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Tickets at £2.50? That’s sheer Madness

Suggs and Co recreate 1979 gig

21 November, 2019 — By Dan Carrier at the Electric Ballroom

HEY you, don’t watch that, watch this… Madness lead singer Suggs walked out on the stage of the Electric Ballroom, opened his mouth and managed to get the first word of the first line of the song One Step Beyond out before the 1,200-odd people in the legendary venue completed the sentence.

It was Sunday night and the Electric Ballroom was being taken back in time – back 40 years to mark a seminal moment in Madness’s story.

The band played at the Ballroom on November 16, 1979 – and to mark the anniversary, the Nutty Boys offered fans the chance to see them do a gig which would only feature the music they had written up to that point in their careers – and charge the original door price of £2.50.

Madness instil a huge sense of loyalty among fans. As well as knowing the lyrics to the more obscure songs performed, the older members of the crowd were still decked out in the fashion calling cards of pork pie hats and trilbys, Harrington jackets or Crombie coats, polo shirts and enough shoe leather to suggest the band’s favourite Camden Town boot store, Holts, doesn’t have too much to worry about in terms of trade.

The gig 40 years ago saw Madness supported by a Rhythm and Blues band, Red Beans and Rice – and guitarist Mark Bedford recalled: “They were great, riotous gigs. It was brilliant because you could really feel the momentum building. You knew you were really onto something.”

This time round the band were joined by The Specials’ Jerry Dammer, who warmed the crowd up with a DJ set.

Madness fans at the Electric Ballroom

Camden Town-based Madness fans Sean Noonan, Charlotte Myford, Danny and Catherine Mac said they were thrilled to be there. “We live in Parkway so haven’t exactly had far to come,” said Ms Mac. “Madness have provided the soundtrack for our lives. We have seen them before – and they are as good today as they were when we were all that little bit younger.”

Debby Stanford, who used to party with the band when she was a teenager, added: “Madness have never done anything other than be themselves. I think their secret is they never had any pretences. They wrote songs about their lives in north London, songs about lives we all recognise. And they never got above themselves – you just knew no matter how famous they were becoming, if you bumped into one of them in Camden, they’d give you a smile and chat about the weather, what they had for tea. You still see them about today and it’s just the same.”

The set list did not feature some of their biggest hits – there was no Our House or Baggy Trousers, for example – but it certainly showed the root of such tunes.

Other extras included former footballer Vinnie Jones joining Suggs to sing the band’s homage to Jamaican ska legend Prince Buster.


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