Before We Was We: The incredible true story behind London’s kings of pop - 3 reasons to watch the Madness documentary

From the childhood tales of the Nutty Boys to its riotous soundtrack, the AMC documentary Before We Was We: Madness by Madness is a joyous celebration of the British pop icons.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 14 September 2021 - 3.42pm

Madness are one of Britain’s best-loved and biggest pop acts of all time.

Smash hits Baggy Trousers, Our House and House of Fun are classics which have endured for 40 years and are still just as likely to generate a dancefloor frenzy in 2021 as when they were first released in the 1980s.

Suggs and the Nutty Boys are still performing unforgettable sets at Glastonbury and Reading Festival, four decades on from their wild beginnings in Camden Town.

The origins of the ska-pop kings has been turned into three-part docuseries Before We Was We, an adaptation of the group’s acclaimed biography.

Madness in the pub Getty

Focusing on the incredible tales of the band members before they found fame, this is about much more than a trip down memory lane.

Taking in all the sights and sounds of life in London in the 60s and 70s, this film is a fascinating look back at post-war Britain and how it influenced and shapped the lives and music of a generation.

Here are three reasons Before We Was We: Madness by Madness is a must-watch….

1. Inside one of Britain's greatest ever bands

“The premise was that we all got interviewed individually,” explains frontman Suggs.

“And that worked well for the documentary because often not all the band get to say their own bit and that’s what makes it interesting… we’re all contradicting each other.”

Taking us back to each band member’s childhood and school days, the films captures their colourful and chaotic early years.

Each member of the band has a story to tell as they recall the days in which they roamed the streets of London, got involved in petty crime, spent time in prison and got clobbered by teachers in school.

The frequently mischievous and occasionally dark events of their childhood serve to explain the poignancy and energy behind the music that struck a chord with the nation.

2.  The riotous soundtrack

Not only do you get the greatest hits and hidden gems from the Madness back catalogue, the Before We Was We soundtrack is also stuffed with the music that influenced and shaped the group.

From Ian Dury’s glorious Kilburn & The High Roads and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band to Roxy Music and Cat Stevens, it’s a perfect introduction to 70s pop, punk and rock ‘n’ roll.

3. It's a time capsule of post-war London

Madness in the 1970s Getty

Madness fans will love the anecdotes and touching moments where the band explore their bonds and friendships, but this film is about much more than the music and career of Madness.

Beautifully piecing together archive footage with the recollections of the group of the graffiti, unexploded bombs and criminal activities of their youth, the film captures a very different London to the one we all know today.

“You’ve got to be careful of the grumpy old man thing, but it does keep changing. And [London] was better when we were young,” said Suggs.

“But we’ll take pubs for an example. When we were kids there were loads of pubs, everyone met in pubs. Life revolved around the pub. And that bit of culture dissolved for various reasons. Young people ask how did you meet up before mobile phones, well we went to the pub. We would meet there and from there on, things would happen.”

Guitarist Chrissy Boy joked: “If someone said to me then, in the future you will be going somewhere to buy coffee for £3. I would have said ‘get out!’ Now you can’t move for coffee places."

Before We Was We: Madness by Madness episode 1 premieres on Saturday, May 1 at 9pm on AMC.

Watch all three episodes on the BT Player after the premiere.

Episode 1 will also be available for free on YouTube after the premiere.

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