SEVEN RAGGED MEN | 2010-2011
The story of Madness... in their own words
madness, ska, camden, music, suggs, barso, kix, woody, chrissy boy, thommo, chas smash, john hasler, dublin castle, london, the nutty boys, pop, 2-tone, two-tone, seven, ragged, men, baggy, trousers, house, of, fun, our, house, my, girl, one, step, beyond, story, words, interviews, embarrassment, Madstock, doc martens,
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Fired up from the success of Folgate, the band start thinking about their next project


JANUARY: Madness take a brief breather

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With recording duties slowing after a hectic 2009, and Bedders stepping down permanently to pursue his passion for graphic design, the band busy themselves with various solo ventures in the first half of the year, before regrouping for summer festivals.

BEDDERS (speaking in 2010): I just didn’t want to be on tour and didn’t want that lifestyle again. I was really enjoying what I was doing. I liked going in and working in an office and getting into a routine. I kind of enjoyed it, to do that every day and be creative every day. There have been points where I think you can do both but now I think that you can’t and you have to either fully concentrate fully on one thing or another. I still play music because I enjoy it; the bass or the guitar every day. I don’t think you ever lose that.


CHRIS (speaking in 2010): It’s hard now without Mark but I respect his reasons for leaving. After all, I did the same thing myself.


SUGGS (speaking in 2010): Being in this business full-time can send you round the twist. But because there’s seven of us, there’s a bit of space and flexibility for some coming and going.


WOODY (speaking in 2010): It’s really healthy to know you can take a break sometimes. That way, there’s no pressure at all.


BEDDERS (speaking in 2010): I think – I hope – that I’d be welcomed back in if ever I wanted to be. I think that’s the family part and I’d hope that would go for any member of the group.


SUGGS (speaking in 2010): Bedders can come back whenever he wants, because it’s his band as much as ours. It’s good to take a breather if you need it. Mind you, if it ends up with just three of us on stage and four Chippendales pretending to play instruments, it might be time for the 80s circuit; me, Kim Wilde and a quarter of Heaven 17.

JANUARY: Carl works on new solo album

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In an interview with MOJO magazine, Carl reveals he’s started a dubstep album, and is also working on some vocal and piano tracks, which he calls ‘relationship stuff’. The songs will eventually surface in 2014 on his solo album, A Comfortable Man.

CARL (speaking in January 2010): Madness is like my meat and potatoes, which allows me the luxury to do other things. I’m finishing a play and I’ve got two albums on the go and I’m sort of involved with a musical with Keith Allan so there’s plenty to do. I don’t know what will happen to the stuff I’m currently working on. I was thinking about putting them on a stall and flogging them.

JANAURY 18: Forever Young is released

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A reworked and slightly faster version of the album track is released, with the chorus also appearing earlier. The B-side is Love Really Hurts, a cover of the Billy Ocean classic, Love Really Hurts Without You, which was rejected for The Dangermen album. With no video and little promotion, the single scrapes into the charts, peaking at No199.

SUGGS (speaking in 2010): We thought we’d made it when we got a residency in 1979 so to be still here and loving it is pretty special. I just know that Madness is in the firmament of British culture in a positive way. We did something that is resonating with people and we are trying to do something that is good.

JANUARY 21: One Shot Not, French TV

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Recorded in October 2009, the band’s renditions of Our House, Dust Devil, Forever Young and Night Boat To Cairo are screened. Seamus Beaghan replaces Mike on keyboards, with Bushers still standing in for Bedders.

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MARCH 9: Songs in the Key of London, London

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Suggs and Carl appear at the Barbican at a star-studded festival co-curated by Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze. Suggs performs Oranges And Lemons Again, before being joined by Carl for We Are London and Our House. With actor Phil Daniels as compere, the event also features Elvis Costello, Robyn Hitchcock, Jools Holland, Rico Rodriguez, Andy Serkis and Chaz Jankel.

watch we are london

APRIL 12: Absolutely and Seven are re-released

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The group’s second and third albums get another airing courtesy of their record label, Union Square Music. Both feature promo videos, live appearances and bonus tracks, including the Richard Skinner Session at the BBC.

APRIL 17: Eric Shark tribute, Everyman Theatre, Liverpool

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Suggs and Lee appear at a concert in memory of the Deaf School star. Also appearing are Kevin Rowland, Ian Broudie and Pete Wylie.

APRIL 25: Woody completes the London Marathon

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A year after his debut, the drummer completes his second marathon in three hours and 37 minutes, beating his 2009 time by five minutes. Once again, he raises money for Cancer Research UK.

WOODY (speaking in 2010): Next time, I’m determined to do it in three hours and 30 minutes – absolutely determined. I’ll be 50 for the next marathon so it will be quite good. I keep saying to people, ‘When I hit 50 I’ll be the youngest in the 50+ category.’ I now run regularly, every week, and do some 10k meets, some half marathons, and really enjoy it. I’ve raised a lot of money for charity, that’s my main incentive. If I was doing it just for me I wouldn’t have a goal, there would be no point. Why go through all that agony for nothing?

MAY 1: SOS 4.8 Estrella Levante, Spain

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After an hour’s delay due to rain, Madness play a 90-minute set in front of 35,000 fans at this festival in Murcia, southern Spain.

Suggs and Lee at the Flowerpot

MAY 5: Ben Sherman clothing launch, Flowerpot pub, London

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Minus Carl, the band play a secret gig at the cosy Camden boozer to celebrate the launch of an exclusive Madness range of Ben Sherman clothing. Special items produced by the legendary brand are three T-shirts, a polo shirt, three shirts and a Harrington jacket. During the gig, Suggs muses on everything from football to politics, announcing, ‘We’re on the eve of the general election and you know what? We’re fucked.’ During I Chase The Devil he also changes the lyrics to, ‘I’m gonna put on a Ben Sherman shirt / And chase Satan out of Earth.’ Other tracks played include One Step Beyond – with Lee providing a slightly camp intro – The Prince, NW5, Bed & Breakfast Man, Baggy Trousers, House Of Fun, Madness and Night Boat to Cairo.

MAY 8: Milan, Italy

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Madness embark on a short European tour, with a set made up of the greatest hits, The Dangermen and Norton Folgate.


One Step Beyond / Embarrassment / The Prince / NW5 / My Girl / Dust Devil / The Sun and The Rain / Take It Or Leave It / That Close / Taller Than You / I Chase The Devil (AKA Iron Shirt) / Girl, Why Don’t You / Mk II / Bed And Breakfast Man / Shut Up / Forever Young / House Of Fun / Wings of a Dove / Baggy Trousers / Our House / It Must Be Love / ENCORE: Tarzan’s Nuts / Madness / Night Boat To Cairo

CARL (speaking in 2010): We’ve kept it going and kept playing live even if we haven’t been recording together. Morrissey once said to me, ‘It doesn’t matter how many hit albums you have, as long as you’re doing it as a live band you are in the game. Some albums will be good and some not so good, it’s what you do across your career that counts.’

MAY 11: Huxley’s Neue Welt, Berlin, Germany

MAY 12: Westfalenhalle, Dortmund, Germany

WOODY (speaking in 2010): We’re just hoping to carry on. We’ve got this real momentum at the moment and we’re really enjoying it. We’re not going to take a break for a while and I can see us doing another album quite soon. There’s too many good songs not to.


SUGGS (speaking in 2010): We do have a lot of fun making music together, which is obviously the point of being in a band. And we really enjoy playing live, so that’s the motivation. If you can create joy – in the kitchen, in the street, or in music – there’s nothing better. We’re about community, people having a good time together.

MAY 14: Le Zenith, Paris

MAY 15: Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam

MAY 20: Suggs charity concert, Birmingham

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The singer treats the audience at the Irish Centre to six hits and an on-stage interview. Proceeds go to the Chernobyl Children’s Project.

MAY 28: Papillons de Nuit, Le Bourg, Saint-Laurent-de-Cuves, France

With Lee and Mike already combining to write some tracks, Suggs and Woody also get together to work on new songs.

SUGGS (speaking in 2010): The chat has started again, with people saying, ‘Shall we at least think about writing some new songs?’ So the ball gets rolling and we think, ‘Yeah! Let’s make one last record! Another one-off!’


WOODY (speaking in 2010): At the moment we’re in the process of sending songs to each other, making changes and sending them back again.


CHRIS (speaking in 2010): I sent Suggs three songs recently and he told me he’s listened to them, so hopefully we’ll start recording soon.


SUGGS (speaking in 2010): We tried to write a great album last time, with lyrics and arrangements that were surprising; this time we’d like to write a simple British pop album that’s as much about dancing as anything.


CHRIS (speaking in 2010): Like everything else, it’s going to be a long process. I have loads of songs I’ve been hoarding because I always seem to miss the writing process for one reason or another.

Once again, the band practise in unusual surroundings, paying a peppercorn rent to hire the whole of a disused office block that's due to be demolished.

SUGGS (speaking in 2010): It means we can go in and out whenever we please, rather than rent a rehearsal room at an hourly rate. We can bring in our kettles and sandwiches and stuff and use the third floor for rehearsals, the second for refreshments, that sort of thing. It means we have the time and space to put it all together – that was the key to the last album.


WOODY (speaking in 2010): We go into this big rehearsal space where there’s a big board on the wall on which we write the songs down and we go through them all. It’s as simple as that. Then once we think we’ve cracked it, after about 20 songs or so, we’ll say, ‘We’ve got a lot of songs – again.’ Then a producer, probably Clive Langer, will sort out the wheat from the chaff and we’ll go into a studio and try and bosh it down as quickly as possible.

Suggs reveals he already working on a song about a woman he calls Pam the Hawk.

SUGGS (speaking in 2010): She’s about 4ft 3in tall; she’s a beggar really, but she’s great at making money and it all goes in a fruit machine at the end of the night.

JUNE 14: Ultimate Madness released

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Yet another Best Of hits the shelves, this time exclusive to Tesco, in time for Father’s Day. As well as the band’s first 18 singles, it features NW5, Dust Devil and Forever Young.

STEVE BUNYAN (Union Square Music, speaking in 2010): As a catalogue marketing company we have to be inventive. For instance, we have to figure out how to re-promote Madness. We’ve now got three Madness best-ofs in the market and if we do a proper job on those campaigns, they’ll sell tens of thousands of copies.

JUNE 18-20: Manx Telecom Bay Festival, Isle of Man

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Madness play at the festival. Like other acts including Sugababes, Deacon Blue, Paul Carrack and Bonnie Tyler, they stay in private homes rather than a hotel.

SUGGS (speaking in 2010): One of the things about popular music in the truest sense of the word is that you hit certain pieces of people’s lives, in a bubble of that time. You know, when you have a hit record for two weeks it’s the most important thing in your life. This might be the two weeks when you fell in love for the first time, went to your first rave or whatever it may be. Pop music is one of the greatest art forms. It’s been the only one over the last 20 years that’s actually done anything, said anything, changed anything, communicated on such a great level to so many people. It can move you to tears or laughter. I mean, seriously, how many paintings have you ever actually laughed or cried at?

JUNE 28: The Rise And Fall and Keep Moving are re-released

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The group’s fourth and fifth albums get another airing from Union Square Music. Both feature promo videos, B-sides, 12-inch versions and other bonus tracks, including the Kid Jensen Sessions from 1983.

CHRIS (speaking in 2010): By the time you’ve written the songs, rehearsed them, recorded them, mixed them, listened to the mixes and so on, you’re not really inclined to listen to them again for a while. However I did just that a few years ago to write out the lyrics and some of them are really good.

JULY 9: Live at the Marquee, Cork, Ireland

JULY 11: T In The Park, Scotland

CARL (speaking in 2010): Maybe our success is because we haven’t grown up. I think there is a definite naivety about allowing ourselves to be ourselves, which is part of being an ‘artist’, if I can humbly insert that word. It’s about striving for the true voice; the expression, which in itself is what people can see is true. I think if you’ve got energy and content, if you can make the listener feel some proximity to an emotion or feeling they’ve had themselves, then you’ve done half the job. It’s a very complicated thing, I’m still learning.

JULY 23: York Racecourse

JULY 24: Quex Park, Margate

CHRIS (speaking in 2010): I still think we sometimes get looked on as a bit of a lightwieght comedy band, even though Thommo’s lyrics can be up there with the best of them. Some of his lines like, ‘Looking at my possessions / Wondering which ones I own’ are pure class. Suggs, Carl and Mike have also written some very good lyrics over the past 30 years.

JULY 27: Southbank Jukebox, London

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Madness appear at a night of comedy and music, hosted by pub landlord Al Murray and also starring Jason Manford.

JULY 29: Epsom Downs Racecourse

SUGGS (speaking in 2010): I’m often asked why Madness are still as popular 30-odd years on and, apart from the obvious fact that we had a lot of hits, I think it’s because we have always ploughed our own furrow and have rarely, if at all, been in fashion. That gave us an independence from the fickle business of show. And given that in the early days there’d be ten or more of us and our friends, often a lot more, on the road together, we could create our own crazy world, style and sound, which for some peculiar reason still resonates today. And I honestly feel that amongst all of our great achievements, the greatest is that we are still friends today.

AUGUST 6: Newmarket Racecourse

AUGUST 7: Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset

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Following their appearance at the Festival the previous year, the band headline the 15th Glastonbury Extravaganza, a family-oriented event.

SUGGS (speaking in 2010): I’m very fortunate to have been in a band that I’m not embarrassed about, that’s something I’m very proud of. I am a troubadour, a jester. I’d love to be described as a sculptor, but unfortunately I haven’t done any sculpting. Perhaps I’m a social sculptor?

AUGUST 8: Camp Bestival, Dorset

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Madness headline the Saturday night at the popular three-day festival at the picturesque setting of Lulworth Castle. Other acts on the bill over the weekend include The Human League, George Clinton, Calvin Harris and Lee Scratch Perry. The Sun later reports that Suggs locks Harris in a portaloo. The DJ himself later tweets, ‘All in good fun. Fair play to them.’

SUGGS: Lee was trying to get an autograph for his children and Calvin Harris wouldn’t do it, so when he went in the portaloo they locked him in by putting a scaffolding pole against it which was very unfortunate. Even worse was that I got the flippin’ blame for it! Calvin was ranting and raving and it was nothing to do with me. I had paparazzi chasing me down the road and I didn’t have a fucking clue what they were talking about. I suppose it was a bit sad and unnecessary all round.

AUGUST 11: Sziget Festival, Budapest

AUGUST 21: V Festival, Staffordshire

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Before launching into Dust Devil, Suggs tells the crowd, ‘I would like to make a public announcement and apologise for something that happened at Camp Bestival.’ Lee then adds, ‘I would like to apologise to that prick Calvin Klein, sorry Calvin Harris. Anyway that’s enough of that.’

SEPTEMBER 6: Wonderful reissued by USM

SEPTEMBER 11: Fête de l'Humanité, France

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Madness play at this popular three-day festival at La Courneuve, near Paris.

SUGGS (speaking in 2010): When you’re young, your music is full of life and lunacy. As you get older, the temptation is to forget about that as your musicianship improves. We’ve never done that – we try to write with the same energy we had when we were 18. But we write about the lives of men in their 50s, which we all are. It would be stupid to still try to write about being a teenager. It makes me laugh when I sing House of Fun: ‘Sixteen today and up for fun’? That’s a fucking albatross around my neck; our very own, ‘Hope I die before I get old’.

SEPTEMBER 14: Near Jazz Experience, Indo, London

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Bedders returns to the stage – but this time with pal Terry Edwards and his jazz outfit. He also plays a few more gigs in October and November, while Bushers continues to stand in for him with Madness.

SEPTEMBER 19: Suggs on BBC 6 Music

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Suggs starts a four-week stint on the Sunday afternoon show, standing in for Huey Morgan between 1pm and 4pm.

SUGGS (speaking in 2010): In order to be taken seriously in this world, it seems to me that you have to be serious about your work, which is something I find difficult. I don’t like pretension. On the other hand, I’m very serious about being a songwriter. I’ve got a great desire to succeed in whatever area there’s an opportunity. I’ve got that Yosser Hughes thing: ‘I can do that.’

SEPTEMBER 27: Mad Not Mad rereleased

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Another reissue, this time by EMI, features a double CD with bonus demo tracks, and a DVD with videos and TV appearances.

Chris, Suggs and Mike with their Q Award

OCTOBER 25: Win Q Idol prize

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Madness are presented with a gong at the annual Q Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Other winners are Kasabian (best act in the world) and The National.(best album).

watch award

SUGGS (speaking in 2010): The intelligentsia – the serious newspapers and the people who run the BBC – never really liked us. The Liberty of Norton Folgate changed that, but there’s still a notion that we ‘re just a bunch of idiots fucking about. And that’s not the case.


WOODY (speaking in 2010): I suppose we are a part of British life, really. If you ask people what’s typically British in music, Madness is the name that will come up. We’re just typical British blokes with families and we just write about British life. Everyone seems to know us and have a fondness for us. Even if people don’t like Madness they know about Madness. We’ve become a part of the institution I suppose. We’ve never really gone away; we’ve just done our own thing.

OCTOBER 31: House of Fun published

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John Reed’s hefty biography of the band is the most extensive and detailed ever, with insights from friends, family and colleagues spanning 30 years.

NOVEMBER 13: Marion Rose Ball, London

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Madness appear at the charity event at the Grosvenor House Hotel to help children with leukaemia. They’d previously played at the event – which tonight is compered by TV comic Alan Carr – in 2007.

NOVEMBER 26: Empress Ballroom, Blackpool

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The Do Not Adjust Your Nut Tour begins, with support from Paul Heaton. A handful of new songs appear in the set – including My Girl II, Sole E La Luna and Kitchen Floor – as the band show off the fruits of a year’s writing.

CHRIS (speaking in 2010): After we went and rehearsed earlier this year, we wrote five new songs. So we’ll be playing some of them on this tour to try them out. It’s one of the things I’m pleased about, as I got a bit bored of just doing the greatest hits all the time. It’s interesting for me to do new stuff and songs we haven’t done for a while, like Driving In My Car, which we rotate.


SUGGS (speaking in 2010): Saying that, we’re under no illusion that our fans want to hear the old stuff, and we’ll never be one of those sniffy bands who only want to play their new material. The biggest bind is trying to fit into the set all the favourites from a career of more than 30 years, having too many great songs. Then again, that’s not a bad situation to be stuck with, I suppose. Most bands would kill to have a problem like that.


WOODY (speaking in 2010): We understand that we can’t try too many new songs out on punters because fundamentally we’re there to entertain the crowd so we have to give them all the great hits and more – and the ‘more’ bit is us experimenting on the crowd with a few new ones. Years ago we had to play Embarrassment, Baggy Trousers and Our House to crowds who hadn’t heard them before. They didn’t know the songs so it was hard work but we persevered with them and years down the line they’re great hits. It’s all part of the process.

NOVEMBER 27: O2 Academy, Glasgow

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Today sees the first of five matinee appearances on the tour. Others will follow in Newcastle, Leicester, Leeds and Birmingham.

SUGGS (speaking in 2010): We did a pretty extensive tour last year complete with matinees and we really enjoyed it. In fact, we got such a good response from fans saying they’d love to take their kids that we decided to do it again. I enjoy them because, even though I’m nearly 50, I feel I’ve kept in contact with my childish side.

NOVEMBER 28: O2 Academy, Newcastle

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Tonight’s gig is also prefaced with a matinee show.

SUGGS (speaking in 2010): We last did the matinees about 25 years ago, to cater for all the young kids who couldn’t get into venues because they were under-age. And now the funny thing is, they’re all grown up and bringing their kids. The poor things must have been forced to watch our videos when they were naughty.

NOVEMBER 30: Manchester Apollo

WOODY (speaking in 2010): We’re often a little cautious about overdoing the number of gigs because people could then say, ‘Oh, I’ll see them next year’ but people seem to be coming back. There is definitely demand. I think it’s all off the back of Norton Folgate, which gives a bit more interest to the whole thing.

DECEMBER 1: Gogglebox released

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Madness release a mammoth box set of TV and film appearances, spanning four DVDs and weighing in at over seven hours of footage. Included is The Liberty of Norton Folgate film, Take It Or Leave It and Madstock 2008 – A Fan’s Tale. Of more interest to die-hard fans is the Madness comedy pilot written by Ben Elton and recorded in 1984.

SUGGS (speaking in 2010): It’s been a proper laugh seeing all our old footage again; some of it I can’t even remember doing in the first place. What was wicked was seeing the long-lost pilot for the Madness sitcom we filmed for about £50. Looking back, it’s clear to see what a genuinely good time we had.

DECEMBER 1: O2 Academy, Sheffield

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Tonight’s gig is cancelled due to bad weather, as is the scheduled concert two nights later in Hull.

CHRIS (speaking in 2010): We had to cancel as all the public transport was just gone – people who lived three miles away couldn’t get to the shows.

DECEMBER 4: De Montfort Hall, Leicester

SUGGS (speaking on tour in 2010): This is what we do – we make music, make some money, make people happy and have a good time. And the closer we get to death, the better and better it all becomes.

DECEMBER 5: O2 Academy, Leeds

WOODY (speaking on tour in 2010): These days, I treat touring pretty much like an athlete – it’s really hard and gruelling work and I’ve got to be rested and healthy. I’ve even given up drinking. I had to stop cos it just caught up with me. We had a gig in Greece years ago and it was horrible; I was so drunk I hardly played – and it’s bloody hard enough to play as it is. There were gigs leading up to that where I was clinging on for dear life and it was a vicious circle of drinking too much before a gig, then going, ‘Bloody hell, I wish I hadn’t done that.’ Or I’d have a whole day of white-knuckling it and then I’d have to have a drink. That’s when you know there’s a problem.

DECEMBER 7: Rock City, Nottingham

SUGGS (speaking on tour in 2010): I always wondered if you could be dignified after a certain age. But, yes, it is possible, as long as you enjoy doing it and people enjoy watching you make a fool of yourself.

DECEMBER 8: BIC, Bournemouth

DECEMBER 10: Rivermead, Reading

CHRIS (speaking in 2010): We’re still having fun now, although Barso is always late and Woody and I are always early, which can cause some friction. But it’s always been like that.

DECEMBER 11: O2 Academy, Birmingham

DECEMBER 13: Cardiff CIA

DECEMBER 14: Plymouth Pavilions

SUGGS (speaking on tour in 2010): Even in the early ’80s when Madness mania was full-on and everyone was telling us how great we were, there were enough of us in the group to pop each other’s bubble if our heads got too big. These days we’re just a working band of ordinary blokes and just don’t do that whole tabloid scandal rubbish. I don’t get papped because all they’re gonna get is a pic of me and the missus shopping down the market or coming out of the boozer after having a few ales. And who on earth wants to see that?


WOODY (speaking in 2010): The one thing about Madness is that we’re honest. We are what we are. And in the same way, we write in our songs what we see. We can’t ever say, ‘This is right and this is wrong.’ That’s not our style. We reflect life. We’re just social commentators.


SUGGS (speaking in 2010): My life could have gone in so different ways, but I’m just grateful for the way it did go. I’ve been very lucky. If you’d told me this when I was a kid I’d have laughed so loudly my socks would have flown off. Of course it’s remarkable and a privilege to still be doing this funny old business that we do.

DECEMBER 15: Brighton Centre

DECEMBER 17: Earl’s Court, London

CHRIS (speaking in 2010): The music we do does appeal across the board. Some young people probably still think we’re some kinda dinosaurs, which is true to some degree. But we don’t just do the hits, we do stuff from our latest albums and, in fact, we’re working on a new album probably for release next year. Last year, we did our back catalogue but we got quite a few new ones in the set which made me happy. The thing is I try not to be grumpy about it. I mean, I’ve performed Baggy Trousers like a million times but you have to remember that it’s stuff like that which the fans have come to hear, they’ve paid to hear it. So maybe I just stick in a bit of a heavy metal twist in there along the way, just to keep things fresh.

DECEMBER 31: Lee DJs at The Queen of Hoxton, London

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Lee plays a DJ set to see in the New Year at a club night organised by TV actor Mat Horne.


The band spend the early part of the year at Haverstock Studios, rehearsing new album tracks.

CHRIS (speaking in 2011): I think some of the new songs are now ‘done’ and we should just go and record them.


WOODY (speaking in 2011): Like everything else, the inspiration for the new songs comes from the world around us and our experiences with real people. We can’t write about those things unless we do them, so taking a break to live in the real world has been important.


SUGGS (speaking in 2011): The last album was a conceptual affair with stuff like a 12-minute song, so with this one we’re going back to three-minute sparkling uptempo-ness. I’ve always loved pop music and what we’re trying to do is write pop music from the perspective of someone who’s 50 rather than pretending to be 18. So Mike – who originally wrote a song about his girlfriend that became My Girl – has now written a song about being divorced.

JANUARY 13: Suggs’s 50th birthday party, Wilton’s Music Hall, London

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To celebrate his half-century, Suggs enjoys a Victorian-themed bash at the historic venue. The event features many music hall acts, including Chris and Lee doing a couple of numbers. At the end of the show, Suggs performs a version of the classic Maybe It’s Because I’m A Londoner.

SUGGS: It was the best night of my life. My wife and friend arranged this kind of mutant music hall extravaganza, with a few of the old bods who can still do stuff like making ladders out of newspapers and sand-dancing. Madness were also there, along with about 200 other people. It was brilliant because I love all that music hall stuff. At the end of the night this massive cake was brought on and out popped my wife, this absolutely stunning gorgeous vision, and I thought, ‘I’m taking that one home tonight!’

JANUARY 28: Deaf School, The Relentless Garage, Islington

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Suggs and Lee each perform a Deaf School song during the opening night of the band’s Listen And Learn Tour. Suggs duets with wife Anne on Hi Joe Hi, with Lee taking to the stage for Knock Knock Knocking.

watch lee’s performance

FEBRUARY 5: Hull Arena

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Madness play a rescheduled date, previously cancelled from December due to bad weather. During his by-now traditional Showtime slot, Chris sings Louis Armstrong’s We Have all the Time in the World, while Suggs wishes everyone, ‘Happy Christmas!’ The following night see another rescheduled appearance in Sheffield.

FEBRUARY 6: O2 Academy, Sheffield

MARCH 6: Madness House of Fun Weekender announced

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A weekend of Madness-related activity is announced at Butlin’s in Minehead, Somerset. Running from Friday 25 to Monday 28 November, the preview promises ‘live bands, DJs, comedy and cinema’. Although exact details are yet to be revealed, Madness are booked to headline the Saturday evening. When tickets go on sale later in the month, the Butlin’s call centre holds a special fancy dress Madness day, with Suggs, Chris and Woody popping in to meet staff.

HUGH GADSON (Madness co-manager): We started talking to Butlin’s and they started to get excited. And we knew they were excited when they suggested lunch in Minehead and sent the Butlin’s helicopter. So we developed the idea, presented it to the band and it was amazing.


SUGGS (speaking in 2011): The opportunity came to do a super gig in a state-of-the-art holiday camp and it seemed like an opportunity that was too good to miss. I used to go to Northern Soul weekenders at Camber Sands and places like that when I was a teenager and I always liked that idea of a festival where you go on a Friday and don’t go back to work until Monday afternoon. It’s all going to be indoors and it’s an amazing fucking complex with about five different venues. The people come and stay for the whole weekend and we’re curating for a whole weekend. It’s really a dream come true and really good fun.


CHRIS (speaking in 2011): We’ll be playing some brand new songs at Butlin’s, maybe we’ll even preview a whole new album if we can get our act together by then.


SUGGS (speaking in 2011): Part of the contract is that we have to put on redcoats and be on 24-hour alert. I’m looking forward to getting hold of the tannoy system and doing surreal announcements at three o’clock in the morning: “Come on! Let’s get up and at them campers!”

MARCH: The band continue working on the next album

CHRIS (speaking in 2011): We’ve got all the songs together in very good shape and now we’re going to get cracking on getting it all together.


SUGGS (speaking in 2011): The last album had a bit of a theme, so for this one we’re kinda thinking about the current climate, and an element of tolerance and compassion; standing up for the average person. That’s the areas we’re looking into at the moment.


LEE (speaking in 2011): I wasn’t invited to sing on the last album, but on this one there’s a track called Deoolali – or Man of Steel for the American version – and hopefully I’m going to vocal it, but it’s got to be right. I’m really into it and would like to sing on that.


CHRIS (speaking in 2011): I‘ve written more songs this time and we now have a really good collection in the bag. We’ve got some fast ones, some slow ones, some reggae ones, some rock ones, even a disco-type one. As ever, the subject matter is mostly drawn from our past and London. It’s sounding good and also means we’re not just dragging the greatest hits set around.


SUGGS (speaking in 2011): The songs are coming along effing brilliantly. We haven’t got an album title – last night we were laughing about Bring On The Pleasant Thoughts.


CHRIS (speaking in 2011): It will hopefully be ready by the beginning of next year – but don’t quote me on that.


SUGGS (speaking in 2011): It’ll definitely come out next year – hopefully we’ll finish it this year. We were hoping to get it done but then we decided to postpone the whole thing because we weren’t completely satisfied with what we’ve done so far. We’re working on it and I think it’s that thing. When you’re young you have all the time in the world. We don’t spend 24 hours a day working on music like we used to when we were younger, so you have to do it in batches – sporadic, intense.


MIKE (speaking in 2011): It’s still frustrating when you’re trying to do a song you like and other don’t like it, although that seems to be changing these days. Maybe I’m getting better at writing songs? But seriously, there seems to be a lot of positivity in the band and we’re sparking off each other.


CARL (speaking in 2011): The band has just done two months in a rehearsal room in Hackney working on new material, I didn’t attend as I don’t want to leave Ibiza, I did my work here then went over for a day or two and played it to them. Generally there are different partnerships, if I’m going to write a song with anyone it’s usually with Suggs these days but I have written songs with Mike and Woody. But these days it’s usually with Suggs or I’ll write it all myself now. Being in Ibiza has made me become completely productive, I love it.

APRIL 14: Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra, Prince Albert, Brighton

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The Madness man unveils the first incarnation of his 10-piece outfit, which features Lee on vocals and sax and Bedders on bass, plus Louis Vause (keyboards), Steve Rooney (drums), Kev Burdett (guitar), Seamus Beaghan (organ), Jack Mitchell (trombone), Steve White (trumpet), Steve Turner (tenor sax) and Terry Edwards (alto sax). Tonight’s gig in front of 100 people is a warm-up for the Oxford show in two days’ time.

LEE: I wanted to go back to the music that we originally did, really rootsy, and Madness really didn’t fill that space. So I got together a load of chums and went back to our bare roots of ska music from the mid-60s. I got them together in about six weeks and we had about half a dozen rehearsals before we did our first gig.

APRIL 16: Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra, The Regal, Oxford

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Thommo plays another show, which starts at midnight, covering ska classics ranging from Prince Buster’s Sit And Wonder to Fu Man Chu by Desmond Dekker. The band will go on to release two albums over the next seven years as Lee combines Madness and LTSO duties.

LEE (speaking in 2011): The LTSO musicians are top dollar and are all great to work with. The politics has been pretty much, not much.

APRIL 24: Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra, London International Ska Festival, Clapham Grand Theatre

APRIL: The Magic Brothers preview

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Woody and brother Nick upload You Don’t Have To Hide Your Love Away, an early track from their upcoming album, The Magic Line. Woody’s wife and daughter are both on vocal duties.

WOODY (speaking in 2011): I think it’s healthy for band members to branch out and do something of their own. I’ve always written songs but my background in music isn’t really one of ska/Blue Beat/Motown, that sort of thing; I’m a bit more rock and my brother’s a bit more Beatles-y in his style. It means that when I’ve brought songs to the band, they’ve often not been of the right genre, so I need another avenue. Jimi Hendrix needed to go off and play his guitar after being in The Isley Brothers, so it’s a bit like that!

APRIL: Record Baggy Trousers for beer commercial

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The band perform a special slowed-down version of their 1980 classic for Kronenbourg. It’s part of an advertising campaign called Slow The Pace that features alternate takes on other popular songs such as Ace of Spades. Louise Vause guests on accordion.

LEE (speaking in 2011): It’s a real acoustic-y, folky thing – very different. We recorded it the other day and it was really fun and exciting.


SUGGS: I thought they were joking when they first phoned up; Baggy Trousers is an up-tempo and not overly melodic song. When we first started rehearsing and trying to slow it down, it seemed like an impossible task. We got to the point where we started to sound like Tom Waits then someone, Chris I think, came in with the bright idea that maybe we should do it in the style of a French chanteuse, with accordians, violins and all that. But we were still struggling a bit, so Woody suggested we did it in a waltz style and suddenly it all came together. It was a rather fascinating and extraordinary thing to see this song that we’d been playing for 30 years refilled with life in a completely different and unexpected way.

MAY 5: Film video in the Czech Republic

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The band fly out to Prague, where they spend three days shooting the video for the Baggy Trousers Kronenbourg advert. The advert is screened later in the month.

BEDDERS: I was flown in especially just to do double bass for the video.


SUGGS: Every fibre in our beings wanted to jump up and down and get going, but we had to do it as slow as possible. I’ve got to tell the kids out there what hard work it is sitting at a table with a never-ending pint of beer for three days. Day one I was really good, day two I started about two in the afternoon and day three I started at 11 in the morning. I just had to sit there and do nothing in a long shot and I realised it was real beer not just a prop. I took a sip and then of course they had the thing topped up. It was like being at one of those functions at an opening of a gallery where you’ve got a glass in your hand and people go round topping them up. You’re not sure whether you’ve had nine or 900 glasses.

MAY 14: Deep Down And Dirty Rock'n'Roll, Radio 4

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Suggs appears in a radio play, starring as an ageing musician whose rock and roll lifestyle has left him in serious debt and in the midst of a mid-life meltdown.

SUGGS: A friend of mine was looking for someone to play a cynical ageing rock star, which is a coincidence and also probably fairly accurate.

MAY 22: Suggs One-Man Show, Milton Keynes Theatre

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The frontman appears in the first of four autobiographical stand-up shows, talking about his roots, his disappearing dad and his showbiz life, accompanied by pianist Clifford Slapper. He makes three further appearances in Woking, Brighton and Kingston before the end of June.


Suggs has a crack at stand-up? That’s been the arresting suggestion floated ahead of this brief, toe-in-the-water tour by the Madness frontman – and it sounded eminently plausible. Madness were the music-hall joker in the pack of Eighties pop – and Suggs could easily, you feel, in another life have been a contender at the Comedy Store in its riotous early days – what with his cheeky-chappy swagger, beguiling glint of mischief and street-smart wit and dash. But this isn’t, as it turns out, his belated bid to become Michael McIntyre, or another gagsmith of that ilk. Live Suggs is more of “an evening with”, rewinding across the highand lows of a remarkable life and career, rather than a do-or-die, keep ’em laughing set. Granted, it’s often very funny, and it’s delivered with a sense of timing and phrasing that many common-or-garden comics could learn much from, but the best stand-up draws upon its autobiographical ingredients to give you a distinctive angle on the world; by contrast, “Suggs Unplugged”, as it were, gives you a heap of anecdotes and reflections about the star before your eyes. Still, that said, there’s something so grittily involving about the life-story of Graham McPherson, and the way he made a name for himself against the odds, that ensures this mid-life retrospective transcends its self-preoccupied trappings – just as the group’s big-hearted, ska-steeped songs burst out of the down-at-heel, kitchen-sink confines they so richly detailed to become unofficial national anthems. Never mind the kitchen-sink – even a table, cupboard, bath and fridge were unaffordable luxuries for Suggs as a nipper, raised by his chaotic jazz-singer mother in a Clerkenwell flat not big enough to swing a cat in (poignantly, it’s the death of a beloved moggy, in the wake of his 50th birthday, that sets him off down memory lane). There are no weepy violins, here, though: strutting and even dancing about the stage in a sharp grey suit, with those trademark flick knife-fast head-turns and diamond-geezer smiles fully in evidence, Suggs avoids sentimentality even as he confronts bitter truths about the junkie dad he never knew. There’s an accompanying pianist, though, who helps him join the dots with some tantalising snippets and stripped-back renditions of a few prime Madness cuts: Baggy Trousers underscores visceral reminiscences of yobby teenage days of yore while It Must Be Love rounds the evening off beautifully, leaving the audience aching for much more where that came from.


Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph, 4/5

SUGGS (speaking in 2011): I was sitting in the bath on the morning of my 50th birthday and I was feeling slightly worse for wear because I’d had my party the night before. And I heard a crash, and my cat fell off a shelf and died right next to me. And I thought, ‘How can God do this to me on my 50th birthday?’ And this strange thing put my mind in motion; looking at my poor cat who I loved. The cat that caught 12 mice in one day. That used to climb up the vine on the front of the house and tap on the window. My little Mamba… who could do that on my 50th? It suddenly hit me, the notion of having a half-century of my life gone. It made me think, ‘What’s happened in those 50 years?’ And then I had the idea of a one-man show, telling anecdotes about my 30 to 40 years in showbusiness. I wanted to take a romp through all the things I’ve achieved in my life and also play a few songs along the way. When we were first rehearsing it, my keyboard player would stop every so often and say, ‘Was that bit really true?’ And it was, all of it. Amazing, really. But it’s terrifying being on my own and I’ve never worked so hard. In Madness we just sit around smoking but this is really hard work, especially as we’ve been working on the band’s new album at the same time. I’ve been doing both in tandem.

JUNE 4: Kronenbourg advert debuts

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The new beer commercial gets its first airing at half time of the England v Switzerland Euro 2012 qualifier. Two days later, a digital download of the slowed-down version of Baggy Trousers – called Le Grand Pantalon – goes on sale.

watch the advert

JUNE 17: Meltdown Festival, Royal Festival Hall, London

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During a festival curated by The Kinks’ Ray Davies, Madness – still minus Bedders – play the usual greatest hits set, plus new songs Can’t Keep A Good Thing Down, 1978 and Death Of A Rude Boy.


When Ray Davies saunters on in a dapper silver-grey suit to welcome Madness to Meltdown, the band’s fans cheer in delight. They understand The Kinks’ influence on these subsequent specialists in North London working-class bittersweet vignettes. Saxophonist and non-singer LeeThompson later jokingly checks if Davies has left the building, before a chucking-out-time pub version of Where Have All the Good Times Gone. The real tribute comes as Madness stake their place in its tradition, with songs that are worldly-wise, sometimes weary and always for the underdog, played with rare confidence tonight. Suggs is a debonair London gent himself these days. Unphased as the keyboard loops beefing up the sound regularly stutter to a stop, he leads a spirit of hilarity and camaraderie on-stage. The sense that Madness are seven old friends warms an audience of mostly similar age and backgrounds. These fans are jogging in the aisles for My Girl. But before it, Madness play Embarrassment, Thompson’s 1980 song about initial family rejection of his sister’s mixed-race child. ‘Now I’m feeling twice as older,’ Suggs sings, an encroaching of experience even into the band’s adolescent lives summed up in House of Fun. The success of 2009’s London concept album The Liberty of Norton Folgate helps weave this set together. NW5 is a sunny love song written after three decades’ experience. Forever Young, dragged from a stygian East End corner in which Balkan brass meet Mike Barson’s fairground keyboards, is already greeted as an old favourite. Clerkenwell Polka, Chas Smash warns, ‘mentions socialism’, and is an awful warning of the mess capitalism has left working-class people in. Karl Marx, after all, rests in a North London cemetery. The preceding 1979 song, Bed and Breakfast Man, about an old friend who ‘earned all he ever had’, has the same sympathies. By the finale, Night Boat to Cairo, Peckham’s pearly king and queen and a stage invader lent a mic by Suggs to say his piece are among those dancing with the band. The conversational profundity of Labi Siffre’s It Must Be Love and their own tribute to their families, Our House, have brought tears before the party ends. It’s always the way for this realistic but indomitable, great London band.


Nick Hasted, The Independent, 4/5

JUNE 18: Whitehaven Festival

SUGGS (speaking in 2011): There’s no one else around like us and it’s always been like that; we’ve really never fitted in. There have been odd brief moments when we seem to be in the right place at the right time, but I think we really are unique.


CARL (speaking in 2011): We like to think we’re in a Ridley Scott movie but really it’s a Carry On. Some of us are evolving faster than others but we’re all helping each other and we all love each other as friends. We’re so inveigled into each other’s consciousness, we all have an idea of what is a Madness song and what isn’t and what works for Madness and there’s almost an anal attention to detail and principal that keeps it what it is.


SUGGS (speaking in 2011): The only thing is, we’re not the hardest workers. So we haven’t been overly prolific – but I don’t think it’s becoming of a man of a certain age to work too hard.


CARL (speaking in 2011): But not being workaholics also works in our favour. By not touring for too long and staying at home, it’s given us a certain relationship with the British public. We haven’t done the star trip – people still see us riding around on bicycles in Camden. They probably think we’re pot-less but it’s just choice and it’s meant that we’ve kept our heads together for the long term.

JULY: Lee injured in motorbike smash

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The sax man suffers broken ribs and heavy bruising after losing control at 75mph while riding on an outdoor motorbike track. Despite his injuries, he plays with the Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra at the Bermondsey Beat event a few days later.

JULY: Suggs announces book deal

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Publishers Quercus reveal that they’ve bought the rights to the singer’s memoirs, which are due for release in Autumn 2012.

SUGGS (speaking in 2011): I got on the euphoric roll on the first week, writing 2,000 words a day or more and I thought I’d be done in a month. Of course by week two you’re doing 1,000 and then it’s 500, 200 and then it’s none for four days and then one word. Then you’re like, ‘Fuck, this is going to take the rest of my life.’

JULY 3: Suggs Q&A, Glastonbury Festival

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The frontman takes part in a half-hour question and answer session, fielding queries from the audience.

JULY 15: Pohoda Festival, Slovakia

SUGGS (speaking in 2011): There are so many festivals in Eastern Europe and the good thing is that we’re new to them. They’ve been starved of live entertainment for so long that they love what we do.

JULY 30: Blickling Hall, Norfolk

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Neville Staple supports Madness at this open-air event.

SUGGS (speaking in 2011): It’s very rewarding to still be going and playing live like this. I look on it with great pride and satisfaction.


MIKE (speaking in 2011): There are some fantastic moments – at some of the gigs I look around and I see the band doing their thing and I think it’s brilliant; Carl jumping around, Lee doing something strange, a beaming Woody behind the drums, Suggs spinning a brolly, Chris playing in time… almost.


WOODY (speaking in 2011): I sit quite close to Lee on stage and when he’s playing really well it’s absolutely brilliant to watch cos he can really, really blow that saxophone. My god, he’s got some lungs on him; it’s quite something to see at close quarters.


LEE (speaking in 2011): It’s still a lot of fun. I’ve said it a million times – it’s more difficult to get out of this band than it is to get into it.


WOODY (speaking in 2011): Something else I see – although it’s pretty rare yet beautiful – is when Mike smiles. Seriously, he’s got a lovely smile; he should do it more often.

AUGUST 2: The Near Jazz Experience, Indo, London

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Bedders again plays with pal Terry Edwards in his flexible all-star outfit.

AUGUST 7: Suggs plays with supergroup RoxyMadSchool, Devon

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The frontman guests at a charity gig with Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera and Paul Thompson from Roxy Music, and Deaf School’s Steve Allen, Clive Langer, Enrico Cadillac Jr and Bette Bright (AKA Mrs Suggs). Suggs opens the gig – which rotates songs by all three bands – by singing Sunny Afternoon. Madness are represented by Baggy Trousers, It Must Be Love, One Step Beyond and Night Boat To Cairo.

AUGUST 27: Reading Festival

GRAEME ‘BUSHERS’ BUSH (bass player): Reading was a great gig, but every time I walked on stage with Madness was a highlight. I was lucky enough to do some great tours and some of the biggest festivals around.

AUGUST 28: Leeds Festival

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Madness appear on the third day of the festival. Earlier, during Seasick Steve’s set, a naked Lee appear onstage, holding an inflatable football and wearing nothing but a pair of boots and a makeshift hat. After booting the ball into the crowd, he sprints off again. Steve merely remarks drily, ‘Have you ever seen a member of Madness naked before. Well you have now.’

SUGGS (speaking in 2011): I don’t know why we’re still so popular and why we keep getting booked to do festivals. Maybe the organisers say, ‘The line-up isn’t looking terrifically exciting. I know what we’ll do – we’ll get Madness down there to liven it up.’ Of course, there will come a time when we can’t liven it up any more but long may it reign. As long as the Rolling Stones are a couple of years ahead of us, we’ll keep going. When I see Mick wilting I’ll know that the end is nigh.


WOODY (speaking in 2011): I think we’re still here because we’ve never taken ourselves too seriously. We’re not pompous musicians, more like a bunch of mates getting together to do what we love. We’ve always tried to stay grounded and write honest music that people can relate to – and it seems to have worked.


SUGGS (speaking in 2011): I also reckon it’s because Madness have always been about accentuating the positive. I have my down moments; everyone does. But it’s no accident that our songs are still played three decades later. They’re upbeat, timeless, a clear-eyed celebration of real life as it’s lived.

SEPTEMBER 3: Jersey Festival

MIKE (speaking in 2011): Obviously you want to have success, but these days, personally, I’m more into making great music.


IAN ‘DAD’ HORNE (sound engineer, speaking in 2011): I’ve never got bored of their music – after 27 years you might go, ‘Aw I’ve had enough of that’ but I still get a buzz out of it, it’s dancy music, it’s not too heavy. Lee’s the one for entertainment – he gives it 100%. The other musicians like Woody are hardcore; they have those lovely parts that they play really well. Carl is a great entertainer too – a real showman. They’re just a great team. If you see them, you’re not just checking out one person, you’re checking out what they’re all doing. They’re all lovely characters.

SEPTEMBER 4: Ultra Sound Festival, Tamworth

SUGGS (speaking in 2011): You could get bored hanging around with people you don’t get along with, but we’ve somehow managed to transcend all that. We’re all in it, our families are intertwined, there’s 40 people connected at this point, so it’s just the way it is. We just like playing music, and every now and again you remember, ‘I’d still do this if they didn’t pay me’. So the trials and tribulations are as nothing really.


MIKE (speaking in 2011): As people get older, they get grumpier, so it never gets any easier. But we do spend the best parts of our lives with each other.


CLIVE LANGER (producer, speaking in 2011): In some ways their egos have got stronger; or maybe nowadays we’re ALL just grumpy old men as opposed to young kids.


IAN ‘DAD’ HORNE (speaking in 2011): We’re like a family; on the road we’ve all got to look after each other. We’ve all had relationships go wrong and not go wrong. Life changes and things happen that make you go in certain directions, but we’ve always stuck together and been a team.


CARL (speaking in 2011): No matter what happens within the band, no matter what tension there is or what arguments we’ve had, whatever’s going on, we all shake hands before we go on stage. It always fits back together again.


SUGGS (speaking in 2011): I’m very much of the opinion that people who moan about success wanna have some therapy. Well, they probably wanna have less therapy, actually. I think it was Pavarotti who said, ‘If you’re bored of fame, stop working for six months, it will soon go away.’ If you don’t like it, there’s a very simple cure.

SEPTEMBER 14: Ibiza Rocks Festival, Spain

CARL (speaking in 2011): Playing Ibiza was a blast. It was an opportunity to invite my landlords and certain people around the island in restaurants etc that I love and give them something back.


SUGGS (speaking in 2011): We’ve played some bizarre festivals this year. When we played in Ibiza there can’t have been anyone over 12 in the audience and still they seemed to dig it. I’m very pleased that we’re still popular.

SEPTEMBER 18: Teen Spirit: Mods and Rockers, Yesterday

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Suggs presents a documentary telling the story of the two teenage movements.

SEPTEMBER 19: A Guided Tour Of Madness released

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This four-disc anthology incorporates a 70-track mix of singles and album tracks, plus a DVD of the legendary 1992 Madstock concert at Finsbury Park. Also included is a map of North London, highlighting landmarks central to the band’s history, from childhood homes to video locations.

SUGGS (speaking in 2011): With every passing year we seem to get more and more of a new audience and it’s really strange that a lot of people don’t actually know a lot of our back catalogue. So if you know nothing about the band, you can buy this and understand every nuance of our personalities.

NOVEMBER 9: Big Christmas Sing, Spitalfields Market, London

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Suggs performs It Must Be Love and also acts as host at a free charity concert to launch the annual fund-raiser for Christian Aid.

NOVEMBER 10: Suggs switches on Hatfield Christmas lights

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The frontman presses the button at the Hatfield Galleria shopping centre, and later joins Lee and Bedders on stage to perform with the Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra.

watch video

NOVEMBER: The band continue rehearsals for the upcoming House of Fun

SUGGS (speaking in 2011): I’m not actually sure what we’ll be doing. We’re going to do a big gig on the Saturday and on the Friday night we’re going to do something, but we’re not entirely sure what it’s going to be yet – we’re not supposed to say. We may do stuff from the new album, that might be the plan. I’ve seen Primal Scream at Glastonbury doing the whole of Screamadelica, fucking brilliant. So there’s some sort of wind in the sails about the band maybe just performing the whole of One Step Beyond. But then again we might do our new album. We’ll be out and about too. We’re all involved in various family activities. I’m in charge of the knobbly knees competition, but I’ve got a big feeling I’m going to be the winner of that. So there’s a lot of good music, a lot of good things. We’re going to sleep for three days and three nights beforehand to store our sleep, like camels, and unleash our lively souls for 72 hours.

NOVEMBER 25-28: The House of Fun Weekender, Minehead, Somerset

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The first weekender kicks off at Butlin’s, with 6,000 fans cramming into the out-of-season resort for three days of music and entertainment. Friday night sees a casually dressed Madness showcase their tenth – and as yet untitled – studio album in all its glory, playing 15 new tracks in a relaxed performance. During the show, their road manager holds aloft a giant ‘Applause’ hand, Chris is brought a giant hot dog onstage and Clive Langer joins the band for one number. The guitarist also takes a phone call from his wife and jokes that he’s out with some mates, the new set is going well, and they’ve only got 15 more tracks to do. The next night, to the backdrop of a movie icon fancy dress theme, the band perform a standard greatest hits set, with a couple of Folgate numbers and the repeat addition of new songs How Can I Tell You, Misery and Death Of A Rude Boy. Other acts performing during the weekend include Beardyman, Maverick Sabre, Paul Heaton and Baxter Dury, with DJs including Rob da Bank, Norman Jay and Andrew Weatherall. The three days also features comedians, darts, an assortment of on-site entertainers and films including Brighton Rock. Fans also attempt the world’s longest Nutty Train on Saturday afternoon, with 402 people snaking around the open-air green, with Chris himself at the front.

setlist (Friday)

Death of a Rude Boy / Black & Blue / Big Time Sister / My Girl II / Doolali / Sole e La Luna / Can’t Keep A Good Thing Down / Kitchen Floor / I Never Knew Your Name / Misery / 1978 / Crying / So Alive / How Can I Tell You / Powder Blue / ENCORE: House of Fun

setlist (Saturday)

One Step Beyond / Embarrassment / The Prince / NW5 / My Girl / How Can I Tell You / The Sun and the Rain / Taller Than You Are / Iron Shirt / Clerkenwell Polka / Misery / Shut Up / Forever Young / Bed and Breakfast Man / Death of a Rude Boy / House of Fun / Wings of a Dove / Baggy Trousers / Our House / It Must Be Love / ENCORE: Tarzan’s Nuts / Madness / Night Boat to Cairo

watch new songs

watch nutty train

Step three of Madness’s revival is staged in a holiday camp in an off-season Somerset resort town. Their loyal army of fans sink laughing into giant deck-chairs, stroll along the seafront in pork-pie hats, and blast Desmond Dekker’s Israelites from chalets. The first of two sets by their favourite band is, though, the weekend’s crux: a daring ‘open rehearsal’ of songs being considered for Madness’s as yet untitled tenth album. Following their reunion then creative rebirth with The Liberty of Norton Folgate, this is their return to full pop active service. Madness stroll on in comically casual gear, as if out for a morning jog. But their collective confidence, epitomised by Suggs’s air of ringmasterly amusement, soon builds a head of steam. The songs are uniformly strong, closer to their 1980s pop style than Norton Folgate’s murky London noir. Black and Blue has that pomp’s bittersweet bounce, and like This Time Sister’s intimations of lonely divorce, suits the middle-aged incarnation of the most darkly realistic chart craftsmen since The Kinks. Suggs’s La Luna – a ‘rum’ response to The Beatles’ In My Life – and Into the Powder Blue share this melancholy. What are we to make, though, of Doolally, the true-life adventures of shady hero of the Malayan Emergency Tom Darling, and his fatal sideline in Russian Roulette? Mike Barson’s sequel ‘some 50 decades later’ to one of their biggest hits, My Girl No. 2, is the surest indication they’re on the right track: pure Motown, with rapid left-field hooks and an organ solo which would have been a 1966 Mod floor-filler. It does a similar job here. That’s one in the bag. Madness have filled this holiday camp with influences and like minds, including Paul Heaton and Baxter Dury. They pop on-stage with punk’s great reggae DJ Don Letts, and The Specials’ leader Jerry Dammers DJs too, complete with pith-helmeted brass section. Less likely foils such as Northern electro-rockers The Whip make the crowd dance in weary slow-motion. Madness are black-suited and booted for a second, all-hits set, a floor-shaking triumph, of course. It comes in the knowledge that they have stayed true to themselves, and so to their fans. Our House is the pick, a kitchen-sink scenario full of communicated feeling, a simple message of shared pride. We’re all happy campers in the end.
Nick Hasted, The Independent, 4/5

Suggs and Carl performing at Butlin's on Saturday night

LEE: I was a bit dubious about it at first, as I often am. I thought, ‘Next thing, we’ll be working Haven holiday parks.’ But I ended up having a brilliant time – it was the real, proper fans who were there. Fantastic.

New song dropped at the last minute

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Excluded from the Weekender set due to lack of rehearsal is an autobiographical song with two working titles of When We Was We and Falling Down, written by Lee. Lyrics include: ‘In a band / Nothing planned / In 73 / Before we was we / Rolling down Parliament Hill / In the laundrette with time to kill / Selling England by the pound / Going out on the underground / In the pub, lots of music / Prince Buster and the Bluebeat sound / Desmond Dekker and Kentish Town’.

LEE: Falling Down is about your surroundings and the things you got up to and places and people you met and were inspired by. It’s a folk-type lyric to pop music I suppose.

DECEMBER 2: My Life Story, Kings Head Theatre, London

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Following the success of his one-man show earlier in the year, Suggs plays the first of a 16-night residency at the theatre in Islington. He follows it up with a tour of provincial theatres in January and February.

SUGGS (speaking in 2011): It’s a memoir with a few songs thrown in for good measure. It’s not stand-up. It’s not An Evening With… I toyed with calling it Mad-Life Crisis, but, in the end, it’s simply My Life Story, which does at least tell you what you can expect, the good bits and the darker moments. When I did it a few months ago, on the first night I thought I’d contracted some weird tropical disease because my mouth was so dry I couldn’t speak. My tongue was stuck up my nostril and I couldn’t speak – I couldn’t even remember my own name. I was also really nervous about what my mum would think of it. I could see her from the stage and she was laughing and crying in all the right places, so I must have been getting it about right. I think she was just amazed I could remember it all, to be honest.

DECEMBER 15: Absolute Radio Christmas Sessions, London

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Suggs and Mike play an intimate one-off performance at St Barnabas Chapel in Soho. Among the songs aired are My Girl, Baggy Trousers, Powder Blue and It Must Be Love.

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SUGGS (speaking in 2011): Every time I have to fill out a form where it asks your occupation, I never know what to write. I’ve never felt comfortable being described as a songwriter or a singer. But I’m a performer, for sure.


WOODY (speaking in 2011): I’m a drummer, it’s my job and it’s what I’ll do till the day I die. If someone asks me if I want a gig, it’s a stupid question. Yes I’ll do the gig, and I’ll keep doing gigs.

Lee performs with Deaf School at the Jazz Cafe

DECEMBER 21: Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra, Jazz Café, Camden

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After a string of appearances, the LTSO ends 2011 on a high, supporting Deaf School at the Jazz Café as singer Bette Bright celebrates her 30th wedding anniversary with Suggs. Earlier in the day, the band take part in a BBC Radio London session with Robert Elms.

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