CHRIS: The years 1979 to 1986 were Madness – 1992 onwards was a sort of lucky second chance. Which I do appreciate.
FEBRUARY 15: It Must Be Love is re-released
Re-released to cash in on Valentine’s Day, the band’s Labi Siffre cover version shoots to No6, thrusting them further into the spotlight.
MICK GARBUTT (Virgin promoter): Radio 1 wouldn’t playlist it but we got an awful lot of support and squeezed enough individual plays. Good supporters were people like Simon Mayo on the breakfast show. It couldn’t have been anything but goodwill; I can’t imagine anyone who likes British pop music who doesn’t like Madness.
FEBRUARY 24: Divine Madness is released
Backed up by an eye-catching media campaign, the greatest hits album spends three weeks at number one and a total of 96 weeks on the album charts.
STEVE PRITCHARD (head of catalogue, Virgin): The band didn’t really promote Divine to start with – it was a record company cash-in that they were happy to endorse. Then the reviews came in and they started to feel the warmth; the almost unequivocal worship from the press.
WOODY: We thought the album would do quite well, but didn’t realise it would do what it did.
STEVE PRITCHARD: As a result of the reviews and the first week’s sales, the album started to gain a genuine and organic life of its own. Eventually it became the biggest album of 1992 – we sold nearly 900,000 albums and well over 100,000 copies of the VHS compilation.
WOODY: It went straight in at No1 in England, stayed there for four weeks and then refused to go out of the Top 5 for another four weeks after that.
SUGGS: It surprised me that it did so well. The warmth and feeling generally that we suddenly got from people, being called an icon and a British institution in serious newspapers and all that, was amazing. Unintentionally we’d always given off a lot of warmth and I think we were finally getting it back.
MICK GARBUTT: They really thought that nobody loved them, but after It Must Be Love and Divine, they got their confidence back. Talk of a serious reformation really began – and that’s where Madstock came from.
CARL: When Divine went to No1, we thought, ‘What the fuck, let’s give it another go.’ We felt we were better equipped to cope with the pressures – production and finance and the legal side of things were no longer the mysteries that they used to be. To me, it was obvious that now was a good opportunity for us to have another crack…
MIKE: …and it helped that the money was good.
CARL: OK, I’d be a fucking liar if I said money wasn’t an issue, but there’s no way I would have done it if I thought that by reforming we’d be sullying the Madness name.
SUGGS: The other thing is, everyone forgets that you couldn’t get a light for the name Madness for a while. For about eight years you didn’t hear our name mentioned, then suddenly there was this huge demand.
MICK GARBUTT: From the outside, you might have assumed that they all wanted the money. But it didn’t seem that was always the case. Mike had family in Holland and Chris had a young wife and at times he wasn’t sure and would have his moments. But ultimately, the realisation that there was a lot of financial gain helped.
LEE: My house was on the verge of being repossessed and I was about to take out a mortgage on a tent. So for me, on a purely financial basis, it made a lot of sense to get back together.
CHRIS: Me being ever the cynic, I didn’t want to do it at first. I thought people might think we were just doing it for the money.
MIKE: And I certainly didn’t want to play some sad reunion that only ten people came to.
SUGGS: There was a lot of umming and ahhing and some of the band initially didn’t want to do it – I certainly didn’t. But as the momentum built, my opinion started to change. I thought, ‘If the others want to give it a whirl, it would be unfair of me not to go in with them.’
CHRIS: Eventually, Suggs and Mike talked me round.
SUGGS: I remember Carl in particular was extremely enthusiastic.
MICK GARBUTT: I do wonder if any of it would have come together without Carl. He cottoned on early to the legacy of Madness and was constantly trying to promote it. He was passionate to the point of emotional. He seemed to understand the importance of Madness in their time, in pop music, historically what they represented, way more than anyone else. I think Suggs did too, but he wasn’t the one to articulate it.
CARL: Everywhere I went, people would talk to me and they had so much affection for Madness; it was like there was something in the air. I knew we had so much more to offer, but reforming the band would take an incredible amount of enthusiasm and energy, which at the time no one else seemed prepared to do. It nearly drove me mad in the process, but the thought that Madness still had much to offer spurred me on. Not forgetting, of course, the happiness that performance brought.
BARRY DICKENS (concert promoter): Carl was in the lead role. He was always the one who was out and about. He’s very streetwise and I take my hat off to him; he got them all back together.
CARL: It was like The Blues Brothers – I was on a mission from God to get Madness together again. I met Woody at the Forum and said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna reform the band.’
WOODY: And I said, ‘I’ve been waiting for this day.’ I had literally been waiting for the phone call. And suddenly it came.
SUGGS: I remember hadn’t seen Carl for about ten years and I was sitting in the launderette watching my socks go round and who should walk by. I said, ‘What you been doing lately?’ And he said, ‘Nothing.’ And off we went from there.
WOODY: Suddenly the rumours were going around that we were getting together in meetings – even though we’d been meeting up regularly anyway – and the phone started ringing, saying, ‘Are you getting back together again?’ ‘No’ ‘Would you like to?’ ‘Well make us an offer.’ So then the offers started coming in and some ridiculous figures started being bandied around. We sort of went, ‘Why not? If people are offering us this kind of silly money we could have a laugh as well.’
SUGGS: We started getting offers from Butlin’s to do a gig supporting Guns ‘N’ Roses.
CARL: We did get offered Butlin’s. It was after Curiosity Killed The Cat had gone down with such a big bang. The money was great but the location was all wrong.
CHRIS: We were also offered Club 18-30…
WOODY: …we should have done the 18-30 gig.
CARL: So it went from Butlin’s to the Dubai Country Club, then the idea of doing one gig became more likely.
WOODY: We did think long and hard about an arena tour but decided it would be nice to do one thing as that’s all we could manage.
SUGGS: We were seven people with seven different ideas. Some of us had no worries and some of us had a lot of worries. And also, in the interim period, people had been doing other things that they wanted to continue with, so it took quite a while just to make it so we could fit everything in around everyone’s lives and families.
MARCH 17: Promoter Vince Power suggests the band play a one-off reunion concert in London.
CARL: For about a year and a half, I had made every effort to coax the band to reform. This had met with some resistance from some members but on St Patrick’s Day at the Irish Club dinner, Vince Power of The Mean Fiddler proposed a deal which I think went a long way to making the reformation happen.
VINCE POWER (promoter): I met Suggs and Carl in the Crown & Goose. I offered them X amount of money and one of them said, ‘You think we can make that much? OK, we’ll go for it’. They ended up making a lot more out of it than that.
CHRIS: At that time, Vince did this big annual concert in Finsbury Park called The Fleadh. And he obviously thought, ‘Hmm, I could tack another concert on the end of that while it’s all set up.’
SUGGS: He said he was going to have all the fences up anyway, so why didn’t we do a day in Finsbury Park?
CARL: We thought, ‘Well that’s good, that’s only ten minutes over the road. We’ll do that.’
CHRIS: So we all got cajoled into doing this ‘one comeback’.
SUGGS: It suited me just fine. I didn’t want to do the tour that some of the others were talking about – I just wanted a one-off ‘Thank You Very Much, Great That You Still Care About Us’ show.
BEDDERS: A lot of people had said to us, ‘You didn’t really say goodbye in ’86; there was no real announcement, no farewell gig.’
SUGGS: So after fizzling out, maybe this was our chance to say goodbye and make some money. But it was only meant as a one-off – that was definitely the deal.
MARCH 31: TV pilot, Notre Dame Church Hall, London
All seven members of Madness reunite onstage for the first time since December 21, 1983 for a secret show for the benefit of an invited audience. Although the band only perform four songs – It Must Be Love, Madness and House of Fun (twice) – it’s an historic occasion – and a film crew from Go! Discs captures it for a proposed music TV show called Spunk.
CARL: In a slightly underhand way, I got the band to reform and play for a TV pilot, which was filmed off Leicester Square and included Dennis Pennis and Norm from Cheers.
CHRIS: Really, we did it as a favour to Carl.
CARL: Once in rehearsal, we loaded the audience and the music did its magic. It was a small step in getting the band to perform again as they enjoyed the performance and got brilliant feedback from friends. We also received £500 each.
WOODY: We did two days’ rehearsals just to make sure we could still play and it felt strange – it didn’t have the magic. But as soon as we stepped out on stage in front of an audience it was like we’d never been away. We did House Of Fun and It Must Be Love and it was brilliant. We also threw in Madness as that was the track we thought we could all remember and it just came back like we’d been playing it all the time. We got such a high, it was almost like, ‘Let’s get back on stage and do even more.’ It was a real buzz; just so fantastic.
CHRIS: It was the first time the band had played together in six years but it was really nice. Playing in Madness is like riding a bike; you never forget how to do it.
CARL: I know you’re not supposed to say it, but I didn’t have any doubts. The minute the band got back together in rehearsals, you felt the energy of the original songs and the intent. It was really strong.
MIKE: I really didn’t really realise how much I’d missed it until we came back and started doing it again. It gave me a lot of energy and filled me with a lot of inspiration; finally I was back making music again.
WOODY: It was just like we’d never ever been away. The magic was there, and we just gelled immediately. There was such a sense of unity. So from agreeing to just do a little one-off show, it suddenly turned into something bigger.
APRIL 25: House of Fun is re-released
The band’s only No1 is released to further test the waters for a full-blown reunion, peaking at No40.
WOODY: Music was dreadfully dull at that point, and I think people realised what they missed from Madness.
SUGGS: It’s normally recommended that bands that once had any kind of energy or youthful vitality might be better if they didn’t carry on beyond the boundaries of their own physical whatevers. But we were all so young when we started, we weren’t that old when we came back.
CARL: It’s a selfish thing; you do it to entertain yourself. Obviously you entertain people but you have to do it so you’re happy with it and not take the piss. I’d always been deadly serious about Madness.
MAY: Madstock is announced
The band announce details of ‘An Audience With Madness’ on Saturday August 8 – Chris’s 36th birthday. The 36,000 tickets quickly sell out and a second date is added for the day after.
SUGGS: Although there was some confidence about it, we were talking to the agent and the promoter and they were saying, ‘Maybe you should be thinking of something a bit smaller, lads.’ So clearly they were worried, which suddenly made us worry.
BEDDERS: We started thinking, ‘No one’s going to turn up. There might be a few people – a few diehard fans.’
SUGGS: After all, we hadn’t all played together for eight years.
CARL: We were wary. But I just felt there was a lot of feeling there and a demand for what we did. After all, 600,000 people had bought Divine, so in theory some of them should turn up…
SUGGS: …and to our amazement, we sold 70,000 tickets.
CARL: The ticket people told me it was split into three age groups…
SUGGS: …yeah: 30-31, 31-32 and 33-34.
JULY 21: Rehearsals begin
To brush away the cobwebs, Madness spend a week rehearsing their back catalogue in England.
PAUL BREWER (backline tech): I’d been working with Woody in Voice of the Beehive when he asked if I wanted to do the Finsbury gig. Hell yeah! We’d been in Australia with Beehive, and Woody and I literally got off the plane from Oz and went straight to rehearsals – no hotel or home first, just straight in. I only knew Woody at that point, but soon I was right in there as they listened to their records, trying to relearn their parts.
JULY 30: Playback the upcoming re-release, My Girl, on Top Of The Pops
SUGGS (speaking in 1992): My kids weren’t really aware of what we were doing the first time around. So it’s been funny that they’ve seen us on the telly and all that for the first time.
AUGUST 1: Rehearsals move to Amsterdam
As their set-list takes shape, downbeat tunes such as Yesterday’s Men, Michael Caine and Uncle Sam are substituted for livelier classics like Razor Blade Alley, Driving In My Car and Wings Of A Dove.
SUGGS: As we rehearsed, we realised we’d never played all our singles at the same gig. Suddenly it made us think, ‘That’s a lot of hits – we must have something going for us.’
AUGUST 6: Paard Von Troje, The Hague
The Dutch trip climaxes in a dry-run at a small club in The Hague. All goes to plan – until the celebrations afterwards.
This perfect try-out proves how timeless a hybrid of Jamaican ska and British pop can be. Madness could financially benefit from touring the golden-oldie circuit with tonight’s show definitely being a nostalgia trip. The heavy, heavy monster sound of One Step Beyond kicked off a set during which Madness rushed their way through the hits (the equipment had a nightboat to catch). My Girl, Grey Day, Tomorrow’s Just Another Day and a widely-anticipated Embarrassment turned the Paard into a sauna bereft of breathing space.
Erik Quint, De Haagsche Courant
MICK GARBUTT: It was a jolly-up, bringing out people from media – we did competitions with Capital Radio and MTV did some filming. It was a hot, sweaty summer’s night. One of those oddities was this neo-Nazi presence there, this hangover from a different generation. Carl said that he peered outside the curtains and thought, ‘Oh my word!’ There was this aggressive male thing that felt intimidating; all this history with Madness which was so contradictory to their left-wing principles, all family men. But ultimately there was no trouble.
LEE: Afterwards, I ended up on a beach with a couple of puffs of skunk in my lungs, on a trampoline, with a lot of kids bouncing higher than me. I thought, ‘Peter Pan’s not having that’ so I got back on, done a midnight bounce stark naked on a starlit night and, coming down, missed the canvas completely and broke me toe on one of the springs.
AUGUST 7: The band fly home
On Friday morning, Madness and their entourage limp home. Lee is detained at Heathrow for having an out-of-date passport, but released without charge. The rest of the day is spent a blur of haircuts, shirts and suits. Lee’s white Madstock suit has been stolen from the BBC – a stunt that earns him a £200 bill.
PAUL BREWER: We did a short sound check the night before because I think there were time and volume restrictions.
WOODY: I was just so nervous about it. We’d never done anything on that scale before as a headline act.
BEDDERS: I thought, ‘I can’t believe all these people are going to turn up. Why would we appeal?’
SUGGS: There was a lot of nervousness in the band; quite a weight of responsibility. There was this strange atmosphere, full of nervous tension and doubt and all the rest of it. As if all the energy had gone into getting us all back together.
AUGUST 8: The first day of Madstock dawns
Finsbury Park is abuzz as the first day of the Madness comeback arrives. On the same day, My Girl is re-released with Madness on the B-side of the vinyl. One of the two CD versions features a live version of Precious One. The single will later peak at No27.
CARL: In the morning, I was walking past a pub off Tottenham Court Road and I could hear the whole pub singing along to It Must Be Love. I walked on, with a rather lovely warm glow in my heart.
12PM: Madstock begins... with a problem
The gates at Finsbury Park open an hour earlier than advertised. Celebrities in attendance include Jimmy Nail, Suede’s Brett Anderson, members of Depeche Mode and original choice of support The Farm. All seems to be going well – until a financial disaster rears its head.
STEVE FINAN (Madness manager): Someone had followed Vince’s accountant and robbed her of the bank draft. Let’s say the advance was maybe £600,000 – a lot of money. Vince was like, ‘I haven’t got any money to pay you but it’ll give it you on Monday.’ It was my worst fear come true. I knew that if the band realised there was no money, they wouldn’t go on. This is midday on Saturday. I said to Vince, ‘If I don’t have £300,000, I know they won’t perform.’ So we start to get together every single penny we can get our hands on. Vince is going to his venues, getting money from the bars, from everywhere. Bit by bit, it was coming in. I then go to the pub, The Crown & Goose, where the band are filming. As I walk in, the first question is, ‘Have we got the money?’ I’ve got a camera in my face and I’m like, ‘Yes!’ We hadn’t got any of the money at that point, but if I’d have said ‘No’, that would have been it. They’re all high-fiving, great, wicked. Now I’m in psycho mode. No matter what, I’m going to make sure this happens. So someone went to Heathrow to get the maximum off his credit card, and Barry Dickins and me are in this little cabin with all this money and a counting machine. Vince said, ‘Can you sign off for the money?’ I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding, there’s no way I am walking out of here with three hundred grand in a bin liner. You’re out of your mind. Phone a Securicor van!’ The next thing, over the radio, the Securicor van’s burst a tyre over the other side of Finsbury Park. So, six bouncers, me, Vince and Barry walk across Finsbury Park. All the crowd are there. We get to the Securicor van, the guy lifts the hatch up, I throw the money in, kiss everybody, sign the bit of paper, then off we go; now we’re going to do the gig!
2PM: Oblivious to the financial drama, the band prepare for their big moment
WOODY: How did we feel? Absolutely petrified. We knew we had sold a lot of tickets, but we still had no idea how it would go.
CARL: We were all sitting around before the gig and a few of our lot still weren’t sure about it. It was all a bit much for them. They all kept asking each other, ‘Are you into it?’ It became our gig catchphrase.
3PM: The support acts begin
Chaotic blues rock outfit Gallon Drunk open proceedings, followed by the equally chaotic Flowered Up. The impatient crowd gives a somewhat better reception to Ian Dury & The Blockheads, who play a set heavy with past classics. As the day wears on, Madness are ferried from the pub to Finsbury Park in a fleet of black limos.
CARL: Once we got to Finsbury Park, my six-year-old son Casper asked his mum, ‘Have all these people really come to see Dad’s band?’
PAUL BREWER: I was basically setting up all the stage gear on the day; a whirlwind of a job which I don’t really recall. I do remember Woody introducing me to John Lydon, who really didn’t give a fuck.
7PM: Morrissey appears – and receives the most hostile ‘welcome’ of the day from some elements of the crowd.
SUGGS: There were all these sort of fat, ex-Madness fans, maybe a little bit less savoury than you’d particularly want. And Morrissey comes onstage waving a fucking Union Jack, and behind him were photos of skinheads on a big screen. Who could have written that? What was it saying? That Madness were racist? At that time in England it was just a very provocative thing to do.
SIMON GODDARD (author): As Morrissey’s set progressed, they began throwing coins and beer at irregular intervals. Upset by this, he made the impromptu decision to cut his set-list, leading his band off stage after nine songs.
BEDDERS: I saw the last bit of his set and the whole thing was totally antagonistic between him and the audience.
CARL: I was quite surprised by the reaction he got. He’s a friend of ours and I thought he was good for the bill but he chose to present himself a certain way and he has to live with that.
SUGGS: Morrissey knew he was walking a line that was really contentious, but one that he could justify. It was almost like, ‘What’s going on is in your head. I’m just waving the flag of my country’. I don’t know if he thought it through or not. But certainly he got all the front pages and we didn’t.
SIMON GODDARD: It’s a common mistake to believe Morrissey was bottled off stage as a direct consequence of parading the national flag around. Neither the flag, nor his backdrop, nor even his set-list including The National Front Disco, had anything to do with their hostile reaction.
CLIVE LANGER: The main problem was there weren’t that many Morrissey fans there. Looking back, I’d say that out of 30,000 Madness fans who were there, 29,000 of them were soft skinheads with their girlfriends and it was the other 1,000 hard skins who decided to let him have it. They just didn’t want him.
MORRISSEY: I know there were a lot of people there from the National Front, but I don’t think they were particularly interested in me. And even though there were reports of me being booed and pelted off-stage – which of course never happened at all – I don’t believe it was the National Front who did that. I think it was a small selection of rather dull North Londoners.
LEE: As much as he is a respected and highly rated lyricist with good musicians, Morrissey should not have been supporting us at Madstock. We have a certain type of audience and I wished we’d catered to them instead.
8.45PM: Madness take to the stage.
SUGGS: I led the band out onstage and we were all really nervous; I felt like the captain of a football team coming out for the cup final.
BEDDERS: In the dressing room beforehand we’d said, ‘What shall we do when we come on?’
CARL: I said to everyone, ‘Let’s stand there mate; give it the big ’un.’ So that’s what we did – stood there rock still. Just went bosh and everyone went, ‘Rahhhhhhh!’
SUGGS: We all stood in a line at the front and it went off like a packet of crackers. Very emotional. Seeing that reception transcended any idea of novelty value we thought people had of us.
PAUL BREWER: A noise rose from the crowd the likes of which I’ve never heard before or since; it was a tsunami of nuttiness.
WOODY: It was such a powerful electric moment. I can still feel it now, more than 20 years later.
CARL: We didn’t move for two minutes. It was fearsome man, it was brilliant. We just stood there and it got louder and louder. A lot of friends cried.
STEVE FINAN: It was unbelievable – people just screamed forever.
PAUL BREWER: I remember watching them standing there and thinking, ‘What can they be feeling?’ I think it lasted 13 minutes, but I could be wrong. It was certainly longer than on the subsequent DVD.
BEDDERS: There were a few lumps in the throat and a bit of, ‘It’s okay, I’ve just got something in my eye, I’m not crying.’
WOODY: The warmth and enthusiasm was so overwhelming, I was in absolute floods.
LEE: I’m getting goosepimples now just thinking about it.
SUGGS: I didn’t know what it was going to be like until we were actually out there. I did think, ‘Are we going to be able to jump up and down and go mad and be as stupid as we were?’ And needless to say, like ducks to water…
PAUL BREWER: Woody came back to the drums and said something like, ‘Well that was a good start.’ He then checked to see if his two cans of Coke were there – they were – and BANG! Off they went.
WOODY: We went into One Step Beyond and it was like, ‘BLOODY HELL!’
CARL: Suddenly there were 36,000 fans jumping up and down. Flats reverberated, a sofa went across the room, windows cracked…
CLIVE LANGER: I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; people from front to back moving up and down as one. I’d never seen anything like it.
MIKE: It was just massive, over the whole hill. Everybody was dancing, right to the very back.
WOODY: I’ve never seen a gig like it before or since – the entire crowd was rippling like a massive wave.
CARL: There were people dancing everywhere, including about 50 on top of the beer tent and a couple on top of an ice-cream van.
CHRIS: Just the vastness of it was incredible; I couldn’t believe that all these people had come to see us.
SUGGS: It was fucking mental – everyone was going completely fucking barmy.
WOODY: To me, the audience said it all. It was, ‘Fuck the whole of the industry, this is the most important thing!’ We were all completely in tune with that audience.
CARL: One of the really staggering things about it was that everyone sang along with every song, all the way through from start to finish. There was just this swell, this build, this crescendo of affection.
SUGGS: Suddenly you realised that each one of those songs had an impact on somebody’s life, for all different reasons, as all great pop music does – your first kiss, first dance, first punch-up. It was extraordinary; we hadn’t expected it at all.
MIKE: Those fans had had their whole lives punctuated by our music and it was a great celebration; a recognition. The atmosphere was pure joy – I just remember everyone grinning. Even the big ugly skinheads had smiles on their faces.
CARL: I know it sounds corny, but there was a rare strength among the crowd and a euphoria that you seldom see.
SUGGS: With everything you do, there’s a certain amount of, ‘Is this the right thing? Should I really be doing this?’ And all I know is that we went out on stage and it was so fabulously fabulous that I actually felt more involved than I’d ever been in the old days. I was suddenly aware of all the thoughts I’d been repressing – that we were good and we had meant something.
CHRIS: By coincidence, The Selecter were playing at the George Robey pub, just down the road from Finsbury Park, and Prince Buster, who had been a great inspiration to us, was playing with them. So we bunged him a few quid and he came and did Madness with us, which was brilliant. Of course, our version was different from his, so we had to re-arrange it so he could do it the way he was used to.
10.30PM: Madness leave the stage
One Step Beyond / The Prince / Embarrassment / My Girl / The Sun and the Rain / Land of Hope and Glory / Grey Day / Razor Blade Alley / It Must Be Love / Tomorrow’s Just Another Day / Take It or Leave It / Shut Up / Driving in My Car / Bed and Breakfast Man / Close Escape / Wings of a Dove / Our House / Night Boat to Cairo / Madness ENCORE 1: Swan Lake / House of Fun ENCORE 2: Rockin’ in A♭/ Baggy Trousers ENCORE 3: The Harder They Come / Madness / One Step Beyond / It Must Be Love
SUGGS: It couldn’t have gone any better. It was a revelation – how much we’d achieved. My kids were 10 and nine and had never seen the band before. All our families were there – it was a very proud moment.
BEDDERS: It was a homecoming, a farewell and a rebirth, all at the same time. There wasn’t a dry eye on stage.
MIKE: My brother Ben is a serious jazz musician and had never really been that bothered about Madness. But even he was overcome with emotion. He came up to me afterwards with tears in his eyes and said, ‘I never knew what you did was so good.’
BEDDERS: For the first time, we did actually feel quite a lot of recognition.
WOODY: It was just a great show; very exciting – my most memorable gig ever, definitely. There was a lot of love in that field – I still get emotional about it now.
CARL: It was one of the best days of my life and reminded me that after you’ve been in Madness, doing anything else is drab. It was also a moment of immense personal satisfaction. Trying to reform Madness wasn’t easy as there were some doubters in the band, but the reaction of the crowd was a vindication that we still carried a great energy and still had something magical to offer.
SUGGS: It was probably one of the best concerts I ever remember doing with Madness. Getting up on stage and playing One Step Beyond for the first time in years was a revelation. Up until then I was sick of hearing it because it’s so simple. But then to be reminded that that’s why you’re in a band in the first place, because it’s simple and it is just jumping around a lot of the time in front of people playing music. You can be sophisticated and clever as you like underneath that, but at the same time, it doesn’t matter if you’re not really. It brought it all back. And it really reminded me what a joy it had been, making music. And I’ve had that joy ever since.
CARL: I will never forget sitting in my car on my own afterwards, backstage by the back fence, watching everyone leaving. I saw dads carrying young children, families having mass sing-alongs of It Must Be Love… just lots of happiness everywhere. There was a really special, joyous connection going on. It looked like something really nice had just happened.
SUGGS: I remember leaving the venue and seeing people literally emotionally and physically exhausted, lying on the pavement outside. It was a truly monumental moment.
It is later confirmed that the gig has caused an earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter Scale.
SUGGS: It was the first time we’d opened a gig with One Step Beyond, and it’s a fairly up-tempo song, so there were about 35,000 medium to large middle aged men all jumping up and down at the same time…
CHRIS: …and as can happen when you have 35,000 fans hitting the ground in unison, the people in the local flats could feel the vibrations.
SUGGS: A woman living opposite Finsbury Park rang police to say her picture was moving along the wall.
CHRIS: Somebody must have rung up the authorities and asked if there’d been an earthquake and, when they looked into it, they decided there had been.
SUGGS: The seismologists reckon there’s an underground lake under Finsbury Park and as people were jumping up and down, it started rocking and created the quake. Possibly the greatest achievement of my life – creating an earthquake. Something to tell your grandchildren, isn’t it?
ALICE WALKER (seismologist): On the 8th of August 1992, the police phoned the British Geological Survey, and they said that people had been phoning in saying that there had been an earthquake in London. They had described some effects like heavy lorries passing outside. People were frightened. Tower blocks were being evacuated because people thought the tower block was going to fall down. It was an intensity of about five. When I told the police that I thought the cause of the disturbance was a Madness concert at Finsbury Park, they didn’t believe me at first. I got a phone call the next night from the police who said exactly the same felt-effects had occurred – and so they did believe me after all. So my reputation as a seismologist still remains intact.
DR CHRIS BROWITT (seismologist): Tremors were recorded on both nights, but were 20 minutes earlier on the Sunday night, when the concert started 20 minutes earlier. It must have been one particular number that got everybody going in harmony and was able to generate this particular energy wave, and that number was One Step Beyond. This particular song fits the energy pattern. The entire effect was at just the right frequency to shake a nine-storey building.
AUGUST 9: Madstock Day II
Clive Langer, Suggs and Carl all try to talk Morrissey back for the second day – but to no avail. Apart from his absence, the concert passes without incident. This time, Prince Buster guests on both Madness and One Step Beyond.
CLIVE LANGER: Morrissey had originally only been advertised for the Sunday, but he agreed to do both dates. The irony was that refusing to do the second night was stupid of him because his fans turned up and he would have had a great time.
The band enjoy rave reviews in the press, with the weekend hailed a massive return to form.
THE T-shirt reads ‘Madstock’; the reality sporadically veers from such cheery celebration. Somewhere in the fun and the frolics, the grubbiness of moronicism smears the pleasure. The bad apples bustle by and history seeps back through the smiles.
The Tufty Club have hobbled along. There’s ICE, Headhunters, Mum & Dad, Love & Hate, gouged into spotty forearms. The boneheads who never quite got their shaven bonces around the idea that ska and ethnic cleansing weren’t entirely compatible may be gloriously under-represented, but their presence still disgusts.
Nostalgia is an incessant and not entirely undesirable watchword, although this event appears to be scuttling along on some sort of erratic narrative definition of the phrase “oi oi saveloy”. I imagine you have to know your apples and pears from the dog and bones to get within about a mile of performing.
FLOWERED UP ought to captivate. Unfortunately, with the sun barely over the yardarm and the crowd firmly furrowed in the half-time score of Liverpool’s lull-them-into-a-false-sense-of-security debacle against Leeds, FU’s smart crypto-dance caresses fall on deaf ears. Liam enchants with a little off-kilter Tai Chi, and Barry Mooncult spirals half-heartedly into proceedings, but the tingles stay down in the bar supping snakebites. Musically, Flowered Up continue to prove that they are perhaps the only band in the country (and that includes Primal Scream) capable of communicating Weatherall’s volatile hypno-trance in a live context, but they’re forced to tread water rather than swim out to any sort of horizon. New songs, like ‘Good Times’ and an unnamed beauty that builds on the riff from the dubby ‘Heart Of The Congo Man’ by The Congos, supplemented by a neat ‘Phobia’ and the inevitable punk shards of ‘Weekender’, make for a reassuring, if rarely thrilling set. The clouds clear.
IAN DURY & THE BLOCKHEADS, more than anyone else on the bill, have the entire audience facing the wrong way and looking over their shoulders. Those of us of a certain age start chucking out dewy-eyed reminiscences of times gone by while wondering why we should be the slightest bit concerned that Steve Nieve has taken it upon himself to play guitar. The younger members of the audience start poking us with sticks when we get gooey to ‘Sweet Gene Vincent’, but there’s enough support to suggest that perhaps the “they don’t write them like that anymore” tack isn’t entirely without validity. It’s politely likeable.
MORRISSEY is, despite all hopes, despicable. The usual jaunty start, albeit without much of the old gladioli front, crumples into an uncomfortably passive run-through of the new album, chivvied with a few reassurances from solo times gone by. Look, Steven, if you’ve just run 100 metres in 9.98, you have some sort of vague, if dubious, claims to wearing a Union Jack around your shoulders. If you’re singing ‘National Front Disco’ and getting too scared/weary to put inverted commas around the England For The English bit, while Sieg Heils butter you up down the front, don’t expect much sympathy. The anticipated cover of Suede’s ‘My Insatiable One’ is, thank God, absent, but short of burning the flag, there’s little Morrissey can do to convince that he is anything but a bleary, parochial fool, the Peregrine Worsthorne of pop.
MADNESS are a cabaret group. This, it transpires, is a good thing. Much like Tom Jones at Glastonbury, Madness prove that if a thing was worth doing in the first place, it’s well worth doing all over again and lobbing in a bit of self-conscious showmanship. About three songs in Suggs is asking “Is there time for another one?” and, surprise, surprise, there’s actually time for about two hundred more. You hear the body of work that they created — ‘My Girl’, ‘Grey Day’, ‘One Step Beyond’, the appropriation of ‘It Must Be Love’ and almost two hours of immaculate pop — and you realise just how extraordinary history will deem them to be. The thugs can fester in the misguided belief that they can share even the tiniest little bit of Madness’ world, but for some of us, it’s the one time that a 30,000-strong karaoke session can affect and enrich. There’s nutty dancers weaving through the throng, some rather fine microphone aerobics and a suspension of disbelief that bobs like a gold balloon across the whole of North London. Madness can never record another song, but their past roars supreme. For them to elaborate on incisive allure would be to dissipate their vacuum-packed excellence. It’s a weekend to cherish, but perhaps never to repeat and, blushinghy, rather wonderful. Certain Mancunian historiphobes could learn a lot.Madstock? Not quite, but a brave stab at the pause button. Everyone needs to feel like their parents now and then.
Paul Mathur, Melody Maker
MIKE: It was totally pivotal for the band. Critics had never taken Madness very seriously, but after Madstock they started saying we were great British pop, up there with The Kinks. All of a sudden they were writing in the newspapers, ‘Classic English pop’ and ‘The classic English band’ and ‘One of the best British bands’ and all stuff like this, which is of course wonderful; it’s what we’d always wanted. It made such a difference.
SUGGS: The joy did seem to resurface for all of us I think.
WOODY: Suddenly we could appreciate what we had – it’s true that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
BEDDERS: We finally realised how much we were loved, in a funny sort of way.
WOODY: We came back to great acclaim, with an album that knocked Simply Red off the top. I was chuffed to bits. Absolutely delighted in fact, because we deserved it. We were the biggest selling singles band of the 80s, we spent more weeks on the chart than any other band and yet we’re still treated as a joke. No awards. Nothing. That gig was like a big ‘fuck you’ to the music industry and I’m incredibly proud of it.
SUGGS: It was very emotional. Especially when that sack of cash arrived at the end. You should have seen the tears in my accountant’s eyes.
LEE: The main thing was, by doing Madstock, I managed to keep the bailiffs away, which was handy. It sure beat living in a tent.
SEPTEMBER: Emboldened by Madstock, the band announce a festive tour in December.
CHRIS: The next thing after the ‘farewell comeback’ was that the band announced a UK tour at Christmas, which I didn’t want to do. So they said, ‘Ok – we’ll just say you broke your arm.’ Because of course the show had to go on, they had to announce the tour. So of course I did the gigs and enjoyed it and then off we jolly well went – we did Madstock…we did the Christmas tour…and we’ve been going ever since.
WOODY: The thing was, it was really enjoyable and we realised we’d come back together and enjoyed each other’s company and musically it was fantastic. We realised there were people out there who really enjoyed our music and had had a long enough break to appreciate us. There had been a starvation of good fun music in the late 80s and people started to take themselves far too seriously. Things had got a bit dull and there was a drought of people who just wanted to have a good time and play good fun music, which was our speciality.
SUGGS: In some ways, splitting up was a good thing because I was plunged back into the real world, whatever that was. Having a few years out of the pop business is good for anybody. It gave us all a reality check, so when we came back to the band we all appreciated it a lot more than we had before.
CARL: I’m just glad I pushed for the reunion because the band was so dear to my heart. I’m glad to have taken that step and hopefully the others are too… though probably nobody would admit it publicly.
OCTOBER: Carl leaves Go! Discs
CARL: Andy MacDonald offered me 10 per cent of Go! Discs Publishing as a sweetener to get me to stay as an employee with the label, saying I could continue with Madness and remain as an A&R man. My heart was with Madness though and I felt that I could bring my record company experience to the band. I also felt it was somehow dishonourable to pop off and play Wembley Arena and at the same time represent those acts’ careers. How could I honestly concentrate on their interests? I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and I learnt much, which helped both me personally and the band. All artistes who engage in the company side of the business seem to do well and I knew I was turning my back on a career. My first love, though, was Madness.
NOVEMBER 11: New single, The Harder They Come, is released
The Jimmy Cliff classic is Madness’s first new release in six years. Disappointingly, it only reaches No44 in the UK charts.
WOODY (speaking in 1992): I’m always surprised that people are always complimentary, that they always have something good to say about Madness. Even now, five or six years after we split up, people are always telling us what they remember. I suppose it might have been that endearing element, but that was because it was quite genuine.
NOVEMBER 14: Madstock! is released
The live album from August’s triumphant homecoming spends nine weeks on the charts, peaking at No22.
CARL (speaking in 1992): The reason we are what we are is we are seven little loners who got together, formed a little gang and had this group conscious, interest and sound. So when you get back together you click. We don’t have to hear the joke from Chris any more, he just tells us the punchline cos we’ve heard it 50,000 times.
NOVEMBER 19: Appear on Top Of The Pops, performing The Harder They Come from Red Square in Moscow.
STEVE FINAN: We were all sat around the table and had the BBC on speakerphone. They were saying, ‘Give us a good reason why we should put you on Top Of The Pops again.’ We’re all trying – what if we did this or that? And they’re literally going, ‘No, no, no.’ Then Carl says, ‘I know, we’ll fly to Moscow and play live from Red Square. No one’s ever done that before.’ And it was off the top of his head! Of course, Top Of The Pops were like, booked in, done. Organising that was just weird because they could only have one outside broadcast satellite in the whole of Russia. But again, Carl knew where the guy was. He’s quite incredible.
JILL FURMANOVSKY (photographer): Five of Madness – Lee missed the plane, Bedders had exams at college – and a small film crew went to Russia. I was invited along to shoot for You magazine. We met at a colossal building known as the Hotel Russia, which took up an entire block and slept 6,000.
SUGGS: The hotel was so big, I got completely lost in the corridors. I was trying the key in all these doors and didn’t know if someone was going to burst out and kill me.
JILL FURMANOVSKY (photographer): Suggs joined us for a midnight feast of ‘little snacky things’ brought from home, washed down with vodka. We spent most of the night behaving like school kids. At one point, Suggs and Carl removed the double-glazing with a screwdriver to let in fresh air.
SUGGS: It was really funny – it was almost as if we had never been away. It was just like it used to be – one of the band had ordered a load of dresses, someone else had ordered a load of Egyptian stuff; there were 20 different costumes. Mike was going to go on as Shirley Bassey but he decided that was too much.
STEVE FINAN: For the actual broadcast, I had to be the bass player. I was dressed up with a hat and gloves. It was freezing. When the camera came to me, I turned away.
DECEMBER 15&16: Wembley Arena, London
For the first time in seven years Madness embark on a domestic tour. Rejuvenated after Divine and Madstock, they switch from mid-sized venues to arenas, supported by The Farm and 808 State. Initially, only single shows are planned for each city, but because of the high ticket demand and the fact that London always gets multiple nights, an extra date is added on the 15th as the opening show. Controversy immediately rises as a group of neo-Nazis caught carrying a huge swastika banner during The Farm’s set are quietly ejected. For the stage set-up Madness use a bar named after ex-crew member Toks and a boxing ring, with Lee often wearing a boxing outfit on this tour. Before My Girl, Suggs tells the crowd, ‘This is a romantic song for any of you who are involved in that thing I wasn’t allowed to at your age. This is for all our boys and girls.’ Later, during Land of Hope & Glory he talks about the daily humdrum of peppermints and salutes Coronation Street. Lee forgets to play his solo in It Must be Love, while Take It Or Leave It is a big mess-up. Driving in My Car has two false starts, as the sample fails, with Suggs announcing, ‘Well, you know what cars are like.’ Bed and Breakfast Man is dedicated to John Hasler and Carl responds to the increasingly louder ‘Ole, ole, ole, ole’ chants by announcing that friendship is the best present one can give for Christmas. For Night Boat To Cairo, Lee is introduced as ‘a shy boy, happy to read, walk and eat seafood. He likes bull-terriers and sports’. Moondance, the atmospheric new song written by Mike, opens the first encore; Suggs and Carl prepare everyone by paraphrasing Genesis 1:1 – ‘And the Lord said, ‘Bring back Madness’ – and citing a poem on how Mike found the inspiration for this song. The result is a fine piece of dance-hall with a One Step Beyond-style intro: ‘As he is Mr B / So it was meant to be / I’m the voice and you are the ear / And together we will travel from here.’ (Despite sounding promising, the song will be dropped after the tour). Before the second encore, Suggs and Carl return to throw balloons in the audience. ‘You’re not numbers!’ Suggs responds tells the crowd. ‘You’re free men! More than free round there.’ Suggs quips that he’s going to pull the plug because time is running out, ‘but it won’t take too long, we’re just waiting for a little man, a sax player’. Lee returns during Baggy Trousers while doing his flying act. As an introduction to The Harder They Come, Suggs hums the melody of Singin’ in The Rain before the set ends with a properly played reprise of It Must Be Love.
One Step Beyond / The Prince / Embarrassment / My Girl / The Sun and the Rain / Land of Hope and Glory / Grey Day / Razor Blade Alley / It Must Be Love / Tomorrow’s Just Another Day / Take It or Leave It / Shut Up / Driving in My Car / Bed and Breakfast Man / Close Escape / Wings of a Dove / Our House / Night Boat to Cairo / Madness ENCORE 1 Moondance / House of Fun ENCORE 2: Rockin’ in A♭/ Baggy Trousers ENCORE 3: The Harder They Come / It Must Be Love
CARL (speaking in 1992): We’re going to make these Christmas shows more theatrical. We’re going to do what we’ve always fancied doing.
DARREN PARTINGTON (808 State, speaking in 1992): You can learn a lot on a tour like this about how to work onstage. Suggs and Carl have got the audience by the balls, so we’re here to learn. It’s been an interesting experiment – you’ve only got to see 10,000 people going mad to Baggy Trousers to know it can work.
DECEMBER 17: Conference Centre, Brighton
SUGGS (speaking in 1992): What’s important to me is that I’ve got a few bob again – not what happened yesterday, or the week before or two years ago.
DECEMBER 18: Ice Rink, Cardiff
CARL (speaking in 1992): At the moment, it’s a bit like that Public Enemy album, where you’re trying to re-educate a newer audience to what you’ve done before, so you don’t have to go through it every time.
DECEMBER 19: G-MEX, Manchester
DECEMBER 21: Ingliston Exhibition Centre, Edinburgh
The band’s comeback north of the border is marred by a full-blown riot started by a group of Hibs casuals. Suggs comes onstage to try and calm the situation, but his efforts are in vain. As a result, Madness have to shorten their set.
CARL: The trouble was more of a football thing, not directly connected to us, and involved a group of Hibs fans. The fights started during The Farm’s set – they had hassle the last time they were up – and were to do with petty club rivalries that I don’t understand.
STEVE FINAN: When The Farm came on, 12 of these guys started punching everybody; it was horrible. A mass brawl broke out and the doors were kicked open. They even came across the stage. I’m trying to lock the back door to where Madness are and they’re all pushing their way in. People are scared, getting away from the crush.
DARREN PARTINGTON (808 State): They’d come because it was a football crowd event – Madness attract that sort of audience. So the Hibs Casuals decided that they’d make a mark, let everyone know they’re there. You know, like, ‘We took the Madness’. All these blokes came running through the crowd with golf clubs and security barricaded us in our dressing room.
PAUL BREWER: I didn’t know what the fuck was going on – I didn’t even know what a ‘casual’ was.
STEVE FINAN: After they robbed all the merchandise, there was a decision: Do we carry on? The head of the Scottish Metropolitan Police turns up. I phoned Barry Dickins and said, ‘Are we insured for a riot? Do we get paid?’ No. I had to break the news to the band: ‘If we don’t go on, not only do you not get the money but you pay whatever it’s cost to put on tonight.’ Reluctantly, they were like, ‘OK, let’s try.’ I then had to negotiate with the police who said that they would only let the gig go on if they played with all the lights on. So they played with 300 policemen on the balcony looking down on the crowd, with people throwing darts up at the police. In the middle of the ruckus, by the sound stage, a guy of about 50 has a golf club swinging it around his head at people. It was the worst gig ever. No atmosphere, going through the motions. A pretty low point.
ANDY BARKER (808 State): I remember being shocked – I thought all that kind of that stuff was finished over here.
DARREN PARTINGTON (808 State): We weren’t used to it at all. I thought that territory attitude had all died in 1982. I mean, it’s bizarre, what did Madness have to do with that? They’re just out there giving it some; it’s like cabaret all the way but you can tell they’re into it.
DECEMBER 22&23: NEC, Birmingham
SUGGS (speaking in 1992): We’re all very aware that there’s a big difference between playing old songs to a crowd who are into it for nostalgic reasons, and recording and playing new material.
CARL (speaking in 1992): Yeah, we’ve never wanted to end up as Showaddywaddy, touring Australia for the rest of our bloody lives.
SUGGS (speaking in 1992): Finsbury Park was for people who bought the Greatest Hits album. But if we go on from here, it won’t be that again, because it would just be cabaret.