14 May 2011

i have a tale to tell – Marc Moreau speaks

This week, 25 years ago, Live to Tell was sitting at its #2 peak on the UK pop singles chart. The song was her fourth single to narrowly miss out on the top spot – the international novelty hit, Rock Me Amadeus, by Austrian pop musician, Falco, was at #1. Incidentally, one of the four runner-ups (Warner UK’s shameless, yet genius, post-Live Aid re-release of Holiday) missed out on the top spot because Madonna’s other summer '85 anthem, Into the Groove, was implanted at #1.

Having dominated pop music in 1985, with a hyperactive rush of pure pop brilliance, Madonna’s much-anticipated, first single release of 1986 was the haunting ballad, Live to Tell – just one of many Madonna songs that would re-write the rules of pop music.

Co-written and produced with Pat Leonard, fresh off the road with Madonna on The Virgin Tour, Live to Tell sounded like nothing else being played on pop radio and nothing like what the world thought a Madonna song, or a pop song for that matter, should sound like – the first of many times that Madonna's music would defy expectation. With lyrics by Madonna, Live to Tell wiped some of the sneers off the faces of those who had mocked her earlier pop/dance hits.

I know where beauty lives
I’ve seen it once, I know the warmth she gives
The light that you could never see
It shines inside, you can’t take that from me

In 1989, Marc Moreau began working as a studio engineer at Pat Leonard’s studio in LA. On his second, or third day in the studio Marc began working as second engineer to Brian Malouf and Bill Bottrell – engineers on Madonna’s forthcoming I’m Breathless album. Marc would continue to work as a studio engineer with Pat and Madonna up until Ray of Light.

When I spoke to Marc, he spoke about Madonna’s songwriting and recalled a conversation with Pat Leonard about Live to Tell.

“Their first song broke a lot of rules. I mean, it was a ballad, it was like six minutes long, which is two minutes longer than the record company – they were screaming about that! It has this big spot in the middle, where it just breaks down to almost nothing and then comes back. I remember Pat talking about it once and he said, “It pretty much violates every rule that you have for a single!” But yet she loved it and she stuck to it and backed it all the way and they (Warner Bros Records) were starting to give this young producer, Pat, a bunch of grief about the song and she stuck to her guns on it and it was a huge, huge hit. It broke all the rules. I could see how that would cement them together from that point on to be able to make the next records that they did.

Madonna could go to that emotional place, which I think separates her from a lot of pop artists. She can dig up some stuff about herself, and it’s real stuff, and can put it out there emotionally, as well as have the fun, “Let’s go party!” songs and not a lot of artists can sort of do that and let you get in there and get real for a bit.”


Trey said...

I remember when LTT came out and thought how different it was to anything Madonna had done. I LOVED it immediately. It confused me as being used to the pop dance stuff of her work so far, but it was refreshing and I welcomed it. I guess others did too as it was a number 1 hit in America. Still one of my favorite M tracks ever.

Rabbitbunny said...

Live to Tell-The Best and my favorite Madonna artwork ever. Miss Ciccone sings beautifully in this gorgeous Metal/Rock ballad
-the sheer beauty, determination and sadness in her voice! Live to Tell is a beautiful Madonna tune because it broke all the chart rules. Beautiful artwork!

Postscript: The way Lady Madonna got off that cross during the Confessions Tour was extremely gracious and brave of Her Ladyship!