I remember a few weeks before the Two Tone tour was booked into play at the Fiesta in Plymouth…. The booking agent called the club and was talking to the manager, Ivor, who was a good bloke but older and bald. All I remember was a heated discussion and “Who the fuck are Madness?” and other profanities going on… I didn’t stop to explain.
So, the Two Tone tour trucks pulled up outside the club on Mayflower Street in Plymouth and even I thought WTF… Skins and rude boys piling out of old cars and trucks along with older hippies doing the road crew part. First touch of irony was that the “humpers” who were local guys humping the gear in were all long haired greebo types… These guys did this for nothing and got into the gigs free. The humpers were more used to Motorhead, Iron Maiden and so on.
The Fiesta Suite was quite big in so far as nightclubs go and we had some great bands there. I knew this was going to be different as it was really chaotic with about forty people milling around in the empty club. The members of the bands stood out as they tended to group together working on their sets and chasing for some drinks.
Madness stood out the most as they were so ordinary and chatty. I distinctly remember Pauline Black having a bit of verbal with one of the Specials who was moaning about something… she said “You were playing in a effing pub last week or something like that!”
The PA tower was stacked either side of the lighting stands and that was about it.
At about 6pm there was a huge queue of people outside and the owner had to get a few extra door staff on. Lots of new 80s skins and students along with the musically curious. NME readers…
Doors were opened at 7.30 and the crowd poured in with a rush to get to the front of the stage which was about three feet off the ground and very wide, with no crowd barriers. The stage was in two parts and rolled underneath the back stage for DJ only nights…. More on this coming!
First band was The Selecter (I swear The Bodysnatchers also played this gig) They were great and Pauline was bouncing around the stage. The full house crowd went nuts and I was a bit concerned that the stage was going to collapse as it almost did with Eddie Tenpole a few weeks before, he was brilliant. Nice bloke too.
On came Madness and that was it. The guys bounced around the stage with Suggs, Lee and Chas really giving it some. I remember Chrissy Boy was next to my stage area and I tried handing him a pint a few times but honestly it was chaos and almost totally lacking in control. It was superb in that it was raw, lively and tuneful.
Chas and Lee were bouncing around in one spot so much that the (rolled out) stage started to collapse and I tipped off one of the bouncers who got Dave the Handyman/Bottle Up guy to help. Dave often dressed up as a cowboy complete with hat and big silver guns so it was quite laughable to see him at the back of the fixed stage crawling behind Woody and his drum kit with four huge bow tie’d bouncers in tow. I wish I had a camera on reflection. So Dave the cowboy and the bouncers slipped through a hole on the backstage and took some blocks of pine wood to prop up the collapsing stage. I remember the guy in the kitchen which was on the left of the PA stack tossing a few sheets of old carpet onto the hole that Chas and Lee had created. The front stage kept moving and shaking but our very own John Wayne and the bouncers were down there holding on and did their best to avoid a disaster. I really enjoyed the gig and really admired Madness’ energy and sense of devilment.
During Madness set Mr Wong who owned a lovely Chinese restaurant immediately below the Fiesta dance floor came up bellowing at our staff about how his “FOCKING” chandelier was swaying and dropping glass onto diners. It was all very surreal.
I have followed Madness ever since and have even saw them in Oakland, California where I lived for years. It was odd as the crowd just weren’t as bubbly as us Brits and they seemed to just hang around staring. The bands children ran on the stage having fun too which I thought was quite cute.
I could have met the band at this gig but really am not a fan boy and would have been afraid to have been disappointed in some way.
Of recent years I have seen the lads at the Plymouth Pavilions and am off to the Butlin’s weekender this month. I think I would like to meet them really. They could thank me for all the booze I wangled for them way back in 1979 ….ha ha!
My wife is American and Madness have been part of our world since we met in 1993. Both of us really enjoy the Norton Folgate album… Very tuneful.