It is May 1982, and although I do like Madness, I am, at this point, a huge fan of Adam And The Ants, so I am horrified when the North Londoners seem to have prevented the erstwhile Mr Goddard’s first solo single release from topping the chart, as ‘Goody Two Shoes‘ is kept from pole position for two weeks by the magnificent seven’s ‘House Of Fun‘. I might even have cried (these things are important to you when you’re twelve) needlessly, as it happens, as Adam still reached the pinnacle a week later. Shortly afterwards, however, the Nutty Boys’ comprehensive collection Complete Madness lands in my lap. The sleeve, of course, features notes about the inception of their singles career to date, what they are about and what influenced them. I am hooked. This is the start of my love affair with a band whose back catalogue and subsequent releases I pursued with an unhealthy fervour, and one for whom I will forever have a lifelong affection.
That Suggs, the band’s charismatic frontman, has chosen to perform a couple of ‘solo’ shows, which are like an extension of that sleeve, bringing to life the pre-fame days of petty thievery and general hoodlummery, accentuated by piano accompaniment from Rifles man ‘Deano’ Mumford, in which we are further educated upon the classic songs from the Madness canon’s genesis, is like manna for this particular, self-confessed ‘chart geek’, and it would appear that I am far from alone, judging from the reaction of my fellow De Montfort Hall attendees.
It helps, of course, that the show is utterly hilarious. When the lights come up, Suggs is sitting upon his throne, wearing a shoulder length dark haired wig and a long medical coat, as he recounts the story of how King Cnut was originally perceived as the big ‘I am’, brazenly bragging that he could “stop the sea“, allegedly believing he had supernatural powers, when actually, the complete opposite is true, the monarch instead having said “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings“, knowing full well how powerless he was to stop the tide. This surprisingly quite fitting analogy with the performer’s life and career is used to great effect in a whole raft of often gut-bustingly funny stories that I won’t spoil here for those who have yet to see the show, except to say that a whole host of broad topics are covered, from searches for long-lost relatives, snorting cats, Primal Scream and Sting‘s alleged sense of humour bypass, to playing at the Olympics and on the top of Buckingham Palace, as well as a long running, uproariously amusing mini-feud with Queen‘s legendary bouffanted guitarist Brian May. And that’s just a fraction of it!
Several times during the performance, Mr McPherson laments that “if only I was just a LITTLE bit less famous“, which, if it sounds a little primadonna-ish, is clearly uttered with tongue firmly planted in cheek, especially when the second half of the show is introduced by the strains of Jean Knight‘s classic ‘Mr Big Stuff‘!
I suspect quite a few folk will have given this show a wide berth on account of it merely being a ‘talkie’ type event, but more fool them, as we, as one, lapped up all these stories, which were often enhanced by segments of well loved Madness songs of yesteryear, in a stripped down voice and piano arrangement. True, ‘House Of Fun‘ is majestically cocked up (“I’ve only been singing it forty fucking years!“) but it matters not one jot, as we are treated to the likes of ‘My Girl‘, a little bit of ‘The Liberty Of Norton Folgate‘ and my personal favourite, ‘One Better Day‘, and educated on their backstories. This was a real treat, and I, for one, am looking forward to its next instalment with bated breath.