This week, 27 years ago, Borderline entered the UK Top 100 singles chart.
Two weeks after its #74 debut, Borderline peaked at #56 – a position greatly improved upon by its January 1986 re-release, which reached the more-deserving #2 – held off the top spot by Billy Ocean’s four-week reign at #1 with When The Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going).
In 2007, I interviewed the writer and producer of Borderline, Reggie Lucas. Reggie has rarely spoken about his work with Madonna, but he shared with me his memories of writing the first of her record-breaking 37 Billboard Top Ten singles:
“I really have a simple process for songwriting for an artist that I’m producing, assuming it’s not going to be a collaborative process. Firstly, I’ll listen to the artist’s demo tape or previous records, just to get a feel for their voice and style. Then, if at all possible, I’ll attend a live performance of the artist. I was fortunate enough to be able to do both of these things with Madonna.
Finally, I just pick up my guitar, and start to play and sing until something seems to click. Then, I’ll create a very, very rough demo for the artist. So Borderline and Physical Attraction were written specifically only for Madonna. They went very quickly from my head, to the studio, and to the radio and charts. This is something Madonna does very well, making records quickly and without excessive fanfare. This has always been and will always be my preferred method of record production.”
the beats within: Borderline sounds almost like a 1980s update on the Motown sound. Madonna of course hails from Michigan and has spoken about how the local sounds of Motor City were ever-present throughout her childhood; citing Motown girl groups like The Supremes as influences. Were you consciously inspired by Motown when writing Borderline?
“What a great question! I’ve never even thought about this before. Motown is inspirational, generational, and cultural for me. I came under the spell of Motown music, like so many of my generation and those after, on a subconscious, intuitive, almost magical level. So I didn’t put the obvious together, Madonna’s from
the beats within: Apart from being a great pop song, the success of Borderline was partly thanks to the music video for the song that heralded the beginning of Madonna’s relationship with MTV. What did you think of the video and were you surprised at the success of the Borderline single?
“Like many other artists, songwriters, producers, etc. I was fortunate enough to have a record on the charts when MTV was in its early growth spurt. I thought the video was simple but appropriate. Madonna and Michael
Click here to watch the Mary Lambert directed music video for Borderline