October 1982: Madonna Debuts with EVERYBODY

Thursday, October 6, 2022

October 6, 1982, is a monumental date not just in Madonna's history, but in the history of pop music at large. That's the day an aspiring singer out of Michigan released her very first single on Sire Records: a peppy dance track entitled "Everybody."

Madonna relocated to New York City in the late 1970s after two years spent studying dance at the University of Michigan: "New York wasn't everything I thought it would be. It did not welcome me with open arms," Madonna revealed to Harper's Bazaar in 2013. "The first year, I was held up at gunpoint. (Assaulted) on the roof of a building I was dragged up to with a knife in my back, and had my apartment broken into three times. I don't know why; I had nothing of value after they took my radio the first time."

Undaunted, Madonna pressed on, working a series of jobs to make a living, including posing as a nude model: "Staring at people staring at me naked. Daring them to think of me as anything but a form they were trying to capture with their pencils and charcoal. I was defiant. Hell-bent on surviving."

After working within the confines of a couple of bands (The Breakfast Club and Emmy and the Emmys), Madonna and drummer Stephen Bray put together a demo tape of four songs, including "Everybody." Making herself a regular at the local nightclubs, the singer made fast friends with DJ Mark Kamins at the club Danceteria. Convincing Kamins to give "Everybody" a spin in his DJ set, an overwhelmingly positive crowd response inspired him to help his new girlfriend get a record deal. With an A&R gig at Island Records, Kamins took the tune to label head, Chris Blackwell, who surprisingly passed on the project. Seymour Stein at Sire Records, however, was quick to sign Madonna, even though he was in process of going to the hospital for surgery.

"The series of events that brought Madonna to my hospital bed began months earlier when Mark Kamins started dropping hints," Stein shared with Variety in 2018. "Danceteria was still the number-one downtown club, and Mark was arguably New York’s hottest deejay. Unfortunately, he wasn’t making enough money and knew he had to broaden his professional horizons while he was in such demand. I told him flat out that no big artist would ever risk working with an unproven producer, even if he was New York’s hippest deejay. Like everyone else, he’d have to earn his stripes by finding nobodies and making them sound like stars."

Kamins accepted the challenge: "I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t been played this demo yet, so I arranged for my secretary to send the cassette into Lenox Hill Hospital, where I duly slotted it into my Sony Walkman," Stein recalled. "As penicillin dripped into my heart, I lay there and listened to Mark’s first find. I’m sure I was going nuts in that little room, but I immediately felt an excitement. I liked the hook, I liked Madonna’s voice, I liked the feel, and I liked the name Madonna. I liked it all and played it again. I never overanalyze or suck the life out of whatever I instinctively enjoy. I reached over and called up Mark. 'Can I meet you and Madonna?'"

Kamins brought the aspiring singer to Stein's hospital bed, where Madonna turned up the heat: "She was all dolled up in cheap punky gear, the kind of club kid who looked absurdly out of place in a cardiac ward," Stein laughed. "She wasn’t even interested in hearing me explain how much I liked her demo. 'The thing to do now,” she said, 'is sign me to a record deal.' She then opened her arms and laughed. 'Take me, I’m yours!' She was goofing around doing a Lolita routine because I was twice her age. Or maybe I really was smiling back at her like a dirty old man, because she didn’t take long to cut through all the small talk and go straight for the kill. Peering into the back of my head with those Madonna eyes, she said, 'And now, you give me the money.'"

Signing the singer to a three-single deal, Sire Records released "Everybody" in October 1982. The track was indeed a hit, climbing the charts to peak at #3 on the US Dance Club Songs chart, and reaching #7 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart. Madonna had officially arrived.