Madness: Suggs returns to Edinburgh with new gig sparking memories of 1985 at Edinburgh Playhouse and Hogmanay

He’s known as Suggs but call the Madness singer by his real name, Graham McPherson, and his Scottish heritage is quickly apparent, it's something he's proud of and one reason he's looking forward to being back in Edinburgh.

By Liam Rudden
Friday, 20th May 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 12:44 pm

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Suggs is due to come back to the Capital on June 12 when the Eighties' chart-toppers headline the second of seven Bit Top shows at the Royal Highland Centre.

“Back to the old homeland,” he smiles, adding, “The great thing is, because we don't tour for months on end any more, each gig is a special occasion.”

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Graham McPherson aka Suggs Pic: Anthony Wallace/AFP

It was all very different back in 1985 when Madness played one of their early Capital concerts, a gig that saw them sell out the Playhouse.

“That was in the old ‘sweat pouring off the ceiling and everyone going balmy’ days,” he laughs. “I remember thinking at the time that the stage was about to collapse with all the people jumping up and down so maniacally. It's so strange, that doesn't seem like 37 years ago, it just seems like yesterday. It's so bizarre.”

He thinks for a moment when asked if he enjoys gigging more now than he did back then when the pressure was still on to build the band's chart success.

“It's hard to say because, as they say, the best times of your life are when you are young but do think I appreciate it more. In '85 it was just a blur of arms and legs and hats flying in the air and hoping that your suit would be dry by the following night. Now there's a chance to look at the audience and appreciate how much they are enjoying what we are doing, which is a very nice feeling.”

Suggs and Lee Thomson of Madness Pic: Samir Hussein/Getty Images

Another visit to Edinburgh, to play the Hogmanay celebrations in Princes Street Gardens in 2010, gave the frontman the chance to do just that.

“I was just talking to my wife about that because she was there too, it was such an extraordinary weekend, we stayed in this really lovely hotel. It was like something out of Hollywood and there were bagpipes everywhere we went. The hotel was full of every creed and race from all around the world and what a great night we had.

“During the day you could hear people singing Madness songs out of every pub in Edinburgh - even at four o'clock in the afternoon! I thought, 'Jeez, these guys are going to be knackered by the time we come on stage’.”

He continues, “I remember it was freezing so our tour manager got us all thermal underwear and those little hand-warmers that heat up your pockets. When we were just about to go on stage, the stage-manager said, 'Don't forget this is being broadcast live by Radio 2 on the BBC and going around the world'. What was the first thing I said when I walked out on stage? ‘It's f***in' freezing...’ Straight into the microphone. All I could hear was, ‘Cut! Cut! Cut!’

Suggs Pic: Paul Windsor

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He laughs, “After the gig we ended up back at the hotel with four Brazilians, two Irish blokes and one Chinese fella, all holding up the bar into the wee small hours.

“We were all hanging at breakfast the next morning, when the Chinese fella said, ‘It's my first time in Scotland, what do you recommend for breakfast?’

“So I said, ‘Mate, you have to have porridge, that will put you right back on your feet.’

“Anyway, as it turned out, I think the Chef had probably been on it all night as well because this plate of stodgy old wood glue turned up at the table. I could see the guy looking at me like, ‘What the hell is this grey lumpy slodge?’

“I said, ‘It's not normally like that, I promise you’.”

As he looks forward to playing Ingliston, you have to wonder where he still gets the energy from for Madness' signature performances of hits such as My Girl, Embarrassment, Our House and House Of Fun, not forgetting Baggy Trousers, One step Beyond and It Must Be Love.

“It comes easy once you're up there, the knees are starting to play up a bit but the adrenaline of the crowd always gives you a charge of electricity. We've always had a very energetic live act, that transfers to the audience and then that kinetic energy bounces backwards and forwards.”

He laughs as he recalls, “Someone sent me a cutting from an old Smash Hits magazine from the Eighties, in it I was asked what I thought about the future and I said, ‘Well, there's no way I'll still be singing Baggy Trousers when I'm an old man of 30.’ Thirty! That was the 18-year-old Suggs... I'm now 61.”

The big question is, however, with his proud Scottish heritage - his dad was a Glaswegian - will he be wearing a kilt for the gig?

“I'm quite partial to a kilt,” he reveals. “I've got one indoors. It's a nice thing, a kilt, but it's a bit of a palaver getting all the clobber on, the dirk, the bits of ribbon, tying your socks up, the ballet dancers shoes and all that, but I do love it. Always wear it when I go to a wedding.”

Other bands taking part in the Big Top concert series include DMAS on June 10, James on June 11, 50 Cent on June 14, Fatboy Slim on June 18, Snow Patrol on June 23 and Biffy Clyro on June 25. Get tickets for Madness here

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