My previous post from earlier today (6.2.2016), Frankie Smith’s 1981 hit, “Double Dutch Bus” (my “(real) one-hit wonder of the week”), inspired this post. There’s a connection between the two songs, and I’ll come on to the connection between “Into The Groove” and “Double Dutch Bus” in a bit.
“Into The Groove” is one of Madonna’s most-recognized songs, it’s one of the most-popular songs to come out of the 80s, and it was a massive global hit – just not here in the U.S., due to a decision by Sire Records that has had me puzzled for over 30 years.
Let me back up. 1984 was a great year for Madonna – she picked up her first Top 40 hit (“Holiday”), her first 2 Top 10 hits (“Borderline,” “Lucky Star”) and her first No. 1 song (“Like A Virgin”). 1985 was even better. Her second album, LIKE A VIRGIN, hit No. 1; three more songs from the album reached the Top 10 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100; her song from the film, VISION QUEST, “Crazy For You,” knocked USA For Africa’s “We Are The World” from No. 1; her performance at LIVE AID was well-received; and, she appeared in her first two films – VISION QUEST, and the critically-lauded DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN.
A song from DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, “Into The Groove,” had all the makings of a hit single. And, in many places around the globe outside of North America, it was. It reached No. 1 in Belgium (5 weeks), Holland and Ireland (3 weeks), Italy (11 weeks), New Zealand (6 weeks), Spain (1 week), and the U.K. (4 weeks; it’s her biggest-selling single there). “Into The Groove” also reached the Top 10 in at least 6 other countries.
But, here in the U.S., with “Material Girl” and “Crazy For You” being released at the same time from 2 different albums and 2 different labels, it was decided at Sire Records (my favorite record label) that they didn’t want the third single from LIKE A VIRGIN, “Angel,” to compete with “Into The Groove,” so it wasn’t released and was issued here primarily as a radio-only single. It was also at a time when BILLBOARD magazine didn’t allow radio-only singles or 12”-only singles to chart on the Hot 100. The decision to not release “Into The Groove” as its own single most likely cost Madonna a huge No. 1 song.
“Angel” was climbing the Hot 100 this week in 1985, and it did manage to reach No. 5 on the Hot 100, but the big story with “Angel” was when “Into The Groove” was added as the flip side to its 12” single, making “Into The Groove” commercially available for the first time. Keep in mind this was well before the Internet, well before digital singles. People wanted this song. I wanted it. I admit that “Angel” is not one of my favorite Madonna songs, but when the 12” was paired with “Into The Groove,” picking it up was a no-brainer for me. It was the same sentiment with a million other North Americans like myself.
A couple of weeks after Madonna’s performance at LIVE AID, the 12” single for “Angel” / “Into The Groove” was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which hadn’t happened since Frankie Smith’s “Double Dutch Bus” in 1981, and was a rare feat. In Australia, they had the smarts to release “Angel” and “Into The Groove” as a double A-sided single, and it paid off, spending 4 weeks at No. 1. The 12” single also spent 2 weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and ended the 80s as BILLBOARD’s No. 1 Dance Single of the Decade. And rightfully so.
In 1989, Sonic Youth, borrowing from Madonna’s real last name under the guise of Ciccone Youth – a side project including Minutemen and fIREHOSE frontman Mike Watt – released THE WHITEY ALBUM, featuring covers of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love,” Madonna’s “Burning Up” and a kick-ass version of “Into The Groove,” which they re-titled “Into The Groov(y)” and heavily sampled the original.
“Into The Groove” is not only one of my all-time favorite Madonna songs, but it’s also one of the most-requested songs on my little 20-year-old radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s. People love it. People continue to love this song and dance to this song. It’s a defining song for Madonna, and it’s a defining song for the 80s. In 31 years, I’ve never met anyone who is a Madonna fan and DOESN’T like this song. If you’re reading this and happen to be one of those folks, what in the name of all things Rosanna Arquette are you waiting for?! Get into the groove!