Today in Madonna History: November 14, 2004

On November 14 2004, Madonna was featured on the cover of Roland Users Group magazine, with the headline, “Six Roland Synths Hit the Road in Style.” The article discusses some of the talented keyboardists (Marcus Brown and Mike McKnight) who toured with Madonna during her Re-Invention World Tour, and how the music was put together for the show.

Here’s some snippets from the article (interview by Greg Rule with Marcus Brown and Mike McKnight):

A person doesn’t just fall into a high-profile tour like this. What steps led you to getting the gig with Madonna?

Mike: Back in 1990 I was taking piano lessons from John Novello, and one of his students was working in Freddie DeMann’s office — Madonna’s manager back then. She gave John and I the heads-up about the auditions. John went in to audition as a keyboardist, and I got hired as a programmer/offstage keyboardist/sequencer guy. I got the gig mainly on the word of mouth that I could play keys offstage and sequence extra musical parts. I had just finished Earth, Wind & Fire before her tour geared up.

Originally it was supposed to be only a few background vocals, and repetitive keyboard and percussion parts in the computer — an Atari 1040 ST running Dr T’s sequencer. I was hired basically during the first week of band rehearsals, and I took the gig, since it looked like I wouldn’t have to go nuts with sequencing all of the parts from the multitracks. Wrong! During my first meeting with her she made it very clear she wanted everything in the computer. Back then all I had was an Atari 1040 and six 8MB samplers for playback, so while three were playing, three were loading up for the next song. It was nuts, but I pulled it off, and have been there for every tour since.

Marcus: I’d been working in England with Richard Ashcroft from The Verve. He’d done the support slot for Madonna when we she’d come to town a few years prior. Also, Steve, the drummer in Madonna’s band, had worked with Richard, so there was a bit of a connection there. When she was putting the band together for the Drowned World tour, my name came up, and that’s pretty much how it happened. No audition; I didn’t have to stand there and play Chopin or anything like that [grins]. I think it was more or less taken for granted that I could play.

With this kind of job, you have to get on with the people you work with, so a lot of it is about style and personality as well. We all came from a similar place. I was familiar with Steve’s work, and [musical director] Stuart Price’s as well, so it all came together nicely. I basically walked in and we got on with it. We started right away.

Describe steps you went through leading up to launch of the Re-invention tour.

Mike: I began programming for this tour while I was out on the road with Mariah Carey — just putting the files in order, making sure I had all the parts I needed. Stuart Price and I got to L.A. a week before rehearsal to begin putting together the arrangements. Stuart is a very good remixer and musician, and M expected him to “re-invent” many of her big hits from the ’80s and ’90s for this tour. I jumped in where I was needed, but Stuart did most of the arrangements. My main job was to put all of the possible versions into the computer for fine-tuning and rehearsal with M. She would come in and sometimes love the direction and sometimes would suggest other directions, and she usually wanted to hear her “vision” right away, which made my job “interesting” at times, but we got through it. She’s tough but fair, so it wasn’t too bad really.

Were strong sight-reading skills required for this gig?

Marcus: We haven’t typically had the music written out, unless something got thrown at us quickly, in which case we had a pile of those guitar chord-books for grabbing a basic chord structure.

The main way we’ve approached the tracks is … Stuart creates a sort of remixed version of a song in his studio, and plays it for Madonna. If she likes the version, he separates the parts into a multitrack session, and then we stand around and say, “Okay, I’ll do that bit, you do that line there, Steve can handle this part. etc.” We’d basically strip away as much as possible from the mix, and perhaps only leave a couple of little things here and there that we couldn’t physically do. Then we start getting sounds together and rehearsing the song.

Mike, You’ve been Madonna’s “right-hand man” on every tour for 10-plus years. What things have you learned that are invaluable to your survival on this gig?

Mike: Just to be prepared for everything. I have to have several versions of each song ready, as well as to be constantly thinking ahead to what she might ask for to spice up the arrangement. It’s important to have backups in several places, and to keep every variation ready just in case she decides to go back a version or two. In short — just think ahead and pay attention.

Final thoughts about life on the road with perhaps the most famous woman in the world?

Mike: Madonna is the ultimate touring experience; nobody else even comes close. She hires the best people, and the tour is run like a well-oiled machine with none of the stupidity I’ve become accustomed to on other tours. She works everyone very hard, but she expects as much of herself as anyone else on tour, so it’s cool. It just doesn’t get better than this.

Today in Madonna History: November 13, 1997

On November 13 1997, the Rolling Stone magazine Women of Rock issue, featuring Madonna, Tina Turner and Courtney Love was released.

The photoshoot took place on October 21, and according to Madonna, the ladies had fun figuring out what music to listen to during the shoot:

“There was a bit of a skirmish over who was going to play what. We finally agreed that every other CD was mine and every other CD was Courtney’s and we sort of went back and forth. But the ultimate song that we ended up dancing to all the time was the MC stereo remix of the Tricky song, which is a very good song to dance to.”

Tina had this to say about working with Madonna and Courtney:

“It was like working with kids. You know I’ve always had Ikettes for dancers, so they were pretending a few times that they were my dancers. They had all kinds of pretence going on, but it was always built around me being the mother of the two in some kind of way. In terms of ‘Tina is this and we are that,’ and I was laughing the whole time, honestly. If the photograph comes out with me really laughing seriously, it was because of their reaction to each other. It was wonderful.”

Today in Madonna History: November 2, 1992

On November 2 1992, Madonna appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine, with the headline: The Selling of Sex – The New Voyeurism.

Here’s a snippet of the article inside, written by John Leland:

What if Madonna gave a sexual bonfire and nobody came? In the quiet before the inevitable storm a few weeks back, NEWSWEEK asked Madonna about the possibility of failure or, more grievous, inconsequence. What if she released “Sex“—her explicit coffee-table book of erotic photos and writings, celebrating sadomasochism, homosexuality, exhibitionism and other pansexual delights-and the public merely yawned? “If everybody yawned,” she said, armed for this and other contingencies, “I’d say hooray. That means something happened.”

It was one of those neat identity makeovers for which Madonna is justly renowned: after coloring the last nine years with her determination to engage our attention at all costs, here she was, Florence Nightingale, dutiful erotic night nurse, content to slip into the shadows once her services were no longer needed, the patient cured. Now that’s what you call spin.

But for Madonna and for the rest of us, this was no lark. A deft little way to make some money and grab some spotlight, “Sex” also promised our first barometric reading of a turbulence boiling in American culture. Call it the new voyeurism: the middlebrow embrace, in the age of AIDS, of explicit erotic material for its own sake. From Mapplethorpe to MTV, from the Fox network to fashion advertising, looking at sex is creeping out of the private sphere and into the public, gentrified by artsy pretension and de-stigmatized out of viral necessity. Canny marketers exploit it; alarmed conservatives, joined by many feminists, are trying to shut it down. In many ways, as Pat Buchanan asserted at the Republican convention in August, there really is a cultural war going on. “Sex” stood to claim the battlefield. Advance cover stories on the book in Vanity Fair, Vogue and New York Magazine heralded hot like you’ve never seen before.

And from the looks of things last Wednesday morning, “Sex” measured up. Dismissive reviews, splashed across the tabloids like news of Pearl Harbor, couldn’t stop the ambush. Bookstores, record stores, anybody who carried it got swamped. Priced at $49.95 and packaged in a Mylar bag that warned ADULTs ONLY!, the book sold 150,000 copies on the first day, out of 500,000 printed for American distribution. Who says we’re in a recession? Laurence J. Kirshbaum, president of Warner Books, called it “review-proof.” Many stores pre-sold their shipments before they arrived. Others couldn’t restock fast enough to keep pace with demand.

Today in Madonna History: October 30, 2006

On October 30 2006, Madonna appeared on the cover of People magazine with the headline: Madonna’s Adoption Drama.

Here’s a snippet of the article:

Bringing Home David By Karen S. Schneider

As Madonna and Her Husband, Guy Ritchie Welcome Home Their New 13-Month-Old Son from Malawi, Local Human Rights Groups—and Some of the Boy’s Relatives—Raise Questions Over the Legality of the Adoption.

Madonna had only seen a snapshot of David Banda and had learned only basic information about him when she and her husband, Guy Ritchie flew to the African nation of Malawi on Oct. 3. But when the singer arrived at the Home of Hope Orphanage Centre and met the 13-month-old boy, says Madonna’s spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg, “It was love at first sight.” Adds a witness: “The look of pure joy on her face was beyond words, not unlike when her children [Lourdes, 10, and Rocco, 6] were born.”

About a week later—even as a storm of controversy was brewing over the planned adoption—Madonna’s happiness was echoed in a dimly lit room of the High Court in the Malawian capital of Lilongwe. The pop superstar, 48, and her director husband, 38, met, for the first time, with David’s dad, a farmer named Yohane Banda. Through a translator who spoke Banda’s Chichewa language, “she asked lots of questions,” says Banda, 32. “How old I am, what I do for a living, everything.”

Madonna also made promises—to provide Banda’s only child with a loving home, and to bring him back to Malawi to visit. For the singer, the face-to-face with Banda marked a turning point in an almost year-long effort to adopt a child from an impoverished nation where she helps fund six orphanages. (She has also pledged to sponsor improvements through the Millennium Promise program.) For Banda—who ekes out a living farming onions and cabbage, and placed David in the church-run Home of Hope when his wife died—it was a chance to give his son, he tells PEOPLE, “a brighter future.” Adds David’s grandmother Asineti Mwale, 56: “God has heard our prayer. May he bless this kindhearted woman abundantly.”

Today in Madonna History: October 18, 1986

On October 18 1986, Madonna appeared on the cover NO.1 magazine (UK), to promote Shanghai Surprise.

Today in Madonna History: October 10, 1987

On October 10 1987, Madonna appeared on the cover of Australia’s TV Week magazine.

We’re taking this opportunity to share most of the published Herb Ritts photos from this shoot. Enjoy!

Today in Madonna History: October 4, 1989

On October 4 1989, Madonna was featured on the cover of People magazine, with the headline, “20 Who Defined A Decade.

We’re taking this opportunity to show off some adorable photos from 1983 of Madonna, taken by Deborah Feingold in New York.

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