Without question, Patrick Leonard is the most prominent ex-bandmember of Trillion and is primarily known as a keyboard player, producer and songwriter in the early part of Madonna’s career. He began working with the Material Girl as the musical director for the 1985 tour for her second album, Like a Virgin. Unlike her first two albums, Madonna wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on her third album, True Blue. Five of these songs were co-written by Madonna and Leonard – including “Open Your Heart”, “Live to Tell” and “La Isla Bonita” – and a sixth song, “Where’s the Party” was co-written by Madonna, Leonard and Stephen Bray, the other producer on the album. Patrick Leonard continued working with Madonna on her next studio album, Like a Prayer – Leonard co-wrote more than one-half of the songs on this album as well, including “Cherish”, “Oh Father” and the title song “Like a Prayer” (which formed the basis of one of Madonna’s most controversial music videos). He was also heavily involved with two soundtrack albums for Who’s That Girl and Dick Tracy that were released in the same time period, Who’s That Girl and I’m Breathless: Music from and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy.
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Among individual female performers, Madonna is rightfully regarded as paving the way for a parade of brash young women, including a bumper crop in recent years: Britney Spears, Mylie Cyrus, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, etc.
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Opposition to the unfair imprisonment of two women in Pussy Riot became a cause célèbre of many Western celebrities plus musicians from every genre imaginable: Bryan Adams, Beastie Boys, the Black Keys, John Cale, Peter Gabriel, Green Day, Nina Hagen, Kathleen Hanna, Paul McCartney, Moby, Yoko Ono, Pet Shop Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Patti Smith, Sting, Pete Townshend, etc. Pussy Riot was featured on 60 Minutes as well.
For their part, the bandmembers in Pussy Riot that were not in prison distanced themselves from all of this attention and were quoted as saying: “We’re flattered, of course, that Madonna and Björk have offered to perform with us. But the only performances we’ll participate in are illegal ones. We refuse to perform as part of the capitalist system, at concerts where they sell tickets.”
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Particularly as performed in the version by Peggy Lee – who was previously best known for her hit “Fever” in the late 1950’s (with “Fever” later becoming probably the best known cover song by Madonna) – “Is That All There Is?” seems to come off like a 1940’s-style pop song.
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With the backing of Nigel Samuel (the 21-year-old son of a millionaire), the band’s debut album, Ptooff! was one of the first truly independent album releases and one of the earliest albums to come straight from the Counter-Culture – it was first sold through the British underground press and later became one of the earliest records on the venerable label Sire Records (home of Madonna, among many others) back when their releases were distributed by London Records (original home of the Rolling Stones, among many others). The album has been reissued at least four times, most recently in 2013.
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Andraé Crouch and the Los Angeles Church of God choir that he directed were prominently featured in the title song, “Like a Prayer” on Madonna’s Christian-themed album, Like a Prayer (1989). He also performed in the Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror” (1987).
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But before I get into all of that, let me share this appreciation for Prince that was posted by Nick Gillespie on reason.com as part of the best commentary on the PMRC that I have been able to find online. It is quite a bit more barbed than the mainstream accolades that you and I have been reading of late.
“More than Michael Jackson and arguably even more than Madonna — to name two other ’80s icons who challenged all forms of social convention in a pop-music setting — Prince took us all to a strange new place that was better than the one we came from. (In this, his legacy recalls that of David Bowie.)
“In the wake of the social progress of the past several decades, it’s hard to recapture how threatening the Paisley One once seemed, this gender-bender guy who shredded guitar solos that put Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton to shame while prancing around onstage in skivvies and high heels. He was funkier than pre-criminality Rick James and minced around with less shame and self-consciousness than Liberace. Madonna broke sexual taboos by being sluttish, which was no small thing; but as a fey black man who surrounded himself with hotter-than-the-sun lady musicians, [Prince] was simultaneously the embodiment of campy Little Richard and that hoariest of White America boogeymen, the hypersexualized black man.”
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The infamous Filthy Fifteen, along with the reasons for their inclusion on the list, follow. Not only is Prince listed first on the list, he was also the songwriter for #2, “Sugar Walls”; and Vanity, at #4, is a one-time Prince protegé.
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Rolling Stone’s article provides reflections from some of the rock artists involved in the PMRC controversy. From what I know of her, Vanity was even more over-the-top than Madonna when it comes to sexuality. She is now a born-again Christian and says of her musical career: “I was young and irresponsible, a silly woman laden with sin, not caring for anything except fame and fortune and self.”
Although quite religious in her own way, Madonna has a different take: “I like to provoke; it’s in my DNA. But nine times out of 10, there’s a reason for it.”
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One of the hallmarks of the bandmembers in early punk rock
bands is picking new names for themselves. Not everyone did that, and most musicians perform under their own names. For the record, as best I can tell, Frank Zappa
, Fats Domino, Major Lance, Kris Kristofferson, and Stonewall Jackson are using their real names (with Fats being a nickname, though Major and Stonewall are not). Grace Slick is her married name; she was born Grace Wing. Most though not all of the one-name performers are also using one of their real names, with slight spelling changes and anglicizing here and there: Madonna, Prince, Jewel, Cher, Björk, Enya, Beck, Donovan, Morrissey, Liberace, Sade, Seal, Shakira, Rihanna, Adele, Dido, Melanie, Beyoncé, etc.
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The post on Trillion in particular was long because this band is/was chock-full of extremely talented musicians that included Patrick Leonard, one of the major forces behind Madonna’s incredible musical career – and that was just the beginning. In my mind, this band is second only to Wendy Waldman as the most unexpected absence from having a Wikipedia article (the sole criterion I have for marking Under-Appreciated status). The only reason that it wasn’t even longer is that I had already discussed guitarist Frank Barbalace as a member of previous UARB Wild Blue.
(Year 3 Review)