Lee Thompson Goes Walkin’ with Weller

On Sunset by Paul Weller

Beyond Madness, my second favorite British act of all time is Paul Weller. Relations have been friendly and collegial among them over the decades, dating back to Weller citing “Embarrassment” as an inspiration for the Motown beat of The Jam’s “Town Called Malice.” Of particular note, while working as an early ’90s A&R rep at Go! Discs, Carl Smyth helped Weller launch his solo career. In the past year, Weller joined Madness on stage at House of Common 2019 to great acclaim, and he guested on Suggs’s Love Letters to London BBC Radio 4 series, which saw the pair of them duetting on “Nobody’s Fool” by Ray Davies.

And now Lee Thompson has turned in a guest spot on Weller’s high-profile new album. On Sunset went straight in at #1 in the UK, giving Weller the accomplishment of topping the album chart in five consecutive decades, a feat matched only by Lennon and McCartney. There’s no American angle in reporting this Weller and Thompson collaboration (safe to say On Sunset isn’t making history in the U.S. charts), but when anyone from Madness teams up with one of my other musical heroes, you better believe Stateside Madness will have something to say about it!

Thommo contributes a laid-back sax solo on the Weller-penned track “Walkin’.” Paul has been enthusiastic in his praise for Lee’s work. “I’ve seen Lee playing blinders in recent years, both with Madness and with his Ska Orchestra. He’s a terrific player.”

Have a listen to “Walkin’” (Lee comes in around 1:38.) 

So what do I think? Honestly, it’s a bit disappointing. The song isn’t the most interesting on the album, and it sounds a lot like a reworking of “Here’s the Good News” from 2005’s As Is Now (which wasn’t one of the most interesting on that album, either). Probably unfairly, I had imagined this would amount to something more like Lee’s brilliant guest sax on The Specials’ “Hey, Little Rich Girl,” where it’s 100% that inimitable Lee Jay Kix Thompson sound, whereas the “Walkin’” solo could be any decent session player.

I believe my reaction to On Sunset has suffered from too much anticipation and advance buildup. This is also the case with the 7-minute opening track “Mirror Ball,” which has been hyped as an epic creative watershed in every Weller article and interview for the past year, but hits me – as much as it pains me to say – as a boring swing and a miss. (Apologies, Paul.)

But new songs do often need to grow on you, and I will say that I’m warming up to “Walkin’” the more I listen to it. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s a nice, breezy, easygoing summer tune. I’m happy Lee Thompson played on it. This partnership between Weller and Thommo gives me hope that someday I’ll get my fantasy wish of hearing Paul belt out a cover of a certain old Madness tune he rated back in the day. That one what Lee wrote. 

All the President’s Men: For Us American Cousins

All the President’s Me

In the course of their intimate Two Mad Men and a String Quartet performance shared online June 6, Suggs and Mike Barson debuted two new Madness songs. “Theatre of the Absurd,” a Suggs composition, appears to be a spiritual sequel to his solo track “The Greatest Show on Earth” with a more somber tone. The other new tune is of particular interest to us at Stateside Madness, for reasons Barso outlined in his introduction:

“This song is about the dire straits over the pond at the moment. No, not really at the moment. It’s a song about our cousins in America, yeah. Leaders of the world. And where they’re leading us, who knows?”

Running just over 90 seconds, “All the President’s Men” is a terse meditation on social and political turmoil in recent U.S. history, mourning the current tattered state of the American dream. Barson borrows the title from the Woodward & Bernstein exposé on Watergate (and the subsequent Redford & Hoffman film adaptation), which originated as an allusion the irreparable injury following Humpty Dumpty’s fall.

The song is bracingly relevant in the context of international protests in response to the death of George Floyd. The mood and message beautifully fit the string quartet format, and an eventual studio recording could likely prove to have a similar sparse arrangement. A fantastic new piece of work to suit our troubled times.

The year was 1963
The last one for Kennedy

In ’68 the Lorraine Motel
On the balcony 
Where the Doctor fell
From a single shell

A last shot at democracy 
Shining city on a hill
Land of the free 
Seventeen agencies 
Looking out for thee
The NSA and Homeland Security 

A shot rang out 
The sound of gunfire echoes ’cross the mall
The future sucked into a dark black hole
Short-sighted small minds clamour for control

But there’s no dream no more
Psyops are now running the score
And the money trickles upwards evermore 
You’d almost think it was 1984

Madness U.S. Tour Postponed to 2021

To no surprise, the Madness U.S. tour dates scheduled for May 2020 have been pushed to next year. The newly announced 2021 dates are as follows:

5/26/2021Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY
5/28/2021House of Blues, Boston, MA
5/30/2021The Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
5/31/2021Punk Rock Bowling & Music Festival, Las Vegas, NV
6/2/2021
6/3/2021
The Fox Theater, Oakland, CA

Tickets booked for the 2020 dates will be honored at the rescheduled shows. The Madness Facebook page advises contacting your point of purchase if you will be unable to attend.

Everyone stay safe and stay tuned to Stateside Madness for any further updates as they become available!

UPDATE: On April 13, Madness was confirmed for the Las Vegas festival date added above.

History Lesson, Part I

Madness U.S. History

How many Madness albums have never been released on disc in the U.S.? Which states have they ever played in outside of New York and California? Where did they once share an amazing bill with David Bowie and the Go-Go’s? When were they on Saturday Night Live that one time, and what songs did they play?

Now you can find the answers to these scintillating questions and more on our new U.S. History page here on the SSM blog! We’ve pieced this archival inventory together from various online sources, including Discogs, Seven Ragged Men, Setlist.fm, Concert Archives, Fandom Concerts Wiki, and Madness on TV. It’s far from complete, and may or may not be 100% accurate, so we welcome your additions or corrections. Especially in terms of the concert calendars, there plainly must be a few gaps.

This will be an ongoing project, a living document with updates made as we get better and more comprehensive information. And let’s hope the band’s future holds plenty more U.S. history yet to be written.

Check out the Stateside Madness historical archive and comment below with your additions and corrections!