Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Healthy Breakfast Club Will Put You Right On Track

Pop-dance group Breakfast Club are probably best known for three things; at one time featuring future mega-star Madonna in their line-up, sharing their name with one of the iconic films of the 1980s (‘The Breakfast Club’ directed by John Hughes), and scoring a major hit with the funky ‘Right On Track’. Not a bad basis for notoriety when you think about it, but there was a little bit more to the Breakfast Club story than that.

Dance-pop outfit Breakfast Club formed originally during the late 70s in New York City. The first line-up formed around the core of brothers Dan Gilroy (vocals/guitar) and Ed Gilroy (guitar). Bassist Angie Schmit was joined by one Madonna Ciccone on drums/vocals to round out the line-up. Madonna and Gilroy had been romantically involved, but after a period of time the ambitious Madonna was pressuring for a lead vocal role, leading to a split in their relationship and Madonna’s split with the band during 1980. Breakfast Club did record a number of demo tracks during Madonna’s tenure, including ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Shine A Light’, but nothing has ever been officially released. Madonna then hooked up with another old boyfriend from Michigan called Stephen Bray. Bray was a drummer, and soon Madonna formed a new group called Emmy & The Emmys (her nickname was Emmy at the time) with the future ‘Material Girl’ taking on vocal duties, and bassist Gary Burke playing bass. Burke was also playing with the Gilroy brothers in a revamped version of Breakfast Club during the same period.

By 1981 Madonna was taking the first steps on her quest for world domination as a solo act, signing firstly with Gotham Records (still with Emmy in tow), then later with Sire Records in 1982 as a solo act, taking with her several songs she had co-written with Stephen Bray. Emmy was officially consigned to a future paragraph in a Madonna biography, so Bray joined Burke and the Gilroy boys in an expanded Breakfast Club. The quartet signed with Ze Records but for several years remained without a record, whilst Madonna had indeed conquered the world.

Breakfast Club then signed with MCA and recorded their debut album during 1986, featuring nine tracks, most of which had been written by Bray and Dan Gilroy. The lead out single was the funky sounding ‘Right On Track’. The song was produced by Jimmy Iovine (U2, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks) and featured backing vocals from Jocelyn Brown (former backing vocalist with Luther Vandross and George Benson among others). ‘Right On Track’ also featured a fun, quirky video clip, directed by Jeff Stein, which became a popular feature on MTV. The song debuted on the U.S. charts in March ‘87 and went on to peak at #3, soon after reaching #4 in Australia (UK#54). Shortly after the Breakfast Club released their eponymous debut album (OZ#26). Stephen Bray also co-produced several tracks, something he’d already done for old flame and former band mate Madonna on her multi-platinum album ‘True Blue’ (on which he co-wrote the title track). The success of both their album and single earned Breakfast Club a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist for 1987 (which was won by Jody Watley).

The follow up single ‘Kiss And Tell’ only managed to ascend to #48 in the U.S. but didn’t chart at all in Australia. ‘Never Be The Same’ reached #8 on the U.S. Hot Dance Music chart, and was followed by ‘Expressway To Your Heart’ (US#30 Hot Dance Music chart) a cover of the old Gamble-Huff song. Famed funk/R&B producer Deodato (who had worked with Kool & The Gang) produced the track ‘Rico Mambo’ which was also released as a single but didn’t chart.

Breakfast Club returned to the studio in 1988 with plans to record another album. By that stage Randy Jackson had replaced Gary Burke on bass, and percussionist E. Doctor Smith had come on board. They released the single ‘Drive My Car’ (a cover of The Beatles’ classic) which was featured on the soundtrack to the motion picture ‘License To Drive’, but again didn’t crack the charts. The second album was never released and Breakfast Club soon cleared the table, washed the dishes and then waited patiently for lunch.

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