bovver-boys and pop-loving teenagers alike, a hit machine that spilled out no fewer than twenty Top 40 hits. However. a lack of ideas, and the fact that they weren‘t enjoying each other‘s company any more. led to their dissolution after eight years on the go.
It took only another five years for the world to demand the return ofthe nuttiest showmen on earth. The sales of the Divine Madness compilation persuaded the band that it was high time to reward their fans. They would play two final farewell gigs on 8 and 9 August 1992 at their home Finsbury Park.
‘When we did Finsbury.‘ relates Smyth. ‘we thought it was the last time, that we‘d release a live Madstock LP and the single ‘The Harder They Come‘ as our final curtain call. But the affection and euphoria we were
‘It annoys me that record company fat cats can sit back and rake in the profits, while we do all the work.’
met with forced us to continue and to do these more theatrical shows in December. Hopefully, then. we‘ll play a couple of new songs. and invite the record companies and audience to see what they think. Ifeveryone believes that there‘s enough potential. then we‘ll review the situation again and talk about continuing. It‘s as simple as that.‘
Simple I am. for instead of realising what kind of response is likely to meet the question. ‘What kind of records will they be?‘. I fall straight in front ofthe Madness pun train.
“Oh about three minutes long, verse. chorus. verse. middle eight. . . Nah. seriously, I can‘t really say. They‘ll be Madness songs. Musically, it‘ll be R&B. reggae. you know. our influences are the same: Fats Domino. Al Capone, Chuck Berry. The Kinks. The way we dress is the same. and our sound will probably always remain the same. Ifanything, we‘ll play music that moves, that‘s all, really.‘
Madness were always a class act, although Smyth alleges that in their heyday they never got the respect they deserved. Yet now. everyone is confidently asserting the band‘s cerebral appeal.
Smyth sips and slowly gesticulates. “It‘s like when you go skating and you see a guy clowning— you have to be really good to clown. We spent a lot oftime constructing our songs. we were really serious about it. The other side of it was that we loved being in front of the camera and we loved the attention. We couldn‘t take ourselves seriously, we didn‘t want to take ourselves seriously.‘
Serious or not. when Madness quietly slipped offto that great nutty resting place in Camden Town, no one really noticed. Likewise, when they dutifully returned with Divine Madness, no one begrudged them the money they‘d make from it. or the celebratory reunion. However, when it became apparent that the reformed band might become an ongoing concern, many of their admirers grew worried that Madness was no longer a sacrosanct memory. but a commercial entity once more. The band earned £1m for a Sekonda TV commercial,
and Divine Madness must have been a nice little earner. so why milk it?
Smyth ponders and adopts a more serious attitude. ‘What is selling out? Virgin made £4m out of Divine Madness. Of that. we got 16 per cent and divided that equally between the seven of us. It didn‘t cost Virgin anything to produce Divine. the tracks were already there, so they made a killing. It annoys me that record company fat cats can sit back and rake in the profits while we do all the work, take all the flak about sexuality.‘
Smyth is referring to a recent grilling (if that‘s the word) by Anne Diamond on Good Morning. There. she took him to task over, among other things. why Madness had returned if not just for the money.
‘Being in this business. everyone thinks that they can ask you about your sexuality, your drinking preferences, what you do at night. what socks you wear, what toothpaste you use and how much you have in your bank account. I probably earn about a tenth
of what Anne Diamond earns. yet she can be
cynical about money and my attitude towards it. I haven‘t sold stories of my pregnancy to The Sun like she has. It‘s a funny old world: if people want to be cheap let them be cheap.‘
Smyth is more aware than most that this has been a year of nostalgia and that next year Madness will have to prove themselves anew. The Sekonda advert. for the most part. was a learning experience. Ultimately, they want to do a TV comedy series, a stint on Jackanory - ‘Seriously. that‘s one of my great ambitions. that is‘ — and endorse good old-fashioned British comedy on good old-fashioned 35mm film. Smyth. though. will not be drawn on what the exact forthcoming Madness ventures are.
‘Our currencies are ideas and surprise.
‘Thirty-five millimetre is a great thing, we want to make a film with it and it‘s great to be able to have that choice. I mean. the age I am, to get a film going requires the convincing of a lot of people that their
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investment is worthwhile. So we have to prove to people that we can work in front of the camera and behind the camera, and that we understand the process that it is. The bottom line is. though. that we never went to Footlights. were never at Oxford. we are self-taught. and ifpeople think we‘re selling out then fuck them. What we want to do is explore mediums like TV. film and publishing which we haven‘t done so successfully before.‘
Are we to suppose. then. that Madness will take the newly-established pop-star path into the lucrative field oferotic photo-books?
‘Yeah. we‘re going to have a book, we‘re going to call it Vegetables — Gardening With The Nutty Boys. Whatever we do. I‘ll be happy. We never thought we‘d return, but it‘sa funnyold world. . .
‘I haven‘t got many friends,‘ he continues, ‘and I don‘t think many ofthe band have, either. You keep going back to what you realise is good. and the joy of being with Madness is that I‘m with people I love. I can‘t think ofanything better. I don‘t know the future. I don‘t know what‘s going to happen in ten years time. All I know is that I’ve got a job with a record company ifI want it back and that I‘m with people I love. As long as I can put food on the table for my kids, be a good father and enjoy myself, then I have achieved richness way beyond what money can buy.‘
Multiplied by seven. this is the reality: that the former North London Invaders have inaugurated a new world order ofnuttiness. Draining the last Kir Royale, tucking his shirt around that chubby exterior and heading home (via Waterstone‘s) to type some new lyrics into his PC. suave Carl Smyth remains adamant that Madness are up for grabs. It‘s up to the record industry,
and yourselves, to take them or leave them.
Madness play lngliston Exhibition Centre on Mon 2].
The List 18 December 1992 — H January 199311