Showing posts with label Erotica. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Erotica. Show all posts

15 July 2011

jitterbug – Tony Shimkin speaks about unreleased demo

Madonna goes “all the way” as Mae Mordabito, jittering her bug with co-star Eddie Mekka – A League of Their Own director, Penny Marshall’s co-star in Laverne and Shirley

Exactly five years ago, this very week, I visited the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC to listen to a number of Madonna’s rare unreleased demo tapes.

One or rather, two of the most interesting tapes on file at the LOC are what has become known in Madonna myth as “The Rain Tapes”. If you haven’t heard of them before, “The Rain Tapes” are two cassette tapes containing a number of demos from the Erotica album that were filed at the LOC by Madonna’s Erotica co-producer, Shep Pettibone – the existence of the tapes were first brought to light by my old friend, Bruce Baron in his 1999 article “Madonna – From Genesis to Revelations” in US magazine, Goldmine.

On one of the two Maxwell UD II 90 minute audio cassette tapes on which the Erotica demos are recorded (LOC reference: Pau.1.605.641/643), in between two demos of Thief of Hearts is a clip of a song called Jitterbug. The song is listed as “Jitterbug” Rough 1/17/92 on the handwritten cassette cover, spelt incorrectly with a “G” and corrected with a bold “J”. All songs on the tape are credited to S.Pettibone/M.Ciccone/T.Shimkin (Shep Pettibone, Madonna and Tony Shimkin).

When Bruce Baron visited the LOC, he was given a number of hours to listen to and review the demos. I was given permission to review the demos over a four day period, so my notes about the song differ slightly from Bruce’s original online report:

Madonna sings in a cartoonish/I’m Breathless style, “Jitter, b-b-b-b-b-bug, Get up, u-u-u-u-u-up”. The music is like a modern take on the swing music of the 1940s, but incorporates some house style piano and synth horns. The music continues and Madonna mock scolds in her best Cry Baby “Nu Yoik” voice, “That’s not how you do it!” (Do what – the jitterbug?) The music continues and Madonna says, “Is this gonna go on forever?” no less than twice and then says, “Somebody end this damn thing,” continuing, “There were some cute ideas in there”.


A few days after my trip to the LOC, I interviewed Madonna’s Erotica co-producer/songwriter, Tony Shimkin, at his office/studio in New York:

thebeatswithin: I heard a snippet of a song called Jitterbug when I visited the Library of Congress, which was on the same tape as the other Erotica demos, but sounds nothing like any of those songs.

“It was an attempt to do something for the A League of Their Own soundtrack where there was a jitterbug dance scene in the film and it was an attempt to try to do a jitterbug in somewhat of a modern way. So, it was a real, rough demo idea of how it would be and envisioning it.

Actually, if it had have been carried out, it probably would played out like the actual piece of music that was used in the movie. It was very Big Band oriented and, if it were to have been produced, I think it would have been produced with a full Big Band and a full horn section and all that.

We were trying to think conceptually was there a way to do a jitterbug in a cool kind of contemporary way and give it to her and see what kind of lyrics and melody she would come up with and it was never really explored beyond the initial demo music.

thebeatswithin: I only heard about 30 seconds of music. Was that as far as the idea went?

“Pretty much. There was just a really rough sketch – “How about something like this? Is this what you’re trying to do?” I think we were in the middle of so many other things at the time and maybe there wasn’t a necessity for it in the movie.

It was around the time we were doing This Used to Be My Playground and the Jitterbug thing was an idea then. We went to meet with her in Chicago when she was doing the movie, so that’s when that was done.”

thebeatswithin: Did you record that demo with Madonna in Chicago?


“No, we recorded This Used to Be My Playground in Los Angeles and Jitterbug, we did in New York at Shep’s house.”

Click here to watch the scene from A League of Their Own, that inspired Jitterbug. Incidentally, the scene uses the song
Flying Home, written by “The King of Swing” Benny Goodman, with Lionel Hampton, Sid Robin and Sydney Robin, and is performed by Doc’s Rhythm Cats.


11 June 2011

in the evidence of her brilliance – Tony Shimkin speaks

Shimkin and Ciccone - letting their "beasts within" out in the studio

In July 2006 I flew to New York City and met with Tony Shimkin at his office at Noble Music, a company that he established back in the early 1990s. From 1989 to 1995, Tony worked extensively for Madonna – from the Like a Prayer singles remixes, to Vogue, The Immaculate Collection, Erotica and the Bedtime Stories single remixes.

On a typically balmy summer's afternoon, in Tony’s office/studio (complete with Tony’s impressive RIAA Diamond certification for The Immaculate Collection proudly mounted on the wall), I spoke with him about his amazing career and his work with Madonna – which included an impromptu instrumental performance of Deeper and Deeper by Tony on his unplugged electric guitar. Towards the end of the interview, Tony spoke about Madonna’s song writing:

“I’d say Patrick Leonard’s best work is Madonna. William Orbit’s best work is Madonna. Mirwais’ best work is Madonna. Stephen Bray, everybody... and Shep Pettibone is best known for Madonna. I think what she does is, whatever you do, she adds a melody that’s on par, or if not, brings it to a higher level. A lot of these songs that any of these people, including myself, had written, somebody else could write a melody to it and it would be a totally forgetful song.”

the beats within: Critics have often applauded Madonna for being incredibly discerning when it comes to choosing the right collaborators; however it often comes across as a bit of a backhanded compliment, with an assumption that the credit for her music lies elsewhere.

“If you take any of those tracks and take her contribution off it, it would have a different melody and lyrics and it would never be a hit. I’m sure she can get airplay because of who she is, but people are singing her songs to this day. I have written a piece of music that I did and given it to three different singers and you’d be amazed at the difference between what each person could contribute and where one can just be head and shoulders above the others.

But what Madonna brings to a song is so unique to herself. It’s her voice too. She’s not the greatest singer in the world, but if Cathy Dennis were to sing it, it wouldn’t be as successful. It would be successful and it would still be a great pop song, but it’s the melodies she (Madonna) writes.

Deeper and Deeper is a cool piece of music, but without that melody and without that energy that is added to it. It’s really the opposite – people think that so-and-so wrote the music. The music is not the hard part to write. The hard part to write is the lyrics and the melody. That’s the hardest thing to write in the world. If I, or these other people, could write lyrics and melodies like her then these people would be supplying her with finished songs and she would just be singing them. But that’s not the case if anything she’s made their songs come to life and made them notable because she put a great lyric and melody on it. I really think it’s the opposite.

There are a million tracks out there by artists now and if you took their vocals off and gave it to her to write to it would be a huge hit. It’s as simple as that. It’s one of the hardest things to write a memorable melody, like Beatles songs. So many of their songs are just simple Blues progressions but listen to what they wrote over it, it’s legendary.”


Click here to find out more about Tony at the Noble Music website

23 May 2011

bad girl guitar demo – Paul Pesco speaks

Paul Pesco - grinding his axe!

In 2008 an unreleased demo of Bad Girl, known as the ‘Guitar Demo’, leaked online. Due to a number of fake Madonna demos doing the rounds online and a lack of information about the origins of this demo; many believe this to be the creation of a talented fan.

In 2006 I visited the Library of Congress in Washington, DC and listened to a number of Erotica demos on the infamous ‘Rain Tapes’ and although I listened to some Bad Girl demos, the guitar demo wasn’t among them.

When I spoke to legendary stage and session guitarist, Paul Pesco, I asked him about playing guitar on the Erotica sessions:

“I actually played on a couple of other tracks that I don’t think ended up on the album. I think it was Bad Girl I played on, where I did a couple of tracks. Bad Girl had a lot more guitar. That was really cool – I thought it was awesome! I played tracks on Deeper and Deeper, Bad Girl and it may have been Thief of Hearts, I’m not sure. She ended up using Why’s It So Hard and Deeper and Deeper.

It (the sessions with Madonna and Shep Pettibone) was always great. There were a couple of engineers also. I worked with Goh (Hotoda) a lot. I was there throughout the recording of the album. By that time, I’d done dozens of sessions for Shep’s records and he’d used me a lot for stuff over the years, and I’d been friends with him. He has a very distinct production style and he knows exactly what he wants and the groove would be in there. It’s funny, for not being a musician; he’s one of those people who's very musical.

For that album I used my blue ESP Strat (Fender Stratocaster guitar) that’s been one of my main studio axes on a bunch of records. I also used my ESP graffiti Strat that has EMG pick-ups on it that I used on that album as well and actually I used that guitar for the C&C Music Factory stuff as well, the Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) guitar part – that was my ESP graffiti guitar.”

Click here to listen to the Bad Girl guitar demo.