It’s a big anniversary today for Madonna fans – today marks the 31st anniversary of The First Album. I just love this album, one of the finest debut albums ever by a pop/electronic artist. All of the songs on the album do sound very similar and it’s Madonna’s least varied album, but there’s something irresistible about those scrappy and raw synths. And it’s got bucket-loads of charm and energy to boot. I far prefer it to Like A Virgin (my least favorite Madonna album). ‘Holiday’ and ‘Borderline’ still stand up as two of the definitive classics of the 80s and two of Madonna’s best singles. However, my favorite track on The First Album is ‘Physical Attraction’. It’s the first underrated Madonna gem and the best album track from her first three albums. It would have done brilliantly as a single I think. Whilst it seems to be a pretty popular song with fans, it’s never featured on any of her tours. On Youtube there’s just a few early performances in clubs recorded in 1983. I would love to see more of The First Album performed on tour actually – Holiday has featured heavily on her set-lists over the years but I think it’s time to hear something like ‘Everybody’ again or the aforementioned ‘Physical Attraction’. Honestly – I don’t think that will happen, which is a shame because The First Album still stands up really well after all these years.
Following the release of Xscape, I’ve been rediscovering my love for Michael Jackson’s other unreleased songs and demos, of which there are many lost gems. One in particular that stands out is the demo version of ‘P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing) which surpasses the Thriller version. The two songs sound very different with only the title providing any real link between them. The original version was co-written by Michael Jackson and Greg Phillinganes although Quincy Jones rejected it and co-wrote a new version along with James Ingram. A bizarre decision which is underscored by the popularity of the demo. The released version of ‘P.Y.T’ is a slice of frothy pop-funk which does sound very much of its time. It’s an enjoyable dance number though it’s still one of Thriller’s weaker offerings. In its original form it’s a slick mid-tempo ballad, something that Michael Jackson excelled at. This version of ‘P.Y.T’ would definitely have held its own on Thriller. The sleek production has also aged immeasurably better than the final released version. It’s better than the final version in every way really and it still sounds fresh. If Justin Timberlake recorded vocals over the original demo and released it right now, it’d be a smash hit. It’s little wonder that Will.I.Am’s 2008 remix of ‘P.Y.T’ for Thriller 25 was actually based on the demo and not the final version given that it still sounds contemporary. Thankfully the demo version itself was officially released on 2004’s The Ultimate Collection along with other rarities. To this listener though, it’s simply sheer madness that it wasn’t released in 1982 when it should have been.