Madonna is one of those singers whose voice just hits you when you hear it over the radio. And when you see her… well, even she admits that she thinks she’s sexy. Her first LP yielded such smash singles as “Borderline” and “Lucky Star” – the new album, Like A Virgin, has more. In this talk, Madonna reveals her thoughts about love, stardom, hard work and her dream to conquer the world.
LR: Your work thing seems to be poretty much under control. What about the rest of your life? Or is there a rest of your life at this point?
Madonna: There is a rest of my life and it’s important to me, and that’s the part that’s not in control.
LR: Don’t you think that’s part of an artistic nature?
Madonna: There has to be something that’s off and that’s my personal life and relationships with people. They’re totally irrational. I can’t say that I’m enjoying every minute of my personal life being topsy-turvy.
LR: People meaning Boyfriends?
Madonna: Not only boyfriends, but friends as well. Friends don’t understand. They get pissed off when you don’t return phone calls. And boyfriends definitely don’t understand. They constantly hold it against you. They have perfect toming. Whenever you have an audition to something where you really have to concentrate and be in a good mood, they mess it up. They start a fight, they whatever. It just always happens for me that way.
LR: If you do have a fight before you have to do something, are you able to pull it together, or do you still fall apart?
Madonna: I’ve been upset, but I’ve always gone on stage. I’ve had fights with people right before I’ve gone on stage. I’ve gone on stage with tears in my eyes. I’ve just dealt with it and it wasn’t the greatest performance or anything, but I could always go on stage. That’s all there is to it. Unless, ya know, like my father died or something. But so far, I’ve been able to deal with any emotional distress and be really professional about it.
LR: Do you think you’re sexy?
LR: Do you find that a problem, or do you think it’s an advantage?
Madonna: It’s an advantage being sexy. Yes.
LR: Do you want people to know you’re smart?
LR: Do you think people think you’re not?
Madonna: People are surprised.
LR: Why don’t you perform with a band?
Madonna: Well, I started doing dates with backing tracks to promote my last album and no one ever thought that my album was going to do that well. Warner Bros, certainly didn’t; they wanted to get me in the studio and do a new record, do I never planned to get a band together. I never planned for my record to go platinum, which it’s three records away from being. (Actually, the album is now double platinum and still climbing – Ed.) No one ever planned for it so I was always going to put out a new record and then go on tour to support that with a band.
LR: Three records away from being platinum? We should go out and buy them. What are you planning to do on stage after you put a band together and start touring?
Madonna: Well, the first tour that I do, I’m not going to go crazy and spend tons of money. I really want it to be pretty basic. I’d like to keep it simple to start off with and really just come across as a performer and a singer and rely on myself. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen any of my track shows where I use dancers, but I still want to incorporate that even with my band. I have those two singers who move really well and they’re great. One of them is the guy in my “Borderline” video. I want to make the dancing and stuff part of the live show. But I want to keep it simple, the way TAMI shows were.
LR: When you were growing up in Detroit, what did you dream that you would become?
Madonna: I thought of being everything. When I was younger, I bounced around and did everything. The first thing I wanted do was a movie star. Then, I wanted to be a singer and then, I got into dancing more and really started concentrating on that. I just felt like I really needed a skill to go to New York with. I had to arm myself because I didn’t know anyone in New York and I had never been here before. I loved to dance and I was really good at it so I figured well, I can always start off as a dancer in New York and just take it from there. It will always help me as a performer on stage, but basically it was something to arms myself with.
LR: Why did you think you had to arm yourself with something?
Madonna: I just knew that I couldn’t go to New York and say, “Well, I’m here now. I’m gonna do something.” I always have to be good at something. That’s me. I have to know that I’m great at something. I knew that I could sing, but I didn’t know how to go about becoming a singer. The singing I did in Detroit was in the backyard with my girlfriends.
LR: You lived in Paris for awhile, didn’t you? Tell me about that. How did that haappen?
Madonna: When I stopped dancing, I got involved with (singer) Patrick Hernandez. I was going to go on a tour with him as a backup singer and dancer. But his record producers decided that they didn’t want me to be a back-up singer, they wanted to make me a star in Paris, in france, in Europe, whatever. So I went and lived in Paris for six months. That was really the begining of my singing career. Someone said, “We’re going to make you a star. We own a record company, we’ll make a record with you. Our company is based in France, come to Europe. We’ll work with a vocal coach, we’ll find material for you, we’ll support you, we’ll take care of you and we’ll give you money and you don’t have to sign a contract.”
So, of course, I jumped on that because I was living in New York for two years as a dancer, starving, and I really ultimately wanted to get involved in the music business, so that was a perfect opportunity. So I went there and that didn’t work out because they were busy with Patric, they were a very young record company, and they didn’t know what to do with me. They just saw talent and they wanted to do something with me. There I was, stuck in Paris for six months.
LR: Stuck ? You didn’t like Paris?
Madonna: No, I hated it.
Madonna: Because I was miserable. I had no friends. Well, I made friends eventually, but I was used to the fast-paced living of New York and Paris everyone takes their time. I really wanted to do something. I had so much energy and I wanted them to do something with me. I just didn’t see the results and I didn’t see them fast enough. They weren’t doing anything, really. It was a good experience for me, though, because when I went there I started writing a lot, writing lyrics and stuff. I hadn’t really learned how to play an instrument yet. So I continued to take dance classes there and I worked with a vocal coach for a little while and I wrote a lot and I traveled around Europe. That was a good experience so I don’t complain about it.
But at the time, I would march into their offices and say, “What are you doing with me? You’re not doing anything with me. Every time I come in here, you say you’re busy. Now do something with me. You said you want to make a record, let’s make a record. I’m ready to make a record.” And they’d say, “Oh there, there, Madonna. Now here, take some money. Now go out and buy yourself a new outfit, okay? We’re really busy right now.” They were completely condescending to me and it really annoyed me. It was miserable.
LR: So what happened after you left Paris?
Madonna: Well, I had so much pent-up anxiety and desire to be a singer and get in a band and everything, that when I got back to New York, I had met these two brothers in a band before I left, and I called them up immediately when I arrived in the city. I said, “Teach me how to play guitar. teach me, I have to know. You have to show me.” And they did. They were very helpful. They became my instructors.
They had a synagogue in Queens that they sort of took over, and in the basement of the synagogue they had all their equipment and a little rehearsal studio. And in the upstairs was a living area. they’d go off to work every day and I go down there and I’d play the drums for four hours, and then I’dplay guitar for a little while, and then I’d play the keyboards. I had the whole place to myself. i stayed there for 10 months. I never came into the city. I stayed in Corona. That was a great experience.
LR: Can you play those instruments respectably ?
Madonna: Yes, but I haven’t in a while.
LR: Will you play them on stage?
Madonna: I might, You’ll have to wait and see. But my first job, I was a drummer for this group, the Breakfast Club. We made the circuit of all the shitty clubs. We played on the audition nights and the nights where you didn’t get any money and you were the tenth band to play and you set up your shit at three in the morning and there were 10 people in the audience and people threw things at you. I went through all of that. I just played the drums in that band. They didn’t want a singer in their band, they had enough singers. So I quit that band and I formed my own band and I sang and played guitar.
LR: What was the name of that band?
Madonna: Emmy. That was my nickname at the time. Everyone called me M because they were too lazy to say my full name. You get stuck with really stupid nicknames sometimes, but no one call me that anymore. And that anymore. And then I got tired of that. It was a three-piece band and it was very difficult to sing and look down and make sure I was playing all the chords right. So I got another guirat player and eventually I stopped playing altogether on stage.
I still play guitar and keyboard to write. But then I get sick of bands, I felt like I was getting nowhere with it. I just went in with this guy Steve and made a demo. Between him and I, we played enough instruments. We made the tape ourselves, playing everything and writing everything.
LR: Where did you make the demo?
Madonna: In the music building, on Eight Avenue and thrty-seventh Street.
LR: Did you have money to pay for that demo?
Madonna: No, we had our ways of getting things without paying for them. Steven played for many bands. He’d go around whoring himself off. He’d say, “I’ll play drums only if you let me come in here at night and use ypur eight-track studio.” We’d just con people into letting us use all their equipment. It took a while, it took a lot of nights working from midnight to eight in the morning but eventually we got the demo finished. That’s how I got the record deal.
I hung out for about a month at Danceteria before I got enough courage to tell the DJ, Mark Kamins I had a tape for him to listen to. I didn’t want to sound like another girl with another tape. I knew that once I gained his respect and got him to listen to my pate, he had a number of friends that were A & R people. He was also a former A & R person at island records. I knew that he was very well-connected. I planned the whole thing.
LR: When you got the record contract, were you beside yourself with ecstasy?
Madonna: Of course I was. I had gone from dancing to paris to playing in these shitty-assed clubs.
LR: How long did all this take?
Madonna: Almost four years.
LR: So you don’t see this as an overnight success.
Madonna: Are you kidding? Everyone else thinks it is, but I worked my butt off before I got where I got. I literally starved and lived on the street and ate out of garbage cans before any of this happened.
LR: Didn’t you come from a family that could’ve helped support you?
Madonna: No, not really. I had very big family. I’m the third eldesr and when I came to New York, there were still a lot of kids at home. I always felt too guilty to ask my father for any money. I had turned down a scholarship at the University of Michigan to come and do this so i couldn’t expect much sympathy for starving in New York when I could be living wonderfully in Michigan and going to an Ivy League school and blah blah blah. So I didn’t get moyes from my parent, no.
LR: Was there ever any doubt that you had to get out of Detroit?
Madonna: No. I knew I wanted to come to New York when I was five-years-old. I don’t know why, i just knew it. I could never explain my feelings the first year I lived here. I didnn’t know anyone. When i came to New York, it was the first time I’d ever taken a plane, it was the first time I’d ever gotten in a taxi cab, it was the first time for everything. And I came here not knowing anyone with thirty-five dollars in my pocket. It was the bravest thing I’ve ever done. My goal was to conquer this city and I feel like I have. i can’t belive how frightened I was when I look back at it, but I was.
LR: And when you talk about conquering the city, if you walk down the street and you hear your song on car radios…
Madonna: That’s conquering the city. And really feeling like I own the joint, ya know?
LR: Now what’s next? The world?
Madonna: Yes. Definitely.
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