“Dignity? Yeah I do. But once again I feel that her judgement is clouded by the fact that she’s f**ed up all the time. It’s hard for her… but you can’t go around saying. ‘Oh I didn’t really mean to do that, I was high.’ I’ve subsequently had conversations with her about what she said about me and she’s been like, ‘Oh, I was really f**ed up when I said that, I didn’t mean it, y’know’. And that’s bullshit. You can justify any kind of bad behaviour if you always have that for an excuse.”
Had she not said those things about you, would you have been there for her when things fell apart?
“Yeah,” she smiles ruefully, “I’m very maternal and I’m completely a caretaker. I’ve had my share of drug-addict boyfriends. I would have been there for her. But I would probably have gotten sickly intertwined in her life and tried to intervene and in the end you can’t do that. People have to help themselves.”
Would you care to speculate how things might work out for her?
“I have no idea. I don’t know what her karma is, I don’t know what her future is. I’ve said this before – I think she’s really talented but she’s got to find something to hang on to and she’s got to find happiness. If she doesn’t, then I don’t know what will become of her. That goes for everybody.”
Do you prefer the newer breed of female artists who are coming through now – Elastica, for instinct, are defiantly unnihilistic?
“Yeah, I like that attitude. Alanis has it too. It’s not like, ‘Life sucks, why bother?’ The fatalism has gone, the negativity has gone. It’s more hopeful. It’s about strength and courage. I think you can be defiant and rebellious and still be strong and positive.”
Do you have genuine musical passion?
Madonna starts, indignant, “Of course!”
How do you know?
“I just do. It’s like an adrenaline rush, like a drug. When you’re writing something and you know it’s good, you get flushed, you can feel the blood coursing through your veins, you feel alive, all your nerve endings stand up, something just clicks…”
“And if I listen to other artists, artists who bare their soul, I get the same feeling and it really moves me. I think that’s why people love music so insanely. It does, as they say, soothe the savage beast. It reaches you in a primal way that can’t be explained, much more than literature or movies or anything.”
At the start of the interview Madonna expressed surprise that I had travelled to New York to talk to her; until that week, she had spent two months in Britain recording the soundtrack for Evita. Despite her fears that the tabloid press would “torture” her, Madonna ended up enjoying herself, making friends and chilling out “away from the business”. One of the few things she didn’t relish was appearing on Top Of The Pops with ‘You’ll See’.
“But I’m not a big fan of doing any TV shows… It’s like ‘NEXT!’ Like going to a hooker or something… But London was great. I like London now but it’s not a city that embraces you. It’s a hard nut you have to crack.”
What did you mean when you said that Americans were more puritanical than the English?
“Did I say that? I think I said that Americans were more puritanical than the Europeans, not necessarily the English. I think English people have a whole different kind of repression going on. They’re so civil but there’s this whole other dark side as well. They’re actually very kinky and very perverted and…” she breaks off, grinning naughtily, “I quite like that.”
You’re thinking of our politicians.
“No. I’m thinking about a lot of people.”
Do you think our royalty are a bit of a joke?
“I don’t know enough about them to make a judgement. I think a bit about Princess Diana and I think a bit about Prince Charles and I think what depressing lives they must lead. They can never live up to the expectations people have of them, and…” Madonna spreads her hands, wonderingly, “What do they do exactly? I cone from a lower middle-class background. I have a work ethic. I can’t bear the idea of people sitting around and doing nothing and going to charity events all the time. It sounds so boring.”
In America entertainment stars are the royalty. Could you be a candidate for Queen Of America?
Madonna raises an eyebrow.
“Are you kidding? I could never be Queen Of America. I’ve pissed off too many people. I’ve got the queens of America on my side but other than that…”
Your single came out at a time when Britain was engrossed in the chart war between Blur and Oasis. Were you aware of all that?
“No. All I know about Blur is that they exist. I’ve listened to the Oasis CD but it doesn’t appeal to me. I know everyone’s into them in Britain but everyone listens to Mariah Carey here and I’m not into that either.”
Weren’t you supposed to go and see Oasis at Earls Court?
“I was invited to the show but I said, ‘I’m not going to go just because they’re a big deal. I have to like their music’. So they gave me a CD, and I listened to it, and I wasn’t interested ”
Did the rock-based aspect put you off?
“Yeah, I just can’t relate to it. I have a hard time relating to male artists anyway… unless it’s the blues, R&B, that kind of stuff. Rock seems to me to be a lifestyle kind of stance, hiding behind this whole macho thing. It just doesn’t touch me. I listen to Oasis and I don’t know what the f*** they’re singing about and I don’t care.”
One of the Gallagher brothers, Noel, was quoted as saying that he was looking forward to meeting you and would only be too pleased to help you to have a baby.
Madonna starts. “REALLY?…”
He was only joking, he wasn’t being offensive.
“No, no, no…” she smiles, obviously tickled pink, “that’s very sweet! What do they look like? I haven’t a clue. On the album cover you can only see the backs of their heads. Are they cute?”
Cute?… Actually. you might think so. At a stretch, they’re a bit Italian looking.
“Italian looking? Oh, that’s nice.”
She sighs regretfully, unaware that it may have been a little imaginative to relocate the Gallaghers in downtown Milan.
“I feel terrible about the things I said. I hope they don’t feel too insulted when they read this interview I can’t help it, y’know, I’m just not into rock music. I was never even into The Beatles, can you Imagine?” she grins over at me, minxishly, “Is that sacrilegious to say?”
As if she cares. Controversy and Madonna are long-time bedfellows. Indeed, around her Sex book and ‘Erotica’, controversy could have been named as the third party in the break up of her on-off love affair with the world. But Madonna seems weary of her reputation as an arch media manipulator, recognising that it reduces her overall profile to that of a calculating businesswoman in corsets.
“They’ve managed to take every aspect of my life and say, ‘Oh, she did that on purpose, she manufactured that, she manipulated that…. It’s so boring. It’s just a way of making people feel safe about the fact that I’m walking around on this earth doing exactly what I want to do and enjoying it.”