Session Bassist Reveals What Madonna Was Like to Work With in Studio, Recalls Almost Getting Fired By the Singer

Bassist Guy Pratt, known for his many engagements in the music industry, recently looked back on what it was like to play for Madonna. The musician, who has also worked with Pink Floyd as a live and studio session member, recently appeared on Vintage Rock Pod where he discussed his work with the pop diva.

The very beginning for him in Madonna’s band was pretty bumpy. Looking back at how he initially got hired, Pratt mentioned Madonna’s long-term collaborator and songwriter Pat Leonard as the main contact (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“It was right at the end of [Pink Floyd’s ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’ tour], Pat Leonard had come to the show, who was my friend from before Pink Floyd, who I’d met through Bryan Ferry, who was Madonna’s writer and producer.”

“And he just said, ‘What are you doing after this?’ And I was like, I had no conception of any sort of life or anything I’ve done. I assumed I was going to die, I really was so completely, you know, bubbled? And not in a great way, to be honest.”

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“But I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. Why?’ He said, ‘How you fancy playing on the next Madonna record?’ I was like, ‘Oh my God, that sounds amazing!’ So it sounds like, ‘Yeah, absolutely!'”

However, Pratt recalls how it felt a bit odd to get this call since Madonna’s music usually featured synths instead of an actual bass guitar. He continued:

“Because, bear in mind she’d never use bass players before then, even on the Nile Rodgers one [1984 album ‘Like a Virgin’]. I think Bernard might have played on one song, but it’s all synth. So she’d never had a bass player. I probably should have researched that before I said that. But so yeah, the tour ended I went home blah blah blah.”

Guy Pratt right hand Playing his own disco Bassline

When he was hired, Madonna came up to him and asked him if he has any drummers to recommend. Little did Pratt know that this would cause a lot of trouble for him at the time:

“Then we started arranging it and then he said to me ‘Who do you want to play drums?’ Fucking hell man…Oh my god, I get to pick my own drummer. So I picked this mate of mine who has a habit of doing this… And she’d agreed on that and so I had the section moving and go up.”

“And then he blew it out like a week before we were going out and apparently Madonna just lost her mind, she was like ‘Why are we getting this fucking guy? You can’t even get a drummer this time!’ And I was out… I remember Pat calling me to tell me and I was like ‘Mate, please. She can’t.'”

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Pratt thought that it really was the end of it. However, one of his contacts from the music industry and Madonna collaborator Nick Kamen put in a good word for him:

“But then — and bless him to his credit… Apparently, the person I have to thank really for getting me [back] is Nick Kamen. Nick was in LA and she was currently walking down Malibu beach in a foul mood and she bumped into Nick in the morning. And she went, ‘Do you who this Guy Pratt is? And he goes, ‘Oh Guy! He’s lovely! Yeah! Guy is great!'”

And just like that, Pratt was back in the band:

“So I was back in the picture. Then the next thing I got was this phone call and it was the first words she ever spoke to me, ‘I heard you’re funny! Make me laugh!’ I love the idea that Pat’s last-ditch attempt for getting me on the album is, ‘But he’s really funny.'”

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Pratt would then go on to work on with Madonna on what would become her 1989 album “Like a Prayer.” The bass that you hear on the title track was him. Further asked about bass lines on the record and reminded of how they “shined through,” the bassist replied:

“I know, it’s amazing. I still can’t believe it. In fact, I would say that was the album where she sort of grew up and became a serious artist, ‘the divorce album’ as it’s known. That’s she did the George Michael [collaboration]. She went to the next stage and it was amazing. And also because I had all these amazing musicians on it. And the songs were incredible like fantastically complex songs, a lot of them.”

“And ‘Like a Prayer’, I still have very vague memories of it. But I’m pretty sure that what I wrote, when I did what I did, that I was just mocking about. I’m sure it was one of those, ‘Okay, we’ve got it! Now let’s do one, just go nuts!’. And when I clearly did, somehow it stayed on the on the album.”

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When asked about what Madonna was like to work with, Pratt recalled her professionalism and how she was actively involved in all arrangements on the “Like a Prayer” album:

“Amazing. Incredibly impressive. Very professional, incredible. Everything apart from ‘Like a Prayer’ was just cut live with the band. I mean, the band…This drummer is amazing, why were they asking me for a drummer, we had Sugarfoot Moffett… The band was amazing. The band was Bruce Gates on guitar, J Windy on keyboards and Pat on keyboards.”

“When we did ‘Oh Father,’ we were just given the chart, we all sat down, we play through it, she sang it in the control room. And even though she’d been singing it, she then went around the whole band and gave everyone notes. And like, really good notes. I remember her say to the ‘That one fell at the end, I like that! Keep that.'”

Guy Pratt Bass Lines ###

Photos: Raph_PH (NickMasonDWalls200518-20 (27371525527)), chrisweger (Madonna Rebel Heart Tour 2015 – Stockholm (23051472299) (cropped))

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.