MADNESS – Windsor Racecourse, UK: Friday 26th August 2023.
According to the Oxford English dictionary, madness is defined as “crazy or stupid behaviour that could be dangerous,” and for those of you looking in on the United Kingdom at the moment, our once stable country has become the very essence of this statement. Our zombie Government is absent without leave and our current prime minster – the one with the criminal conviction – has just returned from another holiday as the country lurches into one of the most terrifying economic nightmares since Oliver Cromwell had a spat with King Charles I in the seventeenth century. As a pariah state on the edge of Europe with most of our key services on the brink of collapse and Lord Sugar calling for premier Boris Johnson and his loathsome BREXIT sidekick Michael Gove to be imprisoned, what does the ordinary mature Brit do? Celebrate of course! And just to add to this Shakespearean tragedy, why not host this party in the backyard of Queen Elizabeth II, a mere couple of miles from Eton where the ruling class have spawned many a leader of the common folk? You may be forgiven for thinking that I have totally lost the plot by disclosing that the name of the comperes of this quintessentially British plot in Windsor, in the Royal County of Berkshire, were the band Madness!
Perhaps I was the only one present that night who made these hypothetical links, but then I was fully signed up to the collective notion that this sextet represented everything that spoke of a golden era of popular music with the ability to gyrate the many in ways that defied the average age of the thousands of party goers. The smell of Ralgex and Poligrip was suddenly and magically nullified as Suggs – aka Graham McPherson ─ seized the night with his effervescent energy pulsing through the arena. According to legend, our East Sussex Graham became Suggs when he casually stuck a pin in an encyclopaedia of jazz musicians and struck the name of Peter Suggs. However, there is nothing random about the band who have the uncanny ability to create chords connecting with the mundane and the obscure – the very spirit of the regular working-class Brit whose DNA stands for Diva, Nostalgia & Ale.
Inaugural single, “The Prince” – homage to Jamaican ska singer Prince Buster – captured their roots and amplified the absolute best of British culture – inclusive, irreverent, and iconic. Our school days were mocked but magnified by the utter brilliance of “Baggy Trousers,” whilst our true hospitality, accommodating the often annoying but nonetheless lovable rogues, was beautifully reflected in my personal earworm, “Bed & Breakfast Man.” Our national obsession with a sense of belonging was comprehensively compressed into the track “Our House,” whilst the epic “Night Boat to Cairo” is so bonkers it should be our alternative national anthem.
Whatever it takes, inhale the madness of Madness as these guys are what Britain is really all about. Not the arrogant aristocrats who speak through their arses and advocate everything that is antagonistic, but the real, lovable ─ if slightly crazy ─ inhabitants of this incredible and welcoming nation.
Of course, Suggs and the rest of the gang have nailed this narrative in the aptly named track “Madness”!
© Ian Kirke 2022 / @ianjkirke