Three versions of the high-energy tune — the 7” version, an extended dance mix and an instrumental mix — are all now available globally on streaming providers and digital storefronts via Rhino and Warner Music Group. Previously, the song (in its 7” version) was only available on the Vision Quest film soundtrack (released by Geffen Records), while the dance mix and instrumental mix were previously available decades ago on physical singles outside of the U.S. “Gambler” has never been included on any Madonna album.
So why now for this long-awaited debut? “It was Madonna’s personal request,” according to a representative at Rhino. It’s the latest release in the ongoing catalog campaign announced in 2021. While “Gambler” is the final Madonna reissue from Rhino/Warner in 2022, Rhino promises “more fun things to look forward to in 2023” and that “Gambler” is “just a small glimpse of what fans can expect” next year.
Of note, while there is an official music video for “Gambler,” it will not receive a remastered digital HD upgrade (as some of her videos have garnered in the past). And there are no current plans to issue “Gambler” on physical single formats – such as a 12” vinyl single.
“Gambler” – written by Madonna and produced by John “Jellybean” Benitez – was one of two songs Madonna contributed to the Vision Quest album. The other was her Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit ballad “Crazy for You,” also produced by Jellybean. (Madonna has a cameo in the film as a club singer, and she’s seen performing both songs briefly in the movie.)
While “Gambler” was never released as a single in the United States, it was a hit outside America, reaching the top 10 on Billboard’s European Hot 100 Singles chart and on the U.K.’s Official Singles Chart.
Though American fans did not get a proper single release for “Gambler,” an official music video was played by U.S. MTV in 1985 from late January through late February, and again from late June through early July. Fans who attended Madonna’s The Virgin Tour concert that summer also saw her perform the track live. The trek was commemorated on the longform home video Madonna Live: The Virgin Tour, which was released in November 1985. The Virgin Tour spent five weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Music Video Sales chart in early 1986.
Some might wonder why “Gambler” was not released in the U.S. as a single, considering how popular Madonna was in 1985 (she was No. 1 on Billboard’s year-end Top Artists chart). Madonna had an abundance of popular new songs that year – but only half of them were on the U.S. version of her then-current Like a Virgin album. In 1985, Madonna released a total of six singles outside of the U.S. – three songs from the Warner Bros. Virgin album (“Material Girl,” “Angel” and “Dress You Up”) two from the Geffen soundtrack Vision Quest (“Crazy for You” and “Gambler”) and the non-album track “Into the Groove” (from the film Desperately Seeking Susan). Of those, four were released as proper singles in the U.S.: “Material Girl,” “Crazy for You,” “Angel” and “Dress You Up.” (Though, “Groove” was also the B-side of the U.S. 12” single of “Angel.”)
In the last few years, Madonna’s music catalog has been reintroduced to the public through a wealth of digital single and remix reissues, upgraded and remastered official music videos, limited-edition vinyl single releases, new remix collaborations and this year’s compilation album Finally Enough Love. The latter set, which celebrated Madonna’s landmark 50 No. 1s on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart, hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart and marked her 23rd top 10-charting set on the all-genre Billboard 200.