Madstock - The Report.
The night before the night before Madstock, Madness
were nowhere to be found. Madness were in Holland. Gone in search of some dutch
courage for the ordeal ahead.
According to Chrissy Boy's cunning plan, Madness
would rehearse in England for a week, do the same in Holland and, by way of
preparation, play a small club in The Hague. They would wake up the following
morning - having drunk Holland dry of dutch courage - and, hungover, fly back
to London, soundcheck, go straight to bed, and wake up Saturday morning, fully
refreshed, for the first of two special reunion dates in their once local
All went according to plan until, shortly after the
rapturously received Hague show, El Thommo went missing again. Lee remembers -
only vaguely, of course - ending up on a beach "with a couple of puffs of
skunk" in his lungs, "on a trampoline, wit a lot of kids bouncing higher
than me". Naturally, he thought, 'Peter Pan's not having that', so he
got back on, "done a midnight bounce stark naked on a starlit night and,
comming down, I missed the canvas completely and broke me toe on one of the
springs". Next day, he took the rest of the band, inevitable resulting in
widespread complaints of trapped nerves, wricked necks, and displaced backs.
Madstock in doubt.
Bedders had his own doubts about Madness' big match
fitness after such a lay-off. Would they still be able to wow the crowd? Or was
it purely romance and nostalgia that induced them to risk credibility and pride
after so long? And, as for the specially laid on scene at Finsbury Park...
"I can't believe all these people are gonna turn up. Why would we appeal?"
Bedders sat on a park bench and began to sweat.
Elsewhere, it was panic stations of a different
kind. Chrissy Boy still had to get his haircut, still had to buy some trousers,
and still had to pick up a couple of shirts. Meanwhile, returning hero,
Monsieur Barso - whose wife had to stay home in Holland, awaiting the delivery
of their second child - and long-lost comedy duo, Lord Suggs and Chas Smash,
were still to take delivery of their new suits. When they did arrive, Barso's
didn't quite fit. Fortunately, he'd ordered another, which did, but still
looked odd without a shirt and tie. Regulation sunglasses were top of his list.
The rest followed suit.
While Chas hobbled around in brand new, green suede
robot shoes, Suggs couldn't decide whether to sport shades for sun or umbrella
for rain. Being the sensible , he opted for both. As for Lee, he'd come away
from the BBC Wardrobe unit at "Top Of The Pops" with a swanky white affair. He
would later be billed for 200 pounds, only to snag the jacket on a metal hook
hanging from the rafters.
Come Saturday, Madness were out for a good time,
keen to try a few old moves on a few old friends, and maybe even earn the
recognition they always felt had been denied them. But, more than that, it was
a celebration of times and achievements past in a present day music scene
almost wilfully out of step with its glorious heritage.
The audience arrived in draves. The Maddies arrived
in a fleet of chauffeur driven black limousines - a psychological ploy to
instil confidence in some very shaky constitutions - and, at 8.45, walked on
stage together, for the first time in 8 years, to the deafening applause of a
record home crowd of 36,000. Surveying the scene before them, Woody recalls how
overcome the band were, and how his eyes filled up on the spot. He and Bedders
exchanged a reassuring wink, and there they were. In the flesh. In the thick of
an unbelievable dream come true.
From that point on - with the audience in top form
and an undecided greatest hits set at the ready - Suggs says "everyone went
completely fuckin' barmy. With blisters on me feet, I had to take me shoes
off". Whille Suggs and Carl tried to keep up, hold back, pour forth and
get down on the same time, the Chief of Police made moves to intervene.
Anticipating a widespread bout of fainting - on account of the stifling
humidity generated by over-heated bodies bouncing up and down in perfect time -
he was soon treathening to pull the plugs on the whole weekend.
Successful announcements by Suggs about the blood
red crush about to be spilt down the front if people didn't move back
immediately put C.O.P. at his ease, and Madness survived to play another day.
"And still no rain!" Suggs tempted peremptorily. The weather obligingly
held. Very still. Allowing the sound to carry clearly to the very back of the
park where, before long, hundreds of people were gleefully sliding down the
canopy tops of the illuminated beer tents.
As the sun went down and every light went up, Lee
was thinking how much like a scene from Brazil it was. A thought not lost on
producers, Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, who had returned early from their
holidays especially to bite their nails, catch the shows and mix down the
results for release on this very record. "I couldn't believe what I was
seeing" commented Clive later, "people from front to back, moving up and
down as one. I'd never seen anything like it.">
Madness had not accounted for the enduring strength
of their music. Or for the weight and stamina of their fans. Neighbouring tower
blocks reverberated, windows broke, balconies cracked, furniture moved and
panic calls were made to the emergency services. Later measured at 4.5 on the
intensity scale - over half that of the San Franciscoquake of 1989 - the
infrasound created was too low for the human ear but, physically, buildings
accross the road from Finsbury Park were resonating like a tuning fork.
Madness would like to apologise to residents for
any damage or upset caused, and say they'll try not to do it again. This
record, therefore, is dedicated to all those people unable to attend Finsbury
park in the hope it brings them closer to an event that Madness would probably,
be unable to repeat.
8th & 9th August 1992