Seymour Stein on meeting Madonna
Seymour Stein co-founded Sire Records in 1966. His philosophy then is his philosophy now: Find good artists with good songs. That simple directive helped Sire build a roster that has featured the likes of Madonna, the Ramones, Talking Heads, Lou Reed, the Pretenders, the Smiths, My Bloody Valentine and k.d. lang. With the three-CD, one-DVD box set Just Say Sire: The Sire Records Story (due September 13th), Stein – who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year – chronicles his label’s storied history.
What was your first meeting with Madonna like?
There was this great DJ, Mark Kamins, who I would follow around to whatever club he was playing. He wanted to become a producer, and I said, “Look, I could introduce you to some of my artists, but you have no track record so they’re not going to want to work with you. You better go out and find the acts yourself.” So I gave him some money, a budget enough to make six demos by six different acts. And the third or fourth thing he brought me was Madonna.
I was in the hospital at the time, and I had an infection. It was not life-threatening or anything, but I had to stay in the hospital and be on a penicillin drip. When I heard Madonna’s demo that he made of “Everybody” I got so excited, I said, “I want to sign her right away. I want you to bring her to the hospital.” He said, “I can do it tonight. She really wants to get signed.” I got off the phone, and I looked at myself in the mirror. I was wearing the hospital garb, with the slit up my ass, and I needed a haircut, a shave and a good shower.
I got a barber to come cut my hair, and I got my secretary to come with a pair of pajamas and a bathrobe. I wanted her to look at somebody who she thought would be around for a few years to help guide her career – not somebody who was in hospital on the way out. I managed to get it all together by the time she got there. But, to my amazement and disappointment, as anxious as I was to sign her, she was just as anxious to jumpstart her career. If I was lying in a coffin on top of the bed and could get my hand out to sign a contract, she would have been happy. I’m glad I made a presentable appearance, but it was absolutely unnecessary.
From Rolling Stone