Thursday, 8 November 2012

Tales of MADNESS (updated and corrected, 2017) Madness Memories- End Fanzine co-editor, Phil Jones, puts pen to paper to recall some of his own Madness recollections (part 1)

Madness- its gonna be rougher, its gonna be tougher.

Reading Mick Potter’s recollection of the Suggs one man show  brought back some Madness memories of my own

Madness at Erics- supporting the Specials 1979 (part 1)

I first heard of Madness during my post punk and pre-skinhead phase. I dressed like a fuckin welsh miner on acid…hair (yes, I had hair once!) spiked upwards, donkey jacket covered in punk badges, military shirt, drainpipe kecks and Beatle boots. What a fuckin knob I was!...anyway…I read a few minor reviews about chaotic gigs in the east end of London and of the impending release of their debut single …a tribute to Jamaican Ska legend Prince Buster, The Prince (b- side, a cover of prince Busters old Jamaican classic, “Madness”). It was to be released on the then relatively unknown Two Tone label. They hadn’t gone national yet and I had to order it (without ever having heard it) from Probe, where I was surprised that, the fountain of knowledge, Jeff, hadn’t even heard of them. About 10 days later I popped into probe like the excited teenager that I actually was, to pick up my potential shit or brilliant 7” piece of vinyl. As luck would have it…my faithful shop servant in probe that day was Pete Burns. ( of “Dead of Alive”). I asked the charming assistant with the 3ft high lacquered black hair, 5” long chin and microscopically thin lips if my order had arrived and his response was something along the lines of, “ee yar,… it’s fuckin shit”….

He was wrong of course, it was fuckin brilliant…it was far removed from the original Jamaican ska I’d gotten into as a skinhead…but I loved it! It was more vibrant, had a real DIY feel to it to give it a current (a, la ‘79) UK  feel….I played it incessantly, got all me mates into it (it only took one listen).

Within a few weeks I found out they were playing Eric’s…So, me and my old mustacheo'd mucker, Steve (Rozo) Rotheram (yes THAT Steve Rotheram, Labour MP, Mate of Jeremey Corbyn and ex Liverpool Lord Mayor etc.) went down to Mathew street on the Saturday afternoon in question, to hang around outside the Eric’s stage door on the off chance we could  help whatever band was playing carry their gear in and to try and blag our way on the guest list.

                                                    Alan Bastard,  Steve Rotheram. MP.

Steve and I were both doing our bricklaying apprenticeship at the time and I had drummed into his head that there was more to music than the Beatles and constantly taped new music for him and regaled him with tales of how me and another old friend used to go down to Mathew Street every Saturday afternoon, hang outside Eric's stage door and offer to help whatever band was playing, to carry their gear in. I banged on and on as to how it meant that not only would the band offer free entry to the gig, but it often led to drinking and socialising with bands, such as The Damned,  The Undertones, Angelic Upstarts, B52’s, Human League (and in the case of the Gang of Four, becoming actual friends for a couple of years). Intrigued at the idea of becoming a mini ligger, Steve made this his first trip to Eric’s stage door! (I must add that about month before this gig, Steve and I had started our Mod fanzine, Time For Action and were selling a couple of hundred fanzines at Liverpool gigs).

(Steve and myself 3rd and 4th respectively on the back row, back in our Time for Action days)

Madness were supporting The Specials. The Specials were becoming big news….they were right on the cusp of breaking through to the big time. Although they  hadn’t released an album at that point…they’d  had some chart success with brilliant single, “Gangsters”.

We didn’t have to wait long before a, rag arsed, minivan pulled up and one of its young motley crew asked, 
This Eric’s mate”? …..
”Yeah mate….are youse “Madness”??? We enquired……….. 
Fuck off yer cheeky cunts!..we’re The Specials"!

The Specials soundcheck at Eric's (if anyone knows the photographer let me know please)

We helped them in with their stuff and got our name on their guest list (they weren’t overly friendly or talkative to be honest)….But an hour or so later our lesser known heroes finally arrived!  There’s nothing surprising to say here...they were exactly how you would imagine them to be….Friendly, fuckin' hyper, dead excited, dead chatty, full of youthful confidence and banter .....and funny as fuck. 
They were taking photos of Eric’s and the (very few) Beatles references that were around  in those days (an old Cavern sign …on the right side of Mathew street, opposite the doppelganger version of the Cavern that exists these days) and they also took a photo of Steve and myself with a couple of band members (to this day, I've never seen that photo). Again we helped them into Eric’s with their gear and again blagged our way on to their guest list (in case The specials fucked us off).

They immediately asked us to join them for a drink, and we all headed to The Grapes. All of the band, (minus Lee and Chas ….in fact, I don’t recall if Chas was with the band at all for this gig?) Joined us in the pub and were looking after us with lots of drinks.

We introduced some members of Madness to one time Beatles manager Alan Williams, and we shared address’s. phone numbers etc as the bass player, Mark Bedford pleaded with me to sell him my pointy Beatle Boots (acquired from the *"Jew Shop" on London road). *anyone know what that shop was really named?. 
After a  couple of hours and quite a few pints of happiness, the conversation suddenly evolved into the following; 
(Madness members) "Can we kip in yours mate?"...........
(me) “errr no….its a crappy 3 bedroomed house shared by me ma, two sisters, a brother in law and a new born nephew”.
(Madness)  “ahhhhh, Cam’ on, mate. we can’t drive now, were pissed” etc. over and over.

They didn’t let up and I was slowly relenting, and giving in to the heavy duty peer pressure..... right up until a separate gang of cockney skinheads turned up. Probably around 20, west ham supporting, friends and fans of the band including their then roady “Chalky”.

To be honest, they were all perfectly nice fellers at this point. Proper turned the charm on, especially chalky. The pressure to persuade me to allow the band and their now 20+ strong entourage was now even more relentless and after I was plied with copious amounts of beer and vodka, I caved and agreed.

oh shit!!……how was this gonna pan out? I was having visions of a Fight for your right to party scenario occurring at me dear old mums house….10 years before the Beastie Boys had even released that song and vid.

As luck would have it  / or the curse of The End, depending which way you look at it …(and let's face it a Madness party on Canny Farm, featuring the actual band would have gone down in history!)  Fate stepped in.

After a few hours in The Grapes, our nutty heroes and their mates headed to Eric’s to do their sound check, whilst me and Steve “went to the local health bar for falafel burger and carrot juice….or was it to the chippy for a battered sausage and curry half and half? Can’t quite remember?

We headed back to Mathew Street around 7.30pm and returned to the Grapes, feeling refreshed and smelling wonderful.

Around that time I’d become friendly with some lads whose paths I had crossed with at many a gig, and many a Liverpool and Everton football match. (back in those days I’d sometimes go and go to Goodison Park  on a Saturday with my bluenose mates when the Reds were away)..the football / music connection was to later connect us to The End fanzine….amongst these people were future End Staff, Peter HootonTony McLelland….plus there was a smattering of EFC and LFC up and coming  music and fashion loving EFC and LFC scallies like Phil Robbo, Dean Quantrell, Gary Allt, John Gargon, Eli manc and Eli Kirkby  and too many others I should not care to mention, for legal reasons. Everyone was in fine spirits and fine spirits were in lots of us. We trundled up to Eric’s about 8.30pm like the excited little urchins we were!

The Madness gig was amazing. Not so much musically (though they were impressive enough) but it was just the instant joy they brought to the night…we all danced that stupid nutty dance for the 1st time ever and that, in itself, was joyous (at last! a dance I could actually participate in without looking I had metal rods criss crossing down me back and legs, through to my heels and limiting me to shuffling from side to side like a teenage robot)…and at the encore, me, Rotherham  and an old schoolmate (who I haven’t seen since that night) Michael Walker…were up on stage doing that very same nutty dance that Madness were later to become world famous for…knees a-flyin and elbows and fists a pumping…just absolutely exhilarating!

Madness at Eric's (again, if anyone knows the photographer, let me know so we can credit him) 

The only down point at the back of mine and others minds were the increasing  chants of West ham / hammers type stuff from those, now dead rowdy,  cockney skins that I’d met in the Grapes earlier….and also seeing them trying to boss the dancefloor, getting louder and more leery and  aggressive as the drinks flowed.

After the Madness set Steve and I went on an autograph hunt.

There were a few local celebs in to see the specials so, as well as getting half of Madness and The specials signatures, I was able to get Elvis Costello, (who later produced The Specials first album) Gary Dwyer from Teardrop Explodes, (Julian Cope flat out refused to sign and was shouting, angrily,  at me for some reason that was so boring I cannot recall). It should be noted here that when we spoke to Elvis Costello and told him we had started a fanzine, he was so impressed, he called us into the Eric’s dressing room were he was about to be interviewed by Record Mirror. Elvis then proceeded to go into a rant about the shitty state and  cliquey attitude of the southern based music press and told the Record Mirror journalist to button his lip and let some real street kids ask some relevant questions. Well we sure showed up that journo with biting, political insightful questions like;
Where abouts’ in Liverpool did you Live Elvis?
What school di you go to?
Who do you support ? (LFC of course)
Though, after seeing the utter disappointment on his face, we did turn it round with tales of poverty and unemployment and a Maggie Thatcher rant about how she was strangling our beloved city and he responded in kind with a massive rant of his own about Maggie……but back to the Madness tale..

Most interestingly and, dare I say it “romantically”, the Eric’s flyer was signed by both Suggs and  Deaf School’s Bettie Bright…who were later to marry and still remain happily married to this day…I imagine this must have been the very night they 1st met….altogether now….ahhhhh. (see signed Eric's flyers below) 

Next on stage came The Specials!..Those sullen un-talkative guys from earlier that day came on and, to be honest, blew Madness away! …..I only knew one song, but I swear to god I couldn’t help but dance to every fuckin song in the whole set (and I was NOT a dancer, believe me!)…but I swear….you could not watch these bands and not dance…it was (and still is) impossible. 

I also got to join The Specials onstage for a medley of old ska songs that, if memory serves correct, was a mash up style of, Skinhead Moonstomp, Long Shot kick de bucket , liquidator…..and another one that escapes my memory at present.

It was one of the best nights I had ever experienced at that point in my young eventful life. I could have gone home at that point as the most contented and smug teenager ever, after having met both bands and danced on stage with them……..but shit! the thought  that Madness and their drunken skinhead mates were gonna be kipping in me ma’s struck terror in my mind! the fuck will that work? I was very aware that those Skin’s from The Grapes had gone from being charming to being completey loud & leery, beery dickheads.

There was only one course of action,…get the fuck out of there! No way can those cunts come to me ma’s! (the skinheads, not the band)

I told Steve I was going to slope off,  and as I was explaining “I’m not having them dickheads staying in ours”,one of the cockney Skins / dickheads shoved a young local lad to the floor in front of the stage and he cracked his head big time. Hmmm.

No real conversation occurred to be honest, there was just a collective rush forward from like-minded souls to aid and repel….madness ensued (sorry about the pun) …and a pure clockwork orange dance occurred. 
I won’t glorify it other than to say we educated and repelled those cockney boys good and proper and at one point, Madness themselves came running out the dressing room to help their cockney collective, only to see the mayhem that was occurring.  
They stopped dead in their tracks, like a scene from the keystone cops, all crashing into one and other and did a quick about turn and ran straight back into the dressing room.* Steve, of course was not involved in any roughneck shenanigans!

No real damage was done, as the surrender came really quickly….but thankfully, for me and me ma, I now could legitimately say to  Madness, “look fellers, there’s no chance you’re staying in ours now”!... blame yer knobhead mates!”.

So that was that, for the night. Some letters were exchanged between Woody and Mark from Madness and myself, and I was invited to come along to meet them the following year when they were playing Liverpool empire

……sounds like a cue for Tales of Madness Part ……back soon with that.


You can still buy The END BOOK and see other such tales as well as some  lns & Outs, mad letters, good poems, shite poems ..and fuckin millions of spelling mistakes and bad grammar, as the book reviewers (poncy southern, ex student types) keep pointing out.

There’s a limited amount of signed copies in Waterstones on Bold Street and in the Liverpool 1 Waterstones store... and of course you can still get it on line here.">