I didn’t realize that today was the 30th anniversary of the release of Madonna’s third album, True Blue, until I started reading about it all over the blogosphere. So I guess I’m kind of late to the party, but I couldn’t let this day go by without saying something about this record.
The thing I always say about True Blue is how it’s the first Madonna album I experienced in real-time. Having been a fan since roughly the point of “Material Girl,” my fledgling Madonna fandom had yet to explode into the all-consuming fire that it is now. But in spring of 1986, “Live To Tell” hit and it was, in retrospect, the first time when Madonna really leveled up. Gone were the chirpy vocals and dance beats and in their place was a ballad sung in the deeper part of Madonna’s register. I remember it not making a terrible impact on me right away, but it eventually wormed its way into my brain and it’s been there ever since.
But even that could not prepare us for the onslaught that was “Papa Don’t Preach.” I’ll admit, when I first heard the title of the song, I thought it was going to be a song about how Madonna’s father was not a minister. But this ode to teenage pregnancy (that has not aged as well for me as it has for other fans) became inescapable that summer, on the radio and on MTV, where they world premiered the video at the top of every hour for 24 hours one Saturday in June. I probably watched it at least 12 of those times.
True Blue was probably released shortly after that – the date of the world premiere of the video is lost to my memory – but it wasn’t until the end of July that I finally picked up the album. During my hometown’s Ridiculous Days, a day when the downtown stores moved merchandise out into the streets at “ridiculous prices” – I was shopping inside the record department of the local department store and was going to buy both the “Live To Tell” and “Papa Don’t Preach” singles, when my brother showed me that they had the True Blue album. It was $9.49, a price I found exorbitant, but I bought it anyway. Clearly, True Blue was not included in the Ridiculous Days sale.
It quickly went on to define the summer of 1986. It was a magical summer for me because it was the first time in my life that I really paid attention to popular music and the charts. I would listen to the radio, recording songs from countdown shows and writing down the top ten every week, eventually transitioning it to a word processing document by the spring of 1987. It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered that I was not alone in this effort. Music nerds everywhere were doing the same thing – we just didn’t have the internet to find each other like we do now. It was during that summer that I learned to really love music because it brought me so much joy. It still does to this very day.
I never did get the “Live To Tell” and “Papa Don’t Preach” 45s, although I bought the rest of the singles as they were released. I did manage to acquire them a year or two ago via a friend who shares my passion for both Madonna and vinyl.
My original True Blue album is still around, with scratches and scuffs from years of play. In 2014, I found this 100% unofficial but 100% cool clear vinyl pressing of True Blue.
And then who can forget when I Photoshopped my face into the True Blue album cover for my annual year-end best-of CD?
Last but not least, Madonna included “True Blue” in her Rebel Hear Tour last year, marking the song’s first live performance in 28 years. It was worth the wait.
Happy birthday, True Blue. There’s a lot of memory packed into your 9 songs.