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‘My name is my cocaine’: That time Michael Caine had a hit with a song about an IRA informer

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Apparently, the easiest way to improve your Michael Caine impersonation is to say:

My name, is my cocaine.

See. It works.

Now, Peter Sellers used to do a superb Michael Caine impression which began something like that and then going on to detail some utterly trivial boring fact (a bit like the one above…) before finishing, “Not a lot people know that.”

“Not a lot of people know that…” became the catchphrase most associated with Caine though he never actually said it. However, the great movie star did say “My name is Michael Caine” for a top ten chart hit by band Madness in 1984.

Anyone who has seen Caine’s stellar performance in the movie Little Voice will know that he is not the world’s greatest singer. Thankfully no singing was required with the song “Michael Caine.” When first approached by London’s nutty boys Madness to add his voice to their single, the great actor knocked it back. But then he had a change of heart as he explained to William Orbit in 2007:

My daughter, who was 10 at the time, said: ‘You’ve got to do it, dad, it’s Madness!’ I did it for her.

 
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Caine as he appeared on the back cover of the single ‘Michael Caine’ by Madness.
 
Written by Madness sometime vocalist and trumpeter Carl Smyth (aka Chas Smash) and drummer Daniel Woodgate “Michael Caine” might at a first listen sound like some strange hybrid pop song about spies and celebrity and wanting a photograph or something or other. But the song is actually far more complex than its catchy little tune suggests.

I recall it was the NME that first highlighted the deeper (darker) significance of the song “Michael Caine” in its inky black pages. The NME revealed Madness’ eighteenth single was in fact about an IRA informer “forced to live under an assumed name.” When the strain becomes too great for this unlucky chap—he “cracks under the pressure” and all he has as a reminder of his past life is a photograph.

The lyrics are certainly oblique enough to disguise any direct correlation between a world class movie actor, spying, the IRA and “The Troubles”—which was the rather twee term used to describe the war in Northern Ireland between 1968 and 1998. Anyhow, the lyrics go as follows:

He’s walking where I’m afraid I don’t know
I see the firemen jumping from the windows
There’s panic and I hear somebody scream

He picks up useless paper
And puts it in my pocket
I’m trying very hard to keep my fingers clean
I can’t remember tell me what’s his name

And all I wanted was a word or photograph to keep at home
And all I wanted was a word or photograph to keep

The sun is laughing its another broken morning
I see a shadow and call out to try and warn him
He didn’t seem to hear
Just turned away

The quiet fellow follows and points his fingers
Straight at you
He had to sacrifice his pride yes throw it all away

His days are numbered he walks round and round in circles
There is no place he can ever call his own
He seems to jump at the sound of the phone

Staring out the window there’s nothing he can now do
All he wanted was to remain sane
He can’t remember his own name

 
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Madness.
 
It’s obvious from these lyrics the song’s about something nasty in the woodshed. But wait—this was Madness who weren’t exactly known for putting out deep political songs. They were considered “a singles band” which was greatly unfair considering the magnificence of their fourth studio album The Rise & Fall—which is to be frank is their Sgt. Pepper moment—a literal classic. But yes, Madness was seen as a jolly, happy, fun bunch of guys whose ska-influenced music was deeply joyous entertainment.

But then again “Michael Caine” wasn’t the band’s first foray into politics…

Watch ‘Michael Caine,’ after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘An experiment waiting to happen’: A brief history of ‘Two Tone Britain’

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Jerry Dammers: the father of Two Tone records
 
Two Tone was a specifically British, or more accurately English, musical genre that came out of punk and ska in the late 1970s. The roots of Two Tone can be traced back to the arrival of West Indians to England—the so-called “Windrush Generation”—under the British Nationality Act of 1948. This act gave British citizenship to all people living in Commonwealth countries and full rights of entry and settlement in the UK. With the arrival of these Commonwealth citizens came ska and reggae music, which was slowly adopted by the white working class.

Most youth music is exclusive—it’s old versus young; hip versus square; mod versus rocker; slacker versus yuppie; black versus white. Few musical genres are totally or even try to be totally inclusive—there is a built-in snobbishness that comes with the package. The osmosis of ska and Afro-Carribean culture into the white British culture pointed a way towards a truly inclusive musical genre—Two Tone. It was, as Two Tone singer Pauline Black once said, “an experiment waiting to happen.”

During the 1960s, Skinheads took ska as their own—but the growing racism of the skinhead movement led to their ostracization. Reggae replaced ska—but the skins hated reggae’s laid-back, spliffed-up vibe. Skinheads became suedeheads. Popular music moved onto glam rock, heavy metal, and prog rock. Then punk arrived in 1976. A new generation of youngsters saw that the means of music production could be theirs.
 
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Two Tone pioneers The Specials.
 
Jerry Dammers was a young musician in Coventry. He had been a fellow traveler in various youth movements—a hippie, a skinhead, a punk—but his first love was ska. Dammers took the energy of punk with the rhythms of ska and created a new genre of music known as Two Tone—an inclusive, socially aware, “danceable earfest.” Dammers formed the Specials AKA with like-minded youngsters and the best of local talent. The Specials pioneered Two Tone music. They got a record deal that allowed Dammers to set up his Two Tone record label. Its first release was The Specials with “Gangsters” on the A-side and Pauline Black and the Selecter—a band made up in the studio—on the B-side. Dammers quickly signed up the Beat (a.k.a. the English Beat), London band Madness, Bad Manners, the Bodysnatchers and even Elvis Costello and the Attractions.

Two Tone’s iconic black and white label design (an image created by Dammers that was loosely based on a photograph of Pete Tosh from the Wailing Wailers) was a standard for the fans’ style—a mix of Rude Boy and Mod—baggy suit, white shirt, black tie, and porkpie hat. Two Tone brought black and white together and although The Specials could sometimes be didactic—they sent out a political message that united the young.

The whole story is well told by those at its heart and from those who were most influenced by it in Two Tone Britain—a thoroughly enjoyable documentary that makes you realize what at its best music can achieve. (The video embedded below looks suspiciously unavailable, but we assure you, as of the time of posting, you can click on it and watch it!)
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Madness: Ska’s original Nutty Boys in concert from 1980
10.21.2012
06:43 pm

Topics:
Dance
Music
Television

Tags:
Ska
Madness
Suggs
Nutty Boys

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Madness are now as loved as the Queen Mother was once adored by London cab drivers. Understandable as they have been making people happy with their infectious music for over 30 years.

This is Madness live in Nottingham from 1980. Originally recorded for the BBC, it’s a great show, and although the audio isn’t perfect, it’s difficult not to watch without a grin on your face.

Madness Graham ‘Suggs’ McPherson, Mark ‘Bedders’ Bedford, Lee ‘Kix’ Thompson, Carl Smyth (aka Chas Smash), Dan ‘Woody’ Woodgate, Chris Foreman (aka Chrissy Boy), Mike ‘Barso’ Barson

Set list:

01. “Night Boat To Cairo”
02. “E.R.N.I.E”
03. “Mistakes”
04. “Close Escape”
05. “Crying Shame”
06. “Razor Blade Alley”
07. “Baggy Trousers”
08. “My Girl”
09. “Land Of Hope And Glory”
10. “Embarrassment”
11. “On The Pete”
12. “The Prince”
13. “One Step Beyond”
14. “Madness”

Madness will be touring for the release of their 10th studio album Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da (with a cover by Peter Blake), which is out on October 29th, more details here.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Dance Craze - The Best of British Ska Live!’ ft Madness, The Specials, The Beat & more

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There’s no need to explain why this film is such a corker. Joe Massot’s Dance Craze is 84 minutes of absolutely mint performances from the best British ska acts of the early 80s, featuring 27 tracks from Madness, The Specials, The Beat, The Selecter, Bad Manners and The Bodysnatchers.

All the bands were signed to the iconic 2 Tone label, who also put out a soundtrack album featuring some of the best cuts from the film. I have that record and it’s excellent, but seeing the footage for the first time in full really puts it in perspective.

The energy, the passion, the clothes, the diversity and yet the sense of community, it’s no wonder ska was the biggest youth movement in the UK after punk. These gigs look great, and it’s a pity more modern live experiences aren’t as communal and just such goddam fun.

I mean, how could you possibly go wrong with a tracklist like this:

“Nite Klub” – The Specials
“The Prince” – Madness
“Ne-Ne-Na-Na-Na-Na-Nu-Nu” – Bad Manners
“007 (Shanty Town)” – The Bodysnatchers
“Three Minute Hero” – The Selecter
“Ranking Full Stop” – The Beat
“Big Shot” – The Beat
“Concrete Jungle” – The Specials
“Swan Lake” – Madness
“Razor Blade Alley” – Madness
“Missing Words” – The Selecter
“Let’s Do the Rock Steady” – The Bodysnatchers
“Lip Up Fatty” – Bad Manners
“Madness” – Madness
“Too Much Too Young” – The Specials
“On My Radio” – The Selecter
“Easy Life” – The Bodysnatchers
“Rough Rider” – The Beat
“Man at C&A” – The Specials
“Inner London Violence” – Bad Manners
“Night Boat to Cairo” – Madness
“Twist and Crawl” – The Beat
“Wooly Bully” – Bad Manners
“Too Much Pressure” – The Selecter
“Mirror in the Bathroom” – The Beat
“One Step Beyond” – Madness
“Nite Klub” – The Specials
 

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment