Madonna’s Like A Virgin At 35

Madonna’s Like A Virgin At 35

Madonna performing on The Virgin Tour, 1985. Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns.

It’s easy to forget just how ground-breaking Madonna’s second LP Like A Virgin truly was, especially when compared with the overflow of excessive, defiant and sexually charged releases we are bombarded with today. But, 35 years ago, when the album was first released it undeniably changed the course of pop history. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, one could say we were all ‘like a virgin’ until the bravado-packed pop album broke all the rules and touched us all for the very first time. 

Although the disco genius himself, Chic's Nile Rodgers served as producer on the record, he is the first to proclaim that it was Madonna making the boss moves here. And a look back at her live performances that followed pretty much proves the point. There’s nothing manufactured here, she goes beyond shock value to embody the spirit of freedom, almost challenging anyone to defy her because what she let out of the box could never be put back in. It didn’t matter if she was banned, censored or silenced forevermore, once the seed was planted and the spark of liberation ignited, it was only ever going to grow. 

So, to celebrate 35th years since this triumph of power here’s a look back over some of Madonna's greatest live moments from the time that show us, not just how she earned the moniker ‘Queen of Pop’, but why she stills wears the crown all these years later.

Madonna | “Like A Virgin” [Live MTV VMAs 1984]

Madonna debuted the LP’s title single "Like a Virgin" at the first MTV Video Music Awards on September 14, 1984. She appeared on stage atop a giant wedding cake dressed in a wedding dress, adorned with the infamous ‘Boy Toy’ belt buckle and veil. The climax of the performance finds her mimicking risqué acts and rolling, uninhibited around the stage, simultaneously lost in her own moment and extremely aware of exactly what she's doing. The performance is (understandably) noted as one of the most iconic performances in MTV's history.

The LP's pinnacle of success came with Madonna's first North American headline tour. ‘The Virgin Tour’ escalated to arena-sized venues thanks to overwhelmingly strong ticket sales – apparently, everyone wanted to see this live show in action! The wild performance was topped off with new wave fashion and playful audience banter that made everyone feel like they were part of the show. By the end of it, Like A Virgin had sold over five million copies, making her the first female artist in history to do so.  

Madonna | “Material Girl” [The Virgin Tour] [1985]

In this 1985 performance of “Material Girl” from the ‘The Virgin Tour,’ Madonna asks the audience, “Do you think that I’m a material girl? Well, you're wrong. I’m not a material girl,” she announces, while tossing (presumably fake) cash into the crowd of eager fans. “It’s been nothing but trouble! I don’t need money, it’s the root of all evil! I don’t need money – I need love,” proving that, deep down, she’s human after all. 

Madonna | “Crazy For You” [The Virgin Tour] [1985]

When it comes time for a ballad, Madonna asks the crowd, “Do you mind if I sit down?” Before crooning "Crazy For You" as comfortably as you might imagine she would from her bedroom floor at home. But as her voice soars over the powerfully intimate track, it's a stark reminder of the arena-sized setting.

Madonna | “Into The Groove” [Live Aid 1985]

“Alright people of the world. Are you ready? Are you ready to get into the groove?” There really isn’t a more confident call to arms than that! If performing in front of 10,000 people made her scared in the slightest, Madge certainly didn’t let it show. She delivers the dance floor hit that she wrote herself while looking on at a handsome Puerto Rican neighbour working out across the balcony with sheer bravado to the never-ending sea of people. One can’t help but wonder if the subject ever knew just what an epic moment he inspired!

If you really want to get into the groove, here’s the full concert recording of Madonna’s 1985 ‘The Virgin Tour’. 

Madonna | The Virgin Tour [1985] [Full Concert]

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