It's never easy to grow up in your father's shadow, no matter who you are, so you can only imagine how it was for Julian Lennon, given that not only was his dad one of the Beatles but also there's a distinct physical and vocal
Life is full of happy accidents — I was in the midst of setting up an interview with Gary Wright via his publicist and mentioned to him that former Mr. Mister vocalist Richard Page (Wright’s current tour mate) had a new solo album out. Wright relayed to his publicist that Richard was willing to speak with me if I had interest in talking to him. Interest? You’d better believe that I was interested.
As the lead vocalist/bassist for ’80s pop/rock quartet Mr. Mister, Page found incredible (although short-lived) success when the band released their second album Welcome To The Real World, an album that went straight to number one, lodging two number one singles, “Broken Wings” and “Kyrie” in its wake. Go On…, the follow-up to Real World, failed to match the success of their previous album, and the band’s follow-up release Pullwas shelved and never officially released (although we’ve got some news on that one that will make you smile).
After a period of recording silence, Page made his return in 1994 as the vocalist for producer Patrick Leonard’sThird Matinee project, an excellent yet sadly ignored follow-up to Leonard’s previous Toy Matinee release. Page made his official solo debut two years later with the release of Shelter Me, an album that showcased the continued lyrical growth that had been previously displayed on the Third Matinee album Meanwhile (and musically, his solo releases have evolved from the sound that many were familiar with on the Mr. Mister albums, embracing a more jazzy/adult contemporary vibe). Another recording break would follow, with Page focusing in on songwriting and enjoying life with his family.
Love her or hate her, Madonna defined popular music – screw that, she defined popular culture — like no one else during the 1980s. Her 16 straight Top-5 singles (from “Lucky Star” to “Cherish”) are unmatched by any act in history; her clothing choices defined tween fashion for much of the decade; and her penchant for simultaneously generating controversy and commerce has served as a template for spotlight-hogging celebs ever since. And let’s not get started on her film career …
Anyway, with her last album of the decade Madonna took it all to a new level, and cemented her status as the biggest star of the ’80s. After all, how many artists can piss off Pepsi and the pope in one fell swoop?
The Material Girl actually had gone sorta quiet in 1988, leaving the pop charts to George Michael and Michael Jackson while she tried her hand at theater in David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow. Even as her not-too-badly received Broadway run continued from May through December, Madonna went into the studio in the fall with her usual compatriots, Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray – along with a certain diminutive purple-clad figure with whom she would record one song publicly, and who would contribute to a couple others in secret.
The early buzz around the making of Like a Prayer was overshadowed during late 1988 and early ’89 by a cultural controversy that had been brewing – make that bubbling – for a few years. The nation’s leading soft-drink companies had made pop stars an important part of their competition for market share, a development that (figuratively speaking) set many rock purists’ hair on fire. They accused artists like Michael, Whitney Houston and Jackson (whose hair had proved quite literally flammable) of selling out the music in pursuit of the almighty dollar; they howled once more when Madonna was given the then-enormous sum of $5 million to debut the “Like a Prayer” single in a commercial for Pepsi, which also bought sponsorship rights to her 1990 tour.