Hear Demos of Madonna Performing Punk Songs with Her Pre-Fame Band, Breakfast Club (1979)

Isn’t it won­der­ful when long-for­got­ten record­ings get dust­ed off and exposed to a much wider audi­ence, thrust­ing lit­tle-remem­bered artists into the spot­light, per­haps for the first time in their lives?

Think Con­nie Con­verse

The Shag­gs


Wait, who?

Short­ly after the aspi­rant dancer ditched Michi­gan for New York City in 1976, mak­ing ends by wait­ress­ing, mod­el­ing nude and work­ing the counter at Dunkin’ Donuts, she formed the band, Break­fast Club with her boyfriend Dan Gilroy and his broth­er, Ed.

“I was sick of being an out-of-work dancer, so he taught me how to play gui­tar,” she recalled in her 2008 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induc­tion speech.

“It was a sur­prise that she men­tioned me, like right away, like that was great,” Dan mused in the 2019 docu­d­ra­ma Madon­na and the Break­fast Club:

It was won­der­ful, in fact and it changed my whole … in town, the musi­cians in town were like, “Did you see that?” Sud­den­ly, again, it’s like we were with Madon­na. It’s like she threw the spot­light.

Boys far out­num­bered girls in the scrap­py late-70’s New York City scene, but Madon­na held her own, work­ing hard and look­ing the part in full-skirt­ed thrift store dress­es from an ear­li­er era.

(If you’ve resist­ed the Queen of Pop’s charms, thus far, this ear­li­est incar­na­tion may be the one that final­ly hooks you.)

Before gui­tar, the broth­ers turned her onto drums in the base­ment of the for­mer Queens syn­a­gogue the three called home. (She habit­u­al­ly stuck her gum on one of the kit’s met­al stands.)

Dan Gilroy observed that her dance train­ing served her well as a musi­cian:

..she was always into count­ing, you know, every­thing, eight counts, and it fit right into drum­ming, so it was a very smooth tran­si­tion from danc­ing to drumming…She already could keep the beat, so nat­u­ral­ly, she want­ed to get more into music than just drum­ming, not that drum­ming isn’t music.

Break­fast Club fea­tured Madon­na on drums, the broth­ers out front with gui­tars, and, briefly Madonna’s friend Ang­ie Smit on bass, though their roles weren’t set in stone.

Accord­ing to Nor­ris Bur­roughs, author of MY MADONNA: My Inti­mate Friend­ship With The Blue Eyed Girl On Her Arrival In New York:

It kind of felt like it was gonna be the sort of band where, like a Fleet­wood Mac thing where you’d have Lind­sey Buck­ing­ham and Steve Nicks and Chris­tine McVie tak­ing turns on vocals or they would har­mo­nize.

Even a frac­tion of a Fleet­wood Mac-like lev­el of recog­ni­tion would have been heady stuff, but as Ang­ie Smit’s replace­ment, bassist Gary Burke unequiv­o­cal­ly states, “Madon­na want­ed to be famous:”

That was her thing, man. And she didn’t care if she got it…through dance, through rock and roll, what­ev­er. She want­ed to be famous. She would be so squir­rel­ly, like, “I wan­na be famous!” She want­ed to be famous now, man. And she was like, you could just see it in her body lan­guage, it’s like, “Ooh, when’s it gonna hap­pen!?

SPOILER: It hap­pened.

Just a cou­ple of years after leav­ing both the band and Dan Gilroy, she had a record con­tract and a debut sin­gle that she pro­mot­ed tire­less­ly with live club appear­ances. 1983 saw the release of a first album so packed with hits, it was only a mat­ter of months til she became a house­hold name.

But the street cred of her Break­fast Club demo is a hard one to beat:

0:01 Shit On The Ground-Safe Neigh­bor­hood 

1:35 Shine A Ligh

3:13 Lit­tle Boy

4:47 l Love Express

Lis­ten to Break­fast Club’s post-Madon­na work on Spo­ti­fy.

via Flash­bak

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Mys­ti­cal Poet­ry of Rumi Read By Til­da Swin­ton, Madon­na, Robert Bly & Cole­man Barks

Sex Pis­tols Front­man John­ny Rot­ten Weighs In On Lady Gaga, Paul McCart­ney, Madon­na & Katy Per­ry

David Fincher’s Five Finest Music Videos: From Madon­na to Aero­smith

Kurt Cobain’s Home Demos: Ear­ly Ver­sions of Nir­vana Hits, and Nev­er-Released Songs

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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