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Steve Bray and Pat Leonard on Madonna, Like A Prayer – Smash Hits

Madonna - Smash Hits / April 19 - May 02 1989

But then he was persuaded to meet with her anyway, and decided she was surprisingly all right. “I thought it’d be fun and pretty painless. It was only for a few months.”
He threw a pre-tour party and at it played Madonna some music he’d written. She swiped it and turned it into “Love Makes The World Go Round” (off “True Blue”).

They’ve been writing songs together – such as “La Isla Bonita”, “Who’s That Girl”, “The Look Of Love” – ever since. These days he also has about a million other jobs – he produces millions of people’s records, writes millions of songs and has started his own group – but he still managed to co-write most of the songs on the “Like A Prayer” LP. It is, he says, all quite simple.

“Everything is very quick,” he explains. “We wrote ‘Like A Prayer’, ‘Spanish Eyes’, ‘Till Death Do Us Part’, ‘Dear Jessie’, ‘Promise To Try’ and ‘Cherish’ in a two week period. I was working on another album at the time, so she’d just come in on Saturdays or days off. Nothing took more than four hours ever.”

Sickening, isn’t it ? Pat writes some music, then Madonna simply comes in: “She sits on the couch, takes a pad out and writes the lyrics and sings it and we’re done.”

They also wrote some songs that didn’t make it onto the LP – something called “Supernatural”: “It’s almost a novelty piece. The lyrics are about sleeping with someone who’s dead in a spiritual sense. It’s about sleeping with a ghost. It’s a real kind of weird funk tune with a very strange groove.”

“Dear Jessie”, one of the songs on the LP is, he reveals, about his three-and-a-half year old daughter.

“The music was very playful and it sounded like a child and Madonna started coming up with ‘pink’ elephants and lemonade’. I was saying it’s got a very Beatle-like attitude. like ‘Dear Prudence’ (an old hippyesque Beatles song) and she said ‘Dear Jessie’. Madonna and Jessie have been friends since she was born.

Madonna’s a godmother almost. They play and dance. In fact in London at Madonna’s birthday party they danced for about two hours together. In fact she got her drunk on champagne – I could kill her. Ha ha.

Jessie now apparently listens to the album and announces proudly ‘it’s my song’.”

The very weird affair that ends the LP. “Act Of Contrition”, was, he explains, simply done on the spur of the moment.

“The engineer just flipped over the tape of “Like A Prayer” and played it backwards and Madonna just sat there with the microphone and said a prayer, just like that. The guitar on it is Prince’s, when they worked on their song together he heard ‘Like A Prayer’ and loved it and wanted to do something on it, so we sent him a tape and he played a bunch or stuff, none of which we used on the released version, but it worked beautifully for that piece.”

Pat admits that he is a little concerned about all the fuss about Madonna supposedly showing a lack of religious respect.

“I don’t think a song like ‘Act Of Contrition’ is intended to offend anyone, just to be fun. But,” he confesses, ” I think I would be offended — I was raised by a Catholic family, and the design of the world is made to offend the Christian religion. You’re talking about 50 years of Christian guilt and certain things go through you.”
The “Like A Prayer” video hasn’t been a huge favorite amongst his living relatives.

“My mother got all freaked out,” he explains, “but then my sister told my mother, “What color do you think Jesus is in a black church, Mum?’ She said, ‘Oh, yeah. OK.'”

His band too are getting full mileage out of his guilt.

‘Every time the phone rings,” he winces, “they say ‘The Pope on line three…'”

He doesn’t reckon Madonna made the video to cause a fuss, but doesn’t think she’ll mind it too much.

“She’s always willing to deal with whatever reaction people have. Obviously if you’re on a hill dancing with half a dozen burning crosses behind you, someone’s going to say something.”

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