SEVEN RAGGED MEN | 30 years of Madstock
The story of Madness... in their own words
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30 years of Madstock

30 years of Madstock

The story of Madstock begins in February 1992, when It Must Be Love is re-released for Valentine’s Day ahead of a new greatest hits compilation, Divine Madness. Helped by radio play, the single rises to No6 in the UK charts, and the subsequent album – released by Virgin on February 25 – spends three weeks at number one and stays in the charts for 96 weeks.

WOODY: We thought the album would do quite well but didn’t realise it would achieve what it did.

STEVE PRITCHARD (head of catalogue, Virgin): It was strange because the band didn’t really promote Divine to start with – it was a record company cash-in that they were just happy to endorse. Then the reviews came in and they started to feel the warmth; the almost unequivocal worship from the press.

SUGGS: Suddenly we were getting all this love from people, being called an icon and a British institution in serious newspapers and all that – it was amazing.

STEVE PRITCHARD: As a result of the reviews and the first week’s sales, the album started to gain a genuine and organic life of its own. Eventually it became the biggest album of 1992 – it sold nearly 900,000 albums and well over 100,000 copies of the VHS compilation.

WOODY: It went straight in at No1 in England, stayed there for three weeks and then refused to go out of the Top 5 for another four weeks after that.

SUGGS: It surprised me that it did so well. We still owed Virgin a few quid from our glorious period as The Madness, and Divine was only on half royalties because it was TV-advertised, but we still made a couple of quid. Enough to pay off our overdrafts and make a few old men very happy.

MICK GARBUTT (Virgin promoter): The band really thought that nobody loved them, but after Divine, they got their confidence back. Talk of a serious reformation really began – and that’s where Madstock came from.

CARL: Suddenly we thought, ‘What the fuck, let’s give it another go.’ We felt we were better equipped to cope with the pressures – production and finance and the legal side of things were no longer the mysteries that they used to be. To me, it was obvious that it was a good opportunity for us to have another crack…

MIKE: …and it helped that the money was good.

CARL: OK, I’d be a fucking liar if I said money wasn’t an issue, but there’s no way I would have done it if I thought that by reforming we’d be sullying the Madness name.

MICK GARBUTT: From the outside, you might have assumed that all they wanted was the money. But it didn’t seem that was always the case. Mike had family in Holland and Chris had a young wife and at times he wasn’t sure and would have his moments. But ultimately, the realisation that there was a lot of financial gain helped.

LEE: My house was on the verge of being repossessed and I was about to take out a mortgage on a tent. So for me, on a purely financial basis, it made a lot of sense to get back together.

CHRIS: Me being ever the cynic, I didn’t want to do it at first. I thought people might think we were just doing it for the money.

MIKE: And I certainly didn’t want to play some sad reunion that only ten people came to.

SUGGS: There was a lot of umming and ahhing and some of the band initially didn’t want to do it – I certainly didn’t. I’d put Madness on a shelf somewhere, with the police helmets and the lion’s head, and all the other stuff you’ve got from your previous adventures. But as the momentum built, my opinion started to change. I thought, ‘If the others want to give it a whirl, it would be unfair of me not to go in with them.’

CHRIS: I didn’t really want to do it but eventually Suggs and Mike talked me round.

SUGGS: I remember Carl in particular was extremely enthusiastic. He was seeing a lot of bands coming to his record company and thinking, ‘Hang on, I know a band that are much better than this lot, and they’re right in front of my nose.’

MICK GARBUTT: I do wonder if any of it would have come together without Carl. He cottoned on early to the legacy of Madness and was constantly trying to promote it. He was passionate to the point of emotional. He seemed to understand the importance of Madness in their time, in pop music, historically what they represented, way more than anyone else. I think Suggs did too, but he wasn’t the one to articulate it.

CARL: Everywhere I went, people would talk to me and they had so much affection for Madness; it was like there was something in the air. I knew we had so much more to offer, but reforming the band would take an incredible amount of enthusiasm and energy, which at the time no one else seemed prepared to do. It took about a year-and-a-half to make it happen, with lots of meetings. It nearly drove me mad in the process, but the thought that Madness still had much to offer spurred me on. Not forgetting, of course, the happiness that performance brought.

BARRY DICKENS (concert promoter): Carl was in the lead role. He was always the one who was out and about. He’s very streetwise and I take my hat off to him; he got them all back together.

CARL: It was like The Blues Brothers – I was on a mission from God to get Madness together again. I met Woody at the Forum and said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna reform the band.’

WOODY: And I said, ‘I’ve been waiting for this day.’ I had literally been waiting for the phone call. And suddenly it came.

SUGGS: I remember I hadn’t seen Carl for about ten years and I was sitting in the launderette watching my socks go round and who should walk by. I said, ‘What you been doing lately?’ And he said, ‘Nothing.’ And off we went from there.

WOODY: Suddenly the rumours were going around that we were getting together in meetings – even though we’d been meeting up regularly anyway – and the phone started ringing, saying, ‘Are you getting back together again?’ ‘No’ ‘Would you like to?’ ‘Well make us an offer.’ So then the offers started coming in and some ridiculous figures started being bandied around. We sort of went, ‘Why not? If people are offering us this kind of silly money we could have a laugh as well.’

SUGGS: We started getting offers from Butlin’s to do a gig supporting Guns ‘N’ Roses.

CARL: We did get offered Butlin’s. It was after Curiosity Killed The Cat had gone down with such a big bang. The money was great but the location was all wrong.

CHRIS: We were also offered Club 18-30…

WOODY: …we should have done the 18-30 gig.

CARL: So it went from Butlin’s to the Dubai Country Club, then the idea of doing one gig became more likely.

WOODY: We did think long and hard about an arena tour but decided it would be nice to do one thing as that’s all we could manage.

SUGGS: We were seven people with seven different ideas. Some of us had no worries and some of us had a lot of worries. And also, in the interim period, people had been doing other things that they wanted to continue with, so it took quite a while just to make it so we could fit everything in around everyone’s lives and families.

At a meeting on March 17, promoter Vince Power suggests the band play a one-off reunion concert in London.

CARL: For over a year, I had been making every effort to coax the band to reform. This had met with some resistance from some members but on St Patrick’s Day at the Irish Club dinner, Vince Power of The Mean Fiddler proposed a deal which I think went a long way to making the reformation happen.

VINCE POWER (promoter): I met Suggs and Carl in the Crown & Goose. I offered them X amount of money and one of them said, ‘You think we can make that much? OK, we’ll go for it’. They ended up making a lot more out of it than that.

CHRIS: At that time, Vince did this big annual concert in Finsbury Park called The Fleadh. And he obviously thought, ‘Hmm, I could tack another concert on the end of that while it’s all set up.’

SUGGS: He said he was going to have all the fences up anyway, so why didn’t we do a day in Finsbury Park?

CARL: We thought, ‘Well that’s good, that’s only ten minutes over the road. We’ll do that.’

CHRIS: So we all got cajoled into doing this ‘one comeback’.

SUGGS: It suited me just fine. I didn’t want to do the tour that some of the others were talking about – I just wanted a one-off ‘Thank You Very Much, Great That You Still Care About Us’ show.

LEE: My bike shop had gone, the bailiffs were at the door, I was flyposting at night and working for environmental health by day. Then Carl called up to ask if I fancied doing a gig at Finsbury Park. I said, ‘What, the Rainbow?’ He said, ‘No, the park.’ I was like, ‘I’ll have to think about it… course I’ll fucking do it.’

WOODY: It was good timing for me too as Voice of the Beehive was waning; we’d hit the peak and were coming down the other side. It just seemed the perfect time to go back to Madness.

BEDDERS: A lot of people had said to us, ‘You didn’t really say goodbye in ’86; there was no real announcement, no farewell gig.’ So we just wanted to put a cap on everything, because we’d never definitively said, ‘This is it. Thanks for everything.’

SUGGS: I was conscious that it hadn’t ended as it should have, and ever since we’d been circling each other like boxers in the ring, somehow waiting for it to click. So after fizzling out, maybe this was our chance to say goodbye properly and make some money. But it was only meant as a one-off – that was definitely the deal.

On March 31, all seven members of Madness reunite onstage for the first time since December 21 1983 for a secret show for the benefit of an invited audience. Held at the Notre Dame Church Hall in London, the band perform four songs – It Must Be Love, Madness and House of Fun (twice) – with a film crew from Go! Discs capturing the event for a proposed music TV show, Spunk.

CARL: In a slightly underhand way, I got the band to reform and play for a TV pilot, which was filmed off Leicester Square and included Dennis Pennis and Norm from Cheers.

CHRIS: Really, we did it as a favour to Carl.

CARL: Once in rehearsal, we loaded the audience and the music did its magic. It was a small step in getting the band to perform again as they enjoyed the performance and got brilliant feedback from friends. We also received £500 each.

WOODY: We did two days’ rehearsals just to make sure we could still play and it felt strange – it didn’t have the magic. But as soon as we stepped out on stage in front of an audience it was like we’d never been away. We did House Of Fun and It Must Be Love and it was brilliant. We also threw in Madness as that was the track we thought we could all remember and it just came back like we’d been playing it all the time. We got such a high, it was almost like, ‘Let’s get back on stage and do even more.’ It was a real buzz; just so fantastic. I remember thinking, ‘I’ve really missed this.’

CHRIS: It was the first time the band had played together in six years but it was really nice. Playing in Madness is like riding a bike; you never forget how to do it.

CARL: I know you’re not supposed to say it, but I didn’t have any doubts. The minute the band got back together in rehearsals, you felt the energy of the original songs and the intent. It was really strong.

MIKE: I really didn’t realise how much I’d missed it until we came back and started doing it again. It gave me a lot of energy and filled me with a lot of inspiration; finally I was back making music again. I felt recharged and almost begging to come back – maybe I should have taken a shorter break.

WOODY: It was just like we’d never ever been away. The magic was there, and we just gelled immediately. There was such a sense of unity. So from agreeing to just do a little one-off show, it suddenly turned into something bigger.

CARL: The beautiful thing was, as soon as we got into rehearsal, the music did it for us. Whatever happens between us, it always brings us together. And I knew from my experience as an A&R man that we would still do a fucking good show.

In April, House of Fun is re-released to test the waters for a full-blown reunion, peaking at No40.

WOODY: Music was dreadfully dull at that point, and I think people realised what they missed from Madness.

SUGGS: It’s normally recommended that bands that once had any kind of energy or youthful vitality might be better if they didn’t carry on beyond the boundaries of their own physical whatevers. But we were all so young when we started, we weren’t that old when we came back.

CARL: It’s a selfish thing; you do it to entertain yourself. Obviously you entertain people but you have to do it so you’re happy with it and not take the piss. I’d always been deadly serious about Madness.

In May, the band announce details of ‘An Audience With Madness’ to be held in Finsbury Park, North London, on Saturday August 8 – Chris’s 36th birthday.

CHRIS: Suggs wanted to call it ‘Finstock’ which reminded me of fish, so I suggested the name ‘Madstock’.

SUGGS: Although there was some confidence about it, we were talking to the agent and the promoter and they were saying, ‘Maybe you should be thinking of something a bit smaller, lads.’ So clearly they were worried, which suddenly made us worry.

WOODY: We all had our doubts, for sure. I mean, we’d been happy to promote the greatest hits album because we thought that was going to be it. But this was something else altogether.

BEDDERS: We started thinking, ‘No one’s going to turn up. There might be a few people – a few diehard fans.’

SUGGS: After all, we hadn’t all played together for eight years.

CARL: We were wary. But I just felt there was a lot of feeling there and a demand for what we did. After all, 600,000 people had bought Divine, so in theory some of them should turn up.

Despite the band’s misgivings, the announcement is greeted with delight by fans.

ROB WARDLAW (fan): I’d bought the NME and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the full-page advert for ‘Madness in the park’. That was the first I knew of Madstock. To say I was excited is an understatement.

MARK CHARLESWORTH (fan): I was casually strolling round the Odeon in Birmingham and suddenly clocked a noticeboard and to my amazement the words ‘Madness’ and ‘8th of August’. I couldn’t believe it. Was it really them? The credit card came out and tickets duly bought.

GRAHAM YATES (fan): From the moment I saw the advert I knew that nothing would stop me attending. Having lived through the post-1986 wilderness years, I’d convinced myself that surely I was the last remaining Madness fan. So the news that the seven ragged men would once again be gracing a stage together really was the best thing since sliced bread. Tickets were purchased and the days counted down impatiently.

JONATHAN YOUNG (fan): By 1992, my collecting of all old Madness records had hit levels of obsession. The inevitable question, ‘Where are they now?’ was answered by Divine intervention and so Madstock became my first must-see concert.

ANTHONY WALLACE (fan): I just remember running straight out to get a tattoo and buying my first pair of DMs.

The 36,000 tickets for Saturday sell out so quickly, a second date is added for the day after.

SUGGS: We were amazed – suddenly we’d sold 70,000 tickets.

CARL: The ticket people told me it was split into three age groups…

SUGGS: …yeah: 30-31, 31-32 and 33-34.

ROB WARDLAW: I obviously wanted to go but I’d just bought a new house, money was tight and despite pleading with the missus to come with me, it looked like it wasn’t going to happen. Then a couple of weeks later she said, ‘We can’t both afford to go but I know you really want to, so why not go yourself?’ So I tried to get tickets for the Saturday gig… sold out… then Sunday… sold out. So I bought the NME again and saw an ad for a ticket agency called Green Star. I phoned up and paid £35 for a ticket with a face value of £20. Sorted.

CHRIS DABBS (fan): Having followed the band from their first Top of the Pops appearance, and being a member of the fan club right until the bitter end, I was still hungry for more. The gig would be just after my 21st birthday and would be the first time I’d actually see them live.

STEPHEN STURROCK (fan): It was going to be my first-ever concert too – two days before my 24th birthday.

GREG PHILLIPS (fan): I desperately wanted to go too couldn’t make it because it was my wedding day. I wanted to go on the Sunday instead but we’d already booked our honeymoon in Tenerife. I was gutted.

Rehearsals begin in July, with Madness spending a week going through their back catalogue in London to brush away the cobwebs.

PAUL BREWER (backline tech): I’d been working with Woody in Voice of the Beehive when he asked if I wanted to do the Finsbury gig. Hell yeah! We’d been in Australia with Beehive, and Woody and I literally got off the plane from Oz and went straight to rehearsals – no hotel or home first, just straight in. I only knew Woody at that point, but soon I was right in there as they listened to their records, trying to relearn their parts.

Another single is re-released the same month, with Madness appearing on Top of the Pops with My Girl on July 30.

SUGGS: My kids weren’t really aware of what we were doing the first time around so it was funny that they suddenly saw us on TV and all that for the first time.

Rehearsals move to Amsterdam on August 1, where the set list slowly takes shape.

BEDDERS: To get away from everything around the show, and because we hadn’t played together for years, we went over to Holland to rehearse and play. Because we did that, we missed out on all the build-up to the gig itself, which I think was the best thing to do as we were shielded from all the expectation.

SUGGS: As we rehearsed, we realised we’d never played all our singles at the same gig. Suddenly it made us think, ‘That’s a lot of hits – we must have something going for us.’ We originally thought of doing all the single in chronological order, but of course being such an enormously successful band, we’d have had to be onstage for about three days.

WOODY: We said, ‘Well, what shall we put in the set?’ And then we said, ‘Well, let’s have a look at the singles.’ And there were over 20 of them, so that’s a set in itself. And then we started saying, ‘Well we enjoy playing Razorblade Alley, that’s always a corker… Land of Hope & Glory, that’s always a laugh…’

MIKE: In a sense we grew up with our music too, but we hadn’t heard it or played it for some time. So when we came back together, it was like it was brand new and we were hearing it for the first time ourselves.

The Dutch trip climaxes in a dry-run at Paard Von Troje, a small club in The Hague, on August 6.

BEDDERS: For the warm-up gig, we played this tiny, tiny club – I’ve no idea why it was picked.

MICK GARBUTT: It was a jolly-up, bringing out people from media – we did competitions with Capital Radio and MTV did some filming. It was a hot, sweaty summer’s night. One of those oddities was this neo-Nazi presence there, this hangover from a different generation. Carl said that he peered outside the curtains and thought, ‘Oh my word!’ There was this aggressive male thing that felt intimidating; all this history with Madness which was so contradictory to their left-wing principles, all family men. But ultimately there was no trouble.

LEE: Afterwards, I ended up on a beach with a couple of puffs of skunk in my lungs, on a trampoline, with a lot of kids bouncing higher than me. I thought, ‘Peter Pan’s not having that’ so I got back on, done a midnight bounce stark naked on a starlit night and, coming down, missed the canvas completely and broke me toe on one of the springs. I looked down and the bloody thing was facing me.

On August 7 the band fly home, with Lee detained at Heathrow.

LEE: I was so high that I bought this stuff to smoke which I put in the breast pocket of my denim jacket. When I arrived in London the next day there was a discrepancy with my passport – I only had two months left on it, and you need six. At Schiphol they wouldn’t have made such a fuss about it, but at Heathrow I immediately got singled out with my sleepy and sweaty mug. I sat there for an hour and they asked me if I had a criminal record. ‘You must be joking,’ I said. Well, they pressed the computer’s Enter button and then this long list rolled out. The man said, ‘I don’t suppose you’ve brought anything into the country you shouldn’t have?’ I said, ‘No, no, no, I took that before I came in.’ He didn’t find that funny at all, so I was cross-examined, frisked, but hey, I had nothing to hide. So then I got through passport control and jumped into a cab on the way to the sound check. As I leaned forward, I suddenly noticed I still had a couple of jazz Woodbines in my top pocket. How Midnight Express can you get? That’s what they call luck.

The rest of the day is spent a blur of sound checks, haircuts, shirts and suits; Lee’s white Madstock outfit has been stolen from the BBC – a stunt that eventually earns him a £200 bill.

PAUL BREWER: We did a short sound check the night before because I think there were time and volume restrictions.

WOODY: I was just so nervous about it. We’d never done anything on that scale before as a headline act.

BEDDERS: I thought, ‘I can’t believe all these people are going to turn up. Why would we appeal?’

SUGGS: There was a lot of nervousness in the band; quite a weight of responsibility. There was this strange atmosphere, full of nervous tension and doubt and all the rest of it. As if all the energy had gone into getting us all back together.

The first day of Madstock dawns on Saturday August 8, with fans pouring in from across the UK and beyond.

FREDRIK RASMUSSON (fan): I’d booked my ticket by phone from my home in Sweden and then travelled to London to collect it from a dealer. I still remember how nervous I felt on the way over; had my reservation gone through? Would my ticket be there? I was the happiest man on earth when I finally had it in my hand.

PAUL LEONARD (fan):  I travelled up with my mate on the train. We had nowhere to stay but had a ticket, which was all that mattered. I was 17 and it was my first-ever Madness gig.

GARRY SCURFIELD (fan): I got the 5am bus from Newcastle straight to Finsbury Park in company with fellow fans, indulging in many liquid refreshments en route.

STEVE MOORE (fan): We drove up in a mate’s converted ambulance, parked in a lay-by in Finsbury Park and ended up sleeping in it later.

GRAHAM YATES: I’d arranged to meet people in The Twelve Pins pub near the park entrance, somewhat naively in the expectation that it’d be easy to find each other as it’s huge and it wouldn’t be that busy…little did we know. So I got the train in with all the assorted shoppers and day-trippers, a smile on my face knowing that I was in for a special day, while they went about their mundane business and didn’t know what they were missing.

KARL REED (fan): I’d finished work at about midnight on the Friday, drove home, got changed and went and picked up my mates. We then drove during the night from Gateshead to Finsbury Park and parked up. We didn’t even have tickets but found a tout and got sorted. Four packets of ProPlus later, we were ready for the best day ever.

WARREN MOYLE (fan): I came up from Portsmouth on a coach with my friend, Dave. We hadn’t really experienced an outdoor gig before and, apart from school trips and visits with parents, hadn’t been to London that much. So getting into the capital and seeing the crowds and then getting to Finsbury Park itself was a real eye opener.

GRAHAM YATES: Nothing could have prepared me for the sight that greeted me outside the station – an absolute throng of fans, young and old, some of them singing familiar tunes that I never thought I’d hear sung en masse in the streets again. Each and every one of them was united by a common theme – absolute joy. In that moment, I knew that I was not alone, that the years in my perceived wilderness were a figment of my imagination. This was sheer unbridled joy that ‘our band’ was back together and the realisation that we weren’t alone.

CHRIS DABBS: It seemed like everyone was there for the same reason – to have fun and experience more of what we’d been missing.

MARK CHARLESWORTH: We’d set off for London at 6.30am and arrived at Finsbury Park around 9am as I really wanted to be at the front. We found a spot right by the gates and spent our time chatting to the people who were already there. I can remember all the signs saying the gig would be filmed for a video, plus the touts milling around selling t-shirts and tickets.

WARREN MOYLE: As we got closer to the park we saw more and more pubs spilling out skins and punks and every kind of youth culture you could think of. The funniest thing was a large skinhead mooning the coach with a large pair of eyes tattooed on his backside.

GRAHAM YATES: There was just such a buzz and so much going on, you really couldn’t take it all in – a barbers was doing a roaring trade in knockdown skinhead cuts; there were queues outside all the shops… people climbing street lamps… cars having to inch their way through the crowds. It was absolutely rammed and finding anyone was impossible, so cans were hurriedly purchased from the nearest off licence and consumed to a backing track of Divine blaring from everywhere, vocally assisted by everyone nearby.

CARL: I just remember walking past a pub off Tottenham Court Road in the morning and I could hear the whole pub singing along to It Must Be Love. I walked on, with a rather lovely warm glow in my heart.

The gates at Finsbury Park open an hour earlier than advertised. Celebrities in attendance include Jimmy Nail, Brett Anderson, members of Depeche Mode and original choice of support, The Farm.

MARK CHARLESWORTH: The poster said the gates would open at 1pm, but they actually opened at noon. I know this as I was sitting by the barrier and was well excited about being down the front. At 11.55am my (now ex) wife decided she needed a wee. I said, ‘Yes, go now as it’s an hour till the gates open.’ Of course, they opened while she was on the loo and she had the tickets in her handbag so I just stood there with the crowds swarming past me. Not a great start.

GRAHAM YATES: Miraculously, given that these were the days before mobile phones, our group had somehow managed to assemble. After the obligatory ticket and bag checks we were into the bosom of possibly the biggest ever gathering of Madness fans ever seen before or since.

PAUL ROGERS (fan): From the moment I walked into the park, I kept double-taking everyone in Madness T-shirts. For ages, someone in a Madness T-shirt was one of my mates or someone at a Nutty Boys gig. Now they were everywhere and my eyes couldn’t make my brain understand. I was emotionally flattened.

WARREN MOYLE: There was a real atmosphere of fun and elation in the air; it was magical.

MARK CHARLESWORTH: Once inside, a t-shirt and programme were bought – along with a couple of bootleg cassettes – and the wait was on.

STEPHEN STURROCK: I was dropped off at the gate and made straight for the merchandise store where I bought a couple of t-shirts and a programme.

CHRIS DABBS: Having Ian Dury and Blockheads on the bill meant I spent a lot of dosh on merchandise that day.

STEPHEN STURROCK: After stuffing my purchases down my trousers, I picked a spot just left of centre at the front of the stage and didn’t move for the rest of the day.

WARREN MOYLE: We positioned ourselves fairly far back looking down the hill toward the stage – after experiencing the always-lovely visit to the loos of course.

NEIL GERAGHTY (fan): I went with my then-girlfriend who wasn’t a big fan. Being short arses, we had to find a good spot where we could see, with no one in front of us. We eventually stood against the barrier by the lighting rig, where we had a great view.

While fan assemble, there is a serious problem behind the scenes…

STEVE FINAN (Madness manager): Someone had followed Vince’s accountant and robbed her of the bank draft. Let’s say the advance was maybe £600,000 – a lot of money. Vince was like, ‘I haven’t got any money to pay you but it’ll give it you on Monday.’ It was my worst fear come true. I knew that if the band realised there was no money, they wouldn’t go on. This is midday on Saturday. I said to Vince, ‘If I don’t have £300,000, I know they won’t perform.’ So we start to get together every single penny we can get our hands on. Vince is going to his venues, getting money from the bars, from everywhere. Bit by bit, it was coming in. I then go to the pub, the Crown & Goose, where the band are filming. As I walk in, the first question is, ‘Have we got the money?’ I’ve got a camera in my face and I’m like, ‘Yes!’ We hadn’t got any of the money at that point, but if I’d have said ‘No’, that would have been it. They’re all high-fiving, great, wicked. Now I’m in psycho mode. No matter what, I’m going to make sure this happens. So someone went to Heathrow to get the maximum off his credit card, and Barry Dickins and me are in this little cabin with all this money and a counting machine. Vince said, ‘Can you sign off for the money?’ I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding, there’s no way I am walking out of here with three hundred grand in a bin liner. You’re out of your mind. Phone a Securicor van!’ The next thing, over the radio, the Securicor van’s burst a tyre over the other side of Finsbury Park. So, six bouncers, me, Vince and Barry walk across Finsbury Park. All the crowd are there. We get to the Securicor van, the guy lifts the hatch up, I throw the money in, kiss everybody, sign the bit of paper, then off we go; now we’re going to do the gig!

Oblivious to the financial drama, the band prepare for their big moment in the nearby Crown & Goose.

WOODY: How did we feel? Absolutely petrified. We knew we had sold a lot of tickets, but we still had no idea how it would go.

CARL: We were all sitting around and a few of our lot still weren’t sure about it. It was all a bit much for them. They all kept asking each other, ‘Are you into it?’ It became our gig catchphrase.

Chaotic blues rock outfit Gallon Drunk open proceedings at 3pm, followed by the equally chaotic Flowered Up.

JON RATHE (fan): I got a kiss from the girl who played Jackie in Grange Hill, as she wanted to get to the front to see Flowered Up. So that was a bonus.

IAIN MASON (fan): I remember seeing her too – she was trying to push her way into the front row beside us, but after standing at the barrier for three hours there was no chance that was happening. She was most upset. No kiss for me!

WARREN MOYLE: We watched the other bands with interest, but in immense anticipation and growing excitement of seeing our heroes for the first time.

GRAHAM YATES: I have to confess, partly through lack of knowledge, and partly through lack of interest, the lower end support acts such as Gallon Drunk and Flowered Up didn’t get a look-in – we were having far too much fun wandering the site and generally amusing ourselves.

TIM DORNEY (guitarist, Flowered Up): Madstock was amazing and I got to meet one of my heroes in Ian Dury. Unfortunately, it also marked a real step up in the decline of our singer, Liam Maher, who had confidence issues caused by his drug use and was doing more and more to try and get over them – a vicious circle really. At Finsbury Park, he locked himself in a toilet and refused to come out. We eventually coaxed him out and went on 45 minutes late. It was all a bit embarrassing really.

NEIL GERAGHTY: During one of the support acts, I got a tap on my shoulder and this tall, dark haired fella with a lanyard and camera asked if he could get over the barrier. He proceeded to climb the rig and film what was going on, but I thought no more of it. When he finished, he asked me to hold his camera as he climbed back over the barrier. Once done, he said. ‘Cheers’ and off he went. It was only then that I realised it was Mike Barson himself. I asked my girlfriend if she’d seen him and she replied: ‘Mike who?’ It was never gonna last.

As the day wears on, Madness are ferried from the pub to Finsbury Park in a fleet of black limos.

CARL: We’d organised a backstage area for the disabled and a crèche for our kids. Once we got to Finsbury Park, my six-year-old son Casper asked his mum, ‘Have all these people really come to see Dad’s band?’

BEDDERS: Rehearsing in Holland had kept us out of the buzz of the whole thing, so it was doubly more emotional when we actually got to Finsbury Park.

PAUL BREWER: I was basically setting up all the stage gear on the day; a whirlwind of a job which I don’t really recall. I do remember Woody introducing me to John Lydon, who really didn’t give a fuck.

As the hours tick by, the excitement and anticipation builds in the crowd.

GRAHAM YATES: Our afternoon was spent wandering the park, drinking beer and generally having much merriment. One of our group was sporting a t-shirt he’d had printed that read, ‘We all agree…’ on the front, and ‘…Morrissey’s a wanker!’ on the back. It was to prove a talking point among any fans that saw it throughout the day, and much head scratching was done as to the choice of the former Smiths man in the line-up. The common consensus was that he didn’t have a place there, which of course was later borne out in spectacular and well-documented fashion.

PAUL PUTNER (fan): I was there, dressed up like an off-the-peg Chas Smash. I remember being interviewed by Clare Grogan for MTV and witnessing a drunk hippy fall out of a tree from a great height. He bounced about five feet.

VINCE HOLLOWAY (fan): I remember some guys climbing on the roof of a beer tent, then sliding down and getting caught by their mates.

MICHAEL LANG (fan): Me and my mate watched a bunch of lads build a human pyramid and the geezer at the top hit the ground hard and never got up. He had to be carried out.

GRAHAM YATES: I almost got talked into getting a tattoo at one stall. Mercifully, despite my refreshed state, my sensible head kicked in and I decided that getting inked by a stranger in the middle of a field wasn’t the best idea.

After the early acts, the impatient crowd gives a somewhat better reception to Ian Dury & The Blockheads, who play a set heavy with past classics.

GRAHAM YATES: I’d seen Uncle Ian once before when he supported Madness at a Christmas gig at the Lyceum with The Music Students, but this was the first time I’d seen him with the Blockheads. My memory of his set is a little fuzzy but I know I enjoyed it – he really was a master front man.

At 7pm Morrissey appears as the final support act – and receives the most hostile ‘welcome’ of the day from some elements of the crowd.

SUGGS: We’d paid Morrissey £60,000 to play two nights. It was a bit of a coup getting him, as he doesn’t usually do those sort of things. I liked him at the time because he was very amusing company. He’d do things like invite you round and then open the door and he’d have sunglasses on and waving a stick pretending to be blind. You never knew what was coming next.

BEDDERS: At the time, there were lots of connections with Madness; he was big mates with Suggs and Carl, who used to hang out with him, plus I’d played on Kill Uncle, which Clive Langer produced. And I think he was a Madness fan too and was living in Camden at the time, so I think we just asked and he said yes. But we didn’t really realise what we were going to get. He was being peak Morrissey at that point, antagonising the audience.

SUGGS: Unfortunately, there were all these sort of fat, ex-Madness fans, maybe a little bit less savoury than you’d particularly want. And Morrissey comes onstage waving a fucking Union Jack, and behind him were photos of skinheads on a big screen. Who could have written that? What was it saying? That Madness were racist? At that time in England it was just a very provocative thing to do. I mean, what was he even doing with a Union Jack and a skinhead backdrop at a Madness concert?

JOHNNIE CRAIG (fan): Automatic seething ensued from the swastika’d necks of bald giants who’d refused to budge from their positions at the stage front; the wailing strains of Klaus Nomi’s Wayward Sisters only inflamed them further. All of which reached a hate-filled crescendo as the gold lamé-clad Morrissey and his rockabilly boys took to the stage and launched into a growlingly prophetic You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side. In any mosh-pit, you expect at least a degree of jostling; but try being jostled into the back of one of these human Rottweilers for a stomach-churning, never-to-be-forgotten experience. The grimace, the fists like a tiger’s dinner, the threatening eyes, the sudden reminder of a young Paul Weller’s experience down in the tube station at midnight, they all flash before your eyes in an instant. I allowed the jostlers to carry me elsewhere, while hate-filled missiles – oranges and plastic bottles – rained onstage.

TIM DORNEY (guitar, Flowered Up): I remember seeing pound coins getting lobbed at him – serves him right for using skinhead and NF imagery to a bunch of essentially ageing skinheads.

SIMON GODDARD (author): As the set progressed, the coins and beer continued at regular intervals until Morrissey made the impromptu decision to cut his set-list, leading his band off stage after nine songs.

BEDDERS: I saw the last few minutes and the whole thing was totally antagonistic between him and the audience.

PAUL PUTNER: I was down near the front and it wasn’t as bad as the music press later made out. He didn’t get bottled off, just jeered at, but he was certainly playing with fire that day.

SUGGS: I felt really disappointed for him, the audience and us. I think it would have been brilliant if they’d given him more of a chance and if he’d given it a bit more. I was on stage when he left and it didn’t look like a particularly bad scene to me. Then again, we’ve had Echo & The Bunnymen supporting us in front of 3,000 Sieg Heil-ing loonies throwing bottles and chairs.

CARL: I was quite surprised by the reaction he got. He’s a friend of ours and I thought he was good for the bill but he chose to present himself a certain way and he has to live with that.

SUGGS: Morrissey knew he was walking a line that was really contentious, but one that he could justify. It was almost like, ‘What’s going on is in your head. I’m just waving the flag of my country’. I don’t know if he thought it through or not but it just felt a little bit odd. Not that having short hair and a Union Jack necessarily makes you a racist – nor should it. As Billy Bragg said, they shouldn’t be able to appropriate those things. But it seemed very incongruous for him to be doing it and that sent a bit of a shiver. And then of course he got all the bloody headlines and we didn’t. I thought the most disgusting thing he did was when he said it was a National Front skinhead who threw something at him, because I didn’t see any fascism in the crowd at all.

SIMON GODDARD: It’s a common mistake to believe Morrissey was bottled off stage as a direct consequence of parading the national flag around. Neither the flag, nor his backdrop, nor even his set-list including The National Front Disco, had anything to do with their hostile reaction.

CLIVE LANGER: The main problem was there weren’t that many Morrissey fans there. Looking back, I’d say that out of 30,000 Madness fans who were there, 29,000 of them were soft skinheads with their girlfriends and it was the other 1,000 hard skins who decided to let him have it. They just didn’t want him.

MORRISSEY: I know there were a lot of people there from the National Front, but I don’t think they were particularly interested in me. And even though there were reports of me being booed and pelted off-stage – which of course never happened at all – I don’t believe it was the National Front who did that. I think it was a small selection of rather dull North Londoners.

LEE: As much as he is a respected and highly rated lyricist with good musicians, Morrissey should not have been supporting us at Madstock. We have a certain type of audience and I wished we’d catered to them instead.

CARL: I like Morrissey and I respect him as an artist. But Morrissey doesn’t work well when he’s not playing to his own crowd. He’s used to the adulation, but not working for it.

With Morrissey departing unhappily, the crush intensifies at the front as fans wait in anticipation.

GARRY SCURFIELD: The liquid refreshments continued and the dance moves improved. The atmosphere was unreal, with everyone mingling, and eventually I found a good position near the front middle.

GRAHAM YATES: We’d found a place close enough to have a decent view, but far enough back not to be immediately in the battleground at the front – although that would all change shortly of course. Despite the amount of beer I’d drunk through the day, I sobered up completely about 15-30 minutes before Madness came on.

CLARE MARSHALL (fan): I was there, complete with a dislocated knee. I didn’t get involved down at the front but I sure wasn’t going miss it for a mere dislocation.

GRAHAM YATES: You could almost touch the anticipation and the atmosphere going through the crowd: Would all seven actually be there? What would they play? Would there be any surprises?

MARK CHARLESWORTH: By now, we weren’t too far back and it was filling up nicely all around us. Then suddenly there was that famous moment…

Madness take to the stage in Finsbury Park at 8.45pm on Saturday August 8 1992.

GRAHAM YATES: The lights dimmed and the words from Performance started blaring out over the PA system: ‘The only performance that makes it…’ The resulting roar from the crowd said this is the moment we’ve waited six years for.

GARRY SCURFIELD: I can recall the Jagger intro… the lights… the smoke… and then suddenly the band were walking on stage. The noise was mental.

MARK CHARLESWORTH: It was absolutely deafening; like nothing before or since.

ADRIAN BEEFORTH (fan): I had tears in my eyes; it was just one of the best moments of my life.

SUGGS: I led the band out onstage and we were all really nervous; I felt like the captain of a football team coming out for the cup final.

BEDDERS: In the dressing room beforehand we’d said, ‘What shall we do when we come on?’ So I suggested, ‘Well let’s do nothing.’

CARL: I said, ‘Let’s just stand there giving it the big ’un.’ So that’s what we did – stood there rock still. Just went bosh and everyone went, ‘Rahhhhhhh!’

BEDDERS: Standing in that line at the front just seemed to ramp up the crowd for some reason.

SUGGS: It went off like a packet of crackers; very emotional. Seeing that reception transcended any idea of novelty value we thought people had of us.

PAUL BREWER: A noise rose from the crowd the likes of which I’ve never heard before or since; it was a tsunami of nuttiness.

WOODY: It was such a powerful electric moment. I can still feel it now, more than 20 years later.

CARL: We didn’t move for two minutes. It was fearsome man, it was brilliant. We just stood there and it got louder and louder. A lot of friends cried.

STEVE FINAN: It was unbelievable – people just screamed forever.

PAUL BREWER: I remember watching them standing there and thinking, ‘What can they be feeling?’ I think it lasted 13 minutes, but I could be wrong. It was certainly longer than on the subsequent DVD.

BEDDERS: There were a few lumps in the throat and a bit of, ‘It’s okay, I’ve just got something in my eye, I’m not crying.’

WOODY: The warmth and enthusiasm was so overwhelming, I was in absolute floods.

LEE: It was real goosepimples and hair-on-the-back-of your neck stuff. In fact I’m getting goosepimples now just thinking about it.

GORDON DAVIDSON (fan): I counted them all as they stood there, because nothing much had been right since Barso left, so it wasn’t just the post-split years that were being healed in that moment.

GRAHAM YATES: It was a sight we thought would never happen in those dark days of 1986, but here it was, right before our eyes – they were back and each and every one of us was there to share that moment.

DAVE SMEDLEY (fan): Even though they were doing nothing but stand in a line, it was absolutely electric

GRAHAM YATES: Just thinking about it never fails to send a shiver down my spine. It seemed to last forever and possibly did – 36,007 of us, joined in absolute joy, passion and admiration, standing there in complete awe of each other for what seemed like forever. The video footage just doesn’t capture that moment; only those of us present will ever truly understand it or know what it felt like. And then, of course, it was broken in the only way it could be…

PAUL BREWER: …Woody came back to the drums, said something like, ‘Well that was a good start’, checked his two cans of Coke and off they went…

J RICH CROSBY (fan): …Carl shouted, ‘HEY YOU!’ and the whole of Finsbury Park exploded…

WOODY: …it was just like, ‘BLOODY HELL!’

STEPHEN STURROCK: I just remember BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! and the place went nuts, with this tidal surge to the front of the stage.

GORDON DAVIDSON: I went absolutely roaring mental.

CARL: Suddenly there were 36,000 fans jumping up and down. Flats reverberated, a sofa went across the room, windows cracked…

CLIVE LANGER: I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; people from front to back moving up and down as one. I’d never seen anything like it.

MIKE: It was just massive, over the whole hill. Everybody was dancing, right to the very back.

WOODY: I’ve never seen a gig like it before or since – the entire crowd was rippling like a massive wave.

GARRY SCURFIELD: It felt like all my ribs exploded at once. Such was the tightness of the crowd, it was like I was hovering above the ground.

HERBERT LEE: I’d been right at the front since the opening act yet suddenly I was much further back – but at least I stayed on my feet.

PAUL LEONARD: There was this massive surge and suddenly we were on the deck, with huge amounts of people piled top of each other. Luckily we all got up.

SPIKE SPENCER (security): I was working as security at the barrier and we were pulling people over and carrying them to the St John’s ambulance; soon there weren’t enough of us to cope.

WARREN MOYLE: You could actually feel the earth shaking.

STEVEN HARRYMAN (fan): I’d edged as near to the front possible during throughout day, then suddenly BAM! I thought I was going to be crushed and ended up back where I’d started, loving every minute.

CARL: There were people dancing everywhere, including about 50 on top of the beer tent and a couple on top of an ice-cream van.

CHRIS: Just the vastness of it was incredible; I couldn’t believe that all these people had come to see us.

SUGGS: It was fucking mental – everyone was going completely fucking barmy. I had thought, ‘Are we going to be able to jump up and down and go mad and be as stupid as we were?’ And needless to say, like ducks to water…

BEDDERS: I just remember, the first few numbers we set off and we were playing and we were in the groove and it was going well. Then I looked round to Chris and he wasn’t moving – I think he was just overwhelmed by everything. But as we went on, we got into it a bit more and we relaxed a bit more. You have to control your nervous energy when you go out to play a gig like that. There’s a difference between nervous and being over excited, so you really have to try and centre and control yourself.

LEE: It’s got to be my favourite Madness moment; it’s certainly the most emotional. All my relatives and friends were there – just everyone all in one big playground. I was in tears from the reaction and recognition.

BEDDERS: It was amazing – a really emotional night.

MARK CHARLESWORTH: For the next hour-and-a-half it was a non-stop karaoke and dance-a-thon.

GRAHAM YATES: We were dancing and singing every word at the top of our voices, getting crushed and not caring, falling over and being helped up and generally being part of the most wonderful and uplifting experience you can imagine. Each and every one of us had the biggest shit-eating grin that ran from ear to ear; the Madnificent Seven were riding again!

DAN FOSSARD (fan): My girlfriend at the time suffered from epilepsy and fainted then had a massive fit as it all kicked off. I shit myself. Luckily a big group of skinheads nearby realised what was happening and managed to form a circle around us to hold back the heaving crowd. Unbelievably, they succeeded and we all then carried her out of the crowd at head height. And all this while 36,000 people are jumping up and down all around us. Possibly one of the scariest moments of my life. After spending most of the day in a fairly good spot about 20 metres from the front, I eventually watched the gig from the back.

STEPHEN STURROCK: I ended up in the middle of the mosh pit as part of a huge pile of bodies – I’d never sweated so much before. Stripped to the waist, I just danced when I got a wee bit of space. It was magic; I’ll never forget it. What an experience.

WARREN MOYLE: It went by in a flash but also lasted an age – particularly for my friend Dave, who was dying for a pee from about half way through and wouldn’t go to those lovely loos on his own.

GARRY SCURFIELD: I remember disappearing off into the guest area to use the posh bogs and grab a pint. Had a bit of banter with Louise Vause who followed me back out, trying to squeeze our way into a decent viewing position stage right.

WARREN MOYLE: I still remember a couple of goosebump moments. The first was when the backing track for Wings of a Dove failed and the crowd started singing ‘Ole-ole-ole Madness’. And then at the end, when Woody was drumming out the beginning of Madness and the giant M above the stage started to light up.

WOODY: To me, the audience said it all. It was, ‘Fuck the whole of the industry, this is the most important thing!’ We were all completely in tune with that audience.

CARL: One of the really staggering things about it was that everyone sang along with every song, all the way through from start to finish. There was just this swell, this build, this crescendo of affection.

SUGGS: Suddenly you realised that each one of those songs had an impact on somebody’s life, for all different reasons, as all great pop music does – your first kiss, first dance, first punch-up. It was extraordinary; we hadn’t expected it at all.

MIKE: I realised that the fans had had their whole lives punctuated by our music and all those years were being compressed into one afternoon. It was quite amazing, the history was tangible; all those things people had gone through when they were growing up, suddenly, it was all there and a whole period of history suddenly came alive again through our songs. Everybody was like, ‘I remember when I was this old, and I was doing this…’ and all the happy memories that people had suddenly came back in one big explosion. It was a great celebration; a recognition. The atmosphere was pure joy – I just remember everyone grinning. Even the big ugly skinheads had smiles on their faces.

CARL: I know it sounds corny, but there was a rare strength among the crowd and a euphoria that you seldom see.

SUGGS: With everything you do, there’s a certain amount of, ‘Is this the right thing? Should I really be doing this?’ And all I know is that we went out on stage and it was so fabulously fabulous that I actually felt more involved than I’d ever been in the old days. I was suddenly aware of all the thoughts I’d been repressing – that we were good and we had meant something. As soon as the first strains of One Step Beyond started, I thought, ‘It doesn’t get any more complicated than this; it’s just jumping up and down in time to pop music, and that isn’t a bad way to earn a living.’

After three encores, Madness leave the stage at 10.30pm. The setlist on the first day of Madstock has been: One Step Beyond, The Prince, Embarrassment, My Girl, The Sun and the Rain, Land of Hope and Glory, Grey Day, Razor Blade Alley, It Must Be Love, Tomorrow’s Just Another Day, Take It or Leave It, Shut Up, Driving in My Car, Bed and Breakfast Man, Close Escape, Wings of a Dove, Our House, Night Boat to Cairo, Madness. ENCORE 1: Swan Lake, House of Fun. ENCORE 2: Rockin’ in A, Baggy Trousers. ENCORE 3: The Harder They Come, Madness, One Step Beyond, It Must Be Love

WARREN MOYLE: After it was over, we left with great sadness, still watching that M flashing away. But what an amazing day, seeing our heroes and being involved in one of the greatest gigs I’ve ever seen.

J RICH CROSBY: It has to be the band’s-greatest ever live performance.

TONY BAKER (fan): I’d only been 14 when they split up and never thought I’d see them again, so that day was everything I could have expected and more.

GRAHAM YATES: What a day – easily the one I’d choose as my Groundhog Day – emotional doesn’t even begin to cover it. I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since, and that includes numerous gigs, cup finals and other similar events. It was a day of pure unbridled joy that will live with me clearly to the grave.

MARK CHARLESWORTH: On the way out I bought a giant poster and headed home with it under my arm. I still have it.

GARRY SCURFIELD: I knew I had just experienced a wonderful piece of musical history that would live with me forever. But for now, it was back to the bus and safely home to Newcastle for 5am. Twenty four hours of joy. Done.

STEPHEN STURROCK: When it was over, we got out into the street and my mum and auntie drove by and picked me up. I was two stone lighter but still high on a cloud.

PETER COOPER (fan): I got in at 1am then moved into my first house the next day – what a weekend!

PAUL LEONARD: We didn’t have anywhere to stay, so decided to sleep on the floor of Euston Station. It was worth it.

HERBERT LEE: As well as the earthquake that had gone before, I remember there was thunder and lightening as we made our way back up the A1. What a day!

ALEX McPHERSON (fan): I just remember having to get the night bus home as they closed the tube station because too many of us wanted to use the Underground.

MARK COLES (fan): I got so pissed I couldn’t drive home, so had to sleep in the car I’d borrowed from my dad. The furious fellows of Blisworth village didn’t get their sermon that Sunday morning.

PAUL PUTNER: I ended up walking all the way home from Finsbury Park to Camden Town in my socks because my feet were knackered from all the dancing in my new DMs. Didn’t matter, I was on cloud nine.

The band are equally delighted with the occasion.

SUGGS: It couldn’t have gone any better. It was a revelation – how much we’d achieved. My kids were 10 and nine and had never seen the band before. All our families were there; it was a very proud moment.

BEDDERS: It was a homecoming, a farewell and a rebirth, all at the same time. There wasn’t a dry eye on stage.

CARL: Backstage, there were lots of friends and family crying.

MIKE: My brother Ben is a serious jazz musician and had never really been that bothered about Madness. But even he was overcome with emotion. He came up to me afterwards with tears in his eyes and said, ‘I never knew what you did was so good.’

BEDDERS: For the first time, we did actually feel quite a lot of recognition.

WOODY: It was just a great show; very exciting – my most memorable gig ever, definitely. There was a lot of love in that field – I still get emotional about it now.

CARL: It was one of the best days of my life and reminded me that after you’ve been in Madness, doing anything else is drab. It was also a moment of immense personal satisfaction. Trying to reform Madness wasn’t easy as there were some doubters in the band, but the reaction of the crowd was a vindication that we still carried a great energy and still had something magical to offer.

SUGGS: It was probably one of the best concerts I ever remember doing with Madness. Getting up on stage and playing One Step Beyond for the first time in years was a revelation. Up until then I was sick of hearing it because it’s so simple. But then to be reminded that that’s why you’re in a band in the first place, because it’s simple and it is just jumping around a lot of the time in front of people playing music. You can be sophisticated and clever as you like underneath that, but at the same time, it doesn’t matter if you’re not really. It brought it all back. And it really reminded me what a joy it had been, making music. And I’ve had that joy ever since.

CARL: I will never forget sitting in my car on my own afterwards, backstage by the back fence, watching everyone leaving. I saw dads carrying young children, families having mass sing-alongs of It Must Be Love… just lots of happiness everywhere. There was a really special, joyous connection going on. It looked like something really nice had just happened.

SUGGS: I remember leaving the venue and seeing people literally emotionally and physically exhausted, lying on the pavement outside. It was a truly monumental moment.

BEDDERS: I actually walked home to calm down a bit. It was quite a good way to let the adrenaline wash away.

It is later confirmed that the gig has caused an earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter Scale.

SUGGS: It was the first time we’d opened a gig with One Step Beyond, and it’s a fairly up-tempo song, so there were about 35,000 medium to large middle aged men all jumping up and down at the same time…

CHRIS: …and as can happen when you have 35,000 fans hitting the ground in unison, the people in the local flats could feel the vibrations.

SUGGS: A woman living opposite Finsbury Park rang police to say her picture was moving along the wall.

CHRIS: Somebody must have rung up the authorities and asked if there’d been an earthquake and, when they looked into it, they decided there had been.

SUGGS: The seismologists reckon there’s an underground lake under Finsbury Park and as people were jumping up and down, it started rocking and created the quake. Possibly the greatest achievement of my life – creating an earthquake. Something to tell your grandchildren, isn’t it?

ALICE WALKER (seismologist): On the 8th of August 1992, the police phoned the British Geological Survey, and they said that people had been phoning in saying that there had been an earthquake in London. They had described some effects like heavy lorries passing outside. People were frightened. Tower blocks were being evacuated because people thought the tower block was going to fall down. It was an intensity of about five. When I told the police that I thought the cause of the disturbance was a Madness concert at Finsbury Park, they didn’t believe me at first. I got a phone call the next night from the police who said exactly the same felt-effects had occurred – and so they did believe me after all. So my reputation as a seismologist still remains intact.

DR CHRIS BROWITT (seismologist): Tremors were recorded on both nights, but were 20 minutes earlier on the Sunday night, when the concert started 20 minutes earlier. It must have been one particular number that got everybody going in harmony and was able to generate this particular energy wave, and that number was One Step Beyond. This particular song fits the energy pattern. The entire effect was at just the right frequency to shake a nine-storey building.

WOODY: It’s the same reason why armies break step over a bridge, because if you all jump up and down together you cause a wave effect through the earth, and that’s exactly what 35,000 people did at Finsbury.

The day after Saturday’s epic earthquake, 36,000 fans and seven men from North London do it all again

ROB WARDLAW: I didn’t have any holidays left, so I’d booked a train from Edinburgh on the morning of the gig and a sleeper back that same night. I duly travelled down on my own on Sunday with a few tins for company, got to Kings Cross and thought, ‘What do I do now? Where do I go?’ I’d never been to London before and was a bit nervous. Because I was Scottish, I was scared to talk to anyone ‘cos of my accent. So I went to the ticket office, asked very quietly how to get to Finsbury Park, and got a day Tube ticket.

JONATHAN YOUNG: I headed to London, helped by signs on the Tube pointing the way. It was my first time ever at a concert and would be an unforgettable experience for the teenage me.

DARENN PLOWRIGHT (fan): Me and my girlfriend of the time were on holiday in Newquay, but she pulled a blinder by getting tickets and arranging coach travel up to London from St Austell.

ED MITCHELL (fan): I travelled down from Glasgow with a bunch of mates and couldn’t believe the size of the crowd – it was only a few years earlier that I’d seen the band in front of a couple of thousand at the Barrowland Ballroom.

ROB WARDLAW: When I got to Finsbury, it was an amazing feeling walking up the road with thousands of kindred spirits – even though I never spoke to anyone. The sun was shining and I got a wee carry-out from a shop across from the park. I drank it and then it was time to go in.

Despite the best efforts of Clive Langer, Suggs and Carl, Morrissey doesn’t return for the second day.

CLIVE LANGER: Morrissey had originally only been advertised for the Sunday, but he agreed to do both dates. The irony was that refusing to do the second night was stupid of him because his fans turned up and he would have had a great time.

BEDDERS: We were just disappointed he didn’t come back on the second day. Personally, I think he should have just come and played again and rode his way through it a little bit.

Once again, fans settle down for a long day before their heroes appear for a second time.

JONATHAN YOUNG: I stepped over a pile of Morrissey faithfuls who were wailing at the news of his shock departure, then weaved past a Portaloo with a sign telling me I might be filmed. It said Madstock would be the name of the next video and album, and we were all to be a part of something.

DAVID DLON (fan): When I got in, I recall seeing a load of yuppies with their cool boxes, pretending they’d been into Madness before the big day.

ROB WARDLAW: I bought my programme and t-shirts, then found a spot quite near the stage right in the centre.

MARK FERRIER (fan): I remember when Gallon Drunk came on, people stood up – then when they started playing, everyone sat down again. They were shite.

JONATHAN YOUNG: Gallon Drunk annoyed with a din, then Flowered Up grooved us with a more mellow vibe.

ROB WARDLAW: I’d missed Gallon Drunk and Morrissey had pulled out, so the first band I saw was Flowered Up. I thought they were brilliant and I’ve been a fan ever since.

JONATHAN YOUNG: We got our first glimpse of Suggs as he danced across the stage to say hello, and later John Lydon popped his head out. But it was Ian Dury that captivated the crowd.

ROB WARDLAW: Ian Dury and the Blockheads were awesome. It was my one and only chance to see them and I’m so glad I did.

JONATHAN YOUNG: The connection wasn’t clear to me then, but I knew of Rhythm Stick and the sound of the band was thrilling – my first live music experience and I was loving it. It was my only gig by Ian, so also a treasured memory for that reason.

DARENN PLOWRIGHT: I remember really enjoying Flowered Up who I was into at the time and Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Then we waited to see Morrissey…and waited…and waited…and waited…

ROB WARDLAW: In between the bands, music was being blasted out. I remember the sun was starting to set and UB40’s Rat In Mi Kitchen came on and everyone was dancing and singing. It was amazing; every time I hear that song I smile and it takes me back there. I’ll never forget it. Then suddenly it was time. I stuffed my carrier bag into my denim jacket and waited in awe – and then they appeared. Madness were back at long last and the wilderness years were over. The Magnificent Seven just stood there and the crowd went absolutely mental. In fact I cried. I just wasn’t prepared for what happened next: ‘Hey you! Don’t watch that, watch this…’ Suddenly the whole place, 36,000 fans, were dancing, jumping and singing with happiness.

DAVID DLON: It was like a tidal wave of people surging forward taking everybody and anything in their path. The yuppies I’d seen earlier scarpered; I’m not sure what happened to their cool boxes.

DARREN HERBERT: It was very rough again down the front during One Step Beyond.

JONATHAN YOUNG: The crush of the reaction to Madness, front row and centre now mightily stepped beyond that, a combination of pure dancing joy and panic surfing a wave of riotous fans.

DARENN PLOWRIGHT: Everyone who’d been drinking in the beer tents at the back decided they wanted to be at the front, so there was a huge surge that pushed those already at the front to the sides. By the time Madness began The Prince we’d gone from being about 20 rows from the front to being right at the side and much, much further back

ROB WARDLAW: I ended up about 100 yards back from where I started. It was absolutely mental but brilliant.

JONATHAN YOUNG: I survived the mayhem until House of Fun, my favourite at the time, before retreating for a more mid-crowd view. The seven men weren’t ragged this day; sharp suited… shades… an umbrella… they looked the part, every bit the returning pop stars, Lee in kilt and builder’s hat ascending a wire and stealing the spotlight. We got a setlist packed with all the crowd-pleasing singles, early album tracks with a nutty live edge for the more faithful, and a standout cover version to whet the appetite of potential new sounds. Land of Hope and Glory lives long in my memory for the playful joy between Suggs and Thommo, as does the encore.

The other difference to the first night is the addition of Prince Buster, who makes a special appearance on stage at the end of the set.

CHRIS: By coincidence, The Selecter were playing at the George Robey pub, just down the road from Finsbury Park, and Prince Buster, who had been a great inspiration to us, was playing with them. So on the Sunday, we bunged him a few quid and he came and did Madness with us, which was brilliant. Of course, our version was different from his, so we had to re-arrange it so he could do it the way he was used to.

SUGGS: I was told, ‘There’s a funny little guy with a beard outside. He reckons he’s Prince Buster.’ Our manager let him in and came back and said, ‘This is ridiculous. It is Prince Buster, but he wants £2,500 to come on stage and sing Madness with you.’ So I said, ‘Fuck it, give him the money. Didn’t we make enough out of him over the years?’ Of course once he came on stage we couldn’t get him off.

BEDDERS: After the gig he ended up having a very long conversation with my mum backstage for about half an hour. Later on she said, ‘Who was that bloke I was talking to?’ I was like, ‘Mum! That was Prince Buster!’

ROB WARDLAW: It was an amazing gig and a great touch to bring Prince Buster onstage to perform with them at the end. It was quite simply one of the best days of my life – despite being on my own and being too scared to talk to anyone.

DARREN HERBERT: Me and my mate met two birds from Liverpool who nicked our tray of six pints of snakebite. I also remember a load of skinheads trying to tear open the beer tent when it closed.

DAVID DLON: I remember looking across and seeing a tree branch being thrown around the crowd during the gig.

JOHN McHUGH (fan): I just remember being loaded into an ambulance with a broken arm to the strains of the band and Prince Buster singing Madness. Happy days.

DARENN PLOWRIGHT: I’ve never known an atmosphere like it before or since. Madness were absolutely fantastic. Hit after hit after hit…they just kept coming.

JONATHAN YOUNG: Madstock lived up to its clumsy pun title; just as a generation of hippies class Woodstock as the seminal moment in their time, this reunion was ours.

ROB WARDLAW: After the gig I had to move through the crowd as quick as I could to get the tube to Euston for my sleeper home. I just made it and, still buzzing from the whole day, found my cabin – only to find a random person in the bottom bunk. I was shocked – I didn’t know that was how sleepers worked. I got in the top bunk and didn’t sleep a wink all night – I don’t know if it was cos of the random or cos I was buzzing; a bit of both I think. I arrived at Edinburgh at 6am and went straight to work at Rosyth Dockyard for the day shift. I was a tired laddie that night but it was worth every minute and every penny spent.

DARREN HERBERT: It was a nightmare to get home afterwards. I had to walk to Arsenal tube station. I can’t remember too much now but I’m in the official DVD at the beginning in the crowd for two seconds. God my hair was awful.

ROB WARDLAW: I’m just so glad I went and will never forget it. It’s crazy now to think I was there at same time as many other fans I now know and regard as friends.

After the gigs, the band enjoy rave reviews in the press, with the weekend hailed a massive return to form.

MIKE: It was totally pivotal for the band. Critics had never taken Madness very seriously, but after Madstock they started saying we were great British pop, up there with The Kinks. All of a sudden they were writing in the newspapers, ‘Classic English pop’ and ‘The classic English band’ and ‘One of the best British bands’ and all stuff like this, which is of course wonderful; it’s what we’d always wanted. It made such a difference.

SUGGS: The joy did seem to resurface for all of us I think.

WOODY: Suddenly we could appreciate what we had – it’s true that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

BEDDERS: We finally realised how much we were loved, in a funny sort of way.

WOODY: We came back to great acclaim, with an album that knocked Simply Red off the top. I was chuffed to bits. Absolutely delighted in fact, because we deserved it. We were the biggest selling singles band of the 80s, we spent more weeks on the chart than any other band and yet we’re still treated as a joke. No awards. Nothing. That gig was like a big ‘fuck you’ to the music industry and I’m incredibly proud of it.

SUGGS: It was very emotional. Especially when that sack of cash arrived at the end. You should have seen the tears in my accountant’s eyes.

LEE:  The main thing was, by doing Madstock, I got a cheque for thirty grand for two days’ work, including the rights to the live album and merchandise etc. The mortgage people were suddenly happy again and I managed to keep the bailiffs away, which was handy. It sure beat living in a tent.

BEDDERS: It was such an emotional weekend. I think a lot of people were watching and waiting to see how it went. I mean, if it had been a complete disaster it would’ve killed us stone dead. It was actually amazing to come back to that much love and respect.

WOODY: I think we’d encapsulated the fun times in people’s lives, and we’d been away long enough for people to forget how good the songs were. It was very emotional and it showed how much people had missed us.

SUGGS: It was really ironic that suddenly people from The Independent were really into it, because it was safe to be behind something that had been and gone and proved its worth. Whereas at the time it was a thin old wicket, you know: ‘Madness are a bit thick and they do come out with some bollocks sometimes so I don’t know if I can throw my weight behind them.’ Intellectually, we’d been looked down on for ages, which really pissed me off.

Emboldened by Madstock, the band go on to release a new single, The Harder They Come, and start touring again.

CHRIS: The next thing after the ‘farewell comeback’ was that the band announced a UK tour at Christmas, which I didn’t want to do. My dad had once said to me that one day I wouldn’t control it and it would control me, so I knew if it happened it would never end there and I feared us becoming like Gary Glitter. Now, Gary’s fine and all, and I loved his shows, but I didn’t want to keep doing that sort of nostalgic thing as artistically, it’s not very invigorating. The rest of the band said, ‘OK – we’ll just say you broke your arm.’ Because of course the show had to go on and they had to announce the tour. So of course I did the gigs and enjoyed it and then off we jolly well went. So we did Madstock… we did the Christmas tour… and we’ve been going ever since…

* Thanks to everyone who contributed their memories. To add yours, email [email protected]