Happy Madness memories

Simon Yates competing in the Giro D'Italia

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Every generation can boast one or two bands that totally epitomise the youth culture of the time in terms of both music and fashion.

Towards the end of the 1970s, a Ska revival crashed on to the music scene, influenced by Jamaican ska, rock steady and reggae. It fused with the edgy, socially-aware, anti-establishment elements of punk and so the new sound of 2-Tone was born and became an instant hit.

After the exertions of the previous evening, I went to my local convenience store on Sunday to buy some Deep Heat and they’d sold out!

Coventry band The Specials were pioneers of the new sound, though other bands such as The Selecter, The Beat and Bad Manners enjoyed mixed success.

Then a band from London created their own unique hybrid ‘Nutty Sound’ and carved their names into music history and the hearts of an entire generation.

In 1979, when Madness released their first single The Prince, I was only nine and too young to see them live.

When Madness split around 1986, I thought I’d missed my chance.

In 1992 the band reformed for a sell-out concert and I procured two tickets. But when a close friend passed away and his mum was having to take out a loan to meet his funeral costs, his many friends rallied round to raise money and I donated the tickets to be raffled.

Well, all my dreams came true when it was announced Madness would be playing at our very own theatre of dreams, and a few nightmares – Fratton Park.

The average age of the crowd was about 45-50 and Fred Perry must have done a roaring trade last week.

Adding to the occasion, perennially popular local ska band The Racketeers played a set before the main event and got the crowd going.

I’ve known lead singer Mark Ballard since I was 12 and remember him sporting the Madness-inspired ‘flat-top’ haircut.

I spoke to Mark two days later and I think he was still on a high and almost couldn’t believe he’d supported one of his most important musical influences, Madness, and played to around 13,000 fans at Fratton Park.

When you’ve waited so long to see one of your favourite bands there’s always the danger they won’t live up to your expectations.

But it was a great night all round and Madness didn’t disappoint, playing plenty of their classics like Embarrassment,Baggy Trousers and Night Boat To Cairo, which certainly had the crowd jumping around like 16 year-olds.

It might only be a coincidence but, after the exertions of the previous evening, I went to my local convenience store on Sunday to buy some Deep Heat and they’d sold out!