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Madonna Interview : Smash Hits (July 11 1989)

Madonna - Smash Hits / July 11 1989

Madonna has just given her most revealing interview for years. It was done for an Australian TV station and will probably never be shown over here. And this is what happened.

Ihe first thing you see is a close-up of Madonna’s face smiling. Then she lets out the most enormous belch, says “Hi. I’m Madonna” and bursts into hysterical laughter. Most odd. Then she starts talking about love:

“I guess you know when you’re in love when you finally decide that you want to make sacrifices for somebody else, and you want to give something up for somebody else, you don’t lust concentrate on yourself. Like the love that parents have for their children…” she turns and calls for her father, “…Dad…!”

Oddly her father, a man who has obviously given very few fashion tips to one of the most famous celebrities in the universe, does appear. He perches himself on the end of the sofa and the following conversation ensues.

“Madonn,” he says. “I think it’s time we get going here.”

“Get going where, Daddy?” asks Madonna in a little-girl voice.

“We got to go,” he repeats. “We got some homework to do… things to do.”

“Dad! I graduated from high school… points out Madonna, quite sensibly. She holds her head in her hands.

“But you’re pretending…” he interrupts.

“…twelve years ago,” she continues, before questioning his last statement. “Pretending what?”

“You’re pretending that you’re a movie star and you’re really not.” explains her father.

“I am a movie star,” she cries out petulantly.

The camera cuts to her talking about bunking off Sunday church when she was younger.

“Once we got older,” she says. “and we could drive ourselves, my father… um, my parents (her father and stepmother). …would go to the earlier Mass and we’d say we were going to go to the later one. We’d all get in the car together and we’d go down to the doughnut shop and then we’d go to the church and pick up a flyer (i.e. a leaflet) like we’d been there. you know, and we’d make up something that the priest said during the sermon… I think my father knew all along that we were lying…”

“Well. I don’t think she lied to me but…” says her father.

“Dad!” she exclaims. “You’re lying right now…” She picks a cushion off the sofa and swings it quickly round into her father’s stomach. He finds this rather funny and starts giggling.

“She probably did,” he concedes. “Most kids do.”

“He’s so loyal,” purrs Madonna. “He won’t say anything bad about me.”

That is the last we see of Sylvio Ciccone (known to his friends as Tony) until the very end of the interview when there is a piece of film from Madonna’s 1985 Virgin Tour video, At the end of “Material Girl”, a voice booms out over the music:

“Madonna! You come off that stage this instant!” he bellows.

“Daddy,” she asks. “is that you?”

“You’re coming home with me now, little lady.”

“But Daddy. I’m having a good time…”

“You heard what I said…”

And with that the real Mr Ciccone appears and pulls her off the stage.

Most odd. For the rest of the interview Madonna just chats away, about this, that and everything. For instance:

Discipline
“The thing is, if my father hadn’t been strict I wouldn’t be who I am today. I think… I think that his strictness taught me a certain amount of discipline that has helped me in my life and my career and also made me work harder for things, whether for acceptance or the privilege to do things.”

Fighting for Mr Ciccone’s Affection
“You know my nickname in my family was The Mouth. When you’re from a big family everybody’s really competitive with each other, so aside from lust screaming really loud and doing things that got me attention like… we would all get in various kinds of trouble to get my father’s attention and then be punished accordingly. I was really competitive in school with my grades and stuff because my father used to give us rewards if we got ‘A’s on our report cards. So it was my goal to get the best report cards all the time. It wasn’t so much that I was interested in learning, it was more that I was interested in getting the best grades and getting the most… my father gave us 25 cents (about 17p in real money) for every ‘A’ that we got so I wanted to earn the most amount of money. I wanted to be the envy of my brothers and sisters.”

Learning Music
“Everyone in the family studied a musical instrument. My father was really big on that. Somehow I only took about a year and a half of piano lessons and I convinced my father to let me take dancing lessons instead, so I escaped the dreariness of piano lessons every day which I despised. But there was always music in our house, either records or the radio or someone singing in the bathtub… noise. Lots of noise.”

The Video for “Express Yourself”
This one I’ve had the most amount of input. I oversaw everything – (she makes a list on her fingers) – the building of the sets, everyone’s costume, I had meetings with make-up and hair and the cinematographer… everybody.
Casting, finding the right cat – just every aspect. Kind of like making a little movie. We basically sat down and just threw out every idea we could possible conceive of and of all the things we wanted, all the imagery we wanted… and I had a few set ideas, for instance the cat and the idea of Metropolis (Metropolis is a ‘celebrated’ 1926 German film futuristic fantasy in which society combines fancy technology with slave-like working conditions: the original film is, spook fact fans, now owned by Queen and scenes from it appeared in their video for ‘Radio Ga-Ga’). I definitely wanted to have that influence, that look on all the men – the workers, diligently, methodically working away. David (the director)’s idea for the cat to, like, lick the milk and then pour it over… it’s great but believe me I fought him on that. I didn’t want to do it, I thought it’s just so over the top and silly and kind of cliched, an art student or a film student’s kind of trick. I’m glad that I gave into him.

“The ultimate thing behind the song is that if you don’t express yourself, if you don’t say what you want, then you’re not going to get it. And in effect you are chained down by your inability to say what you feel or go after what you want.”

Madonna - Smash Hits / July 11 1989

Writing Songs
“Lots of times Pat Leonard will come up with a piece of music like ‘Oh Father’ – we did very little to change it musically – he throws the music at me and I just listen to it over and over again. And somehow the music suggests words to me and I just start writing words down. Other times I will come to Pat with an idea for a song, either lyrically or emotionally and say ‘Let’s do something like this’ or I’ll have a melody line in my head which I will sing to him and he will sort of pound out the chords. It takes a lot longer to do it that way because I don’t play an instrument but ultimately it’s a lot more personal. Then with Steve Bray its the same thing. Sometimes he’ll come up with a track and he’ll have a verse and chorus but he won’t have a bridge (the bit in a song between the verse and the chorus) so we’ll write the bridge musically together.”

The Oddness That Is Prince
I think Prince lives a very isolated life and I don’t, and that is the big difference between us. And I just try to be a positive influence on him I’ve always been a fan. I think he’s incredible and I also admire his… he’s very courageous and he causes lots of controversy too which is great… and I think he is a brilliant musician. We’ve gotten together a couple of times in the hope of working with each other in some way. Originally we were going to do a musical together and we were going to write the music for it – that didn’t really pan out. We just kept getting together. He seemed to fight the idea of just writing songs for a record together because he’s done that with so many people. He came to see me in the play I did last summer in New York and he, just for the hell of it, put together a tape of some rough things that we’d done in all of our meetings that we’d had. “Love Song” was one of the songs and I just said “You know, this is crazy, it’s such a great song – why not put it on the record?” It seemed to relate to all the other songs because it’s about a relationship that’s a hate/love relationship. So he agreed to it and we kind of sent the tapes back and forth to each other and we’d keep building it. It was like he would write a sentence and I would add on to it and then send it back to him and he would continue the story, basically. It was fun. I played the keyboards myself and because I don’t know that much, it kind of came out strange and interesting.”

Her First Boyfriend
“My first boyfriend was when I was, I guess… gee, I think 14 or 15. I fell in love with a boy named Russell. He was the only boy who would dance with me at school, because I was really wild at the high school dances and I danced completely insanely and all the guys were afraid to ask me to dance with them because I basically ignored them anyway. But Russell was a wild dancer and he was a couple of years older and he was more sophisticated and… so he was the one who had the courage really. So he won my heart, because he wasn’t afraid of me…” (In earlier interviews she has talked about her first boyfriend as being a bloke called Ronny Howard with the white blond hair who was “so beautiful” that she “wrote his name over my sneakers and on the playground – I used to take off the top part of the uniform and chase him around.”)

Unwisely going to see David Bowie
I can t remember who I saw first, Elton John or David Bowie, but I was punished for seeing both of them because the Arena was a really dangerous part of downtown Detroit and it really wasn’t the place for young girls to be going unescorted, which we all were. I think I lied to my father and said I was spending the night at my girlfriend’s and then I went off to the concerts and both times my father called and found out that I’d gone to the concert I think I got grounded or something. Like, one summer I wanted to go away to camp or something, and I wasn’t allowed to because I went to see David Bowie. But it was worth it. I borrowed a long black velvet cape from my girlfriend – who knows what I had underneath it? – and I made a grand entrance. And that was the most important thing.”

God
“I had my own ideas about God and then I had the ideas that I thought were imposed on me. I believe in God. I believe that everything that you do comes back to you, I believe in the innate goodness of people and the importance of that.

The “Like A Prayer” Video Rumpus
People who are really passionate and who realty have an open mind, if they really watch closely I think that the video has a very positive message and that they wouldn’t find fault with it. The passion… there’s something almost sexual about it really, if you want to get really psychoanalytical about it. The video was very… I think it had a very positive message. It was about overcoming racism and overcoming the fear of telling the truth. So many people witness crimes and they’re afraid to get involved because it’ll only bring them trouble. They’re afraid to stand out on a limb and stand up for someone else – I think it had a lot of positive messages. I mean, it’s a very taboo subject to have an interracial relationship and the idea of that kind of joyousness in a church. It dealt with a lot of taboos it made people afraid. And I think the peope who reacted negatively to it were afraid of their feelings that they have about those issues.”

Being Criticised
“I have to listen to the criticism that I get when it’s dealing with my work. It’s beneficial. I guess I don’t take criticism very well but it’s getting better. If I do something and there’s a hundred people in the room and 99 people say they liked it, I only remember the person who didn’t like it.”

The Wonderfulness Of Dark Hair
“The thing is. I wouldn’t even be blonde now except that I’m doing Dick Tracy (the film she is making with Warren Beatty) and I had to dye my hair blonde. I begged Warren Beatty because it took me so long to grow my hair out and I really wanted to have dark hair. Along with the album, which was much more personal and stuff. I felt kind of great having my own hair colour for the first time in years. There was something exotic to me about having dark hair versus blonde hair. And then I had to change it so I had a bit of an identity crisis – that was the avenue I was going down – and then all of a sudden I had to change it. Women with blonde hair are perceived as much more sexual and much more impulsive, not so serious… fun-loving but not as layered, not as deep, not as serious.”

Acting
“(Announced with almost manic determination) I really want to be recognised as an actress. I’ve learned that if you surround yourself with great writers and great actors and a great director and a great costumer or whatever, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. In the past I’ve been in a really big hurry to make movies and I haven’t kind of taken the time to make sure all of those elements were in line and good enough. It’s a waste of time to do something mediocre. Unless you absolutely believe in every aspect of it then you shouldn’t waste your time.”

World Problems
There’s a lot of terrible things happening in the world today and there’s a lot of people that need our help and there’s a lot of environmental issues that need to be dealt with. In terms of AIDS I just know so many people who have died of AIDS and it’s such a serious problem. Like, so much of the art community in New York. I feel like in five years from now all of my friends will be dead. It really hits home with me. It’s a very serious matter. “And then the Brazilian Rain Forest – as I said at the benefit performance (she recently appeared at a benefit in New York) I didn’t think that it was such a personal issue for me. I didn’t think it was such a big deal, until I got all the facts about it. It really is. more than the threat of a nuclear war, which may or may not happen. If we destroy the rain forest we are destroying ourselves, and it’s happening right now. In 50 years the entire rain forest will be gone. We need the rain forest for oxygen, we need the rain forest to absorb the carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere from all the cars and all the pollution and we need the forests to help find cures for AIDS and cancer (because many medical cures are developed from plants and animals and there are believed to be many many undiscovered species in the rain forest that may become extinct without us ever knowing about them) which is an important issue for me – my mum died of cancer and my best friend died of AIDS. (She is referring to Martin Burgoyne, a designer who she lived with before she was famous and who desegned the American sleeve for ‘Lucky Star’). It’s a really vital important issue.

The interview finishes like this:
“Is there anything else I’d like to say ? (She thinks for a long while) I don’t know. Peace. (She holds up two fingers in a V formation.) Peace, man. Make love, not war. That’s all.”

© Smash Hits

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