Hey You, Don't Read That Read This!

From a Bohemian childhood in Soho to trawler fishing off Italy with a hangover via ska, 2Tone, Olympics and a lot of Madness, Suggs autobiography is a must.
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From a Bohemian childhood in Soho to trawler fishing off Italy with a hangover via ska, 2Tone, Olympics and a lot of Madness, Suggs autobiography is a must.

I get paid for this?

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Some say he and his band are a British institution, others say he should be in one.  Either way you'd be hard pushed not to know who Suggs his. Madness are one of the great British pop groups, they set all sorts of records in the early 80s for number of weeks in the Top 40 - one year there wasn't a week they weren't in it, and they promoted their songs with brilliantly scrappy  videos which can best be described in cinematic terms as "dressing up and arse-ing about".

His autobiography is, like Madness, funny, lively, at times moving and very difficult to shake off. It also gets funnier as it goes on. The last few chapters when he described how he spends his summer holidays in Italy will have you laughing in a way people will ask you what you're reading.

Unsurprisingly two thirds of the book is about the band and their rise to fame from being a well dressed bunch of teenage Ska fans and graffiti taggers travelling round in second hand post office vans to playing the closing of the London Olympics via the famous Hope and Anchor in Islington and the roof of royal slum Buckingham Palace.

If you need to know one thing about Suggs from this book I'd say he seems to be happy to have a crack at anything anyone suggests: long bike rides on square wheeled bikes, a short-lived career in tree planting, singing in a band.

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A handful of The Best Madness Songs

There's always a slight sense of disbelief throughout the book, he doesn't ham it up "ooh just a poor boy from the flats meeting the Queen" but there are occasional glimpses that Suggs can't quite believe how well it all turned out. How the failed plasterer's mate ended up with masses of  hit singles and the capability to have their fans cause a minor earthquake moon stomping at the bands Madstock re-union.

Maybe it's the masses of excess taking its toll or maybe he's just being clever but there aren't endless details of the politics and progress of the band. His life just leaps along from one subject to another, it spares the casual reader in a way some music books don't. Is it interesting? Yes, put it in then.

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Right to the end there's still a sense that he will give life a go, preferring to have a crack at trawling in the Adriatic with a hangover rather than let down some Italian fishermen he's met, despite having no sleep after a night on the pop. In fact it's the non-Madness chapters that really make the book I think. His childhood chapters - a wide eyed kid trying to avoid losing all his pocket money in the arcades of Soho - whilst his mum sang in local bars, his school days; a template for the song 'Baggy Trousers' and the teenage years running around pubs and football trying to get a foothold in the world all give a true insight into the man.

If you're being bombarded by the annual question "what do you want for Christmas?" ask for 'That Close', I'll guarantee you won't be disappointed.

To get closer to Suggs buy here