“La Isla Bonita” was released as a single in Greece by Sandy Politi, well before Madonna released it as a single! Did you know that?

This article is the English version of the Greek article


translated in English by TINA REFENES

Unbelievable but true!  Madonna’s huge success in 1986 with “La Isla Bonita” would ultimately prove to be the top hit single from her “True Blue” album, except that no one at Warner (her recording company) foresaw this, and there was a long delay before it was decided to release the song as a single.  Then in a move “MAT”, the song was produced and released as a maxi single with the great voice of Sandy Politi, by the team of Akis Golfidis and Costas Sakkaris many months before Warner’s worldwide distribution of Madonna’s single.  

Does it sound strange?  It is!  Let us take a journey to see how it happened!

It is early Summer 1986.  Madonna is established at the top of the world’s charts having already released 5 hit singles from her second album “Like a Virgin”:  (“Like a Virgin”, “Material Girl”, “Angel”, “Into the Groove”, and “Dress you Up”).  It is interesting to note that the first issue of the album did not include “Into the Groove”; it was independently released as the soundtrack for the movie “Desperately Seeking Susan” and due to its success, it was then included in a second issue of “Like a Virgin”. 

The first issue of the album in Greece, and the second issue incorporating “Into the Groove” with its characteristic sticker on the cover.

We learn from the media of the day MTV, (as well as Mousikorama and other State TV music programmes) and also from music magazines, (without being able to read German, I regularly bought the German magazine Bravo every month, so that I could keep in touch with the charts and new releases), that Madonna is preparing to release the second single from her long-awaited third album. (“Live to Tell” circulated in March as the first single). The song was “Papa don’t Preach”.  It was released in early June, essentially as a forerunner to her new album “True Blue”, it swept through the charts, and by late June the album, with its wonderful cover, was in the record shops.

Posters of the time advertising the single “Papa don’t Preach” and the album “True Blue”.

I bought the album on the first day of its release having previously ordered it from my local record shop when WEA announced its release in Greece a few days previously.

I remember the first time I played the record and how enthusiastic I was when “La Isla Bonita” started to play!  What an incredible song, and how different from Madonna’s sound!  I was sure this would be the next single released, and I was impatient for this to happen, so that the relevant remixes could be made.  I was sure this song would be the one to “rock the boat”.

Unfortunately, time passes and nothing official is heard from Warner regarding this song.  Instead, September comes and the third single released is “True Blue”, and it is rumoured that the fourth single will be “Open your Heart”.  I was surprised and couldn’t help but wonder what the people at Warner were thinking!  Why bypass such an amazing song for the conventional and predictable “Open your Heart”?

Truth be told, “La Isla Bonita” was slightly outside the musical preferences of both the American and British public (the two big markets), but it was very close to the European Italo Disco sound, resulting in the song suddenly becoming popular not only in Greece, but also in Spain and Italy, (I wasn’t alone in my discovery!), and generally throughout the Mediterranean – without an official single release or any other indication of its promotion from Warner. 

The first edition of “True Blue” with the titles written in Greek!  

The song is heard from one side of Greece to the other in the summer of ’86, (something that happened the year before with Sandra’s “Maria Magdalena”, which essentially first became a hit in Greece, in the summer of ’85).

Unlike “Maria Magdalena” though which was released as an extended version single early on, “La Isla Bonita” was not, causing great problems with it’s integration into the DJ Set at the Discos – the DJ could not mix the song with other hits of the season as it did not have the necessary instrumental sections required for remixes.  (For a correct mix of two songs, both must have a large section without vocals – to enable the DJ to play them together at that point, moving smoothly from one to the other).

And out of the blue along comes Costas Sakkaris (of the well known Sakkari Records) – yes, Maria Sakkaris father! – together with the maitre of sound, Akis Golfidis, who brought the sound of Italo Disco music to Greece, they undertake the production of a new version of “La Isla Bonita”, with the great voice of Sandy Politi, and quickly release it in two “satisfying” versions (7.28 mins. and 6.42 mins. each) as a maxi single, enabling the song now to be easily mixed at the Discos.

(At this point I would like to mention that on the back cover of the maxi single, Sakkaris and Golfidis are shown as producers, whereas the label on the B-side of the disc shows Golfidis and Haselbeck as producers!  I would imagine that all three had a great time working on its creation!).

So, even before Warner promoted “La Isla Bonita”, the song was OFFICIALLY released in Greece by Sakkaris Records (SR8.529) as a maxi single, with the voice of Sandy Politi, and it was several months later (Spring of ’87) when Warner decided to release it as the fifth single from the album. 

During that period, before the age of the web, without internet dissemination of information, no YouTube, no iTunes, any discographic production (except the international releases) was restricted to its country of origin and essentially it was only heard there – except in some instances where a recording company of another country would obtain the rights to release it as a single or to include it in a particular collection.

Therefore, Sandy Politi’s vinyl was initially restricted to the Greek market.  (I imagine that the copyrights of the period involved a licence to cut a certain number of vinyls).  One contributing factor to the song’s huge success was the reason that many tourists visiting Greece that summer liked hearing the song at the Discos, and many requested the DJs to copy it onto cassettes for them, whilst others bought the maxi single before returning home, thus taking the song away with them to their own country. 

But who was this woman with such a great voice singing “La Isla Bonita”? 

We met Sandy Politi discographically that same year, as a member of the group Three Five, through the maxi single “Searching for your Love”, which was well received at the Discos of 1986 having common elements with Piano Fantasia’s “Song for Denise”, which song had been circulating everywhere at the peak of success since 1985. “Searching for your Love” was written by Terry Siganos and Tony Haselbeck and naturally once again it was produced by Golfidis and Sakkaris.  With this maxi single, Sandy’s voice impressed all of us who love Italo Disco music with its colourful timbre.
(Another article will follow the surprising history of “Searching for your Love” on its journey to various countries around the world).

As mentioned above, there were no immediate updates on new discographic releases, so we would visit the record shops to find out about new releases.  One day I was extremely surprised to see on the shelves of a record shop a maxi single of “La Isla Bonita” with Sandy Politi! No  prior announcement or publicity of its release had been made in any of the magazines, hence my surprise!

I stood staring at the front cover of a topless young woman, (okay between us the cover was not so tasteful), wondering whether this was Sandy Politi, as there was no photo of her on the cover of “Searching for your Love”.

I then turn the disc over and see on the back cover that the song is 7.28 mins. long, which means that it has a lot of vocal free intervals for mixing purposes  – in those days I was very much into mixing at home creating programs on cassettes without computers, using my small mixer and 2 pick-up – so a lot of love and dedication was needed to arrange two songs to play together for 2 octaves in order to achieve a good mix.

I was also pleased to see that a Dub version was included (every self-respecting hit in those days included a Dub version) – no comparison with today’s DAB. I bought the record immediately, went home and straight away I placed it on my pick-up.  I destroyed many vinyls by over-playing them and had to buy a new record again and again.

I want to say something about the people mentioned on the back cover of the single as participants in it’s production. It was a rather different era then, and people worked on these productions with a passion, with lots of love and dedication. I think that all of us, who were given the opportunity to fall in love with Italo Disco music, owe it to Akis Golfidis, (together with Costas Haritodiplomenos), and to Costas Sakkaris who with his Record Company initially paved the way for foreign Italo Disco releases to reach our homes, and later on gave the opportunity to many Greeks, Terry Siganos and ALEX-C among them, to present us with their own creations.

The song created havoc at the Discos because in it’s extended version it was integrated into the DJ Set and now everyone could dance to their favourite song, despite the fact that Madonna’s company had not yet launched a single. 

The song with the voice of Sandy Politi, was taken up by the Italian Company “Many Records” in 1986, and included in their well known collection “The Flying Mix” which was circulated both as a record and a cassette.  The collection was mixed by DJ Dan Venturi, and Sandy’s “La Isla Bonita” was merged with the other Italo Disco star, Martinell and his song “O.Express”.  Together with Sandy Politi we meet Sabrina, Samantha Fox, Victor Lazla, KOTO, Bruce and Bongo and others.

Τhe song was also included in successful collections in Greece, such as the “Party together with you” {“Πάρτυ μαζί σου”}, (where she was referred to as Sandy – without the Politi – presumably so that one would assume it was a foreign production, as the collection consisted of songs from the company’s catalogue of international successes).  It was also included in the “Samba Party” Collection which was mixed by DJ Pierro Ravini (a star of the time), and in the “Winners” Collection, again mixed by Pierro Ravini, where we hear an interesting coexistence of “La Isla Bonita” with Radiorama’s “Vampires”.

Months later, in February 1987, Madonna released “La Isla Bonita” as a single. 

I believe that whoever you asked then, and whoever you ask now in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, which is their favourite song from the “True Blue” album, they will say “La Isla Bonita”.
It is worth noting that Sandy’s “La Isla Bonita” was also included in the “Ultimate European Dance Collection 3” released in Singapore in 1993.

Two other countries used the same idea as Greece releasing “La Isla Bonita” as a single before Madonna’s official release. Italy released “La Isla Bonita” with Lucia, and Spain released it with Micaela.

I do not have any information which one of the girls (Sandy, Lucia, Micaela) preceded the other two.  However, the only sure thing is that in the world’s discography, “La Isla Bonita” was first released as a single in Greece by Sandy Politi, and then by Madonna, and that is remarkable!

Looking through my files relating to the Greek Charts, I found the Singles Chart shown below.  These charts were devised through a system of counting sales (long before ifpi charts), and were published by the Greek magazine POP + ROCK.  I cannot be certain of the month in 1986 this relates to, but it shows the entry of “La Isla Bonita” by Sakkaris Records at No. 21 on which Lucia’s name was probably written by mistake.  Although Lucia’s maxi single by Industry Records had been released in Greece at some point, I believe in this instance the entry relates to the maxi single of Sandy Politi.

Extra photos:

Τhe rare test pressing vinyl of Sandy Politi’s “La Isla Bonita” printed by Sakkaris Records just before their final pressing of the single, in order to check for sound, errors, etc.

Cover of the LP “DUO” with a rare photo of Sandy Politi who together with Giannis Patrikareas as Duo released the LP five years after the release of “La Isla Bonita”.

The songs of the single:

Sandy Politi’s two songs of “La Isla Bonita” digitally edited by Studio Polyphoniki and for the first time uploaded on my YouTube Channel, “Kosdil Channel – Dilzas Says and Shares”, are here! 

1.”LA ISLA BONITA” (12″ Version)


  • Another article will follow on Sandy’s unknown successes during her Italo Disco career, with material that will see the light of publicity for the first time here on my site “Dilzas Says and Shares”.  Stay tuned!

Me and the rare vinyl!

Categories: covers, music, stories, UncategorizedTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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