An '80s Story Dripping with Name-Dropping

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/6195310/6195311" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Musician and Day to Day contributor David Was shares an anecdote about his part as a producer recording a song, and drops a bunch of big names while he's at it — including Ozzy Ozborne, Kim Basinger, Bob Dylan and Madonna.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVID WAS: The year was 1982, and my fledgling band, Was Not Was, was having an identity crisis.


Warning: massive amounts of name-dropping just ahead from our musician-contributor David Was.

WAS: We had just been signed to Geffen Records for our second album and had been duly informed by the label that we needed to find one lead singer, as our first record featured about six different voices, including my mother and some samples of our dog, Boofy(ph).

(Soundbite of dog)

WAS: We were what I like to call schizophonic, a marketing guy's nightmare.

(Soundbite of song)

WAS NOT WAS (Rock Band): (Singing) I grew up in the United States...

WAS: A friend in New York City suggested we try a young woman, an unsigned singer named Madonna Ciccone, and we figured, well, sure, what do we have to lose?

(Soundbite of song "Celebrate")

MADONNA (Singer): (Singing) Celebrate.

WAS: I had written a bitterly philosophical lyric about things you couldn't change in the world, with a defeatist chorus that sang, Shake your head, let's go to bed. In retrospect, it could've been a perfect vehicle for the woman who would be soon be known as queen of the hedonists.

(Soundbite of song "Celebrate")

MADONNA (Singer): (Singing) It would be so nice...

WAS: Except for one thing. My esteemed partner, Don, who would later go on to produce acts like, oh, the Rolling Stones, made the following unprophetic statement about Madonna after cutting her vocal. I don't think it fits on our album, he said. She's this disco diva from Manhattan. Who's going to buy her records in, like, Cleveland?

A quick couple of phone calls later and we found a replacement for Madonna: the one and only Ozzy Ozbourne, who no doubt was huge in Cleveland at the time.

(Soundbite of song)

OZZY OSBORNE (Singer): (Singing) (Unintelligible) you can live seven lives...

MADONNA (Singer): (Singing) Let's go to bed.

WAS: Cut to 1992, 10 years hence, when Was Not Was was enlisted to open a European tour for Dire Straits and our label in London wanted to release a best-of package with additional material. Do you blokes still have that master tape with Madonna and Ozzy on it? It was the head of A&R calling. I'll pay for a house remix with the both of them exchanging lines. It'll be a huge dance record.

There was just one little problem: Madonna. These losers threw me off their record 10 years ago and now they want me?

(Soundbite of television show "Deal or No Deal")

Mr. HOWIE MANDEL (Game Show Host): Deal or no deal?

WAS: No deal. Which brings me to the real point of this story, some high-power name-dropping. Don and I were working with Bob Dylan on his Under the Red Sky album at that time, and he'd brought this slide guitar-playing pal of his, George Harrison, into the studio to play a few licks one day. Dylan disappears down the hall fro 10 minutes and comes back with Kim Basinger in tow, who was cutting songs for her film, The Marrying Man, in another room.

The result of that chance meeting is that Kim agreed to stand in for Madonna, and within weeks the song was at the top of the pop charts in Europe.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. KIM BASINGER (Actress): (Singing) And you can't influence, and you can't influence, let's go to bed.

WAS: Kim even flew to London to appear in our video. Why couldn't you get her naked? a German record executive would later complain. We can show this on German TV. I guess we owe thank you's to both Bob Dylan and Madonna, who made the whole wacky duet possible, and who one rarely has a chance to mention in the same breath. Hey, maybe they could do a duet together, a mash-up of Like a Rolling Stone and Like a Virgin?

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BASINGER: (Singing) Let's go to bed.

CHADWICK: That sexy voice: Kim Basinger. The other one: our world class name-dropper, David Was.

(Soundbite of music)

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from