Listen to Madonna’s pre-fame punk rock anthem S*** On The Ground

(Image credit: Breakfast Club)

Earlier this month, Madonna announced that she’d been celebrating her four hugely successful decades in the music business with The Celebration Tour, a showcase of her greatest hits.

Given that she’s racked up no fewer than 63 Top 10 singles in the UK, deciding on a definitive setlist might be quite a challenge for the 64-year-old singer, and sadly, we suspect that one song that won’t make the cut will be the Queen Of Pop’s ‘lost’ punk anthem Shit On The Ground (Safe Neighbourhood), recorded back in 1979 when Madonna sang and played drums with New York new wave punks The Breakfast Club.

Back then, Madonna was studying to be a dancer, and dating New York singer/songwriter Dan Gilroy, who’d formed The Breakfast Club with his guitarist brother Ed. The story goes that while Madonna’s dance career was flatlining, her boyfriend gave her some rudimentary drums and guitar lessons, and quickly realised that she’d make a a great focal point for his band. At some point in 1979 the group, with Madonna on vocals, recorded a four-track demo featuring the songs Shit On The Ground (Safe Neighbourhood), Shine A Light, Little Boy and Love Express, and it’s on the first of these - pitched somewhere between X-Ray Spex and The Go-Gos - where her nascent talent really shines. 

In 1980, Madonna left the band to form her own group, Emmy and The Emmys, with whom she recorded another four-track demo, featuring the songs (I Like) Love For Tender, No Time for Love, Bells Ringing and Drowning, adopting a persona not unlike Pat Benatar, according to her former bandmate and ex-boyfriend Steve Bray.

“She was playing really raucous rock & roll, really influenced by the Pretenders and the Police,” Bray told Rolling Stone. “She used to really belt. If we’d found that right guitar player, I think that’s when things would have taken off…"

Again, fame eluded Madonna, but in 1981, she signed a deal with Gotham Records and began promoting herself as a solo artist. Her creative partnership with Steve Bray endured, however, and the pair co-wrote four songs on Madonna’s 1984 album Like A Virgin plus future hits Into The Groove, True Blue and Express Yourself. These songs, we suspect, have a significantly better shot at making Madonna’s Celebration Tour setlist.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.