Saturday, April 22, 1989

Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” hit #1

Like a Prayer


Writer(s): Patrick Leonard, Madonna (see lyrics here)

Released: February 27, 1989

First Charted: March 10, 1989

Peak: 13 US, 13 CB, 13 GR, 13 RR, 3 AC, 20, RB, 134 CN, 14 AU (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.1 US, 0.85 UK, 5.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 356.87 video, 335.13 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Madonna’s return to the Billboard Hot 100 charts after a nearly year-and-a-half absence was marked by her third collaboration on a #1 song with Patrick Leonard. He had also worked on her hits “Live to Tell” and “Who’s That Girl?” He remembers “Like a Prayer” initially having bongos and Latin percussion. They abandoned that and went with a gospel sound with church organ and a choir led by AndraĆ© Crouch instead. He also recalls that “it was written and the lead vocal was recorded within three hours.” FB

Madonna saw her career at a plateau. Her “shocking sex themes…and the ditzy dancefloor stuff…were becoming outmoded.” TB She needed something more “intellectually satisfying” TB and came up with a song that “probes deeply into the lines intersecting sex and religion, and she gives it one of her most fervent performances.” SS The song thematically focused on a girl’s love of God as the only male figure in her life. WK In a biography by Mary Cross, she says “the song is a mix of the sacred and the profane…[that] still sounds catchy and danceable.” WK Author Toby Creswell called it “a beautifully crafted devotional song in the guise of perfect pop.” TC Medium’s Richard LaBeau called it “one of the…best pop songs ever made.” WK

Still, the song’s mix of sex and religion raised eyebrows for some. For example, in the first verse she sings, “When you call my name/ It’s like a little prayer/ I’m down on my knees/ I wana take you there.” Leonard suggested changing the words so it didn’t sound like a reference to fellatio, but Madonna was determined to keep the double entendres intact. WK

The video proved controversial as well. Madonna signed a $5 million deal with Pepsi and used a commercial during the Grammys – which Pepsi said was seen by 250 million people – to launch the song. SF However, the Vatican condemned the “Like a Prayer” video and fundamentalists threatened to boycott Pepsi because of what they considered blasphemous images. FB Pepsi ended up pulling the spot. The video, which included images of burning crosses and Madonna kissing a black saint, portrayed a forbidden interracial love affair and was steeped in religious symbolism. The video won the Viewers’ Choice MTV Video Music Award and in 2005 was voted the most groundbreaking music video of all time. WK

The song was the top-seller of the year in Australia and Canada. WK It hit #1 in those countries as well as the United States, the UK, Japan, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. WK


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First posted 11/1/2019; last updated 5/1/2024.

Madonna’s Like a Prayer album hit #1

Like a Prayer


Released: March 21, 1989

Peak: 16 US, 12 UK, 16 CN, 4 AU

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 1.2 UK, 15.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: dance pop


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Like a Prayer [5:41] (2/27/1989, 13 US, 13 CB, 13 RR, 3 AC, 20 RB, 13 UK, 14 CN, 14 AU, platinum single)
  2. Express Yourself (Madonna, Stephen Bray) [4:37] (5/9/1989, 2 US, 11 CB, 3 RR, 12 AC, 5 UK, 12 CN, 5 AU, gold single)
  3. Love Song (with Prince) (Madonna, Prince) [4:52]
  4. Till Death Do Us Part [5:16]
  5. Promise to Try [3:36]
  6. Cherish [5:03] (8/1/89, 2 US, 11 CB, 12 AC, 3 UK, 12Dear Jessie [4:20] (12/10/89, 5 UK, 51 AU)
  7. Oh Father [4:57] (11/4/89, 20 US, 15 CB, 18 RR, 16 UK, 14 CN, 59 AU)
  8. Keep It Together (Madonna, Bray) [5:03] (1/30/90, 7a US, 32 AC, 66 RB, 8 CN, 15, gold single)
  9. Spanish Eyes [5:15]
  10. Act of Contrition [2:19]

Songs written by Madonna and Patrick Leonard unless noted otherwise.

Total Running Time: 51:16


4.352 out of 5.00 (average of 31 ratings)

Quotable: --

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“This is the moment Madonna peaked as a pop star and mass media manipulator. First, the manipulation. In the title’s track’s video, Madonna kisses a saint, shows off some self-induced stigmata and dances in a field of burning crosses. Caving in to protests from religious groups, Pepsi pulled out of a Madonna sponsorship deal (she held on to a $5 million payday) and the whole episode generated enough publicity to ensure the album’s debut at No. 1. Brilliant.” TL

“As it happens, so was the record.” TL “Out of all of Madonna’s albums, Like a Prayer is her most explicit attempt at a major artistic statement. Even though it is apparent that she is trying to make a ‘serious’ album, the kaleidoscopic variety of pop styles on Like a Prayer is quite dazzling.” AMG

“Madonna displays a commanding sense of songcraft, making this her best and most consistent album.” AMGLike a Prayer was a genuinely soulful first single” TL and “Express Yourself merged Madonna’s dance sensibility with her strongest feminist message.” TL

Alongside the “deep funk of ‘Express Yourself’ and Keep It TogetherAMG and “the haunting Oh Father” were a “few middling tracks” TL “rescued…with production” TL from “Stephen Bray, Patrick Leonard and Prince (yes, that Prince)…that elevated Madonna’s voice out of its early bubble gum phase and into something resembling a real instrument.” TL

Notes: A 30th anniversary edition added additional material such as remixes of “Like a Prayer,” “Express Yourself,” and “Keep It Together” as well as an extended version of “Cherish” and the single version of “Oh Father.” The song “Supernatural” was also added.

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First posted 3/26/2008; last updated 12/2/2021.

Monday, April 17, 1989

The Pixies released Doolittle



Released: April 17, 1989

Peak: 98 US, 8 UK, -- CN, 104 AU

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.3 UK, 1.3 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: alternative rock


Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to charts.

  1. Debaser (10/4/97, 23 UK, 19 DF)
  2. Tame
  3. Wave of Mutilation (24 DF)
  4. I Bleed
  5. Here Comes Your Man (6/1/89, 3 MR, 54 UK, 10 DF)
  6. Dead
  7. Monkey Gone to Heaven (3/20/89, 5 MR, 60 UK, 19 DF)
  8. Mr. Grieves
  9. Crackity Jones
  10. La La Love You
  11. No. 13 Baby
  12. There Goes My Gun
  13. Hey
  14. Silver
  15. Gouge Away

Total Running Time: 38:38

The Players:

  • Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV (aka “Black Francis”) (vocals, guitar)
  • Kim Deal (bass, vocals, acoustic slide guitar on “Silver”)
  • Joey Santiago (guitar, backing vocals)
  • David Lovering (drums, vocal on “La La Love You,” bass on “Silver”)


4.404 out of 5.00 (average of 29 ratings)


“One of those buzzed-about landmark records that traveled far on word of mouth. If you cared about rock noise in 1989, you needed to hear it.” – Tom Moon


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

The Pixies formed in Boston in 1986. They were “fronted by singer Black Francis and anchored in every sense by bassist-vocalist Kim Deal.” TM Guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering rounded out the foursome who released their EP Come on Pilgrim in 1987 and debut album, the “brilliant but abrasive Surfer Rosa,” AMG in 1988.

Noisy Meets Poppy

After “Surfer Rosa, the Pixies’ sound couldn’t get much more extreme” AMG so on Doolittle the band “reins in the noise in favor of pop songcraft and accessibility.” AMG “It’s as though the band finished touring Surfer Rosa and realized that it was taxing work to bludgeon people for an entire evening.” TM The result is “a more assured collection of songs” AD as they “find a comfortable balance between angry distortion and some of the bounciest sunshine music this side of flower power.” CQ

A New Producer

Steve Albini, who later worked on PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me and Nirvana’s In Utero, produced Surfer Rosa and Kim wanted him for the next album but Black Francis balked. Instead, the band went with Gil Norton. His “sonic sheen adds some polish,” AMG providing “a contrast to the band’s abrasive force,” CM which enhanced the band’s “loud/quiet guitar squalls” EW’12 that became “a Pixies trademark.” CM

“It’s an album that grabs your attention in a way that makes you scared to look away. Few albums have ever been so exhilarating.” PM It is “eclectic and ambitious” AMG with “wide-ranging moods and sounds,” AMG showcasing the Pixies’ “full range of achievements and styles.” AD


Doolittle “became one of those buzzed-about landmark records that traveled far on word of mouth. If you cared about rock noise in 1989, you needed to hear it. That’s still true.” TM The album made the Pixes one of “the handful of bands that every ‘90s indie band worth its salt cites as an essential influence.” PK “It’s easy to see why the album made the Pixies into underground rock stars;” AMG this is “a fun, freaky alternative to most other late-‘80s college rock.” AMG

Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain himself acknowledged the Pixies’ influence on “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” RS It became “the Old Testament of grunge rock” CM and “a rite of passage for anyone who wants to get into alt-rock.” PM

Like Sonic Youth, the Pixies “completely deconstructed the pop format, twisting basic surf guitar chord progressions into wholly original new forms…The results could be brilliant, but also occasionally distancing.” PK Doolittle “Black Francis’ self-described ‘stream of unconsciousness’ rants” RS grew into “tighter songwriting [that] focuses the group’s attack” AMG but still display “enough killer guitar hooks and melodicism to keep it anchored.” PK

The Songs:

Here’s some insight into each of the individual songs on the album.

Debaser “is the quintessential sound of The Pixies in full-flight, the one song that springs to the mind of many fans if forced to choose just one song to represent the group.” AD This is “playfully diabolical power pop” CQ number supposedly inspired Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” PK

“Inspired by [Luis] Bunuel’s classic surrealist short Un Chien Andalou,” AMG switches “between quiet and loud but…much more dramatically than anything they’d done before.” AD It “is a nonstop barrage of lyrical imagery, tempo changes, and insane riffage, more or less the perfect Pixies track.” PK “Guitarist Joey Santiago has said that this is the best single-song distillation of the Pixies experience” TM and, indeed, “the band plays as though this one song is its only shot at a manifesto.” TM

Tame finds “Black Francis whispering about how the woman that fascinates the song’s protagonist has ‘got hips like Cinderella’ – but once he’s screaming…above razor sharp guitar the title is a misnomer.” CM “it’s a wonder he could even speak after recording it.” AD

“Wave of Mutilation”
Wave of Mutilation is the group’s “surfy ode to driving a car into the sea.” AMG

“I Bleed”
“Wave of Mutilation” and I Bleed “really cook while staying within the confines of traditional rock songs.” PK It “opens with very deep bass notes [before] Joey’s guitar arrives.” AD “The lyrics and vocal performance are both wonderful and inspired.” AD

“Here Comes Your Man”
The single Here Comes Your Man is “irresistible,” AMG “straightforward jangly” PK and “deceptively jolly.” PM “Had The Pixies had enough of a public profile at the time, this could have been a huge hit for them.” AD

Doolittle’s most ferocious moments, like” AMG “the rumbling, primal Dead,” CM “are more stylized than the group’s past outbursts.” AMG This is “a visceral retelling of David and Bathsheba’s affair.” AMG

“Monkey Gone to Heaven”
“The Pixies’ arty, noisy weirdness mix with just enough hooks to produce gleefully demented singles” AMG such as Monkey Gone to Heaven. The “relatively mainstream college pop-rock” PK spins a bizarre tale of “an environmental disaster [that] allows for humanity’s obliteration of a deity.” CM “This is a truly beautiful song.” AD

“Mr. Grieves”
“The strangely theatrical Mr. GrievesAMG features “a little Kinks’ ‘Dead End Street’ descending bass line, mixed in with a single riff and a half laughing, half stuttering vocal. It becomes another distinctive Pixies song introduction. Happily, the rest of the song is even better with sparkling guitars and another beautiful yet powerful vocal performance.” AD

“Crackity Jones”
Crackity Jones is “a song about a crazy roommate Francis had in Puerto Rico” AMG which is supported by “demented guitars and trashing exactly when the album needed it.” AD It features drummer Dave Lovering singing and while “he does struggle slightly with the vocals…his voice is so deep and crooning, it’s just hilariously funny.” AD

“La La Love You”
There’s also “the sweetly surreal love song La La Love You.” AMG

“No. 13 Baby”
No. 13 Baby “isn’t as startling a song as much else of what’s here, but the strummed guitar and Charles off-in-the-distance vocal through the quieter sections are a joy all the same. It's still a mighty fine song…with some entertaining Joey guitar notable in particular.” AD

“There Goes My Gun”
“There are still plenty of weird, abrasive vignettes” AMG such as “the blankly psychotic There Goes My Gun.” AMG It is “a throwback structurally to Surfer Rosa or Come on Pilgrim.” AD “Kim sounds wonderful here on bass and vocals, and each group member takes a turn to sing a line of the lyric, ‘friend or foe,’ which is fun” AD

“Monkey Gone to Heaven” and Hey “stretch Francis’ lyrical horizons” AMG making for the “Pixies’ versions of message songs and romantic ballads.” AMG The latter “opens with a spine chillingly beautiful vocal. Equally as beautiful restrained guitars come in.” AD

The Pixies “expand their range on the brooding, wannabe spaghetti western theme Silver.” AMG It “features a dual lead vocal from Kim and Frank as well as slide guitar which works astonishing well in giving the song a truly timeless feel.” AD

“Gouge Away”
With its “frantic, relentless energy” PM “the nihilistic finale Gouge AwayAMG “finishes things off with…stupendous vocal screaming.” AD It “sets the biblical narrative of Samson and Delilah to a menancing bassline.” CM It is “a powerful song to close an utterly listenable album that really does have it all.” AD

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First posted 4/18/2012; last updated 6/15/2024.