CHRIS (speaking in 2003): The people who come to see us vary in age, from the first time fans to their children, or indeed grandchildren, and also some that were only three years old the first time round.
JANUARY 1: It's the Number One Party, BBC1
To celebrate 50 years of the UK singles charts, the band perform a pre-recorded playback House of Fun, with Lee again flying through the air.
JANUARY: Suggs starts presenting Salvage Squad
The singer takes over from Lee Hurst as presenter of the Channel 4 show, which sees a team of experts restoring an item of classic machinery. Suggs hosts two series before the show ends in 2004.
SUGGS (speaking in 2003): I’m at a point in my life where things interest me beyond guitars and leather trousers. I fixed a couple of scooters when I was 16, but my role in Salvage Squad is to be a non-expert. I’m supposed to be the conduit between the experts, talking about fangle wangles, and I’m just the average person asking them what it all means. It’s illuminating to see people dedicated to pure expertise – it was inspiring going to the finest spring manufacturers in the world in Wolverhampton. I’m building up to a cathartic experience. I bought an allotment two years ago and I’m getting broody for a new purpose in life. I want a shed, with a few tools, a paraffin lamp and an armchair.
JANUARY 27: Carl is a guest on music quiz show Never Mind The Buzzcocks
FEBRUARY 14: Our House wins Best New Musical Award at the Olivier Awards
The show beats off stiff competition from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Taboo and Bombay Dreams to lift the prize. Suggs and Tim Firth go onstage to collect the trophy. Michael Jibson is also nominated for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance as Joe Casey, with Peter Darling nominated for Best Theatre Choreographer. At that evening’s performance, the cast change the words of Our House from ‘in the middle of our street’ to ‘won best musical today’. Suggs, Carl and Tim Firth also appear at the curtain call. The musical had previously been nominated for five whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards: Best Actor in a Musical (Michael Jibson), Best Supporting Performance in a Musical (jointly for Andrea Francis and Tameka Empson), Best Set Designer (Rob Howell), Best Choreographer (Peter Darling) and Best New Musical.
SUGGS (speaking in 2003): I’m absolutely overwhelmed. Your mind is just filled with clichés. You understand why people like Gwyneth Paltrow burst into tears and all that. I would never have imagined 20 years ago when we were sat around writing those songs in a smelly rehearsal room in Camden Town that one day, not only would we be in a theatre in the West End, but that I would get an Olivier Award. I think there’s been a certain snobbery about taking songs that are already successful and making it into popular theatre. And I think getting this today proves that it doesn’t mean the work isn’t sophisticated, or entertaining or theatrical.
TIM FIRTH (writer): My most pungent memories of the band during the show’s life were not to do with script but rather Carl giving me a kung fu massage on the floor of the stalls bar, Mike giving me a lesson in playing Our House on the piano, and Suggs giving me a Chinese burn on the left arm when it was announced we’d won the Olivier.
FEBRUARY 17: Appear on The Kumars at No42
The band are the star guests on the popular BBC comedy show, with the whole programme devoted to interviews and a ‘live’ performance of Our House. Veteran actor Leslie Phillips is also a guest.
MARCH: Suggs announces he’s to star in Our House, replacing Ian Reddington as Joe Casey’s dad
SUGGS (speaking in 2003): I’ve been very involved since the beginning, spending a lot of time at the show. I’ve always loved what Ian has done with the role, and he’s always joked with me that it could have been written for me. That started me thinking each time I sat through the show, ‘What would it be like in the part?’ So I finally thought I would give it a go. Roll on next year’s Oliviers! It’s a different discipline, but I’m going in with the full idea of thoroughly enjoying myself.
MARCH 14: Madness appear on Ant & Dec’s Show
Minus Lee and Chris, the band playback Baggy Trousers on the ITV programme. Host Ant McPartlin joins the band to sing, dressed in a pair of giant trousers.
MARCH 17: Suggs does one-week stint in Our House
SUGGS (speaking in 2003): The discipline of being in a band and being in a musical is very different. The discipline of being in a band is arguing about what trousers you’re going to wear, smoking a few fags, then going on stage. The discipline of being in a musical is rehearsing for months on end, twisting your ankle and being told you still have to go on stage anyway. And every afternoon being re-directed by the director over the slightest mistake you made the night before. It’s a constant reach for perfection every night and a very interesting discipline, and within that you have to keep the joy and feeling of the whole thing. Also, being in the musical means I don’t get out of the theatre ’til after 11, so you have a bit to eat and your lifestyle starts swinging round into later nights and getting up later. I sleep well – I can sleep for days. Luckily I’m one of those people who can snooze. Healthy, in terms of heart attacks. I’ve got all the other things wrong though.
MARCH: Suggs returns in I Think I’ve Got A Problem
The singer again stars opposite Bob Monkhouse in a second series of the four-part Radio 4 sitcom.
MARCH: Lee returns from house-swap in Australia
During his time Down Under, the sax player guested at Gold Coast radio station 4zzzfm. He played sets of his favourite tunes and Like Father, Like Son tracks, with son Daley and bandmate Kev Burdett also being interviewed.
MARCH 29: Charity gig, Royal Albert Hall, London
Madness play the last of six nights for the third annual Teenage Cancer Trust extravaganza, which had featured Coldplay, Doves, Eric Clapton and Supergrass on previous evenings. They are supported by Aswad and musical comedian Bill Bailey. Terry Edwards had been lined up to play sax, but is not needed as Lee returns from his Australian adventure early.
Lovestruck / The Prince / My Girl / Embarrassment / Not Home Today / The Sun And The Rain / Driving In My Car / Shut Up / One Better Day / Drip Fed Fred / House Of Fun / Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day) / Johnny The Horse / Grey Day / Our House / Wings Of A Dove / Baggy Trousers / It Must Be Love / ENCORE 1: One Step Beyond / Madness / ENCORE 2: Night Boat To Cairo
CARL (speaking in 2003): I’m pleased Lee came back as, personally, I hate performing or promoting with stand-ins. Apart from being a bit weird for the fans, it wears a bit thin – I like to take Madness seriously.
APRIL 7: Suggs starts five-week stint in Our House
SUGGS (speaking in 2003): It’s really hard work, and it’s night after night, after night. And you don’t have any nights off. You know, some nights I’d be behind the curtain waiting for my entrance, and I couldn’t remember if I’d done the scene and was I coming on at the end, or I was coming on again, am I getting my applause now, or is it the beginning? And you sit in this little room on your own and you have to have the show coming out of this tiny little speaker so you get your cue, and it’s a very lonely and rather repetitive experience. And of course, every single day somebody would ring you up and go, ‘Are you going round to Fred’s?’ Of course, you can’t can you? ‘Are you going to that party?’ Of course, you can’t. So your social life slowly withers and dies, and people stop ringing you all together.
MAY 3: Suggs appears on Jools Holland’s Spring Hootenanny
The singer performs Jack Of The Green, and also closes the show with Prince Buster, singing a medley of Madness and Enjoy Yourself.
MAY: Suggs’s run in Our House comes to an end
SUGGS (speaking in 2003): It’s been a very interesting process, a very terrifying experience and a very humbling experience. It was also very strange, because I played the part of the dad of the main character who’s actually a ghost. So it was very bizarre, because there I was, looking at all these kids doing our songs, actually being the dad of the songs, in inverted commas. I sang some of the songs. It was a very strange experience. I really took my hat off to those kids. You see those films like Fame and it all looks like a laugh, and there are those high leg kicks and everyone’s loving it, but it’s blummin’ hard work.
JUNE 5: Suggs, Lee and Chris appear at Tower Records, Piccadilly Circus, to sign fan merchandise
JUNE 28: Suggs appears with Jools Holland at the Glastonbury Festival, singing Oranges and Lemons Again.
JUNE 29: Corporate gig at Alton Towers for British Telecom
BT pay an estimated £1m to hire the Staffordshire attraction to reward its longest-serving employees and their families. More than 32,000 people enjoy free use of the park over the weekend. The party includes an open-air concert hosted by DJ Tony Blackburn featuring Madness, Status Quo and Abba tribute act Björn Again.
CHRIS: It was like being in a Madness covers band who were playing at the wedding of two sprightly 60-year-olds. My whole life flashed before me as my honourable esteemed and illustrious career flushed down the pan. I don’t ever want to do anything like that again.
JULY 4: Museumsplatz, Bonn, Germany
Madness headline a festival that also features The Stranglers, Skin and Aqualung.
Madness make music for the head, hands and feet. And for the heart as well. Vital as ever, the UK cult-band performed a Greatest Hits-set with no signs of wear. Right from the start (10PM) Madness electrocuted the audience with a healthy dose of Friday Night Fever, from One Step Beyond to closing-song Night Boat To Cairo. The audience rose to the occasion and actually so did the band. Every song was widely sung along and intermingled with “Madness, Madness”-chants as if it was a football-match. The fans looked as cool as Madness; overcoats, Dr. Martens-boots and punky bracelets dominated, and lest we forget, the archetypal porkpie-hats. At their best moments (from 1979 to mid-Eighties and from their 1999-reunion onwards) Madness offered songs about daily British life spiced with humour, irony and a hidden message. Lee Thompson’s powerful sax put the audience on their feet during classics like Our House and It Must Be Love which were loudly sung along. Charismatic singer Suggs may have gained a few pounds of weight, but it doesn’t show in his dance-antics. Born in 1961, Suggs has discovered his taste for all things classic and took the stage in a white suit. Cathal ‘Chas Smash’ Smyth appeared as Man in Black. Kinksy songs like Grey Day were performed well to the extent that a crowd-invasion occurred. The Museumplatz turned into a House Of Fun and it was clear to see who were responsible; a band who eagerly crossed the border between kitsch and self-parody, reality and nuttiness, and gave the people what they wanted. Conclusion; Madness make music for the head, hands and feet. And for the heart. Divine Madness, to quote one of their album-titles.
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JULY 5: Guilfest, Guildford, Surrey
Madness headline the Saturday night slot at the three-day festival, which also features Alice Cooper and Atomic Kitten on other nights. The band are joined by Steve Turner from Madness tribute outfit Los Palmas 6.
AUGUST 16: The Our House musical closes
After a ten-month run, the curtain comes down on the Madness musical. Despite its disappearance from the West End, it later gets a new lease of life on regional tours and as an amateur production.
PETER BENNETT-JONES (Tiger Aspect, speaking in 2003): The decision was taken with a heavy heart. It’s a terrific show, which well deserved its prestigious Olivier award and continues to generate a great response from audiences. But these are difficult times, politically and economically, and we’re among the casualties.
CHRIS: It just couldn’t compete with the big guns like We Will Rock You.
SUGGS: It was a hit, but we spent too much on the sodding production. And there’s nothing more cheery than passing the Queen musical and seeing it on for its 12th fucking successful year.
TIM FIRTH: Ninety per cent of the cast were in their late teens/early twenties, so it spoke directly to people of that age. Unfortunately, those aren’t the people who buy tickets to expensive West End musicals.
CHRIS: It was funny, but after it closed it went on to be really popular in amateur productions; people wanted to put it on all the time.
TIM FIRTH: It’s telling that when the rights were released to amateurs, the take- up was the greatest the publishers had ever known – almost entirely by schools and youth theatres.
WOODY: My wife still takes the piss about it. Whenever the musical’s mentioned at home she breaks into, ‘My girl’s mad at meeeeeeee!’
Woody begins teaching music technology and media arts at Hayes School, Kent. He works at the school until 2007
SEPTEMBER 7: Corporate appearance for Mastercard
Madness are hired for their second private event of the year, this time appearing on the same bill as Tony Hadley and Bananarama at the Palace Theatre, London.
SUGGS: They offer you more money for a night’s work than you normally earn in a year. It’s strange – you’re so used to touring when you’re a kid to make a living. But these companies are like the Emperors of old, finding musicians from the four corners of Europe to perform for them. Even if you have a few quid, it’s always good to have a few more.
SEPTEMBER 9: Woody plays with Madness tribute band Los Palmas 6 at a holiday camp in Selsey, Sussex
STEVE TURNER (Los Palmas 6): I’d made a mistake and allowed our drummer to book his holiday on the wrong dates, leaving us without a drummer. Our usual deputy was on tour, then I remembered when I played in Guilford with Madness that Woody had asked to play with us whenever we needed him. So I phoned him and he agreed. The day arrived and we met him in Selsey. On showing him a set list he told us that he hadn’t played Mummy’s Boy, In The Middle Of The Night or Believe Me for years, and he’d never played Cardiac Arrest live, so we had a long sound check. It was a great gig, albeit probably smaller than Woody is used to. He was excellent and a few Madness fans in the crowd were obviously over the moon to see him there. Woody said that it was the first gig in ages that he was paid on the night – even though it was probably slightly less than he was used to.
OCTOBER: Lee stars as Fagin in an amateur production of Oliver! at the Bull Theatre, Barnet
OCTOBER 29: Suggs appear on the BBC 6 Music breakfast show with Phill Jupitus
CARL (speaking in 2003): We are at the moment demoing an album of covers.
LEE (speaking in 2003): In the words of our management team, ‘It’s a tribute album not a covers album.’ It does sound good though.
CARL (speaking in 2003): Who knows? If all goes well then we’ll all be up for a new album of originals. There’s still a lot to do at the moment, what with the tour at Christmas and the challenge of making this year’s bash a bit more interesting.
DECEMBER 6: The Point, Ireland
The band play their annual Christmas tour. Billed as The Wonderful World of Madness, the tour sees the addition of extra horn players Terry Edwards and Steve Turner. Following fan grumbles about recent gigs relying on the greatest hits, the December shows are notable for some unusual additions to the set-list – Disappear, Victoria Gardens, March Of The Gherkins and Prospects. They also perform covers of John Lennon’s Oh My Love, Dandy Livingstone’s Big City, Desmond Dekker’s Israelites and Wonderful World, Beautiful People by Jimmy Cliff. Support comes courtesy of Aswad.
One Step Beyond / Embarrassment / The Prince / Lovestruck / My Girl / Disappear / The Sun & The Rain / Grey Day / Baggy Trousers / March Of The Gherkins / Driving In My Car / Victoria Gardens / Shut Up / Prospects / House Of Fun / Wonderful World Beautiful People / Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day) / Johnny The Horse / Wings Of A Dove / Our House / Madness / ENCORE 1: It Must Be Love / Oh My Love / ENCORE 2: Big City / Night Boat To Cairo
TERRY EDWARDS (sax and trumpet player): I mainly played trumpet, swapping to alto sax for two or three songs. I also played baritone sax on Wonderful World and soprano on Victoria Gardens. Steve mainly played baritone sax, but also played tenor.
STEVE TURNER (sax player, speaking in 2003): I first met Lee when he came and played with us at a Los Palmas 6 gig in Brighton. Then I met all the band at Guilfest and was asked to join the tour this year. I guess I’m just a lucky bastard. Playing in Los Palmas 6 is great fun but nothing I have done yet compares to an arena tour with the real thing. I pinch myself about once a day.
TERRY EDWARDS (speaking in 2003): About half of the musical decisions are already made, so if trumpet’s on the record I’ll play trumpet, like in Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day), March of the Gherkins etc. Lee is the main man, so the best thing to do is complement what he’s already doing – there’s no point in all three of us playing the same thing, so I played the higher parts and Steve played the lower ones. Some bits were arranged in rehearsal like the ‘festive’ bits in Prospects.
DECEMBER 8: Wembley Arena, London
STEVE TURNER: The best show for me had to be Wembley as until then I was a Wembley virgin. The chance to solo at one of the country’s most prestigious venues was an ambition achieved.
DECEMBER 9: Kentish Town Forum, London
Due to poor ticket sales, a planned second night at Wembley is switched to the Forum, which has a more snug 2,300 capacity. The Israelites and Swan Lake have now been added to the set, at the expense of Big City.
SUGGS (speaking in 2003): I thought by the time you were 35 you would reach some sort of plateau of grown-upness. I half hoped it would all level off and get a bit boring. But it seems to me that life gets more and more bizarre and surreal. I am probably more confused than I was when I was 18 about what it all means.
DECEMBER 11: Hallam FM Arena, Sheffield
STEVE TURNER: I loved playing Johnny The Horse as it gave me a solo. I also really enjoyed March of the Gherkins and Victoria Gardens. Me, Lee and Terry also learnt Primrose Hill, Keep Moving and Hall of the Mountain King, but they weren’t used in the end as we already had a long set.
DECEMBER 13: Telewest Arena, Newcastle
DECEMBER 14: SECC, Glasgow
CHRIS (speaking in 2003): We’re far more successful now as a live band, as opposed to selling large quantities of albums in the ‘80s.
WOODY (speaking in 2003): I’ve been surprised, it’s only been recently over the years that I’ve not been with Madness, people who are younger than me who’ve been saying, ‘I grew up with Madness and as Madness changed, I did or as I changed you did.’ And I didn’t know that before, I always thought, naively, people only loved Madness for what they were. It’s only years later that you realise that those type of albums, the more mature album, are actually appreciated by people but they’ve sold much slower and been bought by a different type of audience.
DECEMBER 16: Brighton Centre, Brighton
DECEMBER 17: CIA, Cardiff
DECEMBER 18: NEC, Birmingham
For the final show of the tour, March Of The Gherkins, Victoria Gardens and Wings Of A Dove all suffer false starts and Driving In My Car is performed without Carl. Woody loses a drumstick during House Of Fun and Carl introduces everyone in a Chinese accent before they close with Night Boat To Cairo.
TERRY EDWARDS: The whole tour was great. Dublin was excellent, and as I’d never played Wembley Arena before that was a bit special. I made the most mistakes in Birmingham, without Lee trying to put me off. The tour was very short, actually – only nine dates over 12 days – and I’m used to going away for four weeks at a time, so it was easy to enjoy.
DECEMBER: Carl hints at what will happen in 2004
CARL (speaking in December 2003): We’re currently demoing an album of covers. Hopefully next year will go something like this: Covers album released / songs tribute to our youth / 25th year of Madness / celebrate / everybody happy / pull original material from under seven respective beds / record new album / very proud and happy with result / who know what next?
SUGGS (speaking at the start of 2004): The Christmas tour was really good fun and we did a little bit of recording last year but, as ever, the problem has always been getting us all in the same room together. But we really enjoyed working together last year, and we’re talking to some record companies at the moment about doing a new recording.
JANUARY 16: Woody appears on the Liz Kershaw show on BBC 6 Music
The Madness drummer chooses four tracks for the It’s My Party section – Night Boat To Cairo, Madness / No-one Knows, Queens of the Stone Age / Black Hole Sun, Soundgarden / Unknown, The Carpenters. He also chooses three guests – actors Jack Black and Kathy Burke, and guitarist Steve Hillage. Woody then tells Liz about his full-time job as a teaching assistant in Kent, where he does music technology, art, design technology and media. When asked why he does it, he says the money still runs out despite the Madness gigs and CDs, but really it keeps him out of the house. He adds that no-one calls him Mr Woodgate at school, instead they all shout ‘Woody’ in the corridors and sing Madness songs.
WOODY (speaking in 2004): We keep it fresh by taking long breaks. When you come back you enjoy it and remember why it’s good.
JANUARY 23: Appear at fashion show in Paris
Madness help launch the 2004 Autumn Season of designer Yohji Yamamoto. Terry Hall and various members of The Velvet Underground also take part.
MIKE (speaking in 2004): We love playing, we love performing and we love the life. I had a ten-year break when I was living in Holland and I didn’t play at all. I was very lucky that I didn’t have to work at all. It’s not all plain sailing when everything gets knocked from under your feet. When I started working again I found it’s what I loved doing; I do really love this and I love making music.
FEBRUARY 18: Suggs appears on The Steve Wright Show on Radio 2
SUGGS (speaking in 2004): No one actually talks to me, I just get this, ‘Oi, Suggsy!’ Which must be a demographic, ’cause it’s all of them. Anyone in a van spots me straight away and shouts, ‘Oi, Suggsy!’ It beats having to chat, and sign autographs.
APRIL 1: Suggs guests with Jools Holland at The Teenage Cancer Trust concert at The Royal Albert Hall
SUGGS (speaking in 2004): We still have a lot of fun. We just took some time out along the way to re-evaluate why we’re doing it.
APRIL 14: Suggs and Mike play Hammersmith Working Men’s Club
The Madness frontman hosts a show at Hammersmith WMC to help raise funds for London mayor Ken Livingstone’s re-election campaign. Suggs and Mike turn in a brief warm-up slot with stripped down renditions of My Girl and It Must Be Love, prior to a set from headline act Badly Drawn Boy.
SUGGS (speaking in 2004): The digital age has really changed the way the music business works, but what hasn’t changed is the live experience and that’s what you get when you see Madness, that’s for sure. Playing live is as exciting as it’s ever been, and part of that secret is that we don’t play too often. We used to play for months and months and months on end, and I think that can kill your enthusiasm.
APRIL: Mysterious adverts appear in the Dublin Castle gig listings
Amid mounting rumours of an airing for the new cover versions, eagle-eyed fans spot some cryptic messaging in the Dublin Castle’s leaflets for upcoming gigs.
MAY 11: The Dangermen gigs are announced
After rumours of the band recording a covers album, Madness unveil their new alter ego – The Dangermen – with news of four concerts at the Dublin Castle in Camden. The news is broken to lucky fans who receive the following surprise email: ‘You are cordially invited to witness the debut performance of London’s hottest new ska combo, The Dangermen, who will be appearing at the Dublin Castle on 19-22 May. The band consists of Graham ‘Suggs’ McPherson on vocals, Chas Smash on nutty dancing/vocals, Lee ‘Kix’ Thompson on saxophone, Chris ‘Chrissy Boy’ Foreman on guitar, Mike ‘Barzo’ Barson on keyboards, Daniel ‘Woody’ Woodgate on drums and Mark ‘Bedders’ Bedford on bass. They will be ably assisted by the Monkey string section, a full brass section and various loop-de-loops.’
LEE: Our manager dragged us in and said, ‘Everyone’s doing covers albums – Robbie Williams, Paul McCartney – so why can’t you?’
WOODY: We wanted to do something that reflected our 25 years and go right back to our roots. It was a celebration of all the stuff we listened to when we first played all those years ago.
SUGGS: We’d had the idea for a number of years and thought a return to our musical roots would be a great way to get back into the swing of being a band again; to revive and rejuvenate the reason we made music in the first place.
MIKE: We had two ideas – one was to go back and do the original set that we used to do when we were kids starting a band. The other was to do a more ska and reggae thing, which is what we decided on in the end.
LEE: I didn’t think there was any harm in returning to the music we listened to initially. It’s not that we got tired of the usual style of Madness, but we found the idea of redoing reggae more exhilarating.
SUGGS: My idea was to get everybody up dancing like we used to at the Dublin Castle in Camden on a Friday night and then make an album.
CHRIS: Carl had suggested covering a song called song High Wire, which was the theme tune of the Danger Man TV series, so then we decided to take things one step further and call ourselves The Dangermen.
PETER RUDGE (manager): Lee had the Dangermen idea and they all bought into this defence mechanism, ‘Yeah! We’re going to do it as an alter ego’.
MIKE: It felt so different to anything we’d done before that it was almost inevitable that we’d take on a different persona for the project.
SUGGS: We thought it would be nice to do it under another name, so there wasn’t a huge expectation to hear all the Madness hits necessarily. Plus we didn’t have to worry too much because it was other people’s songs. So we could let off a bit of steam, keep our hands in and, at the same time, give our brains a rest.
WOODY: We thought doing a load of covers would make our lives easier. But when we started rehearsing we found that it wasn’t easy at all, because we had to bring some element of the band to it.
SUGGS: It went through about nine machinations. It was originally going to be our 1978 Invaders set with Downtown, For Once In My Life and Tears Of A Clown added. We did a few of those, but it just sounded like a disparate set of old Nuttiness.
WOODY: We decided we had to go out and play them live to get back to the roots of what we did; putting a mic on a piano and keeping it really simple.
CHRIS: To be honest I had reservations and wasn’t very keen on it from the start. It was alright, but I didn’t really want to do it. If it had been an original songs album I would definitely have had more interest, but the whole thing got on my nerves.
MAY 19: Play the first of four nights at the Dublin Castle as The Dangermen
The Nutty Boys return to their roots for a series of low-key shows, squeezing on to the DC’s tiny stage with three extra horn players. A kilted bag-piper serenades them onstage for the first time since the making of Take It Or Leave It in spring 1981. The four-night stint is a resounding success as they pound their way through an hour-long set. ‘Has this place shrunk or have I grown?’ quips Suggs. ‘It’s been 25 years since we last trod these boards but it remains a special place for us.’
Danger Man / It Mek / Shame & Scandal / You Keep Me Hanging On / Girl Why Don’t You / One Step Beyond / Big City / Wonderful World Beautiful People / The Prince / Israelites / Night Boat To Cairo / Dreader Than Dread / Phoenix City / Madness
Madness are on the stage – Suggs, Chas, Chris, Mike, Lee, Bedders and Woody all in their places dressed in a mixture of nutty attire. They also have a small brass section with and extra sax player and trombonist. ‘How the hell did they all get up there?’ I wonder, and Suggs is wearing a cardboard box over his head – an old Evian box with a pair of eyes drawn on the front and ‘Vocal’ written in marker pen above them. He’s holding up an Evening Standard newsagent display with ‘Beer Price Cut’ written on it to indicate the main news story for Londoners today and the roar is deafening. He throws the props into the crowd and there’s a scramble at the front. ‘It’s been 25 years since we’ve played on this stage…’ the crowd roars and cheers. ‘But we’re back for one last time.’ The band starts up and we’re off. I’ve lost everyone else but who cares, this is a private moment and one that you can have no regrets about sharing with yourself as they start into a song named after their alter ego for the night – Danger Man. It’s a classic ska track to get the crowd going, and every man and woman in the place is skanking to the beat. I can’t stop my feet from moving, it’s infectious and I’m dancing away alongside 149 other devoted fans inside the Dublin Castle. It’s simply too unbelievable to be true. I’m still clutching a can of Red Bull as the song closes to a deafening roar, and they launch straight into the next song, It Mek. It’s a great version of a great song and the crowd is bouncing. I feel like I’m watching it all from a television camera inside my head as I bounce in time to the band bouncing on stage. They may be middle-aged, but they sure know how it’s done. Another classic, Shame & Scandal, is belted out, followed by a surprising choice. In tribute to one of Madness’ inspirations, The Supremes’ You Keep Me Hanging On is sung and it goes down a treat. I can feel the sweat pouring off my head and down my chest and back. My top is soaking and my legs just can’t stop doing dancing, but my whole body is into it to, the rhythm of the music sweeping me away. The alcohol in my blood is pouring out through my skin. A change of tempo and now they are doing a track called Girl, a new one to me but it’s not enough to stop me dancing. ‘One Step Beyond!’ belts out Chas and my personal favourite track of all time is being played. One that encapsulates my whole life ethos, but it’s not the usual upbeat version, more in the style of the original by Prince Buster with its rolling sax and kasbah feel, and that’s where I feel like I am just as the first wrench in my chest wells up and there’s a fucking tear in my eye – I’m damn near greeting at a Madness gig surrounded by skinheads and Madness fans! The emotion of it all is being pushed through my veins like an intravenous drug, except this is better than heroin. Who needs drugs when you’ve got this? The tracks over before I know it and they are into more reggae and sing Big City, a song by Dandy Livingstone. It’s really catchy and the crowd are singing along to every word. It finished to great applause and they start their first ever release – a song dedicated to Prince Buster himself – The Prince. It goes down a treat and I can see that everyone is soaking with sweat, the room stinking of body odour from 150 dancing ecstatic fans. I can feel the chemicals from a day’s drinking being absorbed by the adrenalin washing through me. Even the walls are dripping and pumping with the passion for Madness. More ska follows more ska, and I see Rob Hazelby is dancing next to me. He says he still can’t believe this is happening but who can? I tell him that I’d been looking forward to this more than my wedding night and he laughs. The band are about half way through the set as I take a look at my watch. It’s all going too fast but it’s so worth it. Lose A Good Thing by Aretha Franklin is covered, and then another classic, Israelites, and it’s a welcome chance to get the heart slowed down and take a breathe of sweat-soaked air. Chas orders everyone to stay still because there is black man in the room. Then he says not to worry as its Gary Mason the boxer and he’ll have us all, and he raises his pint so we can see him and gets a roar from the crowd. A loud sax bellows out over the speakers at a deafening level, which can only mean one thing – Night Boat to Cairo. The crowd is bouncing out of control. This is one of the best tracks they ever did for getting a crowd over-excited. It smacks of carefree days when you were a kid and pulls out the energy from your reserves just when you thought you were running on empty. Swaying from side to side, bodies banging into each other, and a girl falls over but she doesn’t seem to give a fuck as she’s helped back to her feet. I try and think of how I’ll describe this to anyone that isn’t here but know that no one will understand it – you have to see it, feel it, be part of it. It’s a way of life, not just a fashion and the crowd are proving it with every pluck of the bass. Lee takes a dive off the stage with the saxophone still in his mouth but the density of the crowd keeps him afloat and he drifts back onto the stage. Lee then takes the mike and starts yelling and the band burst into Dreader Than Dread by Anthony B, which provokes more dancing. The song finishes and they play Phoenix City by The Skatalites. Then the band all turn and face away from the crowd. This must be the encore, and when they turn back to face us Suggs says it’s the last one. Already? I check my watch, sure enough; it’s well after 11 o’clock. They burst into their theme tune, Madness, and the crowd are trying to squeeze everything out what they know is the last song. I dance my heart out for the final three minutes, and then the band are leaving the stage and have disappeared amongst the throng of heaving punters. The lights come up but the fans don’t want to leave, chanting ‘Ole, ole, ole, ole – Madness! Madness!’ But they aren’t coming back. There would be no way back in anyway, so we all drift out slowly with emotion written on the face of every single person.
MIKE: We really wanted to go back to the way of doing things like when we first started. So we didn’t have a record company and we did it all ourselves, with Mark designing the posters and Lee sticking them up everywhere.
SUGGS: It was enormous fun playing that great old dance music again in a sweaty pub, and boy was it sweaty. The perspiration was pouring off the ceiling. And even though it was a secret gig, the people were rammed to the rafters. The current owner, Henry, is the son of the original owner, when we first started out. I remember seeing his nose peeking over the bar when we first played there, and now it’s his belly. I said to him, ‘Is there any air conditioning?’ He said, ‘Air conditioning? I’ve turned the heating up. I’ll sell more beer.’ A chip off the old block.
WOODY: We went back to how we did things originally – going in to the studio and rehearsing, then getting a set and trying it out on an audience. We needed to experiment on live human beings; the songs that worked we kept, the ones that didn’t we dumped.
MAY 20-22: Play three more nights at the Dublin Castle as The Dangermen
Celebs in attendance at the gigs include Mark Lamarr, Sean Hughes, Harry Enfield and Phill Jupitus. The setlist changes slightly from night to night, with Lose a Good Thing and High Wire rotated.
The band wander through the ecstatic crowd and take to the stage, reminiscent of Rocky or Prince Naseem taking to the ring. Chas shouting ‘Where’s my shandy?’ and Suggs wearing an Evian box upside down on his head with the word “Vocals” written on it. He throws this into the crowd and a huge cheer goes up. A second huge cheer is raised when he produces a newspaper hoarding poster that reads ‘Beer Price cut’. Then boom! into the set and the dancing never stops for the next tight punchy hour of great music. The band are more manic tonight than I have ever seen Madness perform before. They seemed pumped up and over excited by the event, the incidents of excitement continue as a mike stand leaves the stage grabbed by someone in the front row and passes over the crowds heads, briefly passed back it is pushed away from the stage again by Carl. (A number of fans tell us after the gig what a stupid thing it was to have something like that in the crowd.) Suggs’s discarded Evian box bounces around the crowd like a football. Lee later decides a stage dive on the left of the stage is in order and jumps. He is quickly pushed back onto the stage by the fans below him. Then If I wasn’t close enough already in the middle near the front, Chris sticks his guitar neck right into the crowd during one solo and it’s like being in a surround sound 3D movie all of a sudden. Wow. It makes for one crazy gig when you’re never sure when to duck. This all was the danger in the title then? Behind all this the music sounds great, loud and extremely danceable. As spinal tap would say they went up to 11 tonight. The set list being familiar to me and the same as Wednesday, I enjoyed the set all the more and got a chance to catch Girl and Lose A Good Thing. In more detail now I knew the songs. While the more well known numbers get the crowd singing. In an early rock ‘n’ roll style as the band reach the encore they keep their backs to the audience but stay on the stage. Lee then turns around to do the intro to Dreader Than Dread before Suggs and Carl take over. The noise level being so high Suggs gives up on the actual song lyrics and instead goes into lyrics from his solo track Fortune Fish before singing, ‘They cant fucking hear me.’ The sing-along that was Madness came around all too soon and at about 11.15pm the gig ended triumphantly.
SUGGS: It was a very exciting experience. Every night, we tried new arrangements, and then started to think of a list of songs that could be a good album. Everything started from there.
WOODY: It was amazing – although it was a bit cramped.
SUGGS: It was a bit like going back to your old school. It all seemed to have shrunk; all the chairs and the stools seemed to be half the size, and the room itself was certainly half its size.
CHRIS: Those gigs at the Dub were great, but I also felt they were a bit parochial. I wanted to do a tour of small places around the UK, blow the places apart, then record the album – but of course that idea got blown out of the water.
JUNE: Chris voices his reservations about The Dangermen – and Carl
CHRIS: We had a meeting and I said I would do the album, sign the deal, and so on, but only if Carl changed his behaviour towards our manager, which he said he would. But he didn’t. He was a problem indeed.
PETER RUDGE: Chris was agonising over whether he wanted to be involved. He couldn’t co-exist with Carl and thought the band was losing its raison d’être.
CHRIS: I’d never been keen to do an album of covers in the first place, as I felt it was too much like UB40. Suggs and Bedders persuaded me it would be tasteful and we did record some really interesting and unusual songs when we started, but they didn’t end up going anywhere.
PETER RUDGE: Others in the band were also uncomfortable with it – Mike in particular struggled intellectually and conceptually to understand why we were doing it. But at that time, there was no interest from anyone in a new Madness album and Madness, like any other band that’s had major success, were not cheap, so the return on investment was not healthy.
LEE: I was a bit against it at first, but we were at that age where you dry up in every department. Then I thought mebbe it would give a few quid back in royalties to the original artists who deserved it in the first place, which seemed to be a good enough reason.
MIKE: Different people in the band had different feelings about it, but with seven people in a band, there are always gonna be different opinions. Sometimes you just have to drag ’em along.
JUNE 5: Suggs starts a new Friday night show on Virgin Radio
SUGGS: I got a call asking if I’d like to host a Friday night show, like a big party. It was really good fun and it became the most popular show on the station. It was supposed to set off your Friday night, so there were lots of big party tunes. Bascially I’d just sit there with a few cans of beer, getting merrier as the evening went on.
JUNE 19: Corporate event for Vodafone
The band play a basic 50-minute Greatest Hits package for 12,000 Vodafone employees and guests at the firm’s Summer Ball at Blenheim Palace, Oxford. Other performers include Sheryl Crow, Blue and Elton John.
CHRIS: No bands like doing these sordid affairs. It’s just for the money, which wasn’t that much after tax. It’s hardly Sir Elton getting a million for playing for the Sheik of Araby or whatever.
JULY 2: Jaarbeurs, Utrecht, Netherlands
The band return to the Netherland to play a mixed set of Madness and Dangermen numbers.
One Step Beyond / It Mek / Shame & Scandal / My Girl / Embarrassment / You Keep Me Hangin’ On / The Prince / Girl Why Don’t You? / House Of Fun / Baggy Trousers / Our House / It Must Be Love / ENCORE: Dreader Then Dread / Night Boat To Cairo / Madness
JULY 8: Move Festival, Lancashire County Cricket Ground, Manchester
Madness headline the opening Thursday night of the four-day festival, which also features Ocean Colour Scene, The Stranglers and Jimmy Cliff. Again, the set is a mix of Madness and Dangermen numbers.
One Step Beyond / Girl Why Don’t You? / Embarrassment / My Girl / You Keep Me Hangin’ On / The Sun And The Rain / Israelites / The Prince / Shame & Scandal / Grey Day / Wings Of A Dove / Dreader Then Dread / Big City / Bed And Breakfast Man / Shut Up / It Mek / House Of Fun / Lovestruck / Baggy Trousers / Phoenix City / Our House / It Must Be Love / ENCORE: High Wire / Madness
SUGGS (speaking in 2004): We don’t do a lot of festivals and it’s always nice to play amongst your contemporaries to large enthusiastic crowds. The audiences are multifarious – sometimes we get oldies, sometimes we get youngsters. It depends on whether people are bringing their kids, I suppose. As a phenomenon, there aren’t many like us in terms of playing live and being entertaining to watch – there’s not much of that combination about at the moment.
JULY 25: Madness again play as The Dangermen at The Dublin Castle
Tonight’s gig features some new covers, including John Jones and Max Romeo classic Iron Shirt AKA Chase The Devil. Among the crowd tonight is Dave Robinson.
Dangermen / It Mek / Shame & Scandal / Girl Why Don’t You / Keep Me Hanging On / Skylarking / Taller Than You Are / Lose a Good Thing / Wonderful World Beautiful People / The Prince / So Much Trouble / Israelites / John Jones / Iron Shirt / Dreader Than Dread / Madness / Papa’s Got a Brand New Pig Bag
SUGGS (speaking in 2004): We’ve now got a short little set of up-tempo ska songs that sounds really good and might be very close to being made into an album.
CARL (speaking in 2004): We intend to play a few more dates to really work out the material and introduce a few more songs into the set. It also gets across that we’re not playing our greatest hits set. I hope that we can make the hardcore fans happy and hopefully introduce some new people to what I honestly believe are one of the best live bands in the world at this time. I don’t want to sound too bigheaded, but I don’t think people realise how good a live act we are. Some of us have also begun work on writing the next original Madness material – but don’t hold your breath.
SEPTEMBER 24: Suggs performs at Koko, Camden
The singer appears at the former Camden Palace, which has reopened following a multi-million pound refit. Backed by a live band, he sings Baggy Trousers, It Must Be Love and Our House.
OCTOBER 8: Madness sign deal with V2 for new album
Madness issue the following press release to announce The Dangermen album: ‘After a lengthy bloody and fierce bidding war frenzy between all the major players in the UK music industry, Madness have finally signed a one-album deal with V2 records at about 2.00pm GMT today. The album will consist of reggae and ska covers and will be due for delivery in April 2005.’ Chris also reveals that they won’t be working with Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley.
PETER RUDGE: V2 liked the covers album idea. They were entirely comfortable with it but maybe it was a tacit admission that they weren’t able to write new material that would resonate with the public any more. That felt a little like rolling over. We just thought the lesson of Wonderful was that new repertoire was not going to compete effectively. When you saw those live shows, ska hadn’t gone away. Madness were looking at those songs from the Trojan era and saying, ‘Why don’t we just take these and turn them into Madness-sounding tunes?’ just as they did originally with It Must Be Love or things of that nature.
TONY HARLOW (V2 CEO): We were interested in certain established artists who we felt were still making great music. I was an original Madness fan. I saw them at the Nashville back in the day when 2-Tone went off. We all got the short haircuts, Mr Byrite tonic trousers and a pair of Dr Martens.
DAVID STEELE (V2 MD): I was a huge fan of reggae and early ska, brought up on a staple diet of the originals which everyone in that 2-Tone era was doing. Peter Rudge approached me and said, ‘They’re thinking of doing an album of classic covers.’ I thought that was a great idea. They were talking to Universal but they came to us. So this was about finding the songs to cover and then finding the right people to record with. Lee was the true aficionado of all those old ska records. The inspiration definitely came from him. It was totally engrained in him. He was just infectious.
The band continue the selection process for the new album
DAVID STEELE: The band and myself made a long list because we wanted some well-known and some not so. We didn’t want to do a Labour Of Love, like UB40. It had to have proper ska, some great tunes. I loved that idea of them going back to their roots, playing small clubs and that excitement. These are people that you’re just proud to have on your label.
SUGGS: We really immersed ourselves in a lot of old ska and reggae again, which was really good fun. There were often songs you’d forgotten about until someone reminded you of another song that slowly led you there. So we’d spend afternoons listening to old records, which was really good fun.
WOODY: We tried different styles of music so it wasn’t just Blue Beat, ska and reggae – we tried everything.
SUGGS: We played maybe 30 or 40 tracks to boil it down to the final 13.
WOODY: The strange thing was, the process of elimination came down to what was really good fun and who danced to them, and we found that ironically it was the Blue Beat, ska and reggae tracks. It was a natural elimination.
SUGGS: The irony is that many of the songs had already been recorded in reggae form, such as You Keep Me Hanging On or even Lola. So even though they ended up a little Madness-ified, we based our version on the reggae cover version, not the original song itself.
MIKE: In the beginning it was hard to get the songs sounding really good, but then we kept working and they started taking on a life of their own. We were determined to play the music well and add something to the covers, there’s no point doing like George Michael did with Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me – it was hard to tell it apart from the Elton John version.
CHRIS: I think Mike chose Israelites, So Much Trouble In The World, Shame & Scandal, You Keep Me Hanging On and John Jones, Carl picked High Wire, Bedders went for Taller Than You Are, Suggs picked Girl, Chase The Devil and You’ll Lose A Good Thing and Lee plumped for Rain and Lola.
OCTOBER 13: Suggs completes his second, and final, series of Salvage Squad
SUGGS: It did seem a strange casting choice, with me standing in a field wielding a giant rusty spanner, enthusing about the restoration of a broken down combine harvester. I couldn’t even put up a shelf. But perversely, I started to enjoy it. I met some very interesting characters and went to a lot of interesting places.
Madness recruit new producer, Dennis Bovell
With Clive Langer not keen on the Dangermen project, experienced reggae maestro Dennis is recruited. The ex-Matumbi star has worked on myriad dub-based projects and also produced the likes of Orange Juice, Bananarama, Dexys Midnight Runners and Thompson Twins. The original concept is for Bovell to produce half of the album, with the rest overseen by On-U-Sound’s Adrian Sherwood.
LEE: When we first went and worked on the songs they weren’t really going anywhere, but then Dennis got on board.
DENNIS BOVELL (producer): I went over to see them at the premises in Shoreditch where they were rehearsing. I forgot my earplugs and regretted it – they were so loud but also really good. I knew Woody was fantastic and wanted to get a really good drum sound for him.
CHRIS: We’d already recorded a lot of songs ourselves in small studios over a one-year period, so we then recorded a kind-of final 11 with Dennis, who was very good.
DENNIS BOVELL: They liked a brew. When they weren’t needed, they were in the pub. I had the number of the local landlord to say, ‘Can you send the lads over now?’ But as far as professionalism goes, they were a great bunch of lads. They definitely knew what they were doing. Suggs would steam into it. But I needed him to understand what I would class as good or not up-to-scratch and it’s unnerving to make a singer stop every time he makes a mistake. So I came up with the idea of, ‘You know what, do it again.’ ‘Waddaya mean, do it again?’ I’d just let him sing it five or six times then go through and get the best of every performance. Once I’d knitted them together and he heard himself, he could go out and do it all in one.
OCTOBER: Carl confirms a rumoured end-of-year tour won’t be happening
CARL (speaking in 2004): We’re busy rehearsing and working out what songs will be put on the album, which we consider a higher priority than touring. We’re excited about making this latest album and the recording of it has meant that we simply can’t fit a tour in as well.
OCTOBER: Disillusioned with The Dangermen project, and fed up of internal struggles, Chris secretly leaves the band
CHRIS: It just didn’t seem good enough for my band to be doing cover versions. Our body of work is too good for that. We started off doing really quirky stuff, and then one day we’re back doing Israelites which to me all seemed a bit desperate. A couple of the guys were also doing my head in a bit.
DENNIS BOVELL: There was definitely some internal squabbling between Carl and Chris. He was like, ‘I’m not feeling this. I’m going through the motions but my heart’s not in it.’
DAVID STEELE: I think Chris and Carl just lost it with each other. Carl was in a strange place. He was massively creative, with a load of ideas and real enthusiasm, but he could also be mad as a brush and a little destructive.
CHRIS: I knew the majority of my work on the album was finished and I could have spent time doing some better guitar on some of the tracks but it was not a nice atmosphere, so I left. After that, the band did some more songs without me with some new producers.
The early Dangermen efforts are not well received by V2
SUGGS: The process was quite complicated because we recorded everything live, which was certainly nice, but left us with the impression that something was missing without being able to define what.
DAVID STEELE: The problem we had with Dennis was the band would go in there, smoke lots of weed and instead of being ska, it had become roots reggae. We didn’t want to just copy those old tunes, we wanted more excitement, to be contemporary, in the same way as the US punk bands loved their ska – like Smash Mouth. They all cited Madness as their inspiration so we wanted to give that back and a stoned-out reggae record wasn’t the way to do it. They had it in them because during those shows at the Dublin Castle, they were going mad, really sweaty – the energy of ska as opposed to chilled-out reggae.
DENNIS BOVELL: It wasn’t working. The record company were going, ‘Shall we get someone else to mix it?’ So they got in Segs and Dubs, two friends of mine who work out of south-east London.
The project is handed over to dance music producer Steve ‘Dubs’ Jones and ex-Ruts bassist John ‘Segs’ Jennings for mixing
JOHN ‘SEGS’ JENNINGS (producer): Suggs started talking to Steve and said, ‘Look, we’re a bit stuck with this Dangermen album. We’ve been doing it for ages. Dennis has done all the recording but the rough mixes weren’t all that good. Can you help?’ Steve came to my house and said, ‘I’ve heard these Madness tracks.’ Being a big ska fan from the first time round, I knew all the tunes and, although I loved Madness, this was them covering some of my favourite songs. I said, ‘It’s either make or break.’ Steve said, ‘For us or them?’ I said, ‘Well, for everyone because if it comes out wrong, it’s going to be terrible. These are great records.’ So they were prepared to give us the gig if we could sort the album out.
DAVID STEELE: It just worked a lot better. We got some of that energy back.
SUGGS: I really enjoyed Steve’s work – he helped us a lot.
LEE: It was a bit of a revolution for us. One day, he made us use an antique tape recorder, so we were a bit more adventurous than usual.
JOHN ‘SEGS’ JENNINGS: We got on really well. It cost them a bit more money but we hired loads of old keyboards for Mike, to make the songs sound more vintage. We worked out of a little room called The Toyshop in Miloco.
Additional tracks are added without input from Chris
JOHN ‘SEGS’ JENNINGS: The record company wanted more tracks so we recorded Lola and Rain – which was always a bone of contention – at a studio called The Garden in Hoxton. I’m not a brilliant guitarist but I’m OK at chops so I said, ‘I’m not being funny putting myself up for the job of being the guitarist on the session, but I’m here anyway, instead of you training up another guitarist.’ So that’s what we did.
NOVEMBER 19: Suggs appears on Children In Need
The singer pops up on the annual BBC telethon, recreating the Our House video with the help of various TV makeover stars. At one point, he pretends to play the saxophone.
NOVEMBER 29: Members of Madness appear in the 2-Tone Britain documentary, aired on Channel 4
Madness continue working on the album until the end of the year
DAVID STEELE: The energy behind the group was Suggs and Carl but where they looked for leadership and making decisions, was Mike. He was really the captain of the ship, who said little and never seemed to smile but was focused, intelligent, knew what he wanted. Woody was a really nice guy but just a little sullen at times. When you’ve got all those big characters, there’s not much room. But I really liked them and enjoyed working with them. A good experience.