Madness are going back on tour and Andy Coleman finds a renewed sense of energy about the eighties Modsters.
To couch potatoes and the generally unfit it sounds like madness but drummer Dan ‘Woody’ Woodgate plans to mark the start of his sixth decade by running the London marathon faster than he has ever run it before.
Woody, the sticksman with Nutty Boy legends Madness, is 50 in October, and he’s determined to show that age is no barrier to breaking your own sporting records.
‘‘I did my first London marathon two years ago in three hours 42 minutes,’’ he enthuses. ‘‘Last year I knocked five minutes off my time, three hours 37 minutes, and I’m determined to do it in three minutes 30, absolutely determined.
‘‘I’ll be 50 for the next marathon so it will be quite good. I keep saying to people ‘when I hit 50 I’ll be the youngest in the 50+ category’. At 49, I’m the oldest at the moment.’’
Woody, who will be on stage with Madness at the V Festival in Weston Park on August 21, reveals that he caught the running bug by accident.
‘‘My wife, Siobhan, decided she’d do a walk for breast cancer but when she saw there were lots of people running she said ‘blimey, we’ll get there much quicker if we run’ so she and her best mate bought some running gear and overnight decided they were going to take part in the London marathon.’’
Siobhan began training by taking their pet dogs to the local park – and he went along to look after the animals while she ran.
‘‘Of course, the dogs ran after Siobhan so I ended up running after the dogs and her. I thought the best thing to do was get myself some running shoes!
‘‘When Siobhan said ‘Stuff this, I’m not doing the running, I hate it’ I carried on, I’d got the bug.
‘‘I got myself a trainer and I now run regularly, every week, and do some 10k meets, some half marathons, and really enjoy it. I’ve raised a lot of money for charity, that’s my main incentive. If I was doing it just for me I wouldn’t have a goal, there would be no point. Why go through all that agony for nothing?’’
After a summer of festivals Madness will be back on the road for a 16-date UK tour that includes matinee and evening shows at Birmingham O2 Academy on December 11.
‘‘Last year our UK tour went so well, we thought ‘we’re doing that again’. There was demand. We’re often a little cautious about overdoing it because people say ‘oh, I’ll see them next year’ but people seem to be coming back. ‘‘I think it was all off the back of the fact that we’d done a great new album which gave a bit more interest to the whole thing.’’
That album was The Liberty Of Norton Folgate which raised eyebrows because it was marketed as a concept album about London.
Says Woody: ‘‘It’s a bit of a tenuous link, it’s all a bit thin on the ground, the concept album idea.’’
He adds that the idea for the record stemmed from the ten-minute track, The Liberty Of Norton Folgate, masterminded by singer Suggs and Carl ‘Chas Smash’ Smyth.
‘‘Once we got the idea that we could really stretch it out it became Madness’s Bohemian Rhapsody,’’ Woody smiles. ‘‘Let’s be honest, it was an experiment in how far we could stretch one track.’’
Norton Folgate is near part of London known as Banglatown, established in recognition of the large Bangladeshi community living in and around Brick Lane.
‘‘It’s got a great Jewish influence, it’s got a great Asian influence, all these great cultures that come through and settle down. ‘We try to look at the positive side and I suppose that, if anything, is the album’s theme.
‘‘We don’t do political comments. All we do is comment on our own experience in life and our own experience in life is us growing up in this big town called London.’’
But he hopes that listeners in other big cities and towns will relate to those experiences.
‘‘The song Bingo is about a bingo hall, which could be anywhere. Dust Devil is about a young lady who’s a bit lairy and goes out on the town. That could be a young lady that goes out on the town anywhere.’’
So are there plans for another ‘concept’ album? That’s not the way Madness work, Woody says.
‘‘We all write songs all the time and at the moment we’re in the process of sending songs to each other, making changes and sending them back again. Beyond this, we go into a big rehearsal studio where there’s a big board on the wall on which we write the songs down and we go through them all. It’s as simple as that.
‘‘Then when we think we’ve cracked it, after about 20 songs, we think ‘we’ve got a lot of songs – again’, Then a producer, probably Clive Langer as he’s always been the man who gets involved, sorts out the wheat from the chaff and we go into a studio and try and bosh it down as quickly as possible.’’
Then it’s time to road test some of the new tunes, although the band are careful not to include too many unfamiliar songs in their set.
‘‘We understand that we can’t try too many new songs out on punters because fundamentally we’re there to entertain the crowd so we have to give them all the great hits and more – and the ‘more’ bit is us experimenting on the crowd with a few new ones.
‘‘Years ago we had to play Embarrassment, Baggy Trousers and Our House to crowds who hadn’t heard them before. They didn’t know the songs so it was hard work but we persevered with them and years down the line they’re great hits. It’s all part of the process.’’
* Madness play the V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire, on August 21, and two shows at Birmingham O2 Academy on December 11 (0844 477 2000)