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

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


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


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


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

JANUARY 13: Never Knew Your Name released

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

JANUARY 16: Nordoff Robbins Rugby Six Nations Dinner, London

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

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

JANUARY 19: The Jonathan Ross Show, ITV

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

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JANUARY 24: Breakfast TV, BBC

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

JANUARY 25: Taratata, French TV

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

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

JANUARY 26: MIDEM Festival, France

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

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

FEBRUARY 2: Britain’s Brightest, BBC1

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

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FEBRUARY 9: The Liberty of Norton Folgate, Radio 4

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

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

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

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

Phill Jupitus, Wilko Johnson and Suggs at fund-raiser

MARCH 15: Trianon, Paris

MARCH 22: BBC Television Centre, London

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

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


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


CHRIS: It was a shame it shut down because we started out there in 1979 and played there many times, so we had a real affection for it.


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


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


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


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


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


CHRIS: Before the gig it was mayhem – people just running around in and out of offices, nicking stuff. I came home with this award for some Radio 4 programme. I always say, ‘I got that from the BBC’ which is perfectly true.

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

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


BEDDERS: I certainly had my arm twisted to return – and if you’ve ever been out for a drink with Suggs you’ll know exactly what I mean. He was very sweet and just said, ‘Would you come back? It would be great if you would. We’ve been doing some new songs and we’d like you to play on a couple of them.’ So I came back and it felt very good and natural and it just went from there. And I’ve managed to handle it and juggle it ever since.


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


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


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


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

MARCH 26: This Morning, ITV

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

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MARCH 31: Weekend Wogan, Radio 2

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

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

APRIL 2: My Life Story, Kings Theatre, Portsmouth

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

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

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

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

APRIL 7: How Can I Tell You released

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

APRIL 15: Deluxe version of Oui Oui… is released

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

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CHRIS: The whole thing was a bit of a mess if you ask me; box set songs on the second disc and all that crap. And of course, loads of mine on the ‘special’ edition. OK, I did hold back Deolali because it wasn’t quite ready but Big Time Sister should definitely have been on the original album. It should have been 14 tracks and not had two versions of the same song on it.


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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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

MAY 21: Later With Jools Holland, BBC

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

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

JUNE 2: The Benevolence of Sister Mary Ignatius is released

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

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

JUNE 6: Gladness beer is launched

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

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LEE: We were asked to try out some different beers and put our name to them, and were then sent a few different ones to try. They set up a whole load in front of us and most of them were shit and not my cup of tea at all, but I did like the one that we eventually used.


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


SUGGS (speaking in 2013): We’re very proud of our first attempt and now we’ve got a great excuse to spend a bit more time in great British pubs. It’s a great feeling holding a bottle of your own beer, knowing you’re gonna get at least two whole pence back. More importantly it’s what we’re drinking backstage, so we’re saving £30,000 a year – you can’t move for the stuff.

JUNE 9: Rock Ness, Inverness

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

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

JUNE 12: Armada Festival, Rouen, France

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

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

JUNE 14: Chepstow Racecourse

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

JUNE 15: Newark Festival, Riverside Park

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

JUNE 22: The Reverend Green, Barnet Music Festival

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

JUNE: Misery is released

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

JUNE 28: Newcastle Racecourse

JUNE 29: Daytripper Festival, Waterford, Ireland

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

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


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

JULY 6: Carlisle Racecourse

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

JULY 7: Nuits De Fourviere Festival, Lyon, France

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

JULY 8: Les Deferlantes, Argeles sur Mer, France

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

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


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


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

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

JULY 12: Henley Festival

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

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


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


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

JULY 17: Sandown Park Racecourse

JULY 19: Newmarket Racecourse

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

JULY 20: Haydock Park Racecourse

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

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

AUGUST 11: Brussels Summer Fest, Belgium

AUGUST 31: Blackpool Illuminations, UK

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

SEPTEMBER: Carl rehearses for upcoming solo show

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

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

SEPTEMBER 13: Festival Number 6, Portmeirion, Wales

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

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


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

SEPTEMBER 14: Applepop, Tiel, Holland

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

SEPTEMBER 15: Rockhal, Belval, Luxembourg

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

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

SEPTEMBER 17: Sign new deal with Imagem Music UK

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

SEPTEMBER 22: Northants County Cricket Ground, Northampton

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

SEPTEMBER 28: Alexandra Palace, London

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

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SEPTEMBER 30: The Magic Line is released

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

OCTOBER 1: The One Show, BBC

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

OCTOBER 7: Take It Or Leave It rereleased

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

OCTOBER 12: Esprit Arena, Dusseldorf

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

OCTOBER 24: That Close is released

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

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


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

NOVEMBER 11: La Luna released as a single

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

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

NOVEMBER 12/13: Children in Need, BBC TV

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

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NOVEMBER: House of Fun rehearsals begin

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

NOVEMBER 22-25: House of Fun Weekender, Minehead

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

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


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

DECEMBER 1: My Life Story, Garrick Theatre, London

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

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

DECEMBER 31: New Year’s Eve Festival, Dublin

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

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


The band concentrate on solo endeavours in the first part of the year, before reconvening for the usual round of festival appearances.

CARL (speaking in 2014): This year is unique in that we have no shows coming up until June, so it’s an opportunity to work on other projects. I’m working on some new songs and, as ever, am looking forward to performing with the band – for me it’s the best aspect of being in Madness. It’s 35 years since One Step Beyond, so I hope to write some new songs with equal energy and spirit for our next album.

FEBRUARY 6: Blow The Bloody Doors Off, The Barbican, London

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Bedders stars on upright bass and bass guitar at this special gig organised by close pal Terry Edwards, performing film scores from Michael Caine films Alfie, The Ipcress File, The Italian Job, and Get Carter.

MARCH 3: The Magic Brothers, Dublin Castle, London

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Woody and brother Nick play the first of five live gigs at the famous Camden venue. The shows – which end on April 24 – include eight new songs that will feature on their next album, In Your Mind. As well as Woody’s wife Siobhan Fitzpatrick on backing vocals, the first night band features Tim Maple (guitar), Dan Moriyama (keyboards), Dan Drury (bass), Steve Hamilton (sax), Chris Traves (trombone) and Joe Auckland Etwell (trumpet).

MARCH 12: Night Of Reggae, Roundhouse, London

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Suggs teams up with Sly & Robbie to perform Cecilia at this fund-raiser for Save the Children. Other guests include Helena Bonham Carter, Sir Michael Caine, Colin Firth and Damian Lewis as the night raises £1.5million for charity.

MARCH 29: Suggs and Friends, London

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Suggs returns with his annual fund-raiser for pancreatic cancer at Porchester Hall, with guests this year including Roger Daltrey, Jools Holland and Wilko Johnson, who joins the singer onstage for a rousing rendition of Madness.

SUGGS (speaking in 2014): Pancreatic cancer is very close to my family as my sister-in-law died from it and I’ve met so many great people who suffer from it. It is very underexposed but luckily this fund-raiser has gone from strength to strength.

MARCH: The band take the first steps towards a new album

SUGGS (speaking in 2014): We’re about to start working on our next record. I’ve started writing some songs for the first time in a couple of years, in between doing my one man show. The trouble is, I keep getting caught up in other things when the band are writing albums and I’ve just been throwing in scraps that have had hanging around for years, so I want it to be different this time. I’ve always written about characters and have been trying to think about people in my life; I’ve always written like that. The main thing is we’re doing new stuff and people know we’re doing new stuff; it keeps the whole thing alive and keeps you alive. We’re hoping the new album will be out at the end of the year. Regardless of how it sells – and our albums don’t sell too bad, we still make a bit of money from them – the plan is to then do a big tour around Christmas time.

APRIL 2: My Life Story, Newbury Corn Exchange

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Suggs begins a mammoth 39-night run of his one-man show, which ends at the Garrick Theatre in London on June 1.

APRIL 7: The Very Best of Madness released

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Yet another Greatest Hits package is released, this time on the Metro Select Label. It contains the usual mix of singles and album tracks from The Prince up to Forever Young.

APRIL 12: The Nutty Bar, Marbella

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Lee travels to Spain to perform with a makeshift band at the official opening of a new Madness theme bar. The pub is run by Harry Wandsworth, AKA ‘Wandsworth Harry’, who served as the band’s assistant tour manager and merchandise seller extraordinaire in 1979 and the early 80s. Ex-Bodysnatcher and Madness collaborator Rhoda Dakar has DJ’d at the bar’s soft launch earlier in the week.

APRIL: Carl reveals his solo album is nearly finished

CARL (speaking in 2014): I’m coming to the completion of the album, which will be finished by mid-May. I might tidy up a vocal here and there and then Alan Winstanley will be mixing the tracks. I’ve worked with Alan over the years and feel very happy to have him mixing. Once in the can, my manager will then take it to various labels and I’m crossing my fingers that someone will believe enough in the music to release it. Some amazingly talented people have participated in the making of it, for which I am eternally grateful. I know it’s taken a while, but I believe the songs are timeless and it’s worth getting it right. I’m extremely pleased with it – it’s been a real labour of love.

APRIL 23: World Book Night, Trafalgar Square

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As part of the global celebrations, Suggs recites his favourite John Betjeman poem, On A Portrait Of A Dead Man.

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APRIL 26: The Lee Thompson Band, Hop Poles, Enfield

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The Madness sax man appears in yet another band line-up, this time sharing vocal duties with son Daley. The 25-song set is a mix of Madness, the Ska Orchestra, The Kinks and Ian Dury, with a few random tracks like Monkberry Moon Delight and Stuck In The Middle With You.

MAY: Madhead Christmas Tour is announced

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The new theme for the upcoming Christmas tour is revealed, featuring a giant robot-come-supercomputer. The accompanying promotional pictures mark the first time all seven group members have attended the same professional band photoshoot since 2008.

watch the photoshoot
The Madhead photoshoot

MAY 20: The Birth of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Radio 2

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Lee features in a Radio 2 supergroup, performing a new version of Rock Around The Clock for this special commemorative show. His bandmates are Ricky Wilson (vocals), Andy Fairweather (guitar), Mark King (bass), Rick Wakeman (keyboards) and Matt Everitt (drums).

JUNE 1: Songs In The Key Of London, Regents Park Open Air Theatre, London

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Suggs performs at a special London-themed gig in aid of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Other acts on the bill include Paloma Faith and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, with the event hosted by Chris Difford of Squeeze.

DAVE ROBINSON (ex-manager, speaking in 2014): They haven’t changed from the guys who played my wedding and we’ve continued to get on well. They were working class and they’ve kept working class and I’m quite working class which is why everything fitted together nicely.


SUGGS (speaking in 2014): I’m always happy to be categorised as a working-class band. If only because we worked for a living as young people, at pretty menial jobs, and none of us had a particularly good education. And I was brought up in a council flat and all that sort of thing.


MIKE: Somebody wrote that we were all working class boys guilty at losing our roots. That’s a load of crap. We aren’t guilty about anything, I haven’t lost any roots to be guilty about. Maybe Dave has had a hard time in his life and sees himself as someone who has made good.


KERSTIN RODGERS (Mike’s ex-girlfriend): They’re not working class at all. The nearest was Lee. He was the rough side but they needed him to lend authenticity. He was very creative but he didn’t have the advantages that someone like Mike had. He didn’t come from a middle-class background, with the education. They were always on the outskirts, though. Chris lived on a council estate in Kentish Town. Some of them came from Gospel Oak which, in those days, was quite rough. Mark was a bit of an outsider. His parents were quite genteel.


WOODY: It does kind of piss me off that we’re called a working class band.


MIKE: I can’t stand it when people seem to think there’s something special about being working class. There’s nothing special about it and there’s nothing not special. Some people are and some people aren’t. I’m not. l see myself as lower middle class.


SUGGS: The basic demographic of the Madness audience is very working class . But all the way along the line, all we ever tried to say is our songs are about community; about humanity and, with a very small ‘s’, they’re about socialism. It’s about sharing. And that’s all we’ve ever tried to say. Personally, I’ve got nothing against the working class, white van man. I thought my name was ‘Suuugggsssyyy’ for about four years. That’s all I ever heard, white vans going past. I thought it had 14 fucking syllables.

JUNE 2: The Suggs Selection released

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The singer releases a three-CD selection of his favourite 60 tracks. It features one Madness track – It Must Be Love – and one solo track – So Tired – alongside one self-produced track, The Farm’s Stepping Stone.

SUGGS (speaking in 2014): The album is a jolly jaunt through the back waters of my musical mind. Although you will find some eclectic stuff that I hope may come as some surprise, it is mostly good solid songs that have got me going down the years.

JUNE 15: The Silencerz, Dublin Castle

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The Lee Thompson Band gets a new name, with Lee’s son Daley now permanently installed as front man, and his dad helping out on sax. The band play sporadically throughout the rest of the year.

JUNE 21: Brookfield Summer Fair, London

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Mike and Lee are the surprise special guests at their old primary school, Brookfield, as it celebrates its centenary with a summer fair. Headteacher Mark Stubbings joins them on the playground stage for a rendition of One Step Beyond, while a local councillor sings Baggy Trousers with them in front of 800 guests.

JUNE 27: Jiawpop Festival, Montcada, Spain

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The band embark on another round of European festival appearances, with Shame & Scandal being re-inserted into the usual Greatest Hits set.

CARL (speaking in 2015): I don’t think we’re particularly competing in the charts any more. The back catalogue of songs is what the majority of people want to hear; from 1979 to 1983, that was our heyday. So like most bands that have lasted a significant amount of years, you’re not playing a whole new album, you’re just playing the greatest hits and slot in a few new songs.

JUNE 28: Night in the Park, Den Haagm, Netherlands

JUNE 29: Tivoli Utrecht, Netherlands

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Although they don’t know it at the time, tonight’s gig is the last time Carl will appear with Madness.

Carl performs for the last time with Madness in Utrecht

JULY 3: Vienna Arena, Austria – cancelled

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Tonight’s gig is suddenly cancelled at short notice. The official reason is that one of the band is too ill to travel, but rumours soon circulate that Carl and Suggs have had a significant falling out. As always, the band remain tight-lipped, but Carl leaves the summer tour with immediate effect. His absence is merely attributed to his ongoing solo work.

CARL (speaking in 2014): Madness was a gang thing and I think that my days of being in a gang are over for the moment. Leaving was a bit of a leap of faith, but there was very little discussion. It was a bit like that moment in American Werewolf in London where he’s in a hospital bed and wakes up from a bad dream, then another bit happens and he wakes up again. And that was what was happening – my sleep was slightly arrested and I was all over the place. I said to a friend, ‘I don’t know if I’ve found the plot or lost the plot.’ I just had an epiphany – it made me wonder what I really wanted and I realised I had to make some changes in my life.

Although Carl refuses to be drawn on the reason for his departure, unlike other previous ‘sabbaticals’, it soon becomes clear that this is an acrimonious parting.

CARL (speaking in 2014): We’re not talking and I don’t think they’re very happy with me. I imagine they’re annoyed because I realised I couldn’t do my own music and still be in Madness. Members have left before and come back again, but I was always the sheriff in the band and a control freak, getting things together. I reformed the band, I managed the band and I came up with the tour names, the photographs and the content for the programmes. So I’m quite control issue obsessive. But I had to focus on myself and take a break – whether it’s forever, for a month or for a year. And they probably need a break from me too; I come from a dysfunctional family, I was in a dysfunctional relationship and I know I’m a dysfunctional man.

JULY 4: Rock for People, Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic

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For their first show without Carl, the band replace One Step Beyond with Night Boat To Cairo as the show’s opener. One Step Beyond is relegated to the first song in the encore, with Suggs speaking a foreign opener.

Suggs and Chris in the Czech Republic

JULY 12: Bar Italia, Soho, London

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Suggs performs Cecilia, Baggy Trousers and It Must Be Love at a 65th birthday celebration party for his favourite café. Adam Ant also sings at the event.

AUGUST 1: Reggae Sun Festival, Bordeaux, France

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Once again, the band replace One Step Beyond with Night Boat To Cairo as the show’s opener.

AUGUST 2: Suikerrock, Belgium

AUGUST 3: Fiddler’s Elbow, Kentish Town, London

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Lee appears with various Ska Orchestra musicians to perform a special one-off set of Crunch! Songs. Chris is absent.

AUGUST 9: Noroeste Pop-Rock, Corunna, Spain

SUGGS (speaking in 2014): In the old days you made money out of selling records and then you toured, but you didn’t really make any money touring. Now it’s the opposite. You make records that don’t make vast amounts of money, but playing live makes more money because the promoter’s deals are fairer and artistes have more idea about how the money is made. There are also more big festivals now than when we were young, so we make most money by playing live.

AUGUST 12: Mallorca Rocks, Spain

AUGUST 13: Ibiza Rocks, Spain


There are some bands that just encourage crowds to lose their inhibitions, forget the fact that they can’t sing and bellow out the words regardless. The balconies surrounding the pool of the Ibiza Rocks hotel are all full and everyone is joining in the fun. Suggs holds court in the middle of the stage without his wing man Chaz Smash, who has decided the time is right to go his own way, and while there is an element of sadness attached to that decision from the fans perspective, the show, as they say, must go on. It’s another feel good night of happy melodies, familiar lyrics, memories of a time when everything seemed to be a lot simpler and the joy of singing at the top of your lungs alongside complete strangers who were doing exactly the same. Madness played another blinder and we left the west end with ear to ear grins on our faces and without our voices.
Graham Currie

AUGUST 16: Szivget Festival, Budapest

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Bedders and Chris are absent for tonight’s gig, and the one that follows in Russia, meaning only four original members are present.

AUGUST 18: Kubana Festival, Vesolovka, Russia

SUGGS (speaking in 2014): Doing 20 or 30 concerts a year like this is much more enjoyable than the old days. We used to tour for months and months on end, sitting about in sweaty old suits in the back of a van.

SEPTEMBER 24: One Firm Event, 02, London

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Madness join Tinie Tempah and Florence and the Machine at this corporate gig for accountancy firms KPMG, who are throwing a multi-million-pound party for their 12,000 employees.

OCTOBER 8&9: Carl performs at Wilton’s Music Hall, London

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In his first public appearance since leaving Madness, Carl performs his upcoming album, An Uncomfortable Man, in its entirety, accompanied by a 19-piece orchestra. Among the audience on the first night is Mike, with actress Jaime Winston and Spice Girl Mel C also attending. A limited number of 1,000 vinyl copies of the album are on sale, with the shows also accompanied by an art exhibition.

watch performance

CARL (speaking in 2014): There is no comparing my solo work and being in Madness. One is not the other. I want my shows to be diametrically opposite to Madness so as to avoid all comparison and for them to be judged on their own worth.

Carl performing at Wilton's

Proceeds of the event go to The Hepatitis C Trust.

CARL (speaking in 2014): I had attended a couple of Hep C events in Ibiza and got more involved and the more that I found out the more I felt that the charity was something of an underdog. Madness always did their bit for charity, like the Teenage Cancer Trust, yet I felt that The Hep C Trust could do with more awareness in our society and I could in some small way concentrate my efforts and be of some assistance.

OCTOBER 20: One Step Beyond is re-released

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Digitally remastered from the original ¼ inch tapes, this 35th anniversary edition includes several recently unearthed rarities. Dubbed ‘Fab Toones’ after a C90 cassette of 1979 rehearsals found in Bedders’s loft, the 14 rare tracks include Sunshine Voice and early Suggs composition I Lost My Head, both of which have never previously appeared anywhere before. It also features Bed and Breakfast Man being performed by Chris. The special edition is completed by a DVD of videos and appearances on Top of the Pops, The Old Grey Whistle Test and the Young Guns TV documentary, plus a 24-page booklet. Another free download made available to fans is My Mates, which was later reworked into In The Rain for the Absolutely album.

OCTOBER 24: Chris Evans Show, Radio 2

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Suggs, Mike, Bedders, Lee and Ska Orchestra drummer Mez appear on the show, talking about the upcoming Madhead Tour. As well as playing My Girl, Embarrassment and You Keep Me Hanging On, they unveil a new Suggs song called The Last Rag and Bone Man, his tribute to Camden character Alf Masterton, who recently died aged 64.

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SUGGS (speaking in 2014): Alf was a really tremendous person. I met him when he used to come down my road. I gave him my old wardrobe and he used to leave me cigars. He was a bright spark, a really inspiring person in this world of blandness.

NOVEMBER 7: The Late Late Show, Ireland

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Madness perform Baggy Trousers on the popular RTE show.

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NOVEMBER 15&16: The Big One 3, Park Dean Sandford Holiday Camp, Dorset

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Woody and Lee appear at the Specialized: Mad Not Cancer Weekender, the drummer signing merchandise and Lee performing with The Silencerz. A planned appearance by The Magic Brothers is cancelled as the band announce that, due to Nick’s health, they will no longer be performing live.

NOVEMBER 21-24: House of Fun Weekender, Minehead

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Playing at Butlin’s for the first time without Carl, Rhoda Dakar joins the band on Friday night for a special Dangermen vs The Invaders set, which sees a mix of songs from both their early days and their 2005 ska-inspired album. Saturday night is the usual Greatest Hits, with ‘Madheads’ as the fancy dress theme. Once again, the band open with Night Boat To Cairo, with One Step Beyond not appearing until the encore. Also appearing this year are Dub Pistols, Bitty Mclean, The Inflatables and the usual assortment of comedians, DJs and other entertainment.

setlist (Friday)

Hawaii Five-O / Nutty Theme / Believe Me / Stepping Into Line / Mistakes / Sunshine Voice / Mummy’s Boy / Roadette Song / You Said / Feel So Fine / Shop Around / High Wire / Girl Why Don’t You / Shame and Scandal / Taller Than You Are / Lola / You Keep Me Hanging On / Iron Shirt / John Jones / It Mek / You’ll Lose a Good Thing / So Much Trouble In The World / Pigbag / House of Fun

RHODA DAKAR: It’s always a pleasure to work with old friends. I did like singing Feel So Fine, though it took some effort to sing up there in the gods on that raised stage! The Dangermen track I enjoyed most was You’ll Lose a Good Thing; Lee and I had some nice harmonies going on with that one.

DECEMBER 4: Capital FM Arena, Nottingham

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Supported by Scouting For Girls, Madness embark on the Madhead Christmas tour. With Carl still absent, Lee begins playing more of a central role up front with Suggs and obviously enjoys his more prominent banter with the crowd. Woody sports an unshaven look throughout the tour, growing a beard for Decembeard to raise funds for Beating Bowel Cancer in memory of his father, who died of colon cancer.

CARL (speaking in 2014): Madness are out playing probably the biggest tour of England they’ve done in years right now and I’m not with them.


LEE (speaking in 2014): I do love Carl and I do miss him.


CARL (speaking in 2014): Many fans have expressed the desire for my return to Madness and I suppose the Magnificent Seven has a better ring to it than The Magnificent Six. Who knows what the future will bring? For the moment, I needed a break and the band thought so too and that’s cool. My dream is to return and we make the best album we’ve ever made. If it’s meant to be then it shall be so.


SUGGS (speaking in 2014): There is always the optimism that if any of us do fall out, that we will be friends again. It’s very hard to make new old friends.

DECEMBER 5: Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff

DECEMBER 6: Brighton Centre, Brighton

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Because the evening gig sells out so quickly, tonight’s show is preceded by a special matinee performance in the afternoon.

SUGGS (speaking in 2014): It’s not quite an institution playing gigs at Christmas, but it’s heading that way. Christmas holidays, office parties and Madness; it’s a winning combination.

DECEMBER 8: Pavilions, Plymouth

DECEMBER 9: Bournemouth International Centre

DECEMBER 11: First Direct Arena, Leeds

DECEMBER 12: Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

DECEMBER 13: LG Arena, The NEC, Birmingham

SUGGS (speaking in 2014): Every time you think it’s over, it comes back again, which is a great privilege. I’ve seen a lot of my contemporaries fall by the wayside, but there’s something about the energy and fun we had all those years ago that people still remember and hold fondly.


CHRIS (speaking in 2014): We’re very lucky; we’ve got longevity and we’re still doing arenas. From playing a pub with only one person to this – it’s all been pretty good.


SUGGS (speaking in 2014): We have been very fortunate. It’s a perilous industry and there are pitfalls. Some of us took a skid or two along the way, but nobody fell flat on their backs.

DECEMBER 15: Odyssey Arena, Belfast

DECEMBER 16: The O2 Dublin, Dublin

DECEMBER 18: The SSE Hydro, Glasgow

SUGGS (speaking in 2014): I think people were moved by the fact that this funny old band is still going and playing Buckingham Palace; in a way they see us as a group that represents them. But I think a lot of it is to do with our songs too. Each of those songs has been a little time capsule of people’s lives. Making good music is what it’s all about, and I do think we’ve managed to do that.

DECEMBER 19: Phones 4U Arena, Manchester

DECEMBER 20: The O2 Arena, London


There were silly hats, and venerable, bouncy songs for all the family at the O2 last night. The traditional Madness December tour was Christmas come early for most of the audience, who sang about home, love, and the Middle East as they might do in church next week with rather less enthusiasm. The band’s original hits still hit the spot, though there was also a sense that, as with Christmas carols, the new ones mean well, but just aren’t as good. The best half-dozen of Madness’ pop-ska fusion songs are among the most distinctive pieces of pop music ever created. They’re even better live, the pumping, squirming brass and cascading piano chords easily filling the O2 and sending adrenaline soaring through that building’s spiky roof. From the opener, Night Boat to Cairo, that (literally in this case) brought down the curtain with its foghorn sax blast, all the way through Baggy Trousers and House of Fun to It Must Be Love, the band’s prolific early hit machine showed its roadworthiness. The show is well-crafted, with an enjoyably melodramatic opening and effective visual displays. Lee Thompson’s manic dad-dancing won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s of a piece with Madness’ commitment, above all, to entertain. They’re easy to dance to, as well, the pogo-stick rhythms only really leaving time to bounce on the spot. It probably annoys the beard-stroking, shoegazing community, but it’s refreshing to find a band of occasional melodic genius that takes itself so unseriously. At the same time, as each Christmas tour comes round, and the same hits are aired, a sense of cultural isolation can’t help creeping in. Madness’s cultural reference points have dated more than those of most of the Sixties’ rockers, and it’s not clear that Suggs and his team have uncovered sufficient new inspiration. ‘Not the One Direction perfume launch,’ Suggs advised us early on, in an unnecessary reminder of how far Madness are from the modern pop scene. The only other musicians mentioned were Desmond Dekker and Barry White, and their musical roots, like their broader cultural influences, are in the Sixties and Seventies, while the band’s suits, spats, hats and shades seem to blend the trad jazz and mod scenes. Songs like The Last Rag and Bone Man, about an acquaintance of Suggs’ who worked around Kentish Town and Highgate, don’t so much seem mad as quaintly antiquarian (and this is one of their newer compositions). Suggs’s Frank Spencer references, and Eric Idle’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life singing the audience out of the hall, also suggest cultural inspirations still firmly based in the Seventies. There were even glimpses of weariness in the performance. I can’t have been the only member of the audience who’d already heard Suggs’ advice on how to get home drunk from the pub by clutching at lamp posts, while their 90-minute set was shorter than many headliners’: until the second encore gave the crowd what they wanted (Madness, obviously) the previously warm atmosphere threatened to turn slightly sour, despite the blizzard of red petals blasted into the air during It Must Be Love. It was still, for the most part, madly enjoyable. But nothing’s less mad than an old, stale idea. Recent albums have been well received without really igniting the scene with glee as the first ones did. Sad to say, but they’re in danger of becoming sane.
Matthew Wright

DECEMBER 21: Carl releases I Wish I Could Wake Up

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The estranged Maddie unveils a festive freebie, releasing an upbeat Christmas song for fans to download.

DECEMBER: Madness unveil their plans for 2015, revealing that next year’s live activities will be called Operation Grandslam.

SUGGS (speaking in 2014): We are heading now towards planets yet uncharted, the main thing for me is that the enthusiasm of going forward is as equal to the nostalgia for what we have achieved. We still have the enthusiasm that we had when we were starting out as school kids; now people can come and see us and stand in awe.


The band spend the first half of the year rehearsing new tracks and exploring solo options, before embarking on a summer tour. Carl is still out of the picture.

CARL (speaking in 2015): You only really appreciate what you’ve got when you’re not in it. The way I look at it, I popped out for some fags and they all moved house while I was gone. But I’ll track them down eventually.


SUGGS (speaking in 2015): It is difficult and strange without Carl. Every one of us has a hiatus every now and again, and because of the momentum the machine keeps stumbling along. But you never know what’s round the corner with this band, that’s one of the great joys of it.

JANUARY 16: Suggs appears on QI

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The singer appears as a contestant on the popular trivia quiz show, during which he performs a scientific trick involving a glass of water.

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FEBRUARY 23: Operation Grandslam announced

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Tickets go on sale for the band’s biggest-ever outdoor tour of Britain, with 19 gigs announced between May and September. Venues include cricket, football and rugby grounds, plus racecourses and the Silverstone Formula 1 circuit. Additional dates are announced later in the year.

Promotional image for Grandslam

SUGGS (speaking in 2015): We started doing a few racetracks a few years ago and we’ve now organised our own tour of racetracks, cricket grounds and football pitches. We’ve cut out the middle man and we’re going to all sorts of beautiful places like Rhyl and Barnsley.


LEE (speaking in 2015): We haven’t done anything like it before, and it’s something completely different, which makes it all the more exciting.


SUGGS (speaking in 2015): It’s going to be the greatest tour since Boudacia. We’ll be going across the countryside rampaging and pillaging. We have our people working on designing a chariot even as we speak. It’s like preparing for war, a war of fun y’know? A war of fun and frolics but, unlike the Romans, we are going to unleash heaven.

FEBRUARY 27: Our House, Isis Prison, Woolwich London

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Suggs ventures behind bars to again play the role of Joe’s dad in this revival of the Madness musical. The production is staged by The Pimlico Opera, a charity with whom his daughter Scarlett works as a make-up artist. Suggs appears in seven performances, with some young offenders co-starring in smaller parts, until the show closes on March 7.

SUGGS: My daughter was involved with The Pimlico Opera, who put on shows in prisons, and she suddenly announced, unbeknownst to me, that they’d put me up because they said they wanted to do a version of Our House. So I was in this young offenders’ prison for six weeks, working with a lot of kids who have never obviously done anything like this before and have very rarely been encouraged to do anything in their lives. And they’re thinking, ‘A musical? What am I doing here?’ The first couple of weeks we were literally just trying to convince them it was worth even trying, because they felt like they were being shown up in front of their mates. But by the end of it, their families and themselves were really moved by the whole thing, which I thought was the greatest compliment to the show because these are kids who ARE in prison and this story is about making the right and wrong decisions in your life and they were moved by it. And that was the most moving thing, for me, that ever happened to me within the process with this show. Y’know, it’s sad, I’ve read that it costs something like 50 or 60 thousand pounds a year, apparently, to keep one of these young offenders, and they’re not contributing anything. If you paid me fifty grand to hang around with a kid and try and work out what life skills he would have and put him in the right direction, that would be quite a rewarding job. I know that’s a bit utopian, but it seems to me a terrible waste to lock a kid up who’s 18 for three years and do nothing with him and then expect him to reintegrate into society with no life skills whatsoever – in fact worse than when he went in.

MARCH 12: An Evening with Suggs and Friends, Emirates Stadium, London

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For the first time, Madness themselves play an hour-long set at Suggs’s annual fund-raiser for pancreatic cancer, which this year also features a set from Rudimental. The singer is aiming to continue the good work of the previous two shows, which raised £200,000 for research into the illness that killed his sister-in-law.

MARCH 17: Henry’s Heroes, Half Moon, Putney, London

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Suggs appears with other musicians including Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe and Andy Fairweather-Low at this St Patrick’s night benefit in aid of veteran Irish guitarist Henry McCullough, who is wheelchair-bound after a heart attack. Suggs sings It Must Be Love and Madness.

MARCH 19: Boisdale Boogie-Woogie Dinner, London

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Suggs appears at his third-fund-raiser in a week, this time performing London Calling at an all-star charity gig in Canary Wharf in aid of the Joe Strummer Foundation. Also appearing are Chrissie Hynde and Mick Jones, with Jools Holland compering and playing piano.

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APRIL/MAY: Rehearse new material

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The band return to the studio to write and rehearse new tracks, practising in a modest £20-a-time session space in Holloway, North London.

MIKE: We hadn’t really planned to start an album, but Chris was saying, ‘We’ve got to rehearse, we’ve got to rehearse.’ So for no particular reason we booked ourselves into a rehearsal room off the Holloway Road, which was about £20 a day, and we just hired the equipment in there and started rehearsing three days a week. It was only a little place, but we just wanted to do something small on our own.


CHRIS: You wouldn’t think Madness would rehearse in such a place, cos usually we’d have road crew and catering and all the usual palaver that goes with it, but we just decided we needed to do something different.


MIKE: In the past, we’d spend £150,000 making a record and then somebody would say, ‘I want to put a brass section on this track’ and the producer would say, ‘We can’t, we’ve got no money left.’ And then you get this sort of fighting at the end which means you can’t really be creative. We didn’t want it to be like that this time. We wanted somewhere where we didn’t have to take all our gear along; we wanted to just turn up, do what we wanted, then finish up and think no more about it.


CHRIS: Right from the start, it felt great – really relaxed and enjoyable. On the first day, we all started bashing around, and everyone was like, ‘Alright, who wants to come tomorrow?’ So we started going there on a regular basis. It was exactly like how we started off in the first place.


MIKE: It was a bit like in the early days. There were no expectations, no outside anything, just us, working on each other’s songs. We shed a lot of the baggage that usually comes with working which made for quite a nice and refreshing atmosphere.


CHRIS: We started to have a really great time because there wasn’t the pressure that comes with spending loads of money. Before, we’d spend a month somewhere and start to feel we’d better start recording. But here, everyone could just go home knowing we could have another bash the next day and get the songs just right.


MIKE: It definitely started to bear fruit because, even though we hadn’t gone in with any particular aim, everyone suddenly started coming in with songs and each one seemed really good. I don’t know if it was just us stuck in that little space with nothing else to do, but everyone seemed to be getting into it.


SUGGS: I think it was because we were collaborating more. Our management had noticed that, during Oui, we were getting more individual. We weren’t collaborating with each other so much to write songs, and we were aware a lot of our classic songs were co-writes. That’s quite abstract, in a way, as songs are just songs. But this time round, we all made a conscious decision to collaborate. So if Woody, Mike or anyone else had a tune, I would try to write lyrics and send them over and see what they came up with. Conversely, Chris would send me a tune and I’d write words to that. It was a different way of doing things because I used to always just write the lyrics first and send them to other people.


MIKE: Often when we’d worked together before, you’d start to think, ‘Oh that song’s not very good, how do I tell him?’ And meanwhile someone else is thinking, ‘I don’t like his song.’ But this time we just had a small bunch of songs that we all liked and thought were really good, and we were all working on closely together.


SUGGS: It was good because sometimes you have an idea that’s lying around and then someone will suggest something else and it reminds you that you had a verse or a chorus that might come in handy, so it was a mixture. There were also a lot more songwriting combinations than usual because we thought it would be nice if we shared it around a bit more. Because we’d all grown as artists, the people who used to write music could now write words and vice versa. So we encouraged that.


MIKE: When I thought we had enough songs, I just said, ‘I’ve had enough, I don’t want to do any more.’ I thought it was important to get a balance – and by that time they were all sounding pretty good.


CHRIS: So we got on with it, kept rehearsing the songs we’d chosen and then decided to play them on rotation on the Grandslam tour later in the year.


MIKE: We often started out like that – in the rehearsal room – then when we got to a certain degree, played the same tracks in front of an audience before we recorded anything. It’s the best way to do it because it takes you a step further. Often, when you make an album first, then you go on the road with it, you realise you could have made it better and start thinking, ‘Oh, it could’ve been this, could’ve been that.’

MAY 3: Sunday Night at the London Palladium

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Recorded a few weeks previously, Madness appear on the popular light entertainment show playing Our House. Madness fan Olly Murs also joins them for a rendition of It Must Be Love.

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MAY 11: Carl releases his solo album, A Comfortable Man

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Unlike his live appearances in 2013, Carl removes all reference to Cathal Mo Chroi and uses his real birth name, Cathal Smyth, as previously billed on The Madness. From demos made in his home studio to its recording and completion in London, Smyth has worked alongside producer Charlie Andrew and Alan Winstanley, who mixed the album. It is voted album of the week in both the Sunday Times and the Mail on Sunday.


It charts the break-up of his 28-year marriage, but whereas most break-up albums follow reasonably quickly after the break-up itself, this comes 10 years after the event, allowing for unusual amounts of perspective and self-awareness. This could lead to an album of dull, self-obsessed navel-gazing, but fortunately it doesn’t. Smyth’s simple, honest lyrics and straightforward delivery mean that songs such as Are the Children Happy? make a real emotional connection with the listener; while his gift for a pop melody (this is the man who co-wrote Our House) allows for light relief on the upbeat numbers Do You Believe in Love?

The Sunday Times


First circulated last year in limited vinyl form, A comfortable man is Chas Smash from Madness doing the cathartic, post-divorce thing – in excelsis. It’s a dark story a break up with his childhood sweetheart 10 years ago led to rehab a move to Ibizia much painful self contemplation and last year a ritual purging by a shaman involving the powerful Amazon hallucinogenic ayahuasca. He may or may not still be in Madness. the Musical document of his journey is appropriately desolate but altogether rather moving essentially it’s Smythe playing Victorian parlour piano accompanied by mournful strings and celestial backing vocals. Unburdening in fragile husky tones about rehab (You’re Not Alone) lifting off to a better place (Goodbye Planet Earth) and ouch, the kids (Are The Children Happy?)


CARL (speaking in 2015): I realise this record isn’t Madness or ska but it’s something I’ve made for me, telling part of my life story, my way. Madness is very much a group energy, born of a male tribal thing we did 35 years ago, but this is a very personal individual voice and is about proving to myself that I really am a writer and musician in my own right. By doing it, I’m not trying to compete with Madness or the other band members, because I actually think it’s pretty cool that many of us have these side projects. Madness is a most amazing collective of characters, friends and creatives, it’s one of my main passions and has been since I was a teenager; a constant in my life and an evolving reality that continues to stimulate, frustrate, exhilarate and amaze. But going solo like this means that, for the first time, there’s no compromise in what I write, record and play. With six other band members there’s a lot of compromise involved, which is OK, but it also involves conflict. Now I don’t mind a bit of cut and thrust but working on your own material means that you get the final say. It sounds egotistical, but I know I was the spirit of Madness and brought the joy element, but right now I’m enjoying not fighting within the band for my voice. I’ve spent so long doubling Suggs and harmonising, it’s been great to find my own expression.

MAY 14: Carl plays Bush Hall, London

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Accompanied by an eight-strong band, plus Becky Ashworth on vocals, Carl plays his new album in full, as well as four new tracks – Season of Content, I Choose Life, I’m Alive and Taxi.

CARL (speaking in April 2015): The last nine months have been a roller coaster of change and challenge. It’s really weird not being in Madness and stepping outside after so long has felt scary. There have been a lot of deep breaths, but I know I’m doing the right thing. Madness was nothing but an adventure and from teenagers to men we achieved great things and still mean so much to so many people, yet at this point in my life I had to focus on the music and get it out of my system. I’d always written the same sort of stuff – Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day), Our House, Time, Johnny The Horse – which was essentially all in the same vein. It’s just that it got lost in Madness melting pot and this time around it’s more condensed.

MAY 29: Sincil Bank, Lincoln

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The first date on the Grandslam tour kicks off at the home of Lincoln City FC. As well as the usual hits, and a smattering of album tracks from across the decades, the band unveil two new songs – Grandslam and the Woodgate brothers number, Where Do All The Good Times Go? The former is used as the opening number, and follows a montage of classic British films and sporting scenes, in line with the tour’s theme. Chris is absent for both tonight and the Gloucester gig due to a family wedding, so Kevin Burdett stands in. Bob Dowell from the Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra also plays trombone. Support during the tour is split between Scouting For Girls and Chainska Brassika, with By The Rivers appearing for three gigs, and Home Town Hi-Fi for another.


Grandslam / Night Boat To Cairo / Embarrassment / NW5 / My Girl / My Girl 2 / Take It Or Leave It / The Sun And The Rain / Where Did All The Good Times Go? / Dust Devil / Los Palmas 7 / The Prince / You Said / Lovestruck /Bed And Breakfast Man / Shut Up / John Jones / Wings Of A Dove / Leon / House Of Fun / Baggy Trousers / Our House / It Must Be Love / One Step Beyond / Madness

SUGGS (speaking in 2015): Touring for years on end is what drains the lifeblood out of a lot of acts that I see, so each tour we do we try and make unique and special. This one’s special as no one has ever done something like this, as big as this, at sporting venues like this. We’ve written about six new songs that we’ll be trying out during the gigs, including one called Grandslam in honour of the tour itself, which we might use to get things started every night.

MAY 30: Gloucester Rugby Club

JUNE 3: Chelmsford City Racecourse

WOODY (speaking in 2015): We have this little superstition that we do, where we shake hands before every gig. But we only shake the hand of anyone who’s going on stage that night – no one else.

JUNE 6: Fratton Park, Portsmouth

JUNE 26: Newmarket Racecourse

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Today’s gig sees the debut of another new song, Mumbo Jumbo, which is performed by Lee reading the lyrics from a sheet of paper. Bedders is absent tonight, with his place taken by Woody’s pal Dan Drury.

WOODY (speaking in 2015): We’ve trialled a few of the new songs on this tour which is a bit nerve-wracking as we don’t know them that well, but it’s only song per set, so it’s not too bad. And luckily they’ve had quite a good reaction.


LEE (speaking in 2015): Putting in new and different songs at each gig makes it more interesting. It’s great when we do the more obscure, die-hard fan favourites – from the stage you can just see little pockets of people that start bouncing, like a beehive.

JUNE 27: Doncaster Racecourse

JUNE 28: Sussex County Cricket Club, Hove

JULY 2: Silverstone Circuit

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A fourth new tune makes its debut tonight, as the Suggs-penned Herbert is performed for the first time.

SUGGS (speaking in 2015): Touring isn’t as mad as the old days; we ration it a bit. So instead of going crazy every night, it’s maybe one in three we go a bit haywire. Saying that, it’s a bit disappointing when you see your contemporaries and they’ve gone completely straight and they’re touring with their nutritionists.

JULY 3: Haydock Park Racecourse, St Helens

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The fifth new song of the tour is aired at tonight’s gig as a new song by Woody and brother Nick – Don’t Leave The Past Behind – is performed.

JULY 4: Carlisle Racecourse

JULY 5: East Links, Montrose

SUGGS (speaking in 2015): In England alone, there are probably 20 more festivals than there were when we began. You’re playing to audiences who are there not just to see you. So by playing 40 or 50 festivals over the past five years we’ve managed to accrue a whole new generation.

JULY 9: Epsom Downs Racecourse

JULY 10: Chepstow Racecourse

JULY 10: Woody releases his debut solo album, In Your Mind

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Made up of songs earmarked for the second Magic Brothers album that never quite came to fruition, one of Woody’s former pupils Dan Shears takes over from Nick Woodgate on vocals. The release features 13 tracks – 11 songs and two ambient pieces.


There are two distinct kinds of solo projects that members of long-established bands make. The first is ‘I don’t think the band is going in the right direction. This is what we should be doing.’ (Often signalling the end of the mother group). The other type being the ‘OK I’ve done that, now let’s see what I’m actually capable of’ type that exercises the musical muscles by trying something new. Thankfully Dan ‘Woody’ Woodgate has taken the second route and come up with something that is about as far away from the typical music he and his band mates produce, while keeping the distinct ‘Englishness’ of their music. Falling between Pink Floyd and late Beatles on one side, and second summer of love records on the other, title track In Your Mind and the happy childhood days evoked in We’re All Going To Brighton are the one that seem to catch the ear from the off.
Scootering magazine

WOODY (speaking in 2015): Magic Brothers was me and Nick, this one is just me making it more my way, so I recorded all the musicians and produced it. Even though he’s not on it, I couldn’t have made this record without Nick. He’s a prolific writer and sends me songs virtually every day, but because I’m a control freak I then change them all. He does come up with come cracking choruses but I have to be brutal and ask, ‘Can I sing it? does it go round In my head?’


DAN SHEARS (vocalist, speaking in 2015): I’ve really enjoyed working with Woody on this album. The album’s title track was a lot of fun to sing and has a real childlike innocence about it which I tried to convey in my vocal. I also really like Come To Me, which is the track where I’m probably most pleased with my vocal. It sits really comfortably in my range and has a nice groove. It’s very spacious and airy, I almost imagine the band playing it sitting on clouds… perhaps the Madness brass section could be the naked cherubs playing the horns?


WOODY (speaking in 2015): Madness always come first, but it would be nice to venture out and try to do a few live gigs with these songs – it could even be The Dublin Castle. I know Carl has done some nice venues and put in a lot of effort, so I’d like to go down that line too.

JULY 11: Outdoor Events Arena, Rhyl

During a hiatus in touring, the band continue working on tracks for the new album. Lee also plays some gigs with his side-project, the Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra, and records new tracks for a second album.

WOODY (speaking in 2015): It’s a measure of how much fun we’re having on this tour that during any time off, instead of catching up on all the household chores, we’re trying to cram the time with rehearsals. So we’ve been going back into our little studio in Holloway to continue to practise and write the next album. We’re currently writing some cracking songs and I’m really enjoying the rehearsals. Like fine wine and smelly cheese, we get better with age.


SUGGS (speaking in May 2015): We’re not sure when the album will be out, but we will be playing some of the new tracks at Butlin’s later in the year.


CLIVE LANGER (producer, speaking in 2015): They asked me to work on the new album a year ago, but 12 months has gone by and I still don’t know what they’re thinking. They’re very good on their own without a producer so I don’t know if they’ll need me at all. I’ve heard a lot of the new stuff and the one track that sticks out for me is Mumbo Jumbo.

SEPTEMBER 5: The Camden Parkway Festival, London

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Lee appears at the Dublin Castle as a guest with The Pole Cat Trio, which includes ex-Morrissey and Velvet Ghost collaborator Boz Boorer. He sings the T Rex classic Get It On, reading the words from his phone.

SEPTEMBER 6: Gibraltar Festival

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Before starting the second leg of the Grandslam tour, Madness jet out for a one-off festival, where they follow the Kaiser Chiefs and support headliners Kings of Leon.


Embarrassment / The Prince / NW5 / My Girl / My Girl 2 / The Sun & The Rain / Dust Devil / Return of the Los Palmas 7 / Bed and Breakfast Man / Shut Up / Showtime – Livin’ on a Prayer / One Step Beyond / House of Fun / Wings of A Dove / Baggy Trousers / Our House / It Must Be Love / ENCORE: Madness / Night Boat to Cairo

SEPTEMBER 8: My Life Story, The Nutty Bar, Spain

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En route back from Gibraltar, Suggs stops off at the Madness theme bar in Marbella for a special performance of his one-man stage show.

SEPTEMBER 11: Kent County Cricket Club, Canterbury

SEPTEMBER 12: Gloucester County Cricket Club, Bristol

SUGGS (speaking in 2015): Performing is a bit like some funny kind of drug that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s a very high adrenalin thing. And when you see the audience, what they’re getting out of it, it’s a very rewarding place to be.

SEPTEMBER 13: On Blackheath Festival, London

SUGGS (speaking in 2015): I had a job on Blackheath when I was a kid. A friend of my mum’s had this art installation with inflatable bubbles that you could walk through. I was taking the money on the door and a load of kids came along and stabbed holes in it and the whole thing deflated. There were all these flailing bodes inside, sort of suffocating, and I was desperately trying to get them out.

SEPTEMBER 18: Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Leeds

SEPTEMBER 19: Newbury Racecourse

SEPTEMBER 24: Vue Piccadilly, London

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As part of the Raindance Film Festival, Suggs hosts an event that includes a screening of the Soho documentary A Riot Of Our Own, followed by a Q&A about what Soho means to the creatives who work there and what the future holds.

SEPTEMBER 25: Wolverhampton Racecourse

SUGGS (speaking in 2015): There’s still a kind of Madness within the band. There are some pretty on-the-spectrum characters and that’s what’s made it such an interesting and challenging place – and I’ve got the scars to prove it. I remember hanging around with other bands and thinking, ‘Jesus! It can be like this? It’s not completely chaotic and anarchic and mad all the time?’ Which it pretty much is in Madness.

SEPTEMBER 26: Durham County Cricket Club, Chester-le-Street

OCTOBER 9: Madstock CD and DVD released

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Released 23 years after their triumphant comeback, the CD includes four bonus tracks not on the original 1992 album – Land Of Hope & Glory, Razor Blade Alley, Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day) and Take It Or Leave It – plus a new montage of black and white photographs.

NOVEMBER 1: Wembley Stadium, London

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Madness provide the pre-show entertainment before the NFL game between Kansas City Chiefs and the Detroit Lions, performing One Step Beyond, Baggy Trousers and Our House.

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SUGGS (speaking in 2015): It’s a funny old cliché, but Madness always seem to do better in times of recession, not that we ever wished it upon anybody. Maybe during these periods people need a bit of cheering up and without being trite, our raison d’etre has always been about livening up a dull day. That was the reason for calling our last album Qui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da – basically yes in several languages. Because there seems to be an awful lot of ‘no, no, no’ at the minute and we could do with a lot more ‘yes yes yes’, particularly in the lower orders of society.

NOVEMBER 5: Business Expo Wales, Cardiff

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Suggs is one of 12 speakers at this two-day business exhibition and networking event, appearing on the main stage in the afternoon and also at the after-party.

NOVEMBER 20-23: House of Fun Weekender, Minehead

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The fifth annual Weekender sees 12 new tracks unveiled on Friday night, which is billed as ‘Mumbo Jumbo – something new, something old, something borrowed and all of you’. Among them is Soul Denying, which had been rehearsed for Madstock III in 1996, rejected for Wonderful in 1999 and briefly resurrected by Lee for one of his spin-off bands, Mr Wheeze. Saturday night’s fancy dress theme is characters from Madness videos, with the set the usual Greatest Hits crowd-pleaser, plus new song Where Did All The Good Times Go? also thrown in. Sunday sees another crowd-pleaser as Lee and Chris appear as their side-project, Crunch! after an absence of eight years, Lee arriving on stage on stilts wearing a long coat in white make up and eye patch. They are followed by Woody, who appears on the same stage to play tracks from In Your Mind. Other acts appearing during the weekend include The Cuban Brothers, Norman Jay, The Amphetameanies, Geno Washington and Craig Charles.

setlist (friday)

Keep Moving / Can’t Touch Us Now / I Believe / Don’t Leave the Past Behind You / Promises Promises / Blackbird / Mumbo Jumbo / Herbert / Rockin in Ab / Grandslam / Whistle in the Dark / Another Version of Me / Razor Blade Alley / Given the Opportunity / Mr Apples / Soul Denying / House of Fun

DECEMBER: Woody again grows a beard in support of Decembeard

WOODY (speaking in 2015): This campaign and the charity, Beating Bowel Cancer, mean a lot to me as my dad, Crispian, died from the disease in 1997. He’d been constipated for about a year but just said he was bunged up and continued to use laxatives. However, he’d had a fall downstairs and had slight brain damage so he wasn’t always clear in communicating and some of what he meant to say could have been lost. When he eventually went to the doctors and was diagnosed, he was told it too late to do anything for him. He was basically sent home to die. My brother Nick and I have been checked out every five years since we were 40 and I now lead a healthier lifestyle; with no drinking or smoking etc. I’ve raised over £1,000 for Decembeard in the past and I’m keen to continue raising awareness of the disease and helping to prevent people from dying through embarrassment.

DECEMBER 24: My Mad Life Crisis, Radio 4

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Suggs stars in a dramatised 45-minute version of his One Man Show. Adapted for radio by Owen Lewis, other parts are played by Ewan Bailey and Philippa Stanton.

DECEMBER 25: It May Be Winter Outside (But In My Heart It’s Spring) released

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Available as a pre-order download, Lee releases a festive Ska Orchestra ditty, covering the Christmas classic that had been a hit for Love Unlimited in 1973.

LOUIS VAUSE (LTSO keyboard player): When we were doing the backing tracks, our regular trombonist was getting married in New Orleans so Lee had ‘got someone in’ to replace him. Unfortunately, nice chap and everything, he wasn’t up to the job. Meanwhile Dave Robinson, who was producing, was waving his arms around a lot and saying things like, ‘The horns have to be like this! Christmassy! Big chords! Rising in the end.’ I had a day to try and fulfil his demands. Seamus came up with a horn line for the funky part of the song and I took the intro and coda and wrote the parts as a choral, as you would for a carol or hymn. We were able to get a trombonist who doubled on euphonium which made the part even more Christmas-Salvation-Army-in-a-shopping-centre-ish. I was still writing the parts out as the train pulled into Forest Hill Station, where we were recording, and – great relief – everyone was happy with the results.

DECEMBER: Madness put their feet up and prepare for the album launch in 2016

CHRIS (speaking in December 2015): That’s it for this year. We can’t do a summer tour AND a winter tour. We will be back – but not until next year.