MadonnaTribe meets Ed Steinberg
On October 6th, 1983 Sire Records released the first ever Madonna single, “Everybody.”
To celebrate this 30th anniversay the MadonnaTribe team hooked up with Ed Steinberg, who was in charge of the video for the song, and therefore became the first ever Madonna video director. We invite you to take a walk down memory lane with us. Let the dee-jay shake you, let the music take you…
MT: Hi Ed and welcome to MadonnaTribe. This October the fans will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of Madonna’s first ever single “Everybody” and we are pleased to have a chat with you, the director of the video for that song and the first ever Madonna video.
So what is your first memory of meeting Madonna, how did it happen?
ES: Late 1980, I was shooting a music video for the NY group Konk when I had to ask the Assistant Director to ask a very assertive dancer(M) and her partner (Martin B) to let some of the other dancers get to be in front of my camera. She was possibly the best dancer at David’s Loft where we were shooting but we wanted other dancers.
MT: How did you get involved as the director of “Everybody“?
ES: A few months after I directed the Konk video shoot, Michael Rosenblatt, A&R at Sire Records asked me to dinner with M to discuss shooting a video for her EP on Warner Bros.
MT: The video is rumored to have cost $1,500. Compared to what label records were spending on other artist that was particularly low budget…
ES: At the time, I was making music videos for $12,000-$25,000.
MT: Did you have problems getting a bigger budget?
ES: In fact, outside of Craig Kostich, head of Promotions at WB and Seymour Stein, President of Sire not many of the Warner people had a lot of faith in M. Which is why she was only given a very small EP deal. I heard the advance was $7,000. Rumor? Sure, true, probably. It was supposed to be for an in-house video to show the Warner people just whom M was. Remember her EP had an illustration by Martin Burgoyne, didn’t feature M on the cover. Just a street scene. I was asked to shoot a video for $1,000. I asked for $1,500 and was told sure, it was OK but never got the extra $500.
A few years later, Seymour Stein and Freddie Demann were having drinks at my loft — it was a few days before M opened on Broadway in Speed-the-Plow. I mentioned the $500 to Freddie and he immediately reached into his pocket to give me the cash. He told me to stop kvetching about it. I told him, no thanks- I didn’t really want the money. I just liked to be able to tell this story and kvetch about it..
MT: How long did it take to film the video?
ES: The video took just a day. M was on time as were two of her three dancers, Baggs and Erica. Since she had only two of her three dancers, she had to rebloc her choreography on the spot.
While other dancer would have been vexed by this, M just rebloced and got on with it. Debi M, now even more famous for her great acting in “Entourage”, was M’s makeup artist…
MT: How many takes did you do?
ES: I believe we shot the song 30+ times, maybe more. M and her two dancers (the third never showed) kept up the pace. They were amazingly tireless…
MT: Apparently the video was originally planned to be shot at Danceteria, the club in which Madonna met Mark Kamins and gave him her four track demo tape.
Then legend says you suggested it was better to shoot it at the Paradise Garage club in New York. Can you tell us more of what happened?
ES: I believe between the timing of the shoot and the ‘vibe’ of the location, Paradise Garage was better suited the song and M. It could have been M who arranged it but I can’t remember. It was a good and appropriate environment because “Everybody” was the critical link between the disco age and the New Wave or DOR (Dance Oriented Rock) age in NYC that Madonna bridged. Although some say it was Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, I feel Madonna’s “Everybody” was the make a clear connection from disco to Rock. And besides, possibly the best DJ in NY (America?) Larry L the DJ/owner was always great with us.
MT: The video is basically a choreographed performance. Who came up with that concept?
ES: M did it all. Although it was originally choreographed for three dancers. Remember she was dancing professionally for some time before this.
MT: Along with Michael Jackson, Madonna defined the concept of “music video” in the ’80s and went on putting out amazing videos for three decades. As the director of her first video, could you feel at the time her big potential?
ES: It was clear from the minute you met her, M was a force to be reckoned with.
She knew what she wanted and she got it. Confidence, drive and intelligence – and moxey.
MT: It is said that you helped Madonna with your company Rockamerica, distributing the clip to clubs all across the U.S. that were showing music videos, so it seems you were happy with the result of your work on that clip. This probably helped the track becoming popular club hit nationwide and not only in New York, right?
ES: The company, Rockamerica, made a number of music videos and had the first ‘video pool’ for club DJ’s. Started in 1979, by 1981 we had about 600+ nightclubs and bars across the US and Canada. We reached over 2 million club people a week. That’s 20 time more people then MTV for its first few years.
With the release of ‘Everybody’, the world know knew two things #1 M was a great performer/singer and #2 – She was white.
MT: I’ve read that author Douglas Kellner in his book “Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity, and Politics Between the Modern and the Postmodern” – long title yes! – noted that Madonna in her Everybody video was already “deploying fashion, sexuality and the construction of an individual image to present herself both as an alluring sex object and as a transgressor of established norms”.
Do you agree with that? do you think that on the set she was really so selfconscious to use that clip to build the bases of her Iconic status?
ES: In an interview with Playboy or maybe the NY Times, I was quoted as saying that M was purveying not only music and dance but she was showing the women of America how to dress. “Everybody” was the last of her ‘grunge/street’ look.
But soon afterwards the image of her wearing undergarments as stage wear changed teenage girls wardrobe for good. M has been absolutely the leading role model for young girls who wanted to do it themselves. Women who didn’t want to be second to a man and women who had the courage to do it their way.
MT: You also remixed other Madonna videos for Warner. Can you tell us more about that?
ES: I had been the exclusive video remixer for most of the Warner Bros music videos for some time. When we did our first M remix, it was such a success that we did most of them. We did “Vogue“, “Don’t Cry for me Argentina“, “Like a Prayer“, “Secret“, and a few others. But when we did “Bedtime Story“, MTV decided to have their first live remix video remix at Webster Hall in NYC.
It was the first and grandest remix special and it was a blast.
MT: How did your work with Rockamerica evolve and which are you working on now?
ES: I sold Rockamerica in 2005 and now shoot videos for other rockstars, music supervise feature films and write songs for a new musical.
MT: Do you have a fondest memory of the time you spent with Madonna?
ES: She came to my annual Christmas party at my loft with our friend, Maripol. She wore a large hat and sunglasses but as soon as she realized the place was filled with many of her friends she had fun. But M needed to leave rather early – as she told me she worked out early in the morning.
MT: Thanks for stopping by at MadonnaTribe, Ed. Congratulations on the “Everybody” anniversary and all the best for your ongoing and future projects!