Kinky books! Steamy videos! Oh, yeah, she still makes records, too — and the recording of her Erotica album may be the only low-key element of the Material Girl’s blitz of ’92. For starters, the record had humble origins. In the summer of ’91 while Madonna was in Indiana shooting A League of Their Own, producer Shep Pettibone sent her his unfinished tunes for lyrics and additional melodies. The two began writing in earnest last fall at Pettibone’s low-tech Manhattan home studio, whose intimacy was crucial to the recording. ”There was no pressure of writing in the studio, with a big budget being spent,” Pettibone, 33, recalls.
For most of their 10 songs (New York producer Andre Betts did the others), Pettibone’s assistant, Tony Shimkin, programmed a Macintosh computer to play percussion and synthesizer parts and transferred them to an eight-track recorder. Then Madonna would record her vocals, often setting the mood with candles and Lava lamps. The team then moved to Manhattan’s Soundworks studio to tart up the homemade tapes into a slicker-sounding production.
In the past, there have been whispers that Madonna’s voice needed more than candles for help — that it needed great studio gear and gifted editors. Not so, say her producers — at least not this time. ”Most of her parts were first-, second-, or third-take vocals,” says Shimkin. ”She would just bang ’em out.”
The album’s one happy accident is a house-music version of Peggy Lee’s 1958 hit, ”Fever.” While working on ”Goodbye to Innocence,” Madonna and Pettibone began singing ”Fever” over the rhythm tracks. ”It was a spur-of-the-moment thing,” says Pettibone, ”and it just happened to come out great.”
But whether the moment was impromptu or planned, Madonna’s renowned self-confidence and hands-on method ruled. ”She has everything to do with everything,” says Pettibone. ”Nothing goes by without her total input, and I don’t think it ever has.”