The Material Girl shows off her punk rock chops on early, pre-fame demo tapes.
Die-hard Madonna fans probably already know that she briefly fronted a punk-pop band in her early years as a struggling dancer and musician. But for the rest of us, hearing these old punk rock demo tapes offers a fresh perspective on the Queen of Pop, and a better of understanding of what was going on in the punk rock scene of late 1970’s NYC.
It turns out that way back in 1979, Madonna was dating a musician named Dan Gilroy, who was the lead singer in an early punk/new-wave band called The Breakfast Club. The two of them lived together in an old, converted synagogue in Queens, NY. During this time, Gilroy was trying to get his band going, while Madonna was trying, unsuccessfully, to become a professional dancer. Gilroy taught Madonna how to play drums and some basic chords on guitar. Turns out she really took to playing drums, practicing all day while Gilroy and his brother worked day shifts waiting tables.
It wasn’t long before Madonna graduated from drums and guitar to singing, writing lyrics, and composing her own songs. Pretty soon, Dan Gilroy and his brother Ed brought in Madonna to front The Breakfast Club, and record demos of her songs. Ed Gilroy refers to these early recordings as the “Lost Madonna Tapes”. According to him, the first song they recorded together was “Trouble“:
Madonna recalls it differently, saying that “Tell the Truth” was the first song she wrote and recorded:
While these are both great listens, where Madonna’s explosive talent really shines through is on the opening track of this “album” of The Breakfast Club, “Shit On The Ground/Safe Neighborhood“, which absolutely RIPS:
It’s hard to believe just how good Madonna sounds here on a punk rock track. Her vocal delivery after such a short time singing is already more nuanced and powerful than a lot of punk rock vocalists ever achieve, even after decades. Can you imagine how great it must have been to see The Breakfast Club playing one of their early gigs at Max’s Kansas City or CBGB?
While I’m not much of a fan of “docu-drama” style movies, about the closest thing we’ll ever get to seeing Madonna front a punk band in late 1970’s NYC is the movie “Madonna and The Breakfast Club”, which was released in 2019.