JANUARY 1: Appear on The Saturday Show (ITV)
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): I don’t really know why we’re so successful. I have no idea at all. I think we just entertain, that’s our philosophy. But we entertain properly, not in a schmucky way. That’s our place in the working of the world. I’m convinced that’s what we were destined to be. But what we do has nothing to do with people like the Nolans or any of that bollocks.
CARL (speaking in 1983): We’re not part of any trend or fashion and, being seven people, instead of having to go off and do solo projects, if someone wants to do a song that completely different to anything we’ve ever done before, then it’s OK.
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): It’s stupid to do things just because they’re in vogue. That’s the difference between us and others.
CARL: We weren’t preachy and we had the ability to take the mickey out of ourselves. I think that was the good thing about us and why people quite liked us.
FEBRUARY 4: Appear on BBC 2's Oxford Roadshow, playing Tomorrow's (Just Another Day), Madness (Is All In The Mind) and Blue Skinned Beast.
LEE (speaking in 1983): I don’t want to be a big exclusive star. We’re still music fans. We still live in the same areas. I still enjoy the same things I enjoyed before we had a group.
CARL (speaking in 1983): We don’t get screamed at. You just get kids walking past going, ‘Our house! In the middle of our street!’ But we don’t get mobbed; people don’t treat us like that. Maybe it’s a boy-next-door thing. Kids come up to us and say, ‘Oh hello. What’s the next single?’ We don’t ask for anything else.
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): When we started, the big thing was to get a bit of money for a gig to cover our expenses and crate of beer. Then after a couple of years it was a crate of beer and a bottle of vodka…
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): …and now after all these years it’s peace for the whole world or we won’t go on stage.
FEBRUARY 7: Appear on Swedish TV show Casablanca, playing Tomorrow's (Just Another Day), Blue Skinned Beast and Our House, which is currently No1 in the Swedish charts.
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): We’re a unit of people with a lot of different options. We look at ourselves and we sometimes have shitty ideas, but it’s refreshing and stimulating. It’s always fresh because we can always do what we want and we can always do it with Madness. We don’t do things to pander to anyone, and we aren’t in it for the money. We do it because we enjoy it.
CARL (speaking in 1983): Being in a band actually keeps you young. I see friends that I used to go to school with and they seem 10, 15 years older than me.
MIKE (speaking in 1983): People have started saying the band are drifting apart, that we used to be one big gang and now we spend more time on our own. That’s too easy an assumption. When we’re not working, there’s no need for us to live in each other’s front rooms. Just because we’re not all 16-year old skinheads sticking our arses out of the back of a bus doesn’t mean we’ve resigned ourselves to a boring life.
WOODY (speaking in 1983): If there are any problems they always get sorted out quickly. I know it sounds a cliche but this band is almost like a family. Sometimes it’s hard to believe we’re still going but there’s never been a question of a split. Sometimes I just can’t believe that people still want to listen to us.
BEDDERS (speaking in 1983): I don’t suppose we have any songwriters in the classic sense. Everyone writes in various combinations, but not very often. In the early days, Mike wrote most songs because he could play the piano and none of us could really play anything. But everyone’s writing now cos we know a bit more about how it’s done and can play better. On average we write about 18 songs for an album, which is not really enough. We do have a choice, but not a big one. Even with collaborations I suppose it only works out at about four or five songs each a year.
FEBRUARY 11: Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day) / Madness Is All In The Mind is released
The second single from Rise & Fall (BUY 169) eventually peaks at No8 in the UK charts.
BEDDERS: I don’t remember the discussion around this. I think it was always thought of as a single, right from when we started rehearsing it.
CHRIS: I’ll tell you what, when this came out, it was one of my favourite singles. I thought, ‘This is gonna be the one’. It did well, but I thought it was gonna be No1.
SUGGS: It wasn’t really depressing, but it was about the down-ness of life. Then we do the old video and wallop, off we go. Fuck knows what happens. Lee will be swinging on the blinds, I’ll be going, ‘Ha-ha-ha!’ And before you know it you’re enjoying yourself.
WOODY: This was one of our best videos; I just think it’s wonderful.
CHRIS: I thought the idea of us being in prison would be really good. The trouble was, Robbo had seen this advert where a car gets chucked out of a plane on a parachute and he kind of got the rights, or so he said. So we were rehearsing and he turned up and he was going on about this ad and I said, ‘Look Dave, I’ve already written a flippin’ idea for the video.’ He had this kind of hamper to reward us or something and he threw it on the floor. And I said, ‘Sorry to have hampered your plans.’ He was livid. It was a great idea – but everyone was coming up with good ideas. In the end, Dave cackled merrily at the idea of Lee being cast against type as the jailer.
CARL: I thought it was a very good video. I liked the dark set and the chalkboard.
BEDDERS: The big dance scene was based around a Busby Berkley-style routine. We’d probably seen one of his films that week.
CHRIS: The house that Carl comes out from to greet Suggs as the paraffin lamp (tramp) is in Haverstock Hill, NW3, just one of the many startling innovative scenes from this video. Myself and Suggs sat down and created this little masterpiece. We actually drew out some of the scenes. I had this vision of some of us being buried in the ground up to the waist, transformed into plants. In my mind’s eye, it would look creepy and dark. In reality we could only get cheapo outfits, I had to dig the holes myself and we were dressed as flowers playing cards. Duran Duran did Blue Moon on Monday and it was all shot so beautifully and there were people buried in the ground properly. Still, our one was funnier. In the end, it was all down to casting.
WOODY: Before the videos were made, we always used to sit in a room together and come up with lots of crazy ideas. Most of them were just jokes – it was millions of little Benny Hill sketches and ‘funnies’ that we invariably nicked from TV comedies and films we loved.
SUGGS: We’d sit around and have a mad discussion and come up with about eight pages of ideas that included spaceships and painting ourselves purple. Robbo would go through it and go, ‘No…no…no…’ Anything that cost more than a fiver would get struck off.
BEDDERS: Some ideas were completely fantastical and unworkable, but we’d narrow it down to a storyline and try to incorporate some of those ideas.
SUGGS: We had all kinds of wacky ideas – round shoes that had jets on them so we could fly around the room, I seem to recall. Being able to say, ‘Right, we wanna have like, the Houses of Parliament.’ ‘Is that right? Okay, next!’
BEDDERS: Carl had a famous one of having a rubber street and it would kind of be all wobbly, and you’d walk up and down on it and it would be kind of dreamlike. It would have cost an absolute fortune, so we kind of knocked that one on the head pretty quick.
SUGGS: Carl always had a million ideas when we started talking about videos, another million when we were getting things together for it, and when we were actually doing it, he had a million more. It’s like he had something bottled up inside him and suddenly the cork sprang out. He was brilliant. Out of every million ideas came 10 really good ones. And if things started flagging a bit, he was always thinking of dance routines we could do – he picked us up.
BEDDERS: Usually, we stuck with very simple themes. So in It Must Be Love, there’s a line about ‘the bees and the birds’, so we dressed Lee up in a bee costume – it was as obvious as that. I dressed up in some weird ones too. I was a nun… a flower… nice easy props to do.
WOODY: We never used any creative directors – it was just our ideas filmed very simply by Robbo, who had a team of people who could make them real.
DAVE ROBINSON: The videos were usually shot in one day, so we didn’t have long to do all the bits and bobs we wanted to. Saying that, a lot of them were completely off the wall.
BEDDERS: Because we used to do them really cheaply, we didn’t go off to some tropical island somewhere – we did them in the garage or basement of Stiff. Most of them were done in Hoxton. We’d just let the camera roll, mess around and see what came out.
SUGGS: We always wanted to make them somewhere we knew – we didn’t want to start looking for locations in South London. So it was natural really – we liked mucking around locally and going to the pub afterwards. It wasn’t really a conscious thing. Plus it was all very cheap and cheerful – the only cost was the bumblebee costume and the policeman’s outfits.
LEE: Each video cost about £9,000, took two days to shoot and, after editing, could be shown all mover the world, which saved a lot of time, travel and expense.
DAVE ROBINSON: My attitude was they were a commercial for the song. We had several singles that were slow to start but when the video went to TV, that’s when people really got the message. They were great marketing aids.
CARL: When we started there weren’t really any videos, there wasn’t MTV, no international way of exposure. We were literally there at the beginning of video, when Queen started it. Really, there weren’t that many outlets for videos in those days. There was Top Of The Pops and a couple of Saturday morning shows.
CHRIS: People would always want to see the new Madness video. It became a real industry with these so-called ‘wonderful’ directors, but I just didn’t think they were any good. That’s why we always did it ourselves.
DAVE ROBINSON: The videos played a big part in helping establish the individual personalities of the band; each member had developed into a very recognisable character in the public’s eye. Whenever a new single was in the horizon, there was always just as much anticipation about what the video would look like, and I can’t think of another band that had that back then.
SUGGS: I remember talking to Paul Weller early on and he was saying how he hated making videos because he felt self-conscious. I thought we were lucky – ours were just seven show-offs all mucking about trying to outdo each other. We were lucky to have so many extroverts in the band. Carl was a very good mover. Lee was very visual, so we’d always give him the most foolish roles. And Mike, ironically, because he’s such an introverted character, was absolutely brilliant at encapsulating funny shapes. None of us worried about taking the piss out of ourselves. If you’re self-conscious about looking a bit stupid, it shows. But if you’re 110 per cent absorbed in the idea where you don’t give a fuck, you get something else. You get something transcendent, like Tommy Cooper.
CHRIS: There were certain little techniques that we developed. One of them was that we’d all dress the same in the video. We’d decide on something that we were all going to wear, which I think is quite good because you stop being so anonymous. In a way you ARE becoming anonymous because you all look the same but it gives you a sort of group identity. Another thing we’d do sometimes was Suggs would be a kind of narrator. He’d be telling the story. So in Our House for example, we’re all dressed in cloth caps but he’d be dressed different and that kind of separated him from us.
DAVE ROBINSON: There was nothing really radical about them. I was always conscious that we needed to have them played and so we did pretty much everything we wanted to, but there wasn’t any attempt to radicalise anything.
LEE: One of the most enjoyable things was coming up with the dance movements. They were normally worked out on the spot while the camera or sound man were ‘checking the gate’.
WOODY: To be honest, when we were making them I wanted to stick my head in the sand and wait for it all to go away. I should never really have been in the band because I’m not designed for showing off – and being in Madness required a lot of showing off.
JOHN MILLS (video producer): Once an idea was agreed, I’d find and organise locations, get a selection of costumes and plenty of props, then book the crew. On the day of the shoot, the band would improvise around the scenarios. There was always an air of experimentation – let’s try this and if it works, develop it. The band was extremely democratic and rarely argued about how to proceed. The process of shooting was interesting; once the band were enthused, there was no stopping them, but if they felt it wasn’t working, proceedings would grind to a halt while they figured out how to get things back on track. This could be frustrating but was worth putting up with when they came up with something special. The band gave the impression that everything was off-the-cuff and casual, but they had high standards and each of them put a lot of thought into what they were doing.
DAVE ROBINSON: They were a very talented bunch and always gave their best in front of the camera. When you look at most music videos, you can tell which band members aren’t enjoying it and really don’t want to be there, but Madness gave their all every time.
SUGGS: We put a lot of effort into them because we were all fighting for space. The costumes got more bizarre and extreme; it was only when we ran out of things to dress up in that our career fizzled out.
The 12-inch single features a slowed-down version of Tomorrow's (Just Another Day) by Elvis Costello
SUGGS: We’d had an idea to record a short piece of the song with a double bass as a sort of bluesy thing that would fade out echoey and ethereally into the pop version. But we didn’t actually get round to it so after we made the album we recorded this sort of semi-acoustic version with just the double bass and piano.
WOODY: We were doing a B-side and wanted to rework it as a slow version. Elvis Costello did this awesome track called Shipbuilding, which we loved, so we wanted to do this in the same style.
SUGGS: I had a go but couldn’t really get to grips with real singing. Then Carl had a better go; he did a good version, jazzed up a bit in the phrasing, but it still didn’t sound quite right.
CARL: Then Chris walked in and said, ‘Why don’t we get Elvis to sing it?’
CHRIS: It was going a bit sadly, so I suggested Elvis ‘cos we kinda knew him.
SUGGS: Clive Langer had just started working with Elvis and was going to be producing his new album, so that was the main contact.
CARL: Clive spoke to Elvis and he presumably said, ‘Yah.’ And he came down and did it and it was really good; very moving, soulful stuff. I think it would be a lot better if people swapped about and interchanged ideas.
MIKE: I was well into it. After Shipbuilding, the double bass was all the rage. Plus I’d always been a fan of Elvis, especially in the early days, and Watching The Detectives had been a great inspiration.
SUGGS: He was really good; came in, did it and left. If he hadn’t, we’d still have that backing track sitting around. I think it was one of the best vocals he’s ever done. He sang it in one go pretty much and it was more than I could do and more than I’d seen anyone else do – just wallop, in one fuckin’ go.
MIKE: The way Elvis sang it was quite enlightening for me. Not that there’s anything sub-standard about our lead singer of course, but Elvis did a bit of different phrasing which I thought was really good. He added something to it – we didn’t get him in for nothing. Before we did it, I was slightly cynical and sort of thinking, ‘What’s he gonna do with it?’ But when I heard his vocal, he’d really brought something into it. He sings it with a different inflection that I really liked. It was a good job.
SUGGS: Mike has never stopped going on about how much better he sang it. He’s made it very clear it was ten times better than when I did it.
MIKE: It’s just a great example of when you do a cover, you’ve got to make it a bit different to make it worthwhile. There’s no point doing exactly the same arrangement with just someone else singing it.
DAVE ROBINSON: Mike’s right – you have to bring your own style to it and Elvis did a great job.
WOODY: Mark was the biggest Elvis Costello fan – he used to absolutely love him. I didn’t see the attraction until I saw him live and then it all clicked into place. I was like, ‘God Almighty, this is absolutely frigging awesome.’ It was a bit of an eye-opener. I couldn’t quite see what everyone was going on about, because for a start I couldn’t understand what he was singing about because of his style. But once I got to hear the lyrics I was blown away. He is just such a brilliant craftsman, and seeing it live brought it all to life. He was such a professional.
SUGGS: I think it’s bad that Elvis gets hung up, because he is a really good singer. He’s always kinda saying that people don’t accept that he’s good. Technically, he can reach a wide variety of notes – he can hold them and he can wobble.
WOODY: When we were touring around the country, if Elvis was nearby he used to pop in and play on stage with us. It was amazing because he was like the elder statesman and we were in awe of him. He used to put his hands behind his back and give me signals. It was fantastic! I was like, ‘I’ve arrived, I’m playing drums with Elvis Costello.’ I couldn’t believe it! It was a real buzz – I still get goosebumps on my arms just thinking about it.
FEBRUARY 17: Appear on Top Of The Pops with Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day)
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): I don’t like to put other bands down but some really do take themselves too seriously. Nothing really impresses us. Actually, some things do, but we’re a bit cynical. We don’t get really excited and run around screaming our heads off. Some of our subject material may sound depressing but the music’s really uplifting.
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): There is a problem in that if you tell some people you’re nutty, they think that’s all there is to you, and the same goes if you say you’re serious. Anyone can go and look silly, but it’s very hard to be original and incorporate other things too. I wouldn’t deny our sort of humour, but what I’m saying is hopefully people don’t think that’s all there is to Madness. I hope they realise that a certain amount of thought goes into it.
BEDDERS (speaking in 1983): If anything, we’re more influenced by outside sources now than when we started. Back then, like most kids we thought we knew it all; no one could tell us anything.
MIKE (speaking in 1983): It’s pointless to do a rehash of our stuff. It gets boring for us. We believe in not doing more than one style of records twice. So we do something different and experiment more.
CARL (speaking in 1983): I don’t know about anyone else, but I hate doing some of the songs.
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): I know what you mean. The crowd’s going, ‘One Step Beyond! One Step Beyond!’ And you know if you play it, everyone’s gonna go potty. It’s a good song but it’s not very rewarding.
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): It’s a kind of love-hate thing where they’re really going bananas, but you know they were gonna do it anyway, so in a way it’s disappointing. Up to a point, you have to play something they want to hear. You’ve got to consider them as they’re paying their dosh.
BEDDERS (speaking in 1983): We’ve always been conscious of the fact that people pay good money to see us, which is difficult in this day and age. We’ve always felt that, if anyone ever walked off or was in a really, really bad mood on stage, we tend to have a big talk about it afterwards and really get uptight because it’s important we don’t let them down.
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): We’ve always thought about it from the point of view of us being the audience; what would we like to see?
CARL (speaking in 1983): The other things is, if we feel we haven’t got a single in our pocket, we don’t put one out.
FEBRUARY 18: Appear on Channel 4's The Tube, backed by a string quartet and the Washington Welfare Brass Band.
BEDDERS: I remember doing The Tube with a full stage set and brass band that nobody could hear. Big noises don’t work on the small screen.
FEBRUARY 21 & 22: Town Hall, Newcastle
Madness start the 14-date Greatest Show On Earth tour, supported by JoBoxers.
CHRIS BOSTOCK (JoBoxers): We had a great time on that tour, during which our single, Boxerbeat, rose to No3 in the UK charts.
SUGGS: During the tour we had string players and a brass band; we were trying to make the stage itself more interesting.
CARL: Some ideas aren’t possible, and some are too costly, but adding the strings and the brass gave the audience a lot more to see.
SUGGS: When they came on the stage it was brilliant because there wasn’t anything amplified, it was just absolutely acoustic… and very loud. All of us were as nervous as each other about the outcome.
CARL: It worked though – it was really stirring and really sounded great.
FEBRUARY 23 & 24: Manchester Apollo
MIKE: As we got older we all took it more seriously. I mean when we first started writing lyrics it didn’t matter what we wrote about. The important thing then was to have some words to sing a tune to. If you’ve never written a song before It’s like ‘a big deal’. And if you’re a person who writes a lot of lyrics there’s no point in writing a song with shit lyrics. You’ve got to make it say something. Personally, I always find writing tunes pretty easy but that doesn’t mean that I wrote all of them. I mean, we all got involved. The only thing in my case is that perhaps I’ve got more of an understanding about music than the rest of the band. My taste hasn’t really changed. I suppose it has but that’s not why the music has changed. We’d never really set out to do dance tunes. We always aim to write good songs but a bit rocking and with a good whacking beat in them. I don’t dance to anything really. So I didn’t think a lot about it.
FEBRUARY 25: Liverpool Empire
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): People say that the best part about being in a group is the music, but really it’s just a small part of the whole thing. The good thing is that you’re doing it; you’re not doing it for any goal or end, just for enjoyment.
FEBRUARY 26: Jim'll Fix It
Madness help fix it for a young female fan, who duets with Suggs on Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day). Afterwards she is presented with a guitar and one of Suggs’s bowler hats.
FEBRUARY 27: Birmingham Odeon
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): We’re young men and we’ve got a lot in front of us. I can’t imagine us splitting up, there’s no reason for it. We’ve structured it so that everything is out in the open. What I mean is there’s nothing to get your back up. We’re all honest and fair with each other, everyone knows everyone else’s limitations. Also, we work for each other. You don’t sit down and think, ‘I’ll do this on the video and I’ll look good.’ You sit down and think, ‘I’ll do that but yeah – that’s for Thommo and that’s for Barso.’ It automatically draws us together because each person is just as pleased at someone else doing something that’s going to look good as they are to have themselves do it. That’s always what we’ve been about.
MARCH 1: The Lyceum, London
CARL (speaking in 1983): We’ve got some new stuff and we’ve moved in a new direction. We’re using an all-wood studio. We used concrete before and found it just didn’t happen. So now it’s all wooden floors and natural pine; lavender-scented cushions in the mixing room.
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): We spend a lot of time touring and doing television stuff and travelling around. And then, a rather smaller amount of time, either on our own or together, writing very few songs very slowly. We do tend to use up nearly all of the stuff that we write one way or another. It’s odd that we have so many people writing but we don’t have that large amount of material.
MARCH 2 & 3: The London Dominium
Elvis Costello joins the band on stage on both nights to sing his version of Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day).
CHRIS BOSTOCK (JoBoxers): For the finale, Madness were joined by a Salvation Army band and the show was recorded for a radio broadcast. Not to be left out, we waited for Night Boat to Cairo and made an impromptu appearance dressed as Sphinxes by draping towels over our heads and tucking them behind our ears. Then, stripped to the waist, we crawled, heads up and looking straight ahead, across the stage to take up a formation along the front as if guarding the pyramids. Madness were a little startled but pleasantly surprised by the extra props for their show and acted as if it had all been planned. I’ve heard the programme repeated on the radio and you can hear Suggs’s reference to ‘those naughty JoBoxers’.
MARCH 5: Brighton Conference Centre. The Washington Welfare Brass Band join them on stage again for a special performance.
CHRIS GORMAN (Washington Welfare Brass Band): We were asked if we could back Madness again, this time at Brighton. We said yes, but didn’t realise that I only had a few days to try and raise the same players. I contacted George Rowell, the director of the brass band, and he sorted me out with about £600 to buy some return rail tickets from Newcastle to London Kings Cross for 15 players. We all met early Saturday morning at the railway station and by lunchtime were standing outside Kings Cross on the concourse waiting for someone or anyone to notice 15 brass players complete with instruments and suitcases looking lost. After about ten minutes, a coach pulled up and the driver jumped out. ‘Washington Band mate?’ he shouts. ‘Yes, that’s us,’ we replied. Once the gear was stowed away, we set off down to Brighton. We arrived I think by about 4pm and everybody was allocated a bedroom in the hotel. After a wash and clean up, we made our way to the Conference Centre to meet the group again and discuss arrangements for a quick rehearsal and sound check. I didn’t find out until I got to the centre, that someone else would be conducting, which left me without an instrument as I hadn’t brought mine with me (I usually play euphonium, trombone or tuba), so Dick Cuthell gave me one of his trumpets, and I played that night instead of conducting.
MARCH 6: Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
Part of this tour includes a war-themed backdrop for Blue Skinned Beast.
LEE: Bedders organised getting the film from the film library. We had shots up of the First World War and Second World War, and I had some of a lookalike Margaret Thatcher too. We couldn’t get hold of any film of her, as the film libraries wouldn’t let us have ’em. I think a lot of the people who came to see us understood the song more because of that film.
MARCH 8: Apollo, Glasgow
After the JoBoxers do their damnedest to win over the partisan audience. Suggs quips, ‘This one’s for those cheeky JoBoxer boys… cos this is Our House.’
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): Our singles are consistent. And we put them out at regular intervals, which helps. The fact that we’ve never let up since we started is important.
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): Also, I think we’ve never manufactured an image. I’ve seen groups recently where maybe a couple of the band have an idea, and the rest have to toe the line. Then they change, everyone starts doing what they wanna do, and the strength of the band dissolves. Whereas with Madness, it’s just us. When you see Lee flying about and acting the idiot, that’s him generally.
CARL (speaking in 1983): People say, ‘God you all looked bloody ill on Top of the Pops’ but that’s cos we never wear make-up; that’s just our thing. We don’t wanna, y’know? Spots are spots. We don’t like looking like waxwork dummies walking around. We are what we are and we don’t wanna be what we’re not.
MARCH 9: Playhouse, Edinburgh
GAIL PORTER (TV presenter): My first gig was Madness, on my birthday, at The Playhouse in Edinburgh. I’d asked my auntie and uncle to take me and my little brother. The embarrassing thing was my mum had put me in this dress and my auntie and uncle were dressed very smartly, but we were surrounded by people jumping up and down with ‘ska’ tattooed on their skulls! And there’s me in my best frock. The JoBoxers were supporting and their mic broke so the singer leant into the crowd and started snogging some chick. So I’m thinking, ‘This is the coolest thing ever, apart from the fact I’m wearing this stupid dress’ and my aunt and uncle are thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, what have we brought her to?’ I was completely in love with Woody and Suggs and it was a brilliant gig. I did the nutty dance and went into school the next day and told my teacher all about it. I dread to think what all those skinheads thought of me, I must’ve got slagged rotten. I mean, I don’t look old now, so imagine what I looked like when I was 11. They must have thought, ‘What’s going on? There’s some six-year-old in a dress.’
MARCH 17: Musikladen – without Mike
Madness fly to Germany to perform Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day) on the Musikladen TV show. However, Mike fails to appear – the first time any member has missed an important promotional performance. The rest of the band excuse his absence by suggesting he’s heavily involved in his relocation to Amsterdam.
SUGGS: Mike was going through a lot of emotional turmoil. The thing about being famous was becoming inescapable. We were being followed down the street and he was becoming increasingly reclusive; covering up his face in photographs and stuff.
MIKE (speaking in 1983): See, when you start out it’s really different because you’re doing everything yourself and 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.
APRIL: Bedders plays on a new version of Elvis Costello's Shipbuilding
BEDDERS (speaking in April 1983): Having Clive Langer involved in Madness helps to give us access to outside projects that we wouldn’t otherwise have. Clive was producing this single with Elvis Costello and they needed a bass part and approached me. At first Robert Wyatt wasn’t involved. The original plan was to release four different versions of the song, which was then called Ten To Nine, as an EP with four different guest vocalists. There were going to be versions of the song by Elvis, Clive and Steve Allen (former Deaf School and Original Mirrors vocalist AKA Enrico Cadillac Junior III), but once Elvis had done some more work on the lyrics and changed the song to Shipbuilding, they decided to approach Robert and his version was so special that it came out as a straight single. As a fan of Robert, I felt really proud to have contributed to the record. And while I knew it was a great single, I was still amazed when everyone began voting it their favourite single of last year. All these people from the hip clubs were being quoted in The Face, saying it was their top single, which really surprised me. It gave me a lot of pleasure.
APRIL 10: Apollo Victoria Theatre, London
Madness take part in a fund-raiser for the Stop Sizewell B Inquiry Fund, along with other music and comedy acts. They are joined by UB40 for renditions of Madness and One in Ten.
MIKE: By this time, we wanted to be a bit more serious and we wanted to be taken seriously. We were very bothered about it in those days.
CARL: When you’re marketed as something, the public perceive you as that. It’s like Kenneth Williams wanted to be a serious actor and they wouldn’t allow it.
DAVE ROBINSON: They wanted to be more serious but the public still wanted them to have that kind of nutty outlook. People were kind of conscious of what good songwriters they were and how deep some of the lyrics were, but unfortunately they really liked the fun side of them more.
SUGGS: We used to go on about being nutty but we weren’t a novelty band with big comedy glasses or spotty bow-ties – it was a bit more musical. There was more going on, probably because of our love of music.
BEDDERS: That element of the tragic and the comic was always there, right from the start.
SUGGS: Pathos was a word I learnt from Neil Tennant and I’m glad I did because it summed up what we were doing unconsciously – a mixture of happiness and sadness. Sometimes it’s jolly music with sad words and other times it’s sad words with jolly music. The most interesting work mixes the two and that’s what we always tried to do. There was a lot of eccentricity, if you want to call it that. Mind you, eccentricity is for people who’ve got money, Madness is for people who’ve got no money. But yes, there were some issues among various members of the band that weren’t completely resolved which did manifest every now and then, mostly in good fun and craziness. But there’s a difference between having a good time in your own time and when people require it of you.
WOODY: Lee is the nuttiest bloke in the world, but it would never feel like he was making a fool of himself because he was so amusing and wacky. He always said, ‘If you believe in it and you’re not scared, you can do anything you want. And if you don’t care what people think, you’ll look natural.’
APRIL: Madness sign to Geffen in the USA
The new deal sees the end of their relationship with Sire Records.
CARL: We really wanted to sign to Geffen because they sent a representative over – John I believe his name was – and he walked into our office and he had a really long beard. And I like a geezer with a beard. And he was wearing a hat with the stars and stripes on and he said, ‘America needs YOU.’ And we said, ‘That sounds like a good deal.’
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): We like to involve ourselves in all the decisions that are made about the group.
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): Robbo helps a great deal with fatherly advice, and of course never with his own interests at heart.
MAY 7: Madness headline CND rally at Brockwell Park, London
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): I’d like to think I could just drive there, park my car, get out, and we’re all there for the same reason, I’d just get up there and play. But of course, I get there, and there’s thousands of people trying to smash my car up and steal my daughter away… I suppose it’s just that small amount of people who ever become well-known or famous, and yet it’s everyone’s ultimate aim. But I’m used to fame now. Where I live isn’t too bad; I know most of the kids now because they come around regularly. I don’t like it any more than I did then, but I’m used to it. Idols have always been there, I think they probably always will be. There will always be the need for people to scream at other people. I find that I more like to be completely anonymous these days. If I could wear a paper bag on my head without looking stupid, then I would. We did these charity gigs because there is so much hypocrisy in the press, all the lies and slander that make people believe that Greenham Common is wrong. When we were younger we didn’t have much idea, but you learn. People like Elvis Costello and Paul Weller want to be seen in a lighter context because they’re supposed to be serious. With us we don’t want to be regarded as a joke. I’m a bit more aware than I was three years ago. In the future, I intend to write more serious lyrics, about what I’m involved in, like CND, for instance. More of what I believe – you can’t stay naive forever.
MAY 30: Bedders, Carl and Lee appear on Mike Read’s Replay Selection, with the video of Our House screened.
JUNE: Dave Robinson directs TV adverts for the Meat Marketing Board, clearly influenced by Madness.
CARL (speaking in 1983): He’s ripped us off. It’s a bit tacky and could have chosen a better product. I don’t feel any resentment but he’s obviously used us as a model. I just hope people don’t think we support the product, especially as Mike and Woody are vegetarians and they could easily be offended. It’s even funnier when you consider he’s into horses.
AUGUST 12: Wings Of A Dove/Behind The Eight Ball is released
The upbeat gospel-tinged single (BUY 181) will later reach No2 in the UK charts.
CARL: I thought it would be great to do a joyous song that had a Pentecostal gospel choir and a steel band involved. Clive seemed to like the idea.
CHRIS: Clive had always wanted to use a steel band. He wanted us to write a song, work out the parts, then get the steel band to play it all. We realised that Wings Of A Dove was perfect for it.
CARL: This was at a period when Barso was living in Holland. Previously, he’d been really instrumental in most of us writing music. We’d come in and whistle something and he’d put it down and give it some structure. I thought, ‘Shit, Barso’s not coming down to rehearsals’, so I thought I’d pop round to Suggs and try and get this song together and it would make Mike feel guilty that we were really working hard and he’d come back into the fold. But in fact, it had the opposite effect – he suddenly thought, ‘Hey, they’re getting on all right without me, so I don’t need to bother.’
BEDDERS: We were round at Suggs’s and Carl was strumming away on an acoustic guitar with two chords – probably his only two chords – and it all came from that really. He had some words and was like, ‘I want a choir! All go wa-hoo!’ We just tried to work around it.
CARL: I’d been experimenting with the Buddy Holly idea of only using three chords. Then I was watching Black On Black, Channel Four’s ethnic arts programme, and it was about this church in Islington, with The Inspirational Choir Of The Pentecostal First Born Church Of The Living God. I thought they’d be perfect so we asked them to be on the record. They were surprised at first and had reservations about doing something so populist; they felt other churches would frown on it. But when they heard the sentiment, they were all for it. For the steel band, we used The Creighton Steel Sounds from Muswell Hill. They really got into it, so much so that they were dancing throughout the session. It was a great compliment as we intended it to be uplifting. The nicest moment was when the choir were recording their bit and they all said a prayer before they did their take. It was really refreshing to see.
SUGGS: It ended up sounding really disorganised but in fact it was the most complicated to record. The choir were great. In fact, we were going to record them later when we set up our own label, but then while we were in America, Stiff snapped them up, which was really bad.
CARL: The record is a peace song with a lot of optimism and the lyrics were so cool and positive – but some people still thought it was wanky. What it was meant to be about was people making decisions about nuclear weapons and us not being involved in it.
JOHN WYNNE (producer): We went for this meeting with the record company and the video people to get ideas. On the way there, Lee was saying to me, ‘I’ve got an idea. We’re all in the back of a van which gets pushed out the back of a plane and parachutes down to the ground.’ Because he’d just done a parachute drop in America – that’s where the idea came from. And the looks that went between our management, the record company and everybody else: ‘Are you mad, Lee? There’s no way possible they’re ever going to insure seven members in a vehicle dropped from 20,000ft!’ ‘Oh, I think we could.’ ‘Shut up Lee!’
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): I’ve got no idea what the video’s about. We haven’t got a storyline or plot – just lots of funny outfits and people. All we knew was that we wanted to have lots of dancing and action because it fits the song. We bought a commercial from France or somewhere, of a van being pushed out of a plane, and built the video around that. Then we just joggled the camera a bit.
CHRIS: We had a lot of fun filming this in an airport somewhere.
CARL: Before the video, the choir all said a prayer again, which was quite a poignant moment.
CHRIS: They put us in the van with a camera and they had a bit of a shock when they looked at the film because there were a couple of moonies.
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): Generally, we just try and think of as many visual ideas that we can do ourselves and that don’t involve a lot of props and money.
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): A lot of groups just stand there with their instruments, which is pretty boring. We’ve done some without instruments altogether. But usually the best thing to do is do it with instruments so you know you’ve got that, and then you just have a various load of other ideas, like playing a guitar underwater.
LEE (speaking in 1983): Once you’ve got the backbone of an idea then the rest comes on the day. The rest of the ideas are just laying around in front of you.
CARL (speaking in 1983): If it’s a good idea it’s a good idea – you really don’t need to embellish it too much. We try to keep to a strong but simple theme without using too many expensive things.
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): But the song has to be good too. Some people make a really fancy video for a really naff song.
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): I think the main thing is we all get on, so we’re not embarrassed in each other’s company and we can let ourselves go.
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): Lee will always act really stupid so we have costumes made specially for him, like the traffic warden one.
JULY 23: Our House peaks at No7 in the USA's Billboard Hot 100 chart.
AUGUST 20: JFK Stadium, Philadelphia
Madness head for the States where they play 25 dates in five weeks. Some shows see them support The Police and David Bowie in front of massive crowds, but they also headline smaller gigs in front of 2,000-5,000 people a night.
SUGGS: This was the first tour that we’d played to mega rock audiences – it was very strange indeed.
CARL: The whole tour was amazing – the biggest and most different we’d done. We played anything from like 700 people to 75,000. The stadiums were amazing; there were these big wide tunnels leading down to these underground back stage areas that were just massive – so big it was unreal. We didn’t know if we’d go down well but we were really surprised – it went better than expected. They saw us as survivors of the ska boom and knew all about it.
SUGGS: In Philadelphia, Lee and I were running late…
CHRIS: …they were late because they’d been to Disneyland…
SUGGS: …then Lee had to pick up a dinner jacket which I think he’d stolen from a second-hand shop on Melrose Avenue, so we had to run. The band were already on stage playing One Step Beyond when we arrived. I ran right across the stage in front of 250,000 million trillion Americans, tripped on the edge and fell off the front – it was like Alice in Wonderland; I fell for what must have been weeks on end and landed on my coccyx on a lump of scaffolding. And the audience stood as one, saying, ‘What an amazing act, these guys really are mad’ as I tried to crawl back up. Luckily, One Step Beyond is an instrumental so I had time to climb back and make out it was part of my act. It didn’t really teach me anything, except not to go anywhere with Lee before a gig as there’s always something happening.
CARL: When we came on they clapped even before we started and we thought, ‘Hello, what’s going on here? Do they think we’re someone else?’ We weren’t used to it. It’s also a totally different thing when you’ve got to project yourself to Bert Snuggs who’s in the back row that is several miles away as the crow flies.
BEDDERS: It’s just the way they are. They really go in for that all-day-bring-your-beer-cooler-along.
LEE: That was the gig we all went on with pineapples on our heads. I’m sure it was in aid of something.
AUGUST 22: The Pier, New York City
CARL: That was a funny gig. We were just setting off and we heard there were some writs waiting for us – the police wanted to arrest us but none of us knew what for. We had to get down there in taxis and send the coach ahead with the string players in to divert the police, and then we had to walk in individually. The writs were stuck on the coach. In the end, it was a load of old cobblers. This bloke was saying he’d got us our deal with Geffen and he should be getting his five per cent. In fact, he’d met our manager once and said, ‘Why don’t you try Geffen?’ He was trying to get lucky but it was pretty unsettling. We got on stage and said, ‘A funny thing happened on the way to the show…’ It’s not often those lines are true.
SUGGS: Me and Carl later went round New York and did a few promotional things for Stiff. We were at some club where they were showing our videos and I think that’s what they expect to see – wackiness. And when we climbed on that stage, what did they see? They saw nothing except a couple of drunken, frazzled, bigheaded English pop stars.
AUGUST 27: Aragon Ballroom, Chicago
LEE: In the dressing room afterwards there were autograph hunters screaming all sorts of things (as usual) so I opened a bottle of bubbly over them. They loved it, except for one disappointed girl who didn’t take too kindly and told us to, ‘Go home you friggin’ jerks.’ So of course the cheeky members of the group mooned her and she went ape. This girl would not stop so I chucked her a ‘Fuck Art…’ t-shirt and she left satisfied.
AUGUST 28: Electric Cowboy Festival, Cleveland
LEE: I can’t remember much about Cleveland as we weren’t there for long. I do remember that the theatre we played was opened especially for us. It hadn’t been used for shows for years and smelt that way too.
SEPTEMBER 1: University of Miami, Florida
LEE: Everything was set for suntans when the rain came down. It rained and rained and rained… in fact it rained up until we about to go on stage. We were going to call the gig off, but 2,000 people turned out. They were willing to stand in the rain, so we were willing to play. It was a giant rain dance but by the end it died down.
SEPTEMBER 2: Summers On The Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
LEE: This was the smallest gig on the tour. It was in a club on the beach with 700 people squeezed in, humidity 7,000 per cent. Good gig full stop.
SEPTEMBER 3: Plaza Hotel Ballroom, Daytona Beach, Florida
LEE: The gig went well but the backstage drama had to be seen to be believed. The promoter was small-time mafia and we insisted we stay in a hotel next to the gig. The rooms were below sea level and smelt like someone had died there years ago. So we decided to change hotels but we couldn’t til after the gig as there wasn’t enough time. By now I’m getting tired and emotional. Despite the trouble, we hit the stage on time. Four numbers in and all the power went. Suddenly all is quiet, panic backstage. In the rush Laurence, our faithful electrician, falls off the PA straight onto his back. Tour manager John Martin is running around like he’s been hit with a cattle prod, trying to hold the whole shambles together. We just about finish the gig intact, but never again shall we venture to Daytona Beach.
SEPTEMBER 5: Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego, supporting The Police
LEE: People had been waiting for most of the day for the first band to come on; it was so hot the audience was being hosed down to stop them from fainting.
CARL: The temperature! It was 80°F down there.
LEE: As you run up the ramp to the stage and hear the roar of 70,000 people you’re quite frightened, but then again you’re also lifted by the shouting. Your heart beats a little faster and you take a few gulps of air and hope you don’t fall over a cable and make a fool of yourself.
SEPTEMBER 6: Jack Murphy Stadium parking lot, San Diego (charity gig for Muscular Dystrophy Association)
LEE: All the equipment was piled up on two lorry trailers put back-to-back. Again, the heat was intense – everyone was walking around with Rudolf Valentino-type headscarves on, made out of t-shirts.
CARL: All the string section had to have their instruments wrapped up in silver foil cos of the heat. It looked like we were doing a gig on the moon.
LEE: The gig went down well, except for some over-zealous security people. Obviously the sun had got their pea brains.
SEPTEMBER 7: Solid Gold, American TV
Madness perform It Must Be Love, which has been released in a bid to capitalise on the success of Our House.
WOODY: It Must Be Love was the US follow-up to Our House, but the video absolutely killed it. We were all running around in undertakers’ gear and the Americans didn’t see the funny side. They saw it as too black, with us all peering over the side of the grave; I think they found it rather distasteful.
SUGGS: It got to No33 and that was the end of it.
SEPTEMBER 8: Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Phoenix. Third gig supporting The Police.
BEDDERS: The plane landed and we got out and went – whoosh! It was so hot.
LEE: We got off to 105°F heat. This is desert country, where all the rocks are red and give on an orangey glow. It was so hot that everyone just sat around the swimming pool until it was time to do the gig. Another football stadium with The Police – we were almost blasé about the whole thing by now. This one was a dress rehearsal for the next night’s show with David Bowie, which everyone had been looking forward to.
SEPTEMBER 9: Anaheim Stadium, Los Angeles.
Madness are joined by The Go-Go’s in supporting David Bowie on one date of his Serious Moonlight Tour. Backstage after the gig, Bowie asks Suggs for his autograph to give his 12-year-old son Zowie, who is a big Madness fan.
LEE: This was the climax of the US tour and the biggest gig on the west coast all year.
SUGGS: We were supposed to be on stage, but we were stuck in four miles of traffic jam. We were third on the bill and they were going to start cutting our set down, so every three minutes we sat in the jam, another song was chopped off the set list. Suddenly the enormous stadium loomed into view. Lee and I rushed backstage; everyone else was ready and we were ten minutes late. Straight into the suit and onstage… oh my God! A screaming mass of open mouths as far as the eye can see.
BEDDERS: We really played up to it. So we ran out the front and went up on these risers that were Bowie’s and we weren’t really allowed to use. And we did all the machine gun guitar bit and they loved it… and so did we
SUGGS: The gig seemed to go well and we stayed to see the rest of the show – Bowie was very good.
LEE: Afterwards, I was standing outside the dressing room when a limo pulled up and out jumped this little green alien; he had an all-in-one jumpsuit and this shock of white hair. He looked towards us and I was dumbfounded. He said, ‘Excuse me sir, do you know where I can find the Madness band?’ and I just pointed. So he went in and said hello to everyone, asked how the tour was going etc, which I thought was very humble — he didn’t have to do that.
CHRIS: He asked for our autographs for his son, which was a bit weird. He was great.
SUGGS:He was a pretty remarkable character – usually we had very little to do with famous people. People would kick your legs out from under you all the time: ‘Talking to David Bowie? You wanker! How much did you spend on those taps? £20 each? At Liberty? You gone mad, wanker?’ The balance of the band was such that as soon as someone started getting a bit big-headed, there were hatfuls of pins being thrust in all directions. So we were never the types to start hanging around on Duran Duran’s yacht.
CARL: We were a grounded bunch. Throwing TVs out of windows wasn’t our style. We were at the Iroquois hotel once in New York. I’d lost my keys, so I had to kick my door in, but it’s not really rock’n’roll because the security bloke gave me permission to do it. I just paid a hundred bucks the next day. The unprintable stories will have to wait for my book, if there is one.
SUGGS: The only time I wrecked a hotel room it was an accident. I tripped on a vase and put my head through the TV screen. We’d done all that rock n roll mayhem before we formed the band. Groupies? We all had regular girlfriends. Drugs? We had our moments, like any other fun-loving chaps. But none of us ended up in the Betty Ford Clinic. Drinking was more our thing.
SEPTEMBER 10: Day On The Green, Oakland, Los Angeles
Madness play their last support slot for The Police, along with The Thompson Twins, The Fixx and OIngo Boingo.
SEPTEMBER 11: Soldier Field, Long Beach, California
Madness and KROQ Radio stage a softball match, with proceeds donated to anti-nuclear organisation Alliance For Survival. Madness wear ‘Our Team’ shirts and win 13-9, breaking into an acapella version of Our House.
WOODY: We discovered quite early on that we sold more records when we weren’t there than when we were. We were under great pressure from everyone to play live, when it was the one thing we really wanted to knock on the head. We wanted to do a video for every song and pump ‘em all around through MTV instead.
SEPTEMBER 12: Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles
Madness play for an enthusiastic sellout 5,000 crowd, watched by David Bowie.
SUGGS: After a few more very good shows in LA, we headed down to the Deep South for the last leg of the tour.
SEPTEMBER 15: Bronco Bowl, Dallas
SUGGS: The Bronco Bowl was a great place with a bowling alley and a baseball machine that fire baseballs at you at 85mph. The gig was a very intimate affair and went very well.
SEPTEMBER 16: Oprey House, Austin, Texas
SUGGS: The Oprey House was a place built by country star Willie Nelson. The road crew were playing football while we sound-checked, to the intermittent accompaniment of the sound of the football being punted through a window or smashing a light fitting off a wall.
SEPTEMBER 17: Houston, Texas
SUGGS: This gig went without too much incident. The audience were good and it was enjoyable. The management of the club were mostly gay and treated us very well, especially Toks.
SEPTEMBER 18: SS President Riverboat, New Orleans
Madness play in front of 1,500 people on a 19th century steamboat, floating down the Mississippi.
SUGGS: The last leg of the tour was on a riverboat. As we arrived, we were just in time to see it being dredged from the bottom of the river. The stage was down one side and if it got too full, it listed to the left. Uh-oh, it was a full house and it was true about the lean. The boat left the harbour, took us down river and back again. It was a good concert.
SEPTEMBER 19: After the end-of-tour party, the band fly home to London.
CHRIS: I’d stayed up so late and done so many naughties while we were there, I nearly came back in a box. I couldn’t move on the last day. All I could do was lie there and vomit and poo myself at the same time. Luckily, it was a day off.
WOODY: After we came back, we had a big discussion, because it seemed at the time that there was a lot of pressure on us to write material for America. We were told that we could crack America if we wrote a bit more commercially in their style. So we sat down and actually realised that we’d rather just continue making good music for ourselves, and if the Americans get to like it one day – well, that would be very nice. We didn’t have to write for anyone.
LEE: Also, we realised that to crack America, we’d really need to go in there and do another intense tour. And we were lucky if we got out of there in three weeks with our brains intact. We’d been round the planet a couple of times; been there, seen it, done it.
CARL: Mainly, it was pure laziness on our part. We just didn’t want to put in all the time there that it takes. We didn’t want to truck around America for four months; we wanted to be at home.
LEE: Suggs was told that he’d have to sing in an American accent and that we’d have to live out there for six months to crack the market. We couldn’t stand being homesick, so we didn’t do it.
CHRIS: Looking back, we were really stupid. We should have taken advantage of Our House being a hit, but we didn’t cash in at all. Because we were recording, just Bedders and me, who aren’t really the frontmen, went and did the interviews. We just let Geffen get on with it.
SUGGS: When It Must Be Love did nothing, the prevalent mood in the band was, ‘Fuck America’.
MIKE: The idea was a bit, ‘Bloody Yanks, they think Bruce Springsteen’s rock ‘n roll’.
CARL: The difference between us and some bands is that we weren’t really confident – we didn’t realise we were doing that well. We always thought it was going to end – we didn’t even think that what we were doing was all that amazing or special.
LEE: We had more of a cult following over there. When we played the deep South you’d see about a dozen Stetson hats just standing there, along with a horse in the corner.
SUGGS: So we went over, ballsed it all up and came back with our tails between our legs.
CHRIS: I’m not sure. I don’t think we turned our back on America, really. We just kind of forgot about it.
SEPTEMBER: Film TV sitcom pilots
Madness make two 10-minute pilots for a possible TV sitcom, written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton. The premise of the show is that the band, with Suggs as prime minister, had been voted into government.
CHRIS: As a result of our appearance on The Young Ones the year before, Ben and Richard came up with a pilot about how we were left to run the country after Maggie Thatcher was exposed as an alien and had to return to Mars.
SUGGS: So the country holds a snap election and I get made Prime Minister and the rest of the boys in the band form my cabinet. Serious social realism then!
CHRIS: The idea was that we’d do all these mad things and right at the end of the show, the Queen would call us and say the miners were about to go on strike. We’d ring them up and say, ‘Come on boys, leave it out’ and that would be our way of running Britain. Richard and Ben really liked us and the rehearsal room was buzzing at the prospect of branching out into the world of sitcoms.
RICHARD CURTIS: Ben and I were very keen on Madness. I seem to remember at the time we were obsessed with them, Madonna and Kylie. We’d have a meeting, only talk about pop and then at the end think, ‘Oh my God, we haven’t mentioned Blackadder once.’ So we wrote in separate rooms and passed each other the scripts on disk.
WOODY (speaking in 1983): A TV programme is, I think, the one we want to go for. We get ideas for it, Chris writes down a lot of stuff and we always keep in mind anything that may crop up. Finding funds for it is happening at the moment, we’ve had a few offers and we’re twisting a few arms! TV would be the best step to take next, not another feature film because that costs too much money and takes up too much time.
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): A few episodes have been written and now it’s got to be sold commercially as a package. I don’t think it’s particularly because we’re a pop band that we want to do it – it’s just the fact we could do something funny visually.
CARL (speaking in 1983): It’s going to be a bit of a sitcom satire about the state of the nation, sort of like the Monkees.
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): I can categorically say it won’t be like The Monkees.
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): It has to be quite contemporary because in two years we could be completely bored by it. Madness could have died a death.
LEE (speaking in 1983): If we ever get a series out of it, it would be a bit like Benny Hill without tits, mixed with Monty Python and Minder.
CHRIS: The scripts were really funny and there were some great gags in the pilots that I was glad to see pop up again in the authors’ later work. But we couldn’t get the backing, so unfortunately the show never got off the ground.
SUGGS: The powers-that-be reckoned it would cost too much to recreate the look of Parliament, although a lot of the gags ended up getting recycled for inclusion in The Young Ones. So we missed out on serious telly domination there.
RICHARD CURTIS: We did a pilot but it wasn’t very good because it only lasted seven minutes and was filmed on a very grey day. It would have been a joy to do what they did with the Monkees with Madness, but unfortunately our pilot was nothing like as good as one of their videos so it didn’t come off. I’m sorry that it didn’t happen. I’ve done things that I mourn like lost children, and the first is the Madness sitcom.
WOODY: I’m relieved it was never made. I’m not an actor, so it filled me with absolute dread. I had a real personal dilemma over that one, because certain band members are just brilliant performers; Lee, Carl and Suggs are very good at turning their hand to that creative side and are much more comfortable learning lines and acting. Me? I was like a fish out of water. It was a laugh and opened up an avenue we could have gone down, but I’m not sure it was the right time, put it that way.
CHRIS: So there we were, all fired up at the possibility of becoming TV stars when Mike made the decision that broke a thousand young girls’ hearts and decided to tell us that he couldn’t commit himself to doing a TV series or, in fact, the band any more.
OCTOBER 4: Mike announces he’s leaving the band
During rehearsals, a disenchanted Barson announces his departure: ‘It’s great stuff and I wish you all well, but I’m off to Holland.’
CARL: We’d just stopped rehearsing and I made some tea. I walked into the room, laid the cups down, and Mike stood up with a very heavy frown. He said, and I quote, ‘I’ll be leaving the band after this album, you turds.’ And we all laughed and said it had been a good run.
MIKE: We were in Helligan’s Heap rehearsal rooms and I said, ‘Guys, I’m leaving the band.’ And there was a sort of shocked silence and that was it really. We didn’t go into too much talk about things in those days.
SUGGS: It was like what I’ve read about dying; that your life flashes before you. I remember when he said it that the band’s whole career flashed before my eyes.
LEE: I remember distinctly we were talking about doing the show with Ben Elton and he said, ‘Listen chaps, I’m not up for this. I’m thinking of leaving.’ I mean what do you do? That’s what he wanted to do and full respect to him.
CHRIS: The minute he opened his mouth, I knew what he was going to say. He was on the wane in the writing side. Some of his songs were ending up on B-sides, which was unthinkable because that’s where mine used to end up.
LEE: Carl spun round and hit the deck like a sack of spuds. I remember him jumping up and saying, ‘Oh my good God no, Mike boy, reconsider.’ And I sort of ran up to him and said, ‘Right, let’s have the… let’s have him now.’ It was a very sad affair, but it was what he needed to do. I just thought, ‘Good on ya, if that’s what you want, then do it.’
BEDDERS: I don’t think we were surprised because everyone could feel that he’d had enough. He’d just got married and he wanted to live in Holland.
SUGGS: I think he was also feeling the responsibility of keeping the hits coming. We were all writing, but Mike would be staying up all night trying to finish whatever classic he was working on at the time. He was the one everyone was looking to for the hits.
CHRIS: Yeah, I think he’d found it hard being the main songwriter all those years.
MIKE: I’d just had enough of doing the same thing all the time. You’re projecting a certain picture and as a young man you’re thinking, ‘Who’s the real me? What’s the rest of my life about?’ Also we weren’t getting on, and there was a lot of stuff we had to work through.
SUGGS: We were all getting very tired, even though we were hugely successful. We all had young families – or at least I certainly did. I had a couple of very young kids but I was very rarely at home.
WOODY: Mike was just disillusioned and felt like he was in a circle, with so much pressure on him. He was also commuting backward and forward from Holland, which didn’t help. He saw something that we didn’t – that we needed to experience life outside the band to bring it into our songwriting. But the pressures were so immense. Can you imagine One Direction saying next week, ‘We need a jolly good break’? The industry would go mental, and the same applied to us. Mike had seen the writing/ recording/ promo/ touring cycle. He said that when you put your head on the pillow you have to be happy in yourself, and by then he wasn’t. Whatever he’d achieved, when his head hit the pillow at night, whether he’d done Top of the Pops a million times, he felt strongly that he was just left with himself.
MIKE: One of the things which got a bit much for me, was that I was writing songs like a crazy man, 24 hours a day. I was listening to the radio, ‘Ooh that sounds good, I could use that, I like that, I don’t like that, I like that.’ It was getting a bit mad, I was always trying to write songs, like somebody who’s a pain in the arse. I couldn’t enjoy listening to music any more. It would always be, ‘How can I use this?’ and analysing, analysing, analysing. Maybe I was a bit overly pessimistic; I thought we were sort of going downhill and I couldn’t see it continuing much longer anyway.
SUGGS: He’d had enough of the whole thing. You see all these pictures from that period and he’s covering his face up bit by bit. I remember being on a German chat show and looking over and he’d pulled his jacket over his face. He didn’t want to be recognised any more
MIKE: It was all getting a bit one-dimensional. We were only 18 and 19 years old when it all took off, but suddenly your whole life gets taken over by what you’re doing. At certain points, you start asking, ‘Is this everything? Is there more to it than this?’ It’s difficult to look into that when every moment is money and you’ve got to run here and there. There’s so many people involved and you feel like everyone is relying on you; roadies, managers etc. You feel responsible.
WOODY: There was a pressure to keep going: ‘If you stop, even for a short amount of time, you’re going to be forgotten about and washed up.’ So you feel like you’ve got to stay in the public eye. That’s what we were told anyway.
MIKE: You used to get the feeling you were being watched, y’know? If you’re really in the limelight and they’re all saying ‘great’, then it’s wonderful, who would complain at that? But then you’ve got to take the other side of the coin as well, y’know when people start saying, ‘Crap, no good’, then you’re also in the limelight or whatever. Just being in the limelight all the time is not something that I’m particularly mad about. I like a bit now and again, definitely, but constantly it gets a bit of a strain. That’s one of the reasons why leaving and going into obscurity was quite attractive.
DAVE ROBINSON: Mike was getting into some kind of religion. He was studying his life in terms of some kind of Buddhist teaching. And I think he’d quite a lot of money because he was the writer of pretty much every tune because he did the music so he got a share of everyone’s publishing. Plus the wife had a few quid too. Nobody was happy with the arrangement, except Mike. I did try to talk him out of it but he was a very strong and opinionated person.
MIKE: I suppose it was a sombre period. I’d got into Tibetan Buddhism, which was about understanding your mind and emotions, and I had relationship shit, y’know. It was also the period where we kept trying to do something different. It was, ‘We have to a have a different beat’ and it was getting a strain – I was getting obsessive about it and I realised there’s more to life than your job.
CARL: He was sick of the incessant treadmill of publicity – tour, grip, grin; tour, grip, grin.
MIKE: I didn’t like all the attention. I wanted to get out of that hall of mirrors. People look up to you and you start examining yourself: ‘Do I really live up to what they’re saying? Oh my God, maybe I don’t.’ You’re projecting a sort of image, and I was having trouble believing it.
SUGGS: He also wanted to spend more time with his wife, and I think he realised that was slowing us down a bit.
MIKE: I felt like the audience had got a bit tired of us and that the boat was slowly sinking as our popularity went down. You’re thinking, ‘Do I jump’? The choices were getting less and less. I was fixated on sales and when they started dropping it felt like we were at a dead end. I was of the mentality that it was all about success. It was only later that I learned that success is also making good music and enjoying it, and not necessarily how many albums you sell.
DAVE ROBINSON: Having a successful group is like being a soccer player – you only last as long as your knees hold out. When Mike left, a very important balance was gone.
WOODY: Of course everyone was really understanding, but we felt as though we’d really lost a limb. Realistically, we all should have said, ‘Let’s all take a break.’
MIKE: I probably should have just taken some time out, but it seemed impossible without throwing the baby out with the bath water. With the benefit of hindsight, I should probably have said, ‘Let’s slow it down a bit.’
SUGGS: It was like the opposite of an explosion, it was like a vacuum…
CARL: …it was an implosion…
SUGGS: …it was unnerving and sad.
DAVE ROBINSON: I thought that was it really. Barson was the most important ingredient to me. There were lyrics and all the other bits, not to knock anybody else, but Barson’s melodies were what made everything work. Everything was fed through Barson to come out and make records, so I thought we were really in trouble. It worried me that there wasn’t going to be a lynchpin or a leader and of course, they weren’t going to have the melody censorship he performed. They relied on Barson more than anybody realised – to me it was terrible.
WOODY: It was a blow, but looking back, Mike got it right – you need to get out and have time away from the band and you need to experience life. The world that we live in is you write an album, you go on tour, you go into the studio, you’re back on tour again, which means airplanes, airports, motorways, gigs… and you don’t see life. Year after year after year you get detached from reality, so you do need a break.
OCTOBER 28: The Sun And The Rain/Fireball XL5 is released
The single (BUY192) will eventually reach No5, helped by another entertaining video.
CHRIS: For the video, it was Lee’s idea to have Mike’s arms getting longer and longer at the start. He said it was because Mike was distancing himself from the group; quite deep really. Lee and Carl were also going to burst out of the piano, so they got the Stiff carpenter to build this piano out of balsa wood. They gave him all kinds of speed to keep him up to make it in time. So we started filming and the first thing that happened was that it got smashed to bits. We had loads of other ideas too – I dunno why, but I thought, ‘I want to be dressed as a fireman, and someone rings an alarm and I jump out of this thing.’ So we did that. The idea for us to be in Suggs’s head came from Lee. He said it was like the sperm in the Woody Allen film, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask). The other thing was, Robbo didn’t want Suggs to wear sunglasses; ‘Take the sunglasses off Suggs,’ he’d say. So in this one he does, but he’s got these funny little fake eyes underneath. Ha! The rocket on Lee’s back was meant to be a reference to the B-side, Fireball XL5. We had it made at great expense, then the makers said, ‘Oh, we need it for an exhibition.’ We never got it back. Mike later went on holiday to Mexico, and there it was in the Hard Rock Café. We also had special pac-a-macs made with the Sun and the Rain logo on; they’ll be collectors’ items now. Plus there were a lot of fans watching the filming and they all got wet, so we let them all join in at the end.
LEE: We used to try and always have something different on the flip as a ‘value for money’ consideration. But we never had a B-side for this, so I had to kick arse and get people down Pathway Studios to do Fireball XL5. It was half-baked and a rush recording, but there was an idea there.
CHRIS: That was a great one, that. Lee came round to my house and said, ‘I’ve got this song’ and we did it on a little Portastudio.
LEE: I just remember it was in and out in a few hours, but that’s where the best ones come from.
CHRIS: Bedders did a country and western bassline…
LEE: …like Blanket On The Ground or something.
CHRIS: Dave Robinson said it should have been a single.
LEE: It was a throwaway lyric. I think I may have been daydreaming about pointing fireworks at Margaret Thatcher’s house. Maybe because it was that time of year, Autumn, and maybe not. Misspent youth, getting into mischief… er…
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): I quite like Lee’s songs because of his lyrics. I think he writes them in that style because you don’t have to look that deeply into them if you don’t want to.
OCTOBER 29: The Late Late Breakfast Show
The band appear on the popular BBC light entertainment show, first in a comedy sketch about Lee going bald. They then play new single The Sun and the Rain, dressed in raincoats. After they’ve finished, they’re interviewed by host Noel Edmonds about their Japanese TV commercial.
NOVEMBER 17: Appear on Top Of The Pops with The Sun And The Rain
CHRIS: We went on to perform it and, as usual, Lee was lazing around. You have to go through rehearsal a few times and, for us, that’s not the kind of environment we worked in; we liked doing it. When they actually filmed it, he didn’t have his mouth anywhere near the saxophone. We got in loads of trouble.
CARL: We also got in trouble that time because I put a message out. My brother was in prison and we had these cards going ‘doo-de-do, doo-de-do-do-do’, so for a laugh I thought I’d I say, ‘Hello to Brendon in B-wing’. What happens is, it goes out on air and he picks that night to escape! They thought that it was, like, a predetermined message to signal the break-out. My mother rang up and said, ‘He’s escaped’, and I thought, ‘Fuck me’, and then we got a thing saying that it had gone to the Director General of the BBC and we’d fucking had it.
SUGGS: Carl pulled out a card that said: ‘Hello, prisoner number B46244’ or whatever. It was: ‘Cut! CUT!’ Deadly silence. And the producer, Michael Hurll, pointed at your main man and said, ‘You’re an embarrassment to yourselves and the BBC.’ And I thought he was going to say, ‘…and the Queen.’ We always used to get in trouble for messing around and not miming properly. It was all taken very seriously in those days and even though it was pretty cheesy, everyone watched it; if you got on, everyone would be talking about you the next day. So we often took the opportunity to do something a bit different – including things we weren’t supposed to do.
CHRIS: It was great to have been on it so many times but we had a few run-ins with them for being late etc. Once Thommo was chewing gum when the camera went to him [in rehearsal] and got a right rollicking from the director.
CARL: This voice came over the studio Tannoy telling Lee to stop chewing so we all immediately started… chomp, chomp, chomp…
LEE: It was all too hectic and hazy. We used to have to get there first thing in the morning, and wouldn’t leave until last thing at night. Yet Cliff Richard would breeze in and be out again in half an hour. Meanwhile, we were stuck in this green room, climbing the walls – that’s why we’d go up the wall, being caged for 12 hours.
CHRIS: They always made us turn up at about 8am and we were kept in some dingy dressing room for hours on end. Then they still always filmed the bass guitar on a lead guitar solo and so on. They were biting the hand that feeds because 17 million people watched it, but they weren’t tuning in to see Tony Blackburn. We were the talent; we were what was really selling it.
SUGGS: One time Lee turned up with a T-shirt that said, ‘I need the BBC…’ and he pulled it off and the one beneath said, ‘…like a hole in the fuckin’ head’.
LEE: We got to know the commissionaire at the BBC bar, an old Irish geezer who would let us in because he liked us. And we’d have eight hours in the fuckin’ bar.
SUGGS: By the time we went down to the set, we were off our crackers. D’you know we got banned four times? We were always being blasted and called unprofessional but we were always asked back.
WOODY: Most of the time it was just sitting in your dressing room, bored out of your brain, wondering if you could go to the bar. You used to get people coming in saying, ‘Right! You’re on in half an hour. Are you ready? Have you been to make up and have you…?’ It was just…
SUGGS: …it was all run very strictly. Often Michael Hurll would come tearing down from the gallery to berate us. We could hear this pitter-patter of tiny feet down the metal staircase and we knew we were in trouble. More often than not, it would include Lee doing something that hadn’t been rehearsed, like leaping into the audience. It was a strange dichotomy, that he wanted you to have fun, but at the same time, wanted it to look like you were seriously playing when everybody – even people who didn’t understand the recording process – knew that you were miming.
JAMIE SPENCER (Stiff and Madness press officer): If it was a dress rehearsal, Lee would do his sax solo to camera, but then in the proper filming, the camera turned towards Lee and he turned away from the camera. Stop recording! He thought it was funny but it was always a headache for the director.
DAVE ROBINSON: Thommo would do tricks but they were surprises – he would never tell me or anyone else that he was going to do them. And then he was amazed that there was no camera to capture them; he thought it was a magical process.
JAMIE SPENCER: Another time, they did a dress rehearsal and went down in the clothes they were going to be in. They’d check all the cameras and the lights. Then it came to the show: Lee turned up and he’d painted himself green. What the…! You can hear it in the control box: ‘Look, he’s got a green face!’ Lee would keep everyone on their toes.
SUGGS: You did feel you were being talked down to by the headmaster of a public school. It did grate – it grated a lot. But I suppose when you’re recording a programme as live and you’ve got us and Dexys Midnight Runners and UB40 and Adam and The Ants, all running around causing chaos, he obviously had to be a bit strict to get the show done. They had a real love/hate relationship with us and started getting us in earlier and earlier. But we’d still disappear.
LEE: Once there were 10 of us in a lift, with all the dancers from Legs & Co. They had big fur coats on and, if you opened the fur coat, there was all the tackle on underneath. There was a lot of rubbing going on; a lot of jumping up and down. I was full of beans. I was in a lift with a load of furry things and I just couldn’t help myself. The fire service had to rescue us.
NEIL FERRIS (Madness manager): Twenty past seven – ten minutes before we start recording – the floor manager finds me and said, ‘We’ve got a problem with Madness. They were last seen getting in a lift. It’s stuck and we’ve called the fire brigade.’ Standing by the lift door is Michael Hurll, myself, the floor manager – and Michael, by this point, has given up knowing what to say. Finally, the fire brigade got the lift down and Top Of The Pops is half an hour late, which costs the BBC a fortune in overtime. This isn’t the main lift which came down from the bar – this only holds six or eight max. And out come about twenty people; the band, Jamie or Matthew the manager, some girls, a roadie. Michael just looked at me, shook his head and said, ‘Let’s get on and do the show.’
SUGGS: Michael would literally say, ‘You’re not coming on the show, we’re not recording you.’ You know, three or four, five weeks later, we’d have another hit and he would just have to ask us back.
NEIL FERRIS: During one episode, a stunning female singer in a chiffon dress was delivering a power ballad with a subtly lit silkscreen backdrop. Suddenly, behind the screen you see them doing the Madness walk across the stage. Michael Hurll went absolutely ballistic. I was then called at the end of the show and the floor manager said, ‘Michael is really furious, it’s the last straw with Madness.’ So I told the band it was going to be quite serious. The studio emptied and Michael said, ‘Look Neil, this is just insane. We have a show to turn around. Madness just do not understand. This kind of behaviour is costing the BBC a huge amount of money.’ At that point, Carl – who had been listening quietly at the side – came up and said, ‘Michael, it’s not Neil’s fault. We are Madness. You tell us something’s black and we’ll tell you it’s white. We don’t do it deliberately. It’s just the way we are.’ He put his hand out to Michael and they shook and Carl said, ‘Come on, let’s come and have a drink.’ So we all went upstairs and all was forgiven. Until the next time…
LEE: During one session, we found out they’d got in this Wandsworth Ale called Young’s in the bar. Well, we liked our real ale, so we went upstairs, and one drink led to another – I think Status Quo or Slade were there – when suddenly the call came, and we were supposed to be downstairs for yet another rehearsal. We eventually got down there and we were running around like blue-arsed flies, hopscotching in and out of all this spaghetti of wiring everywhere. We’ve got 10 seconds to be in place, but we make it, and we’re there, ready to perform, yet nothing’s happening. And all of a sudden, from his ivory tower, Michael Hurll comes down and says, ‘You are not only making a fool of the BBC, you’re making fools of yourselves.’ And he banned us…again.
JAMIE SPENCER: Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran and all those bands would turn up to Top Of The Pops in limos and Madness would go there on a bike or on the bus, and I’d be taking them down either in a battered old 2CV or an old Volvo estate. They thought it was a waste of money; they didn’t need to get a limo
DECEMBER 21: Christmas party at the Lyceum Ballroom, London
Madness are the hosts, along with Ian Dury and a guest appearance from Nigel Planer, AKA Neil from The Young Ones. This performance turns out to be Mike’s farewell gig.
SUGGS (speaking in 1983): Madness is going to keep going. It’s like a train; it’s unstoppable now.
CHRIS (speaking in 1983): Mike used to explain the chords to me, so now he’s leaving I’ll have to get a chord book.
SUGGS: The moment that Mike left was when the band finished and that should have been that, but we just stumbled on blindly down different alleys, looking for a reason to stay together.
LEE: We were like headless chickens. We were still writing really good songs, but the next album [Keep Moving] was taken out of our hands. Fingers started to point a bit, because you’re not Top of the Pops any more. Whose fault is it? It was our fault!
SUGGS: It undermined our confidence for a while. The great thing about Mike was he was probably the hardest working person in the band, and he was very pedantic, which you need, especially with that amount of people and because we were all fun-loving criminals. So losing that was a difficult thing, even thought we’d all grown up a bit by the time he went. But he was fair. He said, ‘Look, I’ll see this album through’, so we kind of had time to think about it as the process of that album was done. We knew he was going to leave the band when we started working on Keep Moving. So, we went into it thinking, ‘We’re going to make the best record ever made!’
WOODY: Everyone really did knuckle under and really try desperately hard to pull out something from themselves that they’d not previously done. I think that it’s like, if you lose a hand you’ve got to re-adjust, you’ve got to work a little harder. I suppose that’s what it did for the whole band.
SUGGS: We got in Steve Nieve from Elvis Costello’s band, who was very good, but how on earth could we replace Barso? We couldn’t – we knew it was over. The game was up then.
LEE: It was really the beginning of the end.
SUGGS: We stumbled on as a three-legged horse. Then, another leg fell off, and in the end it was like the Monty Python sketch where the knight’s head’s on the floor saying, ‘Come on! I’ll fucking bite your knees!’ We tried to replace him by working harder. But it wasn’t the same any more, he really was the boss. With him we were a gang, fighting the whole world.
CARL: You can’t judge how big his role was; he was the driving force behind the band and wrote a lot of songs. He was also a good friend and we missed him.
LEE: Because we’d been hanging out with each other since we were small kids, it came as a bit of a knock. It was like losing me wife. It felt like a brother had gone to another planet or another country. Which he had.
DAVE ROBINSON: I thought that was it really. Mike was the most important ingredient to me. There were lyrics and there were all the other bits, not to knock anybody else, but his melodies were what made everything work. Everything was fed through Mike to come out and make records, and when I heard he was leaving I thought we were really in trouble. It worried me that afterwards there wasn’t going to be a lynchpin, there wasn’t going to be a leader and of course, they weren’t gonna have this melody censorship to which he performed. They relied more on Mike than anybody realised and to me it was terrible.