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Marty Friedman was preparing for a Madonna audition when he landed the gig with Megadeth

[L-R] Marty Friedman and Madonna
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Marty Friedman has enjoyed a successful career as a solo artist – most recently releasing the shred-heavy Tokyo Jukebox 3 – but is perhaps best known for his stint as Megadeth lead guitarist from 1990 to 2000.

However, if history were written a little differently, guitar scholars might be recalling Friedman's seismic tenure with Madonna.

In a new appearance on The Classic Metal Show, the veteran shredder remembers getting the opportunity to participate in a “cattle call audition” to be in the pop sensation's band, but ultimately landing the Megadeth gig before the audition.

“I was struggling to learn all these Madonna songs – I knew I could learn them but most of the Madonna songs didn't really have much guitar upfront in the mix,” Friedman says. “And I knew that I was going to have to get some good texture sounds to be able to.

“I was a metal guy so I didn't have 50 different clean tones and all these different acoustic guitars, and all these capos, and stuff that happens in a pop band. So I was like, 'Even if I get the audition, I'm probably not going to get the gig.'

“But I practiced really hard and I learned a bunch of the songs, even the songs with no guitar parts on them, I learned. I made up little guitar parts so I could get through an audition.

He continues: “And then I got the audition for Megadeth – I got the gig on the day of the audition, which was a Tuesday or something, and the Madonna thing was on a Friday, so I didn't go to that.

“I was pretty sure I was not going to get the [Madonna] gig but I was definitely gonna try my best and see if I could look my way into it.

“Luckily, I got into a gig that was more suited for what I was able to do. And that was the story, so I never even auditioned but I was ready to. And she wound up getting a metal guy, so who knows. Maybe we can do a dual-guitar thing in her band sometime.

Elsewhere in the interview, the former Megadeth man recalls the songs he learned from Madonna's catalogue in preparation for the audition.

“I learned some of my favorite songs: Like a Virgin [and] True Blue,” he says. I remember I really liked her music but that was way after the audition stuff...

“You have to have so much sense of when to lay back and the kind of tones you need that are going to fit the song, to fit the singer. You have to fill it up but you can't fill it up when you're covering up the lead singer.

"And there are so many little subtle things that I had no idea about at that time, there was probably no way in hell I was going to get the gig unless some crazy lucky thing happened.

"So I looked into Megadeth, I got lucky, and played in a band that I really loved."

  • Marty Friedman's new album Tokyo Jukebox 3 is out now via The Players Club / Mascot Label Group.

I'm a Staff Writer at Guitar World. I've played guitar for 15+ years and have a degree in Music Technology (Mixing & Mastering). I suppose that makes me qualified to talk to you about this stuff? I'm into all genres of music, but first and foremost I love all things rock and metal.