Madness frontman Suggs laments decline of London at documentary premiere

Previously unissued photo dated 31/03/21 of Suggs attending the premiere for the documentary 'Before We Was We: Madness by Ma
Previously unissued photo dated 31/03/21 of Suggs attending the premiere for the documentary 'Before We Was We: Madness by Madness' at Odeon Cinema in London. Issue date: Thursday April 15, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story SHOWBIZ Madness. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA Wire

Madness frontman Graham “Suggs” McPherson has lamented the loss of pubs in London and said the capital was “better” when he was young.

Speaking during the virtual premiere for a documentary charting the ska music pioneers’ rise to fame during the late 70s, the singer, who celebrated his 60th birthday in January, listed the rise of supermarket alcohol and mobile phones as factors that had led to the decline.

But Suggs also joked he wanted to avoid being labelled a “grumpy old man” and admitted it was to be expected that London would change over the years.

Suggs, Chris Foreman and producer Ben Timlett attending the premiere for Before We Was We (Ian West/PA)

Based on the biography of the same title, Before We Was We explores Madness’s beginnings in the Camden Town scene, using original footage and interviews with band members.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, Madness hosted a smaller premiere inside a portable cinema screen in front of the Odeon in Leicester Square.

Speaking to producer and director Ben Timlett following the screening, Suggs said: “Of course it keeps changing, London keeps changing. You have got to be careful of the grumpy old man thing but it was better when we were young.

Suggs and Chris Foreman took questions following the screening (Ian West/PA)

“For me for instance, it is not that important, but pubs, say that for an example. When we were kids there were loads of pubs and everyone met in pubs. There were function rooms where you could get gigs. Life kind of revolved around the pub and that bit of culture sort of dissolved for various reasons. You can buy cans of cider in the supermarket for tuppence now.

“Remember before mobiles phones. Kids go, ‘But how did you meet?’ and I say we would go to the same pub every Friday night and then from there on if there was a gig somewhere.”

Guitarist Chris Foreman, 64, added: “If someone said to me that in the future you would go in somewhere and be buying a cup of coffee for £3… Now you can’t move for coffee places.”

Suggs quipped that he remembered there being just one coffee shop in London when the band started out.

Madness look back at their rise to fame in the docu-series (Before We Was We/PA)

The father-of-two added: “That is what my daughters used to say about Camden Town – ‘Dad, we can get a coffee for instance or a cocktail and places are open after 11 o’clock, and it’s not just a load of blokes punching each other outside pubs, there is actually something else to do’.

“It changes, doesn’t it? It changes.”

The documentary will air across three 60-minute episodes and offer insight into the band’s “inevitable rise to the top of the charts, pop fame and fortune against the backdrop of the ska, punk and new wave revolution”.

The docu-series is AMC UK’s second original production after its 2019 documentary An Accidental Studio which charted the creation of former Beatle George Harrison’s influential film studio HandMade Films.

Before We Was We: Madness By Madness will air on AMC via BT TV on May 1 at 9pm.

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