Chapter 7: Here They Come Again


As the dust settled and the cold light of day had it's usual effect, the now ex- members of Madness began to assess the situation. Already the rumour mill was grinding into action, and one such whisper was that four members of the band were going to reform. The final issue of the fan club's Nutty Boys Comic confirmed that Lee, Suggs, Carl and Chris were indeed working together.

The band were hoping to perform under the banner of The Wasp Factory, a name taken from the title of a book by Ian Bank, and Carl said as much in an NME interview at the time. However, there was another band using the name at the time and so the boys had to think again. When the foursome began recording at the Liquidator studio, several tracks written for the aborted final Madness album were picked for inclusion.

As listed in a previous issue (No.14) of the Nutty Boys Comic, Madness had demoed at least 11 new tracks for their final album, and only one, the single 'The Ghost Train', was ever completed and issued. This gave the band at least an albums worth of material to record and they promptly set about doing so, only this time without the ace production team of Langer & Winstanley. It was not a shock decision, even when Madness were preparing their aborted attempt at the material they had decided it was time for a change.

Their was however, another problem to overcome before recording could comence. The non-involvement of Bedders and Woody had left the band without a drum and bass section, and as Seamus Beaghan only contributed to 4 tracks, they also required some assistance on keyboards. It was time to call on a few friends. UB40's Earl Falconer contributed bass to 3 tracks, and then Bruce Thomas (bass) and Steve Nieve (keyboards) from Elvis Costello's Attractions were recruited.

The drums were handled by a machine on all but one occasion where, for the track 'What's That', Simon Philips added some brushes to help capture the jazzy feel. Even ex- Special Jerry Dammers re-appeared to add keys to a couple of numbers and the ska connection was further strengthend by The Potato 5 who supplied the horn section.

There was of course still the nagging matter of a name for the band. Besides The Wasp Factory, other monikers considered were The One, More and The Earthmen, even Radio 1 listeners were invited to write in with suggestions. Eventually the band settled on the remarkabley unremarkable title of The Madness, trading on past glories was one thing but this was taking the piss! To be fair the new(?) outfit were always going to attract the camaraderie of the long term Madness faithful and so the name of the band was probably irrelevent.

With Zarjazz ceasing to exist after the demise of the original Madness, the band were now contracted directly to Virgin Records and February 25th 1988 heralded the release of The Madness' debut single. 'I Pronounce You' was almost certainley the best track off the forthcoming album, but the music press, maybe expecting more Nutty Sounds, gave it a luke warm reception. In all honesty it was definatley not in the league of such classics as 'My Girl' & 'Night Boat...', but it was also much better than many reviewers cared to admit.

The one and only live appearance The Madness made was on Channel 4's Friday Night Live. John Hasler, the ex-Madness drummer and manager, helped out on drums as the band played two numbers 'I Pronounce You' and 'Beat The Bride'. Hasler also appeared in the video for the single, but with little interest from the media 'I Pronounce You' only peaked at number 44 on the UK chart.

Whilst The Madness had been busy recording the debut album, Bedders and Woody had also been active. Bedders had met up with a band called Voice Of The Beehive and instictively phoned up Woody to see if he was interested in helping out. The band recorded a single, 'Just A City' and were soon signed up by London Records, although Bedders left shortly afterwards. With Woody still in their ranks, the band went on to score a handful of hit singles and enjoy album chart success with their 'Let It Bee' album.

April 23rd 1988 saw the release of The Madness' self titled debut album, again the reviewers were bluntly dismisive of the bands efforts and the album eventually died a death after reaching a paltry No.65 on the long players chart.

Still un-perturbed, Virgin gave the band one last push when they issued 'What's That' as their next single. Of all the tracks on the album, Virgin picked the one least likely to score - the song was probably the worst on the album and it came as no surprise when it failed to secure a chart placing of any sort.

'What's That' was the final nail in The Madness' coffin, Virgin hadn't even bothered making a video for the song and their lack of faith in the band was confirmed when they opted not to renew their contract. The demise of The Madness left the members of the band in a state of confusion, not knowing quite what they were going to do next.

Ironically, the next thing anyone heard of the band was when Virgin re-issued 'It Must Be Love', to coincide with it's use in the 1989 film 'The Tall Guy'. Suggs even made a cameo appearance in the film, dressed as a tramp singing the song on top of a piano. For Suggs acting seemed to be a possible career move, he appeared in a Channel 4 film by the Comic Strip soon after in which he was imaginatively cast as a pop star. His next move was to host a weekly stand up comedy night at the Mean Fiddler in Harlsden and then hosted Music Box on satellite TV three nights a week.

Carl in the mean time was putting his knowledge of the music biz to good use in the A&R department of Go Disc Records, having briefly flirted with the idea of forming his own band.

Carl: "I don't know if I'm a good A&R man or not, I won't know for...God knows when! All I know is from things I've done in my own life, I think that attitude always beats technique. It dosen't matter how good you are at a thing, it's your attitude with it, so I look for energy and conviction and belief.

"You don't really know what's happening when you're within it, it's like when you're mad, you don't really know you're mad. You only know you were mad when you come through it. When I finished with the band, I did a few things, I worked with a couple of programmers and I got a band together, but I stopped all of it 'cos it didn't have the same feeling. You come out of a relationship with a certain amount of people, it's like a marriage. It's really intense, you know each other inside out, you live in each others pockets.

"The good thing about Madness is when you were weak, you had six other people to help you through your weakness and when you were strong, you had six other people to magnify your strength and that was the great thing about it. And not having that, it's like coming out of a marriage, where you realise how much a woman did for you in your life, and how much you're going to have to do for yourself and how much your going to have to learn abouth the things you didn't do for yourself."

For Lee and Chris there was only one thing they wanted to do, music. Having recorded 3 songs together, the duo eventually signed for the small independent Kent label Link Records and their debut album was eventually issued in April 1990. The album 'Crunch' was issued under the group name The Nutty Boys and contained an updated brand of Ska that brought the pair full circle. 'Crunch' featured a take on 'Fur Elise' that reminds one of Madness' 'Swan Lake' but the rest of the set featured a more underground street based formula.

The opening track 'Magic Carpet' was the most commercial track on the album. Written by Lee, Chris and one Graham McPherson, the song was a left over from the ill fated days of The Madness. It's a shame Link didn't have the resources to issue it as a single, who knows, with a decent video it may well have catapulted the boys back into the big time.

Lee and Chris were eager to get back on the live circut, and shortly after the album was released they set about putting together a complete band. With the addition of Louise, Hong Kong Dave, Spider, Steve and Legs, The Nutty Boys hit the pub circut and immediatley went down a storm, building up a strong and loyal following.

In the mean time Bedders was also on the live circut. After his short stint with Voice Of The Beehive, he teamed up with sax player Terry Edwards in The Butterfield 8, a demo was soon recorded and the band signed on the dotted line for Go Discs. The label issued a single 'Watermelon Man' and an album 'Blow!' but neither found chart favour.

September 1990 saw the release of the budget compilation 'It's Madness' by Virgin subsidary Pickwick. The set contained much loved favs such as 'House Of Fun' and 'Baggy Trousers' alongside a selection of B sides that had never been issued on album or CD before. After the albums moderate success Virgin followed it with a second volume in September 1991 before deciding to re-issue all the bands hits on one album.

January 1992 saw Virgin re-issue 'It Must Be Love' for the second time, the 1988 'Tall Guy' issue had failed to chart, this time however things were very different. The single soared to number 6 on the chart and soon everyone seemed to be talking of a Madness revival. Bedders, who was studying design and printing at college, denied rumours that the band were set to reform whilst, at the same time, Carl was openly admitting that he hoped for a re-union.

February saw the release of the 'Divine Madness' greatest hits set and Virgin quickly followed with a re-issue of 'House Of Fun' that gave Madness yet another chart placing. Behind the scenes a re-union was looking more likely and in April it finally happened, albeit only for the benefit of an invited audience and a film crew from Go Discs. The secret 'gig' took place at the Notre Dame Hall in Leicester Square and, although Madness only played 4 songs, it was the first time all seven (including Barso) had played together since December 21st 1983.

With all members of the band now agreeing to play a re-union gig, the date was eventually set for Saturday August 8th 1992 at Finsbury Park with a repeat performance the following evening. In the run up to the event Virgin re-issued yet another track from 'Divine Madness' this time 'My Girl' and the magnificent 7 played their first Top Of The Pops together since 'One Better Day' 8 years previous.

As a further warm up, the band flew to Holland where they rehearsed for a week and then played at a small club in the Hague. On Saturday the 8th of August, the event thousands of Madness fans had so patiently waited for arrived. The gig, now christened Madstock, was an obvious sell-out, with 36,000 fans flooding through the gates on both days. This was to be no 2-Tone revival however. Rather than have old chums such as Bad Manners and The Selecter play as support, the 'warm up' slots went to Flowered Up, Morrissey and one of the bands personnel favs, Ian Dury & The Blockheads.

Unfortunately, a few boisterous members of the audience decided to liven things up by throwing bottles onto the stage, this left poor old Morrissey so disgusted he didn't bother showing up for the Sunday performance.

Needless to say, Madness' much anticipated return to the live circut was a storming success. At approximately 8.45 PM the band appeared on stage to rapturous applause, and the audience erupted into a frenzy when Carl shouted the immortal line: 'Hey You Don't Watch That...'.

The hits followed, 'The Prince', 'Embarrassment', 'Grey Day' et al, all performed with gusto and complimented by a few other Maddie favourites such as 'Swan Lake', 'Razor Blade Alley' and 'Close Escape'. As an encore the boys played the old Jimmy Cliff classic 'The Harder They Come', a song they had played during their last couple of tours in 1986.

When Suggs had uttered the line 'An earthquake is erupting' that night, he couldn't have been more right, for the nutty sound actually registered at 4.5 on the intensity scale - over half that of the 1989 San Franscisco earthquake, causing neighbouring tower blocks to reverberate! And just for old times sake, they came back and done it all again the next night.

Madstock was such a huge success that it was inevitable that the band would reform for yet more shows, and it was eventually announced that they would play at Wembley Arena in December. Before that however, Madness fans were treated to a live album, single and video taken from the Finsbury Park gigs, courtesy of Go Discs. 'The Harder They Come' scraped into the lower reaches of the top 50 and was never really destined for huge chart success, but was a nice momento for fans all the same.

Following the December dates the boys laid low. March 1993 found Virgin Records continuing to cash in on the success of 'Divine Madness' by releasing an awful 'Night Boat To Cairo' single that contained some sacriligious dance/rave remixes by Paul Gotel that quite rightly bombed. The labels next release, however, was a more worthwhile project, a 3 CD box set of the bands singles together with most of their B-sides.

The set, entitled 'The Business', contained 69 tracks, many previously unavailable on CD, together with snippets of conversation between tracks. Also included was a snazzy colour booklet containing comments on the tracks written by the band members themselves and some vintage pics.

Following an excellent performance at the Feile Festival in Tipperary, Ireland in August '93, the band confirmed dates for their 'Man In The Mad Suit' Christmas gigs. The 18th of December saw the band play at the G-Mex in Manchester, the 19th at the Cardiff Internation Arena, the 20th at the Birmingham NEC, before two final shows at Wembley Arena on the 22nd and 23rd.

By August of 1994, the boys were back for another Finsbury Park Madstock, this time with Aswad as the main support and, once again, the show was a huge success. Next on the Nutty ones agenda was the hatching of Suggs' masterplan for solo world domination, with Mike Barson acting as batman. Suggs appeared on the Danny Baker Show in December '94 and revealed that he had just started work on his first solo album.

After much waiting the first single 'I'm Only Sleeping' was released and immediatley entered the chart at No.7. The album, 'The Lone Ranger' also charted and produced another hit soon after when 'Camden Town' was lifted as the second single. Over the next few months Suggs seemed to pop up everywhere, TV, radio and on the front and inside of mags, just as he had in Madness' heyday. Christmas 1995 saw 'The Tune' released on single and Madness reform for yet more Christmas gigs.

Summer 1996 gave Suggs his highest chart position to date, when 'Cecilia, a team up with pop-ragga duo Louchie Lou & Mitchie One, peaked at No.3. Lee & Chris were still out on the pub circut, although by this time they had changed their bands name from The Nutty Boys to Crunch! Still without a recording contract the band finally started their own label, Magic Carpet Records, and released their second single 'Magic Carpet' in mid-96.

'96 also found the boys playing another Madstock, where they debuted two new compositions, 'Wonderful' and 'Saturday Night, Sunday Morning'. Hope that this would lead to a return to the studios, eventually faded as the band again disappeared for another 2 years, until the next Madstock.

By 1998, it was again looking unlikely that the new Madness material was ever going to be recorded. Suggs issued his second solo album, which was a great set but lacked any real promotion from WEA, and the band failed to perform any new songs at the 98 Madstock.

It then came as a pleasant surprise to learn at the beginning of 1999 that the band were planning to record a new album with original producers Langer & Winstanely. That set is now finished and the first single 'Lovestruck' was released in July '99, with the album coming in October.

20 years on the band still sound great, as Suggs pointed out the only real difference was "weight and hair loss". Some people have said they wished the band hadn't reformed, in case they damage the memory of the band, but however the new recordings are received, it will not stop the vintage material from being classics of British pop.

Andy Clayden, 1999.