Suggs on life in the realm of Madness as new show comes to the region
PUBLISHED: 15:03 31 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:03 31 October 2018
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Due to huge popular demand, after his first tour-de-force, smash hit, sell out tour, ‘My Life Story’; Suggs is treading the boards again with a brand new show.
If the first show was about how on Earth he got there, Suggs: What a King Cnut is about the surprises that awaited him when he did.
Vertigo on the roof of Buckingham Palace, nearly blowing the closing ceremony of the Olympics, the embarrassing stuff that happened at Glastonbury.
Things have gone a smidge surreal since the Madness frontman was a twelve year old in shorts on the tough streets of North London.
Constantly expecting that inevitable tap on the shoulder to hear ‘what are you doing here, Sunshine?’ how has he got this far? In this business you can be washed up at any minute. How has he managed to get away with it for so long?
Fame is a tightrope and Suggs has fallen off many times.
With help from Deano his trusty pianist, he tells his story in words and music with the help of some Madness classics and a couple more what he wrote all on himself.
The new show was triggered by a defining moment. “I recently discovered I had a sister living in Ireland. I kind of knew my mother had had a daughter she’d put up for adoption as a baby. But I had no recollection of her and it was something we never spoke about.
“Then, completely out of the blue, Mum got a message on Facebook saying: ‘I think you might be my mother.’ It turned out this woman – her name is Julie – had seen a repeat of my This Is Your Life on which my mother was introduced by her maiden name, Edith Gower.
“Julie recognised the name and spotted the physical resemblance. Then she got in touch. This was about five years ago and I’ll never forget it. Mum flew to Dublin to meet Julie and, when she came back, she was different.
“Her shoulders had dropped. It was as if she’d carried a tension inside her every day of her life since she’d been forced to part with her daughter. An innate sadness had instantly disappeared. And it all happened just in time.” Suggs’s mother passed away in April aged 79.
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It’s been quite a year. In July, his younger daughter, Viva, gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl called Buster and Birdie. “Talk about the circle of life. They’re living with us at the moment. They’re great but bloody hard work.”
Suggs married his wife, Anne – known professionally as Bette Bright, singer with the band, Deaf School – when he was only 21. “I think I was probably looking for a bit of structure in my life. But I married for love – and we’re still together.” They also have an elder daughter, Scarlet, who married in the summer.
Early success with Madness was balanced by a rock steady home life, something for which he’ll always be grateful. “Fame doesn’t really interest me,” he says. But it does, of course, open some pretty impressive doors.
“A couple of weeks before the Diamond Jubilee, I’d said something disparaging on the radio about Brian May’s hair. It triggered a tsunami of angry tweets from Queen trolls.
“A few days later, Anne said to me that I’d been sent a letter from the Queen. I said: ‘What? They’ve got their lawyers on me, have they?’ ‘No,’ she said, ‘not Queen. It’s from THE Queen.’
“Well, of course I didn’t believe her. But it turned out to be an invitation for Madness to perform at the Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace.”
There was a bit of a problem on the day. Both Elton John and Paul McCartney insisted on using their own pianos and having them tuned on the spot. “By the time it was our turn to perform, there was no room left. Then some bright spark shouted out: ‘Why don’t you put them on the roof?’
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“So that’s exactly what happened. But, as someone pointed out, the first man to play on the roof of Buckingham Palace was, yes, Brian May so that brought me down to earth with a bit of a bump.
“I suffer from vertigo but I just about managed to hold it all together. And I couldn’t believe the reaction. Next day, we sold out every single ticket on our upcoming tour.”
In the line-up afterwards, Suggs was introduced to Her Majesty. “I asked her if she was into football. ‘No, not especially,’ she said. So I said: ‘Well, can I have your Cup Final tickets then?’
“She didn’t miss a beat. ‘That’s a Tommy Cooper joke,’ she said. And she was right. She’s sharp as a tack. Whatever you may say about the rest of them, we’re so lucky to have her.”
Suggs is at the Alive Corn Exchange in King’s Lynn on November 2 and The Apex in Bury St Edmunds on November 4.