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Into The Groove: The Story Behind Madonna’s Floor-Filling Song
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In Depth

Into The Groove: The Story Behind Madonna’s Floor-Filling Song

The best-selling of Madonna’s many UK hits, Into The Groove helped ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ become one of the 80s’ most iconic movies.

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Released at the start of the Madonna-mania storm of 1985, Into The Groove represents the pivot point of the pop icon’s stellar career – the moment when her fame exploded across the planet. Many international audiences first heard the song when she performed it during her set at the Philadelphia leg of the legendary Live Aid concert. Perfectly scheduled – particularly for UK viewers – for prime-time Saturday-night TV, this now-signature classic had a surprising genesis.

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Dancefloor escapism with an emotional rush

Work on the Like A Virgin album, produced by Nile Rodgers, had finished in 1984, but the continuing success of songs from Madonna’s self-titled debut album meant Like A Virgin’s release was delayed in order to allow singles such as Lucky Star to finally burn out. Meanwhile, Madonna was still writing material as her attention turned to her first major movie role, in Desperately Seeking Susan. A scene filmed at the Danceteria nightclub, in New York City, needed a song for the extras to perform to, and so the sequence featuring Madonna and her late co-star, Mark Blum, was recorded using a demo that she had to hand.

That demo was Into The Groove, and the original plan had been to pass the song to Mark Kamins, the producer of her first single, Everybody, to record with Cheyne (aka Cheyne Anderson), an up-and-coming dance act he was working with. (Cheyne would go on to top the US dance charts with Call Me Mr Telephone (Answering Service) and also contribute a cover of Private Joy, a cut from Prince’s Controversy record, to the Weird Science soundtrack.)

Outperforming its early promise

Released on 15 July 1985, Into The Groove entered the UK charts at No.4. A week later, on 3 August, it unseated Eurythmics’ There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Hear) to claim the top spot and become the first of a record-breaking run of Madonna No.1s which would continue into the first decade of the 21st century with Hung Up, Sorry and her Justin Timberlake duet, 4 Minutes. Over time, Into The Groove would become Madonna’s best-selling UK single, shifting close to a million copies across that first year, and accumulating tens of millions of streams (and counting) in the digital era. Back in 1985, the song was added to a reissue of the Like A Virgin album in some markets, including the UK, where, claiming its place among the best Madonna albums, Like A Virgin would finally top the charts in September – almost a year after it had first come out.

Even greater success for Into The Groove came on the dance circuit – the track would top US club listings and become a perennial go-to cut for party DJs. The first official rework of the song came from Shep Pettibone, on the 1987 remix album You Can Dance, and the producer would remodel it again for Madonna’s phenomenally successful hits compilation, The Immaculate Collection, which was issued in 1990. Pettibone’s legendary You Can Dance Remix Edit is now almost as familiar as the original single release, and was picked for the tracklist of Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones, the 6LP remix collection celebrating Madonna’s extraordinary career.

The true coronation of the “Queen Of Pop”

In 2003, Madonna would re-edit the song into a mash-up with her then-new single, Hollywood, with a guest rap from Missy Elliott; a Passengerz Mix of this version, by Josh Harris and Omar Galeano, made that same year’s Remixed & Revisited collection. But it’s in the live arena that Into The Groove continues to truly evolve: the song has made the setlist of six of her marathon tours across the years, including on the 2015-2016 Rebel Heart Tour, in a medley with Dress You Up and Lucky Star.

For a song written on a fire escape about a “gorgeous Puerto Rican boy” Madonna had spied, and first considered as a throwaway tune for another artist, then pegged as background music for a movie, Into The Groove has certainly outperformed its early promise, and it is now rightly regarded as one of the best Madonna songs of all time. Celebrating dancefloor escapism, its lyrics spoke to all manner of liberations and sealed Madonna’s reputation as an act with an almost unparalleled instinct for capturing an emotional rush that could be packaged into a perfect chart-bound single. These glorious four minutes and 44 seconds represent the true coronation of the world’s reigning “Queen Of Pop”.

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