You know how sometimes there are people you really admire, but gradually over the years as they make one misguided decision after another, you begin to think: hmm, I don’t really like where this is going? Well over the last couple of years I’ve had a similar sort of thing with Suggs, of Madness fame. Now I won’t keep you long but just quickly let me explain what I mean. Madness first hung up their ska hats in 1986 or thereabouts and although they’ve been re-forming on and off again, ever since 1992, it never seems to last very long. I suspect this is due to the fact that – bless ‘em – their knees probably aren’t what they used to be while their waste lines are considerably more than they used to be, making the whole trademark funny walk thing a little tougher to sustain for any length of time. That’s understandable, it’s what Suggs does on his on his down time that worries me. You never know when or even if Madness are coming back you see, so I always sorta naturally assumed he would have a good solid Plan B on the go, but…
I was a little surprised in 2004 when I saw him presenting a show called ‘Salvage Squad’ about fixing old machinery that should have been scrapped long ago. God it was chronic. I mean, no harm to the man, but I don’t care how cool you are, there is just no way anyone can talk about rust for sixty minutes straight and hold my attention, or anybody else’s for that matter…there’s just no way.
I feared the worst in 2006 when I saw that, not only had he given permission for the lyrics of ‘Our House’ to be changed and used in an advert for a magazine called Full House (Full House/it’s a magazine that’s new/Full House/ lot’s of things for you to do…) but he’d actually lent his vocals to the thing as well! Look, I’ll level with you; I bought that magazine. I figured if it’s got Suggs endorsing it, it must be like…I dunno…The Great Gatsby or The Collected Works Of Shakespear or something, so – despite the fact that it was clearly aimed predominantly at forty-plus year old housewives – I went up to the counter, braved the sneering and bought it. ‘Lot’s of things for you to do’ they said. Aye, that’ll be right…one thing for you to do more like, and even then you’d only do it if there was a sudden shortage of toilet paper. Crossword wasn’t bad mind.
And I was gutted, properly gutted, in 2007 when I saw him using Our House again (albeit lyrically unchanged) only this time actually appearing in an advert promoting a particular brand of fish fingers (I don't do commercial plugs in this blog). You might remember it: this family are all sitting round the dinner table and the man himself is reading out questions about Omega 3 from a card. I’m not so annoyed about the song use in this case, it’s more the fact that – you ask my sister, she’ll tell you – I’ve been writing to Suggs once a year, every year for roughly the last seventeen years, inviting him to my house for dinner. Does he come? Does he f#%k, he goes to a house full of weird fish fanciers who, once they’ve got him there, inexplicably fail to ask him anything about his ska-tastic past and instead want him to ask them questions in an utterly mental quiz about the nutritional value of sea life. Eh?? Surely that was that then, I thought. It’s over. Done. He’s lost it.
I was such fool. I had stupidly overlooked one critical fact: Suggs isn’t just anyone; Suggs is Suggs. Yeah, he might have done a few crap things in the past, just to pay the bills, who hasn’t? In the end though, when it boils down to it he’ll always be an integral part of one of the finest (ongoing) bands in history first, and a karaoke game show host on channel 5/occasional corporate whore a distant second, as Madness' brilliant 2009 album 'The Liberty Of Norton Folgate' only serves to prove. (Yeah I know what I said, but when Captain Birdseye releases 35 years worth of quality pop music, then I'll plug his fish fingers. Wait...aw naw!)