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Suggs’ life story: Where Madness lies

Julien Temple’s film about the life and times of Madness frontman is a marvellous journey, told by an eloquent entertainer

12 January, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Suggs in My Life Story

MY LIFE STORY
Directed by Julien Temple
Certificate 15
☆☆☆☆

IT was a pivotal moment in my teenage years. My brother Joe was working for the Mean Fiddler music group and had freebies to go to Madstock in Finsbury Park. It was 1992, and I was very much of an acid house generation. Madness, to a 18-year-old, seemed a bit last decade.

But a guestlist to gig in a park you could walk home from with my older brother was too good an opportunity to miss – and as soon as I heard the opening lines of One Step Beyond and watched 75,000 other north Londoners go absolutely ballistic, I realised I knew just about every lyric to every Madness hit. It was like living in NW5 meant you’d learned them all by osmosis.

I give you this aside as it inevitably colours my feelings towards Julien Temple’s film about the life and times of Madness singer Suggs.

Suggs has become pop aristocracy, but he is much more than the front man for one of the best British bands ever.

Instead, he has become a social historian – and by considering his back story, he creates a context to look at London in the 1970s and 1980s.

It is not surprising – as a lyricist, he has also written songs that reflect the experiences of life in north London for a generation.

The film has different strands to it. There is Suggs presenting in the manner of a music hall performer and then there are set-piece moments of acting to help the story along.

Perhaps, as with Temple’s magnificent film London: The Modern Babylon, the best parts are the footage of our city in times gone by.

For those in the Camden and Islington area, the film has added resonance: a gig at William Ellis School was pivotal for the band, as was playing at the Dublin Castle every Wednesday and performing at the Hope and Anchor in Upper Street.

This is a marvellous journey, told by an eloquent entertainer, and a must for anyone, like me, who had Madness music as the soundtrack of their youth.

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