It’s been a long and varied journey with numerous highs, but today sees the 40 Years of Madness Summer 2019 tour come to an end as the band perform at the Bristol Downs for one last show before the long wait until the House of Fun Weekender in late November.
This week our Live and Intensified section is devoted to the Bank Holiday Monday “House of Common” concert which took place at the start of the week. We have a short review and full tracklist for your reading pleasure, plus a selection of videos courtesy of YouTube user HappyAze08. If you attended the gig and would like to share your memories, thoughts and opinions of this show then please email in a review. We’d love to feature them.
Issue 1,060 also plays host to a massive track-by-track review of the latest album by the The Simmertones. While we all wait for the next Madness album to be released we hope that our MIS Feature courtesy of Graham Yates gives you the nudge to purchase this excellent selection of musical gems.
Friday 29th – Monday 2nd December – House of Fun Weekender 2019
12th – AFAS Live, Amsterdam
“The Music”; the new Album From Nick Woodgate
Nick’s album finally saw release on Friday 9th of August, with much excitement from the online Madness fan base if Facebook is anything to go by.
The album was initially released on Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, iTunes and Amazon Music. Following this, Nick posted in an update that he’d removed the tracks from these sites and that he now plans to go the whole hog and release the album on CD!
The other great news is that Nick has continued to make the album available for your listening pleasure on his web site while he investigates going down the CD route.
You can find Nick on Twitter at @nick_woodgate, so if you like what you hear then please let him know.
The Simmertones’ new Album – “Ten Feet Tall”
As we await the next Madness album (whenever that may be!), we’ve been on the lookout for something to keep us going during this lean period. Thankfully, MIS subscriber and Simmertones bassist, Del Anning kindly sent us a promo copy of the new Simmertones album “Ten Feet Tall”, which came out last Friday; 9th August.
Featuring a whopping 13 tracks, it’s 46 glorious minutes of Summer on a disc. The album’s so much fun to listen to that you’ll have a massive smile on your face as you go through each track.
We’ve been listening to the album regularly for the past few weeks, and our personal favourite tracks are:
Travelling Man – A bouncy ska/pop track about the joys of being on the road
Stand Firm – Jump-up Ska which bounces its way through a message to anyone who’s been through dark times.
The Place That I Know – A lookback on childhood with a catchy chorus and a cool groove.
Do yourself a favour and get this added to your music like library. You won’t regret it.
If you need further persuading of the band’s musical pedigree…
Between 2016-2018 The Simmertones’ performed at numerous events including The London International Ska Festival, The Looe Music Festival, Bestival, Camp Bestival and Madness’ House of Fun Weekender (twice!!).
Before We Was We: The Making of Madness by Madness
The band’s first official book.
The story of how they became them. It’s a journey full of luck, skill and charm, as they duck and dive by day and make the name in London’s exploding music scene by night, zipping around the capital in their Morris Minor vans. Their formative years, 1970-79.
This is the riotous coming-of-age tale of seven unique individuals, whose collective graft, energy and talent took them from the sweaty depths of the Hope and Anchor basement to the Top of the Pops studio. In their own words, they each look back on their past and how during those shared adventures, they formed a bond that’s lasted forty years. Before We Was We is irreverent, funny and full of character. Just like them.
This week, MIS co-editor Rob Hazelby goes back in time to report on what was going on in the world of Madness 5, 10, 15 and 20 years ago this week.
5 years ago…
Issue Number 799 – Sunday 31st August to Saturday 6th September 2014
This issue got underway with the news that tickets for a much-anticipated set of Cathal Smyth solo shows, debuting his solo album “A Comfortable Man”, were now on sale! As previously rumoured, these dates are in October, and as now officially confirmed, covered the 8th and 9th of the month.
Nine years in the making, the album was due to showcase piano playing with strings, harp and accompaniment bringing to life lilting heartfelt melodies, deep lyrics and breathy low tones and calm vocals of Cathal Smyth. Choral, Celtic, soul, country, folk and pop.
Following this it was over to job-hunting and CV touting web site Linked-in. Why? Well, Chris Carter-Pegg and Emma Southerby had decided that the web site needed an injection of Madness and had decided to set up and MIS Online group on there.
The group’s profile blurb read as follows;
“The purpose of this Linkedin Group is to bring together Madness fans and like minded people who are members of Linkedin to help circulate information about the band. All members of this Group are strongly encouraged to subscribe to the weekly MIS Bulletin via the Madness-MIS.com website to receive by email the most detailed weekly update on Madness matters available anywhere”
Over in “Live and Intensified” we featured a review a recent gig by Blockheads tribute band “The Box”, who recently performed at The Townhouse in Southend. MIS subscriber Paul Hardisty was kind enough to send in a full track listing and and point us in the direction of their Facebook group.
Moving on, and it was off to Facebook as Cathal Smyth gave us a few words about his forthcoming Comfortable Man gigs due to take place on the 8th and 9th of October.
“My solo album has been a long time in the making and this will be the first time it will be played in its entirety. The songs are as always with me very personal. They talk of my life, of love lost and of hope. I like to think that they will be coming directly from my mouth to your ears, almost as if a conversation. There is also an art exhibition where artists both contemporary and street have contributed works based on their emotional response to the songs”.
And so, it was on to our MIS Feature, which this week featured an in-depth review of Cathal’s solo album courtesy of one Vince Foley. Vince brought his review to a close with the following comments;
“Sit back, slip your shoes off, pour a drink, relax, listen and enjoy; a comforting masterpiece from a comfortable man”.
We brought this issue to an end by reporting that this week Lee Thompson appeared on Radio Docurm. The radio presenter went live and sure enough Thommo wasn’t on the other end of the line! He appeared later, and told a tall tale of recent Russian Madness gigs and travel adventures, including the band losing their wardrobe, and being picked up in bubble cars!
10 years ago…
Issue Number 539 – Sunday 30th August – Saturday 5th September 2009
We began with news from the Angry Ape.com web site, who, in an interview with Suggs revealed that as well as a Christmas tour, the band were considering the release of a Christmas single.
“We are definitely going to do a Christmas tour and have talked about a single. Madness and Christmas go together like a horse and cart, but we’ve never done a Christmas single. Most bands are too scared to be cheesy now – we could give it some wham, bam.”
We also discovered this week that the band would be performing a special gig at the end of September when they’d be appearing live in London’s Regent Street as part of Absolute Radio’s birthday party.
“We live in a world full of clipboards and folk who don’t want people to have fun but we’ve burnt the clipboards and got permission to close off the street”, commented Suggs. “It’s the first time a band will have done it”, he added.
Elsewhere in this issue we discovered, thanks to Paul Rodgers, that a new Madness book was in the works. Titled “The Nutty Sound: The Story of Madness”, the book was written by John Reed, and listed on the Amazon web site with an RRP of £19.95, and a release date of 5th October. Part of the blurb for the book on the Amazon web site read;
John Reed offers an affectionate yet insightful version of events, helped by candid interviews with those who’ve worked with Madness over the years. From the trials and tribulations of inter-band disputes, accusations of racism and their eventful split to the highs of their purple patch from 1979 to 1986 when they justified their nickname of The Magnificent Seven via an unmatched succession of classic hit singles, “The Nutty Sound” – for the first time – tells the story of Madness.
Paul returned later in the issue with his latest round-up of Madness chart news stats, facts, figures and musings. It’d been a quiet week chart-wise for the band, with the only published chart position for Norton Folgate being number 16 in the indie album chart.
“After a decent run (about 110 days) Norton Folgate is now outside of the Amazon top 100 sellers. In fact the last time I checked it had fallen as low as 207. I still don’t think it is finished in terms of sales. I am certain the forthcoming album Total Madness will lead to more sales, if only because for a short while it will be one of only two Madness CDs readily available”, commented Paul.
We brought this issue to a close with the news that Steve and Liz Harris were having a massive sell-off of some of their Madness collection, and you were urged to check out their Ebay auctions.
15 years ago…
Issue number 277 – Sunday 29th August – Saturday 4th September 2004
We started this week’s issue with the news that Madness tribute outfit One Step Behind had enlisted the talents of Andy Clark as their new drummer. Andy replaced Steve Roonery, who had been drumming with the band for many years. The band wished Steve all the best, and assured us that he would be returning from time to time.
Moving on, and news in from MOT drummer Dan Fossard was that the band’s next gig would be on Thursday 2nd of September at The Water Rats. The band would be headlining, and on stage from 10pm. Entry was a mere £4.
When items are collectable it doesn’t take long before someone tries to make a few quid. The latest example of this kind of thing had been brought to our attention courtesy of the Madness Trading Ring, where subscriber Mike kindly posted up a few links of one person who was selling copies of the ‘Q two tone special’ for £11.99 when it was still available in the shops for £5.99. Not only that, but the seller wanted £4 postage and packing, too!
We all know that many of Madness’s videos, and scenes from the film Take it or Leave it were set or filmed in Camden Town.
A few months prior to this issue going back however, Camden’s Odeon cinema celebrated other cinematic titles either set or filmed in Camden Town. While Madness’s film didn’t feature it’s possible one or two of their videos sneaked into the film festival’s “MTV music videos in Camden town” section of events.
Although it was too late for us to cover the screening in the MIS we did manage to feature an article written about the Odeon’s film festival that give a short guide to some famous films from cinema’s long history past linked to Camden.
Elsewhere in this issue we reported that Nutty Sounds 1,2,3 and 4 were now available on eMule to download. For those not in the know these four unofficial albums were crammed full of rarities that no Madness fan should be without.
Further on we looked at the forthcoming gigs for tribute bands One Step Behind, Ultimate Madness, 1 Step Below and Badness, and as usual, we asked that if you managed to get along to any of the gigs to let us know what the night was like.
20 years ago…
Issue Number 15 – Sunday 29th August to Saturday 4th September 1999
The Madness internet community still seemed to be in some sort of post single release lull after the release of `Lovestruck` some weeks back and news, discussions and general items of interest seemed to be very thin on the ground. Still, it wasn’t long till the release of single number 2 – `Johnny The Horse`, and news just in from Bob Timm of `about.com` revealed that on the Sunday just gone, the boys completed the shooting of the video.
At the time of typing, the Reading Rock Festival was in the process of winding down after a weekend of rock and pop acts playing in the open air. A few lucky members of the TMML managed to get tickets for the day and were pleasantly surprised to see Suggs come onstage with Symposium. Just before the Madness frontman sang guest vocals he managed to shout a few words to (what was apparently) the nation’s favourite radio station, `On behalf of myself and the rest of Madness I’d just like to say f*ck you radio 1′. This outburst was in obvious retaliation to the station’s refusal to promote the Madness comeback single in any way, shape or form.
Meanwhile, CDZone (www.cdzone.co.uk) had `Johnny The Horse` available for pre order. The following details came via the ever helpful Peter Gardner;
£4.31 Johnny The Horse VSCDT1740 27 Sep 1999
£4.31 Johnny The Horse VSCDX1740 4 Oct 1999
Although the majority of us were still enjoying the Summer weather, it was really only a few months until the much anticipated Madness Christmas concerts would be kicking-off, and with those concerts would come the obligatory MadMeets. Work on organising the meets was already well underway, and a link had been set up on the TMML web site where you could find details on each of the meets organised for the forthcoming gigs.
Elsewhere in this issue, we had a very nice typed-up article from subscriber Vince Foley, who was kind enough to transcribe a nice interview featuring Carl and Chris, picking their 20 track dream compilation other artists back catalogues.
News in from Adele Hargreaves revealed that after some brief lessons from a certain Geordie Al, she was now armed with basic HTML skills, and able to start updating the content on the TMML web site. The first pages to receive updates were the news, meets and the ‘it does what it says on the tin’ titled ‘It Happened This Month’ section, which looked back at this month in question through the years to see what the band were up to this month in years gone by.
We finished off this issue with an article from subscriber Andrew Langmead, who had recently picked up a couple of tickets for a forthcoming filming of Suggs hosted TV show ‘Night Fever’, and was wondering if anyone fancied joining him for a mini-Madmeet.
The Steady Echo of the Passing Beat
We sadly report witnessing on Tuesday morning the destruction of The Water Poet pub in Norton Folgate; the watering hole mentioned in the box set booklet of Madness’ epic 2009 album.
It stood on the corner of Folgate Street and was the pub at the entrance to the last small piece of the Victorian landscape of the Liberty that once stood in separation to London with its own ethos of character. Behind the pub, part of its back wall, down a side alleyway is where the backdrop used on the front cover of the band’s album used to be.
A large JCB digger smashed through this wall levelling the whole building to rubble, as work continues on the next massive glass fronted skyscraping building to be errected in the area. A leisure complex to support the needs of the massive financial community of Bullingdon Boys and in the city slickers.
Sadly, unlike Chalk Farm, Primrose Hill and Camden Town tube escalators, and most recently St. Pauls Norton Folgate’s heritage is now trashed to dust. Modern has replaced the past. The perpetual steady echo of the passing beat.
These days don’t last forever.
Ten Feet Tall – The Simmertones
We’ve been pushing the latest album by the Simmertones for several weeks now. In this issue MIS subscriber Graham Yates gives us a track-by-track lowdown of this latest release and explains why you really need to get this album added to your collection.
I’ve been looking forward to hearing this for a long time so was delighted to get my hands on a copy ahead of release date and can honestly say the wait has been well and truly worth it. From the opening blast of El Gringo to the soft slow lament of album closer Winter’s Call it really is all killer and no filler.
Whilst ska/reggae is the obvious influence, there are traces of blues, Latin, and even big band throughout the album, that work just perfectly – the production is top notch – and what’s more the album just flows from beginning to end showing how much time and effort has gone into getting it right.
Silly Girl is old school ska done in a contemporary style, Lullaby transports you to a Caribbean shoreline laying lazily in a hammock slung between two palm trees, Winters Call and What I Need are beautiful and thought provoking, title track Ten Feet Tall and opener El Gringo just make you want to get up and skank!! There really is so much to celebrate about this album and it will long continue to feature on my playlist.
Having been a fan of The Simmertones since their first album, it’s been a joy to watch them develop since then, and the fact that there is only one cover on Ten Feet Tall is testament to just how far they have come in finding their own sound. Here you have a band at their very best and it’s no surprise they are being asked to share the stage with the likes of Madness – in fact I would go so far as to say that had Ten Feet Tall been released as an album in 1979 or 1980 that The Simmertones would now be afforded the same status as some of the bands from that era.
The Simmertones just continue to go from strength to strength and it can surely only be a matter of time before they take that next step and get the wider recognition they truly deserve.
Track By Track:
El Gringo – From the opening Sixties feel keys that then give way to a blasting drum roll to introduce the distinctive wall of brass, this is an excellent opener, whether it be for the album or a live gig – a proper ska thumper, that will have fans on their feet and bouncing.
Travelling Man – From the opening organ riffs and drum backbeat, to the driving brass that carries the song, all held together by Glyn’s distinctive vocal, this has all the hallmarks of The Simmertones bright, breezy and indeed brassy ska sound – a perfect upbeat summery song that has toes tapping and feet moving with added bounce. It really is about time The Simmertones reached a much wider audience and hopefully this single from their soon to be released, and much awaited new album, will propel them more into the public eye
Silly Girl – If ever a band could pull off an old school ska sound with a contemporary feel, The Simmertones are that band, and Silly Girl is just the song to show you how they do it. With a rich brass driven melody that has become synonymous with the band, and the tongue in cheek vocal delivering the tale of a girl chasing the boys, it will I am sure get even the most reluctant skanking feet moving. The chorus, warning the titular Silly Girl of the error of her ways, reminds me a little of the “Don’t you worry, there’s no hurry” refrain of Madness’ Cardiac Arrest, and that’s part of the joy of The Simmertones too, like their stage mates from last year’s House Of Fun Weekender, they manage to deliver a message in a bright and breezy way without shoving it down your throat.
What I Need – From the opening jagged guitar chords, that are then joined by organ and drums, before the swirling brass kicks in to introduce the vocal, What I Need is the other side of The Simmertones to the bright and breezy ska one – this is where The Simmertones really come to the fore, a little darker and delivering a serious message (in this case the descent into depression) set against a more contemporary ska feel. As ever the sound is strong on brass and Glynn’s perfectly weighted vocal as he recants the tale to be told, but it’s the sound as a whole that really grabs you, keys, bass and drums are subtle but just as important as the brass (which is led perfectly by the trumpet that gets it’s very own haunting solo).
Missing You – Taking things back upbeat, Missing You, actually delivers a message about not taking things for granted, but does so in a pleasant and breezy way with its continual keys and drumbeat driving it along, all counterpointed perfectly by the brass section that give it an almost “big band” feel.
Bring It Down – From big band ska, the band now give us some bluesy reggae, and show their sheer diversity of talent in doing so – the call and refrain between the sublime keys and the horn section that lead the song before the vocal is a joy. The message about fighting discrimination and educating the masses is both topical and delivered in a style that wouldn’t feel out of place on better known protest artists playlists.
Fat Back (Tear It Up) – The only cover on the album shows not only how far the band have come from earlier albums in terms of developing and writing their own sound, but also how well their sound sits alongside that of those who inspired them. This version of the old Byron Lee & The Dragonaires tune sticks pretty faithfully to the original, but provides a rich and slickly produced sound that I am sure will go down well live.
Lullaby – Add a touch of calypso to the sound, which fits Glyn’s vocal perfectly, and you are transported to a Caribbean beach with the sea lazily lapping at the shore. There’s a wonderful trombone solo half-way through and some great keys, that all add up to a delightful and indeed dreamy three minutes in paradise (all puns completely intended!!)
Stand Firm – Another rallying call of a song asking us to stand firm in unity against the trials and tribulations that the world throws at us, delivering the message that we can get through it together. It skips along nicely once again driven by the brass including a perfect duet between Glyn’s vocal and the trumpet.
Down By The Shore – The brass section is given time off for this one as we’re taken back to the beach once again, although this time the feel for me is closer to home, and the beaches of the bands native south west. The vibe almost comes across as a jamming session that just worked perfectly with the rhythm section and keys taking the lead. Conjures up images of leaving the world behind and losing yourself in one of those long lazy walks along the coastline with nothing but the sound of the sea and the gulls for company.
Ten Feet Tall – The tempo gets lifted once more for this which is bound to be another crowd pleaser and shows just how well the band work together as a unit: brass, rhythm, keys all bounce off one another perfectly to create a Latin sound that is most definitely Ten Feet Tall!!
The Place That I Know – A song of remembrance for places we have loved and how they have changed – this borrows from the old school ska/rocksteady style but gives it a modern feel – punchy brass and slick keys leave you wanting more.
Winters Call – As ever with The Simmertones it’s an extremely well-crafted piece of work, this time in a slow paced reggae style with the usual brass hooks we have come to expect from the band (including a sublime trombone solo that brings Rico Rodriguez to mind), carried along by Glyn’s pathos driven vocal that captures the vibe and meaning of the song (about life, and introspection as it draws to a close) beautifully.
Ziggy Marley augmented his own set of righteous reggae with a cover of his father’s classic Get Up, Stand Up. The legendary Jimmy Cliff, now 71, offered up spirituals such as Rivers of Babylon and good-time grooves in the shape of You Can Get It If You Really Want.
“It’s almost 40 years to the day when seven spotty kids from north London turned up at BBC Studios to perform on Top of The Pops,” said Suggs halfway through his band’s headline slot at House of Common.
In the intervening four decades Madness have become one of ska’s best-loved bands, selling millions of records worldwide and doing wonders for the sales of Dr Martens. Now they have their own festival: House of Common, a one-day celebration of reggae-influenced music, held on Clapham Common.
In front of a crowd not entirely comprised of teetotallers, the Camden collective rolled out the hits from their extensive back catalogue. One Step Beyond was a riot of brass and off-beat rhythms while a stripped-back version of My Girl was a reminder that Madness do craft as well as chaos.
Paul Weller joined the band for a soulful take on Shop Around and stayed for the appropriately titled Heat Wave, The Jam’s cover of Martha and the Vandellas’ Motown hit.
If the field of sozzled, sunburned Brits gave the festival the appearance of Torremolinos: The Musical, Madness also couldn’t have wished for a more willing crowd. From the front to the back, from the first chord to the last, they danced as one.
The Madness frontman, 56, on the early days, getting into trouble at TOTP and sculpting a pagan lady
You’ve the House Of Common festival coming up. What can people expect?
It’s an event that’s developed over the past few years. Madness’s roots were in reggae and it’s a celebration of what we loved while growing up. This year we’ve got Jimmy Cliff and Ziggy Marley. It’s on a bank holiday Monday so hopefully it’ll be a bit of sunshine, a bit of ska, a bit of reggae and a bit of how’s your father.
What was the appeal of ska when you were younger?
We had the West Indian community around us so their music was always in our firmament and songs like The Israelites by Desmond Dekker or Uptown Top Ranking by Althea And Donna were on the radio. Reggae was in the charts and it was an influence on so many acts including The Police and Ian Dury. Bob Marley on The Old Grey Whistle Test doing Concrete Jungle was a ‘What the hell was that?’ moment for me. It was unbelievable. When we got together we thought we had something unique to us but then The Specials came along and we realised it wasn’t unique to us after all. Then Two Tone records came along and ska exploded. We went from playing in pubs to 35 people to touring with The Selecter, The Specials and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. The tour manager had to stop at service stations and book bigger venues as thousands of kids suddenly got into ska.
Is it strange to see bands you knew as teenagers still doing the same thing?
I like that music but sometimes I feel a bit sorry for the younger chaps because the old f****** won’t get off the stage.
Why are you letting public sector workers in for free?
If public sector workers want to apply for a free ticket they’d be very welcome. We appreciate those people and we can afford to give a few tickets away. I’d like to say it’s because we’re public-spirited people but maybe it’s just a gimmick.
It’s the 40th anniversary of the release of your debut album One Step Beyond… What have been the highs and lows?
The main thing is we were friends. Most bands are put together by someone else or via adverts. We had a great base to launch from and that’s been our saving grace. There have been periods where we haven’t worked or people haven’t wanted to do it anymore but we’ve always communicated. We’ve split up a few times but then ended up headlining Glastonbury and playing on the roof of Buckingham Palace.
Your first appearance on Top Of The Pops was a landmark…
It was. I’m not saying whether or not amphetamines were involved. We were banned from Top Of The Pops four times. They once made the mistake of making us get there really early. We chatted up the commissionaire who let us into the BBC bar where beer was incredibly cheap. We spent all day in there, which created more chaos. We did it once and The Specials were on one stage and Morrissey was doing Heaven Knows I’m Miserable now and I was on there dancing about in khaki shorts and a pith helmet. Everyone else was being very cool and we looked like fools. The last time we were banned was when we got stuck in a lift with Hot Gossip. The lift plummeted to the basement and we were in there for two hours and missed our allotted time slot on the show.
What was your involvement with the Victoria And Albert museum’s ‘human cheese’ project?
They took some DNA from my ear and turned it into cheese and then fashioned it into the shape of my head. It was part of their drive to explain what food is to kids. I didn’t see the exhibition myself.
Have you been sculpted out of anything else?
No, but I’ve got into sculpture. You just have to go with it. It’s meditative and I like it. I’ve sculpted a couple of cats and now I’m working on an eight-foot pagan woman with bosoms who will hopefully bring in the harvest for the following year. I’m chipping away at it — quite literally.
How did you get into it?
I did a TV show and went to the place they quarried the stone that Michelangelo’s David is made from and when I went to see the statue it got me going. I’ve done pretty much everything I’ve wanted. I can draw, paint, I’ve acted, I’ve done one-man shows, I’ve written books. This was just an area I thought I’d try.
You’ve been in showbiz a long time. What lessons have you learned?
I’m always very grateful to be doing what I do. Music is very curative and when I look out from the stage at everyone jumping about I feel I have a very privileged life.
If you’ve been watching teasers on Madness’ Twitter feed they can be clearly seen to be in Camden for future XL reasons sticking “Past Present Future” stickers on lampposts. The accompanying soundtrack tells us that new Madness music is coming, too. Expect gig and release news on a couple of tracks at least to follow shortly.
This from last years MIS1000 seem pertinent now though!