We Introduce Bill Lanphier, bass player for the Virgin Tour! 

Bill Lanphier, pictured to Madonna's right in black, tells us more about what it was like on the Virgin Tour!

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 time.

Mariam: 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 Chicago 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.

Mariam: 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?

Bill: We 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.

Mariam: The way you told the story about Madonna?s first night in Seattle 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?

Bill: 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.
Mariam: Can you think of one definite one-of-a-kind story that you can share with our audience about the tour?

Bill: One of the concerts in New York 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 matched hers.

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.

Mariam: 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.

Bill: 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.

Mariam: 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?

Bill: The 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.  


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