Mar 10

MADONNA – “La Isla Bonita”

FT + Popular67 comments • 5,465 views

#589, 25th April 1987, video

Madonna’s appropriation move into Latin pop is a tightrope walk between corny and respectful: on the one hand an arrangement which packs in every Hispanic signifier bar a finishing “Ole!”, on the other a performance that has far more authority, conviction and love than her last excursion into pastiche. “La Isla Bonita” on paper looks like the most awful quesa – but right from “Last night I dreamed of San Pedro” it goes in a different direction, a reverie full of the real ache of missing somewhere beautiful – there’s something close to dread in her voice.

But in a British pop context “La Isla Bonita” resonates slightly differently: here San Pedro sounded like a Mediterranean island, which meant package holidays, and at the time I disliked “Bonita” as basically a middlebrow cousin of “Y Viva Espana” and suchlike. Eyes like a desert instead of straw donkeys and sombreros, but the principle was the same. Well, I was a bit of a fool back then. Especially since the collective ache of a holiday ended was about to transform British pop culture: a bunch of DJs and partygoers determined to establish the vibe of Ibizan clubs back home, and succeeding in the most remarkable ways.

The ripple effects of the Second Summer of Love – still 15 months off at this point – have transformed how I hear “La Isla Bonita” as an adult: now it sounds like Madonna making a Balearic record. For those unfamiliar with the thin slicing of dance music genres what that means practically is that now when I listen to it I tune in to its buried spaciness, I want more of those Spanish guitar runs, more inessential prettiness, more of the dream and not so much of the song the dream created. Frankly, my ideal version of “Bonita” would be an 8-minute long disco edit which pushed the lumbering chorus to the sidelines: that’s the one bit I still agree with my younger self on, a spell-it-out wake-up call in an otherwise captivating pop track.



  1. 1
    Johnny on 4 Mar 2010 #

    i’ve always felt something was a little off with this song, tom, and you’ve nailed it. the chorus, specifically the lyrics, are quite clunky. the melody is still beautiful though, especially with those celestial “ahh”s. drop the main vocal, keep the “ahhs”. that would get a 9. this gets an 8.

  2. 2
    MikeMCSG on 4 Mar 2010 #

    This was the first (perhaps only ?)time a number one was succeeded by a different song with the same initials !

    I seem to recall Alan Jones in Record Mirror noting that it was a particularly low-selling number one (perhaps the lowest ever at the time). That said it’s still a phenomenal achievement to hit the top spot with the FIFTTH single release from an album. I can’t think of any others (one or two Fourths). Anyone know any different ?

    This is one of my favourite Madonna songs perhaps because she’s tapping into the same vein of escapist melancholia as all-time fave “Echo Beach” (coincidentally the subject of a gruesome assault by Toyah lower down the chart). Tom’s right- it’s in the voice especially on the middle eight.

  3. 3
    Billy Smart on 4 Mar 2010 #

    That’s a top critique, Tom. I now realise that I would have responded to this a lot more attentively in 1990 than I did at the time.

    There really are a lot of good things hidden in this, aren’t there? Let me add the “pa pa pa!” ad libs on the fade-out, to this list of pretty and inessential details that make the thing a ticklish pleasure.

  4. 4
    Richaod on 4 Mar 2010 #

    Somewhat removed from the song’s historical context (especially in Britain), I just love its melancholy feel – though clearly identifiably ’80s, there’s something timeless to it. Nothing against the chorus personally – they had to step it up somehow, and it fits well into her increasingly varied live adaptations of the song.

    Whatever can be said about the lyrics, the music itself may be successful as pastiche, but the video really elevates it for me (as all good Madonna videos should). If that flamenco dress isn’t convincing, nothing is.

    A different angle: http://iconography.tumblr.com/post/205997730/la-isla-bonita

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 4 Mar 2010 #

    Number two watch: The start of a four week stretch for Judy Boucher’s ‘Can’t Be With You Tonight’, a record which seems to have left little trace on the British collective memory.

  6. 6
    Richaod on 4 Mar 2010 #

    Oh, and I can’t find it on YouTube, but the extended remix from the remastered edition of True Blue really brings the chorus’ backing vocals to the forefront. Might be worth a listen if you consider them the song’s highlight like I do…

  7. 7
    AndyPandy on 4 Mar 2010 #

    Billy at 5 – in the mid-90s Judy Boucher could be found working behind the housing benefit counter at the council in High Wycombe – she could still be working there now I suppose.

    I think she was Wycombe’s 2nd biggest ever popstar chartwise (after Howard Jones).Although I doubt either of them were as influential as the town’s Dance Conspiracy (“Dub War” many peoples favourite ever hardcore record), Johnny Jungle (eponymous single sometimes cited as first ever proper jungle record), or maybe pushing it a bit DJ Pulse, Caveman, Wax Doctor or Rude Boy Monty…

  8. 8
    thefatgit on 4 Mar 2010 #

    Bruce Gaitsch’s spanish guitar is the beckoning finger tempting us into Madonna’s latin kitsch parlour. And despite all the latino signifiers being present and correct in the song and the video, Patrick Leonard’s lush production keeps the song on the right side of cliche. Madonna is spreading her appeal here.

    Playing the catholic card to it’s full extent in the video, she’s showing us her pious and austere roots balanced against her passionate and vivacious side as a natural performer and entertainer. She’s saying it’s OK to be both pious AND passionate, perhaps speaking to an insular latino community in the USA, picking up a new set of fans, only to outrage those fans at a later date…

    The video of “La Isla Bonita” also offers us a debut in the form of Benicio Del Toro, yes that’s him sitting on the bonnet of the car wearing a backwards baseball cap.

  9. 9
    anto on 4 Mar 2010 #

    I’ve come to appreciate this one over time too.
    At one point I thought of it as a slightly tacky digression
    but it actually has one of the most ingenious melodies of any
    Maddonna track and the Latin setting gives it a certain sun-kissed

  10. 10
    tonya on 4 Mar 2010 #

    I don’t approve of songs about made-up places, she’s not singing about any real San Pedro. I’ve seen polls where this ranks in the top 10 favorite Madonna singles, but it’s a 4 or 5 from me. Madonna must like it, she always has it on the set list on tour. Maybe she needs the middling tempo to catch her breath?

    This #1 and the next one of M’s did prompt a cute letter from my baby sister, who wrote me in the summer of 87 that she was learning Spanish in school so she could understand what Madonna was saying.

  11. 11
    swanstep on 4 Mar 2010 #

    Unwanted consistency watch: Fernando got a tom-score of 7 too. I’m pretty sure I know which vaguely latin song M. herself (let alone her fans) would rather have in her repertoire. (Ditto Careless Whisper.)

    I gather my response to this song broadly tracks others here: just wasn’t my thing at the time, but it’s worn fairly well. It still doesn’t sound like much of a #1 to me (it’s Hasta manana not Fernando, I reckon), and seeing M. recycle it for another UK #1 a few months from now will be gruesome. Still, it’s pleasant enough in parts (esp. in the fade out as people have mentioned), and Gaga’s stomping rewrite of it, Alejandro, basically works, so it remains a kind of growing point in music no matter what anyone thinks.

    My overall feelings about this track are somewhat shaped by Sandra Bernhard hilariously ripping on it in concerts in the ’90s. I don’t remember all the details, but Bernhard began by lamenting how Linda Ronstadt was once a cool hippie then rock chick but now just wants to sing La Isla Bonita, and what’s up with that? Much hilarious bitching/kvetching about Madonna followed. Yeah she started off fun and sexy but, with LIB as some sort of turning point, she revealed herself to be a blood-sucking vampire who’s killing music, and draining the ideas and life out of all her friends (including the much aggrieved SB of course!). Bernhard and her accompanist would cycle around to playing and singing a few bars of La Isla Bon. every few minutes through the rant, stopping to dish on something SB thought was imbecilic, or that offered her a target of opportunity of some sort for some sleazy anecdote (‘You know she hates hispanics? She just likes to get f***ed by them. Same way she is with gay guys actually’… people booed at that one I remember, but SB powered on heedless (‘Oh yeah, shoot the messenger why don’t you?’) perhaps belting some great early Ronstadt song, say ‘Different drum’ or ‘I’m gonna love you for a long time’ to smooth feathers). Good times:

  12. 12
    Tom on 4 Mar 2010 #

    Haha that was totally “wanted consistency watch” Swanstep! “This is her Fernando innit – what did I give that?” (I didn’t check though)

  13. 13
    Tom on 4 Mar 2010 #

    Now, Chiquitita on the other hand…

  14. 14
    Tom on 4 Mar 2010 #

    And I think Alejandro – which I like a lot – is in the cod-Spanish bubblegum lineage of Fernando and the much-detested-by-the-comments-crew Angelo more than it is LIB. We will however encounter a LIB-by-way-of-Thomas-Cook rewrite of sorts in the late 90s and won’t that be fun.

  15. 15
    lonepilgrim on 4 Mar 2010 #

    This doesn’t do a great deal for me – a 5 or 6. One of the pleasures I do get from this is mishearing the lyrics. I’m sure she sings ‘two eyes like potatoes’ at one point.

  16. 16
    swanstep on 4 Mar 2010 #

    @15, lonepilgrim. The line’s supposed to be ‘with eyes like the desert’ but I always comically misheard it just the way you did. It’s pointless complaining about enunciation in pop music, but part of the problem here is just that the line’s bad. ‘Eyes like deserts’ barely computes to begin with, but since deserts are normally continental features, the line also fights with the song’s island paradise imagery. Maybe M. mostly swallowing/bottling the line was her best option!

  17. 17
    TomLane on 5 Mar 2010 #

    By this point Madonna could record anything and it would chart. But let’s be glad that what charted high, like this, was pretty good. Not her greatest of singles, but pretty good. In the States this peaked at #4.

  18. 18
    punctum on 5 Mar 2010 #

    It’s hard to tell which is the more depressing – that even at this stage Madonna was still prepared to put her name to sentimental package tourist schmaltz like “La Isla Bonita,” or the fact that so many people were prepared to buy (into) it. Then I looked at the sleeve of True Blue and was reminded that the song was co-written by Madonna, which is arguably more depressing than either of the above.

    It wasn’t yet summer when the song topped the chart but there is the unmissable stench of suntan lotion and unwieldy coaches about its “te amo” and “when the samba played” and “your Spanish lullaby,” clearly aimed at the kind of visitor who wishes their Spain to be as close to Britain as possible, who would never dream of venturing into Goya country because, well, where’s the sea and there isn’t a pub for miles. Perhaps “San Pedro” is a confluence of flesh and spirit which foretells “Like A Prayer,” but Madonna’s performance is so listless – there are moments when she sounds as though she is struggling to remain awake – and the song so lifeless that the interest simply isn’t generated. The solar paradise is oddly desolate, and the song’s moping minor key conjures up the picture at the end of the Plath story “The Green Rock” when David and Sarah revisit the childhood beach they loved so much, only to find a small enclosure of sand and a green rock which formerly served as castle, sailboat and mountain but is now, stripped of the smallness and innocence of childhood, literally nothing more than a green rock.

  19. 19
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 5 Mar 2010 #

    I’ve actually always been fond of this song — “last night i dreamed i went to mandalay* again” — and indeed pitched an ideas piece to nme about the curious anglo relationship to matters hispanic, always dismissive, always shallowly fascinated (can’t remember many of the ideas sadly: though i think the link to “come dancing” as a zone of music that rock culture couldn’t grasp was in there somewhere…)

    but also wanted to write abt latin hiphop and etc**: it got turned down bcz the relevant editor didn’t like the word “anglo” heh (also to be fair he already had a piece on latin hiphop in the works)

    *as in the first line of “rebecca” but as a housename it’s full of dreamy empire semi-memory — “on the road to mandalay, where the flying fishes play…”
    **maybe if they’d given the go ahead i’d have made the balearic connection too! i kinda love the notion of the second summer of love as a blowback from the costa del sol mindset, which is also dreamy empire semi-memory re-enacted of course, the route out of back-to-backs into the sun for the brit working class once mandalay was returned to actual owners… “watney’s bleeding red barrel”, as python put it…

  20. 20
    punctum on 5 Mar 2010 #

    Addendum to #18: I caught that “Green Rock” feeling at the time because we had travelled up to St Andrews for the weekend (where we’d spent a bit of time in the early eighties); it clearly wasn’t quite summer yet – it was far too cool and blowsy (tbf St Andrews feels like that even in July) – and neither was it quite the same place we’d known; there was a distinct air of the town being “done up” and on the formerly untouched extent of beach in between Hamilton Hall and the Golf Club there had been built a marina/micro-leisure centre of some kind. From our vantage point we could hear the music they were pumping out and it all seemed to fit with this gloomily bright air of emptiness about the place: “Keep Your Eye On Me” by Herb Alpert (Jam & Lewis doing a Marcus Miller on Herb’s Tutu), “Magic Smile” by Rosie Vela, “Running In The Family” by Level 42 and “La Isla Bonita.”

    Further listening to pierce the core of the essential loneliness of Balearicism: “On The Beach” by Chris Rea, “Barefoot In The Head” by A Man Called Adam and SAW’s masterpiece, the 12-inch mix of “I Just Can’t Wait” by Mandy Smith.

  21. 21
    punctum on 5 Mar 2010 #

    PPS: for many years I did not have the slightest notion to revisit St Andrews but I quite fancy taking Lena up there at some point, if only to sample the best fish and chips in the world, i.e. P&Ns in Market Street (I’m presuming it’s still there).

  22. 22
    MikeMCSG on 5 Mar 2010 #

    #18 I’m interested in the “Green Rock” story Punctum, where can I find it ? I was under the impression that “The Bell Jar” was her only venture into prose.

    I always imagine that the coda to “Echo Beach” ,the increasingly manic repetition of “Echo Beach far away in time” represents the same story of going back and being unable to recapture the magic. For me it’s also layered with the sadness of Martha and the Muffins’ very brief time in the sun and the passing of a time when I liked the majority of records in the chart (long gone by 1987).

    On a happier note L.I.B. was number one when Dale secured their League status with a nervy 2-1 win over Stockport in the first season of automatic relegation to the Conference (which seemed a much bigger deal then). Worth recalling now we’re on the cusp of finally exiting the Fourth Division (as it still effectively is) the right way.

  23. 23
    punctum on 5 Mar 2010 #

    #22 – you can find it in her short story/other miscellaneous prose collection Johnny Panic And The Bible Of Dreams.

  24. 24
    MikeMCSG on 5 Mar 2010 #

    #22 Thanks Punctum.

  25. 25
    wichita lineman on 5 Mar 2010 #

    Sukrat, the Mandalay reference is spot on: you can’t go back to a magical past. This is also exactly why, like Punctum, I find the lyric rote and dully unimaginative – so many Latino cliches after such a leading opening line. The title is flat and basic enough for any English language to get the gist of it. I dunno, for a lost romantic paradise that haunts her dreams it all sounds a bit Club 18-30.

    For a wild, lost Latin dreamworld may I recommend The Breeze And I by Caterina Valente, a UK no.4 in 1954. Can she hit that note? Oh yes she can.

  26. 26
    pink champale on 5 Mar 2010 #

    swantep #16 oh, til this day i’d thought it was “eyes like pesetas” it sort of makes sense (her eyes are shiny?) and keeps the latin theme going too. she should have asked me if she was stuck. a friend had thought it was “eyes like the devil”, which I always liked.

    pity we won’t get the chance to consistency check with that other 80’s latin swerve, ‘domino dancing’.

  27. 27
    wichita lineman on 5 Mar 2010 #

    That should read ‘English language SPEAKER’

  28. 28
    The Clapton Pond Regeneration Project on 5 Mar 2010 #

    I actually find the cliches kind of appealing. It’s the ur-song exemplifying the now traditional “Latino themed single from the third album” micro-genre; I think it needed to tick all the holiday-romance-in-a-flamenco-dress boxes for it to work. It’s about as Spanish as an office party in La Tasca but I don’t think its context is about authenticity, so it works for me.

    It’s much like how I think it’s good for children to learn classic/corny jokes first before they move onto Tricolore 2/3/4 of subverting the expected punchline.

  29. 29
    Tom on 5 Mar 2010 #

    “Latino themed single from the third album”

    I think it was Sasha Frere Jones who I saw tweet a couple of weeks ago hailing LIB as a kind of CONCEPTUAL BREAKTHROUGH in what you do if you want to release too many singles from yr album – banger, banger, ballad, erm now what, A-HA!! THE LATIN ONE.

  30. 30
    LondonLee on 5 Mar 2010 #

    #18. How can it be aimed at “the kind of visitor who wishes their Spain to be as close to Britain as possible, who would never dream of venturing into Goya country because, well, where’s the sea and there isn’t a pub for miles” when Madonna is American and clearly singing about South America? You really shouldn’t let your own prejudices let you ignore the facts.

    I always liked this but I grew up listening to my mum’s Jose Felciano and Sandpipers records so I’m a sucker for this kind of Latin breeziness, fake or not.

  31. 31
    will on 5 Mar 2010 #

    There’s one word that sums up LIB: tired (or should that be cansado?) Tired lyrics, tired performance, tired end of campaign fifth single. It’s the epitome of the midway-through-Side-Two album track and I’m still amazed it was even considered for single release.

  32. 32
    punctum on 5 Mar 2010 #

    #30 – If you care to rephrase your question and ask it again, this time politely, and recasting your assertions as “facts,” I’ll respond. In the meantime I would advise that you try not to be so literal in your readings.

  33. 33
    AndyPandy on 5 Mar 2010 #

    wichita @25 and Caterina Valente’s “The Breeze and I” – very classy record might have to find the cd with it on this weekend now

    I actually quite “La Isla Bonita” too one of the few Madonna records I do- brought a much needed hint of escape (fake or not)to the production line at Jeyes I was working on at the time, riveting the handles of industrial cleaning machines for sports centres, schools etc – very unriveting actually.

    And a job where I was forced (for the final time!) to listen to Radio 1 as for some reason the wrecked stereo I used there could only pick that station up so for the period 86/87 I became a bit of an expert on the pop charts again…. I only got a well earned break from stuff of the ilk of Robbie Nevill, The Bangles and some track called “Comin On Strong” by I don’t know when I went into the stores/inspection and the old blokes in there had (old skool) Radio Two on…

  34. 34
    LondonLee on 5 Mar 2010 #

    Literal in my readings? You were the one who said “clearly aimed at”, I’m just responding to what you wrote. Look, sorry if I came off a bit dickish there but it sounded like you were going to launch into the Monty Python “travel agent” sketch, something I find increasingly snotty as I get older (Oxbridge boys having a laugh at stupid working class people on holiday).

    The “facts” are that San Pedro is supposedly an island off the coast of Belize and Madonna described the song as “her tribute to the beauty and mystery of Latin American people”. But even without the benefit of Wikipedia I’ve never once thought she was singing about Spain – they don’t have tropical island breezes there for a start. I can understand how some might get an “Y Viva Espana” vibe from this but I think it’s wrong, not just factually (which is beside the point isn’t it really?) but tonally too. The record company might have had that in mind, but in April?

    Please let’s not have a fight over this, I happen to like the record, you don’t.

  35. 35
    thefatgit on 5 Mar 2010 #

    I’m with LondonLee on this one. The “spanish” reference is the language of the lullaby and not the geographical origin. For me, the story is that of a latino islander missing her home, rather than a musical travelogue, which “Y Viva Espana” essentially is.

  36. 36
    swanstep on 5 Mar 2010 #

    @26, pink champale. Your and your friend’s lyrics are much better! I’d urge score(Domino dancing)= score(LIB)+2, so an 8 in my case (jolly good from the Pets that one).
    @29, Tom. What other examples of Latin-inflected, desperate 5th singles did SF-J have? (Was he thinking of britney/xtina period pop – which I don’t know that well – as following this pattern?) 5th singles from massive 1986/1987 albums included the delicious ‘Let’s wait awhile’ from Control, and ‘Red Rain’ from So. (Dress You Up was M’s fifth single from Like A Virgin, and Human Nature was the fifth single from Thriller. Now that’s more like it.)

    Actual #1 charting 5th singles are pretty jolly rare as someone said above – an album has to be truly ubiquitous (which True Blue wasn’t quite in my view) to do that. Prime suspects: Def Leppard’s Hysteria and Shania Twain’s Come On Over (produced by the same guy to the same thunderously ear-wormy specifications of course). I reckon the former’s ‘Love bites’ (which was a US #1) has to have been the most punishing (‘I canna take much more of this’) fifth+ hit of my lifetime (I remember feeling some relief when Hysteria’s sixth single and vid, ‘Rocket’ came out just because it at least meant ‘Love Bites’ would be given a rest!)

  37. 37
    tonya on 6 Mar 2010 #

    Britain vs America: Brits think it’s anticipating Balearic, but to this American it’s the Miami sound. You think she’s talking about Spain, I think she’s talking about the Caribbean. And you think the house in Rebecca is Mandalay, but I know it’s Manderley.

  38. 38
    Jonathan Bogart on 6 Mar 2010 #

    Cosign tonya.

    Madonna’s music has always had a vivid Puerto Rican/Cuban streak (if only in the busy percussion), at least until a certain something I’m sure is bunnyable which began her lamentable descent into Anglophilia. A significant chunk of the American pop audience speaks Spanish or has close relatives who do; taking inspiration from that audience and reflecting it back is generally a more significant priority for American pop stars than the feelings Britons have about package holidays.

  39. 39
    Tom on 6 Mar 2010 #

    Yes, but Madonna’s priorities making the song are not necessarily mine in reviewing it! (Or Punctum’s!) I don’t think anybody said “this is intentionally Madonna’s package holiday record” just that it happened to resonate that way for a UK audience (which is the audience I’m most interested in). And that this might have been a mechanism for it reaching #1 here as the 5th single on an album, because there’s a pattern of Brits buying that stuff. Though I did misattribute San Ped to the Med, so apologies for that.

    #37 Tonya I am 99.9% sure Pink S is making a pun with Mandalay/Manderley, and I’m envious of him for thinking it.

  40. 40
    Billy Smart on 6 Mar 2010 #

    For the authentic Iberian-themed Madonna narrative experience;


  41. 41
    Tom on 6 Mar 2010 #

    Though of course San Pedro is made up, so it can be off the Falkland Islands if anyone wants it to be. Having never been to Ibiza OR Belize I will take Lee’s word for it that it’s tonally off though. I disagree w/Tonya at #10 however – more made up geographies in pop please! (And in everything)

  42. 42
    AndyPandy on 6 Mar 2010 #

    Or we could just settle for “El Vino Collapso” by Black Lace which is definitely about Spain

  43. 43
    Jonathan Bogart on 6 Mar 2010 #

    And I thought Tonya was making a joke about the way rhotic v. non-rhotic dialects process the pun.

    No worries; of course everyone is free to like (or hate) records for any reason they want. And I don’t have an opinion one way or the other about LIB; I don’t think I’d even recognize it if I heard it unintentionally. Just plumping for Latin Pop as usual.

  44. 44
    swanstep on 6 Mar 2010 #

    @40 Billy Smart. That’s a lovely song and vid.. Can’t resist linking to the vid. for M’s next single (which Bjork and Nellee Hooper, who were shooting off sparks of creativity at this point, wrote for her). Talk about made-up geographies! ‘Let’s, let’s, let’s get unconscious, honey…/Traveling, leaving logic and reason/Traveling, to the arms of unconsciousness’.

  45. 45
    LondonLee on 6 Mar 2010 #

    #41: “Tonally off” to my ears anyway — and I was living in the UK when this came out – but as we’ve learned other people have different postcard pictures in mind when they hear it. I think I just thought it was too languid to be Spanish Spanish which I’ve always associated with frantic Flamenco foot-stomping and hand-clapping.

  46. 46

    i saw the film rebecca years before i read the book, so i heard it as mandalay before i discovered it wasn’t — except then i looked about a bit and it turns out “manderley” is indeed a variant spelling of mandalay! so we’re all correct, hurrah!

  47. 47
    admin on 6 Mar 2010 #

    in Lemon Jelly’s Ramblin Man there’s a long list of place names, and Mandalay is one of them. I originally thought it was Manderley and expected the lyrics to go into fictional place names (disneyland, narnia, former yugoslavia, hem hem), but no.

  48. 48
    JonnyB on 7 Mar 2010 #

    A watershed track for me – the first single that my little sister bought with her own money from the record shop. So instantly it was defined as rubbish for the teenage me, and it took another decade for me to get over this.

    Actually I think I like it now more than I like Madonna’s more widely – er – critically appreciated – tracks. I might give her a bell later on to apologise (my sister that is, not Madonna). 7.

  49. 49
    MikeMCSG on 8 Mar 2010 #

    #36 I make “Red Rain” only the fourth. Sledgehammer-Don’t Give Up- Big Time-RR -which one am I missing ?

  50. 50
    swanstep on 8 Mar 2010 #

    @49 MikeMCSG. ‘In your eyes’ was the other single from ‘So’ that I had in mind. According to wiki it wasn’t released as a single in the UK, but it charted in US, Can, and NZ. PG didn’t see fit to include it on his 1990 Shaking the tree greatest hits collection, which suggests that PG himself originally thought of it (as you evidently do) just as an album track.

    I should add that So was a massive album for me at the time. Apart from the Smiths I spent most of 1987 listening to So, Sign of the Times, Tallulah and David Sylvian’s Gone to Earth. All of these records still sound completely fantastic to me!

  51. 51
    pink champale on 8 Mar 2010 #

    #34 a pedant (who *has* been to belize) points out that lib is not tonally right for there either – (except for geographically) belize is basically a caribbean country (for a start it’s english speaking) that is all reggae, soca and carnival*, with not a flamenco guitar or fiesta in sight.

    *though oddly, the radio stations play mainly lovelorn c&w

  52. 52
    thefatgit on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Didn’t Madonna perform this with Eugene Hutz at Live Earth? It became a gypsified stomper with violins and lots of gypsy scat vocal insertions courtesy of Eugene. If anything it became less geographically focused and more global as a result. I think Gogol Bordello supported her on her Sticky & Sweet tour, so must have (guessing as I never attended any shows on that one) performed LIB together before.

  53. 53
    MikeMCSG on 8 Mar 2010 #

    #49 Thanks Swanstep. I note ,again from wiki, in those three countries it was released instead of Red Rain so it’s an alternative fourth rather than a fiftth single. I presume the record company thought the anti-nuclear message wouldn’t play so well in those territories. A few years earlier The Police released “Secret Journey” in the US as an alternative to “Invisible Sun” for similar reasons.
    More recently when I used to listen to Virgin for a bit in the 90s they completely ignored the Cranberries’s “Zombie” then played “Ode to My Family” to death a nit-picking piece of musical censorship.
    By the way you had good taste in 86 though I’m sure the ‘Gosh would be pleased to be placed in that pantheon !

  54. 54
    AndyPandy on 8 Mar 2010 #

    And “Human Nature” for some reason wasn’t a single in the UK (at least not in the 1980s).

    Mike @49: Shouldn’t they have just censored The Cranberries full stop…?

  55. 55
    Lex on 8 Mar 2010 #

    I have a feeling that I wouldn’t have liked this much at the time, what with the cheesy/lazy holiday tat level of the Latin signifiers, but as it is I’m rather fond of it; Tom is OTM about how it’s ripe for a Balearic re-edit, and it’s odd that none (that I know of) has yet happened, given Balearic producers’ penchant for kitsch corniness. (NB that’s Balearic as in the genre rather than a specific location.)

    Madonna’s had an oddly recurring fixation on Latino signifiers, usually in a romantic context, throughout her career; this, the flamenco guitar on “Deeper And Deeper”, probably a ton more that I forget, even on her last album there was a (terrible) track called “Spanish Lesson”, and on her last tour there was a (terrible) Spanish-themed section where she dressed up as a gypsy and her band played flamenco music. Tempting as it is to ascribe this to her playing on the package-holiday market mentioned at #38, I think it’s simpler – she just fetishises Latino men (see: a good proportion of her romantic liaisons). Which could well explain why her Latin excursions tend to feel so clichéd.

  56. 56
    Lex on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Also, it’s good to see those Bedtime Stories singles get some recognition (though unfortunate that none are bunnied): it’s such an underrated album, so plush and luxuriant and opulent and just gorgeous-sounding; kind of like a white-girl take on Sade drifting into trip-hop. And while it doesn’t sound as cold as its precursor, Erotica did – quite the opposite – its lyrics delve pretty deep into Madonna’s psyche and unearth a pretty bleak, hopeless side to her (see “Love Tried To Welcome Me” in particular), and probably for the only time in her career, her metaphysical musings actually sound genuinely odd and interesting rather than Kabbalistic clichés.

  57. 57
    Rory on 9 Mar 2010 #

    Only number six in Oz. I guess we didn’t have enough of a Latin connection down our end of the world. “La Isla Filipina” might have done it.

  58. 58
    Erithian on 9 Mar 2010 #

    My misheard lyric in this is “Last night I dreamt of Lumbago” – more Spike Milligan than Daphne du Maurier. Incidentally, beyond the evident similarity between the lyric and the opening sentence of the novel, is there any evidence that Madonna was consciously echoing “Rebecca”?

    It’s a minor work in the Madonna canon, maybe, but still a more than pleasant tune, and we can surely excuse her the way it sounds to British ears and any link to “Y Viva Espana”! – this being the year Miami Sound Machine went multi-platinum in the States, and with a Tex-Mex band soon to have a bunny-embargoed hit with a song previously huge for another Latino star, Madonna had a whole other tradition to plunder. (How rich that was, came across very well in BBC4’s “Latin Music USA” series not long ago.) Then again I can imagine what it must have sounded like on a Spanish beach.

  59. 59
    Lex on 9 Mar 2010 #

    Balearic re-edit found! Discovered this in my itunes randomly – it’s the Revenge Re-work, it can be streamed here, and I’m guessing I discovered it through this ILX thread. Mostly instrumental but makes really adept use of the original production’s constituent parts.

  60. 60
    swanstep on 9 Mar 2010 #

    @59, Lex. Thanks! The Revenge Rework mix (or whatever) is *great*. That’s an M.-fan *must hear* and probably a *must have* too I reckon.

  61. 61
    thefatgit on 9 Mar 2010 #

    @59, yep, that mix has got a nice laid back Balearic vibe.

  62. 62
    swanstep on 10 Mar 2010 #

    Heh, the Revenge Rework guy has a number of ace, smooth remixes, e.g., up on youtube, of (Chic/Sister Sledge’s) Lost in Music. Also, can’t recommend enough (again) this mixtapes blog (synth-pop this week, last week Belgian/new beat, next week Rave 1992).

  63. 63
    Lex on 10 Mar 2010 #

    On the thread I linked, the download link in this post for a zip of Revenge remixes (inc. this and “Lost In Music”) appears to still be working…

  64. 64
    swanstep on 10 Mar 2010 #

    @63, Lex. Yay, got it. Thanks!

  65. 65
    Brooksie on 15 Mar 2010 #

    I like this. Liked it then and like it now. I feel no need to criticise it for being faux Hispanic. I don’t expect authenticity from a pop star. It’s for others to do that. And as a Brit I never thought she was singing about Spain, nor did it feel Club 18-30 to me. It was a pop-ballad with some Latin stylistic elements.

    Also worth noting; Madonna frequently gets writing credits, but many of the songs seem to have been written and conceived by someone else before she got hold of them. You have to wonder just how much she added / took away.

    8 for me.

  66. 66
    Steviebab on 22 Nov 2013 #

    #last night I dreamt I’d lumbago…#

  67. 67
    hectorthebat on 1 Feb 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    Arizona Republic (USA) – Madonna’s 30 Best Singles of All Time (2013) 19
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1980s (2001) 101
    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 49

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