Exclusive to the
Everybody Fan Club and in honor of Madonna?s Re-Invention tour, we look
back almost 20 years to her ?Virgin Tour? in 1985. Bill Lanphier, the
bass player for the Virgin tour, tells our readers about that tour, what
Madonna was really like, and what it was like to perform?for the very
First off, what made you decide
to get involved with Madonna?s tour? Tell us a little bit about how you
progressed to the point of going on tour with her.
Bill: I had
worked on radio/TV commercials in
with Pat Leonard, who became the musical director of the Virgin Tour. Pat
wanted a bassist who could play both keyboard bass and electric bass and I
was the first choice. Pat put together a band, we rehearsed a little
without her, and then she came in and sang a few songs to check us out.
With the exception of one personnel change, that became the touring band.
How did preparations go at
rehearsals? Were there times when a certain song or vibe just didn?t
seem to be making the cut and were those decisions based more on musical
logistics or what was happening for Madonna?s singles at the
time? How much were the musicians
involved in the creative process at that stage?
obviously had to do the hit songs that fans expected like Borderline, Like
a Virgin and Crazy for You. The others were chosen, as I recall, to create
a variety of tempos and moods. I don't recall any songs being cut or added
once rehearsals got going, although arrangements would change slightly.
Pat and the other keyboard
player, Billy Meyers, were primarily responsible for the arrangements,
although some elements just seemed to fall into place during the course of
the rehearsals. For example, my short bass solo on Everybody and a
five-beat rhythmic permutations I came up with on another song.
The way you told the story about
Madonna?s first night in
is priceless. As the tour migrated from stage to stage, what elements of
evolution became most evident as Madonna?s show got its sea legs, so to
speak? How easy was it to keep your cool as the show went from small
theaters to packed arenas as Madonna?s star kept rising and records were
broken to see it? Did it seem a bit surreal at the time?
Several smaller incidents made
it increasingly clear that Madonna and the tour were big business. In
every city we played, we'd be featured on the nightly news and some fans
always managed to figure out the hotel where we stayed. Maybe the biggest
surprise to me was, after a Time reporter followed us around for a few
days, Madonna made the cover of that magazine. The first concert, with all
the screaming, was a bit surreal, as was playing my final concert with her
for Live Aid.
Can you think of one definite
one-of-a-kind story that you can share with our audience about the tour?
One of the concerts in
was pretty different. Everyone, including Madonna, had a practical joke
pulled on them by someone else in the band or crew. Madonna had a plan to
come out in boxer shorts and surprise the band. We got wind of this and,
when she came on stage and turned around, we all had on boxer shorts that
To meet my fashion quota and have fun
with it, I would always put a ton of mousse on my hair before we went on
stage. During my bass solo at the "practical joke" show, the two
keyboard players snuck up behind me and unloaded two cans of mousse on my
head. The stuff was all over me, the bass and the floor. Interesting bass
solo that night.
What is your impression now of
Madonna as she has changed her image through time? Do you still see
reminders of the performer you worked with? What do you think of some of
the tours she has performed since and her production and style with them
and maybe any thoughts of what you would have done in those scenarios,
working with bigger sets, special effects, etc.
I'm amazed at how successful she
is, year after year, at maintaining a high media profile. In that respect,
she's a genius. I haven't paid much attention to her stage persona through
the years, but the concerts seemed to become much bigger productions after
the Virgin Tour. The tour I did pushed the limits of my willingness to
dress funny and dance around on stage. There's no way I would have fit in
with more choreography for the band.
Tell us about some projects you
took on after the tour ended. Did you end up working with Madonna after
the tour? Do you keep in touch with the other band members? What projects
are you taking on now?
Virgin Tour was the last time I had contact with her. I rode ATVs with Pat
Leonard a few times after the tour and did some recording sessions for
Billy Meyers. But I haven't talked to any of the guys in a long time. In
1990, I stopped performing full time and now I play just for fun,
primarily Balkan music and jazz.