Madness on their best albums: “We were full of ideas!”

Suggs and co recall One Step Beyond and more

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STIFF, 1981
Recorded in the Bahamas for “tax reasons”, where the neighbours included Joe Strummer, the Tom Tom Club and, er, Robert Palmer.

SUGGS: “The Opium Eaters” is the sound of Nassau, it’s even got the crickets on it. “Grey Day” was a definite step on for Madness. I remember going to a club with a copy of it and Joe Strummer was DJing. I asked him to put this on, I thought I’d finally done something that he could dig, not just jumping up and down – but he wouldn’t play it.

FOREMAN: Our accountant said we should record in Nassau for tax reasons – and who wouldn’t want to go there? But it wasn’t the same gang – people brought their wives and I brought my 5-year-old son along. We had our own little apartments, Carl did a lot of cooking, Robert Palmer would come by and hang out with us, The Tom Tom Club were there recording “Wordy Rapping Hood” for what seemed like forever. The surroundings didn’t really affect the album – it wasn’t like let’s go to India and put some sitars down, maan. We had first done “Grey Day” 3 years before, a 60s psychedelic thing with no structure and only a few lyrics. “Shut Up” was a kitchen sink production. For my guitar I had Slade in mind, the Duane Eddy bit in the middle was from another song. I remember [co-producer] Alan Winstanley and I brought the album tapes back through customs. I couldn’t help laughing at the sticker¬† – “These tapes have absolutely no commercial value.”

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THE RISE AND FALL
STIFF, 1982
Back in London, Madness recorded their most musically accomplished album, incorporating string and brass arrangements by avant garde expert David Bedford.

SUGGS: Those of us that wanted to had all had psychedelic experiences in our teens. We used to go to Dingwalls with our green bomber jackets turned inside out with the orange lining. Early Syd Barrett had a big effect on us, the videos were all psychedelic inspired.¬† It wasn’t consciously thought out, but we were definitely reflecting a change in our environment. Musically we just wanted to go deeper, Clive was very prominent in this – he was a psychedelic child, too. The other big influence was Robert Wyatt – one of the greatest days in my life was going to Elvis Costello’s Meltdown and Robert made a beeline for me and said “You are in the most important pop band in Britain – since me!”

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FOREMAN: It’s the one album where I wrote most of the music, more than Mike. We were recording in the west end, which was great. We were conscious of a change on Rise And Fall… I started writing about places I used to play when I was a kid. Then Suggs went up to Liverpool after the riots – it looked like frigging Beirut – and he finished the tune off. “Blue Skinned Beast” was about body bags coming back from the Falklands war. In the last few years I’ve been in and out of the band Suggs has been saying our new album is going to be about London – I said to him, “What the fuck were all the others about?”

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