They Could Have Been A Bit Like The Beatles: Madonna 'Dear Jessie'

3. Madonna 'Dear Jessie'

Sing This All Together (See What Happens): Even in her earliest days, there'd always been an adventurous streak in both Madonna's music and lyrics that had marked her out from the average non-Madonna in the eighties pop firmament, and after splitting with Sean Penn she suddenly went diversification-crazy, flirting (in both senses) with all kinds of genres in an adventurous yet highly commercial manner. As a lot of these sponsorship-friendly experiments involved something of a 'sixties' tinge (notably Cherish), and she'd taken to showing off to all and sundry about how the first record she bought was Strawberry Alarm Clock's Incense And Peppermints, a full-on voyage to Freak Out City was only a matter of time away. NINE POINTS.

Brought His Mellotrode And Freaked 'Em All Out: Hmmm, well, it's hardly Incense And Peppermints (or even Tomorrow or Sit With The Guru for that matter), being about as far away from the sound of the ice-cream-splattered overdressed lot who produced her first pop purchase as it's possible to be and sounding more like the sort of bandwagon-jumping records that were made by tinkly High School Hop-era types like Lesley Gore and The Cascades when they realised their number was well and truly up with a paisley-patterned vengeance, with a bit of proto-Phoebe Buffay drippy-hippy singer-songwriteryness thrown in for good measure. Which probably isn't THAT far in literal musical terms, but you get the point. Still, there's loads of chimes, fairground organ, one of those things that goes 'swwwwwwwwwiiish', some guitar work that sounds like The Paul Butterfield Blues Band writing music for Camberwick Green, a waltz-time acoustic diversion, extemporising baroque string outro, and - but of course - Penny Lane trumpet. And it all fades into a 'transistor radio' sound at the end too. Gear! SEVEN POINTS.

On The Bus Or Off The Bus?: Oh dear. After years and years of grabbing international headlines by breaking lyrical taboos in a calculatedly progressive way, she gets the chance to go psychedelic and blows 'it' instead of 'our minds'. It's nursery rhyme-level references to dancing moons, mermaids, fountains of gold, candy kisses, and indeed - in the first worrying note of Disneyism to trouble us here - pink elephants and lemonade all the way here. The laughable thing is it's not even as lyrically arresting as Pink Elephants On Parade. Nice and evocative and all that but... oh Madonna, how you failed us all. TWO POINTS.

The Green And Purple Lights Affect Your Sight: And it gets worse. From 'free love' to slovenly dress to twelve hour country-rock blues soloing to murdering actresses after 'hearing' hidden messages in pop songs, there's certainly a case for claiming that on the whole America didn't quite 'get' psychedelia, and nowhere is this better exemplified than in their adoption of Fantasia, rather than The Magic Roundabout, as an unintentional yet apposite visual encapsulation of all that is far-out and mind-blowing (though whether this extends to the live action orchestra bit with hallucinatoriness' own Deems Taylor has never been established). And yes, it's said overlong animated pomp that Madonna draws her visual cues from, with cutesy 'storybook' imagery, forties-faced dancing teapots, and herself as a kind of cheaply made ripoff variant of Tinkerbell a confused relative might have bought from the local 'discount store'. As if to labour the point, she wore a pair of Minnie Mouse ears in the promo photos too. Hanna-Barbera was under your nose the whole time, you fools! TWO POINTS, granted reluctantly due to a presumably accidental echo of the opening of The Adventures Of Rupert Bear in one of the live action bits.

I'm Picking Up Bad Vibrations: Dear Jessie was, inevitably, a massive hit, and even in the midst of the Christmas market (with a load of eighties-retrospecting to overshadow it to boot) it managed to reach a more than respectable number five in the UK. It's been strangely conspicuous by its absence from Madonna's Greatest Hits-type collections, but even that in a way kind of echoes the way her sixties forebears used to conveniently 'forget' their psychedelic excursions once the pension plan compilation came along. And let's not forget Chris Morris' hilarious attempt to whip up a moral panic based on the hidden 'drug' message when the song is played backwards in On The Hour. FIVE POINTS.

Ha Ha Ha... We Blew Your Mind!: The 'sixties' thing may have only been a momentary excursion for Madonna, but it certainly gave her a commendable taste for the avant-garde. The next twelve months alone brought the avant-garde-sounding Vogue (which she originally considered too angular to release as a single), the fucking terrifying Justify My Love (let's not even get started on what happens when you play THAT backwards), and the just plain inexplicable Hanky Panky. Having sung about her arse at such length in the latter, she then went on to spend the next couple of years shoving it into every camera lens available, but still managed to rediscover her psychedelic muse, with such top-notch offerings as Ray Of Light and the not-at-all-copied-from-She-Comes-In-Colours-By-Love-Honest Beautiful Stranger. To be honest she's never really been given enough credit in this regard. NINE POINTS. Which nets her an arse-baring THIRTY FOUR POINTS.

Next Time - the Kane brothers wig out with a little help from TV 'Lister' (Red Dwarf)