50 moments that changed the History of Rock & Roll
Fifty years ago, on the Fourth of July, three men got together to rehearse some songs they planned to record the next evening, a Monday. One of them was a nineteen-year-old Memphis truck driver named Elvis Presley. There is no one who doesn’t know what happened next.
Moments like this – the turning point in rock & roll – are what we chose to celebrate in the second of our three special issues devoted to the fiftieth anniversary of rock & roll.
Rolling Stone dedicates its June issue to the 50 moments that changed the History of Rock & Roll, and here is, of course, Madonna.
Madonna at the VMAs in 1984
People were gasping in the audience,” says Madonna‘s longtime publicist, Liz Rosenberg, of the star’s “Like a Virgin” at the first-ever MTV Video Music Awards, in 1984. “An ex-boyfriend of mine leaned over and said, ‘Her career is over before it even started.’ Of course, I was petrified.”
Madonna wore a lascivious reinterpretation of a wedding gown – a white bustier and a shredded white tutu – accessorized with lace gloves, dangerously high heels, clunky necklaces and a tulle veil that didn’t stay on her head very long.
She started her performance dancing on top of a giant wedding cake and ended it by rolling around the stage at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, humping her veil and revealing her panties to a live TV audience. “Madonna took it so much further than anyone knew she was capable of,” says Rosenberg. “Some people thought she was the greatest thing ever, and other people thought she was disgusting.”
Huey Lewis, who also performed that night, says he admired Madonna’s nerve. “She didn’t just have the idea on the spur of the moment,” he says. “She had practiced it at rehearsal. It was thought-out, and it turned out to be a history-making performance. She knew what was going on with the medium of television, and we clearly didn’t.”
The three-year-old MTV network wanted to set itself apart from staid awards shows such as the Grammys. It worked. “We were looking to produce a show that reflected MTV’s image and went against the grain,” says Infinity radio chairman John Sykes, who was the executive producer of the first VMAs. “We were like kids discovering all these hydraulic lifts and stage devices in Radio City. We were working all these cool effects, but when Madonna walked out and began writhing on the floor in a wedding dress, I’ll never forget the look on our advertisers’ and affiliates’ faces in the front row. We felt some heat the next day, but nobody told us we shouldn’t have done it.”
In twenty-three years, MTV’s viewership has grown from a subscriber base of 2.5 million to 375 million, and the budget for the VMAs is eight times what it was in 1984. What hasn’t changed is the ongoing attempt to match the shock value of that first broadcast. Only a few came close: Howard Stern in assless stretch pants as “Fart Man” in 1992, the kiss Michael Jackson and then-wife Lisa Marie Presley shared in 1994 and, most recently, the reprise of “Like a Virgin” at last year’s ceremony that culminated with Madonna slipping tongue to Britney Spears. “After the Madonna performance in year one, we all knew we had to put at least one moment like that into the show to give it the ‘oh, wow’ factor,” says Sykes. “That became part of the planning from that point on. What would be the moment picked up around the country the next day?”
Source: Rolling Stone.com