Hello, and welcome to this packed issue of the MIS Online Newsletter.
With the House of Common one-day Festival now just a fading memory, you’re probably expecting the majority of the issue to be taken up with covering that event. While a good slice of this MIS does indeed feature a lowdown of the day’s event we also cover something else.
What is this something else? Well, the day prior to the House of Common festival a group of fans took in the sights and sounds as part of a fan-organised tour of a number of Madness video filming locations.
This week we bring you tales of school bells, hastily arranged football matches, bookings of private rooms in ageing drinking establishments and much more besides!
Before we let you dive on in to this week’s issue, we’ve got a quick heads-up from subscriber Mark Robinson, for all those of you booked to the Our House Tour in Skegness from the 5th – 9th September. Mark tells us that he received a call from the venue to arrange a refund for the tickets. The dates have also been removed from the tour web site.
September 5th – Indo – Whitechapel Road, London ** New **
Album launch – Afloat
Afloat – the debut album from The NJE is launched at the band’s spiritual home in the East End. It’s already garnering rave reviews from Jazz In Europe, Evening Standard, Louder Than War etc and receiving great airplay on BBC 6Music!! Support and DJ set as usual.
Lee Thompson Needs you to Pledge and Share Now
As we recently mentioned, Thommo’s film project “One Man’s Madness, A RockuMockuDocumentary”, is now live on Pledge Music
Lee Thompson’s comedy life story film, featuring multiple mad Lee performances, and starring all of Madness and many more well known voices, is nearly complete and coming out this year. All that remains to make this possible if for your to pledge and help complete the project as planned.
** NEW EXCLUSIVE ITEMS **
Exclusive Baggy Trousers video prints available now
Unearthed from the archives are four never before seen prints from the video shoot for the iconic Madness Baggy Trousers video, featuring Lee Thompson flying above the fields of Islip Street School.
Numbered and signed by Lee, these hand printed photographs are limited to a run of only 2…
11. Oranges And Lemons Again – Jools Holland & Suggs
12. No More Alcohol
13. Blue Day (feat. The Chelsea Team) [Stamford Bridge Mix] – Suggs And Co
14. I Feel Good
It collects all 8 of his top 40 singles, adding to that the original “Alcohol” and what was arguably the most like second single, if three pyramids had reached that stage, in “So Tired”
Adding 3 b-sides, the obscure “Same again” to two covers, “I feel good” (James Brown) and “Alright” by Supergrass, to no doubt try and encourage the casual music fan to buy this budget priced release.
Finally, it pulls the two tracks from Jools Holland and Friends albums. The near single “Oranges and Lemon’s Again” and the more forgotten bouncy “Jack of the Green.”
This new CD is out now and has started shipping to fans. The sleeve features a new cover design, based on a photo taken recently for Suggs Live show.
Fans have reported that “The Tune” is the instrumental version from the Cecillia CD Single, rather than the vocal album mix.
** Update ** MIS subscriber Paul McWatt reports that Asda are currently selling the album for a mere £3!
Cant Touch Us Now – Limited Double Vinyl Edition.
All 16 tracks. A new half speed master in gatefold.
180 Gram Audiophile Vinyl
Limited & Numbered of 2,000
The inner sleeves inside the gatefold outer cover features “Hong Kong” and “Australian” versions of the albums cover art, no doubt used in some function on the recent tour. So, we’re treated to Hong Kong’s Tian Tan Buddha statue and Sydney Opera House replacing St. Paul’s, for example. There are also a number of other country references mixed in. We noticed Dame Edna! on the front of the Australian one.
Fredd Boeuf and our very own Jonathan Young give us the lowdown on the much-talked-about and painstakingly planned Rise and Crawl event which took place over the House of Common Weekend.
First-up it’s our very own Jonathan Young…
On a sunny Sunday, the day before House of Common, a group of Madness fans begins forming in NW5. It’s a humble beginning, at first, as I meet up with Mandy Smith and her daughter Hollie outside the Kentish Town tube station. Then shortly Chirs, Maz, Adrian, Paula, Cherly and Aaron, more and more fans start arriving to join us at the arranged spot, for a day of pub crawling and Madness related sight seeing.
You plan these mad plans and not everything will work out, but we’ve invited a bunch of people who attended last years successful “Commoners” gig, and put out a few online adverts earlier this year adding a few more keen fans, ready to lead them between the beer pumps of Kentish to Camden town. We will be M-I-SPYing some old video locations across the day. We begin with about 12 fans and a visit to the flats from the start of “The House of Fun” video. A massive tree and scaffolding makes this sight about as impressive now as meeting an old girlfriend thats turned ugly over 25 years and is also currently wearing a balaclava. “It’s Amazing” says our DJ for the day Mr Happy somewhat dryly, and everyone laughs, because it’s barely recognisable! and this is a crap start. Then we all follow him to the next pub, giving a tour of complete lies on the way, such as pointing to a carpet shop that is called Rugs & Beyond and claiming that it gave the band the idea for their first album. Don’t believe everything we tell you now.
THE BULL AND GATE – Indeed Acoustic on Piano
The first pub of the day is far more impressive, and more fans arrive, as Dicka, Fredd, Emilee, Ewan, Fiona, Steve, Amanda, and more swell the ranks to about half of our guest list for the day. Dave Roy Smith, and his fellow musicians and Bev & Alan all turn up later during our first hour of drinking and they will help with the day later on in a couple of neat ways. Though the Bull & Gate is no longer a music venue, Harry Wandsworth had told us just the previous day how great the secret gig was here in 1985. A Madness gig under the band name The Wayfinders which was when all the Mad not Mad era songs first aired, and even Paul Weller jumped up to sing “Shop Around” with the band that night for a bunch of invite only fans. Now it’s a down stairs restaurant in that space with Sunday morning dinners. We head upstairs instead however having booked the Boulogne bar. This impressive room looks more like a stately home, with big old portraits on the wall, plush antique furnishings and seating and a grand piano no less in the corner. Not for customers, says the sign. But we have booked it so lets get tickling those ivory notes.
We have half of “Indeed” with us, Fredd on keys and Emilee on vocals then and we are treated to some tunes. Ones that are location and history specific bits of Madness relevant for this venue and for our day, as NW5 and Burning The Boats are played, and also Rise and Crawl (our reworded album title track cover version, which is now our anthem for starting the day.)
Piano Set list…
Burning the boats
Rise and Crawl
The sun and the rain*
All I knew*
A splendid first tipple, as I hand out the days maps & guide book and mark everyone with a free badge of The Baggy Trousers school crest, something they need for the next pub…
THE OXFORD – Smudge & Jim & Friends
Mr Happy is plugged into the speakers upstairs in The Oxford Pub, in another plush room that we have hired for the day. This is the pub where briefly Baggy Trousers was filmed (that teachers as manikins bit), again it is unrecognisable today and converted to a restaurant area, but this is still the spiritual home of teachers bunking off from work. Leah, Sarah, Vicki, Andy, Mark, Sharon and an already drunk Mandy are getting the disco fun flowing, even inducing a moment of Can Can dancing round the room, as Mr Happy vibes up with 80s pop tracks. People are perching on the plush chairs and we maximise the room space as we reach our allotted 60 heads within an hour of drinking and hearing some top tunes, as Duff arrives last to the days main afternoon party.
I announce the busking entertainment starting with a few words thanking all and “passing round the ready rub” tobacco tin, as a way of collecting enough coins to give a promised £50 donation to funds at our next location. Then Smudge & Jim take to the floor, with a little help from Liam and Fredd and Emilee and even the bar staff, and lastly a chorus of our voices joining in songs. The atmosphere reaches a truly fun old fashioned sing-a-long. This is a great way to be warming up for the big Madness day tomorrow. We tribute Baggy Trousers with two stripped down versions, a couple of busks in two different languages!
Busk set list…
Grand Pantalon/Baggy Trousers (featuring Indeed)
The bar staff enjoy it all so much, one of them ends up coming to the gig on Monday! Now Madness have another convert!!
ISLIP STREET SCHOOL – Alan Flynn’s Flying School
The next part was a challenge, could I get this past third pint gaggle of fans to quieten down for a minute as our next location was inside Islip Street School, a church of England Primary. (Even if it’s not in term time)
The Headmaster may have had enough today and all the kids gone away, but we did have the top teachers permission to come and see the old school bell, still hanging in the main assembly hall. The stage he had told us, had been removed in a fire in the later 80’s but that bell still hangs in the hall today though we think it’s higher up now, (or Woody has shrunk). The bell is seen and heard (via a fire extinguisher sound FX) in the most famous of Madness videos. DD photography does the great service of a class photo of some 30 of us underneath this historic Madness ding dong! Some fans also give it a ring for good measure and get a few personal photo’s taken too.
There are always more naughty boys and girls around of course and some more of our group, turn up later than told, they filter in, use the toilets and break out their can’s of alcohol or bottles like a bunch of alkie students who cant wait 20 minutes to the next pub! already. oh dear. Oh well I think we got away with it all, it did help that I had also bribed the caretaker with a bottle of JD for his troubles today in helping us round up the odd lost punter.
We head outside to the back of the school.
Now we are in the playground. In fact everyone regressed and was playing up despite the teenager to 50+ years olds demographic of our pub crawl. Smudge & Jim break out the instruments again for “One step beyond” and Mr Happy starts some air guitar with a school broom. Sarah seeks a yoga like resting position under the shade of the adventure playground, while Owen is relaxing in the crawl tunnel (taking the days title literally I guess) some fans start playing hopscotch like games on the black and white floor chess board. Owen also strikes up a game of swing ball, and there is lots of noise from everyone, louder I reckon than when the kids are here. Mark Bowen ever the more academic on Madness matters does the decent thing of lining up the video on his phone with the school’s chimney to work out how much renovation has changed things with buildings extended, football/tennis courts added, outer walls removal, playground equipment and resurfacing and a hell of a lot of other alterations in near 40 years.
Alan Flynn japes us all with a small helicopter drone and a weighty miniature paper Thommo representation and he attempts to fly him in tribute to the original baggy trousers take off. His attempts are all the more entertaining for involving crash landings in seconds into peoples arms, heads, fences and nearby objects, resorting to running around with it dangling out of his hands. He manages one flight about 3ft above heads but it’s hardly dizzy heights.
In time after a few lift off photo’s and rescuing a nearly forgotten suitcase it’s time for the last school bell and to push off and play footy in the park…
FOOTBALL IN THE ISLIP STREET PARK – Andy Shoults Presents Tarzan’s Nutmeg
Andy kicks off our ceremonial match for us in the dedicated fenced pitch, where once 70’s kids had to have jumpers for goal posts running through ploughed up mud, we’ve got proper goal posts and dedicated ashfelt. The fact a few people are watching our match from flat windows above just all the more makes this short battle feel all the more like the Madness video it is aping. There are less fights than in that video though, despite a few disputed passes, and some great post goal celebrations.
Steve Thorton sat on a park climbing feature, lined up the old video on his phone and matched in the buildings in a now and then comparison shot, getting and exact angle on one shot, minus that kid on a bike.
THE HAWLEY ARMS / THE GOOD MIXER
For the third pub of the crawl we all separated, I had to sort some money with The Oxford landlord, so Dave lead the group a 10 minute walk to the next pub, some others drifted off for food or to hotels in now being after 2pm.
We arrived at the multi level Hawley arms, a music pub just under the bridge in Camden. Famous for many bands being through there, including The Clash, it’s Amy Whinehouse that is just as linked with this haunt as she was to the latter era of the Dublin castle. So this was our Blackbird song moment of the day a drink in here, a couple of people even venturing to her statue in Camden market. Strangely a photograph hangs on the wall of The Hawley amongst the many of punters who have been here, a man tagged only as Golm, but looking remarkable similar to our Mark Bowen. We ponder his doppleganger. Upstairs the subject turns more to train spotting on the back balcony that overlooks the Camden tracks. After all we are The Spotters of Madness fandom. A few others take in The Good Mixer the brit pop pub, as we then cruise past Arlington House and up parkway, to the home of The My Girl video itself…
THE DUBLIN CASTLE – Special Kinda Madness
Of course the pub crawl was always going to join up with even more fans and come home to The Dublin Castle again. Crossing over here with the event by Special Kinda Madness, their carnival weekend cavort and also Darren Jones’s 50th birthday party, Happy Birthday Darren. They have sold out the venue with people still asking for tickets on the day. We are treated to two sets from the band, as well as us lending them Mr Happy for the in-between and after party. It’s a packed out vibe here in the back room. I swear it was as busy as when I saw The Dangermen rocking out this venue and similar levels of excitement pervading tune after tune of covers takes place. What a joy to hear tracks like ” Misery / Lovestruck ” that wouldn’t be played tomorrow by the real deal. Darren is a fan and an avatar for this music that we all love, and not a merchant of only copying for cash, neither do SKM wear union jack pyjama suits as much lesser tributes do to my taste. Those who criticise tribute bands in general have a valid point worthy of their non-attendance to such events due to choice, while those who do attend this sell out gig today just simply and deeply enjoy it. We give Darren a Tommy Cooper card signed for him by Thommo on this special weekend while the mighty Madness themselves are off playing feastival. At two and a half hours, including songs they haven’t played before, SKM have clearly noted that tonight is a more important date to their gig calander than some other locations, they know the fans are here with knowledgable ears tonight. It’s a sweaty gig, but the performance is no sweat as this is a band that when it comes to Madness they know their Mr apples.
Madness Set list (A Specials set was also played earlier)
Rockin in Ab
Bed and Breakfast Man
Sun and The Rain
It Must Be Love
House of Fun
Wings of a Dove
One Step Beyond
Night Boat to Cairo
PRIMROSE HILL – Indeed Quiz & Chords
The last Rise of our day is off up Regent’s Park for sunset on Primrose Hill, with battered livers. We take in the panoramic view of London skyline. A worthy prize for puffed out exercise. Then under the oak tree our last little busk is Indeed now on acoustic guitar. We participate in a quiz guessing the Madness chords on guitar for a number of obscure and lesser heard Madness tunes. Prizes involve mugs, CD’s and envelopes with mystery old magazine clippings of Madness from the 80’s. There are a few too many calls for Wonderwall. (We are guessing Oasis weren’t a hit in France) Plus some chords are proved to be similar and this causes the singing to wander a little off the hill into Beautiful South or a fitting Monty Python sing a long end to the day.
Chords set list…
Can’t touch us now
Don’t Let Them Catch you crying
Johnny the horse
Another version of Inanity Over Xmas
Song for whoever is off on holiday looking at the bright side of life.
THE WORLDS END
The days fun has to run out at some point, we are long past the snail squashing walk to our hotels, when the last pub refuses some of us entry, for no good reasons we can see, so we splinter off, some instead have their last in the Elephants head. Others photograph Holts and head home. We arrive into Clapham. The Common tube itself is closed and the outer stations filled with people leaving Sundays SW4 festival instead a load of dance music fans crowding out and leaving the area. We crawl to our Hotel, safe in the knowledge tomorrow will be a fun day for fans too, tomorrow will be House of Common, thats worth or Rising again.
Still, all in all, not bad for a school day huh. “Oh what fun we had.”
Now, it’s over to Fredd…
“GEMAMD!!!- SORRY?” / “VOUS NE POUVEZ PAS NOUS TOUCHER” :
In the morning of an NW5 London, Emily and I went off the Kentish Town Tube Station and, one minute later, entered the Bull and Gate Pub. So big, so nice (what a f……g pub !!!!), Madness played there in the early days in the dining room and, in early 1985, they played “Lost in the museum” tracks. Total respect.
Upstairs, on a big piano, Madness fans and us,live. That was what the “Jonplan” was.
Badges on, in front of quiet listeners, Emily and I played Burning the Boats, a short “Youngized” version of the Rise and Fall and NW5. NW5 in NW5 of course… This NW5 was really sung by people here too, both of us felt good. Then, I played some extracts of Yesterday’s Men, That Close and the Sun and the Rain…The ambiance was very friendly. Thanks, all the people there. Really.
Then, we went down to “the Oxford”, where “the teachers in the pub” were in 1980. DJ Mr Happy, then Jim and Dave from the Launchers put some real trouble on the first floor. Lots of boys, lots of noise, hot atmosphere and beer. Jim and Dave let us play the slow version of Baggy Trousers, very very kind, thanks a lot.
Time for us to have a rest.
While, at 2pm, the bell rang again, a lot of “sober” crawlers were flying to the Baggy Trousers school. We, naughty drunk French, were eating in a pub,on Parkway, where, on TV, Liverpool won. Then, we went to the next step : the Dublin Castle. Difficult journey, wasn’t it? “Special Kinda Madness” live, then, real encounters with a lot of people I only see on social networks. Nice to see Stephen “Stucker” Sturrock, for instance, and a lot of others…. At 7pm (7pm, mad time isn’t?) some of them went to the next step : go up to Primrose Hill for the sunset. We followed, to do selflies, we, the fools on the hill. Then, we saw the oak tree. And there, the “GEMAMD” message will make sense, a strange word,isn’t it?
The oak tree, on the top of Primrose Hill, on the 27th of August, listened to a lot singing about Jennifer, Allison, Philippa and Sue…Cos Emily and I wanted to do a music quizz. The first plan was to do it at the Oxford, NW5 ; but Mr Happy and the Launchers were very strong and the atmosphere was very hot. So, the obvious idea was to play it at the top of Primrose Hill, under a magnificent oak. It’s a pity that some people from the Rise and Crawl didn’t know about it, but I was in the same situation a few minutes before too.
The quizz was quite simple : I played some extracts of Madness songs and the listeners had to find the titles and sing with Emily and I. With a bonus each time : a small Madness prize for the winner. 11 extracts were played. A lot from the last LP, some from 85/86, from 1999, and a few from other bands. Uncle Sam, CTUN, Johnny the Horse, Catch You Crying were really well sung. At the end, we complicated the quiz by mixing different songs with the same chords : “GEMAMD” was the key for “G/E Minor/A Minor/D”. And it worked for 4 songs. Darren Dixon became the star : you can listen to it below and try to guess too. Allison, Philipa, Sue were sung a lot and a lot. And the atmosphere was very friendly, laughing and singing (and some girls, one in particular, were shouting, lol…) At the end, we mixed “Another version of Me” with “Inanity”… Everything has an end, and we went back down to Camden to eat. After a last “CestimpossibledemangerçasaufàLondresavecJonlesoirdesfritesavecdufromagebeurk” (English adjective, right ?) moment in front of the Camden Station with the “MIS team”, we went down to the beautiful south (of London) to have a well deserved rest.
This week, MIS co-editor Rob Hazelby, goes back in time to report on what was going on in the world of Madness 5 years, 10 and 15 years ago this week.
5 years ago…
Issue Number 695 – Sunday 2nd September – Saturday 8th September 2012
It looked like Carl had been busy building up his online presence over the previous couple of weeks, as we’d noticed that chassmash.com seemed to be showing signs of life.
While there was only one page online as this issue went out, the content there was well worth a read, if a little hard on the eyes.
Carl had also been tinkering around over on Facebook, as he’d now set up a fan page for you all to join. As with the web site, we were hoping both corners of the internet would start to receive regular updates for us all to follow, especially with the new album and tour just around the corner.
Carl’s web site seemed like a logical point to start this issue off with, and so our first article gave you the lowdown on Mr. Smash’s newest corner of the internet.
Next, it was over to Suggs, who had his One Man Show reviewed by The Guardian’s Mark Lawson.
“Perhaps there’s a risk that some impresarios will seize on the popularity of the monologue to keep production costs low, but Suggs, in particular, has shown what a rich experience it can be.”
Moving on, and it was over to the late great Ian Dury. Why? Well, the 2012 Paralympics had only gone and opened with the wonderful Spasticus Autisticus! Telegraph columnist, Sameer Rahim commented at the time;
“Watching the performers on stage and in wheelchairs belt out the song was electrifying. It was more than a reclaiming; it felt like something that demanded to be listened to. Rather than the tiptoeing language that surrounds disability this felt authentic. “I’m spasticus,” is an echo of “I am Spartacus” from the Kirk Douglas film. As person from what the song calls “Normal Land”, I can’t claim to understand what a disabled person’s life might be like. Ian Dury’s song, and the Paralympics as a whole, will hopefully go some way to changing that.”
It was firmly back to Madness for the next article as we passed the baton over to Paul Rodgers for yet another one of his informative Madness Stats, Facts and Figures articles.
This week it was one of slippages, as Madness albums slowly dropped down the charts following some impressive placings.
Paul rounded off his article by mentioning that Madness were currently at number 10 in the ticket sales charts. No. We didn’t realise there was a chart for that, either!
We brought this issue to a close with the news that apparently the Madness Minhead Weekender support line-up had now been finalised. Unfortunately, we hadn’t been provided with he details.
Next week, perhaps?
10 years ago…
Issue 435 – Sunday 2nd September – Saturday 8th September 2007
Following last week’s bumper issue, things took a far quieter turn this week, as there’d been next to no Madness news to speak of.
Many of you had noticed that the MIS web site had been down for a few days. Simon was busy working hard on a new site update, and while he originally intended to keep the old site up before replacing it with the new one, a few ‘features’ had crept in, meaning that the hot-swap just wasn’t possible.
Rest assured, Simon was busy working on the new site, and we promised to have it back up and running as soon as possible.
News in from French MIS maintainer, Jean-Pierre Boutellier, was that the Suggs section on their web site had received a big update, in the form of scans of the recently released Suggs Platinum Collection.
JP also told us that the site would be receiving further updates very soon, and we promised to let you know as soon as they were online.
Moving on, and we reported that last week a one off Martin Clunes drama aired on ITV, called “The Man Who Lost His Head”.
Martin played a museum curator sent to New Zealand to discuss the return of an ancient Maori tribal head sculpture from a mythical UK based museum.
Whilst there the Maori’s introduced themselves to him by singing a Maori tribal song and he was told he had to sing a typical English song in return, and chose of all things, “Baggy Trousers”.
Later on in the programme when the Maori’s decided they respected him they showed said respect by singing Baggy Trousers back to him …..in Maori!!!!
We brought this issue to a close with news that a box of imported NW5 CD singles would be on sale at the forthcoming Madness Weekender in Blackpool.
All monies raised would go to the Arlington House charity.
15 years ago…
Issue 173 – Sunday 1st September – Saturday 7th September 2002
With the return of Jonathan to the MIS editing helm, the team was once again back up to full strength, just in time for us to get excited about the forthcoming Suggs release ‘Oranges and Lemons Again’.
On a far more serious note, news reached us, courtesy of subscriber Andy Balhatchet, informing us that Buster Bloodvessel had collapsed on stage mid-set, at Chicago Rock Cafe in Northampton. He was taken to hospital with a suspected strangulated hernia apparently, but was thankfully discharged soon after.
Here at MIS Online, we’re always keen to help you part with your pennies, and this week was no exception, as we announced the release of the double-CD set ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ – an essential addition to any music collection, and these days can be picked up at a very low price indeed. If you’d still not got a copy we recommended you get one!
Further on in the issue, Jonathan Young reviewed Lisa Mychols’ cover of Baggy Trousers. We’d previously interviewed her prior to the release, and this was Jonathan’s first chance to hear the track for himself. In the report he admitted that initially he didn’t think too much of the song, but by the 3rd or 4th listen he was hooked, and declared it his favourite track from the ‘Stiff Generation’ album.
Continuing on the ‘Stiff Generation’ theme, we featured a review of the full album taken from the Groove Disques web site. Following Jonathan’s favourable review of the ‘Baggy Trousers’ cover, this review gave the album a hearty thumbs-up, but with the reviewer admitting that many of the tracks were new to them, they were keen to hear what die hard Stiff fans made of them.
This shorter-than-usual issue of the MIS rounded-off with links to the Suggs interview from the BBC’s “Story of Stiff”, an a reminder that the next MOT gig would be taking place at the famous Hope and Anchor on the 7th of September.
The Oscar-winning team behind the 2015 Amy Winehouse film and last year’s Oasis: Supersonic are set to make a similar documentary about them.
But some of the band are anxious about taking part. Speaking backstage at the band’s House of Common festival, drummer Dan “Woody” Woodgate said:
“A warts-and-all film about a band that are still together might be a little awkward.
“I’m neither for or against the film at this moment in time, I’ve got a severe fence stuck up my bum, very uncomfortable.”
Asked if they’d been tempted by any financial offers yet, Woody, said: “It’s not about money, never about money.”
After a career spanning five decades Woody insists there’s more to come.
He added: “There’s still life in the dog yet and there are some people that think, maybe it’s a little premature to be doing a film when our career hasn’t even ended.”
The band let scores of firefighters, nurses, police and teachers into their Clapham Common festival for free on Bank Holiday Monday.
Woody said: “It’s a nod of appreciation to the people who are not normally acknowledged. We’d just like to say thank you because they really do the most amazing job.
“It must be tough to find the money to go and see a concert these days on the wages they’ve got, and they’ve done so much for us, so we said, ‘Here, have a freebie’.”
The House of Common
We are blessed with another day of gorgeous sunshine, as near 20,000 Madness & Music fans head up onto Clapham Common. “For the love of the common people” is the ever present subtitle of these new south London gigs, (this of course being the second in it’s history, and while it’s too early to confirm, we hope they consider it at least a trilogy.) This subtitle is truer this year as a section of capacity has been given away to local London public servants, such as firemen, and nominated do-gooders or recent sufferers of life’s hard knocks. The common people have therefore been allowed in, as well as those of us who’ve benefited from early or group booking tickets to get a real cheap value for money from a Madness ticket, especially with this number of acts on a bill.
Madness tend to steer away from any privileged areas set out at the front of gigs, such as golden circles, and so an eyebrow is raised when I am the first into the venue and first onto the barrier for the day, only then to be politely told there is a chalk circle being policed and for the first two hours everyone must wait behind it’s semi circle mark away from the stage, as the first DJ’s play on. It isn’t really clear why, and this causes some grumbling from barrier huggers, but as far as I could see by the time the Hackney Colliery band take to the stage, and everyone runs in beckoned by both the band and the days marshals, it didn’t really change anything about who could obsessively turn up early and get to the front row. It remained civilised, and was probably there to help create a natural distance with chair carriers and blanket sitters to set up their spots a distance further back for their picnics and preferred staked places set for the day. It was all forgotten before the first band finished.
There surely isn’t any coal in Hackney right? So, the title for this rank of tubas and trumpets etc that cover Nirvana and more amongst their brassed off repertoire, is ironic right? They are a great step up from the DJ tunes, and the dancing really starts.
The Skatalites are the first big named treat of the day, they bring crowd pleasing old school ska to really get the day off to a good skank, in the shadow of that music that inspired early Madness. While there isn’t many of the band left from their legendary heyday, this line up packs a great dancing sound. It was disappointing that Guns of Navarone wasn’t in their set today, though.
So what of the beer? Last year’s event was marred by very lacklustre approach in this department. A second Gladness bar, and Mr apples being on tap, more than sorts me out. I don’t hear a lot of complaint anywhere else either, though of course there are still mega queues on a hot thirsty day at festival prices. Some voices have perhaps learnt to stay in the pubs around Clapham for longer.
There are Nutty snacks and soft drink give away’s this year, as Reese pieces, and Coke Zero market their products with samples & free T-shirts to the masses and Owen Collins even won some free sunglasses from a Vape stall. It all felt like a nice side show, as did a trip on the waltzers, (shame no bumper cars this year) and a hearty Aberdeen Angus Burger (even if our resident Scotsman Mr Sturrock wasn’t assured this meat was the best of Scotland) and the veggie with us more than catered for with the range of wraps. Ah Speaking of Rap…
De la Soul arrive, and the vibe turns to hip hop & rap. They delight, and involve the crowd. Sarah Shaw’s life is made up, and the answer machine riffing of “Ring ring” goes down a treat, even though they fall short of spinning their triple magic number. Second disappointment of set choice.
“Put your hands in the air. And Clap em!!!”
Did he really just say that???? Clapham! Ha ha ha ha.
The Aces bring us back to more recognisably Madness neighbouring ska pop music. Probably aiming for a Jimmy Cliff or Pimp look but appearing in the sunshine more like a jockey in a pink shirt straight out of new packing, Delroy Williams does a brilliant job of tribute to the late Desmond, and “Israelites” really captures the days first massive sing a long moment. If you are in the large corner of fandom that likes your ska & reggae you’ve surely been served up a couple of great slices of music already by a day that will offer up some more legends and tunes for you later in the day. But for now your ears are about to be captured, enslaved, it’s time for you and the less eclectic amongst us to suffer something far more racy, with punk roots it’s Grime time.
Slaves, were more for the young generation, the energetic, or at least the punk rock generation of sensibilities of ear, the harder edged or those who are still able to follow modern music. They have that London voice thing that has passed through Ian Dury, Madness and onto bands like Audio Bullies post rave and 90’s, and with a hint of The Clash, but they are far nosier and harder and growling at times. As a result it was fairly common to hear “What the F is this S?????” said by punters as ears bleed in the minds of many turned off by incomprehensible racket of drums kicked and beaten, next to in your face guitars, from this duo, shouting and antagonising the crowd slightly at times. Most dis-respectfully there is a moment where Madness lyrics are thrown back at the crowd performed almost mockingly and less approvingly as banter as crowd members are told to get with it. I would argue that Slaves are not without melody or purpose, certainly “dead already” is a great wake up call number. With such energy, those converted or already fans are loving it and matching the energy the band pump out . They bring the biggest mosh pit, with full on punk pogoing I’ve seen at a Madness event in two decades. Undoubtedly the band’s own fans came to see them as the main event of the day and they probably put on the best show of the day in terms of performance effort, giving 110% to a crowd larger than they usually play. What might have gone down like Finley Quaye moment at a Madstock, proves instead the diversity and achievement of House of Common being not just a festival for narrowly selective Mad fans who don’t reach further than the hits of bad manners for their wider music, but a more varied all day event of many music flavours for Londoners.
Soul II Soul bring the mood back down, and some music fans that abhorred Slaves are brought back to reality! from the all out energy approach its now down to the smooth classy groove. A few fans I hear don’t rate them, but for me they delivered more known tunes than De la Soul had done earlier and are the better of the two deservedly a little higher on the bill, and I could see why they were placed here a bit later. Ultimately they are competing against the slot that Toots amazed in last year, and so they fail to fill those shoes sadly no matter how classy their grooves are.
So what of The Ram Jam Tent? This year, as like last year, there is a second stage. I barely visited it because everything on stage one was just so worthy of my time to at least check out even if it wasn’t that close to my music choices. But the couple of times I did wander into the tent of the ram jam stage, regardless of who was on, I witnessed the same thing. A tent packed full of ravers, dancing and cheering their socks off, and a shadow of someone on stage in charge of spinning tunes, that could have been anyone. There was clearly two party’s going on today and you were welcome to either. The dancing was harder and more the backdrop to the revellers. Very impressive. But I cant comment further. Do feel free readers to send in your Ram Jam Reviews to us.
Young Vicki Lee tells us that the Rave-a-Roo at the kids stage was the real party of the day though, those 12 year olds can really jump!!!!!!!!
Craig Charles beat the atmosphere of all these varied and great artists though. One man and a turn table. King of soul, with a set more popularity focused than he usually plays, opting for funky remixes of De Lite’s “Groove is in the heart” and creating a sing-a-long as the sun goes down to Lionel Richie’s “All night long.” It was such a great start before Madness, as the atmosphere and anticipation built. I was once again elevated at this moment after flagging occasional during the day and lie out in the shade. And god it was so much better than Rodigan’s nonsense of over talking on records that we suffered last year on the main stage mistake, before Madness. He is far better suited to the cheery rave crowd next door. What a day and what a build up.
MADNESS & FRIENDS
Dennis Bovell arrives to introduce the main event. He handled MCing Madness onto the stage brilliantly, as Suggs stood behind with the band relaxed and smiling at the massive field full of fans as a result, in a perfect mood and not so much in a “let’s have it” stance as he has sometimes resorted to post smash-departure. Deftly then into Embarrassment and we are away into a great and beautiful Madness gig.
Tonight is something different, something more, the band receiving guests. While Toots, Buster and Rhoda and others have popped up in the past at gigs, there has never been an occasion with as many alternate front women/men, and guest musicians within in 40 years of Madness history, as this was.
Janet Kay appears first to sing Silly Games. A 79 hit Lover’s Rock tune, that you know, even if you think you don’t know it. Never has a set of notes so high shredded so many fans voices so early in a Madness gig!!! Never mind the Common cold she caused the Common Throat in many of us!! Janet can still come up with those goods fronting Madness tonight, backed up with Naresa & Christina a couple of foxy black backing singers. We are also treated to these classy ladies performing Uptown Top Ranking as front woman, they add beautiful live backing vocals to Blackbird and a couple more off stage additional pep up on a few songs too.
Dawn Penn brings the second and biggest guest anthem of the night, brought over from the other stage, for No No No. Stumbling slightly from not matching Madness arrangement of the song, she calmly riffs on “Suggs” name and throwing in a thank you or two to Madness with Respect, but what was most amazing about the big M covering this tonight was seeing Bedders groove that songs dominant bass line, not for once hiding in the wings, he was front of stage and powering that songs life blood out at the crowd.
The hits, and new album songs achieved their usual greatness and some of crowd went home early not understanding what Madness keep as an encore! But a lovely old school “Ole Madness” rippled through the crowd and the encore held one or two extra surprises too.
“Linton Kwesi Johnson – Sonny’s Lettah.”
Madness surely made a 2tone relevant political statement with the day as Suggs bigged up the next guest artist, by both inviting policemen free to their concert, open to all, and celebrating the finale of their gig with a spoken word classic from a 70’s poetical star, topically about the shame of violence to black people in Brixton. Highlighting a message of how far we’ve come, and how far we need to go as a country on this. Not an overly judgemental sentiment, just lyrically purely a mirror of the impact of any such act on a family. This was followed by Madness/Night Boat, bolstered with an array of four musicians the band had flown in from Jamaica and the Alpha School for boys the legendary hot bed of musical talent that brought acts such as The Skatalites to their early fame. Swelling the band nearer to twenty insize and investing in youth, including Tim joining his dad on keys too during this encore, while Mike switched to Harmonica, at first before a Jamaican keys play joined at the end.
Suggs threw a few words from his current rudimental collaboration onto of his more regular Night Boat-isms of Elizabeth Taylor & P P Party. “We’re going out” he exclaims, yes Madness you went out in style tonight and a great day out is truly what House of Common has been.
While they didn’t quite have a Toot’s sized second star on this years bill, the varied and multiple known names, made the overall bill a more packed one and an inspired one with far more value spread across the day. Then topped off with extra surprise guests like a gift with bonuses.
House of Common2. It was a shared House. You may not get on with every house guest or agree with every rule, but it’s a great place to be living and you wont want to leave. There’s always something happening, and it’s usually quite loud. For the love of the common, I hope there is a round three that could be a magic number, and I’m far more in love with this festival than the doubt I had after last year’s one. This was a much better entity this year and even matches House of Fun Friday now for being something fans should be aware will be more than a usual Madness concert presented to you.
It was an uncommon kind of a Madness gig, it had added difference, and overall a south London festival in it’s own right housing a lot of dance-able music of many kinds, Jamaica but well beyond, and it was so enjoyable and memorable for those reasons. I’ve one thing left to say. Put your hands in the air. Clapham!
Our thanks go to Hazel, Stav and Sharon for the above.
Next week we’ll be bringing you a selection of reviews from the Saturday leg of the House of Common weekend. One that saw a Mez and the Fezzes gig in Wandsworth, and Mr Thompson’s DJ Set at Harry Wandsworth’s pop up Nutty Bar.
We’ve got a mass of thank you mentions to go out this week, and these are for Darren Dixon, Andrew Shoults, Judge Fredd & Emilee, Dave Roy Smith, Jim Crowe, Liam, the headmaster and staff of Islip Street School, Duff Kelly and Alan Flynn for their help with the Rise & Crawl.
We’d also like to send a get well soon message to Darren West.