Madonna’s Tale of the Tape

As Madonna and her now very much soon-to-be ex-husband, Guy Ritchie, ready their phalanx of upper-crust lawyers to battle over Madge’s $600 million estate, isn’t it the perfect time for a little reminder of the Material Girl’s humble beginnings? Andrew Morton, Madonna’s trusted biographer, certainly thinks so. Yesterday, Tina Brown’s Daily Beast posted what they described as audio from a home recording of the pop-singer dating to the time she spent living in the basement of a Queens synagogue 27 long years ago. (Ah ha! Now we know where her Kabbalah obsession comes from.) These “lost tapes” were recorded by Madonna’s roommate Ed Gilroy, brother to Madonna’s then-boyfriend, Dan. “It is sweet and raw,” Morton says of the recording. “It signifies to me how far she has come, a reminder of the explosion of talent.”

It may be “sweet”—at one point, Madonna implores Dan to stop picking his nose before asking, “Well, my butt’s itchy. Should I start itching it?” But it’s far from “raw.” The nearly four-minute clip is heavily edited and liberally interspersed with Madonna’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame speech earlier this year. The whole affair feels loaded with self-mythology (which, all things considered, isn’t particularly surprising), as if Madonna and her handlers couldn’t let a snippet of audio out into the world without referencing the cosmic force she has become. In fact, the whole itchy butt bit is introduced with one of Madonna’s ubiquitous Talmud quotes: “For every blade of grass there’s an angel that watches over it and whispers ‘grow, grow.’”

Still, it’s a treat to hear the first song Madonna ever wrote, “Tell the Truth,” after practicing the four guitar chords her boyfriend taught her “over and over and over again.” And her stuff wasn’t bad, neither; much of its sounds like Chrissie Hynde or Debbie Harry trying to record their own Exile in Guyville—which, now that we think about it, neatly describes Madge’s own predicament at the moment.

Madonna’s Tale of the Tape