CARL: A friend saw pictures of us at that time and said, ‘God you look so threatening.’ And I did: I had the crop, I was grimacing. Now I think, ‘God, was that me?’ But when we started we’d been led to believe that rock ‘n’ roll was a giant rat race and we’d be ripped off left, right and centre. So we had this great sense of wanting to be in a gang and fighting everyone. Another friend said I was the most menacing pop star in England. I didn’t realise what I was like at the time but I can see it now. It was all part of what I thought Madness was then – funny and a bit threatening. We weren’t that destructive but we did get into fights, mainly because of the way we looked. A lot of people treated us like young hooligans, but we were sometimes. It just seems very weird now – like a different person. I was full of angst and still felt insecure in the band – I thought I was going to be thrown out. There were tours where I’d hardly talk to anyone, just listening to Pink Floyd on the Walkman.
JANUARY 3: Top Of The Pops
Dressed in Love Boat-style tuxedoes, the band play back My Girl before a man-sized 1980.
SUGGS: It didn’t feel in any way like we were moving into the modern new future, having ‘1980’ in giant polystyrene letters behind us. Nothing had changed, you know? It was exactly the same. You know, those starburst lights and really static, prosaic, rock ‘n’ roll lighting. The technology was very limited. Lee did all the rehearsals with a real saxophone and when it came to the shoot, somebody didn’t notice and by the time they panned round to Lee, he was playing a plastic saxophone.
JANUARY 5: Appear on Tiswas and Multi-Coloured Swap Shop
The band playback their new single, My Girl, on Tiswas, the popular and anarchic kids’ ITV show. Meanwhile, on BBC1, they also appear in a performance that was taped earlier.
MIKE (speaking in 1980): We’ve had quite a good run so far. Everything’s gone real well for us, except all that stuff about the Front. I sometimes get a bit worried about our playing, though. Like you can go into a studio and try something ten times, and one of ’em is going to be okay to put on a record.
CARL (speaking in 1980): All we want to do is have a good time, get better at what we’re doing, make sure people enjoy it, make some money and be successful. We’re not trying to read anything into it.
MIKE (speaking in 1980): For me, ‘making it’ was having adverts in the paper and getting reviewed regularly.
JANUARY 5: My Girl enters UK charts
The band’s third single goes on to stay in the charts for 10 weeks, peaking at No3 – their highest chart position so far.
SUGGS: I was at a wedding and I met Bryan Ferry. I just had to go and say hello, as you do at that point. He said, ‘What do you do?’, and I said, ‘I’m the singer in this band called Madness’. It was just after he split up with Jerry Hall and he said, ‘Yes, Madness, My Girl – my sentiments exactly.’
JANUARY 10: Musikladen, Germany
Before embarking on the 14-date European leg of their One Step Beyond tour, Madness travel to Bremen play back One Step Beyond on the German music show.
MIKE: One of the good things was that there wasn’t a lot of pompous self-importance going on.
BEDDERS (speaking in 1980): I think we all have our feet on the ground and realise that it is easy to fall out of favour. We’ve always said that we don’t want to be around to see ourselves going into decline and we realise that we wont go on forever and ever like the Rolling Stones. When we started to be successful such a lot of things were happening so quickly that we found we panicked a lot! We are coming to terms with things now and we are enjoying ourselves.
DAVE ROBINSON: Madness were probably the least inclined towards superstardom of any band I’ve worked with. Their attitude didn’t change from when they had nothing to when they had a bit of money and fame. I find that pretty unusual.
JANUARY 17: Pop Stop, Germany
Madness appear on another German TV show, this time climbing in and out of windows while models look on, smoking cigars. It is as bizarre as it sounds.
SUGGS (speaking in 1980): I think we’re a lot more real than most of the people about today who say they’ve got something to say, or a purpose. You got a lot of groups who want the mystery and the glamour and all that bollocks, but we just want to lead a pretty ordinary existence. We don’t pose all the time and take ourselves too serious, and I don’t think we’re trying to rip anyone off or just do it for the money. We’re just entertainers – we enjoy everything.
WOODY: We took our music very seriously, but that whole taking yourself seriously thing we didn’t like. We all grew up in an area where we still had all our mates from school, and we didn’t like that kind of detached attitude. We didn’t feel like we were accepted into the musicians’ world, because most musicians at the time, in the 70s, were pretty pretentious – up their own rear-ends, really. We came straight out of punk when it was all, ‘This is real,’ and you don’t have to be noodling away on the guitar.
SUGGS: We never got pompous, we never got carried away or thought the fame was that serious. We thought the work was serious, and being funny and being stupid, we took seriously – but never ourselves.
WOODY: The most essential thing through the history of Madness is: We don’t preach, we are just observers.
JANUARY 20: Le Palace, Paris
Madness play for an enthusiastic crowd and close the show with the Dandy Livingstone cover, A Message To You Rudy, recently a hit for The Specials. During the show, Lee finds his microphone doesn’t work during Razor Blade Alley.
One Step Beyond / Deceives The Eye / Mistakes / Believe Me / My Girl / Swan Lake / Razor Blade Alley / Land Of Hope & Glory / In The Rain / The Young & The Old / In The Middle Of The Night / Bed & Breakfast Man / Tarzan’s Nuts / Night Boat To Cairo / The Prince / Madness / Rockin’ in Ab / ENCORE 1: Swan Lake / One Step Beyond / ENCORE 2: A Message To You Rudy
CARL (speaking in 1980): We’re committed to fun. We stumble blindly on, but that’s one thing we are sure of.
WOODY (speaking in 1980): It’s very important that people realise we’re just ordinary people doing a very enjoyable job. We’re having a good time and that’s what they should know, not our opinions on anything else. The atmosphere is what’s important. It’s dance music we play, not anything intellectual. It’s about having fun, enjoying yourself, which is what we do.
MIKE (speaking in 1980): We ain’t got much money yet as the royalty cheques won’t arrive ‘til April but, even if we did have it, it wouldn’t do us much good. I keep thinking of buying a car but what am I gonna do – park it outside my house? However much money you’ve got, what can you do? Go in a motorway caff, have 20 pints of lager and not worry about the price?
JANUARY 21: Midi Premiere, France
Madness appear at the TF Studios in Paris to perform on the popular Midi Premiere programme.
SUGGS (speaking in 1980): We’ve kept really friendly with The Specials. It’s easy to fall into needless bickering and it’s just not fucking worth it. We’re both after the same things, we’ve both got the same problems and probably the same lifespan. We’re all really young, so when it’s all over we’ll be able to do things together. Their contract ends in four years and so does ours. Hopefully we should have enough bread by then to get a really good, proper label together. That’s what I’d really like to do.
JANUARY 22: Ancienne Belgique, Brussels
The tour reaches the Low Countries. Madness play five shows apiece in Belgium and Holland. The Brussels show is reviewed by the French-Belgian underground press.
SUGGS: Mike fell asleep in the van in Belgium and someone put lipstick and eye-liner on him and he walked about all day like it until he looked in the mirror.
JANUARY 23: Groot Auditorium, Antwerp
JANUARY 24: Salee de la Chappelle, Luik
SUGGS (speaking in 1980): Being nutty is what we think about. That’s the Madness sound, no matter what outside influences there may be.
JANUARY 25: Lux, Herenthout
MIKE (speaking in 1980): When you mess around, you’ve got to do it seriously or it’s not worth it. Like when Chas is dancing, he’s being funny, but he’s really serious about what he’s doing. He’s not laughing about it. And we’re all playing our instruments properly all the time. We still rehearse three times a week!
JANUARY 26: Brielpoort, Deinze
WOODY (speaking in 1980): None of the band likes to be trapped – we’re all quite rebellious; that’s why I think we act nutty, it’s just a way out of it. But the most rewarding aspect of the group for me is knowing that thousands of people are happy listening to a song that I play drums on.
JANUARY 27: Chorus, France
Recorded some days earlier, this French TV programme shows edited highlights of a live set, including One Step Beyond, Swan Lake, Night Boat to Cairo, Madness and Don’t Quote Me On That.
One Step Beyond / Deceives The Eye / Mistakes / Believe Me / My Girl / Swan Lake / Razor Blade Alley / Land Of Hope & Glory / In The Rain / The Young & The Old / In The Middle Of The Night / Bed & Breakfast Man / Tarzan’s Nuts / The Prince / Rockin’ in Ab / Night Boat To Cairo / Madness. ENCORE: Don’t Quote Me On That.
JANUARY 28: Kantkino, Berlin, Germany
JANUARY 29: Markethalle, Hamburg
LEE (speaking in 1980): I reckon there could be a resurgence of the sax in pop music. It seems to be happening now with the younger ska and Stax bands. A lot of people have asked me to give lessons but I’ve got too much going on really. Plus it’s a very personal thing for me. I don’t wanna give anyone a list of tips because if I’d gone by what I was told I wouldn’t have stayed interested. I don’t think you can tell people how to play the instrument. I’d recommend learning the way I learned. About five months ago I showed Miranda from the Bodysnatchers the basic saxophone finger positions — it’s easy to get the basic hang of it, but after you’ve been playing for a while you notice things about the instrument that you’ve got to practice at.
JANUARY 30: Pochette, Tilburg, Holland
Madness make their Dutch debut at a packed and shoebox-sized Pochette. The show has a one-and-a-half hour delay, including a lengthy onstage sound check, because Mike’s organ isn’t working. But the band manage to conquer the audience and positive reviews appear in Dutch newspapers. The set is the same as in Paris on January 20, minus the reprise of Swan Lake and A Message To You Rudy.
JANUARY 31: Paard Van Troje, The Hague
With reviews of the Tilburg show hot off the press, journalists from Hitkrant magazine travel to The Hague. Photographer Pieter Mazel takes pictures of the band that will later be used internationally.
LEE (speaking in 1980): I do take our sound seriously and I do take what the band are trying to do seriously but if I was a hundred per cent serious I wouldn’t be smoking and I wouldn’t be out on the tiles half the week.
FEBRUARY 1: Effenaar, Eindhoven
FEBRUARY 2: Paradiso, Netherlands
Although My Girl isn’t high in the Dutch charts, it’s a hit with the sellout 1,000 crowd, judging by the cheers. ‘So you’ve all got lots of energy? You’re all feeling fit and healthy?’ Suggs asks. ‘Well dance to this one. It’s called Night Boat To Cairo.’ Mike meets his future wife Sandra after the gig.
One Step Beyond / Deceives The Eye / Mistakes / Believe Me / My Girl / Swan Lake / Razor Blade Alley / Land Of Hope & Glory / In The Rain / The Young & The Old / In The Middle Of The Night / Bed & Breakfast Man / Tarzan’s Nuts / The Prince / Rockin’ in Ab. ENCORE: Night Boat To Cairo / Madness
MIKE: I met her at the Paradiso. We were on the tiles when I met this girl. I smiled at her, she at me, we had a chat and coincidentally we met the next day at Central Station. We exchanged phone numbers and the rest is history.
FEBRUARY 3: Stokvishal, Arnhem
FEBRUARY 9: Apollo, Manchester
Madness return for six domestic shows, supported by all-girl group The Mo-dettes, whose bass player Jane will marry Woody later in the year. The crowd is mainly teenagers and below, as Madness’s demographic starts to shift.
IAN HORNE (sound engineer): The first gig I did with Madness, kids came in with their mums and dads. I couldn’t believe the audiences were so young, especially after working with Ian Dury.
SUGGS: We’d never looked upon ourselves as a pop group, but suddenly people started telling us that that’s what we were, and consequently we got all the pop things that go with it, including the audience. It also came as a result of doing all those teeny magazines and kids’ TV shows.
CARL: I don’t know if we even knew it was happening; we were still really naïve and didn’t understand the music business at all.
SUGGS: The kids liked us because we were so fucking stupid. They identified with that stupidity – and they still do.
WOODY: The good thing was, we could relate to the kids who were watching us cos we were kids ourselves not that many years before.
CHRIS: Another good thing about that kind-of mass popularity was that the atmosphere at gigs started to change; suddenly parents really liked us and kids really liked us, and the violence part disappeared – albeit slowly.
MIKE (speaking in 1980): We’re getting a younger audience now because we’ve had a few hits on Top Of The Pops. We’re all good-looking boys so it’s unavoidable really. I think we’re not very menacing. Sort of more funny, unlike people who’ve got an aggro image like the Stranglers, who talk about fighting in their interviews.
CARL (speaking in 1980): We’ve made a gesture and maybe a lot of groups will start doing things for kids. People sneer, you know, ‘Here they are, the teenybop band’ but what’s that all about? Everybody’s got a right to enjoy themselves.
SUGGS (speaking in 1980): When it’s all kids they go completely loony. They’ve got no preconceptions or ideas about being super cool – they’re just great gigs. The only thing is, I start to feel patronising when I see all those kids – I feel obliged not to look menacing or something.
More trouble from racist 'fans'
Despite more and more youngsters starting to follow Madness, a few shows are again marred by unwanted attention from National Front extremists, much to the group’s frustration.
SUGGS (speaking in 1980): If those kids start coming to our gigs there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m not gonna start making statements. I’m not a politician. I’m a musician. None of our music has anything to do with politics. The Specials never get slagged off, and they’re playing to the same audience as us.
MIKE (speaking in 1980): They say a lot of NF kids come to our gigs. But it’s not really a lot of them. And the ones who are there are just geezers who’ve been led astray. They can be talked out of it. It’s telling them to go fuck off that makes it worse. Then they just come back to fight, and it gets violent. At one of our gigs there was some geezers handing out Nazi pamphlets. And one of our mates went out there and asked the guy why he was handing out that sort of rubbish. And this guy had a bunch of mates along. Our mate could have got done. So he had the bottle to go up to this geezer, and when he asked him, the guy just says (dumb voice) ‘I don’t know. It’s just me mates.’ Which shows what bollocks it all is. So by the time they finished, the guy had thrown his pamphlets away. But we’re not political. We’re not gonna do Rock Against Racism gigs just to show people we take a stand. We’re doing it our way.
LEE: Well, there wasn’t wall-to-wall trouble erupting around us. What there was, was a load of skinheads having go at support bands we chose.
MIKE: It seems the sort of people who don’t even know that whole thing about racism and then they’re just the sort of people who get into that violence. They’re maybe just people who are just into violence. It’s maybe not racist I don’t think. They’re just sort of into aggression and into being macho and they’re a bit mixed up. And then that time, we were getting a lot of flak from different sides about that whole thing.
WOODY: We were under a lot of pressure to do something about it. But unfortunately, you cannot dictate who goes to your shows because it’s a free country. You can say that you’re against violence, you can say you’re against any kind of racism, but you can’t say, ‘You can’t come in because you’ve got boots on and short hair.’ What can you do?
CARL: So when you see a kid at a gig handing out flyers with the British Movement on it and Adolph Hitler, you go, ‘Hold on mate, how can you say British Movement, when Hitler killed British people?’ And the bloke says, ‘Oh well, I’m in two minds’ and you talk to these kids and try and create a spark of doubt in their minds.
DAVE ROBINSON: The band made a couple of statements. The thing is to say that you’re not in any way attached to this. So it kind of blew over. I thought the best thing was addressing it as they did – the fact that they were doing well and were attracting a younger audience, the kind of skinhead, right-wing crowd kind of drifted off.
WOODY: The problem is you can’t judge a book by its cover and a lot of skinheads had nothing to do with racism and were perfectly lovely people, but it’s when the old right arm goes up in a stiff manner that’s not appealing. You don’t really associate that with black culture and music.
CARL: What can you do with people who haven’t got half a brain? You just try and live by example and hope they get the message. Our music puts over a joyous position – it’s not like we’re Public Enemy. People don’t leave our gigs spoiling for a fight – they leave smiling.
CHRIS: I always thought it was ironic. We’d fought the Nazis, so these yobbos would have been strung up as traitors during the war; my grandad would have shot them. It was a shame because just at the time we were crossing over into the mainstream, with a younger audience, some people became scared to come and see us in case they got beaten up. I felt terrible.
WOODY: It got very rough. The worst thing was talking to European journalists who said, ‘Yes, I was at your gig and I was beaten up.’ We were like, ‘We really are terribly sorry but it’s got absolutely nothing to do with us.’ It got to the point where journalists were convinced that we affiliated ourselves with a fascist right-wing movement. There was all kinds of rubbish written.
BEDDERS: We never condoned the right-wing skinhead stuff, and hopefully that came through. We did a gig in Scotland and two sets of football fans turned up and proceeded to kick the shit out of each other. It was nothing to do with the music, they just used it as a venue. At the time there were a lot of punch-ups. It’s unheard of now.
SUGGS: One of the main parts of that whole NF phenomena was that the authorities were really clamping down on football hooligans, and then a lot of these nutters realised you could get away with that kind of behaviour at rock concerts. And they did for a while. None of us were ever interested in any of that. It was just the kind of fashion that happened at that time. We were dressing in that style, which was more to do with the style the people were wearing at the time of the music we were emulating – the late 60s style, half rude boy, half skinhead. Unfortunately at the same time there was that Oi!, NF thing going on, which latched itself on to what we were doing.
CARL: We were into old American clothes, and both 50s and 60s records, and we were into looking like skins. But we didn’t like it when the skins came out again, because it made us look bad. No-one had a crop in ’75 or ’76, but then all the NF and BM stuff happened, and that’s how we got roped in on that.
SUGGS: It wasn’t a very comfortable time at all. It was a short period, probably only six months to a year, but during that period it got very hairy – or not hairy in actual fact. We used to get some of these glue sniffing, kind of homeless kids who would get a swastika tattooed on their forehead, and I didn’t think they were particularly dangerous to society, more of a danger to themselves. But there was a certain element of not being vociferous enough about putting them down, I do think that was probably true. It happened to The Specials as bit as well, who actually had black people on stage. It just seemed a kind of fashionable thing at the time.
BEDDERS: What we’d do, is to actually go into the crowd and just ask them what the fuck they were playing at. It seemed a much better way, because instead of running away from the problem, we were actually trying to confront it.
SUGGS: In hindsight, I used to think it wasn’t those kids that were dangerous, it was the people organising them. It was the people in the suits. Then it got a bit out of hand, and the whole thing became a very horrible part of our history. It got out of hand in that it became more than just a few glue-sniffing kids. Then it obviously became something we had to deal with.
WOODY: Luckily, as we dropped the ska and became more pop, we lost the skinhead element of our supporters and appealed to a much wider audience. The skinhead element just died out. A few years later, I was at an open-air gig and this one skinhead called to me through some railings. So I went over and he said, ‘You’ve sold out. You’ve left us all behind. You’re not worthy of anything.’ I thought, ‘What’s the matter with this bloke? All we’ve ever done is play the music that we want to play and hope that people enjoy it.’ He got really upset cos he thought we were their crowning glorious leaders or something. It was really upsetting.
FEBRUARY 16: Hammersmith Odeon, London
Before embarking for the fourth leg of the One Step Beyond Tour in the US, Madness play a Saturday morning gig for under-16s. Tickets are £1. Afterwards they hold a junior press conference, at which all the reporters are kids.
BEDDERS (speaking in 1980): Whenever possible, we play venues where there are no seats, so that people can dance. We’ve played one or two big venues, like the Birmingham Odeon and Glasgow Apollo, but you don’t get the same atmosphere there. It’s far too big in those giant halls and we don’t want to play them, because there’s such a distance between us and the audience. The whole point of our music is that the audience can share it and get involved, so we recently did a tour of seaside towns, because you find their halls don’t have seats in. We thought it would be good to play at places where the local kids don’t see bands regularly.
FEBRUARY 21: Philadelphia
Now One Step Beyond has been officially released in America, Madness return for a three-week tour.
SUGGS: The thing about America is that you can lose yourself. You can spend your whole life touring up and down, up and down and forgetting where you are. Audiences vary from town to town, not country to country.
FEBRUARY 22: Bayou Club, Washington DC
MIKE: I got a bit worried when I thought some of them were shouting ‘Sieg Heil’, but I got a little closer to them and I realised it was ‘Rude Boys’ in an American accent!
FEBRUARY 24: Paradise Club, Boston (2 shows)
Chris plays the melody of Tom Jones hit It’s Not Unusual during In The Rain and Carl reminds the crowd that Rockin’ In Ab is an excuse for a party. Night Boat To Cairo has an extra solo and On The Beat Pete is introduced as ‘a song about the English police-force’, much to the crowd’s delight. During the reprise of One Step Beyond, Carl makes a plea to ‘tie up your boots and put your hands together to the Nutty beat’. The second show is aired on local radio. The set is the same as the first, but with Chipmunks Are Go! added to the second encore.
One Step Beyond / Deceives The Eye / Mistakes / Believe Me / My Girl / Swan Lake / Razor Blade Alley / Land Of Hope & Glory / In The Rain / The Young & The Old / In The Middle Of The Night / Bed & Breakfast Man / The Prince / Rockin’ in Ab / Night Boat To Cairo / Madness / ENCORE 1: On The Beat Pete / One Step Beyond / ENCORE 2: Steppin’ Into Line
From bar one they’re moving their asses with a pretty fair approximation of the Brixton bop, and they’re so familiar with the band’s material that they need little tutelage to chant the chorus of Chipmunks Are Go! during the second encore.
Mark Williams, Melody Maker
CARL: Some things are weird. Like, when we were playing The Paradise Club, we were doing the gig and there’s people eating hamburgers.
SUGGS: They were all just sitting around. Couldn’t get them to dance at all, hardly.
CARL (speaking in 1980): If we don’t get people moving it’s terrible.
FEBRUARY 25: Irving Plaza, New York
Madness’s arrival in the US coincides with The Specials’ last shows on their first Stateside tour. Playing the same cities with one week’s notice, Madness are believed to be responsible for fake ads suggesting that The Specials are giving 500 free tickets to those who can’t afford the $10 entry price for the finale at the Diplomat Ballroom on March 1, which has poor ticket sales. Madness themselves have no trouble selling out their own two-night residency.
One Step Beyond / Deceives The Eye / Mistakes / Believe Me / My Girl / Swan Lake / Razor Blade Alley / Land Of Hope & Glory / In The Rain / The Young & The Old / In The Middle Of The Night / Bed & Breakfast Man / The Prince / Rockin in Ab / Night Boat To Cairo / Madness / ENCORE: On The Beat Pete
It was gratifying to see the lack of rude boy suits and pork pie hats in the crowd lined up for Madness’ Irving Plaza show; a hint that a musical fashion might have a life beyond faddism. Instead of The Specials’ hyperdrive, Madness showed a youthful bar band’s gusto, romping through their set with all the slapstick jollity of a music hall troupe. The bandmasters turned Night Boat To Cairo into a Three Stooges routine falling over one another for a glimpse of a ship. But the real moment of nuttiness was Swan Lake during which Smash and a roadie pranced their way through Keystone Kops style choreography and butted their heads to the music with soccer playing panache. Wouldn’t it be great if all Instrumentalists played as fervently as Chas Smash uses his head?
Debra Rae Cohen, Rolling Stone
KELLOGGS: We were set up for an interview with Time magazine, and they arranged to meet us at our hotel. But where were they? Not there; they were in a cinema that happened to be showing A Clockwork Orange . En masse they went to a movie house up the road, which I knew nothing about. Meanwhile, I was there greeting the reporter from Time – this was a big deal. I was livid while they had another chance to have a good guffaw about it all.
FEBRUARY 27: Montreal, Canada
The first of three shows in Canada is far from successful – the PA system doesn’t work and neither does Mike’s keyboard, and Chalky turns sick halfway through the show. A fed-up Mike expresses his anger in the dressing room by smashing plates of food.
FEBRUARY 28: Broadway, Toronto
Tonight’s show in Toronto goes down better and is videotaped for broadcast on Canadian TV.
MARCH 1: Punch & Judy Club, Detroit
LEE: In the States we had a right crappy PA set-up so I used a Barcus-Berry pick-up bug and I had to drill a hole in the mouthpiece to fix it in. You could hear the top keys rattling with it – it was horrible. I like a real full, bassy blurty sound – I prefer the sax to sound the way it’s supposed to sound; I can’t stand all that squeaky, reedy stuff.
MARCH 2: Park West, Chicago
MARCH 4: The Agora, Cleveland
MARCH 8: The Wreck of the Hesperas, Portland
Madness perform at a pool bar for an indifferent audience. The headlining band, made up of metal-rednecks, aren’t impressed either and tell them to get out of this country with their black music.
SUGGS: When we played in Portland, the other band, who were some kind of heavy rockers, got so angry about our music they were telling us to get out of the country.
CARL: We got there and they said, ‘We don’t want any of that Goddam fucking black music here, boy.’ So we said, ‘We ain’t fucking coming back.’ The difference between LA and Portland is massive.
LEE: We had these rednecks looking at us side-on, frothing at the mouth and going, ‘You goddam motherfuckers, get that music outta here.’ It was like The Blues Brothers scene where they have to play behind chicken wire. It was only the barman and his dog who was really watching us.
MARCH 9: Universal / Washington, Seattle
MARCH 10: The Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Canada
MARCH 12: The Old Waldorf, San Francisco (2 shows)
Set (second show): One Step Beyond / Mistakes / Believe Me / My Girl / Swan Lake / Razor Blade Alley / Land Of Hope & Glory / The Young & The OId / In The Rain / In The Middle Of The Night / Bed & Breakfast Man / The Prince / Rockin’ In Ab / Night Boat To Cairo / Madness / ENCORE: On The Beat Pete / Madness
Madness are catching on fast in America; there’s more than a sprinkling of pork pie hats to be seen. Everybody seems to know the words to the songs, both shows are sold out and the understanding that you’re there to dance is generally comprehended. All in all, tonight’s gig is more like a reunion than a surprise. No wonder Madness have the kind of following they do in Britain. Already their shows assumed a ritualistic air, starting with Chas Smash’ call to feet, ‘This is the Heavy Heavy Monster Sound’ through various favourites, My Girl and Land Of Hope & Glory down to the Madness encore at the end. The pleasure’s in the familiarity, the sense of belonging, you know the punchline but you’re a sucker for the way they tell it and anyway you can’t stop dancing..
Mark Cooper, Record Mirror
KELLOGGS: There was a lot of rowdiness and anti-social behaviour that was by various turns frightening and cringeworthy. You can’t drive around the streets of San Francisco with your naked arse hanging out of the back window of the car and shouting things, banging the doors.
MARCH 13: Bodega, San Jose
BEDDERS: Basically Sire didn’t put anything into it. We had to do our own publicity and turn up at radio stations and generally get the vibe going ourselves, because Sire were so sparked out.
WOODY: Kelloggs actually discovered one of the girls from Sire records on her knees with a great pile of Madness posters from Stiff, cutting out the bottoms.
MARCH 14, 15 & 16: Whiskey-A-Go-Go, Los Angeles (6 shows)
One Step Beyond / Deceives The Eye / Mistakes / Believe Me / My Girl / Swan Lake / Razor Blade Alley / Land Of Hope & Glory / In The Rain / The Young & The Old / In The Middle Of The Night / Bed & Breakfast Man / The Prince / Rockin in Ab / Night Boat To Cairo / Madness
Madness’ second visit to Los Angeles was bloody marvellous. Seven guys go loony onstage while an outbreak of terminal bopping below turns laid back LA into a seething smiling mass of insanity. The whole thing from start to finish was like some gloriously unselfconscious practical joke were it not for the fact that the musicianship was (seriously) good. lt was a moving performance; everything was choreographed to perfection, be it the paper cup chucked at Chas turning into a dance-routine collapse when it landed a bullseye, or the balloon doing the rounds during the first few songs. Hard to pick out best songs when they were all merged into each other so well and so memorably: Believe Me (‘This is a song full of love and happiness’), My Girl (‘For all the young lovers in the audience’), In The Middle Of The Night (‘Some naughty things happen’), The Prince (‘Guess who this one’s dedicated to’), Night Boat To Cairo, complete with foghorns and raspy sax, and Madness, where various boppers offstage decide to become various boppers onstage. Madness escaped upstairs, but they were called back for more. All this and a second set that was as hot, if not hotter, the same night..
Sylvie Simmons, Sounds
BELINDA CARLISLE: When Madness returned to LA I hoped Suggs would try to start something, but he didn’t. I didn’t want to turn my quaint romantic fantasy into a disappointment which was probably a smart decision because Madness liked us and invited us to open for them on their UK tour later that year. We jumped at the opportunity, quit our jobs and sold everything to come over, thinking we’d go back to the States big rock stars.
MARCH 24: Aplauso, Spain
For their first appearance on Spanish TV, Madness playback Night Boat to Cairo and One Step Beyond – here changed to Un Paso Adelenate especially.
MARCH 26: Palmares des Chansons, France
The band playback One Step Beyond for French viewers, with Suggs sporting a natty pork pie hat.
MARCH 27: Rendezvous de Dimanche, France
Madness again playback One Step Beyond, this time on the popular French talk show.
SUGGS: With seven strong personalities, it could often take months to make a decision on the smallest detail. But with Dave Robinson, Night Boat To Cairo would land on your doormat and you’d find out it was your next single. We’d wanted to remix it or put another track on it, but we were away on tour. By the time we came back, it was, ‘Well, you can send it back if you want, but it’s on the presses.’
BEDDERS: It was our one big row with Stiff.
SUGGS (speaking in 1980): You see, the label is sort of like Dave Robinson’s brainchild and he’s made everything in it. But when we joined, The Prince was already in the charts and we were on our own two feet. But Dave likes you to be his boys, which is really good – but we don’t want to be anybody’s boys, we want to be ourselves. So there was friction with him over artwork and the records we wanted to put out. But it’s all right now – as soon as you hit the Top 10 he seems to calm down a bit.
MARCH 28: Work Rest And Play EP released
The four-track single (BUY 71) features Night Boat To Cairo, Deceives The Eye, The Young And The Old and Don’t Quote Me On That, a dig at the Press and the National Front. It stays in charts for eight weeks.
CHRIS: Our fourth single from One Step Beyond and there was trouble. We thought – hard to believe – that four singles from one album was a rip-off and were arguing with Dave Robinson. We were also due to go on tour and didn’t want to do a video. A compromise was reached and Night Boat To Cairo was called The Work Rest And Play EP, featuring three new songs which we felt was good value for money.
WOODY: I don’t know how I came up with the title Work, Rest & Play, I just remember suggesting it. Mistakes, Nutty Theme and Stepping Into Line were all contenders for the first album. In The Rain and the Work, Rest & Play EP were newer songs – the bridge between One Step Beyond and Absolutely.
CHRIS: Deceives The Eye was about the pleasures of shoplifting, which a few of us enjoyed. I got caught, my Dad went to court with me. He blamed himself but it wasn’t his fault. It used to be really easy to nick anything but I wouldn’t do it now – they’ve started putting these bleepers in clothes and records. Plus I’m getting old and I can’t run so fast. The song doesn’t have a moral though – we’re not telling people what they should or shouldn’t do.
SUGGS: The Young And The Old was about getting drunk in the pub and noticing how old people acted younger as the evening went on.
LEE: It’s another great Suggs lyric. He’s streets ahead.
CARL: Don’t Quote Me On That was a groove. Until I really started songwriting I’d just free-form over a groove, one take, that was it. I remember the energy of delivering that track and trying to be clever in an obtuse way, but I don’t know if I succeeded at all really. I’ve accepted who I was then, and see it as a completely honest time-capsule of that kid. And I find it really refreshing.
CHRIS: The riff for it is lifted from Bush Doctor by The Music Doctors.
SUGGS: It was written as a riposte to the lots of stupid stuff that was said about us and racism when we were on the road with black people, friends of ours, of Carl in particular. Yet he was the one getting castigated.
CARL: I was aggrieved by the one particular NME interview and that my comments were misconstrued. I dunno – I wasn’t all that eloquent then. I was all tongue-tied.
CHRIS: Originally, the record company had said, ‘We don’t want to do a video for Night Boat’, then at the last minute Robbo decided we would. We were just about to go to America so we had to do it at 12 o’clock at night. By now we’d now got the hang of it and had lots of ideas such as going up the Thames in a tug boat (had to wait until Uncle Sam) and going to Egypt (had to wait for Duran Duran), but due to the lack of time we used a studio with a moody background of the desert. It’s a sort of instruments video, so there’s not many ideas, but we had such fun making it – we were all a bit drunk. I always think it’s crap but everybody loves it; I suppose we’re all having a laugh.
MIKE: It was actually meant to be serious, with the proper pyramids and that, but they ended up making fools of us.
SUGGS: We went to Bermans & Nathans in Camden. They were a very serious costumers – it wasn’t like some crummy old fancy dress shop – and for whatever reason they took a shine to us and let us take whatever we wanted. So we got these very authentic pith helmets and khaki shirts and shorts. Dave had gone to the enormous expense of covering the floor with what must have been an inch of sand. There were two potted plants and Dave’s dog running around to add a bit of atmosphere. I thought I’d jump off the top of a ladder and land in the middle of the set to look like I’d just dropped out of space.
CHRIS: Because we were flying out the next day we didn’t have much time so we felt under tremendous pressure. We were really pissed, all the rucksacks had beer in, the background was wobbling and when Lee blew the sax someone would shake the tree.
LEE: I really like the el cheapo Night Boat video. The pyramids in the background are wobbling all over the show, we’re clearly not in the desert at all but we’re pretending we are, and Robbo’s dog is in it. It’s a very British thing – the sets are falling down, there’s a dog on the loose but carry on regardless. Don’t let the side down.
WOODY: It was all about not taking ourselves too seriously and having a laugh. We grew up with the Keystone Cops, Buster Keaton and Benny Hill on the telly. That was the entertainment that was around us at the time, so if you’re not worrying about which suit you’re wearing on a boat with models around you, that’s what you do.
CHRIS: Before shooting we were presented with silver discs for the One Step Beyond album and had a few drinks. This is what gave us the energy to run all over the place. During the filming we had an idea that we used a lot… basically slowing down the music and film so that when you run it at normal speed we all tend to move in slow motion which nullified the effect. At the end Bedders hams it up as the thirsty soldier and gets a playful prod in the behind. ‘Who was it?’ he said half serious. No one owned up. The final film revealed an Adidas trainer as the guilty party. Stand up Lee Thompson and be judged (oh, you are standing up). The rascally Dave Robinson had to pay over the odds due to the fact that our arguing and wrangling meant we had to film late at night – what we call in the trade a ‘ghoster’.
SUGGS: It’s now passed into the rhyming slang dictionary. If you have a giro, you can cash your Night Boat. Night Boat To Cairo = giro. The proudest moment of my career.
MARCH 29: Le Pavillion Baltard, Paris
Madness headline the last day of the Europe 1 festival as part of a Stiff records package, along with Lew Lewis, Wreckless Eric and Lene Lovich. Believe Me is dedicated to members of The Selecter who are watching the show, and Rockin’ In Ab to Jerry Dammers. For Madness the band are joined by Lew Lewis on vocals.
One Step Beyond / Deceives The Eye / Mistakes / Believe Me / My Girl / Swan Lake / Razor Blade Alley / Land Of Hope & Glory / In The Rain / The Young & The Old / In The Middle Of The Night / Bed & Breakfast Man / On The Beat Pete / The Prince / Rockin in Ab / Night Boat To Cairo / ENCORE 1: Don’t Quote Me On That / One Step Beyond / ENCORE 2: Madness
BEDDERS (speaking in 1980): The Europe 1 festival is not only the last show of the world tour, but also the end of the One Step Beyond phase. When we’re back in London, we’ll start rehearsing new tracks. It’s going to be The Dawn Of A New Era, to put it in The Specials’ words.
APRIL 3: Appear on Top of the Pops with Night Boat To Cairo
SUGGS: It was always the idea that we’d dress up or do something theatrical when we appeared. So we were all going to wear these pith helmets and khaki shorts and I came out and no-one else had bothered. Someone had put a fez on, but they were still wearing their suit and a couple of tea towels. And I remember looking across to the other stage and there were Dexy’s Midnight Runners, having thrown their bags and scarves, All looking like On The Waterfront cool, and I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, hang on, this has gone a bit far, actually. What are we doing here?’ I used to spend more time in Bermans & Nathans than I did at home.
APRIL 5: Appear in the Tiswas studio, with Night Boat To Cairo video also shown
APRIL 21: Winter Gardens, Margate
As the Work, Rest & PIay EP becomes their third UK Top 10 hit in a row, Madness prepare for a two-month tour of Britain and the continent. The UK leg is due to start on April 15, but the first five dates are cancelled as Woody’s dad is ill. The tour begins in Margate instead, with The Go-Go’s supporting. Four new tracks are added – Crying Shame, E.R.N.I.E., Baggy Trousers and Embarrassment.
Night Boat To Cairo / Mistakes / Crying Shame / Believe Me / The Young & The Old / In The Rain / E.R.N.I.E. / My Girl / Baggy Trousers / Bed & Breakfast Man / On The Beat Pete / Land Of Hope & Glory / Embarrassment / Swan Lake / The Prince / One Step Beyond / ENCORE: Madness
BELINDA CARLISLE (The Go-Go’s): When we toured with Madness, we lived on cough syrup, white bread and Nutella. Each night we waited for them to finish their preshow dinner and then dug through the trash for the scraps they threw out. Even beer was a luxury. Yet I still managed to gain 30lbs over the next two months thanks to the Nutella I smeared on white bread every morning. When we weren’t touring we were living in 49 Agincourt Road, Belsize Park, a wreck of a house, with the Belle Stars and some of the other 2-Tone bands.
APRIL 22: Tiffany’s, Great Yarmouth
The second show takes place in town where Lee’s parents are currently living. It’s the only time Madness will play here – although they return in April 1982 to film fairground scenes for the House Of Fun video.
APRIL 23: Wirrina Stadium, Peterborough
Mike celebrates his 21st birthday after the gig.
SUGGS: Girls weren’t really interested in us. I remember once we were at the airport, and we got trampled by thousands of screaming fans as they rushed past to mob Duran Duran who were getting on the next plane.
CHRIS: Personally, I did fall prey to the weakness of the old… er… um [groupies]. But after a while the novelty of shouting ‘Next please!’ wore off and it all it got a bit too much. Especially when you find out that the lovely lady in question has just ‘serviced’ an entire football team the week before you pulled into town. Some people use the fact that they are in a band and famous to take advantage of the fairer sex.
CARL: Once you’re in a band and you’ve had some success, you can be a complete brick wall and pull birds.
SUGGS: We were a normal band and did normal things and there are moments I regret. But it wasn’t totally rock ‘n’ roll. We were more of a family. Besides, what kind of person comes up to you in a bar and asks you to shag them? Not nice people, that’s for sure. And I’m interested in nice people.
APRIL 24: Tiffany’s, Coventry
The Specials take a break from recording their second album to watch the show. Lee joins them the following day as they record Hey Little Rich Girl.
APRIL 26: Royal Spa Pavilion, Bridlington
Tonight’s performances of Night Boat To Cairo and Crying Shame later appear on concert anthology MIS Live, released in December 1986 by official fan club, Madness Information Service.
APRIL 27: St George's Hall, Bradford
This show becomes Madness’s contribution to Dance Craze, using all tracks from The Prince onwards minus the first version of One Step Beyond and Crying Shame. Night Boat To Cairo, Swan Lake and One Step Beyond also appear on the accompanying soundtrack album.
Night Boat to Cairo / Deceives The Eye / Mistakes / Believe Me / The Young and the Old / In the Rain / E.R.N.I.E. / My Girl / Baggy Trousers / Bed & Breakfast Man / On The Beat Pete / Land of hope & Glory / In The Middle of the Night / Embarrassment / The Prince / Swan Lake / Razor Blade Alley / One Step Beyond / ENCORE 1: Crying Shame / Madness / ENCORE 2: Night Boat To Cairo / One Step Beyond
APRIL 28: Deeside Leisure Centre
MIKE (speaking in 1980): Sometimes we’re not really sure of what we’re playing.
WOODY (speaking in 1980): But if Chris starts playing something new, Bedders and me respond to it almost automatically. We’re doing it all the time on songs we’ve been playing for months. We don’t play the same thing every night.
APRIL 29: Tiffany’s, Blackpool
APRIL 30: Mayfair, Sunderland
SUGGS: In the early days, the gigs were mostly mad. We were mad – it was all mad. Not potty mad – ‘Oooh I’m really potty me’ – just no stone unturned, no jape un-japed, no laugh un-laughed and no drink un-drunk.
MAY 2: Assembly Rooms, Carlisle
MAY 3: Regal Suite, West Calder
MAY 4: Fusion Ballroom, Aberdeen
DAVE ROBINSON (speaking in 1980): I wish I could bottle it – I’d give it to a few of my other bands. Most bands when they’ve had a few hit records assume that their IQ also has improved. This is not so. Madness have never been guilty of such thinking. That’s because they’re completely professional. They take it all very seriously, but equally they have a tremendous sense of humour about everything. They’re very bright boys, and they’re also very streetwise. Once they trust you, they’ll allow you to just do your job and get on with it. But they know everything that’s going on about their affairs – they’ve made it their job to find out.
MAY 5: Magnum Centre, Irvine
SUGGS (speaking in 1980): We started off with the intention of designing our own bags and everything, cos we’re all quite artistic. Suddenly, though, you’re on tour in Glasgow, and the single’s out in London, and it seems we never make time to do anything.
MAY 7: Whitla Hall, Belfast
MAY 8: Olympic Ballroom, Dublin
For Carl the Irish shows are a homecoming, with independent radio station BCD broadcasting the show live. Believe Me is dedicated to ‘those who think they’ll be getting married’, The Young & The Old to ‘those who like alcoholic beverages’ and Bed & Breakfast Man to Jake Riviera, the original Stiff-founder. Embarrassment has a false start because Suggs forgets the lyrics. The show has such an impact that fan Anto Nolan later writes a stage play about an exiled fan who returns to Ireland to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the concert with two. Too Much Too Young premieres on July 17 1995 at the Dublin Tivoli and runs for six weeks. Carl and Lee attend the July 24 show and end up meeting Nolan and the fans on whom the characters are based.
Night Boat to Cairo / Deceives The Eye / Mistakes / Believe Me / The Young and the Old / In the Rain / E.R.N.I.E. / My Girl / Baggy Trousers / Bed & Breakfast Man / On The Beat Pete / Land of Hope & Glory / In the Middle of the Night / Embarrassment / Swan Lake / The Prince / One Step Beyond / ENCORE: Crying Shame / Madness
BEDDERS (speaking in 1980): At the moment we have about 16 or 17 songs to choose from for our next album, but it’s weird because we’ve recorded songs which don’t have names yet! We don’t have an album title either. The album will be out in September and we played about half a dozen tracks from it on the last tour. It was a good way of testing the reaction to them – I suppose you could say that we did our dirty washing in public! When we played a new song we could be critical of it and back at the rehearsal studios, we changed around the rhythm of the tempo.
MAY 10: Llanelli Glen Ballroom
Tonight’s rescheduled show ¬was originally scheduled to start the tour on April 15.
MAY 14: Le Collaro Show, France
Filmed at the Theatre de l’Empire in Paris, the band don their pith helmets and safari suits to playback Night Boat to Cairo for the light entertainment comedy show.
ALAN COWDEROY (Stiff international boss): The French, particularly, absolutely loved the whole black and white 2-Tone imagery. They ate it up and the band were huge there. We did lots of TV. I travelled with them, just being a mediator.
MAY 19: Neue Welt, Berlin
Clive Langer & The Boxes – who include Mike’s brother Ben – replace The Go-Go’s on these continental shows.
MAY 22: Phillipshalle, Dusseldorf
ALAN COWDEROY: They were a complete gang, all individual in their way. Woody was quieter and quite artistic, not as vociferous as some of the others. Mike was taciturn, not very communicative but he was musical so we respected that. Carl was a bit pushy. But none of them were difficult. You might think Lee was mental but he wasn’t, particularly.
MAY 20: Musikhalle, Hamburg
ALAN COWDEROY: Obviously, they didn’t love it to death and found some of the countries a bit of a drag but they still did it. I don’t remember them missing a show.
MAY 23: Wartburg, Wiesbaden
MAY 24: Circus Krone, Munich
Suggs and Mike miss the tour bus and are brought to the show by the concert promoter, who delivers them to an impatient crowd. Half way the show a police- officer comes on stage to ask if the owner of a brown Ford could go back to the car park to turn his lights off. The officer’s hat is thrown at the crowd before he goes the same way.
SUGGS: What did start to get depressing was that sort of mass-produced stuff; those dreadful see-through Harrington’s and cardboard pork-pie hats. It just became travesties of the original things and I found it depressing to see hordes and hordes of kids dressed identically. It was just unfortunate because what we’d originally been interested in was individuality and being larger than life. Not the opposite, which is what it became – sort of smaller than life.
MAY 26: Eulachhalle, Winterthur, Switzerland
Tonight’s versions of On The Beat Pete and Swan Lake will later appear on the MIS Live fan club cassette.
Night Boat to Cairo / Deceives The Eye / Mistakes / Believe Me / The Young and the Old / In the Rain / E.R.N.I.E. / My Girl / Baggy Trousers / Bed & Breakfast Man / On The beat Pete / Land of Hope & Glory / In The Middle of the Night / Embarrassment / Swan Lake / The Prince / One Step Beyond / ENCORE: Madness
MAY 27: Palais Beaulieu, Lausanne
Upon arrival at their hotel in Zurich, the band are given a special present – which, after the show and a drinking session, they put to mischievous use.
CARL: We were presented with Swiss Army knives, so we unscrewed every fucking thing in the hotel.
BEDDERS: We swapped all the room numbers, systematically. We unscrewed furniture, chairs, beds, doorframes. Anything we could. We were very good at it. We changed the room numbers on the different floors, unscrewed things and moved them around a bit. We were very quick. This is the kind of thing that we used to get up to in the 80s. I think it was just being bored a lot of the time. Being on the road drives you to mischief.
MAY 28: Palais D' Hiver, Lyon, France
MAY 29: Halle Leminees, Toulouse
LEE (speaking in 1980): I can’t tell whether people like us for the music or the nutty image we’ve got.
MAY 30: Palms Des Sports, Bordeaux
JUNE 1: Palais Des Grottes, Cambrai (2 shows)
Madness play two shows on one day, the first a children’s matinee. Tonight’s performance of In The Rain appears on the MIS Live tape in 1986. E.R.N.I.E. and Embarrassment end up on the My Girl CD2-reissue in July 1992.
WOODY (speaking in 1980): My biggest struggle at present is just trying to stay normal; just to be accepted as a normal human being in other people’s eyes.
JUNE 2: Rock Planet, Netherlands
Sporting bizarre painted-on moustaches, Madness perform Night Boat to Cairo on the Dutch chart show.
JUNE 3: ADM Werf, Amsterdam, Holland
Madness perform at the Festival of Fools at a defunct shipyard. A tired and emotional man dangles from the lights 30ft above Woody and has to be removed.
JUNE 5: Goeta Lejon, Stockholm, Sweden
WOODY (speaking in 1980): Television shows go, ‘Ahhh! You act nutty, yes?’ Like on one programme, we did One Step Beyond sitting down didn’t we? For one take, and it didn’t work.
BEDDERS (speaking in 1980): We just sat there just to sort of say, ‘Look! We can do it sitting down if we want’.
MIKE: Right from the start, wherever we were, people would be wanting you to drop your pants and stuff: ‘Do something nutty.’ You can’t always switch it on. At a certain point, you’d had enough of it.
WOODY: There were times when you’d have photographer or a TV crew saying, ‘OK! All come out one by one and do a nutty dance!’ And it would come to my turn and I would be, ‘Oh my God, what do I do?’ I can’t dance to save my life so I just stood there and froze. It was awful but the band soon realised that it just wasn’t me and rallied behind me: ‘Don’t ask Woody to dance.’
JUNE 6: Chateau Neuf, Oslo, Norway
Extract from 1980 tour rider
11. The Artiste requires the stage size to be a minimum of 25ft x 15ft and a minimum of 3ft from the ground.
13. The Management agrees to provide at least four (4) stage hands to expedite the movement of equipment both in and out of the venue. NB: These men must report to the Artiste’s crew chief at load in time and also directly show close for instructions. They must be sober.
14. The Management agrees to supply light refreshments to be placed in the dressing rooms at sound check time on day of performance comprising:
* 1 gallon Assorted Pure Natural Fruit Juices (orange, grapefruit, grape, apple, etc)
* 2 cases (24 units each) of imported lager. NB: Not Skol, Harp or Black Label please.
* 1 case (24 units) of light Ale.
* 4 pints of milk.
* A cold buffet comprising: Cold cuts of meat, cheese, pate, pies, salads, fresh fruit etc, sufficient to feed 12 persons.
15. It is also essential that road crew is provided with, at load time, to be notified by the Tour Manager, tea, orange juice, milk and sticky buns. These men work hard and must be fed and watered.
JUNE 9: Lewisham Odeon, London
Jamaican ska legend Desmond Dekker, who has just released an album on Stiff, joins The Go-Go’s as support tonight and tomorrow.
SUGGS (speaking in 1980): It’s always been the same: It’s fun when you’re doing it, but it’s not fun when people want you to do it.
JUNE 10: Lyceum Ballroom, London
Night Boat to Cairo / Deceives The Eye / Mistakes / Believe Me / The Young and the Old / In the Rain / E.R.N.I.E. / My Girl / Baggy Trousers / Bed & Breakfast Man / On The Beat Pete / Land of Hope & Glory / In the Middle of the Night / Embarrassment / Swan Lake / Razor Blade Alley / The Prince / One Step Beyond / ENCORE: Madness
lt never seems odd that Madness dedicate songs to their mums and sing Razor Blade Alley in the same set. They fling a lot at you and most of it sticks. Bed & Breakfast Man; short, snappy and busting with ideas. Swan Lake, One Step Beyond and the encore. Madness are irresistible invitations to dance. They’re a great band. Madness is catching. Madness is fun.
Steve Sutherland, Melody Maker
JUNE 11: Top Rank, Cardiff
Support for tonight and the last four shows is Clive Langer & The Boxes and The Go-Go’s, except St Austell which is just The Go-Go’s. Madness will spend the rest of the month writing and rehearsing new songs at Nomis Studios.
JUNE 12: Bath Pavilion
CARL (speaking in 1980): What we do is not put on. It’s what we’ve been doing and what we were like before the band, most of us, so when you get these arseholes going, ‘Put on your ska suits…’
SUGGS (speaking in 1980): Whereas if they hadn’t asked you, you’d probably put on your suit, that kind of thing. It’s either going to be spontaneous or not at all. It’s more depressing to be funny, when you don’t feel funny.
JUNE 13: Torquay Town Hall
JUNE 14: New Cornish Riviera, St Austell
BELINDA CARLISLE: Madness gave the Go-Go’s their break really and were pretty instrumental in our success. Stiff didn’t like us for whatever reason but Madness pleaded with them to release We Got The Beat. They did us a favour as it became an import single in the States and charted pretty high in the dance charts. That was the beginning of how the Go-Go’s took off.
JULY 1: Pulsar Festival, Paris
Madness join the line-up on the fourth day of the festival, along with Graham Parker and Joe Jackson. Now seasoned travellers, the band have come a long way since their first-ever tour, when one band member said he couldn’t go to Wales because he didn’t have a passport.
CARL (speaking in 1980): Our image has been pushed into too much of a commercial thing, which we don’t really want to be in. But it’s helped us a lot too. Put it this way, if you ain’t very popular you can’t really go your own way first. You’ve got to accept it before you can start going the way you want to go. It’s a bit bad when you’re not taken seriously at times. Like some of the stuff is serious, some of it is amusing, and we want people to take it both ways. Not just as the funny ha-ha bit.
JULY 12: Montreux Festival, Switzerland
Madness perform at the Montreux Festival. Suggs and Bette Bright watch Elvis Costello & The Attractions. The band are asked to play at a concert for 2-Tone’s first anniversary on July 13 but it doesn’t happen because a licence is refused.
AUGUST 11 & 12: Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Supported by the Mo-dettes, the band interrupt recording to play two dates, filmed for ATV’s Rock Stage. Showcasing more tracks off their new album, both shows are attended by a large teenage crowd. They spend the second afternoon lip-synching so the TV crew can film the required close-ups. Sixteen tracks are used for the eventual edit, which is screened in 1981.
Set (first show): Night Boat to Cairo / E.R.N.I.E. / Mistakes / Disappear / Close Escape / Not Home Today / Crying Shame / Razor Blade Alley / Baggy Trousers / My Girl / Bed & Breakfast Man / Land of Hope and Glory / Embarrassment / On The Beat Pete / In the Middle of the Night / Swan Lake / The Prince / One Step Beyond / ENCORE: Madness
Set (second show): Same as the first, plus Deceives The Eye after Madness
The new numbers work well; best songs are Baggy Trousers and Disappear. Mistakes is a song ‘about last night’s gig’. The final number, Deceives The Eye, is dedicated to me by Mark, as the line, ‘The quickness of the hand deceives the eye’ is supposed to have some cryptic meaning concerning the two days I spent with them. Chris Foreman tells me afterwards that I’m the only person from the press he’s ever seen dancing at their gigs. All I know is that Madness may not be the most original or musically competent band on earth, but as long as they do it because they enjoy it, then they’ve got a fair old lifespan ahead of them with me as a fan.
Tony Fletcher, The Face
LEE (speaking in 1980): Last year we could go onstage time and time again and you wouldn’t see anyone with the hump. But now, I don’t know if people still expect it, but if I’m in a real bad mood and I go out there, I won’t try and put a smile on. If audiences are expecting fun and games, poppers and balloons, they’ve got another think coming.
AUGUST 30: Woody marries Jane Crockford from The Mo-dettes
SUGGS: Really, we always thought it would be over in a matter of weeks. I remember thinking that we’d blown it with Baggy Trousers.
SEPTEMBER 5: Baggy Trousers/The Business is released.
Written with trademark London wit by Chris and Suggs, the single (BUY84) eventually spends 20 weeks on the charts, peaking at No3.
LEE: My Girl was the start of our success and then Baggy Trousers sealed it.
WOODY: It came right in the middle of writing a whole load of songs very, very quickly. We wrote it in about two weeks, in a studio called Olympia. Suggs was a big fan of Ian Dury and writing in your colloquial tongue, so he wanted a song where it wasn’t all flowery and poetic, it was how you spoke.
SUGGS: It was supposed to sound like Ian Dury. It was about school in London, but also as an answer to Pink Floyd. They’d had that song, Another Brick In The Wall. And I remember thinking it was a bit rum, they’d gone to these famous public schools and they were singing, ‘Teacher leave the kids alone’. It sounded sinister and strange, but also self-indulgent to be going on about how terrible school days had been. There was an inverted snobbery about it, too: ‘You went to a posh public school? You wanna try going to MY school.’ I’d gone to this really horrible school and I thought, ‘Well, these teachers aren’t finding it any easier than I am.’ I mean, it was chaos. I also thought how boring it must have been from a teacher’s point of view too, particularly where there were 2,000 boys and a very small percentage interested in anything other than going home. I was thinking about these things as I lay on the floor of Lee’s flat in Caledonian Road after a night at the Hope. I was face-down on the floor in a sleeping bag, pen and pad in hand, and started writing a list of everything I could remember from my days at Quinton Kynaston. I was trying very hard to write a Dury-esque catalogue; that constant stream of description about a very small part of your life. It wasn’t the easiest job at first, as I’d hardly been there for the last few years. But the memories began to trickle in: ‘Naughty boys in nasty schools…’ In a couple of hours I had about six pages, some good, a lot boring, all from my own experience of the sort of nonsense we used to get up to. The chorus was a bit trickier, as I was trying to get across the craziness that occurred at school in the battle against boredom, but balanced with a certain sympathy for the beleaguered teachers. I hoped that at some point a title and chorus would emerge and they did: Baggy Trousers just sounded like an unusual title and I couldn’t think of anything better. By the morning it was done. Lee and Deb had gone to work and I realised I had no money to get home, which is why I’d kipped there in the first place. I borrowed 12p from Thommo’s biscuit tins, just enough for ten fags and my bus fare home (I must pay him back one day). I then turned up at rehearsals with my new words, Chris had a bit of a tasty ska riff on the go, and the words just slotted in perfectly. The melody, if you can call it such, materialised spontaneously.
CHRIS: It was a great song but I never thought it would be a hit. It didn’t have a strong chorus.
SUGGS: Certainly all the things I said about that school were true, and they haven’t changed. I also wrote a song about one of the teachers, it was really horrible, but I never did it: ‘Oh Mr Pound, where are you now? / When you lashed out with the blackboard rubber / Your Bobby Charlton hairdo flying / I was diving under desks for cover / And when I was not quick enough / I’d hit him squarely on the head / He hated everyone in London / And I lay there thinking I was dead.’
LEE: On the run-out groove of the single itself, it read, ‘We have lift off’, which was a reference to the video and was my suggestion. There was a real competitiveness in the band every time we were about to press up a record. We’d race each other to call up Porky Prime Cuts, who cut the records, and tell them what message we wanted written into the groove. It was like a secret we shared with the fans, a little message to them – something fun, a little bit extra that you could do with a record and can’t really do now in the streaming era. But the skill of this race was being able to call Porky right at the moment before they cut the record, close enough that no one else in the band could phone up after you and change the message. Nine times out of ten, I won that race – and Baggy Trousers was no different.
CHRIS: We filmed most of the video, including that famous flying sequence, inside and outside Islip Street School in Kentish Town. A few yards to the left of it is the pub that we all went to for our lunch break after leaving Lee trussed securely up hanging from a crane. It used to be called the Oxford Arms and had a stripper every Thursday (or so someone told me). Further on is a grassy knoll – the second most famous, after the one in Dallas – and a play area where we filmed some kids playing football near a block of flats called the Forties, which Lee lived in as a kid when I first met him. There were lots of kids running riot – kids from the ‘hood.
DAVE ROBINSON: It was filmed at the school because several of the band had actually gone there. They were very happy that some of their old boys hadn’t ended up in Wormwood Scrubs and had actually got a livelihood.
LEE: It was good to keep things local… very local.
WOODY: Shooting the video was really quick – it only took an afternoon.
CARL: If you notice, in the school gym scenes I’m wearing a fake hand. I don’t know why.
MIKE: My missus was there somewhere in the background, sitting on the grass somewhere to the left: ‘Bloody rubbish. What is this?’
CHRIS: Lee had already started giving himself the best roles in the videos.
CARL: Flying up in the air was definitely his own idea.
LEE: I’d seen it done by Peter Gabriel at the Drury Lane Theatre one night when me and Chris bunked in to see Genesis. He was singing A Flower? and he had this harness on and suddenly something went BOOM! and he flew through the smoke on a wire. I thought, ‘One day, I would really love to do that.’
CHRIS: I remember him going on about doing the same thing when he got the chance. Little did we know.
LEE: The thing that immediately came to mind was someone in a big baggy pair of trousers in a high wind taking off, so I suggested to Robbo to get a crane in.
DAVE ROBINSON: Lee said he’d seen somebody do some trapeze something and said, ‘Is there any way I could fly in this video?’ I said, ‘Probably not.’ He was always wanting to do obscure things.
CHRIS: Lee was insistent he wore the baggiest pair of trousers we could find, so we got these trousers from Bermans & Nathans and they were humungous – 64-inch waist. They’d belonged to Peter Ustinov, the great man itself. It was a great honour, even though we had to let them out for Thommo (ha ha).
DAVE ROBINSON: A few people thought the flying scene couldn’t be done, but eventually I found this circus guy who’d done James Bond movies with this kind of trapeze idea. He said, ‘Oh yes, you can do that; you just use a crane and some wires.’ I just thought, ‘Hmm. Let’s make sure the strapping is nice and tight.’
CARL: So we turned up on the day of the shoot and saw this crane, but we didn’t know why it was there.
DAVE ROBINSON: Lee used to keep everything secret from everybody, so he hadn’t told the rest of the band what he was up to, and we certainly weren’t going to tell them. So the crane arrived and the group were none the wiser – they didn’t know that Lee was gonna slap on this thing and do it. It meant when he took off they were genuinely amazed. He went sailing past Suggs’s nose and I was shouting at the crane driver, ‘Get him up! Get him up!’
CHRIS: He was up there on these quite thick wires, so I thought, ‘This is gonna look so two-bob – you’re gonna be able to see how he’s doing it’. But that was the fantastic thing; we went to see the rushes and you couldn’t see them.
LEE: Yeah, the wires not showing was a real coup.
DAVE ROBINSON: There’s a clip of Suggs looking up, totally amazed, as he starts flying – none of the band had seen him doing it.
WOODY: It was just such a shock when he suddenly started flying. From where I was sitting, I honestly couldn’t see the wires, so it was like, ‘Fantastic!’
SUGGS: You can see me going, ‘I hope he doesn’t fall on my head.’
DAVE ROBINSON: I remember being being really impressed that he managed to keep his equilibrium and his sax in his mouth. He’d never even tried it out, so it was really something else. Particularly as we found out later that he was in agony.
LEE: The crane driver was on Guinness and had scars all over the place because of a prior accident. I said, ‘I don’t wanna come back looking like you Quasimodo.’ He put the harness on, they winched me up and that’s when I felt a very sharp pain – it really made my eyes water. What it was, they’d caught part of my scrotum in the strapping and made a love bite effect round me nuts. It was like a painful itch that could not be scratched. Then he fucked off to the pub for 20 minutes and left me hanging there above this spiked fence. So we did the business – three or four times, I think – I came down, took the thing off, got home and it was black and blue. I went to the doctors just for a check-up. I asked him to take away the bruising but leave the swelling (laughs). It was a painful experience, but it was worth it.
DAVE ROBINSON: The only thing was, the cameraman didn’t shut the magazine on the camera properly, so we nearly lost it all.
CHRIS: There was a hair in the gate or something.
DAVE ROBINSON: Jeff Baynes was the cameraman, and his assistant forgot to close the magazine that the film was in and the light got in. So very little of the flying stuff actually came out. What ended up in the final video was us doing the run-through – although you can’t tell it’s a practice run.
CHRIS: Lee originally wanted to have six dummies which represented us, and he was going to fly through the air and kick their heads off. But we thought, no, Top Of The Pops would never show that, so we toned it down and they just appear in the pub scene instead.
DAVE ROBINSON: People who interviewed me later on said, ‘Where was the net?’ And I said, ‘Net?’
LEE: I’d demanded some sort of safety net but Robbo said he couldn’t afford it. Typical Robbo – but it ended up being the business.
DAVE ROBINSON: Although it was simply shot in a school playground, more people probably saw that video than anything. People would even show it on the news.
CHRIS: This video was really important as we started using a lot of other elements, rather than just playing live. It was the first one we did that everybody noticed and we became known for our videos as much as our music. From then on, everyone was saying, ‘Have you seen the new Madness video?’ It established us as video legends.
ADAM ANT: Many videos at this time were not about anything except allowing directors to try this or that technique in order to make the band look exciting. The only other band doing anything remotely interesting in their videos were Madness, whose videos made me laugh. I considered them the opposition at the time – especially Lee, who was very funny.
LEE: Looking back, it’s a shame I never did a complete somersault because then it really would’ve looked like, ‘Hey, he’s doing it with no hands!’ That’s stuck with me ever since. Unfortunately, there isn’t a wire thick enough to hold me up now.
CHRIS: Sometimes the best things are the ones that have nothing to do with the song, like Lee flying. People all remember it. It was a very important point for us – we realised we had to monopolise on the old wire-hanging.
LEE: There doesn’t really have to be a reason for anything, it just has to look really good. People think me flying was some sort of expensive process but it wasn’t… it was just a crane!
CARL: We still meet kids who are now grown up and go, ‘I was in that video – that was my school.’
SUGGS: Baggy Trousers really was a turning point. Up until then we’d thought we were quite groovy teenagers, getting groovy teenage chick fans, then we ended up with this horde of undernourished urchins. It wasn’t quite the demographic we were hoping for, but it was just an amazing phenomenon. I mean, the last thing we wanted was a load of ten-year-old twerps following us, but after it came out, they were everywhere you looked. I remember I was walking past a school playground with Joe Strummer and I was saying, ‘I don’t know what’s going on – it’s getting a bit weird.’ And then we turned the corner and all these kids on the swings were singing Baggy Trousers. And Joe said, ‘What’s to complain about?’ It was just hard to – what’s the word? – assimilate.
CHRIS: I was most proud of Baggy Trousers as it was the first single I’d written the music for. So imagine my disappointment when I looked at the label copy and it said ‘Composed by Barson/ Foreman/ McPherson’. I went mad and asked Stiff why it said such falseness and they said, ‘Oh Suggs told us.’ Enough said – he’s not too good on details. So I got it changed. Barso’s name should not be on the songwriting credits – I do hope he never got a penny.
SUGGS: For the cover, Humphrey Ocean, a great painter and old pal of ours, who’d also played bass with the Kilburns, did a fantastic pencil illustration of the band standing outside Chalk Farm station.
SEPTEMBER 26: Absolutely album is released
Again helmed by Langer and Winstanley, the new LP (SEEZ 29) is released, advertised as ‘The Camden Cowboys Ride Again’. It will go on to spend 46 weeks on the UK charts and peak at No2.
TRACK-BY-TRACK: Click on song title
SUGGS: It’s funny, that whole thing about the kids latching onto Baggy Trousers. People seem to think it was about primary school, but it was actually meant to be secondary school.
WOODY: The other misnomer is that the ‘baggy trousers’ don’t relate to the kids, it’s actually the teachers. Suggs’s image was teachers wearing gowns and mortarboards and baggy trousers and so on.
SUGGS: That’s true – ‘baggy trousers’ weren’t supposed to be some sort of Dickensified notion of shorts, they were those horrible big trousers that everybody wore in the 70s; great flapping things they mistakenly called Oxford bags. With four-button waistbands and for some peculiar reason, pockets down by the knees, the ensemble set off perfectly with a lovely pair of snub-nosed stack-heel shoes.
LEE: This was a true life story of bigotry, verbal bullying and mixed race. It was written to the tune of Prince Buster’s Ghost Dance in the sleepless hours of a drunken morning after hearing of my sister’s pregnancy – by post, by phone, by word of mouth from a few relatives in all eight corners of the world. I thought I’d write a song on the reactions I got from some folk towards young girls having half-caste babies. I remember all the chat, the gossip, the cold-shouldering. It was just not accepted in those days. She was shunned by a few people in the family and my father tried to talk her into getting it terminated. My sister dug her heels in and I was caught in the middle, wanting everyone to be happy. So I just put it all down on paper.
TRACY (Lee’s sister): I was only 17 and was getting these odd dirty look and certain comments, so I think Lee just wrote what my mum and dad were thinking. Mum was a bit of a Mrs Bouquet; she was worried what the neighbours would think, what other families would think… she was even worrying how black the baby was gonna be.
LEE: The clock was ticking down to go into the studio, so I gave the words to Mike. I think I only sent him half of them, on a cigarette packet and a napkin, but by the next day he’d worked a tune out to go with them.
MIKE: It was really dodgily written out on a bit of paper you could easily have lost. I have a feeling if I’d mislaid that bit of paper the song would never have got done.
LEE: It wasn’t really finished when I gave it to Mike and I was still lost for the last two lines of the third verse. But by the time I could think of anything that was good enough, our glorious leader had already recorded the song with his own lyrics. Cheers Suggs! Although it annoyed me, our Stiff schedule had a record to keep, so I didn’t want to make a big thing out of a small problem. In hinsidght, I wish I’d had more time to spend on it, but then how long’s a piece of rope?
WOODY: I thought it was beautifully written; it was very descript and not judgmental about anyone.
LEE: Looking back on it now, the lyrics were a bit harsh but it had to hit home, particularly in the area that I lived. Some of the attitudes and reaction to mixed race weren’t nice at all, but fortunately I was in a position to have a pop back. At the time, the subject was very taboo and I was told, ‘That was pretty brave of you, writing those words’, but even though I’m not really that opinionated, I wasn’t going to brush anything under the carpet in that situation.
TRACY THOMPSON (Lee’s sister): I had an aunt who couldn’t have children and she wanted to adopt the baby. And my mum and dad also wanted to bring her up; they absolutely adored her. But I didn’t want none of it – I wanted to bring up my own baby.
LEE: If I could turn back time I’d spend more time on the lyrics and not be so harsh on my family. But in no way do I have any regrets or am embarrassed about writing Embarrassment.
TRACY THOMPSON (Lee’s sister): I feel proud of it – the lyrics are true.
CHRIS: Maxine Nightingale’s Right Back Where We Started From got to No8 on November 1st 1975. Foreigner’s Cold As Ice got to No24 on July 15th 1978, so ipso facto Foreigner ripped Maxine and Barso told me it was Right Back Where We Started From that begot Embarrassment. It could be possible however that Barso only said that because Right Back Where We Started From is a far better song and he wished to appear cool.
DAVE ROBINSON: This was one of the moments when they realised that if you had a light, beat-y song, you could be saying anything and people wouldn’t really spot it. So they started to address things that other people hadn’t.
SUGGS: The Specials would be writing stuff like Racist Friend, but we’d do something like this instead; we weren’t waving banners. We were talking about those issues, but in a slightly more abstract way.
CHRIS: We would be writing about quite important issues but we wouldn’t be beating people over the head with it.
LEE: It was a good time, dancy, poppy tune with a serious undercurrent, but with a red nose on top.
SUGGS: It’s still one of my favourites. People think of our songs as being perfectly pop but musically, it doesn’t have a chorus and is kind of unusual – the chord changes take you up and down and round and round. It’s deceptively simple, with a very long sax solo and quite dark lyrics, but catchy nonetheless. But lyrically it’s fantastic. It’s very real and I suppose it’s the ultimate Madness song cos it’s kind of funny but really quite dark. The music’s much jollier than the lyrics. We also tried to sound like a Motown band but failed miserably, which is in itself quite charming.
WOODY: Every snare beat had a wood block on it to try and make it sound like Motown.
LEE: It was certainly a step up in terms of our songwriting. The songs before, we had My Girl for the girls, Baggy Trousers for the boys, and One Step Beyond, where we taught everyone how to dance without their handbag. I was really flattered when Paul Weller put it in his top five songs of all time.
PAUL WELLER: I always wanted to do a song with that Motown beat like Madness did with Embarrassment. That was great – I always wanted to do something with that rhythm.
SUGGS: It’s a great song. I’ve always enjoyed playing it and never get bored of it. It’s a great mixture of everything we stand for. It was written at a time when we were being castigated for being racist. But that’s just how Lee writes his songs – it’s not always completely clear.
CARL: In those days we didn’t tell each other what the songs were about really.
PAULINE BLACK: Embarrassment was the only Madness track that I could really relate to, because it’s about a mixed-raced kid in a family who’s a bit of an embarrassment. It completely related to my upbringing as a mixed-race kid within a white family, who was adopted. Every time we went anywhere my existence always had to be explained, and was always prefaced with, ‘She’s adopted you know’… to avoid any embarrassment.
SUGGS: Back in the days of steam, the closest the poor people of this grey island had to a National Lottery was a huge machine called E.R.N.I.E., the letters of which stood for something like energy rationalised national integrated something bollocks. Anyway this monstrous mechanism was kept in the bowels of the Ministry of Fun and fed Premium Bonds which were purchased by the public to help the war effort in Crimea. Well, every 20 years or so, E.R.N.I.E. would spit out an unpalatable bond and if the numbers matched yours, you would be the lucky winner of 15 guineas. So basically, people who could ill afford it would give their money to the government in the trillion-to-one chance of winning a few bob.
MIKE: I don’t like E.R.N.I.E. so much because the piano’s a bit hard to play and I can barely get through the solo.
LEE: This one came to me almost immediately and was written very quickly. It’s the sequel to In the Middle Of The Night. It’s about the same character, George, as I wanted to keep him alive. Only this time he goes from jumping across gardens and stealing underwear to making obscene phone calls. He’s moved up the ladder and is now a heavy-breather down the public telephone box receiver.
LEE: I’ve got a thing about authoritative uniforms and Laughing Fat Policemen. On The Beat Pete is a tale of your local community copper who would help old ladies across the road, sit and have a sup with your local wino, who’d sooner give you a clip round the ear than a record. Pete is a good, honest pig who doesn’t want any stripes and promotion, just job satisfaction. Because of Pete’s high blood pressure, he now resides in Broadmoor on full pay and has keys to come and go as he pleases.
BEDDERS: This was written the day before we played the Hammersmith Odeon. It went down so well when we played it as an encore, the kids were singing the chorus after the first three verses.
WOODY: It’s good to hang out your dirty linen in public like that – that’s the best test of a new song there is.
LEE: It went down really well from the very first time we played it – the kids loved all the false endings and we’d always fuck ’em up. We hadn’t learned it properly yet, so we didn’t know all the breaks at the end, where it stops on ‘Pete!’ and then starts up again. We were all supposed to come back in again at the same time, but only one of us would – just the bass or the high-hat – and we’d be like rabbits caught in the headlights, looking at each other, pointing the finger, with three sets of fingers pointing back at you.
MIKE: This one was inspired by the name of a Roxy Music track. It was mainly a poetic expression of my continuing mental state though I wished I’d written it as some kind of subtle message about the atomic bomb. However I didn’t. I guess that’s one of the reasons why Bob Dylan became world-renowned and I didn’t. It actually has an odd time signature, like Pink Floyd’s Money. Later tracks like Tomorrows Dream also had a similarly odd rhythmic quirk.
LEE: We can all hit a nerve point in the heat of the moment with people and none more so than with family. This was my way of saying sorry to my mum. That reminds me I must tell her I love her.
CARL (speaking in 1980): This friend come up to me and said the words to Overdone were so true. He wrote to his mum and dad and found out they’d been divorced and died. And that’s what people identify with.
CHRIS: Suggs had a cold when we recorded this – and you can hear it.
SUGGS: As with a lot of songs we wrote together, my memory is unfortunately not altogether clear. From what I recall, this tune was written by Mike, in the days when we rehearsed in the disused dentist surgery in Finchley. Mike had the title and some of the words and I wrote the rest. A simple story of a girl leaving a boy. I thought at the time that it sounded rather Elvis Costello-ish. I may have been wrong.
CLIVE LANGER: With every album we were asked to do an instrumental. It was just part of Madness that had started with One Step Beyond. For Return of the Los Palmas 7 Mike had a book of 60s hits and if I remember correctly, he reversed a Cathy Kirby melody.
WOODY: Mark and I thought we had done all we had to do on Absolutely but we were wrong – the album had no instrumental on it. This meant there was one more backing track to do, but we hadn’t found out what it was. This was a job for Mike. Soon he got to work on the piano, and as if by magic a song appeared. We took the sheet music for an old Shirley Bassey song – What Now My Love, the English version of a French original song Et Maintenant, written by Gilbert Becaud – and changed it completely, giving it a Latin, cha-cha rhythm. When Mark, Mike and I were running through it, there was only the three of us. Mike had the chords and the notes, Mark added the bassline and me the drums. We finally found a rhythm that fitted, and the more I heard it the more I wanted to go, ‘Hey! Cha-cha-cha’, you know? Come dancing! I said, ‘You know we’ve got a do a few like stops, just as corny as possible’ because it was just there. It was a masterpiece in our lunchtime – and that’s about the time it took to write. It was my first credit for writing a song and I’m still not sure If I really wrote as much of it as Mark and Mike give me credit for.
Madness have no lofty heights to maintain; they never pretended to be more than a goodtime dance band, playing “that nutty sound.” Absolutely,it follows, is no great leap forward from the super-dance-able, ska-tinged sounds of their debut, One Step Beyond. The carnival atmosphere remains intact as songs bounce along almost without letting you pause for breath. If the album has a fault, it may be that a general uniformity of tempo can be too much of a good thing after two sides. Madness is best appreciated in small doses. When the band does change pace, however, they do it with style. Secret weapon Chas Smash (he joined Madness as a dancer/rabble rouser) commits musical mayhem with ‘Solid Gone’, a brilliant parody of ’50s rock ‘n’ roll. But enough verbiage — get out your pork pie hat and start dancin’.
Dave Schulps, Trouser Press
WOODY: We were under a great deal of pressure to put out a second album, so this was written and recorded in about six weeks. We went into the studio and literally bashed out an album, so it was all a bit of a blur.
BEDDERS: It was done unbelievably quickly because of the demands of Stiff and Dave Robinson. But although it was written under such time pressure, it produced some brilliant songs.
CHRIS: Despite the nutty image, we worked really hard and took it really seriously. There was a huge blackboard with all the songs up in the rehearsal room. Various members would come up with tunes and lyrics and we’d write them up.
WOODY: We had this big flipchart thing and people came in with a song and wrote up the title, so we had this big list. Then we’d turn the piece of paper over and say, ‘Right, first song: What are the chords?’ So someone would write the chords down, and them someone else would say, ‘So how does it go?’ And it was just bosh, done.
MIKE: I started writing down the songs on the board, and scribbling all these quite complicated chord changes just to keep track. Where our early stuff had been riff-based, it all became much more complicated on Absolutely.
SUGGS: We didn’t really have time to think about it. I remember after it was done we were off on tour and I got given a cassette of it as we were getting on a plane to Japan. And that was the first time I’d heard it finished.
BEDDERS: We’d worked very, very hard while we were touring and bedded in a lot of the songs while we were still playing live. So things like Baggy Trousers and Embarrassment were virtually ready to go by the time we got to the studios, with any problems ironed out.
CHRIS: E.R.N.I.E and On The Beat Pete were also pretty polished from being played live, so they were easy ones to record too.
WOODY: The only thing was, we had to relearn the songs again after we heard the album because it was like, ‘Oh, you put a bit of keyboard there, I didn’t know we’d done that.’
CARL: We didn’t even pick any of the singles as it was coming out so quickly.
CHRIS: Although it was finished in a relatively short time, it was an enjoyable experience. I’d just bought a Fender Stratocaster from Woody’s brother, Nick, and had discovered the joys of the tremolo arm.
SUGGS: We were very conscious of not making a carbon copy of our debut. Like The Specials, we were aware we needed to move on with each album. We’d spent five years carving our own little niche, then 2-Tone came and it was great, but we didn’t want to latch onto something, find the bandwagon off the rails and end up labelled as just another ska band. So Absolutely painted a more accurate picture of us as we tried to move away from all that stuff. All these old influences that had been piling up in our heads – rock ‘n’ roll, prog rock, R’n’B, Ian Dury – started to filter through instead.
BEDDERS: Although rehearsed and recorded with indecent haste, it was a very important album. Not only did it move us away from being a one-trick 2-Tone band, it built the foundations of a lot to come. The chart hits and songs like Overdone showed a different side.
WOODY: It was certainly a step forward – I learned how to spell Embarrassment, found the perfect fire extinguisher for a bell on Baggy Trousers and got my first songwriting credit on Los Palmas 7.
BEDDERS: I wasn’t ill while we were making it, but thought I should have been because of the non-stop round of touring, TV and travel. My suitcase was my best friend, and any home life was spent staring into a washing machine.
LEE: I remember that Robbo bored us to death with the reasons why the album should be called Baggy Trousers…
CHRIS: …but in the end it was named after a saying by our then sound man, tour manager and driver, Tony Duffield.
LEE: Ha! That’s right; whenever we asked him something, he’d go, ‘Yeah man, absolutely, absolutely.’
CHRIS: Actually, I heard a rumour that, after working with us, Tony was with Yazoo and their album, You And Me Both, was named after another of his sayings.
LEE: Clive and Alan were like our George Martins, making everything work. They’d say stuff like, ‘Lee, don’t play 30 notes when ten will do when you do the sax solo on Close Escape.’ I’d thought, ‘We’re doing our second album, ooh, my IQ’s gone up… me arse!’ So I had this big jazzy solo planned out but on their advice, I made the solo simple instead.
CLIVE LANGER: Basically, I always had a love of the perfect pop record and so they let me get on with this one. I think Mike definitely cottoned on early and then they all did. They were smart.
DAVE ROBINSON: They were great fun, and all of them had something going on – I mean they were good.
BEDDERS: I’m always amazed by how disciplined we were. Someone said we rehearsed like the German football team – it was very worked out and meticulous.
WOODY: It’s much more aware than One Step Beyond. I think we’d become much more aware of our surroundings and our actual feelings. I think side two does show it more. We didn’t mean to be deep and meaningful, but it was much more realistic than the common image we had at that time; it was the closest to us.
CHRIS: When we were doing the album, Clive Langer said: ‘Oh, you should put a sitar on this’, and I was thinking, ‘How am I going to play one of those?’ But in fact it’s like a conventional guitar, although the pickups are different. It’s like a really wacky shape because I think it was made in the 60s. All those old Motown records have a sitar, like Band Of Gold. It’s very dead: if you pick a note it doesn’t resonate for as long as a guitar. Clive Larger actually bought one because we were always hiring them. I went on to use it on a lot of our records. In fact I used it later on Shut Up – that was the thing that was feeding back.
MIKE: Absolutely really had that distinctive Madness sound. We were attempting to develop it and there were some changes – for one thing we could play better by then. It was more tuneful, with more melodies, but it was still what you’d call a city sound. That’s because all the songs were written about experiences in London, where we came from.
CHRIS: For the cover, we decided to take a picture outside our beloved Camden Town tube station, but were unable to because of the pedestrian barrier outside the entrance, so we had to settle for Chalk Farm instead. We had a final choice of two photos from the session; one the band liked, one Dave Robinson liked. So I said, ‘Let’s do two covers.’ Which we did. I think there are always more of the Robbo cover as we’d get asked to sign them all the time. In retrospect, I think he did pick the better picture.
BEDDERS: It’s certainly our best pop album, and I think most of the band agree. It’s definitely my favourite Madness record.
LEE: Absolutely is my favourite album memories-wise, and my favourite album overall. It was all quite good fun and I remember reading in Melody Maker that it had bits of Ian Dury, The Kinks, Small Faces, Squeeze and even a touch of The Beatles in there. So I was like, ‘Wow!’ Once you get five stars in there, it’s going to rub off on the music-buying public. I was very, very happy with it. I didn’t realise it would get the five-star reviews that it got. But, without blowing me own trumpet, it wasn’t surprising, because it had that mood about it. When we’d play that stuff live, it was very enjoyable, and listening back to it now, it’s still very enjoyable.
CHRIS: I actually listened to it a while ago because I’d always imagined it to be really good but it was bloody awful. Everything’s really fast and off-beat. Our third album – 7 – that was where we really changed.
SEPTEMBER 18: Appear on Top Of The Pops with Baggy Trousers
SUGGS: Round about this time was one of the best periods. We didn’t really have a single, so we went in a little rehearsal room and Mike had this song called the Chemist Facade which went on to become House of Fun. He also had a song called The Drive-In Song which became Driving in My car and Lee had written Embarrassment. In a week we did these three songs and they’d just come out of nowhere.
BEDDERS: The focus was always around Mike’s piano – everyone would stand round it with songs and ideas.
MIKE: In some ways, you’d only have to come in with a half-baked idea of just a couple of chords or something and then everyone would work it and get together and it would become something of interest. It was definitely a group effort. We all contributed something to the songs and rehearsed in the studio for three weeks before actually recording.
WOODY: We were all different in our songwriting abilities – each person wrote to their strengths. I mean, I can only write music, I am not a great lyricist and I don’t find any great inspiration for lyrics, so I just write a tune down and put a few chords together. Mark’s done the same thing – Lee does a bit of both.
CHRIS: Lee used to write with Mike a lot and also even with Woody. Mike is one of those people who, if Lee used to give him a lyric, he’d read them out and say he could really think of a tune.
MIKE: Lee always used to be writing lyrics, and often he would give me some on a bit of paper and then usually I would write a tune to it. I often had to dodgy about a little bit because the way he wrote was very incomprehensible.
LEE: With Mike, I’d have some lyrics and have a completely different tune in mind when I’d written it out. So for Embarrassment, the tune I had for that was Ghost Dance by Prince Buster. I had that sort of melody in mind. And when it came out it was more like a 60s Motown number, which was quite nice.
SUGGS: The thing is, Woody could write songs that are completely Woody – you can’t imagine them being a Madness song. But then you get Lee’s words on top of them, and then you get all of us playing it, taking out all the difficult bits that Woody puts in with his fiddly little bloody synthesiser, and then you get Madness at the end of it. Everybody has their own way of doing it – some of us write music and words, some just words, some just music.
WOODY: A lot of the band are very talented in the kind of theatrical line of things. And they’ve got great ideas as well, like it’s really good. But you’ve got to remember that there’s seven of us, so the balance is perfect.
SEPTEMBER 27: Madness banned from Tiswas
With Suggs and Carl dressed up in clowns costumes as the Co-Co Twins, the band are barred from the popular Saturday morning kids’ show after a series of unfortunate incidents involving Suggs, Sally James and a water pistol and a kid biting Lee and his retaliation.
SUGGS: Some of the older brothers of the band were still in that slightly hippy thing, and that sort of stuff, that mushroom thing, trickled down into our rarer more prosaic world. We’d been up the night before and when we went on we were just coming down off an acid trip so I was still a bit LIKE THAT. So it all became very surreal – I remember the colours were very, very bright and it was a rather psychedelic experience. Me and Carl were dressed as clowns and after a few custard pies flew, we decided that we were going to fight back. We sprayed Sally James with this spaghetti foam stuff, but it got into her eyes. I thought I’d nearly blinded her and tried to get it out. Suddenly there was this huge spider ingesting in my hand. Waaaaaaa! And it was Sally’s falsh eyelash that had come off. It was like, ‘Woo… fucking hell.’ Did I think I’d pulled her eye out? (nods). She had a fit.
SALLY JAMES (Tiswas host): Every time I tried to ask them a question, they sprayed silly string all over me. It made it impossible for me to hold a proper conversation. You can see me trying to remove it from my mouth.
SUGGS: If that wasn’t frightening enough I was dressed in a flat cap and raincoat, a sort of Peter Cook outfit, which gave me feeling of security in an otherwise very strange looking glass world. So we were banned and never asked back on again.
OCTOBER 2: Appear on Top Of The Pops with Baggy Trousers
SUGGS: Baggy Trousers had been latched onto by kids and suddenly we had this enormous under-16 demographic. It had just gone pop-fucking-tastic.
MIKE: It was great. It was all we wanted and finally we got it. Everywhere you went, people would start whispering and pointing.
CARL: Suddenly there’s kids dressed identically to you looking up at a gig. People coming up to you with tattoos of you. People looking in your window when you were at home.
OCTOBER 3 & 4: Porterhouse, Retford
Madness prepare for the upcoming 24-date tour across the continent with two warm-up- shows. The second takes place on the eve of Lee’s 23rd birthday.
OCTOBER 8: Blackpool, Lancs
The four-week Madness Monster Tour begins, with The Lambrettas as support.
SUGGS: I remember going to Stiff and getting a cheque for £10,000 and saying to Dave Robinson, ‘That’s a lot of money. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with that.’ He said, ‘Shut up and buy a house.’ So I bought a house. I was only 19 or 20 and I started to have a bit of trouble with it. I’d made about £15,000 and I was starting to think, ‘I don’t know if this is where I want it to go.’ People camped outside my house, all that sort of stuff. It was a little bit hard not letting money go to my head after squatting on people’s floors and I just remember being terrified that so much money came in so quickly.
CARL: Luckily, I think we were continually surprised by our success, which helped keep our feet on the ground pretty well.
SUGGS: The other thing was, we’d gone from being a 2-Tone band to wearing pith helmets and skipping around in khaki shorts in the audience at Top Of The Pops. I didn’t want to feel like we were just a happy-go-lucky bunch of idiots.
OCTOBER 9: Palalido, Milan
The tour kicks off in Italy with five sell-out shows, supported by The Lambrettas. Before the show, some minor complications occur – Suggs’ suit is ripped to shreds by the dry-cleaner while Carl’s turns out to be one size too small. Chris, Lee and Mark watch The Lambrettas from backstage. For the Italian shows, One Step Beyond is performed in a bilingual version, as the band have recorded it in Spanish and Italian (Uno Paso Avanti). Mistakes goes out to those “who pay and don’t enjoy themselves”, and Take It Or Leave It “to all the punk rockers”. For the introduction of On The Beat Pete, Suggs uses the Italian phrase for ‘police’ (polizia) in his clumsy attempts to address the crowd in their own language. “This is a song called Shadow of Fear; it is about Londre, Londina”. Chris plays Batman’s Theme during the song intro of Night Boat to Cairo. Creating a future habit, Carl jumps offstage for the reprise of One Step Beyond to let the crowd shout “Beyooooond”. One fan, looking for a souvenir, grabs his shades.
Set: One Step Beyond / E.R.N.I.E. / Mistakes / Disappear / Bed & Breakfast Man / Close Escape / Overdone / Not Home Today / Razor Blade Alley / Embarrassment / Take It Or Leave It / On The Beat Pete / My Girl / Shadow of Fear / You Said / Swan Lake / In the Middle of the Night / Baggy Trousers / The Prince / Rockin’ in Ab / Madness ENCORE 1: Night Boat to Cairo ENCORE 2: One Step Beyond
WOODY: Italy was just phenomenal. I mean it really was incredible. They had a five-year ban or something on all live acts in Italy from foreign lands, and we came in to maniac crowds. I mean it was just such a buzz.
OCTOBER 10: Palasport, Turin
Madness’s largest ever Italian show, in front of 11,500 fans.
The gig was enjoyable, the quality of sound was far superior (compared to last night), they played even better and were even nuttier. The only dampner was at the end, when riot police cleared everyone out molto subito, so there weren’t many people clamouring for autographs.
Daniela Soave, Record Mirror
LEE: We turned up, looked through the curtain at the crowd and it seemed to go on forever; it was the size of Wembley Arena and was a bit daunting. It even gave me butterflies, which I quite enjoyed.
WOODY (speaking after Turin gig): It was the best gig we’ve done in a while. I really enjoyed it. You’ve just got to go out there and enjoy yourself – there’s no point being scared once you’re up there, so you might as well let rip.
OCTOBER 11: Palasport, Padova
As in Turin, the show is invaded by a group of anarchists who don’t believe in paying entry to hear live music. In an attempt to clear them out, the riot police fall victim to their own teargas grenades.
WOODY: They went really potty in Padova, they came through the glass panellings with sledgehammers and axes, and there were riot police in there, you know, ‘I’m an Italian and I want to see a gig, I don’t need a ticket’. It was brilliant, really brilliant.
OCTOBER 12: Palasport, Bologna
Tonight, Suggs changes the lyrics of Close Escape, Carl adds an intro speech to Take It Or Leave It and During Swan Lake, refers to 1969 as a peak year for skinheads. The set is the same as Milan, plus Land of Hope and Glory after Razor Blade Alley and Chipmunks Are Go! linked to the reprise of One Step Beyond.
SUGGS: While we were in Italy, Lee was hanging off the side of the train as we were roaring around fuck knows where, trying to get into the carriage next door, where there were lots of 16-year-old schoolgirls who’d been locked inside by the headmistress. Little did she know Lee was coming round the side.
OCTOBER 14: Teatro Tendastrisce, Rome
Madness’s show at the Tendastrisce violated the Impenetrability Law. 6,000 people turned up, half of them suffered from the lack of breathing space. The band used a simple but effective stage set-up with a lighted M. Although musically flawed, this sweated show proved to be a success with three encores including (the Italian version of) One Step Beyond.
Marco Ferranti, Ciao 2000 magazine
OCTOBER 15: Disco Ring TV show in Rome, playing One Step Beyond
CARL (speaking in 1980): People say there’s no social statements with us, but there is. The difference is, we’re not trying to give any answers or solutions – it’s all observations mainly.
OCTOBER 18: Jaap Edenhal, Amsterdam
Countdown Live Line-up third day: Raymond van het Groenwoud / Madness / The Specials. Purely because of the line-up, the third day of the Countdown Live festival is the only one to sell out. Belgium’s Number 1 rock singer Raymond van het Groenewoud goes down pretty well with an audience that have come here in the first place to see Madness and headliners The Specials. Bed & Breakfast Man is dedicated to those who’ve travelled all the way from Greater London. ‘This is a very important song, and it covers a lot of important subjects,’ Suggs introduces Embarrassment. The Dutch phrase for police (wrongly pronounced as politti) is used for On The Beat Pete. A long version of Night Boat to Cairo ends the set. ‘Going on a river now,’ Suggs traditionally says, and they were the previous night when the band reluctantly took part in a press conference on a canal trip boat. Woody and Mark watch The Specials’ set from the dressing room while the rest of Madness mingle with the audience. Highlights of the entire festival are broadcast on TV and radio six days later. Embarrassment and Baggy Trousers are shown on January 14, 1981. For years to come, the Countdown Live version of Night Boat to Cairo gets preference above the original video clip. The next week, Absolutely enters the album charts at 41 and reaches the Top 10 by December.
One Step Beyond / Mistakes / Bed & Breakfast Man / Close Escape / Land of Hope and Glory / Overdone / Not Home Today / Razor Blade Alley / Embarrassment / On The Beat Pete / My Girl / Shadow of Fear / You Said / Swan Lake / In the Middle of the Night / Baggy Trousers / The Prince / Rockin’ in Ab / Madness / ENCORE: Night Boat to Cairo
OCTOBER 19: Brielpoort, Deinze, Belgium
WOODY: It was my birthday, but also a Sunday, and the Belgians take the ‘day of rest’ very seriously. No bars were open, no restaurants, no room service at the hotel and it was raining. But worst of all, not even one single solitary celebrated Belgique chip shop was frying that night. A miracle produced a chocolate gateau and we all retreated to our homely tour bus and by the marvels of modern science viewed videos.
OCTOBER 20: La Rotonde, Le Mans, France
SUGGS (speaking in 1980): We had a problem with all this, ‘You don’t have any sociological meanings.’ But half the bands you talk to like the Specials and the Clash, half the time they’re taking the piss. I’ve got no affiliation with anybody politically or anything, so any social sayings we have are in our songs. There are some if you listen to them – it’s just that we don’t go waffling on about them.
OCTOBER 21: Halle De Pretige, Orleans
OCTOBER 22: Studio 44, Rouen
SUGGS (speaking in 1980): Half the time I think, ‘Bollocks I’m going to be myself now. Give all my money away.’ I do think it seriously. I can’t stand it any more, I’m going to make a big announcement and quit. Then other times, you think, ‘Right, Pete Townshend’s got this. Right I’ll go and buy that!’
OCTOBER 23: Top Club, France
The band play Baggy Trousers, One Step Beyond and Night Boat To Cairo, with Suggs pulling the strings and acting as puppet master to Carl’s marionette.
OCTOBER 24: Maison De Scots, Reims
Tonight’s set is the same as in Bologna, minus Chipmunks Are Go/One Step Beyond (reprise).
OCTOBER 25: Le Pavillion Baltard, Paris (2 shows)
Tonight’s first show is recorded by Radio 7, the second for Europe 1. A review in Rock & Folk dismisses both Madness and The Lambrettas as fakes, and predicts the end of 2-Tone, saying it’s lost its ‘flavour-of-the-month’ status.
SUGGS: It’s best to avoid all the tags you get as eventually people get bored of the fad and bands suffer. We tried to avoid being called a ska band, so we could survive beyond the demise of any fad.
CARL: People still called us a ska band for years afterwards. I’m not uncomfortable with it – it’s just one of the many tags we had.
OCTOBER 26: Parc Expositions, Strasbourg
OCTOBER 27: Exhibition Centre Sindelfingen, Stuttgart, Germany
OCTOBER 28: Volksbildungsheim, Frankfurt
WOODY (speaking in 1980): We took lots of drugs. A couple of us went through it and thought we’d never pull through. It gets so bad that you’re doing solid work more and more and each member of the band has his own way of pulling through. They either drink, or they smoke a million cigarettes, or they smoke dope, take coke or speed or whatever.
SUGGS: It was a very controlled thing – we’d just have a few lines of speed before we went on stage in the really going bonkers days. Back then it was a blur – everything went by in an amphetamine rush. I didn’t want to hear myself coming out of the monitors because it interfered with my intensity. I just wanted to hear a cacophony of noise and just go fucking mad for three quarters of an hour. Speed was only two quid a gramme in them days – it’s probably why we ended up with any money we did have.
OCTOBER 29: Kurhaus Friedensthal, Hanover
OCTOBER 30: Stadthalle, Cologne
WOODY (speaking in 1980): The thing is, in the music industry drugs are very easy to get hold of and you turn to those things and it’s great for a week or so. Then you have to take more and more and more until it goes in a complete circle, where you’re taking them because you’re depressed about taking them and it gets to the point where you become a semi-addict. It affects the music and it affects the whole band. But we’ve got over the hurdle and we’ve got fresh eyes to see through it.
SUGGS: It’s all part of the rich tapestry of growing up, but I wouldn’t want to encourage anything like that. As I used to say, all vices in moderation. In a band, all things come your way. If my dad left me a legacy it was that when I saw heroin coming along I never fancied it. In the 80s a lot of people fell by the wayside after one dabble but I suppose there was a little bit of me that was worried about inheriting an addictive gene, so I was naturally very wary of it. People would say, ‘Oh, it takes the edge off.’ I was fine with the edge on. We’d all puff on a bit of this and that but rarely anything heavier. Being in Madness was psychedelic enough.
NOVEMBER 1: Scandinavium, Gothenburg, Sweden
NOVEMBER 2: Olympen, Lund
WOODY (speaking in 1980): Taking drugs rubs off on the band because you make mistakes on stage. We ended up making so many fluffs we thought that we would blow everything. It frightened us. It got to the stage where I thought, ‘I’m going to bugger my whole career up.’
BEDDERS: I think it frightened everyone.
LEE: One time this girl in the States chopped out about six lines and had this handful of Tuinol. She said, ‘Here you are’. I said, ‘What are those?’ and she goes, ‘Downers’. I said, ‘Leave it out’ and she said, ‘It’s alright, I’ve got some coke, you can come back up again when you want’.
NOVEMBER 3: Gota Lejon, Stockholm
NOVEMBER 4: Chateau Neuf, Oslo, Norway
Tonight’s encores include Solid Gone and a widely participated Chipmunks Are Go. Both songs appear later in 1986 on ‘MIS Live’.
SUGGS: Everyone in the band has their own story to tell. I think we took our turns with all that stuff. Some more than others and some not at all.
CHRIS: I didn’t have any chemicals really. I used to really drink a lot and probably was nearly an alcoholic at some points.
MIKE: I used to smoke a lot of dope but I stopped. You find you can’t do anything. It affects your enthusiasm.
CARL: We’ve never had serious issues – we’re basically a drinking band.
WOODY: We’ve been united in getting plastered.
SUGGS: We were terrible on planes – trying to open the door… getting thrown off… drinking them dry… talking the most boring bollocks at the tops of our voices think we were really amusing. Fucking awful; terrible.
NOVEMBER 7 & 8: Hope And Anchor, London
The band play two shows for an invite-only audience. Proceeds are donated to Blanket Coverage, a local organisation that benefits the homeless and elderly in winter. A stream of positive reviews appears in the UK music press. The week after, Madness prepare themselves for the release of Embarrassment and tape the Martini commercial for which The Opium Eaters was recorded.
NOVEMBER 14: Embarrassment/Crying Shame released
The single (BUY102) eventually goes on to spend 12 weeks in the charts, peaking at No4.
LEE: Of course, when my sister had Hayley, the baby that it’s all about, all the bad feeling just fell away. My mum and dad were all over her and were forever babysitting. She’s gorgeous now – intelligent, attractive… you wouldn’t want to change a thing.
TRACY THOMPSON (Lee’s sister): I feel really proud of that song. Attitudes have changed without a doubt.
WOODY: I remember Mark Knopfler reviewing it on [Radio One] Roundtable at the time and he said the English wasn’t very good. I think he missed the point. Lee’s lyrics get the message across in a very effective way. It’s not correct English, but it’s a very moving, beautiful song… and people forget that.
SUGGS: It’s a great lyric – really sensational. You couldn’t believe such sensitivity could come from such a rough diamond, but Lee is one of the best lyricists of his time. We were having trouble with people associating us with the NF, so it was nice to establish, once and for all, that we weren’t.
MIKE: Lee is a very good lyricist. Sometimes when I get some of Lee’s lyrics, then it’s quite easy to come up with something quite interesting to go with and that was the case then. But I don’t know where he gets his ideas from, beats me, y’know, but it all comes out of Lee, he’s a mystery. What’s going on in there?
CHRIS: For the B-side, I was going for a Mexican Tijuana-type feel and I quite surprised myself. In those days you had to get in quick with a solo or Thommo and Mike would be all over the shop.
SUGGS (speaking in 1980): We want people to listen to our LPs, but because they are pretty varied, Stiff like putting out a couple of singles from each one, just to give people an idea. The record company has proved to us that this is the only way to sell an LP of new songs. If we didn’t agree to it we’d have flopped by now. We always put a different B-side at least.
CHRIS: This video for Embarrassment was a bit different as we’d started separating Suggs from the band a bit, getting him wearing a different colour suit etc.
MIKE: The video was a bit dark and moody for my tastes.
CARL: It was a bit dull and unimaginative.
CHRIS: I’m not sure if people got the significance of Mike being blacked up at the end.
LEE: I don’t really remember much about shooting it; I think it was all shot in the same bar. I do remember we weren’t allowed to touch the drinks – in fact, I think they marked the optics to see if anything had been taken.
NOVEMBER 27: Appear on Top Of The Pops with Embarrassment
Singles Artist of the Year
Madness are voted ‘Singles Artist of The Year’ by the NME, having spent 46 weeks in the charts during 1980.
JOHN LENNON (in one of his last interviews before his death on December 8 1980): I’m aware of Madness: ‘Don’t do that, do this!’ Out of all that mob, that was one of the most original sounds. Very good drumming, very good bass and all that.
SUGGS: We felt terribly proud and privileged when he said that – what a fabulous thing to happen. We were really inspired by John Lennon.
CARL: The three proudest moments for me were when Mark E Smith said he was into us, when Morrissey mentioned us and when John Lennon said in his last interview that he admired us – that was great. We just did what we did. We never thought about how we’d go down in the annals of history. Maybe Madness will just be the flea on the arse of the elephant when it comes to music. The greats are the greats and we all know who they are. But for all of us, Madness was brilliant while it lasted.
DECEMBER 8: City Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne
The 12 Days Of Madness Tour begins in the north east of England. The UK leg of the ‘Madness Monster’ tour (dubbed ’12 Days of Christmas’) takes up 25 shows, including ten children’s matinees; only Glasgow and Brighton have to do with just the evening show. Madness are also proud to launch the first issue of the combined comic strip/fanzine The Nutty Boys which will also be enclosed as a free gift with the 12″ format of the Los Palmas single in January 1981. Magician Simon Drake opens the matinee shows before the band take the stage by jumping from a spring-board.
One Step Beyond / E.R.N.I.E / Mistakes / Disappear / Bed & Breakfast Man / The Return of the Los Palmas 7 / Close Escape / Overdone / Not Home Today / Razor Blade Alley / Embarrassment / Take It Or Leave It / On The Beat Pete / My Girl / Shadow of Fear / You Said / In the Middle of the Night / In The Rain / Baggy Trousers / Rockin’ in Ab / Madness ENCORE: Crying Shame
DECEMBER 9: Edinburgh Odeon, Scotland (2 shows)
DECEMBER 10: Glasgow Apollo, Scotland (2 shows)
CHRIS: One of our best gigs was at the Glasgow Apollo with the balcony bouncing up and down and up again, plus the painted polystyrene caber capers (which was one of my gags by the way). The audience of mad Jocks, every one of them screaming blue murder God bless ‘em and high as kites on booze – with the exception of the very young who were on glue – and baying for the band’s blood like a Colosseum crowd in ancient Rome. Roadie 1 (Robert Forrest): ‘Are the band ready go on?’ Roadies 2 and 3 (Chalky and Toks), ‘Not till the cabers are dry.’
DECEMBER 11: Runaround filming, Southampton + Top of the Pops
Madness go to Hampshire to film a Christmas edition of the popular children’s programme Runaround, to be aired on Christmas Day. Dressed in the tartan jackets from the video, they also appear on Top Of The Pops with Embarrassment, with Bedders on double-bass and Carl on trumpet.
DECEMBER 12: Manchester Apollo (2 shows)
DECEMBER 14: Brighton Centre (2 shows)
DECEMBER 15: Assembly Rooms, Derby (2 show)
SUGGS: We started doing these matinees on tour because there was always a vast numbers of kids who couldn’t get into the gigs. You always see them crushed at the very front or more often, stuck outside. I suppose it was as much for our benefit as theirs; we can get really stupid, but kids are entitled to it. The irony was, it wasn’t what we intended to be at all. We were macho and hard and rebels without… things.
CHRIS: It was brilliant. We showed films and cartoons and charged 50p to get in. Stiff liked us to be working and, in retrospect, that was part of why we worked far too hard.
DECEMBER 16: Birmingham Odeon (2 shows)
DECEMBER 17: Victoria Hall, Hanley (2 shows)
DECEMBER 20: Gaumont, Southampton (2 shows)
Tonight, as on the rest of this tour, Lee recreates the flying act from the Baggy Trousers video that made him a star with youngsters.
LEE: We did a gig at the Gaumont and Peter Pan was meant to be on the following week. They had this big harness-thing there, a Kirby wire, and a bloke strapped me in it and I caught half me scrotum in the strap. I had to run from the end of the platform to the other, and as I run, these two blokes jump on the rope; and this bloke jumps on top of them, and it right goes up to the Royal Box. I swung out with me sax and I get up to these 13-year-old kids. They left and cried their eyeballs out. I totally freaked them out.
DECEMBER 21: De Montfort Hall, Leicester (2 shows)
Although the increase of the teenage fanbase has alienated the neo-Nazis, they return and take advantage of the situation by handing out flyers outside the venue to potential junior recruits and selling copies of the right-extremist magazine, Bulldog. The same also happens at the London shows. Tonight, 30 skinheads cause a stage invasion during Embarrassment. Madness threaten to strike the show if the skinheads don’t back off. Much to the crowd’s delight, the trouble-makers are ejected from the venue.
DECEMBER 22: Hammersmith Odeon
The tour ends with five shows in three days. Tenpole Tudor, who are recently signed to Stiff, are added to the support. The fourth show is recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio. Disappear is dedicated to a girl, Beverley, whom the band couldn’t visit when she was in hospital. Beverley is watching the show. Suggs dedicates On The Beat Pete to ‘any of you who are policemen’. Tonight’s version of The Return of the Los Palmas 7 later appears in 1986 on ‘MIS Live’; Madness ends on the B-side of the My Girl vinyl reissue in July 1992.
DECEMBER 23: Hammersmith Odeon
BARRY SINCLAIR (road manager): Carl was the wildest one of the lot, very lively. He was rough and ready but he was very well read too. When we were doing that Christmas tour, he and Suggs took time off to go to a local hospital to see the young kids.
DECEMBER 24: Hammersmith Odeon
This fifth charity show is added at the last minute after Madness go back on their refusal to play on Christmas Eve because public transport companies stage festivity curfews. Ian Dury & The Blockheads are added to the support. The concert not only raises money for children’s homes, but toys are donated by members of the audience.
DECEMBER 25: Christmas edition of Runaround screened, with band on ice.
DECEMBER 27: NEC, Birmingham
Madness play on Elvis Costello’s Christmas Show with Squeeze, UB40, Rockpile and The Selecter. The band play another successful show, but Carl misses the encore because he twists his ankle backstage. Nick Lowe and Terry Williams of Rockpile visit Woody in the dressing room asking for his autograph. Positive reviews of the event appear in the UK music press.
SUGGS: After the gig, Elvis Costello’s drummer, Pete Thomas, flicked his ash in the top pocket of Lee’s suit jacket. Lee looked up, climbed on a bar stool, climbed on the bar, and knocked him out.
WOODY: Before Lee did it, he offered him a cigarette, so when he put it to his mouth his jaw was open. Ow! That’s professional innit?
DECEMBER 31: The Venue, New Cross
Suggs and Chas perform as The Rubber Biscuits, with roadie Andrew ‘Chalky’ White, childhood pal Si Birdsall and tour manager ‘Rocking’ Tony Hilton completing the line-up. Also on bill is Deaf School’s Bette Bright, Suggs’s future wife.