More than two decades ago in a Queens basement, Madonna recorded music that's never before been released. Listen to it in a Daily Beast exclusive by Andrew Morton.
Below, Madonna biographer Andrew Morton offers a previously
unreleased tape that includes Madonna singing some of the first ever
songs she wrote. The tape was made by Ed Gilroy and his brother Dan,
Madonna’s ex-boyfriend, who lived with the singer in the basement of a
The audio below is a combination of
Madonna's acceptance speech when she was inducted into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, interspersed with her early
recordings. Says Morton, "It is sweet and raw. It signifies to me how
far she has come, a reminder of the explosion of talent."
Madonna Today: Where Things Stand
Seconds out, Round One. As lawyers for Madge and Guy prepare to duke it out—
Her Madgesty has retained Fiona Shackleton, natch, the legal eagle who
represented Prince Andrew, Prince Charles and lately Sir Paul McCartney
while he has plumped for Lady Helen Ward, who fought for Paloma
Picasso, Andrew Lloyd Webber and notoriously won a $100 million
settlement for an aggrieved upper crust wife—the gloves are already off between the principle contestants.
She got the first jab in, at her last Boston gig she dedicating a
song written for her soon to be ex to “the emotionally retarded.” He
countered with a classic British defense: the stiff upper lip. The word
from the Ritchie corner was that he didn’t want to slice Madonna’s
estimated $600 million in two. All he wanted was a lump sum and to
split the properties – they have a country mansion, several London town
houses, Kaballah retreats, apartments in New York and of course, the
now appropriately named public house, The Punch Bowl. She was quick to
counter jab, with Camp Madonna claiming the British film maker was just
a ‘Material Guy’ because of his outrageous financial demands. “I’ve
worked my ass off for 30 years to get what I have and now this gold
digger wants to take it from me,” The Sun quoted her as saying to a
Ritchie may be a judo black belt but it will take much more than
fancy footwork to throw Madonna. Even though she is only 5ft, 5ins and
weighs in around 120 lbs soaking wet, she is a financial heavyweight
with street smart ring-craft learned over her early years of struggle.
It is easy to forget that Madonna's fortune was entirely self-made.
From scratch. No trust fund. No hand outs from the bank of mommy and
daddy. She is so careful with her cash that she makes the Sage of Omaha
look a positive spendthrift. As she invests in property and art – never
stocks and shares – she is effectively recession proof. “So tight she
squeaks,” was one former boyfriend’s acerbic comment about her. Her
brother Christopher’s notorious memoir is essentially a bitch list of
money she owes him or he thinks she owes him; Madonna as the queen of
can blame her? Long before the world woke up to “make do and mend” and
recession dressing, Madonna had known what it is like to pull herself
up by her boot straps. While she has exaggerated her hard scrabble
family roots, when she was a single girl in New York she was familiar
with rooting around at the bottom of the heap. She could have accepted
help from her family—her father had a white-collar job in the arms industry—but
resolutely wanted to make it on her own, telling stories about fishing
out food from garbage, living off popcorn and desperately seeking
nickels and dimes in her Queens apartment to pay her subway fare so she
could earn more nickels and dimes from busking in Wall Street. Now of
course she could buy the whole Street—with loose change to spare.
Understandably memories of those hard times have never left her.
Hence her schizophrenic attitude to cash. So she employs a butler
butcomplains that he spends too much on flowers for the couple’s $14
million London apartment, wears designer dresses on the red carpet yet
haggles for a big discount. During her marriage to Sean Penn it drove
her nuts that he threw his expensive Armani suits on the floor rather
than look after them and hang them up.
I was reminded of how far and fast Madonna has come in a
conversation with Ed Gilroy, one of the men Madonna credits with
setting her on the yellow brick road to stardom. Back in the early
1980s he and his brother Dan had a modestly successful band, the
Breakfast Club. Dan was dating Ms Ciccone as she was trying, and
failing, to get work in her chosen profession as a dancer. She moved in
with Dan and tried her hand at drumming—with a little help from Ed—practicing
in the basement of the disused synagogue in Queens where they all
lived. She soon graduated to singing, songwriting and after a couple of
years she moved onwards and upwards. Seen by everyone but never seen by
the boys again.
Ed still lives in the synagogue and recalled those days when Madonna
was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March this year. He
took his own walk down memory lane and ventured again into the dingy
basement where Madonna spent hours practicing the four guitar chords
Dan taught her. Amidst the detritus of old amplifiers, beaten up
electric guitars and drum kits was a tatty white plastic bag. Inside
were five of Ed’s old tape cassettes that were used to make some of her
earliest recordings of her performing– as well as her thoughts on life,
nose picking and scratching her ass.
During her long and heartfelt acceptance speech,
Madonna paid generous tribute to her two, largely forgotten, musical
mentors. She talked about she learned the drums in the basement as she
listened to Elvis Costello and how she felt the hairs on her arms stand
up with excitement as she wrote what she described as her first song,
ironically entitled “Tell The Truth.” It was as though “I was possessed
by some magic,” she told the audience who included fellow inductee,
songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen.
Her first song as well as her early efforts on the drums or vocals have never been heard before. Until now.
As Ed listened he spliced together elements of her acceptance speech
with relevant fragments of those unheard recordings. They make
fascinating listening, a reminder that, to quote Julia Roberts in the
movie Notting Hill, that the “fame thing wasn’t really real.”
Behind the bodyguards, the bright lights and the brilliantine sheen of celebrity—and today the high priced lawyers—Madonna was “just a girl” trying to get by, wanting the world to love her.
Once she had mastered Ed’s rudimentary tape recorder, she could not
survive unless she was taping the experience. Gilroy’s edited extract
gives a flavor of the haphazard, mundane and downright silly world she
shared with the boys, an amusing astringent to her earnest references
to the Talmud, a Jewish sacred text that the Kabbalah enthusiast singer
referred to frequently in her long acceptance speech.
The lost tape begins with Madonna and Dan in bed, encouraging him to
go running. It then cuts to her speech where Madonna says how she was
fortunate to have people like Dan Gilroy who believed in her. Then
flashback back 27 years…“I’m going to strangle him,” she joked before
breaking out into one of the songs, “Born to be a Dancer.”
Madonna’s prowess on the drums is on display before moving on to
another song, “Over and Over.” While the vocals were crude, there is a
raw energy about her early work, culminating in her first song “Tell
the Truth”—a “magical moment” for her.
Ed remembers it differently. He believes that the first song she
wrote was “Trouble,” which she played during their early gigs as Max’s
Kansas City and the now sadly defunct CBGBs on the Lower East Side.
While they may differ about which came first, “Tell the Truth” or
“Trouble,” what is undeniable and what is as blatant on the tapes as
her wavering Virgin Tour as a singer, is Madonna’s limitless and
unquenchable ambition. She truly is a force of nature. No wander Guy is
keeping his guard up.