Flashback: Madonna Mashes Up 'Like a Virgin' With 'Billie Jean'

Rolling Stone

In April of 1985, Madonna launched her first headlining tour. Like a Virgin had been on shelves for five months at this point and was still number six on the charts, and "Crazy for You" and "Material Girl" were both in the top 10. MTV played her videos in what seemed like a constant loop, and girls all over the country were raiding thrift stores to recreate her outfits.

Things happened so quickly that she played arenas on her first actual tour. "That whole tour was crazy, because I went from playing CBGB and the Mudd Club to playing sporting arenas," she told Rolling Stone in 2009. "I played a small theater in Seattle, and the girls had flap skirts on and the tights cut off below their knees and lace gloves and rosaries and bows in their hair and big hoop earrings. I was like, 'This is insane!' After Seattle, all of the shows were moved to arenas. I've never done a bus tour. Everyone says they are really fun."

From the Archives: The Rolling Stone Interview: Madonna

In a hilarious misfiring, the Beastie Boys were booked as the tour's opening act. They didn't go over well with Madonna's young female fans, and they almost got tossed off. "Russell [Simmons] came up to me and said, 'They're going to kick you off the tour," Adam Yauch recalled in Spin's 1998 oral history of the Beastie Boys. "'If you want to stay, you need to go ask Madonna.' I went into Madonna's dressing room and was like, 'You know, we really like being on the tour. Can we stay?' 

"They were very bad boys," Madonna recalled. "They said 'fuck' all the time on stage. The audience always booed them and they always told everyone to fuck off. I just loved them for that. I couldn't understand why everyone hated them. They thought they were so adorable. I think I made out with Adam Yauch once in their dressing room."

The penultimate song of every performance was "Like a Virgin." In a recreation of her infamous 1984 MTV Video Music Awards performance, Madonna wore a white wedding dress and writhed around on the floor at the end. Midway through the song she sang a few lines from Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," long before mash-ups were the rage. The two pop giants were never that close, but they had a ton of respect for each other. "When he moved, he had the elegance of Fred Astaire and packed the punch of Muhammad Ali," she said shortly after Jackson died. "His music had an extra layer of inexplicable magic that didn't just make you want to dance but actually made you believe you could fly, dare to dream, be anything that you wanted to be. Because that is what heroes do, and Michael Jackson was a hero."

This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone: Flashback: Madonna Mashes Up 'Like a Virgin' With 'Billie Jean'
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