"The most interesting parallel was not that the
name of the tour came from her then-current hit, "Like A
Virgin." It was that Madonna had never before performed live in a
concert setting. It would be her "virgin" gig." - Bill
Lanphier, about Madonna's first concert in Seattle, Washington for the
time ago, Bill Lanphier did a great interview with the Everybody Fan Club
about his experiences going on the Virgin Tour with Madonna. But we felt
there was more to discover, and we wanted the fans to get a chance to
interview Bill! So, you came up with some of your best questions and Bill
answered them! Enjoy his great answers and congratulations to Matthew who
wins our contest and who had the best question in Bill's humble opinion.
You will be receiving a gorgeous framed picture of Madonna from Live Aid!
Now, on to the great questions, thank you, Bill!
of all the cities the Virgin tour visited, which city rocked? And will the
Virgin Tour ever make it to DVD?
for your time,
We got a great response at every concert. Madonna was all over the news in
every city and we'd often go back to the hotel to watch ourselves on the
11 p.m. news. Snooping around almost any new place can be fun and often
that's what we'd do on off days. I unofficially became the group's
concierge and after awhile the band started asking me where to go. I
turned Madonna and the band onto a great Indian restaurant in Chicago, but
several people, including Madonna, got sick and that sort of ended my
career as a tour director.
Regarding a Virgin Tour DVD, Madonna fans would probably hear about one
before I would!
the difference, musically speaking, between the Virgin Tour and other
tours or musical experiences
of that magnitude you've had through your career?
Well, it's hard to top a gig like that for magnitude. It was the most
highly visible thing I've ever done. Doing a concert with the Chicago
Symphony on my 30th birthday was pretty cool, too. And it was great
playing Bulgarian music for a few thousand people in a little village in
Bulgaria, me the only non-Bulgarian for miles. Even though Madonna's music
was relatively easy to play, everyone played great, took the band very
seriously and you didn't hear too many mistakes. So, in terms of
professionalism, it was right up there with anything I've done.
date out of the whole tour was the most fun?
can't remember any that weren't fun, but the practical joke concert (I
think it was either at Radio City Music Hall or Madison Square Garden) was
the funniest. I as recall, Madonna decided to come on stage in boxer
shorts and surprise the whole band. The band got wind of it and when she
came on stage and turned around, we all had on boxer shorts identical to
Everyone in the band also had a practical joke played on them during a
concert, thanks to the musical director Pat Leonard and the other keyboard
player, Billy Meyers. While I was playing my a bass solo on Everybody,
they snuck up behind me an unloaded two full cans of hair mousse on top of
my head, covering me, the bass and the floor. The bass solo kinda sucked
that night, not only because my hands were too slippery to play anything
meaningful, but because I was laughing so hard.
Prior to Jonathan's nightly drum solo, the stage was darkened and he was
led to his drums with a little flashlight. Until he started playing and
the stage lights came up, he couldn't see his drums at all. He'd begin his
drum solo with an ear-splitting, alpha-dog whack to the snare drum. What
he didn't realize was that, on this night, his snare drum head had been
covered to a depth of about an inch with talcum powder. With the first
hit, he enveloped himself in a massive cloud of white powder.
The best practical joke of the tour was a more drawn-out thing. Once a
week or so, we'd send our outfits to the dry cleaners. Paul, the guitar
player, didn't realize that Pat was intercepting his pants and tacking a
note on them: "Please take in the inseam 1/4 inch." After a few
weeks, Paul was checking out everyone else's pants and asking around,
"Are your pants shrinking?" "No, Paul. Are yours?"
After several weeks, he started looking like the little Dutch Boy.
is one story about the Virgin Tour and Madonna that would surprise even
her most die hard fans? (Lip syncing? Romances? Insecurities? Sean Penn on
There were all kinds of rumors to the contrary, but there was no lip
syncing on Madonna's part. I think what started the rumors was that some
of the background vocal parts on the records were sampled and played by
one of the keyboard players. And some of those background parts were, I
think, Madonna. But all her lead vocals were live, near as I could tell.
Other rumors had it that that Sean Penn could be mean, but he was very
friendly and totally cool, at least to me. At a hotel pool in Florida I
talked to him for only a few minutes, but connected with him better than I
connected with Madonna.
was the biggest music production obstacle Madonna had to overcome on the
Virgin Tour and how did she handle it?
design | identity | illustration
People in the audience liked to throw crap onto the stage, maybe beads or
jelly beans. I think it was all good natured. But occasionally she'd slip
and, like in one of her lyrics (Over and Over?) pick herself back up and
keep right on going. No momentum lost.
It seemed that at least four or five times during the tour some male fan
would get past security and run up to her on stage. But when he reached
her, the guy would usually just freeze and stand there dumbstruck. Maybe
being that close to her just blew the guy's mind. Or maybe she gave him
the evil eye and scared him silly.
The only major sound glitch I knew of was during the first number at one
concert. The band had our own monitor mix, independent from the house
sound, and everything sounded fine to us that night. But we later learned
that the house sound was all screwed up. The only thing coming through the
main speakers was Madonna, one guitar, my bass and the snare drum. Not a
bad mix, really, if you had to pick only four things. But missing was the
rest of the drum set, the other guitar and both keyboards. The sound guy,
Dave Kobb, went nuts trying to figure out the problem. He couldn't leave
the mixing board during the tune, and so decided that when it was finished
he'd haul ass around his enclosure and see what he could find. The number
ended and he ran around to find that a female fan had climbed into his
enclosure and was dancing on a connector in the main sound cable. He flung
the girl back into the crowd, re-plugged the connector and, luckily for
him, all the missing instruments came back. I guess he's also lucky that
the girl didn't sue him for the big air and crash landing she probably
all know Madonna has extreme dedication and quite a worth ethic, as well
as an amazing attention for detail and is an almost mind boggling
perfectionist. Where and when did this become apparent to you?
early on I realized she was getting up early and jogging. I think only her
body guard could come close to keeping up with her. But she didn't really
need him because, as I heard it, she could always outrun the paparazzi,
fans and whoever else tried to pursue her while she was jogging. To do all
the dancing and singing required in the show, she needed to stay in pretty
good shape. I never saw her get high or drink much more than a glass of
She was very aware of what the band was playing and particularly the bass.
Some musicians tend to fixate on a particular instrument and for her it
might have been the bass. If I did anything different at rehearsal, she'd
always look around to see what was up.
was it playing for a crowd (The Virgin Tour and Live Aid) where Madonna
was clearly the main event and the musicians played "second
fiddle" so to speak? (I've always preferred the musical side as
opposed to the vocals.) Was playing in front of all these screaming fans a
boost to your ego or were you always
thinking it's just Madonna they are here for? Fantastic bass playing on
your part, kudos!!!
I think everyone in the band (and crew) realized that Madonna knew better
than any of us how to successfully market yourself and make a zillion
bucks. So, she deserved to be the star and get the credit. At the same
time, I think Madonna understood the importance of having a solid band
that grooved hard every song of every concert, which we did.
Thanks for the nice words about the bass! And thanks everyone for the
interesting questions! Brings back fond memories from a very long time
ago! My fifteen minutes of fame!