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The origins of Ray of Light

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from burneddrownedmadonna.com:

Behind Madonnas Ray of Light

GIAMPIERO on May 2, 2016 at 8:29 pm

  • Taken from the homonymous album that revolutionized mainstream music trends to the core, for good, Ray Of Light undeniably belongs to Madonnas most iconic outputs to date, displaying in a little less than 6 minutes how underground electronica, pumping techno sounds and cues from 60s rock psychedelia can harmoniously mate and collide with each other and deliver a superb example of sonic delight.

We at DrownedMadonna asked our friend and music freak Francis* to like to shed some light about the interesting genesis and dynamics through which this pop masterpiece came to be.

As people already know, Ray Of Light is one of the very few songs Madonna did not conceive and pen from scratch while working on the LP, but her input on improving and finalizing the original tape she was offered turned out equally huge and remarkable. To trace the starting point all the seeds developed from, we have to step back to 1996, when English DJ/producer William Orbit and his collaborator Mat Ducasse crafted at Guerilla Studios in Crouch End, North London, a mostly instrumental cut called Ambition under the pseudonym Invisible. Despite never seeing the light of day on any album/compilation before, Ambition received its first worldwide spin ever four years later, in February 2000, during Orbits Essential Mix broadcasted on BBC Radio 1, and it instantly caught Madonnas fans ear. This unissued instrumental sampling a guitar riff from Straight Shooter(1966) by The Mamas & The Papas, in fact, represents the template an eventual track borrowed most of its music elements from, namely the very first version of Ray Of Light Guerilla Records former artist and ALF group member Christine Ann Leach provided the topline for and recorded as a ruff demo.

According to an interesting Q Magazine 2002 report by Johnny Black (as well as thanks to a discrete amount of reliable sources and generous tidbits and files shared on SoundCloud by William himself lately), we can safely tell the pair met in Crouch End in a fateful night of 96, when Christine gave a listen to some material Orbit was trying to elaborate at the time. She picked one backing track in particular and began singing part of the lyrics from her uncle Clive Maldoons and Dave CurtissSepheryn (1971) over the beat, changing the original chorus melody, adapting those lines to higher keys and enhancing the tune with acrobatic ad libs. Thats the night Zephyr In The Sky came about.

In its early incarnation and with its provisional title, Zephyr In The Sky got also performed/tested live by Christine and William during a few sets the producer held at Astoria, the Phoenix Festivaland Brixton Academy in the same year, but since then the song ended up lying in the vaults, waiting for a luckier chance to shine, until Guy Oseary from Maverick called Orbit up in March 1997, saying La Ciccone was interested in hooking up with him.

William sent the songstress the infamous DAT containing 13 tracks (mainly instrumental loops and musical ideas to revise) and Zephyr In The Sky was indeed on it. The pieces were all there, they just needed to be taken to a whole new level and sublimated, as it happened once they both entered the recording studio in LA a few months later. The Christine Leach demo Madonna heard, basically, had the first verse from Sepheryn repeated twice, which led her to entirely write a brand new second one following the same chords progression (´Faster than the speeding light shes flying´, and so on), gaining a deserved recognition for that on the tracks official credits. Madonna also overhauled the vocal arrangement with Orbit, in order to push her singing skills further and reach unexplored peaks.

With a much more club friendly production and a dreamier feel throughout, the song (finally titledRay Of Light) therefore found the right place to revive, and what initially sounded like a perfectible draft evolved into the most groundbreaking epitome of late 90s electronic dance/pop euphoria, energized by a perky swirl of synthesizers and keyboards lasting a little over 10 minutes in its yet to be heard unedited version played in its full glory just once, to close Madonnas Ice Ball secret gig at Roxy in 1998, and then purposely cut it down to 5:21 to fit the album format.

The rest is history we all know.

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Nice read.

Ray of light is an amazing song.

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Love love love this song! I hope I will hear the infamous 10+ minutes version before I die. Madonna's vocals are out of this world here

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Its such a powerful and energetic song, Love it very much !!!!!

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I only knew about the 70's song zephyr in the sky.

Wow.

How to fully craft and adapt masterfully a work of art guys!

In the meantime hear this extended version

The guitar at the end is a killer!

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I want to hear the 10+ min version - must be orgasmic :wow:

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Love love love this song! I hope I will hear the infamous 10+ minutes version before I die. Madonna's vocals are out of this world here

Absolutely. This is you #1 fav song right? Same here.

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Will probably forever be my favorite Madonna song.

My favorite song ever. Period.

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The remixes for this song are some of her all time best.

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Guest bluejean

One of the greatest songs ever recorded in the history of music.

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Absolutely. This is you #1 fav song right? Same here.

Fav song, fav video, fav look, fav everything ;-)

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very interesting read.

Question about this: "the infamous DAT containing 13 tracks (mainly instrumental loops and musical ideas to revise)"

Why is it "infamous"? I assume that that first Substitute for Love demo was there. No other thing has ever surfaced, isn't it???

oh, some people talk about the Rain Tapes, but that DAT would be incredible to listen to.

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There are some who claim that Madonna basically contributed nothing to ROL in terms of song writing. I remember reading back in the 90s that she had added the entire second verse, but people tended to ignore that. I'm glad the myth about her lack of contribution is destroyed here!

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very interesting read.

Question about this: "the infamous DAT containing 13 tracks (mainly instrumental loops and musical ideas to revise)"

Why is it "infamous"? I assume that that first Substitute for Love demo was there. No other thing has ever surfaced, isn't it???

oh, some people talk about the Rain Tapes, but that DAT would be incredible to listen to.

I remember some time in 2013/2014 Orbit uploaded about 8 ROL demo tracks (mostly instrumental with some vocals here and there) including Candy Perfume Girl/Skin/ROL etc. sung by someone else, but they were swiftly taken down. Ugh who has it??

omg I found it! Someone please re-upload them!

http://forums.madonnanation.com/index.php?showtopic=49141

get it girls. The first few tracks are the demos submitted to Madonna!

https://vk.com/audios-38134592

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I only knew about the 70's song zephyr in the sky.

Wow.

How to fully craft and adapt masterfully a work of art guys!

In the meantime hear this extended version

The guitar at the end is a killer!

is Prince playing the guitar like on Like A Prayer?

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very interesting read.

Question about this: "the infamous DAT containing 13 tracks (mainly instrumental loops and musical ideas to revise)"

Why is it "infamous"? I assume that that first Substitute for Love demo was there. No other thing has ever surfaced, isn't it???

oh, some people talk about the Rain Tapes, but that DAT would be incredible to listen to.

It's just orbit tracks

He sent a whole album of his that never got released

He can hear bits of it in his stereo odyssey radio broadcast

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Oh OK. I thought they were the first Madonna songs prior Orbit.

And what about the songs produced by leonard??!! How I wish some hacker found them!

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