Madness frontman Suggs tells life story at 2012 Edinburgh Fringe
How Suggs got his nickname, recorded Chelsea FC's official song in their winning 1997 FA Cup year, and 18 other stories
This article is from 2012.
1) His real name is Graham McPherson.
2) He was born on 13 January 1961 in Hastings (‘on a stormy night’, according to the man himself), the only child of William Rutherford McPherson, who left home shortly after his son was born and was never heard from again. His mum, Edith Gower, was a singer in pubs and clubs in London’s seedy Soho.
3) He’s married to Anne Martin aka Bette Bright, former lead singer of 1970s Liverpool glam-punk-rock band Deaf School, once credited by Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Scouse star Holly Johnson for single-handedly reviving the Merseyside music scene for the post-Beatles generation.
4) Suggs got his nickname from randomly sticking a pin in his mum’s encyclopaedia of jazz musicians and pricking Pete Suggs, a flautist from 1930s Kentucky best known for recording some ‘hot sides’ with the legendary Ben Webster.
5) Wee Suggs chose this nickname to avoid being slagged off as a member of an ethnic minority (Scottish) by the other kids at his North London comprehensive.
6) Young McPherson was a fan/roadie for the punk skinhead band Skrewdriver, which was fronted by another Englishman with a Scottish name, Ian Stuart Donaldson.
7) This was before Skrewdriver became a neo-Nazi band.
8) The core members of Madness first came together as The North London Invaders in 1976. A year later, Suggs replaced original vocalist Dikron Tulane after seeing The Invaders play in a mate’s back garden.
9) He was kicked out for watching his footy team, Chelsea, instead of rehearsing but was allowed to return the following year.
10) The Invaders changed their name to Morris and the Minors before they became Madness.
11) Madness share the record (with UB40) for the most weeks spent in the UK singles chart by a band in the 1980s. But Madness did it faster.
12) Suggs called Madness’ sixth studio album, Mad Not Mad, a ‘polished turd’. The band split a year later in 1985.
13) During the 1992 reunion concert Madstock!, the 75,000-strong crowd danced so crazily that Finsbury Park tower blocks had to be evacuated, prompting the British Geological Survey to approximate a disturbance equivalent to a magnitude five earthquake.
14) Suggs’ biggest hit as a solo artist was a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Cecilia’, which made number four in the UK music charts.
15) Arguably, his greater success was recording Chelsea FC’s official song for the 1997 FA Cup Final, which they went on to win.
16) Suggs has also collaborated with David Lynch’s go-to soundtrack composer, Angelo Badalamenti, singing a version of ‘Hang Out the Stars in Indiana’ for the soundtrack to The Edge of Love, in which Suggs appears as Al Bowlly, the popular crooner of the British dance band era of the 1930s.
17) Suggs has enjoyed a successful broadcast radio career. He was the first and foremost DJ on BBC 6 Music. More interestingly, he made an impressive comedy double act with the late, great Bob Monkhouse on the Radio 4 musical sitcom I Think I’ve Got a Problem.
18) Suggs has also done lots of telly. As well as the likes of Never Mind the Buzzcocks, he hosted the admirable Salvage Squad, in which a group of engineers restored old machinery such as a steamroller, a plough engine (named Margaret) and a Blackpool Coronation tram. Less admirably, he fronted Channel 5 karaoke quiz show, Night Fever.
19) And he’s done lots of good work for charity. He’s a patron of Children in Need and for Cancer Research UK’s Busking Cancer campaign, Suggs performed a live duet aboard HMS Belfast with Rod Stewart. That’s how serious he is about his charitable work.
20) Alongside late playwright Keith Waterhouse, redtop columnist Richard Littlejohn and actor Ken Stott, Suggs is a member of the Useless Information Society (affiliate of the 20 Fascinating Facts Association).
Suggs: My Life Story, Queen’s Hall, Clerk Street, 0131 668 2019, 21–23 Aug, 7pm, 24 Aug, 7pm, 10pm, £22.50.