Deep Dive: Madonna, CRAZY FOR YOU

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

While making the high school coming-of-age movie Vision Quest back in the mid-1980s, producers Jon Peters and Peter Gruber tapped songwriters Jon Lind and John Bettis to write a song for it. After Madonna won over musical director Phil Ramone, she was pegged to record the song. The songwriters were skeptical.

"We were noodling around and 'Crazy for You' was something that Jon was singing over that section of the song. It was really descriptive of the scene in the film," Bettis said in The Billboard Book of #1 Hits. "After that, I was out on vacation out in the desert and [Warner Bros exec Joel Sill] called and said Phil Ramone was in love with the song and wanted to cut it on Madonna. [Laughing] 'Borderline' was out at that time and I said, 'Excuse me? This is for Madonna? Really? Can she sing a song like this?' Jon and I were surprised at the choice of artist at the time, if you want to know the truth."

A trip to one Madonna's recording sessions did little to quell the songwriters' fears: "We went to one of the sessions, and to be honest, that particular session did not go all that well," Bettis admitted. "Jon and I were depressed about the way the song had come out. We heard nothing else about it and we were a little nervous that the song was going to be dropped from the picture."

Producer John "Jellybean" Benitez was overseeing the project, and re-recorded the track with the help of composer Rob Mounsey, who would rework the arrangement: "The song was recorded live. It was the first time that I produced a live session, as opposed to having synthesizers and drum machines do everything," Benitez told The Billboard Book of #1 Hits. "I was tense because I had never done a record like this. [...] Everything I did was totally on instinct. I tried to make the song stand on its own, but at the same time work in the two scenes in which it was used in the movie." The final result would be a winner, with even songwriter Bettis admitting, "We owe a big debt of gratitude to [Mounsey]. He really made a hit record out of [the song]."

While Warner Bros was nervous about releasing the song as a single, since at the time Madonna was big on the dance charts, a power struggle within the label resulted in "Crazy for You" being issued as a single on March 2, 1985. After debuting on the Hot 100 at #55, it would sail up the charts before clocking in as Madonna's second #1 hit over the week of May 11, 1985 ("Like a Virgin" was her first). It was a chart battle, as the song had to fight the massive "We Are the World" charity single by USA for Africa, which had owned the top spot for weeks.

"Crazy for You" went to earn Madonna her very first Grammy nomination, landing in the category for Best Female Vocal Pop Performance at the 1986 Grammy Awards. The prize went to Whitney Houston for "Saving All My Love for You."