The story of Madness... in their own words
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The band go back to their roots with a new name and a vintage ska project that’s not embraced by everyone – including a certain guitarist.

JANUARY: Work continues on The Dangermen album

BEDDERS (speaking in 2005): The new album is still cooking; we have it on 220 degrees and it’s rising nicely. It’s being mixed by Dubs and Segs, who’ve worked with the Chemical Brothers – an interesting combination! It’ll come out sometime later this year.

FEBRUARY 8: Carl appears at Tsunami Benefit Gig

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The Madness singer plays with The Blockheads at the Hackney Empire, singing What A Waste.

FEBRUARY 13: Carl appears at another tsunami fundraiser

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For this second charity event, the singer DJs at London club Cargo, along with other celeb DJs Jerry Dammers and Ian Broudie.

MARCH 12: Suggs appears with Deaf School

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The frontman appears at a reunion gig at the Magnet in Hardman Street, Liverpool, in honour of bassist Steve Lindsey’s 50th birthday. Suggs joins the band for a version of Shipbuilding before telling the audience, ‘Deaf School is the band that inspired us to go and make our music.’ Dexys singer Kevin Rowland is among the other guests.

Suggs with Kevin Rowland at Deaf School gig

APRIL 1: Crunch! play 100 Club, London

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Lee and Chris return to their side project for a one-off gig at the iconic venue.

CHRIS (speaking in 2005): I’ve played with Lee, which is fun but just because I left Madness doesn’t mean I’ll rush back to being in a band again. I enjoy playing music and would like to do another album with Lee.

MAY 12: Chris goes public with his decision to quit the band

CHRIS (speaking in 2005): I won’t be appearing at anything else to do with Madness or The Dangermen. The band have known this for some time and it’s actually been a long while since I bailed out. As for the reason, I was just sick of the petty, time-consuming bollocks that goes on, which is about as diplomatic as I can get. I’ve played on most of the Dangermen sessions which I understand is turning out really good (despite me leaving) and is due out on V2, who are right good geezers and I should apologise to them as well. Just remember, the band has survived the departure of Mike and done a Christmas tour and a Madstock without Bedders and is still going strong.


MIKE (speaking in 2005): It’s his decision – he just said, ‘Get somebody else in to play the guitar’. We’ll carry on, and if he wants to come back then fine. He’s one of my oldest mates so obviously he’s always welcome.


SUGGS (speaking in 2005): Chris had difficulties with some of the people in the band and other things that surround being in a band.


WOODY (speaking in 2005): Certain members of the band were getting on his nerves. We’re an honest bunch, and we’ve always felt that if members are unhappy or disillusioned, the best thing is for them to go and have a break.


CHRIS (speaking in 2005): I asked them not to put, ‘Going for a sabbatical’ in the press release, but of course they did.


WOODY (speaking in 2005): Chris will always be the guitarist of Madness. When he’s ready to return, the door will be open wide.


CHRIS (speaking in 2005): Leaving the band has made me think about my life. It’s been 13 years the second time around and only one Wonderful album to show for it. Playing Baggy Trousers, One Step Beyond etc for the rest of my life isn’t too appealing. I’m in the privileged position to be able to choose who I work with and I always seem to have just enough money in the bank to not worry too much. Plus it’s not all about money anyway.

MAY 17: Suggs and Mike appear on the Johnnie Walker Show on Radio 2

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The first fruits of the Dangermen sessions are finally aired, as Shame & Scandal and Taller Than You Are are played.

SUGGS (speaking in 2005): The Dangermen are our alter-ego – they kind of exist in a parallel universe out there somewhere.

MAY: Suggs spends four days filming a short movie, Talk

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The singer stars in a 15-minute flick for first-time Director Michael Mueller, which focuses on the relationship between a lonely cab driver (Suggs) and a teenage runaway.

SUGGS (speaking in 2005): It’s been a great experience. I love a certain kind of British film; they’re an important part of British culture, they bring humour and genuine drama. I like things that are realistic, slightly quirky, surreal and dark. That’s what we brought to the band.

Suggs as the taxi driver in Talk

MAY: Suggs and Lee collaborate with The Audio Bullys

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The singer and sax man work with the electronic duo on their Generation album, with Suggs providing vocals for tracks This Road and Manchester Square, and Lee playing sax on Struck By The Sound.

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SIMON FRANKS (Audio Bullys): We were asked who we’d most like to work with and we said Suggs. He’s a hero; someone I’ve respected since I was young, so it was a dream come true.


TOM DINSDALE (Audio Bullys): I knew some Madness stuff from when I was young when they were on the radio. I bought Divine Madness when I was 11 or 12 and loved every track on it.


SUGGS (speaking in 2005): Although they’re young, they’re continuing the long tradition of songwriting based around London’s street life. In some way, there was a flow from what Madness were doing. We had a certain affinity for things that go on in and around London and ended up writing around five songs in four hours.

JUNE 8: Taratata, French TV

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The band perform three songs – Girl Why Don’t You, Chase The Devil and One Step Beyond – for a show that will be screened in September.

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Suggs and Lee in Paris in June 2005

JUNE 8: Suggs appears in A Picture of London

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The singer takes part in the series in which renowned artists explained how they’re influenced by their surroundings. Broadcast on BBC London, the Suggs episode sees Suggs and Carl write a song especially for the show, called Cracks In The Pavement.

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SUGGS (speaking 2005): London is still my main inspiration for songwriting and much of the music I’m involved in. I’m endlessly fascinated by its people and the streets they live in. Most of my songs are written about people, so my favourite past-time is sitting on a pavement anywhere watching the world go by. Maybe a face or a snatch of overheard conversation will spark something in my imagination. For example, I overheard an old chap walking by and he said, ‘We are living like kings! These days will last forever!’ And I just thought, ‘That’s a fantastic thing.’

JUNE 11: High Lodge, Thetford Forest

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Madness play the first of a series of Madness In The Forest gigs at woods around the UK, with Chris’s place taken by former Like Father Like Son guitarist Kevin Burdett. Support acts are Roland Gift and Jag, a trio that evolved out of Like Father Like Son and which are managed by Lee. Surprisingly, the set doesn’t include any of the upcoming Dangermen tracks.


One Step Beyond / The Prince / Shut Up / My Girl / The Sun & The Rain / Driving In My Car / Disappear / Embarrassment / Lovestruck / House Of Fun / Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day) / Take It Or Leave It / Bed & Breakfast Man / Johnny The Horse / Yesterday’s Men / Grey Day / Our House / Wings Of A Dove / Baggy Trousers / It Must Be Love / ENCORE: Shoparound / Madness / Night Boat To Cairo

SUGGS (speaking in 2005): We don’t mind playing small and sweaty environments, but the thought of playing a beautiful forest isn’t a completely horrible thought either.


MIKE (speaking in 2005): We’re very much looking forward to playing in lovely surroundings. Y’know – all picnic baskets and champagne. One of the reasons we wanted to do it was because a forest tour sounds unusual and different.


SUGGS (speaking in 2005): I went to see Jools Holland play a forest last year, and it was lovely. I didn’t realise you could actually do a tour of them. So we’re rather pleased. But it makes no difference to me where we play, as long as it’s great pop music. I can see us playing on the street corner and I can see us playing in stadiums.

JUNE 12: Bedgebury Pinetum, Goudhurst

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Earlier in the afternoon, Lee plays with Crunch! at Brockwell Park in London, joined by Chris.

LEE (speaking in 2005): It’s necessary to differentiate Madness and The Dangermen. With The Dangermen, we want to find the feelings that we had at the time of our beginnings in the small clubs. Madness is another thing. So the sets aren’t the same.

JUNE 17: Delamere Forest, Cheshire

SUGGS (speaking in 2005): It’s part-laziness that we can get away with doing five or six concerts in England and make a reasonable living, and that’s what we’ve been doing for ten-odd years.

JUNE 18: Westonbirt Arboretum, Tetbury

SUGGS (speaking in 2005): Mentally, we’re all still 18, and physically we’re sort of hanging on in there.


MIKE (speaking in 2005): We’re like a good wine – we’ve matured and just get better and better.

JUNE 19: T4 On The Beach, Weston-super-Mare

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Madness join acts including Garbage, Rachel Stevens, Rooster and Kaiser Chiefs at the seaside festival. They play two songs – Shame & Scandal and One Step Beyond.

JUNE 24: Dalby Forest, North York Moors

CHRIS (speaking in June 2005): I still speak to Bedders a lot, Lee a bit, Suggs rarely, Mike not lately and Woody not for a few weeks. And Carl not for months. Which is nice.

JUNE 25: Sherwood Pines Forest Park, Edwinstowe

JUNE 28: The Scala, Kings Cross

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To promote the upcoming album, Madness play the first of three nights as their alter egos The Dangermen, supported by Stiff Naked Fools. Producer ‘Segs’ Jennings stands in on guitar, and the band are also joined by ‘The Violin Monkeys’, AKA brass section Steve Turner, Joe Auckland and Mike Kearsey on baritone sax, trumpet and trombone respectively.


Danger Man (AKA High Wire) / It Mek / Shame & Scandal / You Keep Me Hanging On / Girl Why Don’t You / Skylarking / Taller Than You Are / Lose a Good Thing / The Prince / Lola / So Much Trouble / Israelites / John Jones / Chase The Devil / Night Boat To Cairo / ENCORE: Papa’s Got A Brand New Pig Bag

JOHN ‘SEGS’ JENNINGS (producer): It was a bit of a party. It was all about the vibe, what you’re going to wear, how you’re going to have a party. They were small gigs for them – the Scala was packed. Everybody was up for just doing songs they loved. Just the ska stuff. I was the new boy which was quite good for them as (a) they had a bit of sport, and (b) they had somebody new, a bit of new energy. It was good fun.


WOODY (speaking in 2005): It’s nice to play a new album without the expectation of, ‘Do Baggy Trousers.’ ‘No. We don’t have to. We’re being The Dangermen this week, so tough.’


SUGGS (speaking in 2005): Playing small places has been a bit more rejuvenating as well. Playing bigger venues ultimately has an effect on what you play and how you perform. Small venues are amazingly freeing – you can just do what you like really.


WOODY (speaking in 2005): It’s been very enjoyable being a live band again. Twenty five years ago we were a band who practised songs and went and played them live. And it’s taken us 25 or 26 years to realise that it was quite a good formula. We’re better musicians now; more in control, more relaxed.


SUGGS (speaking in 2005): When we played these old songs in the Dublin Castle last year, we were going back to playing songs that people could dance to. We haven’t made a record for a long time, so we wanted to make something that would be fun.

New brass section make its debut

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Following an earlier experiment with Steve Turner and Terry Edwards on the Christmas 2003 tour, the Scala gig sees the band unveil a new backing trio: Turner (saxophone), Joe Auckland (trumpet) and Mike Kearsey (trombone). The musicians – who have all worked with Madness in some capacity before – will go on to become the band’s de facto brass section for all future live shows, with Turner later replaced by fellow sax man Steve Hamilton.

MIKE KEARSEY (trombonist): Steve had previously worked as Lee’s sax tech and played some shows already, and Terry Edwards had introduced me to the band through his All Stars Extravaganza project at the Dublin Castle, which featured Lee, Chris and Bedders. Through working as a freelance player in London, I’d also met Joe on various gigs and recording sessions, so when the band were looking for a trumpet player for The Dangermen Sessions in 2004 I recommended him. Joe initially turned it down as his beloved Millwall were playing in their first FA Cup final. Madness had always been one of his favourite bands, and I remember him calling me back, slightly panicked, ‘It was a Madness tribute you were asking about, wasn’t it?’ Then when the 2005 shows came up, Terry was busy so I again put Joe up for the gig. When I first began working with the band, it felt almost like stepping into someone’s marriage because they have such strongly established inter-relationships. The guys are still so passionate about what they do, still have such a blast onstage and they are all very supportive and go out of their way to make additional musicians feel comfortable and part of the team. Working with other bands, there tends to be significant individuals who make the calls but Madness works as a collective more than any other band I’ve experienced. I guess that with seven strong and creative personalities, it’s the only way to survive.

The trio are introduced as ‘The Violin Monkeys’

MIKE KEARSEY: The name had come up the year before during rehearsals for The Dangermen material at John Henry’s rehearsal studios in North London. It was towards the end of a long day and drinks had been taken. We were The Brass Monkeys for about half an hour before Woody came up with the ‘violin’ moniker.

JULY 2: Corporate gig for Microsoft

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The band are hired for another private performance, this time for the computer giant. The gig is on the same day as the Live 8 charity concerts held in different countries across the globe.

SUGGS (speaking in 2005): The Live 8 people were in touch with our people I think, but we couldn’t do it as we were doing a corporate gig that night. We said, ‘We’d love to do it, but unfortunately we’ve got a gig booked which we can’t cancel.’ In the end, Bill Gates went to Live8 and left us to it – he didn’t even show up. He left us playing to 4,000 Microsoft androids, all shaking their head in time to the rocking beat. But he gives about five billion quid a year to charities, and by keeping his staff happy we’re making him more money so he can give more money to charity, so that’s our excuse for doing it.

JULY 4: Shame & Scandal released

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Despite a hefty promotional campaign, the first Dangermen single stalls at number 38 in the UK charts. The B-sides comprise two out-takes from the Dangermen sessions – Dreader Than Dread and Skylarking. As well as a handful of live shows, the band embark on two weeks of promotion for the upcoming album, with TV appearances on GMTV and the Jonathan Ross Show, and radio appearances on Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music.

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SUGGS (speaking in 2005): It was written in the 1940s and is a traditional calypso song from Trinidad about extramarital affairs.


WOODY (speaking in 2005): If you’re hearing the song for the first time you have to listen quite closely to the lyrics.


SUGGS (speaking in 2005): Like a lot of Madness songs, it’s funny but it’s dark at the same time.

JULY 4: The Scala, Kings Cross

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The Dangerman play a second night in London. On the same night, an interview with Phill Jupitus is broadcast on his BBC 6 Music show.

BEDDERS (speaking in 2005): The deal with V2 has worked really well because it’s not easy to work with us. We do want to make things, but at our schedule, so we’re only a band when we want to be. Because we’re not together 24 hours a day, and we have our family life apart from Madness, it isn’t easy for a record company to plan things with us. Luckily, V2 understood that when we signed the contract. They knew we didn’t want to sign for four or five albums – we made sure we had our private and family life.

Press shot as The Dangermen

JULY 12: The Scala, Kings Cross

WOODY (speaking in 2005): We’re free to do what we want, and then after a few months someone calls and says, ‘Let’s make an album or play a few gigs.’ But that’s good for everyone. Because we’re not always in the spotlight, people are glad to see us again after a while. We go, we come back – we’re an elastic band.

JULY 16: London United Festival, Camberwell

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Suggs and Carl join Billy Bragg onstage at Burgess Park at a gig to remember the victims of recent terror attacks. ‘We learnt these last night in Billy’s bedroom in ten minutes,’ Suggs declares, before the band plough through My Girl, So Much Trouble In The World, It Must Be Love and One Love (Drop The Debt).

JULY 18: Electric Ballroom, Camden

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Supported by Pama International, and introduced by producer Dennis Bovell, The Dangermen play another gig, featuring their longest set so far.


Dangerman / It Mek / Shame & Scandal / You Keep Me Hanging On / Girl Why Don’t You / Skylarking / Taller Than You Are / You’ll Lose A Good Thing / The Prince / Lola / So Much Trouble In The World / Israelites / Iron Shirt / Wonderful World Beautiful People / John Jones / ENCORE 1: Dreader Than Dread / Night Boat To Cairo / ENCORE 2: Madness / Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag

DENNIS BOVELL: I was MC which was quite fun, bringing them onstage. I tried to do my James Brown MC impression.

On stage in Melkweg

JULY 19: Melkweg, Amsterdam

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The band play a gig in the Netherlands as The Dangermen. Some fans aren’t happy, as the gig has been promoted as a Madness performance. The setlist is the same as in London the night before, with the addition of One Step Beyond.


Holland is a flat country and the musical knowledge of your average Dutchman is relatively poor. This became clear during the Madness gig at the Melkweg. Whereas the return to the roots of the arch nutty boys was enthusiastically welcomed in homeland Great Britain, there were boos at The Max. Reason for this was the fact that the band currently has many old reggae, ska, pop and soul cover versions on their repertoire. With this, Madness wants to show where the brilliant music they made in their heyday stems from. The band never purely relied on the uniform ska sound, but always allowed influences from other adjacent genres. Therefore, the Dangermen Sessions Vol. 1 has become a tribute to the old heroes of the old heroes. Obvious classics such as Shame & Scandal by Lord Tanamo, Israelites by Desmond Dekker and I Chase The Devil by Max Romeo are alternated with pop songs like Lola by The Kinks, the soul of Barbara Lynn and Diana Ross & The Supremes and the classic pop of Jose Feliciano. Madness did not opt for the easy way. The songs all get their own twist and especially the role of brilliant keyboard player Mike Barson is striking in its modesty. Furthermore, the fact that the album is concluded with So Much Trouble In The World by Bob Marley & The Wailers, recorded in their latter days, proves the band has guts. Try to find that on the albums of the drivelling fools of UB40. There are persistent rumours that the band is working on new material. Even though this will be too complicated for the bald-headed crowd that only wants to jump up and down to hits like One Step Beyond and Night Boat To Cairo. Until then, we have this special collection of one of the best ska and reggae bands of our time.


Planet, Dutch website

SUGGS (speaking in 2005): We’ve added One Step Beyond and Night Boat to Cairo, but it’s The Dangermen playing Madness songs, that’s the difference. Doing the album and going back to all the early ska stuff influenced how we now treat Madness songs, so we’ve changed the arrangements and made them more like Dangermen songs.

JULY 31: Appear on Top of the Pops performing Lola

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The band play an album track from the upcoming album, minus Lee.

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AUGUST 13: The Dangermen Sessions Volume One is released

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The album of cover versions eventually gives the band their biggest hit since 1984, climbing to No11 in the UK charts. Recorded but left off the finished album are Carole King’s Too Late Baby, John Lennon’s Oh My Love and Bittersweet by The Undertones. In the sleeve notes, each of the band is listed as their each alter ego: Lester Bernham (Bedders), Jimmy Oooh (Carl); Daniel Descartes (Woody), Professor Psykoticus (Mike), Robert Chaos (Suggs), Christofos Formantos (Chris) and Unnamed (Lee).

TRACK-BY-TRACK: Click on song title

1. This Is Where
2. Girl Why Don’t You?

SUGGS: Half of my record collection was stolen from a friend’s studio, but one of the survivors was a little-known track called Girl. Straight down the line party music, upbeat, up-tempo and right up my street. Mr Buster at his tongue-in-cheek best.

3. Shame & Scandal

MIKE: It’s a complicated tale of matrimonial misadventure penned on the island by none other than Sir Lancelot himself.

4. I Chase The Devil AKA Iron Shirt

SUGGS: I first heard this track on a Lee Perry compilation – it was the last track on a four CD set and what a tremendous thing it is. The music, as always where Mr Perry is concerned, sounded like it had come from outer space, as did Max Romeo’s lyrics. This was a song we were nervous to mess about with, but it just arose naturally one afternoon like it was meant to be. It’s not entirely lyrically identical, but I hope we got the sentiment mainly right.

5. Taller Than You Are

BEDDERS: There is a lot of the church in this song, with Biblical overtones about right and wrong, and it’s asking for modesty – ‘You are always telling people you are the best’. The lyrics could almost be a Sunday sermon. A happy tune carrying a darker lyric always gets me.

6. You Keep Me Hanging On

BEDDERS: I first heard it on the radio in 1967, sitting in the kitchen, eating porridge, waiting to be taken to school. By its sheer force, down the years it urged you to make a connection with it.

7. Dangerman AKA High Wire
8. Israelites

MIKE: Me and my brother Dan were on our pushbikes in the summer of 68, slowly making our way to our holiday destination, a railway cottage in Norfolk. We stopped somewhere north of Epping Forrest to make a phone call. The sun was shining, and from the pub beside the phone box the sound of the radio came drifting over the idyllic village green, mixing with the birdsong. ‘Get up in the morning / Slaving for bread sir.’ The memory still remains inextricably linked with that late summer afternoon.

9. John Jones
10. Lola

SUGGS: Our interpretation of this song was mainly informed by a Nicky Thomas version on the old Trojan label. We’d been playing it on and off for 20 years but never recorded it.


LEE: Lola obviously had an unearthly effect on me as later on in life, I’d jump at the chance of cross-dressing for the cameras.

11. You’ll Lose A Good Thing

SUGGS: A beautiful Barbara Lynn track which I only knew from an extremely battered reggae 45 on the Down Town label, by a girl known only as Audrey. In fact, it was in such bad condition that bits were inaudible and we had to interpret an arrangement in rehearsal. The intro to our version is a kind of underwater nod to the lovely original by Barbara.

12. Rain

LEE: Though Bruce Ruffin’s version was plushly produced, the ‘nursery rhyme’ middle eight always annoyed us, so this was replaced by a James Bond feel, with a dodgy sax solo over it.

13. So Much Trouble In The World


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Instead of a bunch of hackneyed crowd pleasers this is a genuine musical history lesson, featuring some long forgotten gems from the archives. It’s one of those rare records that works on all levels – a labour of love that succeeds in energising both band and audience and leaves you hoping that there might be more to come.

Phil Udell, Hot Press Magazine


It would be wrong to say that an album of covers that includes Lola and The Israelites is going to break down any musical boundaries or change the way scientists think about tonality. But The Dangermen Sessions bristles with the cheeky charm and joie de vivre that epitomised the magnificent seven in their glory days. The Hammond organ sound is properly jaunty, the brass has a twinkle in its eye and Suggs still has his very English way with a rhyme.

Tom Horan, 
Daily Telegraph


Current single Shame & Scandal is just foul – the kind of plasticky comedy ska knees-up which Jools Holland favours for his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. Another skanking Lord Tanamo track, Taller Than You Are, is only marginally less irritating. In a different bracket of rubbish are reggaefied covers of The Supremes’ You Keep Me Hanging On and The Kinks’ Lola, which only seem to be included as barefaced singles fodder. Both are completely unnecessary and unimaginative. The same could be said for their straight but lifeless version of Desmond Dekker’s Israelites which needs more than embellishing sound effects to cheer it up.

Fiona Shepherd, The Scotsman


A few tracks stand out. Max Romeo (and Lee Perry’s) Chase the Devil (AKA Iron Shirt) has cropped up in pop’s consciousness on and off for years and Madness plug into its outlandishness rather than its scary zeal. Shame & Scandal is also relayed with a glint in their eye and a parp in their step. Unlike most albums of cover versions, usually done when an artist has run out of ideas and a record company is drumming its fingers for a hit, The Dangermen Sessions feels like a labour of love.

Kitty Empire, The Observer


The more famous the tune, the more a cover needs to bring to it, and Madness’ version of The Supremes’ You Keep Me Hanging On is a pallid thing compared to the brilliantly stark reinterpretation recently recorded by Holly Palmer. They don’t add much to Lola, either, although Suggs’s voice, boyish as ever, pays cheerful homage to Ray Davis.

Tim de Lisle, Daily Mail

SUGGS: Obviously we weren’t just influenced by ska music, so that’s why we had The Supremes and The Kinks on there too. Unfortunately, Bittersweet by The Undertones got sacrificed at the very end, which was terrible because I love the song, even though it’s not one of their best-known ones.


SUSAYE GREENE (The Supremes): Madness’s approach to You Keep Me Hanging On was divine; no sacred reverence and thank goodness for that. They came, saw and conquered the song in their inimitable way, making it become fresh all over again and proving that a great pop melody and lyrics translate into whatever a creative modern mind wants it to be. To me, that’s what making music is all about.


WOODY: We wanted to work differently, especially on the level of the sound. We wanted the songs to sound ‘old school’ but with some modern sounds as well. We wanted a big sound – Madness always have a big sound, but wanted something even bigger. It was interesting to work with Steve and Segs, who have a ‘new school’ sound, and Dennis who is very connected with ‘old school’. We recorded the album ‘old school’ and they mixed it ‘new school.’


LEE: It’s my wife’s favourite Madness album – she’s always asking when we’re going to do another one. Personally, I always like to try and write original stuff.


CHRIS: Some of it is OK. Some is not. It doesn’t really inspire me at all.


WOODY: We wanted the CD sleeve to make you think of a gang…


LEE: …so we took a picture from an old Fats Domino album, then scanned it and reproduced it, because we wanted to do a vintage cover.


DAVID STEELE (V2): The shows were great, there was a good vibe and the record did all right but we never had that one killer song for the radio. The problem was, we had difficulty in just getting exactly what The Dangermen were. We were a little unsure about this concept. We thought it would be quite cool as an alter ego, almost like they were a band in the late Seventies. But that was hard to get across because everyone thought, ‘Oh, that’s Madness with a different name.’ We had to sell it, so in the end it was ‘Madness Presents The Dangermen’.


PETER RUDGE (manager): It was a half-cocked idea that had merit but we were unable to execute it effectively.

Carl separates from his wife Jo Brown after 28 years together

CARL (speaking in 2005): After 28 years of being with one person, having three great kids, and then it suddenly goes, I soon realised I could not recreate the family home. Once it has gone, it has gone. Then you realise you are to have lunch with your kids like some retired uncle. That hurt a lot. After the split, which I didn’t want to do, I went into rehab for depression to get my head together. I was so unhappy; I was 16 stone and just thought, ‘If I hang around here I’ll just start doing drugs and drink.’ At the time the choice seemed to either go billy-o or go for a walk in the desert and find myself. It cost a fortune but it was the best thing I ever did. Changed my life; got focused.

SEPTEMBER 1: TV Total, Germany

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The band perform You Keep Me Hanging On minus Carl, who is apparently in the USA receiving treatment for a ruptured appendix. The following day, they appear at the E-Werk venue in Cologne for a free promotional gig organised by mobile phone company O2. Due to the lack of two original members, Suggs announces, ‘Welcome to Madness… or what’s left of it.’

SEPTEMBER 17: KROQ Inland Invasion 5, San Bernardino, California

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Madness choose not to tour The Dangermen concept across the UK. Instead, they head out to the States for half a dozen dates on the West Coast. They’re rejoined by Carl as they start the tour at this California festival, mixing the usual classics with Dangermen numbers in a 13-song set.


One Step Beyond / The Prince / Embarrassment / Shame & Scandal / Girl Why Don’t You / House of Fun / You Keep Me Hanging On / Night Boat To Cairo / Iron Shirt / Baggy Trousers / Madness / Our House / It Must Be Love

LEE (speaking in 2005): We’re more popular in the USA now than ever before.


SUGGS (speaking in 2005): No Doubt came and followed us around on tour. Not Gwen Stefani though – she was off promoting her line of underwear.

SEPTEMBER 18: House of Blues, San Diego

SEPTEMBER 20: Troubadour, Los Angeles

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The Hollywood club has a large cinema-style billboard sign hanging over its entrance to announce who’s playing. At Mike’s insistence, the billing is changed from ‘Madness’ to ‘Madness: The Dangermen Sessions’ and finally ‘The Dangermen’. Before the gig, a newly slimline Carl chats to fans outside and shows off the scar from his recent operation. Celebs in attendance include ex-Sex Pistol Steve Jones, No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal and Gwen Stefani’s brother, Eric. Support is from The Aggrolites.

SEPTEMBER 22: 365 Club, San Francisco

SEPTEMBER 23: Crystal Ballroom, Portland

SUGGS (speaking in 2005): Someone on this tour recently told me, ‘We thought you guys were dead.’ It’s because we’ve been parochial in the last decade or so. Touring the world sort of fizzled for us after 1986. But we can make enough money just playing in England — we can make more staying there than we can touring.

SEPTEMBER 24: Fenix Underground, Seattle

OCTOBER 15: Old Trafford, Manchester

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Madness provide the pre-match entertainment at the Super League Grand Final between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos.

OCTOBER 16: Cirque Royal, Brussels

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The band head to Europe for three shows. Mindful that the concept of their alter ego might be lost outside of the UK, they continue to merge the setlists, interspersing Madness classics with Dangermen covers.

CARL (speaking in 2005): I enjoy writing more than I enjoy recording, and I enjoy performing more than I enjoy recording. I come from long line of dancers, so performing is my genes. What I really like is what happens between the audience and Madness. The effect the music has on them, and their reaction, that’s what I feel it is all about.


SUGGS (speaking in 2005): You do get better at it; more relaxed. It’s still a simple voice but you are always thinking how you can make it better every time you perform.


LEE (speaking in 2005): I’ve had a charmed life; I was in the last great boy band. I’m so fortunate not only to have been in that sort of band, but to be in it with this combination of fellas.

OCTOBER 17: L'Olympia Bruno Coquatrix, Paris

The gig venue in Paris

OCTOBER 18: Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam

NOVEMBER 4: Le Grand Rex, Paris

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Madness perform a short set for the German/French TV show Arte TV, along with Patty Smith, Archive, Maximo Park and The Kills.


One Step Beyond / Shame And Scandal / Girl Why Don’t You / Our House / You Keep Me Hanging On / Baggy Trousers / It Must Be Love / Night Boat To Cairo

SUGGS (speaking in 2005): Madness is a very strange organism, which moves very slowly. There are seven us all going round in circles and different directions. When we’re working and playing music together it just clicks like it always did. It’s when we’re not playing music that we start squabbling.


CARL (speaking in 2005): What partly keeps us together is a shared conscious of what we like, things like Tommy Cooper, the classic comedies and stuff like that. Comedy is a good medicine for hardship. I absolutely love Laurel and Hardy, Chaplin, Keaton, Bertold Brecht. All of that stuff, I don’t know how it filters into the band, but it does somehow.

NOVEMBER 12: Lee, Bedders and Woody play a charity gig as the Camden Cowboys

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The trio perform a one-off gig in aid of Oxfam’s Make Poverty History charity, helped by Nick Judd on keyboards and Kevin Burdett on guitar. Chris is among the audience.


The Roadette Song / Get It On / Hey Bulldog / No Lights On The Christmas Tree Mother / No No No / Clever Trevor / Dead End Street / Midnight Rider / Low Rider / Monkberry Moon Delight / Get Down Tonight / Can I Get A Witness / The Prince

NOVEMBER 18: Children In Need

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The band travel to Wrexham for the BBC’s annual telethon, appearing with other live acts including Goldie Lookin Chain and Texas. Minus Bedders, they play a small set of Our House, You Keep Me Hanging On, Girl Why Don’t You, Chase The Devil and It Must Be Love. Different bits of the concert are shown in various BBC regions, with the most being shown in Wales.

NOVEMBER 28: Girl Why Don’t You is released

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The second single from The Dangermen Sessions receives little to no promotion, and doesn’t have a video. Unsurprisingly, it fails to chart.

LEE: Much to my disappointment, V2 HQ decided not to make a promotional video as our previous effort for Shame & Scandal almost cost the marketing man his job. Instead, they said the budget could be spent in other areas of promotion. It was put us to perform on Strictly Come Dancing instead, as it would be seen by more viewers than the odd Dangermen/Madness fan, which of course made sense in a business kind of way. In a blind rage, we cobbled together an idea and the last of our royalties/advance and threatened to make the video ourselves, but exhausted by all the goings on at that point stopped, looked at each other and thought, ‘Ah, who gives a fuck?’

DECEMBER: With The Dangermen petering out, relations between band and manager begin to cool

PETER RUDGE: Everything was a soap opera. They weren’t functioning effectively, even on the level they used to before. It was like pulling teeth and it wasn’t pleasant. For V2, it was a nightmare. They couldn’t give them what they’d been used to at Virgin, who’d spent a lot of money on Wonderful. The writing was on the wall, you could see it. The only terms of revenue you make with a band like Madness is live touring and they only toured once maybe every two years for ten days. I remember having this chat with Carl and he was saying, ‘You’re spending too much time with Il Divo.’ ‘Well, Carl, I have to pay the rent. OK, let’s move on.’ It was so complex.

DECEMBER 4: The Astoria, London

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Supported by Pama International, the band play a mix of Madness and Dangermen tracks. Lovestruck is dedicated to George Best, who died on November 25. During promotional interviews, the band hint that new songs are being tentatively tried out.

SUGGS (speaking in 2005): We’ve got loads of songs stockpiled. But no one has yet said, ‘Let’s put them on the table and see what we’ve got. And then see how many more new ones we have to write or whatever.’ But from remembering snatches of songs that people have played over the last ten or so years, there are probably a lot of potential tracks that we’ve just forgotten about.


MIKE (speaking in 2005): We’re thinking about doing something next year. But there are seven people and they all go in different directions and at different tempos. So it’s sometimes quite a task bringing everyone to heel.


SUGGS (speaking in 2005): It’s not lack of enthusiasm for doing stuff in the band; it’s the balance of keeping your life outside the band alive. It requires a lot of effort to make a record and make a good record. So some people in the band have an issue with how much time they can dedicate to new projects.


CARL (speaking in 2005): Writing these days is like a different set of little cogs. I give some music to Suggs, Lee will bring some lyrics to Mike, Chris will bring some music to me, Lee, Mike or Suggs, and Woody just sends out demos of music. I tend to either give bits of music or write with Suggs, or these days I just like to write on my own.

DECEMBER 5: Rock City, Nottingham

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During tonight’s gig, Suggs repeatedly offers the audience food from his jacket pocket, including grapes and cream crackers. When a stage invader interrupts proceedings to dance on stage, Suggs quips, ‘This is my son David. He’s a millionaire. He lives on a yacht in Monaco. He’s only 32.’ Egged on by the audience, Lee then leaps from the highest point of the PA, flattening several fans. When he finally clambers back on stage, Suggs announces, ‘He’s still shaking.’

DECEMBER 12: Arlington House, Camden Town

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Madness appear at the 100th birthday celebrations for the homeless hostel in Camden. They play an intimate outdoor gig in front of 200 people, with One Better Day aired alongside Our House and Wings Of A Dove. When the latter is played, scores of real doves are released into the sky.

SUGGS (speaking in 2005): Arlington House has loomed large over our career. As kids we used to walk past everyday, and see the guys on the streets, sitting at the end of the road.

The band and manager Peter Rudge part company after seven years

PETER RUDGE: I was kind of relieved when we went our separate ways, even though I found them enjoyable, amusing and quite rewarding. They’re a fantastic live band who’ve created a niche in the business for themselves. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a global footprint. But they’ve leveraged a point when they had 20 big singles in a short period of time into quite a career and become an endearing part of British culture. I’m full of admiration for what they’ve done. They’re not to be underestimated when they focus on something.

Suggs reveals what’s next after The Dangermen

SUGGS (speaking in 2005): One idea is that we now make a record that’s more like the British pop that we’re famous for. Some of us have been having the idea of writing an album about London as a concept; to write in a slightly bigger way about the city as an organism, its fabulous ever-changing nature and our experiences there. When I told Chris he said, ‘What the fuck do you think all our songs have been about?’ As though London was somehow a brand-new idea. He’s right – and we all hope he’ll be back to work on it with us.