My interview with estimable rock 'n' roll critic, editor and author Alan Light predated by several weeks the temper tantrum Taylor Swift had on social media about who bought her record catalog.
Like many big stars, Swift eschews most media interviews while speaking directly to her fans on social media.
The music writer should not be retired just yet, however, Light told me when we discussed Madonna. Earlier this summer, the icon had a meltdown over a profile in the New York Times Magazine. The piece, written by someone professing to be a fan, was a lengthy piece that may have made too many references to Madonna's, let's call it, maturity. Then again, that couldn't have been much of a surprise. The story was headlined: "Madonna at 60."
This is the second part of my interview with Light, who was in Minneapolis doing interviews of his own when he graciously sat down with me to shoot video. The first installment of our discussion appeared in Saturday's paper.
Q: How many hoops did Prince make you jump through for interviews?
A: You can't count those hoops. That first interview, the Vibe cover in 1994 — it was at least a year-and-a-half process. Repeated meetings and conversations and I'm not allowed to record, not allowed to take notes. I'm running into the bathroom and scribbling on my cuffs, in case this turns out to be something.
It was when "Most Beautiful Girl in the World" was a hit single, the first experiment outside of Warner Brothers, then he [decided]: "Now I've got something to promote. Now we can call it an interview."
[Before that] I don't know what you would call it. Testing? Flirting? But if he calls and says, "Come hang out at sound check," even if we don't end up doing a story, I'll still take that trip.
Q: What are your five favorite songs?
A: I hate questions like that. Albums I can do. Five favorite albums. More Minnesota: Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" is my favorite album of all time. "Sign o' the Times" is my favorite Prince album, Beatles "Revolver," Public Enemy "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back." What No. 5 goes on that list today? Joni Mitchell "Blue."
Q: Do Rolling Stone writers have as much freedom as it appears, based on the fact that you can write any curse word you want?
A: [Hearty laughter.] Well, curse words, yes. [More laughter.] There's freedom for that. When I was at Rolling Stone or when I was editing Spin, when I was editing Vibe, that kind of freedom you've got.
I think that the less than absolute freedoms sometimes [involve] "Are you going to want to write something negative about somebody who is sort of a favorite of the magazine?"
Those are the issues. Relationship issues sometimes are at least conversations that you have.
And I've never had a situation of being [told], from any of those places nor when I was running magazines, "You can't do that." But those you look more closely at [to examine]: "Is this going to have some bigger repercussion than if you can use some language you can't use on network news?"
Q: So maybe you won't be surprised that Madonna was hacked off about a NYT writer producing a piece, after a tremendous degree of access, that didn't read like something Madonna's publicity person would write?
A: Listen, the state of profile writing and of entertainment reporting in general, I think, is in a really, let's call it complicated place because these artists have realized that they don't need to go through the press to reach their fans anymore. They can reach them directly through their social media, all kinds of different mechanisms, and so what is the reason that you're going to go to a third party to be able to deliver that story.
Beyoncé hasn't done an interview in how many years? Taylor Swift just has kind of done some little ones after not doing anything for the past number of years because they can go to their fans and say exactly what they want to say, rather than go through someone who is going to interpret that.
I still think there is something that you gain from being put in context and given that sort of analysis and treatment. I think there are things that can help artists from that, but I understand them saying, "Why do I need to risk that?"
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9's "Buzz." E-mailers, please state a subject; "Hello" does not count.