25 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Madonna Smells Prince - Rolling Stone
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25 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Madonna Smells Prince

Plus: Chris Cornell disses Led Zeppelin, Will Smith yearns to be in the movies


Madonna on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Herb Ritz

The March 23rd, 1989, edition of Rolling Stone (issue Number 548) was a college-themed issue that featured articles on turmoil at Gallaudet University and physics professors studying baseball. (Not to mention El Salvador politics, AIDS, and the Master Musicians of Joujouka.) Ten other highlights:

30 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Rise of the Police, End of the Clash

1. Madonna smells Prince
In Bill Zehme’s cover story on Madonna, she discusses Catholicism, her split from Sean Penn, her endorsement deal with Pepsi (her “Like a Prayer” video would end up scotching that), and a certain genius from Minneapolis. (Read the full story here.) “Ever since I’ve known Prince, I’ve attached a smell to him, which is lavender,” Madonna said. “He reeks of it.”

2. Guns N’ Roses‘ close encounter with Whitney Houston
Random Notes covered Lyle Lovett’s Large Band album, John Cougar Mellencamp‘s Big Daddy, Yoko Ono‘s exhibit at the Whitney Museum, and the American Music Awards, where Guns N’ Roses played “Patience,” but without drummer Steven Adler, who allegedly had pneumonia (“though a reliable source said reports that he’d checked himself in for detox weren’t off base”). Filling in on drums: Don Henley of the Eagles. Backstage, “Slash and band mate Duff McKagan were busy craning their necks to get a better look at Whitney Houston, who was being photographed in the next room.”

3. 1-900-MONEY
In music-business news, CDs outsold vinyl records for the first time in 1988. But the surprising new source of revenue for musicians was the 1-900 phone line, where fans could spend about $2.50 to hear a two-minute recorded message from the likes of Al B. Sure! and Ozzy Osbourne: basically, an expensive audio version of Twitter. D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince grossed around $5 million from their phone line in less than a year (keeping about a quarter of that). RCA marketing VP Michael Omansky, discussing the duo’s platinum album, He’s the D.J., I’m the Rapper, said, “The biggest things going for that album were pop-radio airplay, MTV rotation, and this phone line.”

4. The boob tube
The state of the art of network-TV censorship, according to Jay Martel: “Actual genitals are probably out of the question for this millennium, although networks did show a few chipped sets in the landmark Sistine Chapel documentaries of 1969. A female nipple has yet to make a network appearance outside of National Geographic specials, though a very defined silhouette of one cameoed last November in the NBC miniseries Favorite Son. (In an informal survey, TV producers predicted that the first nipple in the flesh would appear three to five years from now on L.A. Law.)”

5. College rock, class of 1989
The nine bands profiled in a roundup of the monsters of college rock: Soundgarden, the Chills, Dinosaur Jr., the Pixies, Drivin’ n’ Cryin, the Hummingbirds, Miracle Legion, the Silos, and Big Dipper. Inspirational wisdom from Black Francis of the Pixies: “I’m just really hyper. I mean, thank god I don’t do cocaine or anything.” And from Chris Cornell of Soundgarden: “Led Zeppelin is just a bunch of stupid idiots who wrote cool riffs.”

6. Glenn Frey gets muscular
Glenn Frey of the Eagles signed an endorsement deal with Jack LaLanne fitness centers, showing off his muscular body, which he described as the result of 1,500 sit-ups a day, five days per week. What motivated him? “They offered me a shitload of money,” he said, and made a spirited defense of commercial endorsements: “I do not cling to this antiquated hippie mentality that says it’s us against them. I personally do not consider Pepsi-Cola or Old Style Beer or the Health and Tennis Corporation to be the enemy. This is the age of adult rock stars.”

7. Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum: A love bizarre
In 1989, Geena Davis was the spouse and frequent on-screen partner of Jeff Goldblum. Bruce Handy pointed out that in The Fly, she had played a journalist in love with his scientist (who turned into an insect), while in Earth Girls Are Easy, she was a manicurist in love with his blue-furred alien, “which makes them a kind of cross-species Tracy and Hepburn.” Davis riposted, “Well, it’s not like Jeff and I are knocking on doors asking, ‘Hey, heard of any movies where one of us can be bizarre?’ It’s just sort of happened that way. I mean, it would be great if we could find a movie where we were both humans.”

8. Howlin’ Wolf vs. Muddy Waters
Blues giant Willie Dixon told Anthony DeCurtis how he used to exploit the rivalry between Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters: “When I first started giving them songs, nobody ever wanted the song you gave them. So I found out I had to use a little psychology on ’em. Since Wolf and Muddy both seemed to think that I was giving them the wrong songs, all I’d have to do is go to Wolf and say, ‘Hey, man, now here’s a song I made for Muddy. Muddy’s gonna do this.’ [Imitating Wolf] “Oh, man, how come you give Muddy the best songs?’ And Muddy would say the same thing about Wolf!”

9. Stardom predicted, Washington edition
The second-most prescient thing about this issue was that an article by Peter Osterlund about up-and-coming Congressional staffers was centered on George Stephanopolous, who at the time had not started working for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign (he would ultimately serve in Clinton’s White House as communications director and as a senior advisor): he was just the administrative assistant of Ohio representative Edward Feighan.

10. Stardom predicted, Hollywood edition
But the item that best anticipated the future was a Random Note about how D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince wanted to get into movies. “I have the synopsis together, and I’m getting ready to chase Eddie Murphy and Robert Townsend to get ’em to read it,” said a 20-year-old Fresh Prince. Now better known as Will Smith, the Fresh Prince has been in movies that have collectively grossed over two billion dollars; Jazzy Jeff is still waiting to make his film debut.


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