Madness on Lard

Madness The following is a 1992 article by Nicky Piper for the British publication Deadline, interviewing Suggs and Carl from Madness. I present it here because for the second half of the article, Suggs and Carl get carried away with an obsessive and insightful discussion pertaining to lard.

You can skip to the lard part if you want to.

"Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, children singing Christian rhymes, with logs on the fire, and gifts on the tree, a time to rejoice in the good that we see," was what my Great Auntie Doris would always say at this time of year. Of course, that did make her conversation a little limited, but we let her off -- it being the season of good will and all that...

Sadly, in these troubled times, one's thoughts are more likely to turn to a bank raid in order to buy all your bastard grabbing kith and kin luxurious gifts, rather than a spiritual sense of Christian charity. Never mind. One small consolation in a cruel world is that Madness have reformed, following the success of their earthquake inducing summer "Madstock" gigs, and have released a live album and video of the same name, which is all very Santa-friendly, and dead festive.

"We're Christmas-y men," declares Suggs. "I still wake up in a cold sweat every year, waiting for a chopper bike that isn't there. It never was there, and never will be there -- I keep hinting to my wife, even today, even though I'd be too big for it now. Imagine, waking up and seeing it there...."

"Have you seen those Buzzboard things?" asks Carl. "I want one of them this year. They're like a skateboard with a motor on the back. They're great. Expensive, though. They cost about 300 quid, because you have to import them from America. It can't cost much to make one yourself, actually. You just need a skateboard, a lawnmower engine, and a bit of doweling."

Choppers aside, what were the great Christmas presents that you never had? "Fucking hell. You name it..." sighs Suggs. " I used to get green nylon socks, and one of those footballs you have to blow up yourself."

"But I used to get school socks, which is much worse," laments Carl.

When did you stop believing in Father Christmas? "I was about 29, I think," says Carl. "The truth dawned on me then. No, it's funny, but me Mum never used to bother with Father Christmas, then I had to stay with Auntie one year, and suddenly I had to pretend that Father Christmas was around when I was eleven. I think it's a good thing for kids to believe in him. It's valuable, because it gives them the capacity to not just deal with facts."

"We didn't have Santa, but we used to make the Christmas tree grow overnight from seed. You put the little seed in the pot, and make all the kids lie down in front of it and wish really hard. Then you pack 'em off to bed, and in the morning there's the tree, fully decorated. It's grown!"

"I had problems with how Santa gets down a skinny chimney, or what would happen if you didn't have a chimney at all," says Suggs. "It's terrible. I've got kids, and because of Santa, you have to lie to them. It's not a very good way to start your relationship with your kids -- a pack of lies about a bloke in a red suit. I don't know if I'd trust me ever again."

"Christmas is an excuse for a lot of adults to get squashed together for a couple of days and drink lots of whiskey, which is always a dangerous thing," states Carl seriously. "Especially with children running around. I remember my Mum having a big fight with my Auntie. The dinner ended up on the floor, and it was like the perfect kind of Mike Leigh Christmas."

Do you think there should be an alcohol ban over the festive season? "Christmas would probably cease then, wouldn't it?" observes Suggs.

So drinking really foul liqueurs for a week, slumped in front of Little & Large Christmas Chuckie Show is more important than the baby Jesus' birthday? "Not for 900 million Catholics it isn't," arguer Carl.

But do you count yourself among this number? "Nah. I was a choirboy for about a year. My parents made me do it. There was a lot of vicious kicking under the old cassocks during mass, I can tell you. During my communion I got locked in the toilet by some nuns, and dropped my prayerbook down it, so when I went up to the Bishop it was dripping, and covered in urine."

"There's probably a black mass aspect to all that," muses Suggs.

"...and there's always the thought of having to kiss Granny!" remembers Carl, suddenly. "And she's covered in loads of foundation and powder. It's a common experience, I'm sure."

"It's a funny thing, Grannies, innit?" says Suggs, philosophically. "It really is. Cos the thing is, they're like, I mean..."

"Grannies are someone's mothers," interrupts Carl. "When they get to a certain point, their children should take them to the bottom of the garden and put a bullet through their brains," he adds, full of the festive spirit.

"What it is," continue Suggs, "is that when you're a kid, a day seems really long, and a week is just like, forever. So, Granny seems to have been `round for years and years."

"And she hasn't washed for about ten of them," says Carl.

"But in reality, they're only around for about two minutes, then they die," says Suggs. "It's really sad that you can't stand this old bag when it's the last days of her life..."

"The problem with our society is that different generations aren't integrated socially," declares Carl, in an I know what I'm talking about voice. "Apart from at Christmas, which is when the problem starts."

And what should be done? "Take 'em down to the end of the garden and put a bullet in their head. They could put the guns in crackers."

"The British government should pass a law that all crackers should be up to Harrod's standard," says Suggs. "Yes," agrees Carl. "I mean, how many miniature plastic magnifying glasses does this country need?"

"The other crap things you always get at Christmas are really sad books, like the Goodies Annual. They're always really unfunny: 200 pages, one idea. I'm looking forward to getting the new Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall book this year. What's it called? Bottom. That should be a great read. What a lot of new jokes. About bottoms. And farty bums."

Have Madness ever been tempted to cash in on this market, with a Christmas book? "Oh yes," they chorus. So what's stopped you? "The authors, really," says Carl. "The bits between the commas."

"We're more serious about getting Barratts to make some sweets for us. Chocolate sweets of all the seven members of Madness." Carl suddenly sits bolt upright, "I heard that certain brands of mints are made of minted lard. How about that?"

"How would they get the lard in the chocolate, that's what I want to know," asks Suggs. "They've got these big machines to make them," lies Carl. "Or maybe it's all done by hand."

"People don't eat lard on toast anymore," explains Suggs. "So there's all this spare lard hanging around, and you've got to do something with it."

"The success of the certain brand of mints can be directly linked to the lard sandwich going out of fashion," elaborates Carl.

"It's very versatile, is lard, actually," says Suggs, as if there was any doubt over the matter. "And lard is in fact a lot cheaper than chocolate."

"We're thinking of marketing a mint," says Carl, "with a special stale tobacco taste."

"And we'll do away with the chocolate altogether," says Suggs, getting excited. "We'll just have lard."

"With a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon sprinkle, and a bit of gold tooling. Bit of marzipan too, perhaps."

"And if there's a lard glut, we could make lard candies," says Suggs. "You can wedge them into potatoes, wrap 'em round with tinsel, and you've got a lovely table decoration! Think how many potatoes get sold over Christmas just for decorative purposes alone -- not counting those destined for roast!" marvels Carl.

"Bit Blue Peter, that," says Suggs.

"I fancied Valerie Singleton with a passion!" moans Carl. When I was about 12. Then I went on to Janet Street-Porter, then Liza Minelli, then Barbara Streisand. Then I started worrying."

What did Valerie Singleton have that set her apart from ordinary womankind? "Oh, she was demure, intelligent.... yet demanding." gurgles Carl. "But then I heard gossip. I was gutted."

"We'd like to do some children's programmes," says Suggs. "And talk about lard," says Carl. "We could call it Lard Is Ludicrious. Ludicrious Lard."

"Or Lard and Direct," offers Suggs. "we could do lard T-shirts." shouts Carl. "Maybe lard could even be used as insulation. And I'm sure that most brands of hair gel are 90 per cent lard, anyway! In fact, everything on this planet is 90 per cent lard!"

Oh really? "Yes. It's like this, you see: The moon affects the water - it's like a big stopcock; and the sun's like a big frying pan - it does things to the lard."

Like what? "It makes it melt, mostly," explains Suggs. Of course.

So Madness are hoping for stockings full of lard this yule? Enthusiastic nods all round. But, versatile animal fat products aside, what really is the true meaning of Christmas for the Camden lads? Drinks are put down on the table, and a moment of contemplative silence descends on the gathering.

"It's all about going to the shops and getting as much shopping as you can," offers Suggs, finally.

"That's a really cynical view you've got there," says Carl, outraged. "I can't believe that's the way you look at it."

It is pointed out that not five minutes ago he was endorsing the festive ritual murder of a feeble, elderly relative. He defends himself, "Christmas is magic. It's all about magic, isn't it? Kids should believe in magic..."

They both go misty-eyed with emotion. Maybe it's the plastic magnifying glasses, maybe it's the thought of Father Christmas, maybe it's all the chopper bikes that never were... but whatever way you look at it -- Praise the lard.