SUGGS: The thrill had well and truly started to erode. You end up seeing the world and surrounded by adoring people, but stuck in a minivan gazing out of the window. I stopped interacting with people. Fame felt fake. We didn’t want to live up to the image and be fun on the tenth TV interview in a day. After a while, touring and promotion and all that other bollocks exerts its pressure and you just forget what you’re good at.
WOODY: We’d started this constant backlash against our image as nutty, zany chaps. We were trying to prove that our music was worthy and that we had a lot more to say.
CARL: The darker side also came as a reaction to the 80s recession when the full effects of Thatcherism began to show. We were touring constantly and began to see that a lot of our fans were going through a tough time. You’d drive into towns and on every visit there’d be more factories closed and shops boarded up. There was a gloomy mood in the country which was virtually impossible for anyone with a brain not to pick up on and, naturally enough, it started coming out in the music.
SUGGS: We had gone from being 18-year-old yobbos to being the biggest band in the country in a matter of years. We were trying to psychoanalyse ourselves as we went along, but the fucking information was too fast. For all that laddishness, we were sensitive people. Instead of saying anything, and taking some time off, we internalised it all. You’re in Japan on the 48th floor of a tower block, and you haven’t had the chance to think about yourself or what you’ve been doing for the last five years, let alone what you’re actually doing there. It’s a cliche to say, ‘Oh it got heavy man’ but it fucking did… it got really heavy.
LEE: Ultimately, we grew up a little too fast for the fans. Other issues took hold outside the music – it happens to a lot of groups.
SUGGS: We were just getting pissed off that we were still known as the cheeky Cockney chappies when a lot of the songs were actually very dark. It’s our own fault I suppose for making all those daft videos. But for every Baggy Trousers there was a Cardiac Arrest. Under all the funny stuff was a dark subtext which I think was down to a collective childhood neurosis. None of us went hungry or were abused, but we’d all been through stuff as kids that made us feel alone.
CARL: We saw ourselves as a pop band certainly, but that shouldn’t have meant that everything we did had to be superficial and irrelevant.
SUGGS: We were very confused. We’d been in the band for so long and hadn’t had any time off. We’d all grown up together in this strange world of showbusiness and had no time to ourselves. We had our own studio and our own offices. We’d sit in there, cut off from the outside world and eventually it became obvious that we all needed a break from it.
JANUARY: Mutants In Mega-City One/Mutant Blues released by The Fink Brothers
The second release on the Zarjazz label (JAZZ 2) is by the alter egos of Carl and Suggs, based on characters in 2000AD. Other projected records have been turned down in the past by the comic, but this single is considered the definitive 2000AD single and is released with their full support and direct co-operation. The single peaks at No50.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): We wanted as much as possible to make it like the comic, not just a record by a couple of out-of-work pop stars, but to make it something that’s actually part of the comic, more for the people who read it and for other people to be able to get a vague grasp of what it is, as opposed to just writing a Madness song about Judge Dredd. We keep to the characters because it makes it more fun for the readers of 2000AD – it would have spoiled it if it said the real people on the back. What sort of prompted it was sitting in discos in New York where everything is just so brain-numbingly loud. It immediately kind of threw us together with Mega City One, that sort of uneasy street feeling when you’re out late in New York. Although it’s not supposed to have any sort of relationship to reality I think it does in a funny sort of way relate very much to America and the exaggerated consumer society. The thing with the mutants is just like with any minority group, they’re not allowed into the city because they’re mutants which is hardly their fault, they were just blown up during nuclear wars. For anyone who had any interest in the Marvel comics when they were young, they just didn’t change over the years. Superman’s the same now as he was then, nothing really happens, it’s still 50’s America. The biggest problem that happens is Peter Parker loses his girlfriend. I think the very real appeal of 2000AD is that it turns everything upside down, heroes may die and things aren’t always what they seem.
CARL (speaking in 1985): Y’see the comic is full of thrill power, every Friday we get up and we look for our comic, so if we let the front slip and admitted it was by us, then our thrill circuits would be sucked by thrill suckers who are all around us at all times.
BRIAN BOLLAND (2000AD designer): One or two of the 2000AD editorial team and I went to their office. After I did the artwork and they’d paid me for it, I was wondering when I’d be getting my artwork back. Return of artwork was a hot issue. I went to see them and was perturbed to see they’d mounted it on the office wall. I explained that, technically, if they wanted the artwork, they had to buy it off me. We agreed on a figure – but I never saw it. Whenever I see people enjoying a Madness video on telly, I always say, ‘Those guys owe me 300 quid!’
MIKE PRIOR (photographer, No1 magazine): We did a mad session for the magazine. We had a Judge Dredd poster painted on my wall in the studio. It was fantastic. And they wore these industrial fire suits, big heavy-duty, half woollen, half asbestos, which were made to save your life – you could put a blow-torch on them. Carl and Suggs put the suits on and found it unbearable. They were totally uncomfortable and incredibly itchy. I got a couple of rolls off but they couldn’t stand it. They broke out in hot sweats. Carl came out in a rash, itching all over the place, in a real bad mood. But the pictures looked good.
FEBRUARY 1: Oxford Road Show
Suggs and Carl co-host the Oxford Roadshow alongside main presenter Timmy Mallet. Carl begins by making up a prize question about Terry Hall’s career before his current band, The Colourfield. Thrown in deep water, the guest hosts interview Stanley Unwin while Michael Caine is played as background music. Things get funnier when Timmy reads Suggs’s horoscope, predicting a party invitation and a family row at the weekend. ‘Quite possibly, but I won’t be there,’ Suggs chirps. The latest issue of No1 magazine is opened up because of a ‘Win a meting with Madness’ contest. ‘Losers get to spend two days with him,’ Carl says, pointing at Timmy. (A girl called Lisa will meet Madness on March 22). Meanwhile, Howard Jones sits down on the sofa and a blindfold Carl grabs in the bin for the prize questions made up earlier in the programme. He pulls out a worn copy of 2000AD magazine featuring an article on The Fink Brothers, Suggs and Carl’s alter-egos. The last guest to be interviewed is Feargal Sharkey, while Listen To Your Father plays in the background. Feargal talks about the recording of the single and promotion on one’s own terms, something that Suggs agrees with as Madness have refused to do certain interviews and TV appearances. ‘We always know what your interviews are gonna turn out like.’ ‘Rubbish,’ Feargal admits when time runs out, and everyone is thanked.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): Virgin have given us a budget for the year which is quite a lot of money, which we can decide what to do with. That’s the worst situation we’ve been in so far, having to sit down and work out what we should give someone, like as a shopping list, and you’ve got to have so much money for the rest of the year, and the fucking new Beatles might turn up next week and we won’t have money left. It’s a horrible thing to have to do, apart from being really boring; an aspect of the music business I never expected to find myself doing. The deal has got its pros and cons. It’s kind of success-based, and we have to argue with them about things, but we can also take chances because it’s their money.
CARL (speaking in 1985): It is serious, but our side of it is mostly the A&R side. So we sit and listen to tapes and decided on things one way or the other. The basic business side of it is done by our manager and label manager.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): To make a record company really successful, you probably need to be there all the time, pushing and shoving, which we obviously don’t have time to do. But we just hopefully leave behind enough of our influence, and the people that work for us are of a similar enough mind, to make sure the things we want to happen do happen.
CARL (speaking in 1985): It is quite risky, particularly when you’re a musician because you do what pleases you. It’s a selfish thing – you’re doing things you like in the hope that other people like it. So it’s all a bit like Russian roulette,
FEBRUARY 28: Bull & Gate, London
After spending most of January rehearsing and writing in Solid Light and Hotown Studios, Madness play an invite-only gig under an assumed name to showcase some of the 20 new songs they’ve written. The spoof album title is a barbed reference to a quote by Dave Robinson, who towards the end of their partnership allegedly told them: ‘I’m running a record company not a museum.’ After the gig, they stay in the studio until June, recording the new album.
CHRIS (speaking in 1985): This is it – we premier our new album, Lost in the Museum, upstairs at the Bull & Gate in Kentish Town. We ask all our old chums to come along and they do. Live on stage we have two keyboard players, Steve Nieve and Roy Davies, and also Professor Morley to turn on the drum machines in a couple of songs and look the part. The gig was a sell out (cos we gave the tickets away) and good fun.
SUGGS: When we played Shoparound, Paul Weller leapt out of the audience and got onstage and played it with us.
CHRIS: We actually dragged him up.
MARCH 4: Madness return to AIR Studios for a month to begin recording.
MARCH: Starvation/Tam TamPour L'Ethiopie is released
The charity single recorded the previously December enters the singles chart at No 41, but receives next to no radio support.
WOODY (speaking in 1985): It’s impossible to put the Ethiopian situation into words because it’s such a desperate situation; the only thing we could do to show our feelings on the subject was play music. Most of the credit should really go to Jamie Spencer who runs Zarjazz. He masterminded the whole operation, getting us all together and wangling free advertising from the press… he’s managed to create quite a buzz.
BEDDERS (speaking in 1985): We were going to involve the other members of Madness too, but by the time they came to put their parts on there was already so much stuff that it would have sounded cluttered. But they are there in spirit. It was also a case of not wanting one band to dominate.
APRIL 1: The band relocate to Langer and Winstanley’s Westside Studios in Holland Park, west London.
CLIVE LANGER: Alan and I never considered ourselves to be the eighth and ninth members of the band. Our roles were different and that was how it stayed. However, Madness certainly cemented our relationship as producers.
JUNE 25: Appear on Capital FM
Chris and Lee stand in for Gary Crowley, who’s been a big Madness fan since the early days. One of the songs played is Fireball XL5, the B-side of The Sun And The Rain. Lee sings along, adding in some extra ‘Right on, right off’. The Style Council’s Walls Come Tumbling Down is also played, before Chris phones Paul Weller at BBC studios, where he’s recording The Old Grey Whistle Test. Chris then offers a VHS copy of Complete Madness to the listener who knows who wrote It Must Be Love. A caller named Angela asks why they didn’t play at Glastonbury three weeks earlier as promised, replacing the Thompson Twins. ‘You have to rehearse for two, three weeks to play the songs well,’ says Chris. ‘I just wish we hadn’t announced that we were doing it. It was a bit silly of us I’m afraid. There’s nothing else to say. Sorry – we’ll send you a T-shirt.’ He also promises they won’t cancel a single show on their forthcoming tour. Another listener calling himself ‘Andrew’ turns out to be Suggs, who proceeds to ask the duo what band they’re in. ‘They were very big in the 70s,’ says Lee. ‘Psychedelic,’ says Suggs, and hangs up. The pair also discuss the never-materialised plans to record a covers album like UB40’s Labour Of Love.
BEDDERS (speaking in 1985): We’re writing much better songs these days, but if you listen to our past records and not just watch the videos, you’ll get a different picture. Our songs now are less cryptic and more pointed. We often used to make sharp political comments, they just weren’t so blatant.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): I think we’re more relaxed at the moment, as a band, than we ever have been, and that breeds confidence. I think the best thing in music is to affect people…. not to be transitory or flippant. The less calculated it is, the better.
JULY 13: Live Aid takes place… without Madness.
CARL: They were going, ‘Come and do Live Aid, it’ll be really good for you. It’s gonna be televised everywhere.’ And we said, ‘Sorry mate, we’re splitting up because we’re not happy.’ Which was probably a mistake, in retrospect.
SUGGS: If we had been around at the time then we would have had no qualms about doing it. Every little bit helps and we’d have done whatever we could to help out.
CARL (speaking in 1985): It’s weird in a way because you see what happened there ten years ago and then you realise that it is happening all over again. I saw a program and it had Germane Greer on it going around a farm and looking at the chickens and veg and saying that well, really things aren’t too bad after all. It’s like give them their mud hut and their first outdoor chemical toilet and we think we’ve cracked it.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): It’s a shame that again it’s the people with nothing who have to fork out to help the starving in Ethiopia because the Government won’t do it and the five per cent certainly won’t do it.
JULY 18: Appearing on Radio 1, Suggs tells DJ Janice Long that the new single, Yesterday's Men, makes Spandau Ballet's True sound like Anarchy In The UK by The Sex Pistols.
SUGGS: We were never seen as rock ‘n’ roll, which was taken quite seriously. But we worked as hard as anyone else and took what we did seriously. Even making those videos, it may seem that we’re messing about, but we were trying to do something.
BEDDERS (speaking in 1985): Artistically, our next album will be better cos we’ve taken our time over it and put a lot more preparation into it than any other album we’ve done before. Commercially? I’m not sure.
AUGUST: Apeman is released by Lee’s spin-off project, The Argonauts
Originally a chart-topper in 1970, Lee records this Kinks classic at Liquidator, with Rolling Stones classic Under my Thumb as the flip side. Proceeds go to Greenpeace. The line-up is listed as: Good Godfrey (banjo), John Marshall (guitar), Tom Morley (Lynn drum), The Soultanas (backing vocals), Chrissy Stewart (bass), Lee Thompson (vocals) and Mick Weaver (piano).
LEE (speaking in 1985): The lyrical content to Apeman is as important today as it was when it was first released by the Kinks 15 years ago this December. I’d been wanting to record this track ever since Liquidator studios had opened but just never got round to booking up. When I mentioned it to Ian Horne, our engineer and philosopher, he said, ‘Book in Thommo, I can call in a keyboard and guitar player for you, probably Norman Watt-Roy on bass. Yar!’ We booked the studio for June. When I arrived we had half the backing track for Under My Thumb, the guitarist from Charm School – John; bass player from Frankie Miller – Chris; banjo by Rob, backing vocals by the Soultanas. Tom Morley saved my face by laying down the drum pattern and we were on the road to a mega hit.
AUGUST 19: Yesterday's Men/All I Knew is released
Madness have been out of the public eye for an unprecedented 14 months and their last Top Ten hit was The Sun And the Rain in October 1983. Yesterday’s Men eventually stalls at No18, with Lee regularly dressing up as a devout Hare Krishna while promoting it, just like the video.
JEREMY LASCELLES (Head of A&R, Virgin): There was a debate between Yesterday’s Men and Uncle Sam as the first single. Uncle Sam was more obvious, a tip of the hat to the old sound, even though the lyric had an edge to it. But they were trying to be taken more seriously and Yesterday’s Men was the more thoughtful track, so we thought we’d go with the bolder choice. We thought it was a good pointer to their new sound, with a slower tempo etc.
SUGGS: People probably expected us to come back with a real nutty, Madness-type single, but this was a real departure in style. Not taking ourselves too seriously had become the most prominent thing about the band, but it worked against us musically. People thought we were just aiming our stuff at kids, but we wanted our records to be enjoyed by everyone.
JEREMY LASCELLES: We were very much involved in choosing the singles as a team at Virgin. There wasn’t a huge amount of tortured debate. We were always looking for the opportunity to do it differently and not to just play the obvious card from day one.
SUGGS: It’s a song about those 90-year-old politicians who think they’ve still got their finger on the pulse. It started off with someone in the Government saying, ‘It’ll get better in the long run’. It’s a famous cliche and it’s always been a load of bollocks. The song was supposed to be about the whole Conservative Party premise – that things will get much better in the long run, so in the meantime, tighten your belts. But things never really get better in the long run, and the people who have to tighten their belts are the section of the population who have nothing already.
CARL: It started after I read a quote that said, ‘It will get better in the long run, but in the long run we’ll all be dead.’ So where’s the bottom line? How long is the long run?
SUGGS: Then Chris came round with a demo that he’d lovingly recorded one bright, sunny morning, with the sounds all pretty much finished.
CHRIS: I’d borrowed this thing, like a Casio keyboard with a little drum machine, and me and Suggs did a demo on a little four-track, just to show everybody else that they could do it at home.
SUGGS: It was a mellow item that was very enjoyable to write words to and record. A nuance of soul, a smidge of jazz, a twinge of reggae, and a heap of irony. The arrangement stayed much the same on the final record I think.
BEDDERS: Suggs’s vocal is perfection and the track lost none of its naivety and pathos on its journey from home to studio; I just wish we could have captured that more often. Sometimes the gloss of a big recording studio smoothes over these things.
CHRIS: Yeah, in the end, it cost about £30,000 and we could have done it cheap all along!
SUGGS: We didn’t notice the irony of the title until it had actually come out. It wasn’t meant deliberately; I think sometimes these things happen subconsciously, so it was perverse.
MIKE: It was a great song but a rather unfortunate name, because it rather gave food for thought for certain journalists, making easily derogatory remarks about the band. They should have called it something else.
SUGGS: It was a sort of epitaph, but we weren’t conscious of that. Just listen to our records around then and you can almost hear the split coming. Unfortunately, we were the last ones to hear it.
CHRIS: It was ages before it came out, and when it did it was a slow old thing. That was the beginning of the end really.
CARL: Part of our audience had grown up with us, but another part found it hard coming to terms with songs like this, which were quite mellow and not in the least bit ‘wacky’. It was partly our own fault – I’d hardly call My Girl or Grey Day frivolous, but there was always a light-hearted video or silly dance to go with them and some people couldn’t let go of that. So I love the song but I don’t like the video. For me, it was just throwing money at it, without a good idea. No one really had a solid idea and everyone was just chipping in little bits.
CHRIS: We used our old pal Chris Gabrin as director and filmed it inside and outside Brixton Academy. For some reason I though it would look good to have a white Levis jacket and jeans and a white hat.
LEE: I like being Max Wall in that one; with all the glitter coming down. I got right into that.
CHRIS GABRIN (video director): There was some surrealism about it, with Lee on wires again. The zebra crossing was a studio set. We did this mock trial and they came up with the idea of a bouncing globe. More serious possibly but maybe I put that down to being longer in the tooth in the business.
CHRIS: Of course, it’s years later, yet you can see the wires when Thommo’s flying. That’s progress for you. Maybe we should have painted them black.
AUGUST 19: Appear on BBC's Wogan show, performing Yesterday's Men
CARL: So we went on, then they said they didn’t want us back because we didn’t perform and weren’t animated enough – but we were doing Yesterday’s Men! That kind of stuff really got us down: ‘Come on – be wacky.’ But then on the other hand we’d also been banned from TV programmes for being too anarchic.
SUGGS: By this time we were so tired of projecting having a good time, we couldn’t even muster a grin – we’d been working for so long we were seen as part of the furniture. As each new thing came along, they’d be seen as artists, whereas we were still just seen as chancers.
During this time, Chris grows his hair long.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): We keep on at him incessantly about it and that only makes him all the more determined not to get it cut. I think he’s very brave and he hasn’t wavered yet even with the bald boys down at the front. What he’ll probably do is shave it all off for the last night of the tour and then wear a huge wig which will be attached to a piece of fishing wire. And whoops, off it comes!
CHRIS (speaking in 1985): It’s not fashionable is it? I’d hate to be fashionable.
SUGGS: It all started when Lee and Chris had a bet to see who could grow their hair the longest.
CHRIS: There was no particular wager involved – just a bet.
SUGGS: Lee then had a fancy dress party and the day before, he dyed his hair totally black so we thought he was going to come as Abe Lincoln or somebody like that. Instead, he fooled us all by shaving it all off and coming as a Hare Krishna disciple.
CHRIS: At the same party I went as Uncle Sam, Suggs as a Hassidic Jew, Carl a samurai warrior and Bedders in a US Army uniform. So I won the bet and had long hair for quite a while, as my girlfriend of the time liked it.
SUGGS: Luckily it was during our Howard Hughes period, so nobody worried too much.
CHRIS: And it’s all quite ironic, as I don’t have any hair now.
AUGUST 23: Madness playback Yesterday's Men on Bliss for UK TV
SUGGS: There were loads of instances around this time when we would be working on a song and it just sounded shit but we would keep at it because we had to keep faith. It’s a bit like trying to prize the jewel out of the oyster and you have to be able to visualise what the song will be like at the end of it all. Nothing sounds good when one of us bangs out the chords on a piano but if you can visualise it, you can go somewhere with it. It was basically an act of faith.
AUGUST 24: Saturday Picture Show
Madness are interviewed on Mark’s 24th birthday and watch a clip of the Yesterday’s Men video before playing the song.
BEDDERS (speaking in 1985): You don’t get many groups these days that just play one instrument each and mesh together to make a sound. It’s not the current vogue. It’s almost regarded as old-fashioned.
AUGUST 26: Record No Limits TV show
Madness playback Yesterday’s Men, with the performance aired on September 10.
WOODY (speaking in 1985): People expect that, just because I’m a member of the band, I’ll get up and dance – it’s excruciatingly embarrassing. I’ve never danced in my life; I don’t have a natural tendency to dance. I am extrovert in some ways – I suppose verbally but not in actions. It’s just that I’m not often seen being wacky and nutty.
AUGUST 27: Appear on German TV
Madness playback Yesterday’s Men. During their stay in Germany the Press show little interest in their current efforts.
CARL: All they wanted to know about was nutty ska-suits and 2-Tone. They kept asking, ‘Vy haff you chanzed your clothz?’ We told them the other ones were smelly.
WOODY: In Europe it was terrible – they almost saw us as some sort of circus act. We were like, ‘We’re a band, we’re here to do a gig and promote our record. Why do you want us to act like a bunch of idiots?’
CHRIS: We often thought that we’d try and be a bit more serious. It was hard. You know how some comedians are right miserable bastards in real life? We’re a bit like that. But we couldn’t help larking about when there was a camera there.
SUGGS: Certain people in the record industry had tried to make us too… y’know: ‘Your purpose is to liven up a dull day.’ Which is fine, but we’d been pushed around and called the Nutty Boys for so long that we started getting more and more serious as a sort of antidote. But that was equally false: it was the baby out with the bath water. We discovered afterwards that the best things are happy and sad at the same time. It’s pathos, but you have to have some sort of education to know that. Someone has to tell you. Otherwise you go round in circles until you realise there’s a word like that – it’s all the things you’re trying to get at, but you’re just not sure where you’re trying to get.
AUGUST 30: Filming for Hold Tight!
Madness playback in front of a swaying crowd at Alton Towers theme park, where this popular kids’ show is filmed.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): I don’t worry that much about getting old. I just hate the idea of glamour and what it does to people. You see pictures of Hollywood actors or, say, Diana Ross and they’re always airbrushed so they look around 21. Then you see them on TV and it’s like a horrible joke. I’ve aged a lot in the last five years though. I’ve just had so much more to worry about than I did when I was 18 or 19. When you start being in a band you just think, ‘Cor! Crash, bang, wallop!’ but obviously you can’t go on living your life like that. You end up like Rod Stewart – a clapped-out old fart. You end up with no friends, no base, no roots, and no life of your own. I don’t wanna be dead and have a few pictures of me and a few videos and albums. I want to be dead completely happy and content that I had a happy family and got on well with people that I knew.
SEPTEMBER 5: Appear on Top Of The Pops with Yesterday's Men
The single has now entered the charts at No30. Backing singers Jimmy Helms and Jimmy Thomas join the band, who resort to boisterous behaviour half way through, with Lee dressed as the prisoner character from the video. They are held responsible backstage and told: ‘One more stunt like this and you’ll never appear on Top Of The Pops again.’
CARL: Backing singer Jimmy Helms was a bit of a one for the ladies. We arrived at a hotel on tour once and there was an air stewardess in the foyer. And within two seconds he had her upstairs. He said, ‘I’m a leaper baby.’ He really could pull the old sorts, that man.
SEPTEMBER 10: Cheggers Plays Pop
Madness playback Yesterday’s Men, with the performance aired two days later.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): We have changed. We’re a lot more sensitive now. It’s a matter of realising what you want, knowing that there’s more to life than going to discos, showing off and being aggressive. You can direct your energy more positively than flying around the world, going bananas and just smashing things up. I’m still just as excited about music as when we started but it’s just a matter of getting it in perspective. You don’t want to wake up in your hotel room three years later and think, ‘What have I been doing?’
SEPTEMBER 11: Countdown, Dutch TV
Presenter Adam Curry asks Suggs questions about the change of style and Mike’s departure. Madness playback Yesterday’s Men and Embarassment, with the performances aired the next day. While staying in Holland, Suggs, Chris and Lee visit Mike’s place. Back in London the band start rehearsing for the forthcoming tour. Meanwhile, Yesterday’s Men reaches No18 in the Top 40, making Madness the only contemporary act to have had 20 consecutive Top 20 hits.
CARL (speaking in 1985): I was really pleased Yesterday’s Men got into the top 20… and it’s certainly a good feeling to hold the record of 20 consecutive hits. But it probably worries us more because we have to compete with ourselves, let alone other people. I mean, you do the song and then that’s it, you’ve done it and you move on, I mean it’s great live but after listening to it in the studio for months on end…. The best part of it apart from writing it is the recording of it, and then you’ve done it, it’s sealed in a sort of time capsule. You move on and the challenge is to write something else and/or to perform.
SEPTEMBER 30: The Mad Not Mad album is released
Complete with moody Anton Corbijn cover portrait, the new album (JZLP-1) is their first without Mike, who is now living on an Amsterdam houseboat studying Tibetan Buddhism. It gets rave reviews in the international Press, who regard it as their most grown-up album, and enters the charts at No16. Although sales falter immediately afterwards, it still earns silver status for sales in excess of 60,000. The title track has been adapted from an earlier piece of music that Carl had written called Bird.
TRACK-BY-TRACK: Click on song title
WOODY: Sequence of events: 1) I record music at home. 2) I give a tape to Lee. 3) Lee writes lyrics. 4) Another recording is made to fit all the words in. 5) Another tape goes to Lee. 6) Lee records vocals at my place. 7) The tape is played to Clive Langer at the rehearsals for Mad Not Mad. 8) A middle eight is needed, so I whip the chorus out of another song I’d been writing. 9) Band rehearse song. 10) I’ll Compete is the first song to be recorded for the Mad Not Mad album.
LEE: It’s about biting the hand that feeds, then getting fisted through the back door. I think I was still very upset at Mr Barso’s departure and Stiff’s bailing out with their trump card. Like a lamb to the slaughter, I plodded on with my epitaph.
CARL: It summed it up for us. The feeling that you’re standing there, on Top Of The Pops, like a piece of mincemeat and you’re thinking, ‘Fuck me, what’s running through their heads?’ You’ve got some twat going, ‘Stand on that spot, Lee, and don’t move’ and you’re thinking, ‘Prick. I know more about us than he fuckin’ does’.
SUGGS: The only thing we could agree on was the fact that I’ll Compete was, in our minds, something that could be released as a single. Lee wrote it and it was obviously very bitter and twisted. Rather coincidentally, the bloke from King just happened to make it a headline and that was his big thing. He was going, ‘We can compete with anybody, in any syndrome’, and that became the reality of the song. What happened to King? There you go, that’s what competing does for you! We didn’t really wanna put down the privileged position that we were in, but we didn’t wanna compete. We weren’t trying to be bigger than anyone else, or smaller than anyone else.
CHRIS: Clive Langer thought it was a great idea to get Judd Lander in to play harmonica on it. He’d been a big hit on Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon.
JUDD LANDER: Being fellow Scousers, Clive and I got on well. He said he wanted something special and I tried to do a spin on Culture Club. My work was mainly with Clive, although the other guys would walk in and out. I think it was at Westside. I remember they had a pool table – we were playing and Suggsy cheated, blocked the pocket over! There was a sense of urgency. They were meticulously vetting each track – very focused.
CHRIS: Lander was alright, but not on my song. I fought and fought not to have him, but it took me quite a lot of time and effort to get it removed – no-one else seemed all that bothered.
SUGGS: We came up with songs like this, One Better Day and Grey Day because we got fed up being portrayed as clowns. By this time, we were purposely not doing anything that had too much fun in it. We became quite perversely joyless. It was only when we came back after a few years we realised it was two sides of the same coin and it was foolish to completely deny the comic side of the band.
SUGGS: It’s another Lee song, and Lee’s songs aren’t always the easiest to dissect, because he writes them in a very singular style, which is quite oblique.
LEE: I’ll hold my hands up – it was ripped off from a Cockney Rebel song.
CHRIS: ‘Er, I’ve got this song,’ says Lee. ‘It’s to a Cockney Rebel tune’. He plays the tune and sings his lyrics over it, I reach for my trusty drum machine and after about 20 minutes we’ve got it. Trouble is, it sounds like this Cockney Rebel song. So change a few chords and the rhythm and no one’s any the wiser. The chorus was good though – always was, always will be.
SUGGS: From what I can gather, it’s a sarcastic look at the obsession people have with America, and the power America has over England, and the way they always talk about ‘defending themselves’. I see it as a letter to Ronald Reagan and about the power and influence America has over England. It’s all to do with this mood of survivalism and Ramboism and the whole American way of life becoming more and more popular over here.
CARL: It’s a very cynical look at someone in England who wants to join the American Army and go and see his Uncle Sam. It was about the fact that the American way of life has taken over, mainly through monetarism and how England kept all the worst sides of America and lost all its best sides.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): It’s quite sarcastic as in ‘the silly little sniggers from the women liberators’ and I imagine that if we were to play it in America they might take it at face value. They might miss out on the sarcasm.
CARL (speaking in 1985): It’s as if you got all the survivalists and put them in a circle and surrounded them with everyone else in the world and we all just laughed at the survivalists, that’s what it is. In America now it’s like, ‘Give ’em a gun and tell them there’s someone else out there’. And it’s really only themselves they should be frightened of. It’s like keep ’em frightened and they’ll keep with us. It’s also pretty much about having Cruise missiles over here. If Reagan came to England he wouldn’t be given a driving licence, because he’s too old. But I do like America and Americans. I don’t feel comfortable about explaining our songs and usually I wouldn’t bother, because to sound like we’re preaching to people is awful.
SUGGS: Carl had written a swinging kind of tune with a lovely melody. We were upstairs in our office in the Caledonian Road, as I recall, and I wrote some kind of filmic lyric about one of them really hot summers. The swing got flattened somewhere along the line, but the melody remained.
MIKE: I know they didn’t seem to like the album very much, but I thought it was a good effort, especially Mad Not Mad – I loved that track.
SUGGS: It’s a song by Scritti Politti that we just liked and decided to cover.
CARL: It was Suggs’s idea because me and him really liked that Scritti Politti album. I came in one day and the band were playing it. I wasn’t involved in the decision process.
SUGGS: Sweetest Girl was my idea: ‘Let’s get really serious and take a song that we don’t even understand!’
CHRIS: As Suggs is the leader and LV (lead vocals), we all agreed. Actually we only cover songs we like. Pity we didn’t get round to Smoke On The Water.
SUGGS: We all liked the original song because it sounded like a demo and that meant we could do a lot with it. I’m happy with the way it turned out, although I thought it would be really fantastic whereas it was only really good.
CARL: I’m not sure what Green thinks of it. I was out in Chinatown afterwards and had had too much saki as usual so I went over and told him that we’d just recorded The Sweetest Girl. He said, ‘Oh.’ That was it, end of story. But I’m sure he doesn’t mind us doing it.
GREEN GARTSIDE (Scritti Politti): Initially I was a little disappointed because I wanted to re-record it myself, but overall I was very, very flattered.
SUGGS: It seemed a really good idea at the time and it just didn’t work out that way. It was too cold and clever. A lot of people were unsure as we normally only covered songs that had been recorded in a very different style to our own.
CHRIS: It was too long, it was very long, extremely long. In fact, it’s still going on now.
LEE: It was a load of old shit.
CARL: I do like the song, but I don’t think we did it any better than Scritti did in the first place. It was when we were trying to be more serious.
MIKE: I thought it was better than Scritti’s version. I’ve heard a lot of talk about it, but I thought it wasn’t bad. It’s quite nice, whereas theirs was a bit more lightweight.
SUGGS: I think we all liked it, and it was a good idea at the time, but I don’t think it turned out as brilliant as I imagined it would. Instead of feeling we achieved something, we felt we undersold ourselves.
CARL: But we turned around and released it anyway. How mad! How wacky!
BEDDERS: Looking back now, we all believe it was a mistake. We didn’t do the original justice.
SUGGS (speaking in 1986): It’s our new plan – to put out records we don’t like. The best idea is to get good cult songs and ruin them so no one will ever listen to them again.
DAVE ROBINSON: The problem with Madness – and probably the charm of them – was that they didn’t act well as a committee, making decisions where all of them agree. And I could see several of those decisions being made when I was no longer in the picture and they were making their own decisions, and these decisions you could tell were not being made unanimously and were not always the hard choice, they were the easy choice. They put out records and made videos which I think were good – they were very good – but they were a slow tempo and had a rather doomy lyrical context. And the public liked the ‘up’ bit of Madness, they didn’t care for the more serious, downbeat bit of it. And I always think if you want to do something serious, the best way to do it is in a very uptempo kind of track and that way, people will get to enjoy and read your lyric. But the track carries the ball. If you have a very slow track and slow lyric it can be a little gloomy.
SUGGS: During the miners’ strike in the 80s the police, for the first time, were allowed to stop the movement of people from one area to another. It really was starting to feel like a police state.
CHRIS: It was a really good demo – organic sounding – but there was a failure to stay true to the original idea.
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CARL: My best songs, such as Time, are about my experiences. These words mean something to me as it was inspired by an uncle who was always quoting Milton’s Ode To Blindness. I wanted songs like this to be good because of my ego and sense of well-being. I also wanted to help the band. And, secretly, I wanted respect as a writer.
SUGGS: I wanted to write a song about Marvin Gaye dying, which turned out to be Coldest Day.
‘Who would have thought it strange / That all of us would change’ Madness sing on the title-track of their new album, a record which while transporting the erstwhile Nutty Boys as far from their animated cartoon ska-pop beginnings as they have ever been, still sees the band playing to their single greatest strength – a winning way with a tune.
The opening song ‘I’ll Compete’ which kicks off in a blaze of percussion and synths rings the stylistic changes loud and clear, but here and elsewhere – as Madness are variously aided and abetted by strings, horns and male and female backing vocals – the group’s new brand of sophistication is never allowed to obscure their fundamental allegiance to a particularly English pop sensibility. Thus tracks as different in their arrangements as ‘Uncle Sam’, ‘White Heat’ and ‘Burning The Boats’ still fit perfectly into the Madness canon by virtue of their irresistible choruses – hooks that are immediate and contagious, they begin to seem like old friends after just one listen.
Sweetest Girl, we all, of course know and love from before and while Madness’ version remains almost too faithful to the Scritti Politti original, it still works, because, well, only someone completely bereft of talent and good taste could possibly mar the appeal of Green’s finest moment. Nonetheless, here take a back seat to Madness’ own creations which with maybe just one exception – the melodically unimaginative ‘Coldest Day’ – are of a consistently high standard and make this the first Madness album to really rival their greatest hits compilation as a definitive document of the band.
Aside from those tracks already mentioned, this listener’s current personal favourite is ‘Tears You Can’t Hide’, a seductive ballad in the lovers’ rock style that even Mr. Gregory Issacs would tip his hat to.
‘Dance with the mad man’, it says here, and that’s an order you’ll enjoy carrying out.
Rating: 11 / 12
Liam Mackey, Hot Press Magazine
SUGGS: The songs on that album were about the end of the band. We were writing about our own demise and we wondered why people didn’t buy it! All this from a band who’d been put on this planet to cheer people up!
WOODY: Mad not bad, but not much fun. A white album and black songs – it really was the beginning of the end.
CHRIS: I think it’s the band’s least favourite album, put it that way. I’m not a fan and wasn’t happy with the way some of the songs turned out; Burning The Boats and Uncle Sam in particular, as I wrote the music. When you work on a song, you get disappointed if it doesn’t come out the way you wanted it to. There’s some great songs on there, though it’s a bit over-produced and there’s too many drum machines.
SUGGS: It was much more pompous that we ever wanted it to be. I think we were overcompensating for Mike not being there. It made us realise that Madness only works with all seven of us.
WOODY: I think we went a bit too slick and clean; a bit cabaret. We were doing an Elvis on ourselves and we all got fatter. So there we were, being Elvis and not very good. Certainly, I didn’t think we were very good. There are some great tracks on it but musically, as an artist – Darlings! Luvvies! – it wasn’t very satisfying, in fact it was just so traumatic, the whole thing.
SUGGS: We didn’t really have the songs and we’d have been better to take a year off. The artwork was strange and the haircuts weird, but we were doing the best we could. It wasn’t all bad – Uncle Sam was a watershed. Sting said he liked it…
LEE: There were some good songs on it, but we ended up with people like Gary Barnacle playing brass. Now, he’s a truly fantastic fellow but he’s also a real musician, and he had this device that made the sax sound like a complete brass section, which wasn’t really ‘us’.
CHRIS: We really wanted for direction. We’d parted company with two very strong people who gave the band direction, and gone right up our own arses. We had fun doing the songs, but recording was a bit difficult; the technology, the drum machines and stuff swamped us. Of all our albums, I think it’s dated the worst.
WOODY: We were under pressure to make a record that sounded current, and the result is that it’s the most dated of all our albums. The songs themselves are good, if a bit self-indulgent, but we tried so desperately to fit in that it sounds very generically mid-80s. We’d lost our spark and didn’t ‘arf take ourselves seriously.
MIKE: It did sound mainstream, like any other polished, normal record, but at the time, I thought it was a great album. In fact, I seemed to think it was better than they did – I know they weren’t very happy with it.
BEDDERS: People were getting better at songwriting, so it kind of covered up the fact that Mike wasn’t there. If you listen to it, there’s not much deviation really; you wouldn’t say they were un-Madness.
MIKE: I remember thinking, ‘These boys have learned their craft.’ You didn’t even miss that I wasn’t on it. By that stage, I think they’d all learned to write in, ahem, the Mike Barson style, and they went off and proved that they could do it on their own. The swines!
BEDDERS: A lot of time and money was spent trying to ‘get it right’. By this point, most people were trying to get off the treadmill. It was six captains trying to save a sinking ship.
WOODY: We spent weeks programming the drums in case we used them instead of me. Clive was under so much pressure to come up with a hit record that he wanted something really clean cut with a good production sound. And the easiest way of getting a good drum sound is not to have a drummer on it, but then you lose all the character. It really got to me and that’s when I started getting kind of depressed by the whole situation. The technology had got to the point where, instead of spending hours getting a really good drum sound, all you did was go and get a drum machine.
CHRIS: Plugging on, we spent a lot of time and money. The drum machines and programmers took a lot of time, but we were determined to change direction. We had demoed quite a few really good songs, but I was unhappy with the way they were turning out.
LEE: We spent a ridiculous amount on it. We had all these musicians coming in, left, right and centre. I just thought, ‘What’s going on here? This isn’t Madness any more, this is a bunch of session players; string players… brass players… some drummer from Gloucestershire.’ I didn’t feel part of it and sort of gave up. I ended up staying away from the band as much as possible.
DAVID BEDFORD (strings arranger): I feel the budgets were slightly smaller once they’d moved to Virgin. It’s quite expensive having a group of string players so they became more stringent. From, ‘Oh, it would be great to have strings, let’s do it and if we don’t like them, we won’t use it’, to only using me on the four or so tracks they knew they wanted strings on. Clive pointed out gently to me that they didn’t have quite the budget.
SUGGS: We did slightly over-compensate, arrangement-wise and musician-wise. We wanted to make an upbeat dance album and this is what we ended up with.
CHRIS: Many people considered it our finest work yet. But critical acclaim doesn’t sell records and it lost money.
CARL: Maybe we tried too hard to bring out our other sides. I think we could have tried harder to get a balance between being easy-going and happy and being a bit murky and a bit menacing.
LEE: The album was taken out of our hands – Suggs quite rightly called it a polished turd. Fingers started to point a bit cos you’re not on Top Of The Pops any more. Whose fault is it? It was our fault.
CHRIS: The cover of the album, in my opinion, was the second worst. It was an homage (or rip-off) of an old Beatles album, and not a very striking or uplifting image. However, we always had a principle that, if you didn’t like something, you had to come up with something better yourself. We hadn’t been playing much as a band at the time, which probably had something to do with the way we went about recording.
IAN WRIGHT (sleeve artist): Me and designer Simon Halfon went to meet them on the Caledonian Road, because we needed a decision on what they wanted. There were six opinions and they spent so long pondering, Simon said, ‘Are you sure you still want to be called Madness?’ He was kidding but they all sat there thinking about it.
WOODY: We were against all the old fogies like Pink Floyd, who used to take five years to make an album. We saw it as being part of the whole pompous rock ‘n’ roll industry and we always felt we were a little outside of that and we were cleverer than everybody else. But in actual fact, we weren’t cleverer at all.
JEREMY LASCELLES: We thought it was a really good album – it had some terrific songs. Lyrically, they’ve rarely been given credit for being as questioning and as challenging as they were.
JON WEBSTER (Virgin): They made a different Madness album – more adult – so we did think it was a challenge. With acts like that, if they don’t have a big hit, selling albums is difficult. I’ve always believed that bands’ fan bases, the real hard core, are smaller than people think. There are an awful lot of people who are predisposed to buy them. It’s so easy to assume that fans stay on top.
OCTOBER 19: Single Uncle Sam/Please Don't Go is released
On the same day the record is released, Madness also appear on Oxford Road Show 85 with Timmy Mallet. The single (JAZZ 7) will eventually reach No21.
CARL: Uncle Sam was the odd one out – it was a feeble attempt and we really let Virgin push us into releasing it.
JON WEBSTER (Virgin): When Uncle Sam came out, we realised how difficult it was. I remember the band being on the case, sharp business-wise, compared to a lot of other artists I’d met. They asked lots of questions. They were cynical about the whole process.
CHRIS: Mark had found a picture for the cover by photographer Diane Arbus which showed a young American with a flag and a ‘Bomb Hanoi’ badge. However we weren’t allowed to use it, so we asked Seamus the keyboard wizard to reenact the pose, which he did.
CARL: It was released when the rot was setting in, when we felt that maybe we were gonna split or something, without really knowing. We shouldn’t have released it, we should have released The Coldest Day, ‘cos that would’ve been more representative of the mood of Mad Not Mad.
CHRIS: We were back on form with the video. It was done at short notice but John Mills came up with all the goods. It was supposed to be about some paranoid gun nut who was imagining that all of this stuff was happening.
SUGGS: Hopefully we got a bit of the fact that it was based on someone obsessed with America and the American Army in the video. If nothing else, it allowed us to dress up in all those clichés about America…
CARL: …all the uniforms and survivalism, and the ongoing threat of ‘us and them’ that goes hand in hand with America. It’s all that stuff about putting your boots on, getting your survival knife and your hip flask and gas cannister…
SUGGS: …and then going out to defend hamburgers with your life.
JOHN MILLS: I wanted to do a sequence before the track started, with Suggs as the narrator sitting on the post box. The house was over Ealing way. It was quite difficult to find that little cul-de-sac location.
CARL: Lee was back in a dress again; I like Lee in a dress. He looks good in a tight skirt. And Mark looked good in uniform – very convincing.
CHRIS: For did the flip over the barbed wire on to the island, Lee used a small trampoline.
CARL: He was actually going for lessons to learn how to do them properly.
JOHN MILLS: The other great scene was going down Putney High Street on an amphibious army vehicle. That was a hoot. We went down the ramp into the river and up the Thames. They have all these weapons because they’re dressed as soldiers. Lee’s spinning a rifle on his arm and it dropped into the water! Then suddenly, there’s some guy with this loudspeaker on the terrace at the Houses Of Parliament, ‘You on that boat over there! That is illegal!’ They gave us a stern warning and the river police came past. So that video went back to a bit of the wackiness they’d lost.
CHRIS (speaking in 1985): One thing we’ve done over the years is have Suggs as some kind of narrator who’s involved in the action but singing the song. It works very well. So that was his role in Uncle Sam, with Carl as the mad general and us just sort of running round.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): Making videos does get harder in that you’ve done most of the things you wanted to do. You start off doing the things you image you’d like to do when you were younger, then you run out of ideas.
CARL (speaking in 1985): We’re in serious trouble if we have to shoot one scene over and over again because you lose the spontaneity and then we start getting bored and disinterested.
WOODY (speaking in 1985): Old Robbo was right – if the camera crew didn’t get us first time, then forget it, we were hopeless.
CARL (speaking in 1985): One good thing about Robbo was that he let the cameramen keep rolling even after the scene had finished. A lot of what was interesting was off-camera and spontaneous. You get a funnier reaction when the band don’t even know they’re being filmed.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): I think there are times when we could have had excessive violence…
CHRIS (speaking in 1985): …but we’re not into that. We like to make entertaining videos that we’d like our children to watch.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): Every video we’ve made has cost slightly more than the previous one. We started off at about £2,000 and they went up to £13,000… £20,000… so we’re not going to make another one.
CHRIS (speaking in 1985): The cost of the video is getting in a stylist but we do that ourselves. We decide on something we’re gonna wear and we save a lot of money. Suggs goes and has a haircut the day before and Carl does all his own make-up. In fact, Lee wrote a song recently that would come out very well as a video; it’s about a time traveller. We haven’t recorded it yet, but I think we will.
BEDDERS (speaking in 1985): The records and the videos are two different things. For the videos we just had fun, and I think that’s how they came across.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): It is funny looking back and seeing your life like that. If you see One Step Beyond on the TV you realise how young and fresh-faced we were. But I don’t actually watch the videos that often; once a year probably, and even then only one or two of them.
WOODY (speaking in 1985): It’s frightening to see us when we first appeared on Top of the Pops with The Prince. Talk about wide-eyed and innocent.
CHRIS (speaking in 1985): It’s more of a shock listening to our earlier albums.
CARL (speaking in 1985): We’re lucky in that we’re not bored with our older material and I personally believe in still trying to please the public by playing what they want to hear. After all, they’re the ones who actually pay to the show. I’ve said it before, years ago, and it’s still true; I want to entertain people and have them go out at the end feeling happier and smiling and not with the weight of the world on their shoulders.
OCTOBER 20: Chippenham Gold-diggers
This warm-up show for the Mad Not Mad Tour sees Jimmy Helms, Jimmy Thomas and Lorenza Johnson on backing vocals, percussionist Bosco d’Oliviera on congas and Terry Disley and Seamus Beagan playing keyboards.
Old favourites were deftly mixed tonight with the newies, taking in My Girl, It Must Be Love, House Of Fun, Embarrassment and Our House to the American fireworks of Uncle Sam, the bittersweet Burning The Boats and allied aptness of Yesterday’s Men leading into the nutty nods to the past of Madness and One Step Beyond. Everyone went crazy because Madness is a sign of sanity and the group’s biggest contribution is to break down barriers, right before your eyes.
Dave Masey, Melody Maker
TERRY DISLEY (keyboards): I wasn’t a fan at all before the tour. I was into bebop jazz and classical music. I thought it was quirky postcard-humour pop and the chord progressions of tunes like Our House made no sense to me. I had a really hard time learning the material for their tour dates as I couldn’t see the logic in the writing and they had a lot of material in the show. Funny, looking back now I can see the brilliance and value of the whole thing. Their material is truly unique and that’s rare in pop music, plus it’s totally English.
OCTOBER 21: Appear with Dave Fanning on Irish radio
The Irish leg of the tour comprises seven shows, making it Madness’s most extensive tour of the Emerald Isle. The day before the opening show in Cork, Suggs and Carl are interviewed by DJ Fanning. Subjects include Carl’s Irish heritage, what Madness went through after Mike’s departure to get to where they are now, the British aspect of the nutty image and the chart position of Yesterday’s Men. They also discuss the Mad Not Mad tour and the irish leg in particular. ‘We call it the Devolution Tour – England Ireland, Scotland and Wales,’ Suggs says, before adding that the tour lasts five weeks because, after a long period, the band are finally ready to compete. Carl talks about the European side of Ireland that, in his opinion, England lacks. He also talks about the humour and political messages in Madness songs and grants students of St Andrews College free entry to tomorrow’s show. This will not remain a one-off during their stay in Ireland. The next subjects are Burning The Boats and what will happen when people are cut off from freedom of expression, plus Madness’s support of Greenpeace and CND. Returning to the British aspect of the nutty image, Suggs admits that it both attracted and alienated fans from America. Fanning airs five songs back-to-back, the first being The Coldest Day, initially inspired by the news of Marvin Gaye being shot dead by his dad, heard when Suggs was on holiday in France with Clive Langer. Michael Caine, the last of the five songs, starts at the wrong speed. Carl mumbles along to the ‘We’ll get ya, ay-ay’ part while it is corrected. Carl admits that it wasn’t easy to write new songs after Mike’s departure and dedicates the Scritti politti cover The Sweetest Girl to all the girls from Cork. Suggs announces Please Don’t Go, the B-side of uncle Sam, as a Who-style song. The next subjects are the teenage fans and the children’s matinees and Zarjazz. Asked if Uncle Sam will be a No1, Carl says the video, filmed in the suburbs of Middlesex, is basically a reaction to the previous three, which were all serious and less nutty. The final subjects to be dissected are the belt-tightening philosophy that Yesterday’s Men is about, and Mr Speaker, which was written when Mike had just bought his flat in Amsterdam. Carl has to disappoint two loyal fans, Noel and Tony, by telling them that they won’t get backstage passes for tomorrow’s shows. After the interview, Suggs has a few drinks at the canteen, but overdoing things, he collapses drunk at the entry. Two boys carry him to the hotel.
TERRY DISLEY: I went in totally prepared and knew every song backwards but there wasn’t much enthusiasm among the Madness members. Seems it was a low time for them. They referred to myself and the other session players as part-timers. At the start especially, they would be eating sandwiches, reading the paper. I was used to rehearsals where everyone worried about using the time effectively. Lee spent most of the time working out how they could get giant balloons ordered for the tour and how to fly on the Kirby wire above the crowd. He hardly played his sax and was mainly interested in the entertainment side. He was pissed off because he had rehearsed part of the show where he could run up to a small trampoline, do a forward somersault and land in front of the microphone, all playing the sax at the same time. They wouldn’t allow him to do it in case he swallowed his mouthpiece.
OCTOBER 22: City Hall, Cork
Suggs refers to yesterday’s collapsing incident as his saviours are watching the show. Support is provided by The Friday Club, who support the band on the entire tour (their debut single Windowshopping is the penultimate release on 2-Tone before the label folds the following year). However the Cork crowd don’t appreciate them – a reception repeated at other shows.
ADELE WINTER (The Friday Club): This was the moment of a lifetime, to be on the Madness tour and be on 2-Tone! Ecstatic but always aware that we had to work hard, I will always remember being stood out front watching them perform It Must Be Love and we all looked at each other and knew this was a moment from heaven. Suggs wore a green suit and red gloves for much of the tour and had a thing about asking the audience to look under their seats only to find nothing there – he loved it! As people, Madness were always really friendly and supportive – Suggs, Carl and Lee were always making sure things were alright for us and reminding us that they started their first tour staying in tents. They gave away tickets to kids for their concerts, especially in Ireland. I have many memories but one that stays in my mind. After performing in Cork, I was out front watching them when Suggs announced he had been helped back to his hotel after some lads found him collapsed drunk outside a local radio station. Immediately this lad of about 10 said to me, ‘That was us miss’. It really tickled me and the same thing happened in Dublin! They are such a lovely bunch and real family people. I can still remember so much and know it was a really special time.
OCTOBER 23: Galway Leisure Land
TERRY DISLEY: I didn’t really connect much with Suggs, he was always off somewhere. I don’t think we had a single conversation. Chas was my buddy. He used to talk wine and music with me and I found him the easiest one to hang with, along with Bedders, who was the one that kept everyone in check musically. He acted like the musical director and liaised between the session players and the hardcore band members. He was into jazz, too. Chris was always being funny, and Woody was real nice and mellow; a real gentle and respectful soul.
OCTOBER 24: Limerick Savoy
ANDY BROOKS (The Friday Club guitarist): I have brilliant memories of the tour. Being down to earth, Madness treated us very well. Suggs was particularly friendly and Lee, too. They were aware we were staying in dodgy B&Bs and we were invited back to their hotels for drinks many times, which always got messy. I have a particular memory of being in Lee’s hotel room soaking wet after being in his shower fully dressed, stood on a table reading the fire instructions while he filmed me!
OCTOBER 25 & 26: Maysfield Leisure Centre, Belfast
Madness haven’t played in Belfast since June 7 1980. Two shows in front of sellout 6,000 crowds make up for that.
ANDY BROOKS: They made sure we were given proper sound-check time and that the tour crew were supportive. We were aware that Madness had not toured for a couple of years and that this was their first album without Mike, so there was a cloud over them, though if you saw them play in 1985 you wouldn’t have guessed: they were brilliant live and the crowd reaction was amazing every night. The punters absolutely worshipped them.
OCTOBER 27 & 28: SFX Centre, Dublin
Two sell-out shows to crowds of 2,400 close the Irish leg of the tour. In the afternoon, Suggs and Carl are interviewed by DJ BP Fallen who already spoke to them before the band departed to Ireland. ‘We’re slightly tired,’ Suggs says. They go on to talk about the early days, schooldays, 2-Tone, Stiff, teenage fans, the nutty image, Zarjazz and Feargal Sharkey. Just like Cork, Suggs has one too many drinks and again collapses. On stage, he blames his late arrival on Lee having problems finding the right underpants. Take It Or Leave It is dedicated to everyone who attended the previous night’s show. During Michael Caine, the crowd scream when Carl sings the line, ‘There’s panic and I hear somebody scream’. Throughout the night, the crowd keep crying out for One Step Beyond, as Madness unveil new material including 4BF, a tribute to Lee’s boyood idol Bryan Ferry. Embarrassment is introduced as an Elvis song. Celebrities who attend the first night include Spandau Ballet guitarist Gary Kemp, who goes backstage.
Keep Moving / Samantha / Take It Or Leave It / Michael Caine / Mad Not Mad / Grey Day / My Girl / Tomorrow’s Dream / House Of Fun / 4BF / Yesterday’s Men / Blue Skinned Beast / Night Boat to Cairo / Time / It Must Be Love / Burning The Boats / Shut Up / Madness / Embarrassment / I’ll Compete / Our House / ENCORE 1: Uncle Sam / Baggy Trousers / ENCORE 2: The Sweetest Girl / One Step Beyond
JIMMY THOMAS (backing singer): We had such a ball on that tour – so much fun. They were lovely guys. My most intense memory was Dublin. We checked into our hotel with those guys from Spandau Ballet. We hung out with them and Carl, Suggs and both the Kemp brothers ended up in my room getting sizzled all night long. We were just drinking and talking shit, man. We rapped; it was fantastic.
OCTOBER 30: Birmingham Odeon
‘We’ve just come back from a wonderful holiday in Ireland,’ Suggs tells the crowd. ‘This is our first date here, and this is called Samantha.’ The show is fast and furious – Chris is introduced as ‘the oldest man in rock and roll’ yet again, the crowd chant Chipmunks Are Go! before the encore.
UB40 and Madness are both on tour with the first kind of show, familiar sounds played with a toughness and verve they’ve never had before. UB40 made even the stark spaces of the National Exhibition Centre skank and sway on Monday, and Madness’s show in the Birmingham Odeon on Wednesday was brilliantly-lit and craftily-paced blend of the old and new. The audience preference for the old was, though, overwhelming, and Madness seem doomed to create for ever more – these days by sheer theatrical effort – the spontaneous sense of fun they first were famous for.
Simon Frith, The Times
ANDY BROOKS: For the most part the gigs were great, but there was still quite a large skinhead following who at times were pretty hostile.
TERRY DISLEY: I remember the skinhead fans spitting then and that scared the hell out of me. Every night, they would climb up on the stage and get thrown back into the crowd.
OCTOBER 31: Cardiff University
TERRY DISLEY: The other keyboard player, Seamus Beaghen, fitted in much better than I did. I had long hair and liked jazz, which didn’t go over too well with the full-timers. But it was a great learning experience. I went in thinking just about the musical notes and came out understanding that the ‘show’ can be just as important – sometimes more so – and they did put 100 per cent into a fantastic show for the fans every night.
NOVEMBER 1: St Austell Coliseum, Cornwall
TERRY DISLEY: In Cornwall, there were Hell’s Angels and skinheads and some guy got stabbed. I’ll never forget Suggs saying on the microphone, ‘If anyone wants to fight, come and fight the band.’ I was going to resign my keyboard position right then.
NOVEMBER 3: Colston Hall, Bristol
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): Before I was in a band no one took a blind bit of notice of me. I think it’s a lot to do with just being famous and having money really. There are a million people who look like me wandering round. They’re not in bands and so don’t get that kind of attention. It’s certainly nice to be liked – everyone wants to be loved – but I never thought I was anything special. I’ve changed quite a bit since I was a teenager; I was spotty and boring. When I was 17 I was aggressive and boring. My mum says I’m better looking now, so I suppose I have to believe her. But I never try and project myself like the best-looking bloke in the world. I don’t think it’s important really. It probably does help – you sell records. I think there are lots of people who say they’re not sex symbols but you can see from the pictures they’re desperately trying to be sex symbols. First click of the camera and off comes the shirt.
BEDDERS (speaking in 1985): I think the reason for our longevity is we’ve always been slightly to one side of the pop game thing. We’ve talked about this ourselves. If the telly shows a history about what has happened in the past five or six years in pop music, we’re never really featured.
WOODY (speaking in 1985): We’re like the unspoken rules in a gentleman’s club… you can’t go there unless you know them.
NOVEMBER 4: De Montfort Hall, Leicester
The set is the same as Birmingham, minus Blue Skinned Beast and Baggy Trousers, with The Coldest Day opening the second encore. The show is filmed for a behind-the-scenes documentary A Roadie’s Tale. From the soundcheck, I’ll Compete and Burning The Boats are used, and from the show, House Of Fun, Uncle Sam and Madness.
NOVEMBER 5: University of East Anglia, Norwich
In the afternoon, Suggs, Carl and Lee travel back to London to take part in Fashion Aid, one of the various Live Aid offshoots, at the Royal Albert Hall. They appear on the catwalk wearing clothes designed by Jasper Conran.
SUGGS: You look back sometimes and think, ‘Aw man, I could have sung that better.’ But I know who that kid was and he was doing his best and he had something, that kid. But I never felt confident about my singing really. I’ve found my own way of doing it, and you get more confident obviously as you get older and you have a bit of success, and I think, mainly, performing in any way is to do with confidence, isn’t it? And then you’ll find things about yourself that you maybe didn’t even know.
CHRIS: That’s one thing that’s unfortunately always underestimated about Suggs. He really does have an ability to sing a strongly emotional song without making it appear sentimental.
SUGGS: On stage I always try harder, make an effort to look more exaggerated because I’ve always had the feeling that it’s entertainment, showbusiness… though I hate the word.
NOVEMBER 7: Apollo, Manchester
Samantha is dedicated to all namesake girls and Suggs gives a thank-you message to three fans called Deb, Julie and Nick. ‘It’s nice to see you all, did you get my postcards and phone calls?’ House Of Fun is dedicated to Lee, and Burning the Boats to those who’ve seen the Manchester shows on March 23 and 24 1983. ‘You still here?’ asks Suggs, when the band return for the second encore.
NOVEMBER 8: Liverpool University
Lee asks the crowd how long it has been as he wasn’t there when Madness played at the Miners’ Strike Benefit on July 7 1984. Woody accidentally starts the intro of Take It Or Leave It before Samantha. People at the front get squashed and Suggs reminds them to get some water: ‘This is called 4BF…and this is called H20.’
NOVEMBER 9: Gaumont, Southampton
A boy called Matthew is granted backstage access, after speaking to Carl on Saturday Superstore on Oct 19 and asking him about rumours that the new album would be called Lost In The Museum. Carl explains that the phrase referred to the band’s departure from Stiff and Dave Robinson’s remark that, ‘We’re running a record company, not a museum.’
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): With this tour I sometimes think, ‘Am I going mad or am I too old?’ But that’s how you think no matter what your age is, unless you’re Mick Jagger. I look at people like Ian Dury who remains interesting, you never know what he’ll do. Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart and The Stones seem to be stuck in a certain period and don’t have many, err, exciting traits. Mind you, that also applies to some bands who’ve only been going a couple of years! It’s only being in Madness that inspires me to sing.
WOODY (speaking in 1985): I always thought when a band had been going for mega-years… well, the ones I used to see were all really boring. But the thing is, the only reason they’re there is; they like playing music, and you can’t stop people from doing things they like.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): We’re the poor man’s Talking Heads. We try to act serious but we never do. It’s more enjoyable that way. We try to be funny but we’re serious about it. Some bands try to be funny to appeal to kids and it doesn’t work. They try to be wacky or whatever. It’s a bit of a shame really.
CHRIS (speaking in 1985): People have survived into their 40s and 50s due to compromise; they’re playing music they were playing when they were 18. I’d rather end up like Ian Dury instead of a lot of people. Everyone as they get older hopefully throws out a lot of the junk.
CARL (speaking in 1985): In the early days I just used to go mad for the whole time I was on stage, never stopped jumping around from start to finish. I used to go and see these other bands and think that there was something wrong because none of them were sweating. But yes, we have slowed the pace down a bit on stage, it’s not the total action that it was in the 2-Tone days.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): The thing is, 95 per cent of this business is fantasy, so to keep any sense of reality you have to live in the real world. You can’t write about reality unless you live in it. And you can’t live in it by travelling around in limousines.
CARL (speaking in 1985): You can’t travel in limos every day and I hate getting used to it. No one’s sure of anything in this life. We don’t want to pretend to be anything, cos you end up what you pretend to be. By not doing all that stuff we avoid all the problems that go with it. We just want to be as far away from it with losing it as possible. That’s the phrase at the moment.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): We did consider splitting up, but at the same time we realised that we had more ups than downs and we should keep moving on. Maybe it’s the money as well. I’m 24, I’ve got a wife, two kids, a house and a car; isn’t it wonderful that I can afford all this by making the occasional record? But saying that, I also think we maybe have a different outlook on life than some of our contemporaries. I don’t like to flaunt what money I have. So I’ll come down to the pub on my bicycle and everyone will laugh at me, but they just want to flaunt it more than I do.
NOVEMBER 10: Crawley Leisure Centre
NOVEMBER 12: The Capitol, Aberdeen
NOVEMBER 13: Barrowlands, Glasgow
NOVEMBER 14: Playhouse, Edinburgh
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): We’ve always been unprofessional.
CARL (speaking in 1985): It’s crazy, it’s not as though we’re The Sex Pistols or anything.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): The trouble is that we started off with a bad image and it’s stuck with us – even after a two-year break. We keep making plans to be professional and cooperative, but we never are. Still, if we were perfect, we’d be boring.
NOVEMBER 17: Sheffield University
NOVEMBER 18: City Hall, Newcastle
NOVEMBER 19 : Leeds University
Suggs offers The Friday Club’s Adele Winter a rose after the band get booed off for the umpteenth time on the tour.
SUGGS: By this stage, the age-old problem that had haunted us for years had got even worse. We were sick of putting red noses on and cheering up the planet. Every TV show wanted what we’ve done before, and we didn’t always want to do that.
LEE: When it’s forced on you – ‘You be wacky, you do the combat roll, do the wacky walk’ – we were eventually like, ‘Nah, not today mate. The noses are off.’
NOVEMBER 20: Leisure Centre, Gloucester
NOVEMBER 21: Kent University, Canterbury
NOVEMBER 22: Children In Need, UK TV
The band playback Uncle Sam on the annual telethon to help raise money for disadvantaged kids.
SUGGS: It was getting less fun, for sure. We had made the conscious decision not to do anything hilarious any more. And of course, by doing that it meant that things were less hilarious. We didn’t really want to do anything funny. But then what else could we do? Stand around on plinths with nicely coiffured hair?
NOVEMBER 23 & 24: Hammersmith Odeon
The tour reaches its finale with gigs at the Odeon, where Madness haven’t played since the five shows in December 1980. BBC Radio record both nights for two edits. From the first night, Keep Moving, Samantha, It Must Be Love, I’ll Compete and Our House are used. Michael Caine, Yesterday’s Men, Mad Not Mad and I’ll Compete end up on MIS Live. ’This is the last concert of a very long tour,’ Suggs says. ‘How nice it is to see you all again after all this time. You don’t look a day older.’ Carl jokes that it’s Chris’s birthday and persuades the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to him. Suggs also pokes fun at Chris’s hair, quipping: ‘He stopped getting that cut until Bill Haley’s comet comes back again.’ The highlight of the show is when Feargal Sharkey appears for a spirited version of Listen To Your Father. ‘Another promising Zarjazz artist gone the wrong way,’ quips Suggs.
Keep Moving / Samantha / Take It Or Leave It / Michael Caine / Mad Not Mad / Grey Day / My Girl / Tomorrow’s Dream / House Of Fun / 4BF / Yesterday’s Men / Blue Skinned Beast / Night Boat To Cairo / Time / It Must Be Love / Burning The Boats / Shut Up / Uncle Sam / Embarrassment / I’ll Compete / Our House / ENCORE 1: Baggy Trousers / Listen To Your Father / ENCORE 2: Madness / One Step Beyond
WOODY: We were spontaneous people; we did things because we wanted to do them. As soon as we were told to do them because we were supposed to it was like, ‘Fuck off.’
CARL: We only ever wrote songs and did the wacky moves to keep ourselves happy.
NOVEMBER 26: The Old Grey Whistle Test
Augmented by keyboard players Seamus Beagan and Terry Disley, backing singers Jimmy Helms, Jimmy Thomas and Lorenza Johson, and conga player Bosco d’Oliviera, Madness open the show with Burning The Boats and later perform Time. During Burning The Boats Suggs refers to Maggie Thatcher by asking, ‘What’s she like?’ and answering ‘I don’t know’. The session is recorded for inclusion on the live promo album Mad Not Mad Party.
SUGGS: People would still say, ‘Here come Madness! Yeah! They’ll get the party going!’ But after five or six years, the energy started to drain away. We always had this love/hate thing with the media because they knew we’d liven up a dull day. There was always a thin line between turning it into complete anarchy.
NOVEMBER: Razzamatazz , UK TV
Madness record a Christmas edition of the popular kids’ show, which will be aired on December 24.
SUGGS: We were always on the cover of Smash Hits but there were no articles in the Sunday Times about Madness. There was no cerebral content in our coverage whatsoever.
CARL: The way people see you does affect you. And that’s not a good thing. It’s hard to remain fixed on your goals and your directions.
SUGGS: Also, it’s difficult not to be cynical when you’ve been around for so long. You see people grinning and trying desperately hard to be jolly, and you know what they’re really feeling.
DECEMBER 5&6: Messukeskus, Helsinki, Finland
To help mark Finnish Independence Day, Madness are invited to the Finnish Embassy on December 6, followed by a show at the Helsinki Messukeskus, the capital’s Exhibition and Convention Centre, promoted by the Ministry of Education.
JIMMY THOMAS: When we played Helsinki, we had such a good time. It was snowing and cold and we had to leave about five in the morning because there was some blizzard coming, and if we didn’t leave that early, we’d be snowed in.
DECEMBER 21: Christmas Party For The Unemployed, Finsbury Park, London
Madness headline this charity gig, joining Billy Bragg, Lorna G, Imagination, The Frank Chickens, Toure Kunda, Shikisha, Marc Almond & The Willing Sinners and Gregory Issacs. Staged in a heated circus tent, it rounds off 1985’s Year of Jobs. For the occasion they play a radically different set from the Mad Not Mad Tour. ‘A special thanks to all those people who’ve given up their jobs to be here,’ Suggs says before I’ll Compete kicks off the hour-long set. Mike Barson and wife Sandra are watching the show precisely two years after his farewell concert, and My Girl is duly dedicated to them. A big round of applause follows when Suggs reveals that the Financial Times recently stated that half the households in the world have a television. ‘We forgot to mention the other three quarters of the world who don’t have a household.’ Ian Dury takes the stage to sing the Kilburn and The High Roads classics Huffety Huff and Rough Kids. He supplies strong backing vocals on House of Fun and sings the ‘I’m sorry son…’ part. ‘Have a happy Christmas. You’re terrific,’ Dury says when everyone leaves the stage. The encore opens with Shoparound after which Suggs congratulates Anne as they are one day away from their fourth wedding anniversary.
I’ll Compete / Embarrassment / My Girl / Michael Caine / Grey Day / Uncle Sam / Yesterday’s Men / It Must be Love / Burning The Boats / Our House / Huffety Puff / Rough Kids / House of Fun / ENCORE: Shoparound / One Step Beyond
BOSCO DE OLIVEIRA (tour percussionist): As we played this ballad, I couldn’t see Lee onstage. The sax solo was imminent and still no Lee. Suddenly I hear the sax and he comes in flying over the stage on a harness, with a roadie pulling the other end of the rope to make him swing. Very funny guy.
DECEMBER 31: Madness's New Year party is broadcast live from Hammersmith Odeon, London, by Old Grey Whistle Test
The third show at the Odeon collects money and toys for children’s homes, just like the Christmas Eve show of 1980. The crowd boo when Suggs jokingly says: ”I’d like to introduce Paul King” and when Carl quips: ”Remember to pay your TV licence in 1986.” Yesterday’s Men gets a mixed response and afterwards Suggs says: ”Will we be here in the long run? I hope so.” Feargal Sharkey joins in for Listen To Your Father before Carl and Lorenza Johnson return to sing Auld Lang Syne. An after-show party is held at Clive Langer’s studios. Tracks aired on The Old Grey Whistle Test are Time, I’ll Compete, Embarrassment, My Girl, Michael Caine, Grey Day, Uncle Sam, Yesterday’s Men, It Must Be Love and Burning the Boats. The fully-recorded tracks, plus Listen To Your Father, One Step Beyond and Madness appear on the live promo album, which is a prized collectors’ item and is released in March 1986, with burning The Boats and Time replaced with versions recorded on Nov 26.
Keep Moving / Samantha / Take It Or Leave It / Shut Up / Mad Not Mad / Tomorrow’s Dream / Night Boat To Cairo / 4BF / Blue Skinned Beast / Time / I’ll Compete / Embarrassment / My Girl / Michael Caine / Grey Day / Uncle Sam / Yesterday’s Men / It Must Be Love / Burning The Boats / House Of Fun / Our House / ENCORE 1: Listen to Your Father / Madness / ENCORE 2: One Step Beyond / ENCORE 3: Auld Lang Syne
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): I think we’re more relaxed at the moment, as a band, than we ever have been, and that breeds confidence. I think the best thing in music is to affect people, not to be transitory or flippant. The less calculated it is, the better.
CARL (speaking in 1985): It’s the best job in the world; you can’t complain. If you’re not an idiot you can have such a good time. We’ve got a few years in us yet, especially when you see some of the old cack in the charts.
SUGGS (speaking in 1985): We’re like an unstoppable train…
CARL (speaking in 1985): …and we’re going to keep stoking the boilers.