Madness frontman Suggs tells fans to batten down the hatches ahead of Newmarket Racecourse gig on Friday, June 26

Suggs and the rest of Madness play Newmarket Nights this Friday. Photo: Stuart McClymont

Suggs and the rest of Madness play Newmarket Nights this Friday. Photo: Stuart McClymont - Credit: Archant

Madness frontman Suggs has just one thing to say to everybody coming to see them at Newmarket Racecourse Friday night - batten down the hatches.

It's Madness' third appearance at Newmarket Racecourse in four years.

It's Madness' third appearance at Newmarket Racecourse in four years. - Credit: Archant

It’s early when I call but he’s in a typically lively mood from the get-go; opening with a rambunctious “hit me baby one more time”. Later he almost convinces me he fell off stage while about to open for David Bowie onto his coccyx. Only when he says he hasn’t been able to do a thing with it since does the penny drop; much to his amusement.

Formed in the mid-1970s, Madness became one of the biggest bands on the UK’s revived ska scene thanks to hits like like Baggy Trousers, It Must Be Love, Driving In My Car, Our House and the 1982 number one House of Fun.

Life could’ve been very different for Suggs, kicked out of the band in the early days because he preferred watching Chelsea play than rehearse.

“There was an advert in the music paper that said ‘new singer wanted for semi-professional North London band’. It was Mike (Barson) our keyboard player’s phone number so I rang him up, put on a funny accent and asked him. He found out it was me and they got a new singer for about six months. They left and I was the only one who knew the words of the song so I was back,” he laughs.

He’s not one for looking back.

“I don’t think about yesterday or tomorrow, I try to focus on today and I’ave been fortunate to have been able to luxuriate in that... Things happen and being in Madness things haven’t stopped happening on a daily basis.

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“(There have been) so many (memories), my mind swims. We played to 50,000 people in Mexico at a football stadium last year; it was like being One Direction or something. But you know strange things happen to this band, who knows where we’ll be next.”

Where they’ll be next is Newmarket’s July Course. Friday’s gig is the third time in four years they have played Newmarket Nights.

“It’s a great privilege that people want to come to see Madness. We put everything we can into our live performances... Everyone’s who come to see us tells someone else and it just gets bigger and bigger, it’s a remarkable phenomenon,” says Suggs.

The band, coming to Newmarket as part of their Grandslam Madness tour, still love playing. None of them imagined they would still be doing it more than 30 years on.

“Each step of the way it’s like ‘oh, we’ve made a record, great, I’m not having to go on the dole’,” he laughs. “Each passing year turned into a decade and here we are remarkably so and, unbelievably, really enjoying it.”

Known for their fun performances and catchy lyrics, there’s a serious side to the band with songs formed out of their childhood memories to the then state of the NHS and apartheid.

“We were writing songs like that when we were 18 or 19. We wrote about family, community and social responsibility and I don’t really know why - we were certainly having enough fun. If people have paid two quid to come to see us live then we do something that is uplifting, morally and socially,” says Suggs.

“For instance, when I was writing baggy trousers I was writing a song about how much I hated being at school. I had this sort of vision of what it was like for the teachers and I thought ‘well, they didn’t have it so great either’...”

He describes seeing so many people turn out for their shows as the most flattering and marvellous thing.

“We genuinely try to do stuff that’s going to resonate in a positive way... When you see the crowds even today... I’ve been at a gig that’s had four generations of the same family (there) and it’s the most rewarding thing of all. I really couldn’t care less if it all ended tomorrow,” says Suggs, who joked he would become a bank robber if it all ended tomorrow.

“It (Madness) just happens to keep going and if it does keep going then we shall give it everything we’ve got. If people pay to come to see us then they’re going to see something.”

Read Callum Maclean’s review straight after Friday’s gig.

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