SUGGS: Being in the band was great fun and I was determined to make a success of it, but I didn’t want it to be at the expense of my family life. I never wanted to become too big because I knew that if you go up too fast you can come down too fast, I wanted to stay the person I was before Madness. I tried to be as ordinary as I could. At the height of our fame, I refused to drive a Ferrari or live in a big walled mansion. Of course, there were times when I wanted to build a wall around it – I remember waking up to see hordes of fans round my front door. It was awful, and my main concern was keeping it away from my family. There was a lot of pressure, but having Anne by my side made it OK. I remember stepping off a coach and being mobbed by women who were trying to pull clumps out of my hair to keep as souvenirs! I really panicked, but Anne stood back, laughed and took a photo. Suddenly, I could see the funny side. She helped me to keep it all in perspective.
JANUARY 10 & 11: Band meetings
CHRIS: We had some meetings. I can’t remember what we discussed, but I suspect we were planning the year ahead. It was the best time to do it. We then rehearsed until the 20th, when we set of for the South of France.
JANUARY 20: Palais des Festivals, Cannes
Madness are one of headlining acts at the MIDEM festival, where they also attend the French premiere of Take It Or Leave It. Due to exhaustion and work on new Honda ads in Hollywood, a European tour is postponed to the end of the year, although the TV appearances will go ahead. After two years of continuous touring and recording, the band decide to take more time to write and rehearse songs for their fourth album.
CHRIS: The MIDEM festival is a yearly event for people in the music industry to get together and get drunk. We were the night’s entertainment. There were some real people there too. Next day we went to Paris and did It Must Be Love for French TV.
JANUARY 21: French TV
Perform It Must Be Love. The band’s stay in France is interrupted for work on a TV special in an Italian circus tent.
CHRIS: We’d decided to do it straight, like serious musicians. The director was begging us to dress up as French Foreign Legion. In the end we cracked and really went for it, and it was one of the funniest things we ever did. Carl was spitting nails out of his mouth, Bedders was on crutches which we kicked away; it was nutty. After France, we travelled to Italy and did a 45-minute special in a circus. We spent three days filming and I fell off an elephant.
FEBRUARY 5: Cardiac Arrest/In The City is released
Stiff BUY 140 causes controversy upon its release when Radio 1 ban it from its playlist, saying a song about someone having a heart attack is in bad taste. A member of Radio 1 had also recently lost a family member to a heart attack. Lack of airplay means the single only reaches No14 in the UK charts. The video is shot on a red double decker bus, much to the bemusement of some passengers who get on, believing it to be real bus.
WOODY: Maybe if we’d stuck to the original song title, which was 7 Letters, the single would have gone top 10.
CARL: Yeah, we should have done that – the content wouldn’t have been so obvious. We got a lot of trouble over it. People writing to me saying, ‘How dare you write a song like that? My father had a heart attack, you don’t know what it feels like’ etc. But I did know what it felt like – my own father had a heart attack; that’s why I wrote it. It was born out of concern. The message was, ‘Relax darling, don’t get stressed.’ As the Arabs say, ‘Walk through life, don’t run.’
MIKE: The DJ at Radio 1 seemed to take it very personally, which I didn’t think was very fair of him.
BEDDERS: For the B-side, we used another version of In The City that we’d recorded in London and made into a three-minute song.
CHRIS: For the video, we went to this house in Hollylodge Estate, NW5 – a location Lee had suggested, which was another of his childhood addresses – and knocked on a few doors. We finally got permission for Carl to be seen coming out, after we had parted with £50. Carl was excellent as the harassed businessman type who stresses himself up, up, up and away. We also had hours of fun driving around London shouting at people from a real London bus, that we’d hired, with Lee as the conductor. We did get a few old ladies hailing it, so we collected a few passengers and pennies on the way, which went towards the budget.
CARL: I was made up to look older, and while we were making it I went into a shop to buy something, carrying The Times. I just squiggled on the cheque and they didn’t even check it cos I looked like a middle-aged sensible businessman.
MIKE: It was a shame the BBC didn’t play it more, because we were getting good at making videos, and this was a fine example.
CHRIS: We did film an entirely different version of us performing it, which never got used at all.
FEBRUARY: Film new Honda advert in LA
CHRIS: We flew to Los Angeles to do an advert for those wacky Honda people. I spent most of the time watching Mike squirt tomato sauce in a girl’s face. This was considered the funniest part of the advert by the Japanese. The girl had nine costumes in order to make sure we got it right.
CARL: We were told that if we did these ad we’d be really big overseas. But it’s the same as it is here – people see you on ads and think you’re a wanker.
CHRIS: We should have made much more money out of it too.
FEBRUARY 18: Top of the Pops
Appear on Top Of The Pops with Cardiac Arrest, wearing the same black suits as in the video.
CARL (speaking in 1982): Now I’m trying to write more with video in mind. It can sharpen your focus, make things easier to describe and actually write what you’re trying to say. I mean, there’s loads of records I’ve heard that have loads of different meanings or different interpretations, like 2HB by Roxy Music… I only just found out it’s about Humphrey Bogart and now it all makes sense.
LEE (speaking in 1982): I write my best songs at one or two in the morning, I dunno why – the mood just hits me. It might be that I got an idea while riding about during the daytime, so if I’m awake for more than an hour, I just jump out of bed because I know I’m not gonna get to sleep unless I write that idea down. So, I get up at three, maybe four in the morning and whack it down. All my songs get written differently. Sometimes I put bits together from several different songs. Sometimes, I’ll do the whole thing in one night. Sometimes I write half a song and leave it for months before I pick up my sax and finish it. Hopefully it’ll get used at some point.
CARL (speaking in 1982): A lot of people put swear words in their songs but we don’t because it’s stupid… you’re a fool to yourself.
FEBRUARY 20: Generation 80, Belgium
For their debut appearance on this popular music show, the band play It Must Be Love.
SUGGS: We’d turn up to do TV shows in France and they’d go, ‘Come on, be crazy’. So as a reaction we’d decide to be dead serious. They’d never go for it, though, and we’d end up being daft just out of exasperation.
FEBRUARY 21: Aplauso, Spain
A return trip to Spain, where the band playback Cardiac Arrest, It Must Be Love and Shut Up. They also dress as medics for Mrs Hutchinson.
CARL (speaking in 1982): We need someone to be antagonistic towards us to bring the wacky stuff out of us. We need to have some producer who’s a right ponce telling us what to do and we won’t do it and then we’ll start getting really stupid.
CHRIS (speaking in 1982): It’s also good to have Robbo cos he can order us about a bit. If I started ordering people about, they’d tell me to fuck off but it’s okay for him cos he’s outside and inside if you know what I mean.
FEBRUARY: Photo session No1 for upcoming greatest hits album
CHRIS: We did some photos with Anton Corbjin at the top of the Scala Cinema Kings Cross. They were moody, they were black white… they weren’t used.
FEBRUARY 23: TopPop, Netherlands
Another cross-Europe jaunt, this time to play Cardiac Arrest for Dutch TV. Carl steps in for Bedders on bass.
CHRIS (speaking in 1982): We used to do what people wanted for photo sessions. They’d say, ‘Put on your nutty suit… look nutty… Suggs, put your foot in a bucket’. Not any more.
SUGGS (speaking in 1982): I think people might think we’re freaks all the time. It’s a bit like being a well-known comedian who is always expected to be funny to order. It’s like you’re sitting down somewhere and somebody comes over and expects you to stand on your head or something. At the BBC they think we’re going to start running wild. They say, ‘No you can’t go into that cupboard’ and the security men think we’re odd. It only makes us worse when we go into the studio, it all really comes out then.
Suggs's diary from February 1982
DAY-BY-DAY: Click on a day to read
After a late Sunday night out with some of the lads I was not surprised when I awoke a bit late on Monday morning – I got up at about 11am. Usually I’m aroused from my slumbers by Anne who leaves the house at about 10am most days. I caught a cab down to the rehearsal rooms in Holloway to meet the rest of the boys. I can drive and passed my test late last year but somehow I haven’t got around to purchasing my own vehicle yet. But I’m going to fairly soon and I fancy something with a bit of poke. Living in London, though, it seems a bit pointless. I mean you’re lucky if you get out of second gear most of the time! At the rehearsals we soon got down to some hard graft on the new numbers we’re working on. These will probably be released on the next album which should be around the end of the year with a bit of luck. The songs are really coming together. By late afternoon I’m getting a bit peckish so we all nip out to the local cafe and have fish and chips. Can’t beat it I reckon! Carl and I decided after we’d finished at Helligans to hack down to the Hammersmith Palais to catch the Teardrop Explodes gig. We both had a few jars in the Clarendon Hotel just down the road beforehand and signed a few autographs for some fans who recognised us! I really enjoyed the Teardrops and went home to Camden a happy man.
Got up reasonably early this morning and had time to force down some breakfast before heading down to AIR studios in Oxford Street. Once there I listened to the basic backing tracks that the others had prepared. Obviously we don’t all have to be in the studio at the same time as different parts of the song are recorded separately and then mixed together for the final product. Today it was my turn to add the basic guide vocals which took most of the day. Bette popped in during the early evening so I took a break and we went for a few bevvies just around the corner. I brought some takeaway junk food back to the studio with me. I stayed at AIR until late and then found after arriving home ready to drop into my Slumberland that we’d had the builders in and half the kitchen wall was missing! I’d totally forgotten about the alterations we’re having done to our house so it was a bit of a shock. Bette is great at getting it all organised though so I don’t expect it will be too inconvenient.
I was rudely awoken on Wednesday by – yes you’ve guessed it – the builders! I decided to make a fast exit before they drilled through the bedroom wall and it collapsed on me! Bette was making tea for all the men so I joined them and then had a quick chat with my mum on the telephone to let her know how the alterations were going. My mum is a great woman who’s helped me through everything. She’s really keen to know what we’re getting up to and where we’re off to next. I don’t know if Madness would have survived without my Mum’s butties and endless cups of tea. Not to mention the occasional beer money. Rehearsals again today. Whoever said this was glamorous! The songs we are rehearsing are called House of Fun and That Face. This was our last chance to get them ready for recording on Friday so we all got stuck in. Sometimes it’s really hard to make yourself get on with it and we all start fooling around and being generally nutty. Mike usually calls us to order though. We rehearsed and rehearsed until we got so tired it seemed to be getting worse and no better. Time to charge next door and get some grub and a drink. We took a cassette of what we’d just done to see if the couple who own the cafe liked it. They played it loud and everyone was tapping their toes so Lee grabbed the owner’s wife Ann and danced her around the room. I dashed home to Bette and found even less walls so we decided to escape the mess and treat ourselves to a Greek meal. We both go to this place in Kentish Town quite often. Tonight we both had couscous which for those of you who don’t know is actually boiled tabby with semolina. Very tasty!
Today we had to do a photo session with Anton Corbjin. Some of the shots should be used for the next album sleeve. The photos were all done outside on the roof of a rundown old cinema in Kings Cross and it was a bit parky to say the least. We tried to push our manager off the top but didn’t quite manage it. The shots were all quite moody though and should turn out different from most of the nutty-type pix we normally go for. We had to go to the BBC TV Centre for 6pm to record Cardiac Arrest for The Kenny Everett Television Show. Lee dressed up as Gary Glitter for the song. He wore a chest wig, a proper glitter suit and platform boots (remember them?) Lee was really pleased with himself because Gary is his idol and he has all his records. We were all raring to go after finishing the show so Chris, Lee, Carl and I decided to go down to Dingwalls and see Tenpole Tudor. The Tenpoles are also on Stiff Records so we know them all pretty well and they are a great band to see live. Lee took his red plastic nose with him and started leaping on people to shock them once we were inside. The band were not on until about midnight so it was late by the time I arrived back home.
After another late start, more tea and drilling. I had to go down to Basing Street Studios to record the numbers we’d rehearsed on Wednesday. The others jeered Chas and I for being late again. We recorded House of Fun, That Face, and another new number called The Car Song. Later on I got a takeaway from an Indian vegetarian restaurant. That’s Woody’s influence. I was going to go and see a movie with Bette but in the end we were at the studio so late that it became impossible.
Today I thought I’d have a long lie-in until I remembered the builders again. I even had a dream last night about builders and decorators taking over the world. When we go on tour to Australia and Japan later on this year I’ll probably come home to find the house has been totally demolished or something. I decided to go for a jog this morning. Got to keep myself fit because otherwise I’ll peg out after a week on tour. I have built up a punishing routine for myself which consists of jogging four times right around the border of Camden and Highbury. It works out fine unless you get recognized and then you get a stream of people chasing you with pens in their hands. I was going to see a match on Saturday afternoon but in the end I decided not to bother and instead went shopping with Bette in South Molton Street. Luckily I forgot my cheque book. Bette cooked a great meal for some friends we had round in the evening. I really like British dishes with lots of gravy. Considering what the kitchen was like at the time (worse than a bomb site) it was amazing how she got it all together!
Sunday morning I spent lazing around watching Stingray on the box. At lunchtime I had to go along to the studio again to begin my final vocal part on the new tracks. Whilst I was down there I heard the new Fun Boy Three album and was really impressed with it. We’re friendly with Terry, Lynval and Neville because of the times we spent together when they were with The Specials. Bette called me at the studio and popped in later on. We got a takeaway meal and I carried on working until fairly late. By the time I left I felt whacked and was glad to collapse at home and catch the dying embers of the old goggle box and finish reading the papers. After a few medicinal beverages to help me with these tasks I was just thinking of a lie-in tomorrow when Bette reminded me of the dreaded builders and I started to feel the headache already.
MARCH: The band do photo sessions No2 and No3 for Complete Madness
CHRIS: Photo session No2 was at the Alexandra Palace, with Lee hanging upside from a chain (as usual). The pictures were in colour by Eric Watson, but they weren’t used. Photo session No3 was done in a studio, again in colour and again by Eric Watson, and this time the pictures were used. At last we had an album cover to be proud of. There was a red jacket that belonged to Clive Langer who wore it when he was in Deaf School. He ‘lent’ it to Thommo for photo session No3. So of course next gig, ‘man of the people, non-materialistic’ Thommo throws it into the crowd as a grand gesture. Clive was watching aghast.
MARCH 11: The Kenny Everett Television Show
Lee dons a Gary Glitter-style silver suit for this appearance on the sketch show, where they playback Cardiac Arrest. Carl reprises the heart attack act from the video to underline the song’s ‘health is more important than work’ message. At the end, the others gather at the front to dance on Carl’s grave.
LEE (speaking in 1982): All of us have hundreds of ideas we haven’t put to use yet. I’d love to make a TV series. But, between recording and touring and making videos, we just never seem to have the time. Still I write every idea down in my little book. One day an idea of mine might turn up in a song, or a video or a comic strip for our fan club tape.
MARCH 21: Chansons a la Carte, Belgium
While the audience relax on sofas, the suited and booted band run through Cardiac Arrest.
LEE (speaking in 1982): Our aim is to send people home rolling about with happiness. When we first started going out to gigs to see other groups, the bands acted as though they were bored. We were all determined never to be bored – or boring.
APRIL 10: Help a London Child
Chris and Lee go to Jubilee Gardens to take part in Capital Radio’s charity fundraiser.
SUGGS: I think that individually none of us are geniuses, but collectively we seem to be able to reach things.
CHRIS: There were three geniuses in Madness – Carl, Mike and Lee. The rest of us just try hard. But the strength of the band was to write songs in isolation that were, generically, Madness, in the same way that everything Monty Python did was Pythonesque.
WOODY (speaking in 1982): Me and Mark are most important in the actual feeling of the tracks – the way the actual records bounce. They either skip or plod. I suppose it’s the dance side of it. The rest of them, they just put all their fancy bits on top (laughs).
MIKE: I don’t like doing things in a weedy way. If we just put out any old tosh then it wouldn’t be Madness. If we’re ever been sloppy, I’ve always felt bad about it afterwards.
APRIL 17: Pop Quiz
Suggs appears on the popular tea-time music quiz. Helped by team-mates Martin Fry and Dennis Waterman, his team wins.
CARL (speaking in 1982): We’re probably out of step with everybody else, but we don’t care. It’s nice, I suppose, to be fashionable. But we’ve always been out of step with whatever’s going on. The fact that we ‘caught on’ with the public was pure chance. It just happens to be a sound that we like – a mixture of jazz, soul, Blue Beat and R‘n’B. Punk went on about the depressing times but we’ve been through all that, and we don’t want to sing about it or glamorise it in any way.
APRIL 23: Complete Madness is released
Released on Mike’s 24th birthday, the band’s first Greatest Hits collection goes gold on advance sales alone, then straight into the UK charts at No2. It later reaches No1.
Although people are snobby about just about everything except disease, I can think of no one who is snobby about the great and not yet late Madness. Madness have few equals in the hard-headed pop world as regards their sheer likeability. If this makes them sound boring, let’s put it another way. Madness, with decent diffidence, have transcended the putrid vagaries of fashion and spurious favour, just got on with doing what they pleased, and invented a mixture of penetrating comment, pop accuracy, shabby fantasy, verbal magic, a certain kind of richness and elated mischievousness that is calculated to do nothing but refresh the spirits. Madness have combined the priceless enthusiasm of the freshest pop group with something of the heroic, melancholy insistence of the most alarming comedian. Madness have, in these complex times, struck upon a valuable purity. If this makes them sound boring, let’s put it another way. You only have to look at Madness to see that they’re startlingly SANE! (Ironic) (Funny!) You only have to look at Madness – it’s incredible how seven clowns with a touch of the hoodlum about them can blend so smoothly into a subtle but complex prankster act. Whatever it is that comes to Madness, wherever it comes from, it comes naturally and with a wonderful warmth. If this makes them sound boring, let’s put it another way. Madness have proved that ingenuity need not be incompatible with buffoonery, and that kind words, sad tales, nonsense knees-up and anxious moments can somehow all be conveyed with aggressive charm. (Confident!) There’s nothing obviously angry or bitter or satirical or irascible about Madness, but there is something worth mentioning that the group – what with all the coloured. balloons, the stripey underwear, the silly walks, the scrawny knee-caps and the zealous over-confidence – are not renowned for: a love for humanity. This and their indisputable friendliness, their ability to inspire happiness and relaxation, a quizzical attitude towards life in even its harshest aspects, and a sincere belief in the bizarre ingredients of showmanship accounts for their universal appeal. This could make them sound boring, so let’s put it another way. Madness are insolent, innocent, wise, weary and delighted to know you, and they blend a number of conservative musical components into something contagiously fresh. They sing of being a victim, of being tormented, against a seedy realist background. They locate the beauty and pathos of commonplace feelings even while they wreak havoc with fashionable or tiresome expressions of those feelings. Not everyone their age is capable of seeing the odd wonders and eccentricities that colour the human and social landscape of contemporary England. All this talk could make me sound boring, so let’s just say that the songs of Madness are as independent and as incomparable as any written since mid-’60s Beatles. They can be delicate, unwashed, skilful, compassionate, sophisticated…Madness have just shown in their own brilliant way that it was as simple as covering a Labi Siffre song to exclaim that excitement need never leave pop music: music that makes you feel happy even while the words often tell you to feel sad. Nothing shocking: if there’s anything radical it’s Madness’ revision of sentiment. Madness: something for everyone – a little hat for the ten year old, sharp attack for the adult. If this makes them sound boring, let’s put it another way: Side One: Embarrassment / Shut Up / My Girl / Baggy Trousers / It Must Be Love / The Prince / Bed And Breakfast Man / Night Boat To Cairo. Side Two: House Of Fun / One Step Beyond / Cardiac Arrest / Grey Day / Take It Or Leave It / In The City / Madness / The Return Of Los Palmas 7. Complete Madness is one of the least boring records ever released.
Paul Morley, NME
DAVE ROBINSON: They’d done a lot of work over a couple of albums, and they hadn’t written very much for whatever reason. It was a good time to put it out; it gave them a breathing space – plus I always thought bands should put out a ‘greatest hits’ several times in their career.
WOODY (speaking in 1982): This album isn’t the end of Madness. It’s not, ‘They’re going downhill, The Human League are massive – let’s whack out a greatest hits’. Hopefully, it just closes the door on what’s gone on before.
DAVE ROBINSON: I thought we should add a new single to the album as well as the oldies, because their fans would buy everything, and you wanted to give them value for money. I used to pick a lot of new, upcoming singles just from little dabbles while we were making videos and waiting for the camera crew to shift or what ever it was. So when House Of Fun came up, I thought, ‘That’s really good, that’s the one for this greatest hits package.’
APRIL 26: Cheggers Plays Pop
Madness unleash House of Fun to the nation – their only new song on the Greatest Hits album.
SUGGS (speaking in 1982): It doesn’t matter, honestly. We don’t have any real goals in life. None of us have any real musical ambitions. If it all goes, then so what? We’ve made a few quid for ourselves. Longevity doesn’t matter. Once it stops being a laugh, we’ll probably pack it in, anyway. It’s only pop music, after all.
APRIL 30: House of Fun/Don't Look Back is released
Stiff BUY 146 enters the charts at No8 and goes on to become the group’s only UK No1. On the morning of its release, while Woody is still asleep, the band spend the morning filming introductory sketches for the video version of Complete Madness in various locations in Camden Town. Sitting on the stairs of the Hope & Anchor basement, they perform an acapella version of One Step Beyond with Lee supplying the ‘doo-doo-doos’.
SUGGS: When we made House of Fun we were definitely at the height of our collaboration – something just came together in the studio. It’s a very rare and weird thing.
BEDDERS: By that point we were making really good pop records and we kind of knew when it came to the craft and technique of them we had really got it down pat. House of Fun was a good example of how we wrote, with any old lyrics thrown on top of melodies just to sketch a song out. I’m sure odd lines were used elsewhere but, more importantly, the melody was probably coupled with other lyrics to make a new song. So Lee started with a rough outline for the story, which included: ‘Good morning miss / Can I help you son?’ There was no ‘Welcome to the House of Fun’ – that was added much later in the studio.
CHRIS: It’s about coming of age, which I can’t remember much about because it happened to me a long time ago. You could by a packet of fags, a pint of beer and a three piece suit for half a crown and still have enough left to go and see Rudolf Valentino at the Gaulmont. I can’t afford to go to the pictures these days but I hear they talk in them now.
MIKE: It’s about when you get to that age when suddenly there’s a lot of temptations of different sorts… welcome to the house of fun!
SUGGS: The inspiration for the song was the film Summer Of ’42. The song’s about a kid entering into the world of adulthood. Basically he’s buying his first condom but has to buy loads of lollies and ice-creams before he gets enough courage to ask for one. It was originally called The Chemist Facade but the record label were quite worried about having a song about condoms. At that point, we weren’t conscious about having a message, we were just writing about things that we’d experienced. We were young and naïve [but] we were probably aware it was risque, so we probably were trying to cover it up. But it seems funny now that you should worry about telling kids to wear condoms.
WOODY: Nowadays of course, in this climate of AIDS and being sensible, I’m sure the BBC would be the first ones to promote a song like that or even reveal its true message.
JOHN WYNNE: The song was going round in Lee’s head for years. We were sitting in a pub called The Palmerstone and I remember him telling me, ‘I’ve got an idea for this song, all about buying condoms.’ He was working it out in his head.
CARL: It was another example of us writing songs about normal life and the kind of things that everyone can relate to. We just took a segment of everyday life and blew it up to cinematic proportions. But Lee, being Lee, didn’t say what it was about directly, instead he said, ‘A packet of party poppers / With a fether-lite touch.’ It was like a lot our songs – there was something pretty serious behind it, but it was very subtle. And people didn’t realise it.
SUGGS: We’d finished it in the studio but it didn’t really have a chorus – I’ve still got a good demo somewhere.
CHRIS: We needed a new single but Robbo said, ‘It hasn’t got a chorus’. We hadn’t realised and the song wasn’t too good without it.
DAVE ROBINSON: I went down the studio, and again we were right up to the edge with time. They’d finished it and I listened to it and I thought, ‘Where’s the chorus?’ At that point, what is now the bridge was the chorus: ‘This is a chemist / Not a joker’s shop.’
JOHN WYNNE: Dave got up and said, ‘There’s no fucking chorus. Put a fucking chorus on it, I’ll be back in two hours.’ And he went. Alan and Clive just shat themselves.
DAVE ROBINSON: I made them listen to it four or five times, finally everyone said, ‘You’re right.’ So they got around the piano and banged out House Of Fun.
SUGGS: Me and Chris went into a back room and wrote the chorus – which we never got credited for, I hasten to add.
DAVE ROBINSON: When I heard it, I said, ‘That’s it, get it together.’
CHRIS: We recorded the chorus in various bits and surgically edited it into the record.
SUGGS: Clive and Alan just had to cut the tape across all the tracks and slap it together, like they did on The Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever.
ALAN WINSTANLEY: We didn’t want to re-record the whole song, so I copied the entire multi-track from that bridge and just used the drums, and then we overdubbed all of the chorus instruments and vocals onto that before I had to re-edit it into the multi-track. In this day and age, with crossfades and ProTools, it would be a piece of piss, but back then it was a nightmare.
DAVE ROBINSON: If you listen closely, it’s got a slightly different beat and is not totally in sync.
SUGGS: You can also hear it change sonically from the verses to the chorus and becomes brighter.
CHRIS: The first line also sounds more like ‘…elcome to the House of Fun…’ as it was so tight to drop in you can still hear the joins.
ALAN WINSTANLEY: When Suggs sang ‘Welcome’ it was just before the downbeat of the bar, so when I edited it in it went ‘…elcome to the house of fun,’ completely missing out the ‘W’. The only solution was for him to go back in and dub in all the ‘welcomes’. That was quite a challenge – and all because the song’s focus moved away from the chemist shop.
SUGGS: When we released it, someone wrote, ‘It sounds like a corpse bouncing on a trampoline.’ And it still went straight to No1. But that’s the great thing about a song. You write a song on your own and come up with some funny old lyric, somebody puts music to it, and then it’s out there, doing its own thing. It may keep resurfacing and it may not. It may keep you going, it may just wither and die. But when they keep going, ironically, you have more chance of coming back because then they keep relating to different generations.
CHRIS: Of course, as was normally the case, Suggs and myself got no songwriting credit on the track. But at the time I thought, ‘Well Barso has done enough bits on my songs’ so I wasn’t really worried about it. When it later became our first – and criminally only – No1, Barso sort of mumbled, ‘Yeah, er, that’s good ain’t it? Seeing as, er, well, er, we sort of all wrote it, didn’t we?’ in an almost embarrassed tone.
SUGGS: I came up with the title and wrote the chorus, but didn’t get credited. To this day I can barely mention the title onstage without wanting to throw up.
WOODY: I remember the whole controversy of it being about buying condoms. I mentioned it to someone in the press, and the next thing I was dragged in by Dave Robinson and told I must keep my mouth shut and mustn’t mention it because the record would be banned. He said, ‘If the BBC find out about it, we’ve had it.’ I was told I mustn’t explain a song I didn’t write!
The House Of Fun video had been filmed in Great Yarmouth back in April, at a funfair owned by Lee’s relatives.
CHRIS: This video was one of my favourites because everything that we filmed ended up on the flickering 20″ screen. There was nothing on the old cutting room floor.
DAVE ROBINSON: We spent around £12,000, which was a big budget for us really; the rest of them we shot as quickly as possible. I remember there wasn’t a great deal of catering, it was the local McDonald’s – we were firmly in independent record company land.
CHRIS: Dave had got these little things called zap guns. They were like little video cameras about four inches square with fixed legs and they had four minutes of film. They were kind of developed in the war. So we did some of the video on that.
CARL: I like the bit where me, Lee and Mike are dressed as women dancing. That’s really funny. And I really like the shot where Suggs is on the helter-skelter with the flag.
MIKE: I remember admiring that one from afar too.
CARL: Do you remember, Bedders was too scared to go on the rollercoaster?
MIKE: Well, they hadn’t used it all year; it had been closed all winter and they’d opened up a week early just so we could use it. On we went before it was even tested – it was a bit risky. I thought, ‘Instead of actually going on the bloody thing, can’t we just put the camera on and send it round filming us here?’
SUGGS: We went round on that circular roller coaster about 54 fucking times.
WOODY: One of the best memories I’ve got is Robbo going on with us and his wallet and all his money fell out of his pockets. It was just hysterical because he lost every bean, and you very rarely see Dave Robinson part with any money.
SUGGS: It was the first time I’d seen any of his money.
CARL: It was probably ours anyway, which he hadn’t paid us.
CHRIS: The Joke Shop was Escapade in Camden High Street, a regular source for props, costumes, gags, etc.
CARL: The barber’s shop was Anastasi’s in Muswell Hill.
CHRIS: Other stuff was filmed at Denyer House in Highgate Road – another of Lee’s old addresses. Dave Robinson really didn’t want to film it in a chemist, but we eventually did it in one just off Kilburn Park road. The girl in it who Suggs talks to was Clare Muller, who used to take lots of our photos. She was really small, so she had to stand on a box.
NIGEL DICK (video producer): I organised the chemist’s shop/joke shop and rented all those costumes. It was done on a piece of paper which Dave had in his back pocket, with no writing, no script or pre-production meetings. I had to ring the bloke who owned the joke shop and do the deal so he’d close the store for two hours while we lit the set and shot it.
CHRIS: We had a saying from Monty Python, which was, ‘It’s your funny.’ So if someone came up with an idea that was rather ludicrous, they would have to do it. In this one, Suggs really wanted to have people dressed as temptation and little devils, but I didn’t notice him in one of those stupid green suits.
LEE: It was getting more serious, in a childish sort of way.
DAVE ROBINSON: People remember the humour in videos like House of Fun long after they forget the good-looking haircuts.
LEE (speaking in 1982): We just rent a bus and camera and go where our ideas take us. When you make a film you have 30 or more other people who travel with you to take care of make-up and lighting and such. I do lose sleep over videos. We used to just go out with a camera and do something that grabbed our fancy. Now, we take more time over them – two days. We like to watch the ‘rushes’; the rough takes, then a few days later they get edited and we can play it back on a small screen. It has to look good on a small screen because that’s where most people will see it. When we first see them, they’re like old silent movies; no sound. But you can still judge whether the idea works or not. I think videos are great fun. You can reach so many people with them, it’s fantastic. It ain’t so much the ideas, it’s the people innit? Y’know, it’s the characters. A lot of people got embarrassed, they only get into it half-heartedly but if they’re only putting half their heart into it, it ain’t gonna work.
MAY 11: LWT playback and signing
Madness perform an alternative version of House Of Fun amid a simulated Las Vegas-style cityscape for LWT’s A Foggy Outlook. The show will be screened on June 26. Later they go to HMV Oxford Street where they sign copies of Complete Madness.
SUGGS: Even in our heyday, people in Camden would leave us alone a bit. There wasn’t that tabloid hunger in those days, and there wasn’t a lot of music in the papers. Also, we weren’t in the girly market. Girls didn’t like Madness, so there was no point in writing about us, so we avoided all that.
MAY 16: Loftus Road
Madness play in a celebrity five-a-side tournament at the West London home of Queen’s Park Rangers.
CHRIS: We didn’t have a professional player in the side as some groups did and we drew one match, lost one and retired gracefully.
MAY 20: Fly to Japan for first leg of Complete Madness tour
On the same night that the House of Fun video is screened on Top Of The Pops, the band depart for the Far East. Bow Wow Wow will support, with all five shows featuring new songs.
MAY 24: Sun Plaza, Tokyo
SUGGS (speaking in 1982): The image of the band is itself almost as strong as the music, if not more memorable, to the average person. I don’t know if it’s right or not, but musically we’ve been looked on as something instant, not really worthy of analysis.
MAY 26: Osaka Festival Hall, Osaka
The first of two non-Tokyo shows. Driving In My Car is the first of two new songs. Carl tells the crowd, predominantly teenage, that the band have changed the set to maintain the interest of fans who attend multiple shows. Rise & Fall is the other new song, the forthcoming album’s title track and written by Suggs after witnessing urban reconstruction in his Liverpool youth area. Mrs Hutchison is extended by a samba-style percussion solo and will be played so from now on. Woody accidentally starts the intro of Madness when Suggs announces Baggy Trousers. Exclusively for Japan, the main set closes with In The City. Upon the second encore, Carl greets the crowd in Japanese before Rockin’ In Ab. After the show, Madness tape a satellite message, aired on TOTP alongside tomorrow night’s version of their No1 single, House of Fun.
Embarrassment / Close Escape / Sign Of The Times / A Day on The Town / Bed & Breakfast Man / Driving in My Car / My Girl / Take It Or Leave It / Disappear / Grey Day / House Of Fun / Shut Up / Tomorrow’s Dream / Rise And Fall / Mrs Hutchison / Night Boat To Cairo / Baggy Trousers / Missing You / Madness / In The City / ENCORE 1: One Step Beyond / It Must Be Love / ENCORE 2: Rockin’ in Ab
CARL: Weirdly enough, the further away we were from England, the bigger the hits would be. We were actually in Japan when House Of Fun went to No1.
SUGGS: It was about 9am when we found out – not really a time for partying. The bass player from The Jam rang us to say congratulations.
MIKE: It didn’t really matter, to be honest. I mean if we’d got to No1 really early on, it would’ve probably been extremely exciting.
MAY 28: Nagoya-Shi-Kokaido, Tokyo
MAY: Treble top! Madness are at No1 in the album and video charts with Complete Madness and the singles chart with House of Fun.
BEDDERS: I’d expected that we’d go mad once we had a No1 and we’d have a big party. But it wasn’t as much as I thought it would be. It was more a sigh of relief than anything else, it wasn’t so much a case of jubilation as relief that we’d actually done it.
LEE (speaking in 1982): I suppose it was everybody’s dream to get big and famous and have our music heard, but me personally, I never thought it’d get to this. When we first started, Mike could play the keyboards alright, but I couldn’t tell a sax from a French horn. I can’t even play too well now.
SUGGS (speaking in 1982): Sometimes I get really embarrassed when I’m on stage. In England they go mad before you even come onstage. You feel like they’re not there to listen, really, they’re just there to go mad. I feel like doing something horrible so they’ll listen. Some days I’m totally overwrought by it all. I never intended to be a musician or be in a band or anything, and I wouldn’t make singing a career now if it wasn’t for Madness.
WOODY (speaking in 1982): The other unfortunate thing is that the music business is our life, and you can fall into the trap of continually talking about music and it can sound terribly ‘Yah Yah!’ It’s not that way at all. It’s just that it is your life – you don’t often go traipsing around the supermarket, unless you get time off, so what else can you talk about? You can get too wrapped up in it all, and that is a major worry.
SUGGS (speaking in 1982): Like anybody, you don’t really imagine or realise that you’ll be a great success. We always knew, when we were young, that anything we did would be brilliant. Every time we played we expected everyone to go mad, but it didn’t go beyond an immediate enthusiasm for impressing people, as opposed to becoming nationally successful.
BEDDERS (speaking in 1982): I must admit that I feel detached sometimes from what is going on, you don’t realize you’re in the heart of it.
WOODY (speaking in 1982): I don’t think that we ever go out to look for success, success isn’t the thing that we’re after; it’s gratification and satisfaction for ourselves musically that we want. Obviously you’re going to appreciate what’s going to be popular and what isn’t, but that’s in single sales. When it comes to an album it’s nice to be able to sit back and do exactly what you want to do.
SUGGS (speaking in 1982): You get kids in the street, just down the road here and they say, ‘I like Duran Duran now, I don’t like your music much.’ I just go, ‘Uh, thanks.’ But Duran Duran’s kind of success comes through the sort of attitude, ‘We are stars, pander to us please.’ We’ve never done that. I think maybe we could have been more successful that way if we’d wanted to but that isn’t the way we behave. I think there’s something obscene about thinking someone’s better than you just because they’re in a band but I can’t say it’s bad because that’s the way it has been and always will be. You just can’t tell people that they can’t idolise people any more. You can appreciate someone for what they do if you think they do it well, which is a bit different. I think that’s what we’d prefer rather than mindless adulation. It just seems inane, stupid… we’re approachable, we try not to have that aura of speciality about us.
CARL (speaking in 1982): There’s so much conning and falseness in the whole set up, like when you go on TV there’s certain things you don’t say. You’re forced to draw the line, you’re not going to turn around to Jimmy Savile in front of 15 million viewers and ask, ‘Have you got any gear? Any good 16-year-olds up at Stoke Mandeville?’
MAY 30: Shibuya-Kokaido, Tokyo
SUGGS: We reached a certain level of success where I think we’re in the consciousness of most people but not in such a way as they are going to want to run screaming after me or the News of the World are going to be particularly interested. And thank heavens, because another great attribute and side effect of that is I can still write songs about the things that I like. Which are being able to sit at the side of the street watching the world go by. Normal things. You’ve heard that thing about why people like Rod Stewart stop writing great songs, he says himself it’s because he ended up in a big house in Beverly Hills.
MIKE (speaking in 1982): When you start out it’s really different because you’re doing everything yourself and you know exactly what’s going on. When people start doing things for you it spoils it quite a lot. You don’t have to lose control, but it happens because there’s so much work, you have to rely on other people. There’s too much going on – it’s got too big now.
SUGGS: The heyday of Madness was really the heyday of the great British pop single. There were so many great acts. But I should say our nemesis was Duran Duran, because you know we were making videos staggering along street corners with a popped balloon on a piece of string while they were in Monaco on a giant yacht and all that. At the time we thought, ‘What a load of pretentious old nonsense’. But yeah why did we want to stand on the corners in Kentish Town in the rain? I’m not entirely sure now – maybe because it was where we were really, our imagination didn’t stretch any further.
WOODY: The effect on the charts is just absolutely incredible. You get to the point when you walk down the streets and people go, ‘Oh hello Woody,’ and you’ve never met these people before in your life. And people say, ‘What’s it feel like to be at No5 in the charts?’ and you kind of go, ‘Er, I don’t know, er, what’s it like to put your washing in a washing machine? Cos that’s what I did this morning’. It doesn’t change your life. It’s more relevant in your life years down the line. It becomes real to you when you’re not in the middle of it all. I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved and what the band have achieved. But you can’t really see it for what it is cos you’re in the middle of it all, living it; you’re doing press, TV, gigs.
MAY 31: Koshei-Nekin, Tokyo
The last show on the tour. Until June 8, Madness work on two Honda City adverts for the Turbo and High Roof versions. Two more ads will be filmed in the UK in April 1983.
SUGGS: I always remember one time we arrived at Heathrow and there was thousands of screaming girls and I thought, ‘What’s happened since we’ve been away?Yeah this is it, we’ve left all the people like Paul Young behind – all the long hair yobbos; it’s a new horizon! We’ve made it! Go on lads, dive in!’ And we were crushed in the stampede as they rushed to get to Duran Duran who were on the next flight. As the dust settled, there waiting for us were two rather large girls in army jackets, holding carrier bags.
JUNE 3: Top of the Pops (from Japan)
Madness say thank you to fans via the magic of satellite before the House of Fun video is then screened.
SUGGS: Showbusiness can lead to disasters. It’s a never-ending search for more adulation – if you don’t leave it all outside the front door, it’ll kill you. I’ve been very fortunate to have been with the same person since I was 19, who’s seen me start as nothing and become successful, become nothing again and become successful once more. She’s been with me through all the ups and downs.
JUNE 24: Radio 1 session
Having resumed work on new material upon their return to London, Madness use this Kid Jensen session to showcase more tracks. Rise & Fall makes its UK debut and is followed by rough versions of Tomorrow’s Just Another Day, Calling Cards (with Lee supplying funny backing vocals) and Are You Coming With Me?
JUNE 30: Charity cycle ride
Chris, Lee and Bedders cycle 30 miles from from Wolverhampton to Birmingham to raise money for a BBC Radio charity.
SUGGS: The music business can be so all-consuming that it can get a bit unhealthy really. You find out your mid-week chart position on Thursday, whether it’s moved an inch one way or another, how many sales you’ve had in Yorkshire… two people in Margate took it back, and you can drive down there and find out who they are, give ’em a fiver each… or you just take it as it comes, hope for the best and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Y’know, worry about something else; worry about your tomatoes, your bees.
JULY 1: The band film 6:55 Special, with Sally James and David Soul, in Birmingham.
JULY 10: Saturday Live
Madness playback Driving in my Car at the Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham, but without Suggs, who stays at home with pregnant wife Anne. He is replaced by a dummy that will also be used in the video the band will be working on in the next two days in the Shepherd’s Bush area. This is the only time that Madness perform on stage with a dog, who sits in the driver’s seat.
NEIL FERRIS: I got a phone call from Matthew on the Friday afternoon saying, ‘Look, Suggsy is not going to do it. His wife is about to give birth to the baby. It’s due tomorrow, he cant do the show’. I said, ‘This is insane Matthew. First of all, no wives ever give birth when they are supposed to. Mine didn’t, yours won’t, you’ve just got to realise…’ I went through all the possibilities, fast plane standing by at Birmingham airport, if she gives birth he can get on the plane straight back, a car, limo waiting for him at Pebble Mill, went through every possibility, Matthew came back to me and said, ‘I’m sorry no, he won’t do it’. I put the phone down from Matthew and spoke to the TV show and said, ‘I assure you, we will come up with some way of doing it yet that you won’t be lost’. I get home and the show rang up, they said words to the effect of the band will never work again. To which Simon Bates rang me and said, ‘Don’t worry darling ignore them, carry on’. The phone calls were going backwards and forwards. I was getting phone calls from the TV people in Birmingham, the TV producer and production assistants saying the band are finished: ‘They have to do it, they are contracted’. Anyway they went on and they did it without Suggsy, and they used that dummy (from the video) to do the lead vocal and it was brilliant, absolutely brilliant and you wouldn’t have known that Suggs wasn’t there.
JULY 16: Driving In My Car/Animal Farm is released
With the band at their peak, they release a somewhat divisive single as BUY 153, later to reach No4. The new song – an ode to the 1950s Morris Minor – gets a muted response from press and fans alike. At a time when Madness are trying to shake off their Nutty tag and be taken more seriously, it seems to defeat the object and reinforce the critics’ idea of them as a novelty act.
Last Monday Madness headed west to Shepherds Bush for the first of two days’ filming. It’s for the latest in a long line of legendary videos; this time, Driving In My Car. The first location was appropriately enough, a garage. Madness work within a framework of organised chaos – someone sorts out the different locations and props; camera crew, Madness director Dave Robinson decides what to do after they’ve arrived. They work with the confidence of people who’ve already made a whole stack of brill videos and see no reason why they should stop making them even better. Patience, professionalism and nutty ideas are the keynotes. Barso and Chas work out a routine involving a couple of spanners while Chrissy Boy suggests camera angles and Lee gets loopy with an oxygen nozzle. Even the costumes are individually adapted: only Madness could instantly work out seven different ways of wearing identical boiler suits. All the ideas are funnelled through Dave Robinson and he makes sure the cameras start to roll at the appropriate moments. ‘We’ve got seven different directors at the moment. As soon as we start moving they can be seven actors.’ Wherever they work, Madness attract crowds and this Monday was no exception. Autographs were constantly requested and provided with good humour, crowds of onlookers smiled. When they were driving in their car through the streets of London, the friendly, amazed and enthusiastic reactions of people passing on the pavement and in cars were testimony to the fact that Madness hold almost as secure a place in the nation’s hearts as Princess Di or Morecambe and Wise. ‘Sound’s running!’ ‘Lights!’ ‘Let them roll!’
Neil Tennant, Smash Hits
MIKE: At that time there weren’t many people writing about simple things like driving in your car. You know; rolling your window down, the little joys of life… simple pleasures. Ian Dury brought that quality, the enjoyment of the mundane, so I just took him as inspiration.
SUGGS: Some of the band didn’t like it at all really.
CARL: Listen, mate, you should’ve been on stage with a fuckin’ screwdriver goin’ ‘Donk donk, dink dink, donk donk, dink dink’. It was really annoying – I had to do that for a whole tour.
MIKE: I liked it – you’re out of town, you leave all your worries behind, you’ve got the window down (with a bit of trouble). You had the Americans all going to the beach with their surfboards in the back, we were a bit more practical. Just get the job done, A to B.
CARL: I thought it was really good, the words, ‘Built in a factory by the Tyne’, really literal, a celebration of British workmanship. When those cars came out, it was like ‘Here’s a family car that all the family can drive down to the coast in’, and that’s what Mike was writing a song about. A lot of people thought we’d sunk into a bit of a rut, but we didn’t quite get the kind of feel we wanted on it.
BEDDERS: Mike’s original idea was that during the song he’d switch on the radio and hear another song. Then he’d re-tune and there’d be another one, and so on. I often wonder what would have happened if we’d been a bit more courageous with the ideas.
CARL: I think it needed more work. I wanted it to be a bit more surreal, in the way that Grey Day is a bit weird. It was written around the time there was all that Cortina nonsense on TV and we wanted to try and convey the idiocy of being that attached to a car.
SUGGS: For the video, Lee turned up as an exploding traffic warden. There was nowhere to go after that.
CHRIS: I got the traffic warden outfit made especially for Lee, but because it wasn’t one of his ‘things’ he wasn’t too keen to wear it. It had little lights that came out the side and everything; what more did he want? I also got the hats made that spelled out M-A-D-N-E-S-S.
CARL: We were really into those little details.
WOODY: The idea of the vibraphone solo being played on the skeleton was nicked from The Goodies.
MIKE: We filmed it in a garage down Goldhawk Road. I’ve got good memories about making it – it was good fun.
CHRIS: Me, Carl and Bedders had appeared in a Fun Boy Three video, so we got them a small role in ours as a way of saying thanks, and they very kindly came along.
JULY 20: Bull & Gate, London
Madness play their most intimate show of the year for an invite-only crowd, although ticket scalpers find a way to seize the opportunity. No advertisements are issued and tickets state, ‘People will get a kicking’ and ‘To be hip is to be a shit’. As well as a try-out gig for tomorrow’s Royal Gala concert, Madness also celebrate Suggs becoming a dad after Anne gave birth to daughter Scarlett that afternoon. Following Diz and The Doormen (Lee’s choice of support act) Madness are introduced by Humphrey Ocean and Tenpole Tudor guitarist Bob Kingston. The set opens with The National Anthem, with Suggs, Lee and Carl on kazoo and nose flute. One of the new songs on the set list is Blue Skinned Beast, a protest against the Falklands War.
LEE: Don’t ask me about the Royal Gala at the Dominion. I’d rather do gigs like this one every night.
CHRIS: After Suggs and Anne had their baby, much rejoicing was done that night.
JULY 21: Prince's Trust gig, The Dominion Theatre, London
Madness play in front of a sold-out 2,500 crowd, along with Unity, Joan Armatrading, Phil Collins, Jethro Tull, Midge Ure, Pete Townsend and Robert Plant. Kid Jensen asks the audience to stand as the Prince Of Wales enters the Royal Box. As the first act, Madness walk on stage in kilts and tartan trousers. Suggs, Carl and Lee again play the National Anthem on kazoos and nose flute, to beaming smiles from Prince Charles and rapturous applause from the delighted audience. Lee also reprises his flying act during Baggy Trousers. When Madness bow down to the audience at the end, the letters on their caps display M-A-D-N-E-S-S from the Driving In My Car video. Prior to the show, Pete Townsend asks Chris to join the all-star finale, which he duly does. Proceeds of the event are donated to the charity set up by Prince Charles to benefit musically gifted children. Baggy Trousers and Madness are included on a highlights video released at the end of the year.
CHRIS: When we were doing the Princes Trust they said, ‘You have to play the National Anthem.’ So we said we’d do it, but on kazoos. But you can’t play the whole thing; that’s only for the Queen.
MIKE: So we did this kazoo ensemble piece. And Prince Charles was up there – we were all rather shaking at the knees. And they rolled out this lovely bit of carpet for him afterwards. I think he’d come to see The Three Degrees really.
JULY 21: 6:55 Special is screened
Taped a few weeks earlier in Birmingham, Madness appear on the ITV show. They play House of Fun, dressed in flower-power style summer shirts. The programme also features an appearance by ex-Tiswas host Sally James. Later on, the band return to lip-synch to Driving in my Car, this time wearing white shirts and straw hats.
JULY 31: Castlebar Festival, Ireland
Castlebar is a sort of homecoming for Carl because his mother comes from the county of Mayo. Madness play a well-received set on the second day, along with Thin Lizzy and The Boomtown Rats, but the festival fails to live up to expectations due to a little over half-full field.
AUG 5: Appear on Top of the Pops with Driving In My Car
While repeating the garage scenes from the video, Suggs mimes the words from inside the Morris Minor with the MAD 7 number plate. By now the single has reached No4. At the end of the performance, the Morris Minor is pushed towards the exit.
CHRIS: They were the days when that came out – straight in at No4, no fuckin’ about.
AUGUST 17: Rehearse for upcoming appearance on The Young Ones
AUGUST 19: Film The Young Ones episode, Bored
Madness playback House Of Fun at the fictional Kebab & Calculator pub with Woody and Mark switching roles. By the time they’ve finished, the show’s main characters enter. ‘Do you know Summer Holiday by Cliff Richard?’ asks Rik Mayall (aka Rick). ‘You hum it and I’ll smash your face in,’ Suggs retorts. The band exit as Adrian Edmonson (aka Vyvyan) mutters ‘It’s Madness…an embarrassment.’ The episode will be aired on November 23.
CHRIS: It was a laugh – they liked us. We went to rehearsals in a large building in Acton which had all the rooms marked out on the floor in white tape. The line, ‘You hum it, I’ll smash your face in’ was originally planned for the two budding thespians in the band and the most aggressive pair, that is to say Lee and Chas, who both had a ‘hard’ image. However, after a day of them walking around trying the line out in various vocal styles, wigs, costumes etc, I suggested that Suggs should say it, because you wouldn’t really expect him to.
NIGEL PLANER (Neil in The Young Ones): My favourite band was Madness. That was who I was most of a fan of. It really added to the whole show – having a band in a sitcom; it’s mad! Exciting as an actor to be there with the band on stage. That was cool.
CHRIS: The Young Ones itself was originally going to be called House of Fun. When it was changed to The Young Ones we were asked to record a version of The Young Ones but we didn’t, because we couldn’t be arsed.
AUGUST 24: Rise & Fall recording begins
Madness finally began recording their fourth album at AIR Studios, set up by Beatles producer George Martin in 1969 on the fourth floor of 214 Oxford Street.
CHRIS: Just before we did The Rise & Fall, there was a feeling that maybe Clive and Alan were becoming a bit too complacent, so we went along to see Trevor Horn. But we got the feeling that he couldn’t do much for us and that our records were fine the way they were. He was saying how he loved the strings on It Must Be Love, the way they were plucked rather than bowed, and the next thing we knew he had used exactly the same effect on an ABC single.
SEPTEMBER 2: Radio 1 Roadshow, Cornwall
Madness play at the Cornwall Coliseum in St Austell in front of a crowd of 3,000, headlining the last of this year’s roadshows. Beforehand, Chris and Lee are interviewed by Peter Powell, the DJ who refused to air Cardiac Arrest because his dad died of one. Chris emphasises that Madness will do less performances a year now things are more within their control, and that the band are considering filming a video on their forthcoming Australia tour in case a single is released over there. Introduced by Paul Burnett, Madness treat the sellout crowd to a spirited show, with Carl well in shape during the intro of Take It Or Leave It. The crowd sing along to My Girl. Some 30 minutes of highlights are broadcast the next day.
Madness / Take It Or Leave It / Grey Day / House Of Fun / Driving In My Car / My Girl / Baggy Trousers / One Step Beyond
SEPTEMBER: Recording continues
The band are in the studio working on the new album until early October. They then head out on tour to Australia, where Complete Madness is No2 in the charts.
CHRIS: I remember recording at AIR was a right laugh. I taught Paul McCartney how to play Asteroids and The Human League had just got a new drum machine, so we helped them work how to use it.
OCTOBER 1-8: The new Rise & Fall album is mixed
SUGGS: George Martin came in and said, ‘This is the finest piece of work I’ve heard since A Day in The Life.’ Paul McCartney came in on his hands and knees with Linda on his back waving a vegetarian sausage… well, they came in anyway.
OCTOBER 13: Complete Madness Tour starts in Sydney, Australia
Having just finished mixing their new album, Madness embark on the Oz leg of the Complete Madness tour. In Sydney they rehearse for two weeks’ worth of sellout shows in mid-sized venues. Local fans invite them for a reception which will also be the case in other cities. Complete Madness is released in Oz to coincide with the tour and is set to become the second best-selling album Down Under.
HECTOR WALKER (Suggs’s cousin and band PA): It was Madness’ second tour of Australia. They were the cream of the crop, really. They had a number one album and single. It was just very easy: two weeks, great venues, good transportation, nice hotels. An excellent fan reaction everywhere they went. Fans would crowd the bus and you wouldn’t be able to get through – which was pretty Beatle-esque.
OCTOBER 14, 15, 16: Capitol Theatre, Sydney
Three shows in Sydney kick off the tour Down Under, supported by Zoo.
Madness were in fine form and the audience was totally wound up to get into that nutty sound. They got everything and more. If this is Madness before they get into their stride, then the rest of the tour should be absolutely amazing. To the pomp and circumstance of that archetypal circus parade march, the boys bounded out before a backdrop of a circus top, with a shout of ‘Welcome to the House of Fun!’ and into the quirky chords of Embarrassment. The Nutty Boys have matured considerably since we last saw them and it shows in every aspect of their performance. Naturally they’re drawing heavily from their last album 7, with the hits and a few old favourites thrown in – One Step Beyond is there along with Madness, The Return Of The Los Palmas 7, Bed & Breakfast Man, a superbly slowed-down version of my Girl, Mrs Hutchinson, Never Ask Twice and Missing You. The stars, for me at least, had to be Monsieur Barso and the brilliant Mark ‘Bedders’ Bedford. But the stars of course were Suggsy and Chas. And it was definitely Suggs and Chas the kids were there to see, calling out requests to which they naturally obliged. Two encores, One Step Beyond and It Must Be Love, and then up to the front of the stage, a quick sort-out, bend of the head and there the infamous word was spelt out on their caps. Apart from the more ambitious instrumental work, they introduced a couple of new songs that were received a little more cautiously as was evident when they finished Mr Speaker and Suggs replied to the less than overwhelming reponse: ‘Well, that’s an interesting one anyway.’ Inevitably the band must ask of its fans to take them a little more seriously as players and songwriters or else the nuttiness, which is so much a natural part of them, will become a burden that could take them the way politics took The Specials. But tonight there were none of those cares. The band picked us up and we bounced through the quirky visions of Madness and had a really great time – and that, after all, is what it’s all about.
Michael Smith, Juke
OCTOBER 15: Countdown, Australia
Driving In My Car, It Must Be Love and House Of Fun are performed on this special edition of the TV show. The band perform on a specially built fairground set.
OCTOBER 18: Hey Hey, It’s Saturday, Australia
OCTOBER 19: Festival Hall, Brisbane
Plans to film a video for a possible Australian single don’t materialise. Instead, Madness spend the day before the show making a few TV appearances. The Brisbane show, in front of 7,000 fans, coincides with Woody’s 22nd birthday.
OCTOBER 21: Bruce Stadium, Canberra
CHRIS: Here’s a funny one – when our manager phoned them, a voice said, ‘Hello, Bruce Stadium, Sheila speaking.’
OCTOBER 22 & 23: Palais Theatre, Melbourne
The Melbourne fans stage the reception at the Fun Factory where Madness receive flowers and presents. One of the other highlights of the tour takes place the next day when the band are interviewed by a puppet dragon for the Hey Hey, It’s Saturday kids’ show. The dragon has its tongue pulled out for asking questions about ska, implicating that Madness have little intention to discuss the 2-Tone era.
OCTOBER 25: The Barton Town Hall, Adelaide
Madness play their largest show on the tour, in front of 9,000 fans, again supported by Zoo.
LEE: The audience in Adelaide was so lively that the first 15 to 20 rows of seats were passed to the back of the venue by security. They were so impatient that Carl had to tell some pack of sheep to stop making finger and silly bugger facial signs at the support. I would say it was the best reaction and the loudest stage sound.
OCTOBER 27: Entertainment Centre, Perth
The tour reaches its finale. In the past two weeks Madness have played to approximately 40,000 people.
NOVEMBER 5: The Rise & Fall is released
The album enters the charts at No13 and peaks at No10. Like Complete Madness, it goes gold through advance sales alone.
TRACK-BY-TRACK: Click on a title to read
CHRIS: After Carl suggested we all write songs about childhood memories, I managed to write the first verse or so of this. Then Suggs went up to Liverpool after the riots – it looked like friggin’ Beirut – and he finished the tune off, I’m glad to say.
SUGGS: It’s about the struggle of Liverpool, where I’d briefly lived as a boy. I still loved it, but I remembered it as a more thriving city. It’s just about the decay of an inner city, Liverpool in particular because it had the riots and a lot of it got knocked down and it’s not a very big place.
BEDDERS: It still sounds really strong today and would be one of my choices, other than the singles, to play live. It reminds me of the time we spent in Liverpool as a band.
SUGGS: I’d heard an old rockabilly song which started out with a bluesy version, then faded out and back in to a rocked-up arrangement. I thought it’d be great to have something like that on Tomorrow’s Just Another Day – an arrangement that sounded old and bluesy, just 20 seconds at the beginning of the song, and then cross-fading into the newer version, which we’d already done. The backing track was cut, slowed down a bit and quite good.
CARL: It’s one of the most honest songs I’ve ever written. In all the other songs, I think I was trying to hide what I was trying to say. In that song, I just wrote, ‘I’m depressed, I’m fucked and I’m writing about it’.
SUGGS: It wasn’t really depressing, but it was about the down-ness of life.
CARL: It represented how I felt, some friendships I was in. How your actions were misinterpreted. I whistled the idea to Mike and he put it down on piano and applied the technical knowledge. At the time, I wasn’t very good on guitar – not good enough to write songs then. Plus, in those early days, it was hard for me to wheedle my way into the songwriting fraternity. I got there in the end.
CARL: This one was about the blue zip-up body bags coming back from the Falklands War.
BEDDERS: It was thought of as a possible single when we started to rehearse it. It has that good Madness combination – a happy tune with a dark lyric.
LEE: I remember sitting up late one night, as I do with most of my songs, and I just started singing it to Mike and… wallop! We had it done in about an hour.
MIKE: We were rehearsing in Market Road and Lee came in and said, ‘I’ve got his new song.’ He had the words and tune and everything worked out in his head – I was very impressed. I thought it was a great song; the lyrics were brilliant. And it’s still relevant today, with all the wars going on.
LEE: People have said a lot of different things about it, that it’s about the police and the army, but it’s more about the way in which the daily papers were writing about the Falklands, giving the Margaret Thatcher party line all the time. It was The Sun that got most up my nose. They made a really big deal out of how they were sending thousands of crates of beer out to our boys in the Falklands: ‘Have a drink on me and I’ll put it down to the company!’ There were a lot of different things sprouting out at the time and the BBC would only show the government’s side of the story so that no one really knew just what was going on.
MIKE: There was also a story in the papers about Margaret Thatcher offering to get a drink for this regiment that had been fighting in the Falklands. And at the bottom, it said she didn’t even pay for it, she got them to pay for it, which is kind of telling.
WOODY: Listening to it now the drums are so complicated. My God! Plus there was no editing in those days – you had to play it from the beginning to the end. So if you cocked up, you started again.
SUGGS: You hear a track like that and you realise that we were engaged. We weren’t just a singles band.
LEE: I didn’t want it to look as if we were writing songs telling people what to do. Sometimes I’d find myself writing something that sounded too preachy and I had to stop and go back. I didn’t want to come out with something like, ‘War, what are we fighting for?’ We’d been told time and time again about peace, and it was good to keep it in mind, without getting too preachy.
SUGGS: I’ve always liked songs about specific places: Waterloo Sunset, Penny Lane, that sort of thing, and thought I’d do one about the pleasantness that is Primrose Hill. Situated on the outskirts of Camden Town, it looks down over the zoo, Regents Park and on across London’s splendid vista. I’ve spent most of my life in London and I’d choose the top of Primrose Hill as my favourite spot. There’s a certain time when the sun is about to go down behind you and it makes all the buildings one-dimensional. It’s like the old silhouette you used to get on the front of the Evening Standard and it really stands out. I wrote about its joys through the eyes of someone who hadn’t left his flat for years. I’d read about a person like this, living among piled-up newspapers and rubbish, so I suppose it’s kind of sad, although I never thought about it that way at the time.
CHRIS: I’d written some music but it wasn’t really structured at all. We kept churning it out, then Suggs came along with some lyrics.
LEE: Primrose Hill, Mr Speaker and Sunday Morning are the tracks I could listen to over and over, any time of day, long after their sell-by date.
CARL: I just remember being round at Suggs’ place one day and this guy was just wandering around up and down outside, reading from a book aloud, with no one listening to him. It’s funny, he seemed like a sign of the times.
SUGGS: It’s the story of a man who escapes from an asylum in the full knowledge he has something very important for us. Unfortunately we never find out what that word is.
CARL: There are two bits of poems quoted. One is Horatius from the Lays of Ancient Rome, which begins, ‘Lars Porsena of Clusium. By the nine gods he swore…’ etc. The second is The Charge of the Light Brigade by Tennyson.
MIKE: The idea was that each instrument would take the lead in turn. It was an experimental track. It was an ambitious thing to do in a Madness song, and it didn’t quite work out. But it showed how confident we were in our songwriting ability in those days.
CARL: It reminded me of my Uncle Sean, so most of what I said was in his style or manner of speaking. He was a real character and had a habit of turning up unexpectedly when we were in Ireland shouting, ‘Whato my cocker.’ He was also fond of quoting Milton’s Ode To Blindness, which I later used in the opening line of Time: ‘When I consider how my life is spent…’ The original line was, ‘When I consider how my light is spent…’ Ah, the joys of literature.
WOODY: I’m not really a songwriter, so Sunday Morning was my first serious attempt at writing. I just had a few lines about getting up on Sunday with the kitchen in a state and the curtains closed, and I just began to latch onto that feeling of lethargy. I picked up off the floor all the weirdest chords I could find: ‘Wow! An F diminished sharp, that sounds great, I’ll have that one!’ So I wrote them all down. It’s almost too complicated to play.
CLIVE LANGER: After Robbo had taken the band to see Trevor Horn, me and Alan Winstanley were on trial again. Our House was the song that saved our skin, really. I remember thinking, ‘We’ve got a good one – a single that needs work.’
CARL: On a flight back from America I got the kernel of the idea and wrote it on a napkin. I was thinking about the house where we lived in North Finchley when I was 14. I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, but I’m sure two years solid touring and being away from family and friends influenced me. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Deja Vu album and their song Our House had been seminal for me when I was younger and had suited my melancholic nature. So the title was always in my mind.
CHRIS: Robbo had given us all tape machines with little built-in drum machines. They were the precursors of portastudios and were cutting-edge technology for the time. I was living in a council flat with my brother because I’d just split up with my wife so this little gadget was very helpful creatively as I worked up the tune.
CARL: I walked into the rehearsal rooms and Chris was playing a tune and shouting chords at Mike on the piano. The lyrics I’d written on the plane came to mind so I started singing the words and it grew from there. It’s all about letting your subconscious do the work.
SUGGS: Because we were all burgeoning songwriters, we were looking for the best pickings of the riffs that were going round. Carl beat me to the punch and I was a bit disappointed – I might have sulked internally.
CHRIS: Carl came in and said, ‘I’ve got these lyrics’ and it was pretty easy from then on. It didn’t take that long to write – even though it was needing a chorus and was originally a bit of a dirge.
MIKE: I remember Chris having a few chords but they sounded a bit wonky, and I said, ‘You’ll never get a tune stuck to that.’ I thought it was going nowhere – it just didn’t work as a song. Then suddenly we got a little rhythm going, Carl sang the melody and I thought, ‘I didn’t see that coming – it sounds bloody brilliant.’
CHRIS: When we got in the rehearsal room it sort of came to life. It was a great example of why we split the songs 50% to the writers and 50% between all seven members of the band. It was an incentive to play well but most importantly, it was about what the bass line/sax honk/fire extinguisher/chorus line melody/keyboard part could bring to a song.
BEDDERS: Some songs are written in ten minutes and it all sounds great, others take treacherous journeys. With Our House, we could never get the rhythm right and were never really satisfied. Originally it had no middle eight before the solo and a different rhythm. So it took a lot of work to get it to where it was, but when it did, it really paid off.
CLIVE LANGER: Even though we had a solid song, we could really push it to its limits so we got David Bedford, who had orchestrated Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, to write an exciting string arrangement. Maybe it was inspired by Chris’ Western-style guitar. I might have said, ‘Go a bit Hank Marvin’ but Chris made it sound like a John Wayne Western, really brilliant. I think that really lifted it, the Western film-type strings in the background. David took off from that and his string part lifted it to somewhere else.
SUGGS: When we met David, we were talking about miniature works of art for the first time, even though it was one of our simplest songs. It was clear to him what the record needed and he did great things for us.
DAVID BEFORD: My instructions from Clive were. ‘I want an English Tamla Motown feel.’ I wasn’t given any ideas by means of musical notation. It would be onomatopoeic. Clive might say, let’s have a ‘daga daga’ here, which I took to mean four semi-quavers. The discussions centred around where the string lines should start to help the song best – say, in the first or second chorus.
CARL: The musical references to Stax and Motown were obvious and the spaces in the bass line were perfect for the stabbing horn parts and the string section.
SUGGS: So we had this really fantastic string part, then we got to the chorus and there’s no strings because we put the chorus in after. Clive said, ‘We’ve got to have some sort of chorus’, so we wrote this quite prosaic, ‘Our house in the middle of our street’, which I thought was a bit boring. But actually, because the song was so melodic and fabulous, it really worked. It was totally outside of the idea of crafting in any way.
CHRIS: Clive then said, ‘It still needs another bit.’ So I took the middle eight from another song I had, then worked out the guitar solo when we went to record it. You still had to be quick on your feet, even though the pressure had eased off a bit.
MIKE: Clive stuck another couple of bits in and before you knew it, it sounded really good.
CARL: I came up with the double-time piece, where you sing everything twice as fast, in the studio. It gave the recording of the song a great momentum.
CLIVE LANGER: It almost pre-empted rap.
SUGGS: That line, ‘Something tells you that you’ve got to move away from it’ made all the difference. Like so many Madness songs it’s a coded version of what our lives were actually like. For me, and the general public, I think it was a hint that things weren’t as perfect as the rest of the song might suggest.
CLIVE LANGER: It was just so much fun and absorbing to work on, because you knew you were creating this very clever thing, without trying to be too clever. We went for a big build up – adding things, keeping the excitement going. The intro is a bass slide because we always put in bass slides or piano slides wherever we could and that was Mark’s best effort of the day.
ALAN WINSTANLEY: Even though Carl wasn’t the greatest trumpet player in the world, we let him play it on Our House. It took him a long time to actually nail it, but he wanted to do it and we didn’t say, ‘Nah, bollocks, let’s just get a session guy in.’ He’d come a long way in a short time and was great because he really wanted to contribute. He’d evolved from being the kid who just did the nutty dancing to someone who played trumpet, learned to play the guitar and also wrote songs, including one of their biggest hits, certainly in America.
CLIVE LANGER: I remember putting in two key changes instead of one at the end of the song, so as the outro went on you never knew where the beginning was… you’d probably lost sense of the key that the song was in. It was really exciting working on that, and if I say so myself, I was quite proud of it because the whole thing was quite clever and it worked. I’ve actually used that trick a fair bit. During rehearsals I suggested doing the outro a tone and a half down, and when it came back it sounded a little bit boring, so I suggested then going to another key, Mike got very excited about that and we basically worked together on it.
ALAN WINSTANLEY: I remember that the vocals were subsequently a bit of a problem because of all the key changes that Clive had come up with. When the guys did the backing vocals, it was a problem trying to pitch to come back in. It was really hard, so it took a long time to do all of the vocals and backing vocals. They just couldn’t get the pitch right for each upcoming key change.
CLIVE LANGER: A long time was spent getting things right, half a day just doing the backing vocals in the chorus. I helped out because they couldn’t hit the high notes. I was quite excited because it meant I finally got my voice onto one of their tracks.
CARL: Every time I hear the chorus I remember Clive joining in on the vocals. He lisps a little bit and I can hear – or think I can hear – him sing, ‘Our houth’. It brings back that nice feeling of being gathered round the mic trying to get the harmonies right.
SUGGS: I wasn’t aware that I was singing with pathos. I was just singing to the best of my ability. I’d never had a house in the middle of anyone’s street or a sense of community. I don’t think Carl did either. Maybe that’s why we were all so fond of the idea of it. It’s strange now to think we were so philosophical about such everyday things.
CARL: The line ‘Brother’s got a date to keep / He can’t hang around’ was about one of my brothers jumping over the back fence when the police were at the front door with a warrant. Not that you’d know that from the lyric – but I know that.
CLIVE LANGER: It had a great beat, almost like The Kinks’ You Really Got Me or All Day And All Of The Night, where the snare drum lands in a space. All of the parts were there and Mike worked hard on it, as did the rest of the band, and I just thought we had the chance of making the perfect pop record.
SUGGS: Clive said we wanted to make English Motown – and that was it exactly. We were flying. It was a terrific time.
CARL: We were on the crest of a wave.
CHRIS: I knew it was a smash. It was a song that was pretty perfect, everything fitted – you don’t look back and say. ‘I wish I’d stuck a 12-string or something on it.’
CARL: It’s my favourite song and the one I’m most proud of because it really was about my house; my father, my brothers, my sister. It means a lot and people love it too, which is always a bonus.
BEDDERS: It’s probably the most popular Madness song in different countries around the world.
CARL: Someone said to me, ‘Why did Our House translate in America? Why was it a hit?’ And I said that it’s essentially a Motown song, so it’s familiar. The issues within it were universal issues too – mum, dad, house, children, mucking around, going to work, ironing clothes.
SUGGS: The house in the middle of the street is a big thing in the British psyche. You realise you’ve touched on something no matter how simple it is. I mean, someone said to me, ‘It’s almost like folk music in that you write about your immediate surroundings, that’s what folk music is.’ And although we’d never in a million years thought of ourselves as a folk band, we always did write about the things that were happening immediately around us.
CHRIS: People now try to tell me it’s a ska song. Our House a ska song? No it ain’t mate. Yes, we were 2-Tone to begin with, but we never aspired to that. We always wanted to go beyond it. We were always more a pop band.
SUGGS: I remember the first time we played it live we were at some fucking funfair in Australia and it was like a bomb had gone off in the crowd. It’s still the same, years later.
CHRIS: Because it changes key several times at the end, doing it live now at my age I can never remember where it’s going.
SUGGS: Another rather black-humoured affair about how it would feel to fall from the top of a huge building. I have a feeling the idea came from a film but I don’t remember which.
WOODY: People associate Madness with being a very London band, and all the stuff that we nicked is from all over the place. We’ve had influences from as far away as India – New Delhi definitely has an Asian twist. Look at Night Boat To Cairo, the chords in that song are just slightly off, but they’re accepted in our society now, because we understand that kind of musical genre.
DAVID BEDFORD: It wasn’t my best string arrangement. I wanted to give it an Indian feel and there were six players so I instructed two of them to tune themselves a quarter-tone flat, two of them to be a quarter-tone sharp and the other two were in tune, so I could get that ‘market’ feel. But they couldn’t do it and they ended up playing in tune all the time. They automatically adjusted – they felt it was wrong.
BEDDERS: This song is just out there – I think we let loose some of our more obscure influences on it.
LEE: That Face and Tiptoes could have been contenders. In the production stages, they were bedroom-bound headphone tracks and could have flowed into each other for a further 10-15 minutes. But this was uncharted territory and too prog-rockable for the highway we were expected to take.
LEE: The best songs are the ones that take a serious subject and present it in a way that has a funny side that isn’t hurtful or hateful. I think Calling Cards probably does that best. It’s about a bloke who gets sent to prison for dealing in stolen credit cards.
CHRIS: It’s one of my favourites. The reason? It came out more or less exactly as I meant it to, which doesn’t happen often. I had the idea in my head and found myself with some time on my hands to try and get it recorded to play to the boys and impress them come next rehearsal. I also had two tape recorders which unfortunately played at different speeds. I recorded the guitar onto one and then played it back and recorded a second part plus vocals (after detuning the guitar because the different speed meant at least a tone down – or was it up?). After some hours of this process I had my masterpiece finished and we recorded it in a proper studio.
Madness sound tired and world-weary where previously they’ve always been Jack the lad with a sharp brain and a heart of gold.
Madness will be around and contributing for a hell of a lot longer than either ABC or Haircut 100. It’s a grimly ironic title – I say Madness are on the rise.
BEDDERS: Known by the band as our Sergeant Pepper, this was an incredibly complex album, with the feeling of breaking new ground with every single song. It was the bridge between the Madness of One Step Beyond and the Madness of Mad Not Mad and, eventually, songs like Lovestruck.
DAVE ROBINSON: It was an odd record with an odd cover; they were trying to write something different.
SUGGS: I think we realised that maybe we’d been restricting ourselves, just like any bunch of kids will do. It’s like we weren’t ‘allowed’ to do certain things; none of us would have grown a beard, for instance, and musically it was probably the same. Certain things were ‘uncool’, like to do introspective stuff. Rise & Fall was generally more thought out and was the first album we made that was an album, not just a collection of songs.
LEE: Being hailed as pop’s clown princes of the UK, we were on a roll. But we had to grow up and lose the funny noses. Our fans could see the cracks appearing and we weren’t in the business of fooling the public unless it naturally tickled them.
CHRIS: We were definitely conscious of a change while we were making it. Maybe everyone was a bit mad – I don’t think I was too happy.
BEDDERS: The album was driven by our desire not to repeat anything that had gone before, so Woody and I tied ourselves in knots making the rhythm parts different. We were trying to write better songs and wanted to have a theme running through everything.
CHRIS: Originally, Carl had said, ‘Let’s all write songs about our childhood’.
CARL: I suggested we should do a concept album to do with our families because it seemed like a rich source – I thought all our individual home lives were very interesting so why not write about them? The main idea was I would say, ‘Go off and write about your own youth and your parents and that’, and then next week, after everyone had done it like good, hard-working boys, I would say, ‘Let’s all write a song about money and fame’ to try and get a bit of output coming, to try and discipline ourselves.
CHRIS: I started writing about places I used to play when I was a kid. Then, when we actually looked at the songs, we realized that even though they were written by different people, each track could be about the same character. We thought about linking them to make a story, and they could all be about the various stages in his life, so the person in Our House would grow up to be Mr Speaker and so on.
SUGGS: Rise and Fall, Primrose Hill, Sunday Morning and Blue Skinned Beast were going to be linked together, telling about the rise and fall of a normal person in a particular area that was falling into bad times. The idea was an average bloke going mad; Madness in all its shapes and forms.
CHRIS: Because we were trying to make it like a play, we were also going to have this little story with dialogue between each track. But we thought it’d get a bit too much to listen to, so we scrapped that idea. We thought, ‘Nah, people will get bored of it.’
SUGGS: As other songs started to be written, the idea kind of lost its way. We realised you had to write songs to fill in bits of the story to keep it moving, but that they might not be very good or able to stand on their own. If you don’t do it properly it can be dreadful – like Toyah or something.
CHRIS: It was the closest we’ve ever come to a concept album and I still think there’s something about it that still sounds very complete.
SUGGS: In the past we’d said, ‘This is the rock ‘n’ roll song, this is the ska song…’ this time it just flowed. I wanted it to be quirky without being banally nutty, and it ended up being a very ambitious album. Clive and Alan always wanted to push themselves as producers, and we wanted to push ourselves as songwriters. The thing is, the arrangements were getting so complicated that we couldn’t fucking play them any more. We just weren’t ready to make an album like that then.
BEDDERS: You can trace a direct line through In The Middle Of The Night to E.R.N.I.E. to Mr Speaker, but on this album, the songs’ characters had more depth; I suppose a horrible word for it would be ‘crafted’. It was justified in some ways because Chris and Carl later won the Ivor Novello award for Our House.
ALAN WINSTANLEY: Many of the songs essentially weren’t up to it, and that was maybe due to them being on the road and Mike beginning to get a bit pissed off with the whole situation, but I still enjoyed making the album.
SUGGS: It wasn’t consciously thought out but we were definitely reflecting a change in our environment. Musically, we just wanted to go deeper. Clive was very prominent in this – like us, he was a psychedelic child, too.
BEDDERS: I think a lot of the songs were quite dramatic and Clive was keen to use lots of strings to highlight that.
ALAN WINSTANLEY: Even though the songs weren’t all that commercial, they were colourful and we could go down a certain road with each of them, whether we were adding a brass band or getting a bit of Bhangra in there. So, it wasn’t boring.
CHRIS: It’s the one album where I wrote most of the music, more than Mike. Plus we were recording in the West End, which was great.
BEDDERS: It was made like all the rest; we rehearsed for a few weeks before recording and everyone brought their songs in. We had a list of 20 and would then work our way through them. Some were complete with tune and lyrics, pretty much ready to record. Others were in pieces and we’d all work on them, rehearsing to try and get finished versions. Obviously some stuck out – Tomorrow’s Just Another Day for one.
ALAN WINSTANLEY: By this point, Suggs had become quite a proficient singer. Earlier on, he wasn’t particularly great, but his voice was part of the band’s sound. It wasn’t hard getting a performance out of him. Occasionally, we might have to take him to the pub, get a few beers in him to loosen him up and then go back to do another vocal, but most of the time we’d do three, four takes and pick the best one. Occasionally, we’d do a composite, he’d go back in and do another three or four takes, we would re-comp it and that might go on three or four times.
CLIVE LANGER: As far as the sax was concerned it was more a case of ‘make it out of tune’ than ‘keep it out of tune’. When Lee found out he’d been playing it wrong, he did learn to play it properly, but slightly out of tune was still what we wanted.
SUGGS: Rise & Fall succeeded because there was so much collaboration. Everyone had to stay interested, or we wouldn’t know what was going on. We were all in the same groove and same vein when we made it, so there was no pressure on any one person to think of a concept or do all the songs.
LEE: The only thing that I felt was lacking overall was the sound; it sounded like you were listening to it though a tranny radio – no compression.
SUGGS: It was a bit miserable. I think a lot of kids took their copies back and swapped them for Nick Hayward LPs.
CHRIS: They definitely put it out too soon after Complete Madness. They could have held it back for ages and it put us under pressure to do something new. I think it suffered from the fact that Complete Madness was still on the shelves, so many people chose the record with all the singles instead.
LEE: Chris is right – Complete Madness and House of Fun were a hard act to follow. It was a mistake by our record company and I’ll not have anyone say different. Had we taken a year off after promotional commitments for the album I believe that personally, I would not have developed a drink problem. Saying that, the oncoming burnout would have happened around that period anyway. A year out would only have delayed the inevitable.
CHRIS: We were victims of our own success because Complete Madness was out and that was the album everybody bought for Christmas. But you get a song like Our House and you just want to release it straight away.
The cover of the album had been shot near Camden, with each band member dressed up to represent a certain song.
SUGGS: We did the photo shoot on Primrose Hill as it was somewhere that had featured in most of the band’s lives. We all came from the surrounding area so we’d always had good memories of the place. It was somewhere you could play football or, in the winter, go tobogganing, so it’d always been a place of fun and frolics.
BEDDERS: I think the idea to represent one of the songs each on the cover came from Chris.
CHRIS: We sat on top of the hill, each dressed as various characters from the songs. I was Our House, Lee was Blue Skinned Beast, Bedders Calling Cards, Woody Sunday Morning, Carl That Face, Suggs Tomorrow’s Just Another Day (Mr Speaker surely? Ed), and Mike New Delhi, which nearly didn’t make it onto the album.
SUGGS: Some titles were too abstract, so it came down to doing one you could visualise. You had first choice on a song you’d actually written; no one could bagsy it.
CHRIS: We gave Mike a good-natured Maddie ribbing. Comments like, ‘Are you sure it’s worth getting blacked up for?’ echoed over Primrose Hill on that cold and misty morn as a stiff breeze blew in from the Camden bakeries, giving a pungent smell.
BEDDERS: Laurie Lewis took the picture with a special panoramic camera. The sepia was a bit more dramatic than black and white.
LEE: We’d done black and white in a studio and colour inside and out on previous album covers, so brown seemed like a different move. I’m not sure who suggested the sepia, but it’s not really justified unless seen in its original sleeve. It could be said to have expressed the mood of the moment.
SUGGS: Everyone needed to be in the right place as the camera swung round. We had to sit, very, very still.
LEE: Later, we all marched up to Ally Pally for another album cover shoot. They got a crane in to hang me upside down amongst the band for what seemed like forever and a nose bleed. It was eventually used in some teen mag.
NOVEMBER 12: Our House/Walking With Mr Wheeze released
The single (BUY 163) goes on to spend 13 weeks in the UK charts, peaking at No5. It also becomes the band’s first hit in America.
BEDDERS: The video is one of my favourites because we reached new heights of choreography…
WOODY: …and there was a lovely Jacuzzi.
CARL: It was the first Jacuzzi in England, I believe, and was shot down at a place belonging to Victor Lownes, the Playboy fella. It was quite a nice house.
CHRIS: We filmed other bits at this grand old house. I really felt sorry for the old boy who owned it. He was sitting there in his kitchen while we were causing chaos.
MIKE: It was another good video – possibly one of the best.
SUGGS: On the day of filming, we ended up ad-libbing about 50 per cent of it.
WOODY: The knocking-on-the-door bit where somebody comes out, goes, ‘Where are they?’ And the others sneak in and close the door… that’s pure Fred Flintstone. We stole lots of ideas from the Keystone Cops and Benny Hill.
LEE: Unlike the Baggy Trousers video, the harness they used to make me fly was made of leather and metal and bits of foam, so it was quite comfortable.
CHRIS: For my guitar solo, I thought, ‘I’ll do a Thommo.’ So we had a young kid with a tennis racquet, then a rocker from the 50s, a 60s Beatles fan and finally a 70s glam rock star. I was supposed to represent the spirit of rock and roll; a wild trip through time, maaaan.
MIKE: I remember we had to hang around for hours while Chris got ready.
CARL: If you look carefully, at one point I’m dancing like Kevin Rowland and taking the mickey out of him.
NOVEMBER 27: Volksbelang, Mechelen, Belgium
The third leg of the Complete Madness Tour starts in Europe. Seven shows are scheduled – three in the Low Countries and four in Germany, supported by Der Schmutz. On the afternoon of the Mechelen show, Madness appear on the rock and science progarmme, Pop Elektron, to playback One Step Beyond, Embarrassment, House of Fun and Our House. They are also interviewed by presenter Bart Peeters, with the show aired aired on December 21. A group of Belgian fans join the band when they travel from Brussels to Mechelen by train.
As our heroes arrived it was party time. Initially the show was disappointing, exhaustion perhaps? But about 15 minutes in, the spark arose when they played My Girl. Hits such as Grey Day and House of Fun were intermingled with songs off the first album and brought Madness mania way beyond the mixing desk. More recent work (including the latest single Our House) followed, and then up to the finale which was more representative of the seven lunatics from the video clips, with Baggy Trousers being my No1 favourite. During the encores the crowd Madnessed to the stairs when One Step Beyond and It Must Be love were played. I’m pleased with the show and hope there will be a next time because I think they can do it a lot better.
Geert Varoelen, Joeple magazine
NOVEMBER 27: Generation 80, Belgium
Screened on the same night as their gig, the band playback Our House and Tomorrow’s Just Another Day.
NOVEMBER 28: Hanehof, Geleen, Holland
The Dutch leg of the tour begins in Geleen where the band previously played at the Pinkpop Festival. The more intimate Henehof basically plays host to a warm-up for next day’s show at the Amsterdam Paradiso.
MIKE: By now it was like a 24-hour thing. I was writing songs and we were touring a lot and the record company just push you and push you; they want to milk everything out of it that they can.
SUGGS: The world is such a big place and some bands love to tour all the time, but we never did. Our problem is that we’re lazy, so we decided to stay in Britain and be a big fish in a small pond.
LEE: The United States, in particular, is so huge that it doesn’t feel very comfortable. We went everywhere – Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego – but no matter where we were, we dreamed of only one thing: to return to England.
SUGGS: And anyway, the music that was happening in the States at the time was so far from what we were doing that we were never ever going to be adopted there.
NOVEMBER 29: Paradiso, Amsterdam
In the afternoon, Suggs, Mark, Chris and Lee travel to neighbouring Amstelreen for an interview with pupils at De Cirkel primary school. ‘They were very honest and easy-going, which can’t be said of proper journalists,’ Suggs later tells Popfoto magazine. The show at the Paradiso, in front of 10,000 fans and supported by De Snackbar Favorieten, is more or less a home match for Mike, since he bought a flat in Amsterdam earlier in the year.
Punks, skins and even Hell’s Angels filled the Paradiso to miss nothing of tonight’s event. Fans pushed their way to the front on the first notes of Embarrassment. But it was all jolly aggression, as after all Madness’s music in carnival-esque happiness, teasing one’s positive senses. Songs off the new album like Tiptoes and Rise And Fall were well mixed with live favourites such as My Girl and Baggy Trousers. Actually, all the songs are both similar and different – played under a lifesize and lighted ‘M’ – a sight for sore eyes. No longer relying on mischief, the guys put on a well-calculated show with the audience having become the most important bandmembers as they turned the place into a real Madhouse during Shut Up, Madness and One Step Beyond.
Stan Rijven, Jrouw
CARL: We just had this feeling, ‘God it’s three years up the road and we’re not seeing our friends, we’re not seeing our family… who are we working for? We started out to do this for ourselves and enjoy it.’
DECEMBER 1: Alabama Halle, Munich
DECEMBER 2: Metropol, Berlin
The day after the gig, the band visit the Berlin Wall. Only Carl is refused entry to the East because he no longer looks like the picture in his passport.
DAVE ROBINSON: They were busy times, but I didn’t push them at all, whatever they might say otherwise. To a degree, there is a certain time for you, and you grow through that time. It wasn’t like you could drag Madness screaming anywhere – they wouldn’t go.
DECEMBER 4: Alte Oper, Frankfurt
DECEMBER 5: Fabrik, Hamburg
The tour reaches its finale. Plans to round off the year with homecoming shows don’t materialise as the band didn’t have time.
CARL: I’m really pleased that I was fortunate enough to come out of school, do some horrible fuckin’ jobs and then land up with this mob, and not have to do manual labour. It’s a feeling of solidarity you’ve got with a few people in life. This is a bit idealistic, but I’ve always thought it’s better to have four people who’re really good friends than know 50 hardly at all. Once, we were in Japan and I thought I was going mad. It was really nice to have Chris in another room that I could go to, ‘Help, I’m freaking out.’ In Japan, you can’t jump out the windows because they’re suicide proof, so it’s really lucky to have someone you can turn to.
DECEMBER 16: Top of the Pops
The band make playback appearances on two editions of Top Of The Pops. They reprise the living room scenes from the Our House video and lip synch to House Of Fun, which is aired ten days later as part of a TV special of the year’s No1 hits.
DECEMBER 26: Cheggers Plays Pop
Recorded on December 14, Our House gets an airing in this end-of-year special as the band dress all in black.