JANUARY: New book project announced
Madness announce that their first authorised book, Before We Was We, will be released in September. Written in the band’s own words, the book will cover the early days of each member, from childhood to 1979. The title comes from an as-yet unrecorded song by Lee that was considered for House of Fun back in 2011.
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): We’d been talking about a book for a while, but everyone already knows all the what, when and where about us and our records. So instead we decided to make a book about before all of that, when we were a bunch of young rapscallions. It’s a kind of prequel if you like.
CHRIS (speaking in 2019): I didn’t really want to do a book, cos I didn’t want to start saying, ‘Well he got on my nerves’ and all that kind if thing. In fact, I don’t think anyone really wanted to do a book, so we were arguing about it. Then Bedders said, ‘Well, why don’t we do it from when we were kids up until Madness started?’ And everyone went, ‘Yeah!’ We all got interviewed for it and the guy who was writing it said the people transcribing the interviews were in hysterics at some of the stories – I mean, can you imagine Thommo’s?
The band reveal that despite some new material, a 40th anniversary album looks unlikely in 2019.
CHRIS (speaking in January 2019): We kind of missed the boat on a new album. I really wanted to do it, but we should have recorded it last year. We do have one or two new songs, so we might put something out, but The Specials have beaten us to it with their new album really.
FEBRUARY: 40th anniversary tour dates revealed
Billed as ‘A day at the races and other places’, the band unveil a mammoth 27-date schedule between May and August, which includes racecourses, festivals and a special concert with a full orchestra in London on June 15. Further dates are added later in the year as the band pull out all the stops for their 40th celebrations – dubbed ‘XL’.
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): We’ve seen off eight Prime Ministers, 12 England managers and a nasty bout of lumbago. But it’s not the endless achievements, not the unforgettable memories, it’s the fact we’re even still alive and miraculously in the rudest of health, thanks for asking. So raise your glasses, lower your swords and ‘arise sir Madness!’ Get stuck in – here’s to the next 40.
MARCH: A revival of the Our House musical is discussed
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): We’re currently talking about bringing the musical back. The problem was that when we put it out the first time it was such an expensive production, as we wanted it to be the best it could be, and so the expenses were crippling. Now it’s the most popular amateur musical being performed, with probably 40 versions on at any time in England, so we’re trying to work out a way of revitalising the production.
MARCH 27: One Man’s Madness wins Vive le Rock Award
Lee’s rockumockudocumentary picks up the gong for Film of the Year at the magazine’s awards ceremony in London. During his acceptance speech with director Jeff Baynes, Lee pays tribute to The Beat’s Ranking Roger, who had died a few days earlier aged just 56.
MARCH 27: Rock ‘N’ Roll Book Club, The Union, Soho, London
Following the successful event in Camden the previous year, Bedders and author and occasional band-mate Terry Edwards once again take to the stage to discuss One Step Beyond and the band’s early career.
APRIL 13: Record Store Day
To mark the annual vinyl collectors’ jamboree, Madness release a Nutty Train-shaped picture disc featuring the original 7” version of One Step Beyond, the 2009 remastered version, plus Italian and Spanish versions of the track. It’s so popular, it enters the vinyl singles chart at No3.
APRIL 28: Love Letter to London, Hoxton Hall, London
Suggs records the first two parts of a new four-part show for Radio 4, sharing his fondest memories of certain parts of the city in front of a live audience. The first episode sees him talking about the different characters and places in Soho, before he’s joined by special guest Paul Weller for a performance of Nobody’s Fool by The Kinks. He also discusses Shoreditch and Spitalfields for a second show, singing The Liberty of Norton Folgate. Two further episodes are recorded on May 5, this time talking about Hampstead and the band’s early days, with Boy George as the star guest and Suggs performing The Old Bull and Bush. The second part discusses Camden, with special guest Jazzie B from Soul II Soul. The shows are aired on consecutive Wednesdays, starting on May 15.
MAY: Bedders and composer David Arnold begin work on refining the string arrangements for the upcoming orchestral gig at Kenwood House in Hampstead.
BEDDERS (speaking in May 2019): The process started at the end of last year. We were thinking about the different types of events we could do for XL/40th and then the offer to do Kenwood came in. Kenwood is a special place for the band; we all have memories, as kids, of the music concerts there. The concerts were mainly classical, so it didn’t take much of a leap to think that if we played there we should have some kind of orchestral element so it would be in the tradition of the place. In the New Year I contacted the film and TV composer David Arnold and asked if he fancied doing the orchestral arrangements for some of our songs. David did the soundtrack for the film Independence Day and some of the Bond films and the music for Sherlock on TV, so he’s a busy man. Luckily he could fit us in and we met him and set about choosing the songs to do. Never easy, but I think we have a good mix of classics; some things we rarely play and a couple of surprises. We’ll also be doing some songs without the orchestra. It will be technically difficult as we have to get the balance right between us and the orchestra and have to get the overall sound balance right, so everyone out front, can hear what’s going on. The nature of playing with so many people means that we won’t have much time to rehearse as a complete outfit.
MAY 11: Dave Robinson on 6 Music
The former Stiff boss appears on the Tom Robinson show, discussing his career. He also plays the new Madness version of John Lennon classic Oh My Love, which he’s mixed, and says he’s currently trying to persuade the band to release it.
DAVE ROBINSON (talking in May 2019): It’s a cracker. I really think it should be released as a single, but we’ll see what the group think.
MAY 12: Sunday With Miriam, RTE Radio 1
Suggs appears via phone on the Irish radio show, talking about his long-lost sister Julie, who lived in Dublin, and the band’s upcoming gig at Dun Laoghaire in June.
MAY 13: Madness exhibition, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
A small selection of Madness memorabilia goes on display at the V&A’s theatre and performance galleries. Items include the newspaper suit from the (Waiting For) The Ghost Train video – jacket courtesy of Lee, trousers belonging to Suggs – and Lee’s union flag kilt and saxophone from the Olympics closing ceremony in 2012. Also on display are sheet music, the compete run of the Nutty Boys comic, a script for Our House and a collection of badges, posters and tour T-shirts.
SIMON SLADEN (V&A senior curator, speaking in 2019): It’s wonderful to welcome the Nutty Boys to the V&A. Madness’s influences are as varied as our collections themselves, from music hall to variety, ska to two-tone, with their impressive career encompassing not only a film and chart-topping singles and albums but also inspiring a stage musical. They play with, and are a part of, British iconography and continue to entertain us 40 years after first getting together in Camden.
MAY 16: An Evening with Dave Robinson, Mirth, Marvel and Maud, London
The former Stiff supremo takes part in a special discussion as part of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Book Club series, talking about the history of his iconic record label before fielding questions.
DAVE ROBINSON (talking in 2019): The show is me showing some videos and then telling the stories behind the records, with a bit of a Q&A afterwards. It’s all based around the humour of the situation because even in a terrible week at Stiff it was still funny.
MAY 17: Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool
The band kick off their mammoth ‘40 years of Madness’ celebratory tour in the north west, with One Better Day making a welcome return to the standard summer setlist. One Step Beyond is also restored as the gig’s opener, with Suggs shouting the shorter 7” single version of Carl’s famous intro. Also featured are two new songs – Bullingdon Boys and In My Street – now freshly polished from their outings at Butlin’s and the Christmas tour in 2018. At one point Suggs asks the assembled racegoers, ‘Did anyone have any winners tonight? My old mum said you never see an undertaker or a bookmaker riding home on a bike.’
One Step Beyond / Embarrassment / The Prince / NW5 / My Girl / My Girl 2 / The Sun and the Rain / Bullingdon Boys / Wings of a Dove / Driving in my Car / One Better Day / Bed and Breakfast Man / In My Street / Shut Up / Mr Apples / House of Fun / Baggy Trousers / Our House / It Must Be Love / ENCORE: Madness / Night Boat to Cairo
Without doubt, Madness have grown into their six-piece persona, enhanced by brass section and percussion, and here was an animal glowing with confidence and honed to nigh on perfection. A line of four held court across the front: a handsomely bewhiskered Thommo in dapper grey checked suit, Suggs maintaining his style and energy, Bedders padding upstage and downstage as cool as you like and Chris standing firm to our right. Mike and Woody were pleasingly close too, nobody was lost in the background and this truly felt like a unit. As expected, One Step Beyond opened proceedings and, yes, the commanding holler of one erstwhile Mr Smash leaves its mark even in its absence but a suitable compromise has now been found. Suggs offered the shortened 7” version of the intro without fuss or preamble and the vintage juggernaut did the rest. Lee’s lungs appeared to be in fine form and the audience was up and moving immediately. Embarrassment and The Prince followed briskly minus any banter in between and these early classics found the crowd in lusty voice. Talking of voices, it soon became clear (in my opinion at least) that Suggs was in tune, on form and revelling in it. One or two of his by now rather hackneyed links cropped up but his banter felt relaxed and spontaneous. I haven’t heard him sound better in quite some time, and this from a supporter who has always remained happy with him anyway. Meanwhile, Lee has made that second frontman role his own and he amused throughout with an array of random noises and quips which, along with well- judged and delivered backing vocal, supplemented his full-bodied sax attack very well indeed, thank you very much! The plan was clearly to offer a nice spread of the whole Madness career, barring the mid-80s brace of Mad Not Mad and The Madness which comes as no surprise but which I would love to see a hint of here and there. As ever, the debut album weighs in with a seemingly unshiftable Big Six of the afore mentioned One Step Beyond and The Prince along with My Girl, Bed and Breakfast Man and two others that I shall arrive at in time. Absolutely was also represented beyond the one track, a strong rendition of Embarrassment and the crowd igniting Baggy Trousers being no surprise to anyone, but the other albums were represented in the singular with Shut Up there on behalf of 7 during that last third all killer, no filler section and Our House performed majestically for The Rise and Fall. All traces of Wonderful and Dangermen had vanished in favour of variety and I won’t argue as that included the return of a personal favourite, the sublime One Better Day from the equally fine 1984 collection Keep Moving. It was an absolute joy to hear it and interesting to hear Mike’s variations on the keys there. The years 1982-83 also proved popular with (in addition to the previously name-checked Our House) lively versions of House of Fun, Driving in My Car, Wings of a Dove and The Sun and the Rain. Driving… might be the one that I would be prepared to lose but it seemed clear that the set list was aimed squarely at big hits remaining firmly in the consciousness of the general music fan. No arguing with that, these are the tunes that really encouraged the movement of bodies and feet and full-throated singing along. At the same time, it was lovely to have the 21st Century albums represented: NW5 offered an emotive singalong and is now a song that deservedly feels like a long-time Madness classic, My Girl 2 swung along like a turbo charged Motown number and Mr Apples, enhanced by the promo video projected behind continues to build its reputation. New material was represented by Bullingdon Boys and In My Street and both feel as if they are taking a firm final shape and bode well for new recordings. I witnessed no restlessness or disappointment during the new numbers and they fitted in nicely, the social and political commentary, the mid-tempo, middle-aged version of that Nutty sound’. The highlight of an evening of highlights came late on for us though. We had moved back to front centre after a few tracks, the hill at the side being too full of drunken picnickers, the incline too treacherous to dance on. Back with young Cai and co. we discovered that my daughter Tilly was cordially invited to join the band on stage for the traditional kiddie invasion during Night Boat to Cairo! Told that we should make ourselves ready after It Must Be Love (a touching and heartfelt rendition during which band and crowd really did come together in a metaphorical embrace). This we did, but as the expected refrain of Madness began, we were still waiting. The Night Boat was already setting sail when the PR men gave the security a nod and four kids were lifted over the barriers. Before we knew it, the party fun in an Egyptian vein was drawing to a knackered close and there they were, the next generation of Madhead, centre stage to the left of Lee. How can I tell you? I’ve loved this band for four decades, I’ve interviewed them, I’ve chatted to them, I’ve bought some of them drinks (no prizes for guessing which) and I’ve counted myself blessed that my heroes were worth meeting. But to see my own flesh and blood pogoing away, six years old, in flowery DMs…our own Tilly, with Suggs placing his hands fondly on her shoulders and then copying her jumping moves! That’s the ultimate, my friends. Then she came back over the fence to us as Madness left the stage and our daughter, raving about how wonderful the band were, how great the night had been, was a microcosmic example of the entire crowd. This first race of many in Year XL was won with aplomb and I envy the crowds yet to experience these elder statesmen in their autumnal pomp. Like a fine wine, Madness are maturing and getting deeper and tastier with it. Building on their vast legacy, they are making the most of their Six Appeal.
Ian ‘Big E’ Taylor
MAY 18: Uttoxeter Racecourse, Staffordshire
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): Tours nowadays are very different – we ration ourselves out a bit to preserve energy. Back in the day, we’d just put our foot down on the pedal and go 100 miles an hour. We can’t do that every night any more, but we still give the same amount of energy on stage as we did when Madness first started out.
MAY 25: Ffos Las Racecourse, Trimsaran Kidwelly
MAY 26: Tunes in the Dunes, Perranporth, Cornwall
MAY 29: The band check on progress for the Kenwood House orchestral gig.
BEDDERS (speaking in June 2019): We all met with David Arnold to hear the full arrangements for the first time and were simply blown away. The gig is not far off now and we’re getting a little nervous and very excited. We’ll rehearse and prepare the show a few days before the gig. It’s something we are really looking forward to and is very close to our hearts.
MAY 30: WLR Radio, Ireland
During a phone interview with DJ Geoff Harris, Suggs reveals the band have been in the studio laying down some fresh material.
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): We’ve started to do some new recordings, but whether we make it into some sort of album I’m not quite sure yet. We’re currently re-recording It Must Be Love with the Kingdom Choir, who backed us when we played for the BBC at New Year, which is sounding absolutely fantastic. And we’ve done three new songs as well. So it’s all going very well. Everything is just rolling along – we’re just happy to be alive after all these years and to have people still interested in us.
MAY 31: Docklands, Limerick, Ireland
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): We’ve had some great times in Ireland – innumerable. Ireland is a place of joy, poetry and music, and that’s Madness all over.
JUNE 1: Dun Laoghaire Pier, Dublin
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): As a kid, I thought you were an old man by 30, but I never feel old now. Bits of me aren’t working in quite the same way as they used to, but my enthusiasm for life is still the same as it was; I’ll be 24 inside until the day I die.
JUNE 2: Daytripper Festival, Waterford
JUNE 7: Market Rasen Racecourse, Lincolnshire
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): Racecourses are great, we’ve played a few in the past where they have a few races and then you get a bit of Madness. It’s an unbeatable combination. I have a few flutters every now and then and have a bit of luck on the horses. I’m not a gambling man generally but I like it when you can see the steam coming out of the horses’ nostrils and that whole thing in front of you. I do like it but I’m a terrible loser, which has been my saving grace as far as gambling is concerned. It’s stopped me getting too involved.
JUNE 8: Chepstow Racecourse
JUNE: Record with The Kingdom Choir, London
After appearing with the band at their New Year’s Eve gig, the choir come into the studio with Mike, Suggs and Clive Langer to record vocals for a special gospel-tinged version of It Must Be Love. They are also booked to perform with Madness at the upcoming House of Common gig in August.
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): It’s a funny old business, because we recorded with the choir on New Year’s Eve for the BBC, and it sounded so great we thought, ‘We’ve got to record this.’ It was just sort of meant to be.
JUNE 15: Kenwood House, Hampstead, London
The band continue to celebrate their 40th birthday in style with this unique gig which sees them backed by a full-scale 30-piece orchestra. With the band and Violin Monkeys, there are an unprecedented 40 musicians on stage to perform the usual greatest hits set, plus John Lennon cover Oh My Love and new song In My Street. Starting with a full-length version of The Liberty of Norton Folgate, the orchestra accompany them on selected tracks throughout the set, to greater effect on less frenetic numbers like One Better Day and The Return of the Los Palmas Seven. One surprise visitor to the stage is Liam Gallagher, who lives in nearby Highgate and is briefly introduced mid-set before disappearing. For the final song, the orchestra all don fezzes, before the night ends with a firework display.
(*indicates orchestra accompaniment)
Overture* / The Liberty of Norton Folgate* / One Step Beyond* / Embarrassment / The Prince / NW5* / My Girl* / Sun and the Rain* / One Better Day* / Wings of a Dove / Oh My Love* / Shut Up* / In my Street* / Lovestruck* / Return of the Los Palmas 7* / House of Fun / Baggy Trousers / Our House* / It Must be Love* / ENCORE: Madness / Night Boat to Cairo*
Rain didn’t dampen the irrepressible spirits of 10,000 Madness fans who flocked to Hampstead Heath for their 40th anniversary celebrations on Saturday. Backed by a full orchestra, it turned out to be a poignant home turf gig for the Nutty Boys, with hundreds of family and friends cheering them on in the crowd. ‘Forty years ago we were playing to 45 skinheads at the Hope and Anchor in Islington,’ said frontman Suggs triumphantly. ‘Just look at us now!’ Although days of drizzle had rendered it sticky underfoot, the drizzle held off for a lively set that name-checked many of the band’s local haunts around Camden Town and Kentish Town. The Dublin Castle pub, where they first found fame, flashed up on screen during a joyous rendition of Our House. And the infectiously anarchic Baggy Trousers recalled Suggs’ misspent schooldays at Quintin Kynaston. He may have exhorted younger members of the crowd to ‘get an education, not like us’ but the line ‘did it really turn out bad?’ was a clear riposte to the tedium of conformity. Released in October 1979, the band’s debut album, One Step Beyond paid homage to their early Jamaican ska influences – The Prince namechecks Prince Buster who first recorded the title track. While their Two Tone label mates retained a punkier, edgier sound, Madness’ chart success rode upon cheerful upbeat poppiness with liberal dollops of Lee Thompson’s sax and stories of youthful ducking and diving and working class north London life. The likes of My Girl, Wings of a Dove or House and Fun were delivered with footstomping energy, while the quieter moments were underpinned by social comment, the sadness of dementia in the elegiaic NW5, or the melodic One Better Day which recalls the homeless residents of Camden Town’s Arlington House hostel. In mostly fine voice, Suggs and co were clearly enjoying being backed by a barnstorming brass section. It Must Be Love was an inevitable highlight that got the crowd singing and swaying, while Night Boat to Cairo – with orchestra and crowd sporting a bobbing array of Fezes sent us off into the night with a burst of fireworks. The band’s original fans must be in their 60s now, but although they clearly like a drink it was all good natured, boisterous fun. As we left we spotted two of them laid out fast asleep. It had all been too much, but it was a rousing tribute to a very British band.
Ham & High
ANDY COULES (sound engineer): I am pleased and proud to say that the show went off without a hitch. It sounded fantastic and everyone was really happy with their on-stage sound as well as the overall performance – all of the hours of planning, preparation, practice and perseverance paid off brilliantly. I didn’t really relax until the last song of the set, when the orchestra donned fezzes and launched into a spirited rendition of Night Boat To Cairo, leading to a fireworks display which capped off an intense week and a truly spectacular show.
JUNE 16: Isle of Wight Festival
En route to tonight’s gig by ferry, Suggs and Chris are filmed singing happy birthday to the vessel’s captain, Alice Duncan, while they cross the Solent from Southampton. Madness are third on the bill behind Biffy Clyro and Richard Ashcroft, a late replacement for Jess Glynne, who cancels at the last minute. During their set, screened live on Sky Arts, Suggs stumbles over the lyrics to Baggy Trousers before recovering.
Jess Glynne cites physical exhaustion for the cancellation, having just celebrated her last night on tour with the Spice Girls, but speculation abounds. Perhaps she got a whiff of Madness’s set of non-stop solid gold hits – My Girl, Embarrassment, The Sun and the Rain, House of Fun – thick and fast they come, proving that the best way to fill a jubilant afternoon set at Isle of Wight in 2019 is to have sold more singles than pretty much anybody else in the Eighties. Marking 40 years since their first Top of the Pops appearance, the band prompt a field-wide skank to Baggy Trousers and capture the mood of the miraculously unsoggy weekend with a beam-inducing It Must Be Love. Hardly a day to be crying when you could laugh, you might think.
JUNE 21: Newmarket Racecourse
As soon as Madness set foot on the Newmarket Nights stage, you could tell they were up for one hell of a party. Without a breath and a word,saxophonist Lee Thompson blasted into One Step Beyond and started the 90-minute rollercoaster into the world of Madness. The crowd was instantly up with them too, Suggs and the gang kept up the pace, rolling straight into their 1980s track, Embarrassment. The frontman then greeted the crowd, explaining it was 40 years to the day that they had stood on the steps of the BBC before appearing on Top of the Pops. The 1979 song from that show, The Prince, was the next offering to come out of the Madness back catalogue. Its ska-inspired beat resonated across the July Course and showed why, after four decades, their timeless tracks still give unlimited joy. Songs including NW5, a piano-led My Girl and The Sun And The Rain followed, until the addictively upbeat Wings Of A Dove brought back the fast-paced fun. The fez-clad crowd then enjoyed Driving In My Car, Bed And Breakfast Man, the gritty In My Street and Shut Up. Through it all, Suggs commanded the stage with an air of authority that showed he still loved his musical vocation. Mr Apples came next, before Madness gave the audience what they had been waiting for- a nostalgic sing-song and dance with House of fun, Baggy Trousers and Our House, which rocked the racecourse. The biggest crowd pleaser went to It Must Be Love however, giving the band the perfect way to say goodnight. Their break was predictably very short lived, returning for Madness and Night Boat To Cairo as encores, to finish off the show and give the fez brigade an incredible night at the races.
Bury Free Press
Unbelievably, it’s now 40 years since Madness first emphatically and unforgettably burst onto the scene with their debut single, The Prince. No one has ever sounded quite like Madness, which would explain why so many enthusiastic fez-wearing fans always turn out to see them whenever and wherever they play. From the ska-influenced early pop classics to the mid-career more reflective tunes and onto the ‘London’ concept album, 2009’s career-defining effort The Liberty of Norton Folgate, and beyond, the six-piece dug into their vast repertoire – including Mr Apples, a song from their most recent album, 2016’s Can’t Touch Us Now – to remind the packed venue that they are so much more than just an 80s nostalgia act. As ever, the likeable bunch of musicians opened with One Step Beyond, although it acted as a sad reminder that Cathal Smyth (aka Chas Smash), who always did the iconic “Hey you, don’t watch that, watch this…” introduction, is no longer with the group, having departed in 2014. A sprightly Suggs reminisced on his band’s 40th anniversary, revealing that he and his six mates appeared on Top of the Pops to sing The Prince 40 years ago to the day. They followed a performance of the song with NW5, off The Liberty of Norton Folgate, which fitted in perfectly alongside early hits, Embarrassment and My Girl. My Girl 2 and Bullingdon Boys were two other newer songs that stood out (the latter showing clips of the film The Riot Club on the screen behind), but they couldn’t compare to the likes of Driving in My Car, Bed and Breakfast Man and One Better Day, a beautiful tune from 1984 that Suggs said they hadn’t performed in a while. Showing a great deal of energy for six men in their late 50s and early 60s, the band delivered an irresistible quadruple whammy of House of Fun, Baggy Trousers, Our House and It Must Be Love. There didn’t appear to be many people standing still and Suggs also got the crowd singing along emotively on the timeless It Must Be Love. But Madness weren’t done yet. Returning for the encore, they played Madness and the exhilarating Night Boat to Cairo, before sending the crowd off into the night tired and happy. The Nutty Boys – fully deserving of the title of ‘national treasure’ – always have that effect.
JUNE 22: Lingfield Park Racecourse
JUNE 28: Franklin Gardens, Northampton
JUNE 29: Newcastle Racecourse
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): I’ve had such a privileged existence because I came from nothing, but if I could do one thing differently, I would have liked to go to art school. I don’t regret it though, because the band took off when I was 17 and most students would probably say they’d rather be in a band. I feel for young people now because it’s a lot harder for them to get ahead. More often than not now, musicians will have rich parents, which wasn’t the case when I was a kid.
JULY 4: Noches del Botanico, Madrid, Spain
JULY 5: Port America, Galicia, Spain
JULY 5: Ibiza: The Silent Movie
Carl stars as ‘Hausmann’ in this bizarre arthouse film, which charts the history of the island right up to to its current status as the clubbing capital of the world. Directed by Julien Temple and also starring Bez and Fatboy Slim, the film is billed as a ‘mad social, economic, political and cultural people’s history of Ibiza’. The film is screened on BBC Four on August 2.
Whether film-maker Julien Temple is piecing together the story of the Sex Pistols, Ray Davies or Glastonbury, his documentaries are always passion projects. This illuminating history of the Balearic island Ibiza begins 500 million years ago, when Africa and Europe collided, and volcanic eruptions are intercut with DJ pyrotechnics – the film-maker’s first of many visual rhymes. Much of the fact-packed history proves a gift: the Phoenicians, arriving in 654 BC, brought their god of dance, who turns out to be called Bes – close enough to Bez, dancer and maraca-shaker with rave band Happy Mondays to cast him as a pagan spirit. Nostradamus noted, “Ibiza will be the final refuge on Earth,” and we are persuaded that this land mass a third of the size of London is more than an outline on a map. Scantily clad revellers at super-clubs illustrate the caption, “spirituality and sunsets are turned into money,”, while Temple illuminates the island through Homer’s Odyssey, Hannibal (cue: clip of Victor Mature in the 1959 movie), Moors, Catalan invaders, Guernica, Dadaists, beatniks and finally those nightclub tourists (100,000 in 1965 rose to four million by the mid-90s). Some of the dramatic reconstructions stray into Crimewatch territory and the emojis are a bit “trendy dad”, but the story has a pull as elemental as the island itself.
Andrew Collins, Radio Times
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): In times of austerity, that’s when we seem to be on the rise. I hate the idea, but it is a strange phenomenon. You look back at 1979 and Thatcher and the ‘no such thing as society’ talk, and then in the 1980s when they were picking on poor people. We set about trying to cheer people up. We were pigeon-holed as a happy-go-lucky novelty band, but we wrote songs to help people; we weren’t performing idiots.
JULY 6: Vida Festival, Barcelona, Spain
JULY 12: Somerset Rocks, Vivary Park, Taunton
JULY 15: FOOD: Bigger than the Plate, V&A, London
Suggs is among the celebs to feature in this special exhibition, which explores the world’s modern relationship with food. For his part in the show, bacteria was taken from the singer’s ear and used as a starter culture to create a special cheddar. Other celebrity body part cheeses on show feature Alex James (Cheshire), Heston Blumenthal (comte), Professor Green (mozzarella) and Ruby Tandoh (stilton).
SUGGS (2019): They took some DNA from my ear and turned it into cheese and then fashioned it into the shape of my head. It was part of their drive to explain what food is to kids.
CATHERINE FLOOD (exhibition co-curator, speaking in 2019): Many of the microbes involved in cheesemaking bear a close relationship to those found on human skin. The similarities between cheese aromas and body odours are no coincidence. Whether we find these odours disgusting or delicious has a great deal to do with context and psychology.
SUGGS (2019): I haven’t seen the exhibition myself but funnily enough I have got into sculpture – it’s meditative and I like it. I did a TV show and went to the place they quarried the stone that Michelangelo’s David is made from and when I went to see the statue it got me going. I’ve done pretty much everything I’ve wanted, so I can draw and paint, I’ve acted, I’ve done one-man shows and I’ve written books. This was just an area I thought I’d try. I’ve sculpted a couple of cats and now I’m working on an 8ft pagan woman with bosoms who will hopefully bring in the harvest for the following year. I’m chipping away at it…quite literally.
JULY 19: Open Air Theatre, Scarborough
JULY 20: Doncaster Racecourse
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): It brings you back down to earth when you hear from people who have been helped by your music or that it changed their attitudes to life. We all grew up with nothing, so it’s a great privilege. We try to write about the struggles of everyday life in a light-hearted way, but the songs aren’t a joke.
JULY 21: Bitts Park, Carlisle
JULY 24: Sandown Racecourse
AUGUST 3: Dreamland, Margate
Suggs performs a DJ set with Max Romeo and Trojan Sound System.
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): The naivety of our early days is something you can never get back again; you can never recapture that stuff. The other sad thing is that you can never remember it – it’s all just a blur now.
AUGUST 10: British Boot Company, Camden
Lee appears at the shop formerly known as Holts to sign copies of his One Man’s Madness DVD for fans. Later that evening, he joins son Daley with The Silencerz to perform at a free gig at The Royal Standard in Blackheath, with The Prince given an airing.
AUGUST 10: Friends of Finsbury Park gig cancelled, London
Mike and Suggs are due to perform at 4pm as part of the 150th celebrations of the North London park, but the event is cancelled on the day due to gale-force winds.
AUGUST 18: Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
After a short break, Madness resume their XL tour north of the border. During tonight’s gig, Embarrassment has to be restarted at Suggs’s insistence after he misses his cue. Piper Johnny Gauld also makes his regular appearance before the encore, leading a mass singalong of Flower of Scotland. Suggs is booed when he announces afterwards, ‘I told him not to play that Scottish shite.’ But the jeers turn to cheers when he adds, ‘What? My name’s Graham fucking McPherson! I’m more Scottish than any of you!’
Edinburgh is nuts at the moment – so it was fitting that Madness closed the brilliant Summer Sessions on Sunday night. The run of Princes Street Gardens gigs underneath the castle has brought music royalty to the Capital during August. Primal Scream; James; Florence and the Machine; Chvrches; The Courteneers – the big names have given music fans the perfect reason to soak up the wacky Fringe atmosphere. And who better than the Nutty Boys to bring the curtain down with a singalong celebration. Frontman Suggs and co are offering nurses, cops and firefighters free tickets to their own festival in London later this month. And when you hear the band go through hit after hit live you realise the extent of their own public service. They’ve given British culture some gems – capturing perfectly in three-minute songs the joys and troubles of the everyday. From relationship angst in My Girl to Our House’s nostalgic celebration of family, or a teen’s first purchase of condoms in House of Fun to the unashamedly soppy Must Be Love – Madness bring the mundane to life wonderfully. What an armchair fan like me didn’t appreciate before tonight was the brilliance of the band. The ska greats in pork pie hats, suits and shades sound as good as they look. All trumpets, sax and pianos it comes together in a joyous two-tone cacophony. This is perfectly captured on opener One Step Beyond – with Suggs’ famous intro of “Hey you…don’t watch that…watch this.” He needn’t have worried as from the opening notes of the saxophone the crowd was captivated. They’re a great visual band – who else has trademark dance moves these days? And the variety of their tunes kept the atmosphere going for the entire two-hour set. Embarrassment; House of Fun; It Must Be Love; Baggy Trousers; Wings of a Dove – it’s a brilliant back catalogue to choose from. Throw in Suggs’s charm and wit and it’s the perfect combo. The Lightning Seeds were the support and their under-rated melodic pop was the ideal prelude to the …well, Madness. In a city full of strange, the Nutty Boys rule.
David Wynn, The Scottish Sun
‘On this very day 40 years, ago seven spotty teenagers turned up at Television Centre to perform on Top of the Pops,’ said Suggs, clearly well past the stage where vanity will prevent him from reminiscing about the olden days. ‘I believe the promoters sold some of you tickets saying they were for the Spice Girls reunion – now, I’m not saying we’re prettier than them…’ For Suggs and the rest of the band, the four intervening decades have passed in a largely unchanging (Suggs’ brief solo career aside) haze of similar banter and laddish camaraderie, and they’re much beloved for it; not just by original fans of the ska-pop sound which they took further into the mainstream than most, but also by younger generations for whom their songs have endured. With the bustle of the weekend dying down and the Tattoo fireworks taking a break for the evening, there was something about Sunday night’s final Summer Sessions gig of 2019 which felt like a nice way to get over a hangover, with the warmth and familiarity of One Step Beyond, Embarrassment, My Girl and Wings of a Dove seeping once more into the hearts of their fans. The crescendo arrived at the end – as we knew it would – with a flurry of some of the 1980s’ most universal pop music; House of Fun, Baggy Trousers, Our House and It Must Be Love all in a row, before Madness and Night Boat to Cairo carried the encore on an energetic high. Yet the intervening years have borne much music which hasn’t hit quite such heights, and – as enjoyable as the political elements of The Bullingdon Boys and Mr Apples were – the middle third of the show sagged a little beneath that unfamiliarity.
David Pollock, The Scotsman
AUGUST 20: Custom House Square, Belfast
AUGUST 23: Northern Meeting Park, Inverness
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): I’m one of those people for whom the 80s still only feels like ten years ago, so it constantly surprises me that we’ve been doing this for so long. We spend more time arguing than anything else but it’s healthy, and that’s the major point.
AUGUST 24: East Links, Montrose
Madness play the last of three Scottish dates in a week before heading home to prepare for their Bank Holiday spectacular. Tonight’s gig is notable for a special crowd rendition of Happy Birthday for Bedders, with thousands of fans serenading the bass player as he celebrates his 58th birthday.
AUGUST 26: House of Common Festival, Clapham Common, London
Madness return south of the river for their third House of Common extravaganza. Once again, public sector workers including nurses, policemen and fire fighters enjoy free admission. Guest stars include reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, plus Ziggy Marley, Craig Charles, Don Letts and David Rodigan. As usual, the set starts with One Step Beyond, but the openener grinds to a halt after 30 seconds as The Specials’ Lynval Golding appears on stage to interrupt proceedings. After announcing the bands’ 40 years in the business, he joins in as One Step Beyond starts up again. In a night of special guests, the band are later backed by The Kingdom Choir for traditional set-closers Wings Of A Dove and It Must Be Love. Lynval then reappears for the encore, along with surprise guest Paul Weller, with both joining the band for renditions of Heatwave and the old Invaders standard, Shoparound. Lynval stays onstage for the penultimate number, Madness, which also features former Specials bandmate Jerry Dammers on keyboards.
One Step Beyond / Embarrassment / The Prince / NW5 / My Girl / My Girl 2 / The Sun And The Rain / Bullingdon Boys / Bed And Breakfast Man / One Better Day / Shut Up / In My Street / Mr Apples / House Of Fun / Baggy Trousers / Our House / Wings Of A Dove / It Must Be Love / ENCORE: Shoparound / Heatwave / Madness / Night Boat To Cairo
‘It’s almost 40 years to the day when seven spotty kids from north London turned up at BBC Studios to perform on Top of The Pops,’ said Suggs halfway through his band’s headline slot at House of Common. In the intervening four decades Madness have become one of ska’s best-loved bands, selling millions of records worldwide and doing wonders for the sales of Dr Martens. Now they have their own festival: House of Common, a one-day celebration of reggae-influenced music, held on Clapham Common. In front of a crowd not entirely comprised of teetotallers, the Camden collective rolled out the hits from their extensive back catalogue. One Step Beyond was a riot of brass and off-beat rhythms while a stripped-back version of My Girl was a reminder that Madness do craft as well as chaos. Paul Weller joined the band for a soulful take on Shop Around and stayed for the appropriately titled Heat Wave, The Jam’s cover of Martha and the Vandellas’ Motown hit. If the field of sozzled, sunburned Brits gave the festival the appearance of Torremolinos: The Musical, Madness also couldn’t have wished for a more willing crowd. From the front to the back, from the first chord to the last, they danced as one.
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): I’m always very grateful to be doing what I do. Music is very curative and when I look out from the stage at everyone jumping about I feel I have a very privileged life.
AUGUST 30: Wolverhampton Racecourse
AUGUST 31: Winter Gardens, Margate
SUGGS (speaking in 2019): Paul Weller was standing in my kitchen the other day, and famously of course, he dropped his band. So he was saying, ‘How do you do it? How are you all still together and so close?’ I said that democracy is a very difficult thing and it’s hard, but the fact is that for important decisions we all have to agree. Everything you see us do, we’re all on board with. If there’s something that we could do, if one person in the band doesn’t want to, the chances are we won’t do it.
SEPTEMBER 1: The Downs, Bristol
With support coming from reggae DJ David Rodigan, the final domestic gig of the summer sees the band head to the south west. Just like the rest of the summer, the setlist is mostly greatest hits, with newbies Bullingdon Boys and In My Street also thrown in.
SEPTEMBER 2: Past Present Future announced
After a teaser campaign on social media, and accompanied by a video of Suggs, Lee, Chris, Woody and Bedders strolling past old haunts, the band announce a mini-residency at The Roundhouse in Camden, split over three nights on December 15,16 and 17.