In 1987, I got to see Madonna in concert for the first time at the Pontiac Silverdome. My ticket was for the "Who's That Girl Tour," and I think it cost me about $18 of my hard-earned allowance. Last year, I saw the "Material Girl" perform live again when her "Sticky & Sweet Tour" rolled into LA. Although I paid considerably more for that ticket, I was just as excited to see her as I was at age 13. That's why I ate up Rolling Stone's new interview with the Queen of Pop in the mag's November issue, where she takes a look back at her crazy life and career. At 51, she's still got it going on -- and, better yet, it seems like "M," which is what her friends call her, isn't taking herself quite so seriously anymore.
As most Madonna fans know, the singer, who was one of eight children, grew up in a Detroit suburb. She appeared on stage for the first time in 7th grade when she performed the Who's "Baba O'Riley" at her school's talent show. "I had my girlfriends paint my body with fluorescent hearts and flowers," she recalls in Rolling Stone. "I wore a pair of shorts and a midriff top, and I just went mad. ... I'm sure everyone thought I was insane. That was the beginning of my provocative performances, I guess."
As a teen, Madonna started sneaking out of the house to see people like David Bowie and Elton John in concert. Although you might have called her a rebel, she was no party animal. "I was a geek in high school," she admits. "I didn't really have a drink until I got divorced for the first time [from Sean Penn] when I was 30."
Interestingly enough, Madonna still kind of sees herself as a geek today. "I say stuff like 'oopsie-daisy,' " she laughs. "Growing up, I didn't feel cool, I didn't fit into any crowd. 'Geek' is not a word anyone uses to describe me, though, except perhaps [Confessions on a Dance Floor producer] Stuart Price, who once said, 'You know, you're a nerd at heart, nobody knows it.' I took it as a compliment. I'm silly and geeky and nerdy and not cool."
Still, she must have had a lot of confidence when she dropped out of the University of Michigan, moved to NYC in 1978, and started running around with the cool kids. Since then, the "Express Yourself" singer has been doing just that with her ever-changing persona. "I think people put a lot of emphasis on the whole reinvention of my image, and it's always been a lot less calculated than people think ... I think it's boring to stay the same. A girl likes to change her look."
That doesn't mean she thinks she's always made the best choices. Her biggest fashion faux pas? "It was the purple lipstick, fluorescent-green sweater combo. So many of those hairstyles. It's OK, it was the Eighties. It was a bad-hairstyle era, let's face it."
She also doesn't love all of her greatest hits. "I've never been a good judge of what things are going to be huge or not. The songs that I think are the most retarded songs I've written, like 'Cherish' and 'Sorry,' a pretty big hit off my last album, end up being the biggest hits. 'Into the Groove' is another song I feel retarded singing, but everybody seems to like it."
Want to read more of the "Material Girl's" juicy interview? Then pick up the November issue of Rolling Stone, on newsstands now.