Suggs from Madness: ‘The Rolling Stones? They just keep going and ruining retirement for everyone!’

The Madness frontman might be 62, but he’s still on cackling, foul-mouthed Nutty Boy form, finds Michael Hann. He talks about growing up as ‘terrible thieves’, how the band avoided the ‘black hole’ of cruise ship offers, and the story behind the sequel to ‘Our House’ penned for their new album

Sunday 19 November 2023 06:30
<p>With tracks like ‘My Girl’ and ‘Our House’, Suggs and Madness made music that became a cultural shorthand for Britain</p>

With tracks like ‘My Girl’ and ‘Our House’, Suggs and Madness made music that became a cultural shorthand for Britain

When Suggs was 20, and Madness were in the flush of success that saw them reach the top 10 with 15 singles in just three years, the singer was interviewed for Smash Hits by Neil Tennant. “I said, ‘There’s no way I will be playing that f***ing “Baggy Trousers” when I’m an old man of 30.’” He laughs – cackles, rather – since that’s exactly what he will be doing next month at Madness’s annual run of Christmas shows, at the age of 62. “But the f***ing Rolling Stones just keep f***ing going and ruining it for everyone. You’re supposed to be f***ing dead now!”

Back then, Madness were the Nutty Boys: street-smart (and street-tough) kids from Camden Town and Kentish Town, whose songs reflected the turmoil of teenage life with wit and empathy and joy. They were the band who, as one of their songs put it, kept going “One Step Beyond” – in their videos, in their ability to create chaos that they just about harnessed. These days they are rather more venerable. Suggs is in his seventh decade, though his ability to insert expletives into any sentence is a testament to that past.

It’s also an indication of how combustible Madness can be. They can disagree about anything, Suggs says. At the moment, it’s what they’ll be playing at those Christmas shows. “There’s huge arguments about how many songs we play off this new album. But who do you think’s coming? Do you think there are going to be any office parties there? What do you reckon? Do you want to hear our new album, with your party hats on? I don’t think so. So do five or six new songs, for your own mental health. But then they’ve got to be given the big guns, out of the old purple velvet bag of joy.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in