all about Madonna

“‘Like A Prayer’ at 25” : Billboard

I’m assuming you watched the Super Bowl when she performed “Like a Prayer”?

No, I actually didn’t… I heard it was really cool! I think I might have seen a YouTube video or something of it afterward. You know, just to hear the song is really cool and to know that she’s still doing the songs — some of the songs that we wrote together — makes me happy. A lot of people were like all the rage about that — that she did that song. I’m just happy she’s still doing it. I think it’s great.

Were there songs recorded for the album that the two of you worked on that eventually were just shelved or haven’t been released?

I think there was one, but I’m not sure what it was a remnant of. It might have been a remnant of “Who’s That Girl” or of “I’m Breathless.” There was ever only one song, and it got released as a b-side, and I don’t remember what it was called, even. I don’t think it was “Like a Prayer”-era. [Note: Leonard may be referring to the “Cherish” b-side, “Supernatural.”] My recollection is that we just wrote the songs that were going on the record and that was it. I mean, those songs were written one a day — that’s it. A few hours and they were done.

Prince turns up on the album, obviously, on “Love Song,” the song he and Madonna did together. I’ve read that his guitar work is on “Keep It Together” somewhere.

What I know is that his guitar work is on, when you start “Like a Prayer,” the guitar that you hear before the door slams…

The distorted guitar?

That’s Prince. What happened is, [Madonna] sent him something to play on and he played on it and sent it back. And we didn’t feel that what he did served it. But that piece, that beginning, is him.

Recently, I listened to [the song “Like a Prayer”] — I hadn’t heard it years. There’s a heavy rock guitar that’s in the bridges — I don’t think it’s Prince. There’s a heavy guitar in the choruses and when I heard it, I thought: “Did we use his guitar in those bridges?” Because the sound is similar to the first sound [in the opening], but it’s not exactly the same. . . . But I know for a fact that we did use that [Prince] thing as the intro, because we just thought it was crazy and really cool. I seem to recall that that’s all we used, but I could be wrong.

With “Oh Father,” were you surprised that song was chosen to be a single? That was a pretty bold move for her because it was such a slow, heavy song to come out as a big pop commercial single from her at the time.

My favorite thing that we ever recorded, ever — or wrote — is “Oh Father.” That to me is the best thing we ever did. So, it didn’t surprise me because we knew when we did it, that there was something about this that was in a way kind of the most *real* thing.

[For] that song, the ‘record’ button was only pressed three times. It was pressed to do the track, live, with her singing live. Then we did the orchestra. And then we did a double of her vocal when we were mixing. That’s it. So it’s real. It’s something that I really wanted to do and she was kind enough to say “let’s try this,” and it was not easy.

There’s two or three guitar players playing. I’m playing keyboards. Jai Winding was playing keyboards. There was a percussionist and a drummer — and she’s singing — all at the same time.

These days, people go “wow, that seems crazy.” Those days it wasn’t uncommon for everybody to be playing together even though you’re not a band. But it was one of those things where the arrangement was tricky enough, that it really took some working out to get it all right.

Even all those weird synth overdubs and things — all those things were being done live. We worked out all the parts, had all the sounds. I remember that we cut it live, and then put the orchestra on. You’re not doubling the orchestra, so it’s one pass for the orchestra.

When I say [the ‘record’ button was] pressed three times, it might have gotten pressed 10 [times] that day, but it was ultimately one that stayed there. If you see what I’m saying. When we were mixing it, [mixer] Bill Bottrell suggested that we double the choruses. I remember even being a little upset about it (Laughs). Like, look, “we’ve got an amazing record that we only pressed the record button twice — can’t we leave it?” He said, “three isn’t exactly shameful.” We doubled the lead vocal on the choruses, and that was it.