“I was the one who knew that she was a megastar – not the label. But the first day I met her, I didn’t think that. I thought she was interesting as hell, but remember that when we met, her first record had been out a year and hadn’t really sold – it’d done about 750,000 units, and she’d had a couple of big records, ‘Holiday’ and ‘Everybody’.
“I can talk about this now, as it’s been documented, but I don’t think anybody has ever made a bigger production deal than I did for ‘Like A Virgin’. It was an absurd deal. I was very confident that I could sell… I don’t remember exactly what the figure was, but let’s say it was five million. The attorney and the record company thought that was impossible, as she’d already had some big hits but hadn’t sold one million yet.
“So they thought: if he can sell five million, we’ll give him that amount of money, and we’ll give him those points… And I said, well, it also has to be retroactive from record one. So they said sure, and were laughing. And then the album sold 21 million. (Laughs)
“So that five million? How about 21 million! Now, whenever I see those guys, their first words are always about that deal. Holy cow, they would never have done that deal if they knew how massive that album would be. I wound up making a huge amount of money as the producer on that.
“Let’s put my position in perspective: I was coming off of producing David Bowie’s (1983 album) ‘Let’s Dance’, and that was the easiest record to make in my life. So, if you think about the hardest record I’ve ever made, which was 1980’s ‘Diana’ by Diana Ross, with ‘Upside Down’ and ‘I’m Coming Out’, and that wound up being the biggest record of her career, Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ we did in 17 days, start to finish and mix. We didn’t touch that record after the 17 days.
“So I was coming off that, and that was a big hit record and we did it in no time, in the blink of an eye. So I’m thinking: music is changing, but I have this approach to making records that is still valid, so long as I can swim in the pool with these artists.
“The R&B records were being made a different way, but the pop records weren’t. So, I thought, if I can do that with David Bowie, and he can sell as many records as he did, then what is this girl – cute and fabulous and full of life – capable of? It’s going to be amazing.
“And after I got to know Madonna, I’ve never met anyone else in my life, to this day, who’s more driven. Who’s more of a hard worker. She would beat me to the studio every day. She was always there 10 minutes before me.
“It was amazing, and when I saw that in her… I mean, you can see who she is now, and it didn’t take me long to spot that quality. I just kept thinking: this is going to be huge! I didn’t think it’d be that huge, but I thought I could easily give her that five million, or whatever I said, that the label obviously thought was impossible.”
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