SEVEN RAGGED MEN | 2013-2015
The story of Madness... in their own words
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Seven become six once more as Mr Smash decamps for sunnier climes and a solo career.

LEE (speaking in 2013): How we’re still going I really don’t know.


SUGGS (speaking in 2013): It’s amazing – our career has gone on for longer and been more successful than our original incarnation first time around.


LEE (speaking in 2013): Of course, it has its ups and downs…lots of up and downs… but I’m humbled that we have such a diehard bunch of fans.


SUGGS (speaking in 2013): I think the reason we endure is that we genuinely do enjoy ourselves. Our whole spark of creativity is a by-product of our friendship and I think that’s what people feel. It’s a genuine experience, it’s not manufactured. I can’t ever remember being onstage and feeling fed up with the people around me.

JANUARY 13: Never Knew Your Name released

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The Oui Oui… album track is made available as a download-only single, complete with a black and white video stitched together from live performances in 2012. Lack of promotion sees it peaks at No88 in the UK charts.

JANUARY 16: Nordoff Robbins Rugby Six Nations Dinner, London

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Madness follow the Stereophonics at this corporate shindig at the Grosvenor House Hotel, which serves as a warm-up to the annual rugby championships.

SUGGS (speaking in 2013): There have been so many moments of incremental success to get to this point. Two years ago we could have quite happily ended and gone our separate ways, then out of the blue we get the call to play on the roof of Buckingham Palace and the closing ceremony of the Olympics. And so here we are – still going and still doing whatever it is we do.

JANUARY 19: The Jonathan Ross Show, ITV

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The excited host announces, ‘The original line-up!’ as Bedders again rejoins the band for this appearance. After playing back their new single and One Step Beyond, Suggs and Carl are interviewed on the sofa by Jonathan.

watch performance

JANUARY 24: Breakfast TV, BBC

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Suggs and Woody are interviewed, talking about the Olympics, Jubilee and new album. On the same day, the pair appear on the Simon Mayo Show on Radio 2, discussing a variety of topics.

WOODY (speaking in 2013): We still take a long time to make a decision, but that’s just the way it is. You’ve got to go through seven people, and even then, when the majority have made up their mind and we’re set to go forward, we’ll then go, ‘Nah.’


SUGGS (speaking in 2013): But on the flip side, when we do agree on something, it’s done with great gusto.


WOODY (speaking in 2013): I’m writing more these days…


SUGGS (speaking in 2013): …which is really, really annoying.


CHRIS (speaking in 2013): We’re all writing songs these days. We all benefit from the great strength of Madness, which is that different people write songs; it’s not just one person.


WOODY (speaking in 2013): We all just write about what we see, and then it’s all down to interpretation by the others. The one thing we can all write about is experience. Opinions count for nothing – experience is the truth.


CHRIS (speaking in 2013): And because we don’t make any money from records any more, the real fun is getting together and doing new songs.


WOODY (speaking in 2013): We’re always writing, but the process is very thorough. All of us write, and in the studio we write everyone’s songs on a huge bit of paper, work out all the chords and try to record them all. It’s a process of elimination.


SUGGS (speaking in 2013): And of course we always shout at each other because it’s passion. With every album, there are fights; ranting and raving until the very last minute about what songs to include.

JANUARY 25: Taratata, French TV

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Recorded the previous year, the band playback Never Knew Your Name, after which Suggs is interviewed.

SUGGS (speaking in 2013): We’re getting faster, so we’re actually looking forward to making another album. We’re in a good place at the moment. As ever, we always try and have fun and have a good time, but we also mix in some sadness and depth. We’re not just the happy idiots that people seem to think we are.

JANUARY 26: MIDEM Festival, France

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Madness perform in a tent before 350 people at the music industry showcase in Cannes, which features 14 other acts, including Rihanna. Lee is absent for the gig, but Bedders is back on bass, adding to rumours of a full-time return. As well as the usual greatest hits, the setlist includes new tracks Misery, Leon, How Can I Tell You, Never Knew Your Name, My Girl 2 and Death Of A Rudy Boy.

LEE: I’d told the management, ‘Look we’ve done the roof, we’ve done the Olympics and done the Christmas tour. After that, I want to get on with a few solo projects of my own.’ I said I’d do the Jonathan Ross show, but then take some time out. So as I was walking out the door, Bedders was walking back in.

FEBRUARY 2: Britain’s Brightest, BBC1

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With Bushers back on bass, Madness play Never Knew Your Name in Trafalgar Square as part of this quiz show, which sees contestants facing a series of challenges and puzzles.

watch performance

FEBRUARY 9: The Liberty of Norton Folgate, Radio 4

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Suggs, Carl and Mike appear as themselves in this drama by Mark Davies Markham, which also features tracks from the album. The play tells the story of an Asian couple whose café in Norton Folgate is threatened by property developers.

MARK DAVIES MARKHAM (writer, speaking in 2013): Suggs, Carl and Mike just bowled up at Broadcasting House and we recorded their scenes. They were brilliant at playing heightened versions of themselves.

MARCH 14: An Evening with Suggs and Friends, Porchester Hall, London

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Suggs stars in a star-studded evening of music to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer UK. Compered by comic Phill Jupitus, the bill also features Jools Holland and Squeeze frontman Glen Tilbrook.

Phill Jupitus, Wilko Johnson and Suggs at fund-raiser

MARCH 15: Trianon, Paris

MARCH 22: BBC Television Centre, London

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Minus Lee, who is on holiday, Madness perform at a special farewell gig to mark the closing down of the iconic broadcasting building. In swirling wind and rain, they take to the stage in the car park, playing a short set in which they are joined by rapper Kano on Shut Up and then by the cancer-stricken Wilko Johnson for a run-through of Madness.

watch madness

LEE: I didn’t do the BBC as I was in France with my two sons, skiing.


BEDDERS: It was a bit surreal that we’d been banned from the BBC on a number of occasions, yet here we were playing the TV centre out. After the Olympics, we seemed to be getting a reputation for closing things!


SUGGS: The weather that night was dreadful; plant pots flying all over the gaff, the presenter’s hair at right angles. On stage it couldn’t have been any colder.


BEDDERS: I had hand-warmers in my pockets but they didn’t help. The strings
felt like ice pops.


WOODY: It was absolutely freezing and there was hail and snow, but it was a really enjoyable experience. We were saying goodbye to an old building that we’d grown to love over the years.


CARL: While it was cold, wet and windy the atmosphere was warm, enthusiastic and joyous. As everyone there was braving the elements together it made for a determinedly merry and infectious collective mood. I was looking out at all the faces during the show and imagined all the memories that were being triggered by the songs. That made me thoughtful and it was something else seeing so many happy faces.


BEDDERS: Wilko being there was superb too. It was a pleasure to share the stage with the man because his playing turbo-charges any song.

MARCH: After his recent live shows, and appearances at Buckingham Palace and the Olympics in 2012, Bedders rejoins the band permanently

CHRIS: After the Olympics, we played a charity gig with Bedders and he also spent some time with us recording two songs for the special edition of the new album. He also came to France with the band and played at the BBC. And there was one thing in common with all these events – he didn’t get paid for any of them. He just came back because he enjoyed playing with us. He’s a man I have the utmost respect for – plus he’s a great bass player of course.


MIKE: I used to think there was nothing to bass playing, but when we tried a couple of demos without Bedders it just didn’t work out; it wasn’t swinging. Mark came in and it was just effortless – he got it straight away.


BEDDERS: Bass players are a funny breed because they’re a bridge between the rhythm and the melody. It’s no surprise that they’re the ones who stand quietly in the background. They’re rarely the wild ones because they’ve got a responsibility just to hold it together.


CARL: A proud moment for me was seeing a technical music magazine for bass players, and it was talking about the difficult structures of the Madness basslines. I thought it was interesting, because when you think of Madness you might think that it’s all very light and breezy. But there’s a lot of content there, and a lot of thought goes into the structure and arrangements of the songs.


SUGGS: Certainly, when my accomplished musician friends try to cover Madness songs they suddenly realise it’s a bit more difficult than they thought.

MARCH 26: This Morning, ITV

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With John O’Neil and Kevin Burdette standing in for Lee and Chris respectively, the band playback a live vocals-only performance of new single How Can I Tell You.

watch performance

MARCH 31: Weekend Wogan, Radio 2

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Suggs and Mike appear on the Sunday morning show, talking about the Oui Oui… album and playing acoustic versions of How Can I Tell You and Oh My Love.

SUGGS (speaking in 2013): The most difficult thing for me is that when you achieve a certain level of fame, it is hard to wander and observe the streets in the way that I like. But 30 years on, I live in the same house and people don’t bother me any more. Ironically, I have gone back to being anonymous. Rod Stewart has only just written his first record for 30 years because he spent most of his life around a swimming pool in Beverly Hills and it’s difficult to connect with the average person if that’s how you exist. Unfortunately, I had the luxury of not having to exist like that but there were times when I got more famous than I wished. I’m not complaining because it facilitated my life, which is one of relative pleasure. My very favourite thing in the world now is to sit in a bar or café, watching the world go by. That’s why I hate winter, because it’s too cold to sit outside doing that. I get recognised, but people don’t really bother me. One in 200 will ask for an autograph.

APRIL 2: My Life Story, Kings Theatre, Portsmouth

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Suggs’s one-man show starts another lengthy run, this time visiting 49 venues from Cornwall to Glasgow before ending in Ipswich on June 2.

SUGGS: Ray Davies said his first solo gig was the first time he’d been on stage without having a fight, and it was the same for me. It was weird being up there on my own as I’ve spent virtually all my working life surrounded by six lunatics.

APRIL 5: Alan Carr’s Grand National Specstacular, Channel 4

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Madness provide the music for this one-off special, which features celebs including Jonathan Ross, Paddy McGuinness and Miranda Hart compete in horse-themed studio games.

APRIL 7: How Can I Tell You released

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The third single from Oui Oui… is a download-only release, complete with an extra live version and a demo by Carl. Despite being placed on Radio 2’s A list, it only makes the lower reaches of the UK charts.

APRIL 15: Deluxe version of Oui Oui… is released

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The band release an extended version of the album in a special four-disc boxset. The first CD features tracks not included on the album, including Deolali, 1978, My Obsession, Big Time Sister, (You) Can’t Keep A Good Thing Down and Crying. It also contains a series of remixes, including a slowed-down version of Never Knew Your Name with some verses in French, a soul version of Powder Blue, as well as a cover of John Lennon’s Oh My Love. The second disc’s demos include Mike singing Black and Blue, My Girl 2 and Never Knew Your Name, and Nick Woodgate performing I Got You (Kitchen Floor). Also included is a DVD of Friday night’s performance at the 2011 House of Fun Weekender, along with a live CD of the 2012 Butlin’s gig.

watch photo shoot

SUGGS: In deference to Peter Blake and his original idea, Carl had the idea of redoing the cover by bringing all the rejected titles to life. So Lee was Circus Freaks, Chris Deolali, Mike Man of Steel, Carl The Rake and Woody Dial ‘M’ for Madness. Peter himself was Moses in The Ten Commandments and I was Zoltar the fortune-teller from the film Big, whose machine prints out tickets which just say ‘yes’.


LEE: 1978 was a fantastic song. It was Suggs’s first completely self-penned effort and was very nostalgic, all about events in the late 70s. I wrote Deolali, which is actually a place in south-west India where they sent the war fatigued. So anyone who was a bit shellshocked was moved down there. I got the inspiration from the TV show, Who Do You Think You Are? It was about Alan Cumming’s granddad who rode motorbikes across the flats of Normandy during the war to deliver letters and mail, and the Germans would take pot-shots at him. After the war he went to Deolali Tip in India to recover and ended up becoming a policeman-cum-mercenary, going out to Asia to take on the rubber plantation terrorists. To pass the time off duty he’d go to clubs and play Russian roulette for pocket money. He was very well respected, but on one occasion he might have had one brandy too many and – kaboom! – he shot himself.

MAY 16: Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra, Under the Bridge, London

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Lee’s side project play beneath Chelsea’s ground ahead of the launch of their new album on June 2. It’s the first in a series of gigs over the summer as the band stretch their live legs.

LEE (speaking in 2013): With The Dangermen Sessions, Madness kind of touched on the stuff I wanted to do. But I wanted to do it a certain way, with a certain sound. The Ska Orchestra lets me do that. I approached Bedders first because I know he loves his music, then the rest were a mix of musicians and plumbers and what have you.


BEDDERS (speaking in 2013): Playing all those old ska tunes is a brilliant thing to do, but it’s an absolute organisational nightmare getting 10 or 11 people together. It’s meant to be a bunch of people we enjoy working with, and friends we want to play with. But actually getting them all in the same room a lot of the time proves very difficult.


LEE (speaking in 2013): Doing Madness and the Ska Orchestra can be juggled; it can be done. If it conflicts, the Ska Orchestra comes first. Madness helps me finance it though. Madness and the LTSO are like two carefree ladies of the night. One is young, fresh and vibrant and the other one’s tits have dropped, slow to get in the groove but rocks until the cows come home.


WOODY (speaking in 2013): I think it’s great that Lee is doing something he’s really passionate about. These solo projects are very healthy for the band because they enable us to express ourselves as individuals. They certainly don’t mean you’ll be seeing less of Madness in the future because, collectively, we’re on a roll.

MAY 21: Later With Jools Holland, BBC

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Lee appears with his Ska Orchestra and Bitty McLean to perform Fu Manchu. The band also perform Bangarang for the extended show later in the week.

LEE (speaking in 2013): I absolutely thoroughly enjoy Madness, but I’m behind a hat and glasses. It’s Suggs that’s really spinning those plates. I’ve got me sax, I’m climbing all over the place, I’m working that audience and the ship is nice and level. And with the Ska Orchestra, it’s just smooth. I haven’t got to worry, I know I can do anything: click my fingers, take a solo. They all know there’s no set plan. It’s good in a different way.

JUNE 2: The Benevolence of Sister Mary Ignatius is released

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The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra release their debut album, named after Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, a Jamaican nun who opened the Alpha Boys School in Kingston. She inspired many musicians from the Alpha school to become professional musicians, including future Skatalites Tommy McCook, Don Drummond and Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore, as well as trombonist Rico Rodriguez and Leslie Thompson, who went on to become the first black conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

LEE: The album is a tribute to Sister Mary and the would-be Rude Boy musicians like Rico and Tommy McCook who came out of the Alpha School in Jamaica and went on to write, play and entertain – and will hopefully get some publishing from the disc. The album was recorded at Pellanconi’s Ironworks, a studio that was brought to my attention by our piano player, Louis Vause, who had previously recorded there with Blur’s Graham Coxon. It was perfect for what I wanted to achieve. The album had that spring feel about it; that ‘up’ thing. I wasn’t trying to make it all polished, I wanted a warm and meaty sound and I got that.

JUNE 6: Gladness beer is launched

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A new Madness-branded pale ale is launched in a deal with Essex-based Growler Brewery and Signature Brew, who develop branded beers for bands and singers. The launch event is held in the Walrus & Carpenter pub in Monument, London, with members of the band pulling pints behind the bar. The 4.2% ABV ale is initially made available in 800 Nicholson’s pubs nationwide. Further beers called Lovestruck – described as a ‘hoppy amber ale’ – and a dark porter dubbed Night Boat are also launched the following year.

watch launch

LEE: We were asked to try out some different beers and put our name to them. So they were put in front of us and we duly tried them out.


WOODY: We worked on it for a long time, doing a lot of tasting to make sure we got it right. After all, it’s a serious business! Mike took it home and drank it over a couple of weeks, just because he said you can really get bored of a beer or lager after a while. He said he genuinely liked it.


SUGGS (speaking in 2013): We’re very proud of our first attempt and now we’ve got a great excuse to spend a bit more time in great British pubs.

JUNE 9: Rock Ness, Inverness

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Madness play their first festival in what will be another busy summer, with Paul ‘Fish’ Fisher standing in on trombone. Other acts on the bill include Ellie Goulding, Basement Jaxx and The Vaccines.

WOODY (speaking in 2013): I’m in charge of the setlist these days, which can be a bit stressful, especially when you get six other members of the band coming to you and trying to get you to add certain songs – usually ones that they’ve written.

JUNE 12: Armada Festival, Rouen, France

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During tonight’s gig across the channel, it’s the turn of Trevor Mires to stand in on trombone.

SUGGS (speaking in 2013): We will know when the time is right to retire. But at the moment it’s fun, we like what we are doing. It doesn’t seem like it will end.

JUNE 14: Chepstow Racecourse

WOODY (speaking in 2013): Us playing the racecourses means the punters win each way. We either help them drown your sorrows cos they’ve no money left, or we help them celebrate their winnings.

JUNE 15: Newark Festival, Riverside Park

WOODY (speaking in 2013): Over the years we’ve done a lot of festivals for young people and they all seem to love us. I’ve no idea why – we seem to have crossed the generations for whatever reason.

JUNE 22: The Reverend Green, Barnet Music Festival

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Lee appears in yet another band, this time made up of members of Like Father Like Son, The Dance Brigade and some current Ska Orchestra players. One Step Beyond and The Prince are performed by Lee’s son Daley as front man, along with Ian Dury’s Clever Trevor. During the show, Lee climbs to the top of Barnet Church Tower to blow out a few ditties to the appreciative crowd below.

JUNE: Misery is released

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The penultimate single from Oui Oui… features a Mr Benn-style animated video, which previously served as a tour backdrop. Despite its catchy sing-a-long tune, it’s placed on Radio 2’s C list and doesn’t trouble the charts.

JUNE 28: Newcastle Racecourse

JUNE 29: Daytripper Festival, Waterford, Ireland

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During tonight’s Showtime slot, Chris performs Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones, complete with the Jagger hands-on-hip-and-pout routine.

CARL (speaking in 2013): The audience were truly wonderful in Waterford – what an atmosphere! A real sing along and a great crowd who were so into having a great time. I saw loads of young kids enjoying the show down the front and it tickled me to get them all up for the encore to Night Boat.


SUGGS (speaking in 2013): It’s all very well playing to fat, bald middle-aged blokes, which is what our traditional demographic is, but it’s also very rewarding to play to a load of young kids and see them singing along. I don’t really care what audience we get as long as they enjoy it – there’s no ageism involved in what I do.

JULY 6: Carlisle Racecourse

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Chris is absent for tonight’s show, with LTSO regular Kevin Burdett standing in on guitar.

JULY 7: Nuits De Fourviere Festival, Lyon, France

CARL: Playing in the Roman amphitheatre in Lyon was such a beautiful setting. It really lifts the spirits when you play somewhere special. I’m a big fan of ancient history so loved touching the Roman columns – the tales they could tell!

JULY 8: Les Deferlantes, Argeles sur Mer, France

JULY 10: Jazz Montauban Festival, Jardin des Plantes, France

CHRIS (speaking in 2013): People come to see us and expect to hear all the old songs and have a laugh, but for our own enjoyment we write new ones, so we can put them in too. So it’s not exactly the same songs every time.


SUGGS (speaking in 2013): Each time we play the hits, it’s a joy for us. Those songs mean something to people. But now we play six new songs – which is the Warp Factor to get us into exploring new universes – and then we play the hits. You can have both. What Paul Weller does is great, transforming himself into something new all the time. But by the same token, if I see Stevie Wonder and he doesn’t play Superstition, I’m going to be pissed off.


CHRIS (speaking in 2013): I love AC/DC because they’re the same as us; they have those absolute classics, yet they’re also doing new albums, which are good as well. Yet you go and see them and you know they’re not going to say, ‘Here’s our concept jazz album.’ They’re going to do what you want, which is what we do.

JULY 11: Poupet Festival, Saint Malo du Bois, France

JULY 12: Henley Festival

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Madness appear on a floating stage, headlining the Friday night slot at the famous five-day festival.

SUGGS (speaking in 2013): We’ve managed to accrue a whole new generation by playing 40 or 50 festivals over the past five years. In England alone there are probably 20 more festivals than there were when we began. You’re playing to audiences who aren’t just there to see you. So it’s been very flattering and marvellous to see so many different age groups enjoying the band.


CHRIS (speaking in 2013): Quite a lot of people give their kids our records and they rediscover us. Walt Disney used to do that with his films, so every seven years he’d re-release them. So young people like us. When we play you get quite a variety. You get the older generation, and the younger, and they both enjoy it.


CLIVE LANGER (speaking in 2013): They are seen as an English treasure now. Playing all these festivals, getting through to the young kids. Everyone just sees them as an evergreen now, as opposed to old Madness. They’ll get their lifetime achievement very soon.

JULY 17: Sandown Park Racecourse

JULY 19: Newmarket Racecourse

SUGGS (speaking in 2013): It’s not the easiest endeavour to be able to make enough money to keep seven people going, but our workplace is healthy. We’ve got to the point where we’re doing alright. I suppose our rituals are now so ingrained that I don’t notice what the rest of the band are doing. We can change the setlist nightly if we wish. The main thing is to keep it exciting for yourself, that’s the way to ensure the audience is kept excited too.

JULY 20: Haydock Park Racecourse

AUGUST 10: Festival of Noise in Landerneau, Esplanade de la Petite Palud, France

CHRIS (speaking in 2013): We do very well playing live and get a lot of money from it and we also do albums, which cost a fortune because we’re too self-indulgent. Back when we first started, we made all our money from record sales, because the whole industry was different then. It was the tours that we didn’t used to make any money on. Now it’s all geared towards us being an arena band – not Robbie Williams arenas though. In the early days, 10,000 people was unthinkable. We’d go on tour for six months, now you just do about 12 shows, so we do a UK tour every couple of years and some of the big festivals.

AUGUST 11: Brussels Summer Fest, Belgium

AUGUST 31: Blackpool Illuminations, UK

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Madness perform at the annual switch-on of the famous illuminations.

SEPTEMBER: Carl rehearses for upcoming solo show

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The singer prepares to reveal his personal side project, which tells of his marriage break-up and subsequent emotional turmoil.

CARL (speaking in 2013): At this present time, many of Madness are engaged in personal projects, like Lee and Mark with the Ska Orchestra, Woody with The Magic Brothers, and Suggs with his one-man show and autobiography. But I think it’s healthy to express our individual voices. Personally, I find there’s a compromise when you’re involved with six others in the pursuit of creativity. So this new venture is an identity to represent a specific cycle of heartfelt songs that deal with relationship issues, falling in love and the pain of separation. The project began when I wrote two songs – Are the Children Happy? and Love Song No7 – in April 2005. I’d just separated from my wife and as the saying goes, I was feeling the feelings. When the words and music came I felt two things: one that I had truly found my voice and the other that I really was an artist. The songs were cathartic, so very personal and came directly from my heart. If songs can contain a moment and can capture the emotions, then these two songs contain how I felt then. I’d left my family home for the last time and saying it hurt doesn’t quite cover the emotional turbulence that consumed my every day. I decided that I would wait five years until I recorded and send them to her. I wanted to give time. Time to allow things to settle.

SEPTEMBER 13: Festival Number 6, Portmeirion, Wales

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Billed as Cathal Mo Chroi, Carl treats the audience to the first airing of some of his new solo songs, accompanied by composer Joe Duddell on strings and harp.

watch performance

CARL: It was very moving. After every song my heart was in my throat; I felt ‘why haven’t I done this before? Many of the audience were moved to tears. It gave me the belief to finally pursue a solo career.


ANGELINA WARBURTON (harp player): Working with Carl was certainly fun. He only did six songs but it was very emotional and afterwards he seemed very pleased with how it had gone. The overall vibe I got from him is that he’s very chilled out and definitely doesn’t take himself too seriously. It’s so nice when the people you’re playing for actually make the effort to hang out and talk to you backstage. It doesn’t happen all that often.

SEPTEMBER 14: Applepop, Tiel, Holland

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Appearing at this popular free festival, Suggs hands the microphone to Mike after One Step Beyond, who welcomes the crowd in Dutch and, in a couple of fluent Dutch sentences, wishes everybody a great evening, peace and love.

SEPTEMBER 15: Rockhal, Belval, Luxembourg

SUGGS (speaking in 2013): We’re living in dark times and things are difficult at the moment, and it’s not that we’re idiots, but at the same time we like to think that life is a very special thing. And that’s what we try to talk about; the positivity. And if you come to see Madness live, you’ll leave feeling happier than when you arrived. And hopefully you feel the same when you listen to our records.

SEPTEMBER 16: L’Olympia Bruno Coquatrix, Paris, France

SEPTEMBER 17: Sign new deal with Imagem Music UK

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Madness begin a new worldwide publishing deal that covers their last three albums – Wonderful (1999), The Liberty of Norton Folgate (2009) and Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da (2012).

SEPTEMBER 22: Northants County Cricket Ground, Northampton

SUGGS (speaking in 2013): Playing sports stadiums is always an odd thing, you keep expecting someone to tap you on the back and say: ‘Where’s your ticket son?’ It’s happened to me enough times in my life. It’s great we are playing places that aren’t just major capital cities – it’s what we did in the early days.

SEPTEMBER 28: Alexandra Palace, London

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Before tonight’s gig, the band invite fans to join them for the filming of a special outdoor rendition of Our House. The event is billed as a thank you to the fans and also to mark a successful couple of years that have included both the Jubilee and the Olympics. At the gig itself, Swan Lake appears in the encore. At the start, the big screens show a film of Mike walking up to the Alexandra Palace Organ room and starting to play the tune, before returning to the stage, during which Carl fills in with a jaunty whistle.

watch ally pally video

SEPTEMBER 30: The Magic Line is released

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Woody and his brother Nick – AKA The Magic Brothers – release their first album together on Woody’s own DW label. The 12 tracks are a mix of upbeat pop and lilting melodies, with Woody’s wife Siobhan Fitzpatrick on backing vocals, and their daughter Mary joining in on the sweet and catchy Sunshine.

NICK WOODGATE (Woody’s brother): The Magic Brothers project began in February 2010, when Woody came over to see me because I’d asked if we could write some songs for Madness together.


WOODY: Nick had been sending me songs for years and we began to get a really good creative relationship going. We were on the phone virtually every day, writing songs, sending stuff backwards and forwards and discussing notes and chords. Before we knew it, we had an album’s worth of demos and we thought, ‘Hang on, this is a really good body of work. What shall we do with it?’


NICK WOODGATE: Woody said, ‘OK, we can do three things: We can do them for Madness, I can put out the songs I like as a solo venture, or we can start a separate project.’ So we thought up a name and that’s what we did.


WOODY: After we made the decision to go in to the studio and record them for real, we decided to go for real musicians because there’s nothing like it. On guitar, we got in an old mate of Nick’s called Mike MacAvoy, who’d played with Stevie Winwood, Soul II Soul and Ian Dury. Then I went, ‘It really needs some brass,’ so I got Mike Kearsey from the Brass Monkeys. Then he heard the strings and woodwind I’d programmed and said, ‘Why don’t you get a quartet?’ So it just grew like that. I asked Simon Hale, who is an amazing pianist, and he said yes and then because I knew a bit about engineering, mixing and recording, we did it all ourselves instead of paying other people. And all of a sudden we’ve got this really brilliant album. Then another close mate said, ‘I can do you a website.’ So I went to see my accountant, because by now I’d spent quite a bit of money, and he said, ‘Woody, you might as well set yourself up as a record company.’ It all sounds very innocent but that’s because it was – all of a sudden I’ve got a record label and a website, I’m flogging the album and talking to press and journalists! Sound-wise, it was always going to be a bit Madness-like because The Magic Brothers have got one seventh of Madness in them. After all, I’ve had almost 35 years in Madness, so they were bound to rub off on me. But at the same time, it’s more kind of Beatles, Suprertramp, ELO, Pink Floyd – a very eclectic mix of music. Tracks like Part 2 are really sentimental and emotional, and then there’s You Don’t Have to Hide Your Love Away, which is all about someone who watches the world go by and has never ever been able to say sorry and pays the price for it by being alone. The one that I’m most proud of is the last track, The Magic Line, which is an orchestral journey and could be like the soundtrack of a Harry Potter film, but with drums and guitars. It’s got loads of soundtracks of 1970’s railways and police sirens and slamming doors; there’s a real atmosphere. We wanted to recreate the journey that Nick and I used to take to school in the morning, so we put all these sounds on it, to try and encapsulate our childhood.


NICK WOODGATE: Like a lot of the songs, it has a 70s feel because that’s where we draw most of our influences from and that’s the kind of music we wanted to recreate.


WOODY (speaking in 2013): Nick and I have already started to work on our second album. We’re a little bit torn between what we’re going to put on it and what we’re going to give to Madness because we’ve actually become quite a part of the Madness process now after writing a couple of songs on the last album. Madness will definitely begin recording a new album next year, and so will the Magic Brothers, so I think there’s going to be a bit of a bun fight over who gets what songs. It’s going to be great. So Madness will be in the studio next year doing the new album, and the Magic Brothers will be on the road, in between me being in the studio. It’s quite an exciting future.

OCTOBER 1: The One Show, BBC

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Woody and brother Nick appear in a video segment, talking about growing up, working together as a band and Nick’s battle with mental health.

OCTOBER 7: Take It Or Leave It rereleased

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The Madness film from 1982 gets another airing courtesy of Salvo, complete with a nearly complete soundtrack CD of all the tracks from the movie, including Fats Domino and The Four Tops.

OCTOBER 12: Esprit Arena, Dusseldorf

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Unusually, Madness are the support act tonight, warming up for German band Die Toten Hosen.

OCTOBER 24: That Close is released

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After several delays, Suggs’s autobiography finally hits the shelves, charting his life from bohemian childhood to playing on the roof of Buckingham Palace. It is promoted with a couple of personal signings in London bookshops and an appearance on Later…with Jools Holland. On the latter, Suggs says the title comes from the song he wrote, being that close to success and that close to a crashing disaster: ‘It’s the story of my life. You never know which way things will go.’

SUGGS: Writing songs is very different to writing prose, so it took me a long time. Once I’d started I thought, ‘Fuck me, it’s hard.’ The fun times were easy to get down but trying to remember names and dates and places was quite difficult. That’s why I didn’t write it in any chronological order; I just wrote the things that came into my mind most clearly and then tried to make some sense out of it all. That’s why it does jump round a lot. I also wanted to write it myself as I have my own voice. The celebrity biographies I’ve read, you can tell when they’ve been ghost written, so I didn’t want to do it with a ghost writer. It’s my life and I wanted to be true to it. That’s also why it’s just about my friends and laughing about stupid things and how Graham McPherson become Suggs. It shows how everything that happened in my life was for a reason, and I’m where I am in the world today because of all those things. My upbringing could have been sensationalised as some horror or other, but it really wasn’t. I was as happy as a sandboy most of the time. It was my life passing by. I’ve loved my life, the crazed bohemian bit, the family bit, the band, everything. I’m Celtic. I’m always happy. Except for days when I don’t want to get out of bed.


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Suggs and Woody make another appearance on the Saturday morning football show, talking about their solo projects and their mutual love of Chelsea.

NOVEMBER 11: La Luna released as a single

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The band release another track from the Oui Oui… album. Like the others, it fails to seriously trouble the charts.

SUGGS (speaking in 2013): If we just knocked out any old crap then we wouldn’t be held in high regard. Releasing new material adds to the pot of being perceived as a working band again, we aren’t just lolling on the lilo of novelty, we’re actually sailing around a bit on our own steam.

NOVEMBER 12/13: Children in Need, BBC TV

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Madness take to the stage at the Hammersmith Apollo for the annual telethon fundraiser. They perform two numbers – Baggy Trousers and My Girl II – with hip hop duo Rizzle Kicks joining them for the former.

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NOVEMBER: House of Fun rehearsals begin

CHRIS (speaking in 2013): Yes, we’re doing Butlin’s again, which sounds horrendous, and is exactly what I thought when we were offered it. But it’s actually really good because we have films on, and DJs like Norman Jay and Don Letts. We have a lot of really good people on and lots of stuff happening. It’s such a good laugh I actually stay there. The first year they got us this hotel which was in this nice little village but you couldn’t get a phone signal and there were no restaurants. So now you just go out with your lovely fans, get blotto, and they see what an idiot you are. Obviously I couldn’t do it for a week, but a three-day thing is OK.

NOVEMBER 22-25: House of Fun Weekender, Minehead

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For the third annual get-together, fans are treated to a full rendition of The Liberty of Norton Folgate on Friday night, including debut airings of Rainbows and Africa. The following night, the fancy dress theme is song titles as the band play their usual Greatest Hits set, along with the addition of In The Middle Of The Night, Close Escape and Razor Blade Alley. Along with the weekend line-up of comedians and DJs, this year’s other live acts include Gorgeous George, Buster Shuffle, Little Roy and The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra, who play on Sunday afternoon. Woody also takes time out to sign Magic Brothers albums on Saturday afternoon. One highlight is a screening of Take It Or Leave It, after which Chris and Bedders appear for a Q&A.

MIKE KEARSEY (trombonist, speaking in 2013): The Friday night gig felt like a homecoming. There had been a lot of rehearsal and preparation before the gig as the album had never been performed live in its entirety before – we’d done most of it for the Hackney shows but had never attempted Africa or Rainbows live. Because of this there was a real sense of occasion and excitement before and during the show and I hope that came across to the amazing audience on the night.


WOODY (speaking in 2013): It’s been very rewarding but there’s a hell of a lot of work that goes in to trying to get one show done. People say to us, ‘Why don’t you do the first two albums?’ which is all very well, but we’ve got to learn them. It takes quite an effort to remember them all, you know, apart from being old and not having very good brain cells anymore, it’s actually tougher than you think. A hell of a lot of effort goes into that one show on the Fri. You would like to take that Fri show on into other shows because you’ve put all that effort into it and then a song you’ve never played for years you might never do again.

DECEMBER 1: My Life Story, Garrick Theatre, London

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Suggs begins a four-night run of his one-man stage show, playing on successive Sundays.

SUGGS (speaking in 2013): I have a suspicion that if I don’t have a few tequila shots before I go onstage I won’t be quite as lubricated in the joints. Tequila and orange juice is the secret of keeping those limbs loose.

DECEMBER 31: New Year’s Eve Festival, Dublin

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Madness end the year by headlining a bill that includes Ryan Sheridan and the original Sugababes line-up. On the same night, the Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra appear on Jools Holland’s annual Hootenanny, performing Bangarang and No No No with special guest Dawn Penn, in a segment recorded in mid-December.

SUGGS (speaking in December 2013): We’re more excited about what we’re doing now than we were in the 80s. We’re back in the frame and there’s still a chance for us to do pop music without being seen as old fools. The plan now is to make another album next year and then do a really big Christmas tour.