits were racking up at a speed not seen since The Beatles, they argued, but how much substance was there to her, and the music she was making?

The first two singles from what would be Madonna’s third album, True Blue, pretty much silenced the doubters. Live To Tell arrived in the late spring of 1986, a ponderous and moody track with another movie connection (At Close Range, starring then-husband Sean Penn). It was a ballad, so faced an uphill battle for recognition on my own charts (Crazy For You had only made #25 for me, remember), but it had an atmosphere and palpably “grown up” vibe which felt like new territory for Madonna. This was an awful long way from the cover of Love Don’t Live Here Anymore on Like A Virgin.

Live To Tell only got to #14 on my Top 40 (one of the more regrettable victims of my nascent tastes and lack of ballad appreciation!), but its follow-up would finally consolidate the growing admiration for Madonna’s music that I was developing during the second half of 1985. Angel was outright bliss, if a little lightweight, and Dress You Up was glamorous fun even if I thought she looked a right state in the video.

Papa Don’t Preach was pop gold, however. A new look, and a new sprightlier sound. It has a real bounce to it, not weighed down by the groove as much as earlier efforts and not as shrill melodically or vocally either. In a neat mirroring of the song’s subject matter, Papa Don’t Preach served as an artistic coming-of-age moment for Madonna herself. Even those not naturally disposed to her charms had to concede that it was a brilliant pop record.

Despite serious competition (Prince, a-ha, Wham!) the single managed to go all the way to the top of my charts, and although I bought the 7″ single (B-side Ain’t No Big Deal was a nice bonus) it didn’t spur me into wanting True Blue when it was released soon after.

That would only happen once I’d heard Open Your Heart, which would prove to be the closest Madonna got to #1 on my Top 40 for the next two years, when it peaked at #2 in December 1986.

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