Coinciding with Independent Venue Week, this afternoon (26 January) Madness returned to the scene of their first ever gig to unveil a PRS For Music Heritage Award plaque which honours Camden pub The Dublin Castle. After the unveiling ceremony, the band’s frontman Suggs spoke to IVW about the The Nutty Boys’ debut show in 1979, the venue’s importance in their career and more.
How was the unveiling for you?
Very nice indeed. I’m not into the nostalgia but I do like seeing plaques, walking past a house and seeing ‘George Orwell lived here’. But really it’s not just for us, it’s the venue itself. It’s to add another little something to say ‘this is more than just some funny old pub’, it has a history that cannot be replaced and its place in the community is being celebrated. We started playing here, I read somewhere Blur wanted to play here because we did. Amy Winehouse played here because someone else did, it create a snowball. I’m not saying we created it all but every little helps.
Can you remember that first gig here?
The first gig was pretty much you with four or five of your mates. The one I really remember clearly here was when we were supporting some band called The Specials at the Nashville in Hammersmith. We were so pleased to be able to play with them because suddenly we had this feeling something was happening that we’d forgot we’d already booked a gig here! We had to come down the Westway in our GPO vans, support The Specials and get back by 10:30. When we did the place was absolutely boiling over. One more inch of adrenalin and the roof would have blown off the place. We had to carry our instruments through the pub. Watch the clip of us playing One Step Beyond in our film Take It Or Leave (below) which we filmed at that gig to see the kind of energy these places created.
How important was it for Madness that the venue owners took a chance on you?
Very much! They gave us a residency, we played once a week. First week it was four, then 10, 20, 60 and you build up a following. Also you’re learning how to play. You’re eyeball-to-eyeball with the audience. It’s all very well writing you songs in isolation but until you play them in front of a crowd you suddenly think ‘That was shit, drop that one but that one went down well’. It’s why we’re popular now, we learnt how to be entertaining onstage and how to get a crowd going. People pay their money and you want them to go home thinking they haven’t wasted their money. It’s the same premise we had then that informs the way we behave onstage today.
Finally, looking forward. You’ve recently released a new album, you’re touring. Are you still enjoying it all?
More than ever! It’s funny days like this are nostalgic for us but it reminds me how fortunate we’ve been and what a privileged it is to still be doing what we do. So we’re very much enjoying it.