Saturday Songs #23: Into the Groove – Madonna

Many of music’s greatest songs carry great weight. Some make you think (Suzanne Vega’s Luka, say, or Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful). Some seem to represent an entire generation (Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit). And some just make you want to get up and dance.

Unless you have two left feet like me. I retreat to the bar and just tap my foot energetically to avoid public embarrassment. I aspire to ‘dad dancing’. In truth, what I do on a dance-floor is more akin to an arthritic elephant combined with Ed Balls on Strictly. Less Murder on the Dancefloor than Suicide on the Dancefloor.

Anyhow.

I was part of a panel session at a work conference recently. As an ice-breaker, our moderator decided to ask us what our favourite song by certain musicians were. I was asked for my favourite Madonna track. After one of those moments of mind-blanking panic that seems to last for hours but was actually about half a second, I responded with Into the Groove.

Having had several weeks to reflect on this, I think I would still give the same answer. Although La Isla Bonita would run a close second.

It’s not an obvious choice, I think. It isn’t the breakthrough classic that Like A Virgin was. It isn’t as memorably controversial as Like A Prayer. Or as iconic as Vogue.

What it is, however, is arguably the definitive Madonna dance track. (Yes, even more so than Vogue or Ray of Light.) Billboard magazine, who know a thing or two about music, named it the Dance Single of the Decade at the end of the 1980s. It frequently features in the top three or four of lists of favourite Madonna songs and in the top 20 of Eighties selections.

Funnily enough, it didn’t chart in the US on its release in 1985. It was squirreled away as the B-side of the 12-inch single of Angel to avoid crowding the market. But when it was released in the UK, where Madonna had had five top-five singles without recording a number one, it shot straight to the top spot, giving her the first of (to date) 13 UK chart-toppers.

When a previous single, Holiday, was subsequently rush-released, it was held off the top spot only by Groove, making Madonna the first female solo artist in UK chart history to occupy the top two spots simultaneously.

The song is taken from the soundtrack of the film Desperately Seeking Susan, in which Madonna co-starred opposite Rosanna Arquette. (One for trivia fans: it’s commonly assumed that the Toto song Rosanna was written about Arquette, who was dating the band’s keyboard player Steve Porcaro at the time. The band have repeatedly stated that this was just a coincidence. Believe who you like.)

In that way that the mind does, Into the Groove is indelibly linked with the summer of 1985. I can’t remember much of what I did that summer – a family holiday to Cornwall, some other random stuff – but I vivdly remember the music that provided a memorable soundtrack to a less memorable summer. It’s my personal golden era of pop music, the one I most often find myself transported back to in idle moments.

I mean, look at this. These were the ten songs that topped the UK singles chart between June and November of 1985:

  • The Power Of Love – Jennifer Rush
  • There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart) – Eurythmics
  • Into The Groove – Madonna
  • I Got You Babe – UB40 featuring Chrissie Hynde
  • Dancing In The Street – David Bowie & Mick Jagger
  • If I Was – Midge Ure
  • A Good Heart – Feargal Sharkey
  • Saving All My Love For You – Whitney Houston
  • I’m Your Man – Wham!
  • West End Girls – Pet Shop Boys

Not too shabby, eh? Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some foot-tapping to do …

Saturday Songs

#1: Pretty in Pink – Psychedelic Furs

#2: West End Girls – Pet Shop Boys

#3: Cruel Summer – Bananarama

#4: Disco 2000 – Pulp

#5: Don’t Leave Me This Way – The Communards

#6: A Moment Like This – Kelly Clarkson

#7: Right Here Right Now – Fatboy Slim

#8: Take On Me – a-ha

#9: Country House – Blur

#10: Manic Monday – The Bangles

#11: Love Shack – The B-52’s

#12: True Faith – New Order

#13: Rehab – Amy Winehouse

#14: Flashdance … What A Feeling – Irene Cara

#15: 99 Red Balloons – Nena

#16: Luka – Suzanne Vega

#17: Beautiful – Christina Aguilera

#18: Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

#19: Word Crimes – Weird Al Yankovic

#20: Holding Out for a Hero – Bonnie Tyler

#21: Turn the Beat Around – Vicki Sue Robinson

#22: November Rain – Guns N’ Roses

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