Madonna and me
‘Are you gonna be here in forty minutes?’ the secretary at Maverick Records enquired.
‘I’m not sure,’ I admitted. ‘I do have another appointment to go to.’
I had dropped in to record company, Maverick’s, Los Angeles offices to meet Rick Reuben, a fellow producer. It was only a casual visit.
‘Oh, that’s a real shame,’ she said. ‘Madonna’s heard you’re in town and she’d like to come over and say hi.’
Even though I was sitting in her record company, Madonna hadn’t been on my mind at that moment. Knowing how forty minutes in a pop star’s life can stretch out into infinity, I didn’t think any more about it. I finished the meeting and made my way back down to reception where Sherri, my guide and driver, was waiting for me. As we gathered ourselves together I heard a woman coming in to reception.
‘Hi, baby,’ the receptionist said. ‘That’s a terrible jacket!’
‘Oh God, is it?’ the new arrival replied.
‘It makes your can look kinda weird…’
‘Oh, I wasn’t sure….’
The conversation continued and Sherri seemed to have been struck dumb. Eventually the visitor disappeared from my hearing.
‘That was her,’ Sherri said when she was able to speak again. ‘I can’t believe it. That was Madonna.’
As we walked towards the exit I heard a door open again. ‘I’m sorry,’ the same woman’s voice called out. ‘I didn’t realise it was you. Thanks for waiting.’
‘Ah,’ I said, when I realised she was talking to me. ‘I’m presuming from all this that you must be Madonna.’
‘You’re presuming I must be Madonna?’ she laughed. ‘When was the last time someone said anything like that to me?’
‘Aren’t you going to give me a kiss, then?’ I asked, for no reason that I can think of now.
‘Yeah, sure.’ She gave me a kiss and grasped both my hands.
Wow, I thought, what big hands you have grandmama. It must be all that working out! I was also startled by how small this larger than life star was.
We went back into the office I had just come from and I was impressed by the sound of the banter which I heard all around her from the secretaries. I immediately warmed to the girl.
‘Listen,’ she said. ‘Bowie is doing a fiftieth birthday concert at Madison Square Gardens and he’s asked me to guest. What do you think?’
‘Don’t do it,’ I said. ‘Bowie can be very hit and miss. Sometimes he is totally asinine.’
‘But he was so beautiful,’ she said. ‘Didn’t you think he was so beautiful?’
‘Yeah, but he’s fifty now, not thirty, and from what I’ve heard he looks kind of weird rather than beautiful now.’
‘But he was so beautiful and he had such a special magic,’ she went on, talking about how Bowie had always managed to be so surprising with his changes of persona.
This, I realised, must have been where she first learnt to re-invent herself with each new record, how she learnt the importance of the extravagant gesture to relaunch a brand before it became tired. The difference was that she always made the best records she could, that she always put a great deal of thought into her music and put together the best possible teams of people to help her achieve the results she wanted. That was why she had managed to stay at the top for so long. Bowie wasn’t in her league. I knew that. Over the yearsI had been with him in many rooms , listening to him playing and singing. I knew that he was third rate but had occasionally managed to create a good song with the help of others. But as a marketeer he deserved to be her role model. I knew he only had a little voice and I had always been excited by how much he was able to do with that voice once he was in a studio.
Conversations now turned to production which was a little unnerving as Rick Reuben, already the legend behind Run DMC, Beasty Boys and American Records had sauntered in, sat down and opined ‘I love records but I hate being in the studio.’
‘I like some of your productions a lot,’ Madonna told me. ‘But only some.’
‘Which ones don’t you like?’ I asked.
‘I don’t really like the stuff you’ve done with Malcolm Mclaren. But that’s because I don’t really like him.’
‘He says you ripped the vogue dancing idea off him,’ I said.
‘I know he says that, but it was just going around. We both used it. What do you think of my records?’ she asked and a dialogue had started.