Shaggy – Boombastic

Link to video

Release Date: Sept 95
Chart Position: 1

So we arrive at another defining moment of neggae and arguably our last chance for a full house. I’m pretty sure we have not been able to give anything a 50/50 yet (much to Jonny Gills surprise) and I am approaching this with huge anticipation and to be honest I’m also a little nervous about it. A bit like a footballer approaching a big game knowing that they have to perform, I have been delaying the review process ensuring that I can give it my full attention and balanced opinion (that is at least an original excuse for being late again, better than Norm’s new kitchen effort, why do you need a kitchen when you’ve got an egg?). Anyway, I have just settled in with United vs. City on the box, opened a cold one and ready to give this my undivided attention. So here goes, my level headed view… This is f***ing amazing and maybe the best song that has ever been written! Shaggy enters the room by kicking in a door and smashes us with that unforgetable intro that hits you like a sandy flip flop to the face. The rusty feedback from the guitar chords is special and mentally takes you to a magical nightclub where your Shaggy’s VIP with Malibu and girls on tap. A club where pretty girls walk round handing out Rollovers and black death tar flavoured Sambuca and last orders that never quite arrive but you live constantly in that last 45mins of the night, the bit of the night when all the cool sh*t happens. Where there is always that comfortably busy amount of people on the D Floor that only really happens on TV and where there is a girl walking round with a piece of toilet paper stuck to her heel to provide a shared and common joke amongst the other party people. The lyrics are cool as and the “…touch me in my back she says I’m Mr Ro……” that leaves us hanging for a second or two is one of the best moments in neg history, pure class! Chuck in some chat about cheese and peas, turtles and and a foot bottom, it all makes for quite a ride. 10/10 from me, it don’t be no better dan dis ever!


James BC
A confession: I didn’t much care for this at the time. It was a deeper, harder proposition than the standard neggae fare, and as a Year 8 at a boys’ grammar school without a great deal of life experience the lyric didn’t really connect. A couple of decades on, though, things are different: I am a swaggering man of the world, maybe not in Shaggy’s premier division but at least around League One level, and my musical appreciation has matured. Physically, emotionally and intellectually, I am now ready to appreciate “Boombastic” to the full and give it the glowing write-up it deserves.
Because it is an astonishing track. The production must have been miles ahead of anything else in the chart at the time – it’s a painstaking deconstruction and reassembly of reggae into a minimal, hyper-tuned form where every remaining element tingles the spine. It’s a reggae version of what the Neptunes did with RnB a few years later. One snare in a bar, one piano chord, that two-stroke guitar riff, and looooots of space. Beautiful stuff, but it does need a compelling vocal to hold it all together…
…and fortunately Shaggy’s performance is out of this world. Usually songs with “Hello, this is who I am” as the subject are dicing with mortal danger – take for example the British rap non-entity Chipmunk on his debut single, gibbering about being Chip-Diddy-Chip and not tolerating lip-diddy-lip, people say he’s crazy but he don’t give a owh, the whole thing is just unspeakable, squirming garbage. Shaggy takes the same subject and makes it look like the easiest thing in the world. He’s Jesus Christ bogling across the lake while St Peter (Chip) scrabbles around getting devoured by barnacles. “She call me Mr Boombastic” – of course she does, we all do. “Say me fantastic” – yes we do. Normally I hate people like that, but in Shaggy’s case you can’t doubt his self-proclaimed greatness for a second. I don’t know who else could have pulled it off – Des Lynam maybe, before the ITV debacle, but you have to be THAT cool even to consider it.
The song is a mass of contradictions: romantic yet hilarious, monotonous yet thrilling, arrogant yet personable, experimental yet immediate. Criticisms? Well, “Boombastic” isn’t a word, so Shaggy’s probably forfeited his chance at a dictionary corner appearance, but I’m not Susie Dent. I honestly don’t see how it could ever be bettered.
Score: 10 out of 10

1974 – Muhammad Ali  sustained 8 rounds of pummeling from George Foreman in the rumble in the Jungle. Eventually exhausted by his efforts, Foreman capitulates to Ali in the last seconds of the round. The technique is named ‘Rope-a-dope’, due to Ali using the ropes to take the strain of Foreman’s punches.
1999 – Manchester United beat  Bayern Munich 2-1 by scoring goals in the 91st and the 93rd after trailing the entire game, thereby winning the European Champions’ League Final. Their ability to achieve success in the final minutes of a match coins the phrase ‘Fergie Time’. How times have changed.
2014 – After going  missing from the Neggae Hot 90 for about two years (In the Summertime doesn’t count) , Orville Richard Burrell finally returns with what I believe to be the greatest Neggae hit we have seen. If Shaggy wins this, I want the phrase ‘he’s done a Shaggy’ there’ to enter common parlance for any time somebody nonchalantly rocks up at the end of something and delivers with fantastic aplomb.Boombastic is quite simply a fantastic pop record – a perfect exponent of the Dancehall sound that developed in JA through the 80s and 90s. Unlike a lot of the Neggae Hot 90 it is achingly modern, and while at its core it uses a sample of King Floyd’s “Baby Let Me Kiss You”,  the production is so crisp you can hardly tell.
What hits you first are the huge guitar riffs, which for me explore the relatively overlooked relationship between Dancehall and Rock. Under mi Sleng Teng was based on an Eddie Cochran riff, and I think Boombastic cements the same, bluesy, deep-down-and-dirty feel that is common in the two genres. The song’s popularity was definitely aided by its use in the latest Levi’s advert, and I do wonder if without it such a harsh, sparse riddim could have topped the charts. But it did, and frankly, who cares?
The song structure is fantastically irregular – with multiple drum patterns switching in and out to accompany Shaggy’s incredible inventive wordplay. I also love the interchange between standard reggae chord stabs and the singular on-key pulse. Fantastic.  After listening closely to this for the first time in nearly 20 years I also noticed that there is a blazing Jimi Hendrix style guitar solo around the 1m28 sec mark. So much going on in this record.
Shaggy absolutely revels in his lothario image in the song and the video, Theophilus P.Wildebeeste incarnate. But unlike similar Neggae lovermen such as Shabba Ranks, Shaggy’s lyrical dexterity is mindbendingly surreal – more in common with US hip-hop wordsmiths. So many lines to choose from but:
“I’m just like a turtle crawling out of my shell 
Gal you captivate my body put me under a spell
With your cus cus perfume I love your sweet smell
You are the only young girl that can ring my bell “

Is my fave.
Also worth noting is the drawn out ‘Roooooo-mantic’ phrase – Shaggy cleverly managing to sound like a stopped record starting again. Lee Mack clearly a Neggae fan then.
Drawbacks? Well the song and specifically the Lover Lover catchphrase spawned a career for rubber-faced prank-phonecall DJ Steve Penk.  I never cared for him much.
Score: After Tease Me, this is the greatest Neggae song on the chart. 10/10.

After some fairly middling releases I’ve been looking forward to this one, the man who gave Darren Anderton his nickname makes his third Hot 90 appearance, it’s SHAGGY. This originally came to my attention when used to soundtrack a Levi’s advert and it blew me away. The combination of neggae and clay motion was an instant hit for me, like the California Raisins on a cocktail of steroids and Viagra. They advert was to promote Levi’s boglestruts which used bogletron technology. The idea was you plugged your walkman into your Levi’s boglestruts, played some neggae and let the jeans strut for you instantly turning you into a sexual panther. I tried it on the way to work this morning and it worked as I got the digits of a couple of right little saucepots (well Dave the Frog and Hoover, and I had to grab a couple of smoked Peter Stuyvesant butts to seal the deal with Hooves, but like Carling Cup goals, they all count).
The song starts with some machine gun staccato drums and then Shaggy declaring himself ‘MR BOOMBASTIC’ and I make him right. The production is groundbreaking for neggae, I’m going out on a limb and saying this is Neggae 2.0. There’s a sonic chainsaw noise which is grimier than a Victorian chimney sweep this is coupled with a piano loop which adds the neggae flavour . The beat’s off time which probably makes this the first glitch house record, there’s also a bit of psyche wigging out guitar thrown in at various stages to complete the melting pot of musical styles. I had to seek out who produced this cerebral cortex melting number and it turns out the man himself, are there no ends to this man’s talents?
Lyrically it’s Shaggy at his braggadocios best as he hammers it home he’s the Casanova of the Caribbean and there are some fantastic rhyming couplets in there, my favourite being;
‘I’m just like a turtle crawling out of my shell, Gal you captivate my body put me under a spell’
He also drags out syllables where the lyrics don’t quite scan but does it with a sexual growl, frankly when he declares ‘I’m Mr Roooooo mantic’ my nipples go hard.
The video tips a nod to the Hype Williams RnB style videos of the time with a bevy of gals whinin’ with Shaggy in a big white mansion. It’s not particularly original but it’s had a bit of cash thrown at it and suits the theme of the song perfectly.
This is like Neggae from the future people, and with that in mind it has to be 10/10.

It doesn’t get much better than this. Shaggy is Shaggy and he slides in smoothly with a sublime offering in Boombastic. A nice intro and then Shaggy is off and running with his wildly efficient and raspy vocals that are easily recognizable to anyone with half an ear for mid 90’s neg. He glides through the song from verse to verse in true ‘lyrical lover” fashion. It’s a joy to listen to but for me at 3m5s Shaggy breaks it down and accelerates rapidly for about 25 seconds worth of rap which is most indecipherable but non the less very entertaining. This leaves me head bobbing, dreaming of Malibu cocktails and feeling satisfied. At the end Shaggy then slows it down, relaxes the mood and the song ends well, drifting off with one last word, “SMOOTH”. I like it and approve whole heartedly. Shaggy’s video production isn’t up to much but in his defense, it encompasses everything Shaggy stands for, scantily clad ladies, hip thrusting and looking suave. He accomplished that quickly and for that he will only get docked a little bit for that In my opinion if you don’t like Shaggy, you’re a goon, a non musical twonk with the personality of big Sam and probably enjoy listening to Ali Campbell while supping a ginger beer shandy.
Put me down for 9.9/10 only missing out on the ultimate prize because of a slightly dodgy video.



C.J Lewis – R to the A

Release Date: Sept 95
Chart Position: 34

James BC
God bless CJ Lewis and his made-up patois. He encapsulates the neggae era for me more than any other artist, mainly because I can’t imagine him existing, let alone having any kind of success, at any other time. So it’s fitting that his last act as a commercial proposition was to release this paean to the style that was so good to him, and us, and the entire world of music.
R to the A, short for R to the A to the G to the G to the A (Ay!), means RAGGA, which means dancehall, only nobody called it dancehall in the 90s. And CJ’s tribute is brilliant. I don’t care that the production sounds like three Will Smith songs rammed together and has as much to do with Jamaica as Merlene Ottey (she’s Slovenian now, look it up) – CJ could rap over Enya and it would still make anyone’s barbecue playlist. He is neggae incarnate and he brings his A game here, having noticeably improved since Sweets For My Sweet (do I hear some Apache Indian-style quarter tones?), and creates the upbeat, all-inclusive party banger that neggae deserves.
If only this were better remembered it could be the national anthem of neggae. At the very least, when the inevitable jukebox musical (working title: Boombastic!) goes into production it should open the show. Well done CJ for showing everyone that he wasn’t a one-hit wonder or purely a covers merchant – this original outshines Sweets For My Sweet, which is high praise indeed.
Score: 9 out of 10
r to the a

CJ Lewis is back this week and it’s an apt time for him to pop up as he’s ditched Judith, Daphne and the rest of the eggheads to go solo in Revenge of the Egghead in which he plays a pantomime villain parody of himself sneering at members of the public when they get a question wrong, it’s not great if I’m honest, I prefer Pointless.  CJ’s latest offering in the Hot 90 (is it 90 anymore? I’m sure like the Warriors we’ve lost some soldiers on this epic journey. Does anyone care anymore? I didn’t realise nineties reggae was so arduous, I’m going to require a 6 month stint in the Priory after this) is Neggae’s Y.M.C.A with the chorus shouting out individual letters to spell Ragga, actually it spells Raggaa, a basic bit of sub-editing wouldn’t have gone amiss here, wouldn’t surprise me if Norm wrote the chorus.
The production on this is pretty much RnB as it samples the And the beat goes on by the Whispers which was also famously used by Will Smith for Gangsta Rap smash Miami. I’m not really sure there’s much Neg about the production but I don’t care as it’s a great tune and has been used nicely in this case. Lyrically it basically encapsulates the prevailing attitudes and whole culture surrounding ragga like the Neggae equivalent of those oh so clever twats who used to do Shakespeare in 60 seconds. The basic message is we’re here to have a good time, have a dance and a few beers by all means, you can even chance your arm with the ladies but the minute you step out of line we’re coming down on you like a like a cigarette burn to the neck you dry lunch.
The video was shot at CJ’s infamous gig at Harper’s in Guildford when the bouncers threatened to throw him out for wearing trainers but luckily he had a mate who lived in Godalming with the same size feet so got a cab over there and borrowed a pair of shoes. CJ is shown dancing about with some attractive young ladies whilst channelling the man from Del Monte in that dodgy whistle. There’s the first recorded incident of product placement in a neggae video as one of the said ladies is shown sparking up a Rothmans, naturally that wouldn’t be allowed now but these were more innocent times where you were still allowed to drink 8 pints and drive, at least that’s what most of my mates seemed to think.
Score: Overall this is D to the E to the C to the E to the N to the T A and gets a 7/10 from me.

I’m late again. Feeling the pressure from everyone apart from James BC (which I appreciate) I had good intentions to get this review in on time but this has been a mother of a week. I won’t go into too much detail but I will let you in on the reason why I didn’t make it last night. Having bought a new leather sofa recently, I’ve become quite protective over it and have good intentions of keeping it in pristine condition. I am constantly telling the kids off for eating and drinking on it, you know the drill, “NO CRUMBS, DON’T SPILL THAT, PLEASE DON’T MAKE A MESS” Anyway, the kids are pretty well trained now, the dog however is not. I walk around the corner and see our 80lb Labrador snoring and chillaxin’ on my sofa. I struggle to get her off and give her a boot up the arse, in doing so I think I broke my foot, tore a metatarsal or something like that. All I know is that the dog strolled off and fell asleep in the corner and I had to limp around with a grimace on my face for the rest of the night. But, back to CJ Lewis and R to the A.
I don’t remember this one if I’m honest. It starts off nicely in typical CJ fashion with a quick rap intro. Then we roll right into some sort of Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr (AKA Snoop Doggy Dogg) influence. I kept looking around for Warren G to pop up on stage and help CJ out, take the mic and roll into a smooth verse with Nate Dogg. Sadly, they never materialized and CJ gets back to what CJ does – More fast paced vocals in his unique island style.
The pace of the song was pretty good but in my opinion CJ was confused with this effort, veering off on an odd tangent with the R to the A to the G to the G to the A. I kind of like it, I kind of don’t like it. It’s a little like watching Liverpool play, they pass it nicely for most of the game then Suarez dives and gets a penalty thus leaving a sour taste in my mouth.
Score: So, for this CJ effort, I’m slap bang in the middle with a 5/10. Could do better, could do worse. It had me head bobbing for half of it anyway. I’m off to put my foot on ice. Peace out.

R to the A the double G Smash!!! I really shouldn’t like this but some reason I do, especially given the last few days I have had. Trying to get Audi to claim accountability for a very obvious defect on their rear view mirrors is a bigger task than I first imagined. I clearly checked my mirrors and there was no sign of that large expensive 4×4 parked behind me, until I hit it then it appeared, how is that my fault? But for some reason those shrewd Germans are sticking to their guns and refusing to accept responsibility. Anyway at least insurance companies are an understanding and compassionate breed of people to deal with!
So CJ’s offering was a pleasant surprise that I really thought I would hate, especially given the very linear projection of his most recent hits:

Sweets for my Sweets #3
Everything is Alright #10
Best of my Love #13
Dollars #34

Things were not on the up in Sept 95 for CJ and if you were a betting man you would not put any money on his next release being good for anything apart from “Now That What I Call Summer Guff fodder”. However I do find it likable in a guilty pleasure type of way. I think the sampling of And The Beat Goes On is maybe what tips the balance for me, I quite like that tune.
So, it’s no Sweets for my Sweets by any stretch of the imagination, but better than I expected, maybe my expectations were simply very low this week.
Score: 6/10 from me this week!

CJ Lewis returns with the first (and unfortunately only) hit offering from his difficult 2nd LP, Rough ‘N’ Smooth. It was a wholly slicker affair, with CJ taking in pop and r’n’b influences. And while hugely popular in the Far East (shifted 150,000 copies in the first week) its smooth sound signalled the beginning of the end of CJ’s popularity in the UK – his original fanbase preferring the hardcore dancehall of his earlier releases (i.e. before Sweets etc.) While this UK-lite version of the NegJack Swing sound we’ve seen before is not really my cup of tea, CJ should be commended for trying to take Neggae in a new direction.
His label RCA were clearly confident in the new style, as the video is an altogether more lush affair than we had seen from him. Gone are the Sharp Viewcam gonzo promos shot beneath the Bullring, and in is a glossy, nightclub flick that Bobby Brown would have been proud of.
On first inspection, the production of the song is high end too, and the using the Whispers sample is a nice touch. However, if you want to here how Disco and Dancehall should be spliced together, check out Noisybunch records. It makes R to the A sound pretty one-dimensional.
By 1995, just as swingbeat was being phased out in the US for the heavier, more street R’n’B, the UK was going swingbeat mad. And it was a specifically UK strain of Swingbeat – well-intentioned but just a bit naffer than the real thing. And while I’m fond of it’s quaintness – its basicaly like New Jack on rations. If new Jack Swing is the Big-Mac, then this sort of sound is the Wimpy Bender-in-a-bun. The beats aren’t as polished – and there are very few real hip-hop references Think of those harsh rat-a-tat beats that open BBD’s Poison; These are replaced by metronominic Bontempi kepboard beats and a G-Funklite whistle. Fastlove, Return of the Mack, PJ and Duncan’s If I give you my number – all share the same sound as this.
But is Ro to the A Neggae? Well, that’s where CJ comes in. His toasting is absolutely neggaesque – and his vocal dexterity is a vast improvement on his earlier efforts. But that’s it. And maybe if he’s have riddimified the skankometer by another 15% he’d have impressed me (and more importantly his old skool bredren) a little more.
Score: 6/10


Suggs – I’m only sleeping

Release Date: Aug 95
Chart Position: 7

James BC
Suggs dives into his wholly uncalled-for mid-90s solo career with a cover of a hazy, mazy Beatles song about sleep – an odd fit for a man associated with frenetic heavy heavy monster ska. The contradiction actually works to the song’s advantage, though: Suggs and his secret-weapon producers Sly and Robbie seem to be testing John Lennon’s song to destruction, seeing how much noise they can chuck into it and still make it sound at all sleepy. They add a driving rhythm, clattering drums, 2-tone trombones and all sorts of sound effects but the tune stands the test: it retains an oneiric quality amid the racket thanks to Suggs’ unrushed delivery, the slightly meandering song structure and that heavy-eyed Lennon melody.
The trombonist is the MVP here, supplying both the introduction and an excellent solo later on. I wonder if it’s Rico – it sounds a bit like him anyway. Suggs clearly learnt from Ali Campbell’s mistake last week: where Ali took ‘solo career’ a bit too literally, kicking everyone else out and leaving just him and a Casio with the presets from the last UB40 release, Suggsy picks his collaborators well. Sly and Robbie are on drums and bass, Madness’s Mike Barson is on keys and I think the ‘hey, hey’ bits are Chas Smash, aka the Bez of Madness, albeit a Bez capable of writing a worldwide hit song. Add the cameo from Rico or his identical twin and it’s a neggae/ska supergroup, and for once the whole proves equal to the sum of its parts and not a Velvet Revolver-type hubristic disaster.Suggs+-+I'm+Only+Sleeping+++Photo+Cards+-+5-+CD+SINGLE-55688

Sound-wise, the song is very much neggae rather than ska. Sly and Robbie do their job and this fits very nicely alongside their other productions of the era. It’s meticulous, catchy and never short of ideas. If it recalls anything by Madness I’d say it has something of the atmosphere of Cardiac Arrest, especially the chorus, but that would only be the faintest echo and the song succeeds on its own terms. If it has a flaw, it’s the bit about watching the world outside your window – who looks out of the window when they’re trying to sleep? But that’s John Lennon’s fault, not Suggs’. Maybe he let Yoko write that line.
Realising that not every young neg-head would have heard of Madness, Suggs wisely made I’m Only Sleeping a double A-side with a track of his own to avoid being written off as a covers merchant, a poor man’s Bitty McLean or CJ Lewis. For me his original earns its place alongside the Beatles song, the Ray Davies-type lyric suiting Suggs’ voice perfectly and bringing back lots of fond memories of British seaside holidays. Sly and Robbie’s production is on the money once again, a pretty piano figure giving way to triumphant trombones as Suggs approaches his destination, all underpinned by insistent neggae drums and organ. It’s the perfect song to play in the car when you’re going away, alternating with Dizzee Rascal and Typically Tropical all the way down to Redruth.
Much like Suggs’ holidays, this release isn’t all ointment and no flies. I’m not going to stick up for the videos, which both contain some truly terrible dancing; the songs are a slightly slower tempo than Suggs is used to and he clearly doesn’t know what to do with himself, gamely settling on a combination of dad-dance bopping and Marcel Marceau hand waves. But this isn’t music for dancing, it’s music to enjoy on a lazy afternoon. Many ageing artists have attempted songs about middle-aged domesticity and few have emerged with any credit, but Suggs has the charm, the down-to-earthness and the contacts to pull it off.
Score: 7.5 out of 10 (7 for Off On Holiday, 8 for I’m Only Sleeping)

You need pretty big conkers to cover something like this, so hats off to Suggs on that front. But that is as far as it goes I’m afraid, this is poor! I’m struggling to think of what to write about it as I feel any significant time spent trying to analyse this mess would just be wasted. However for some reason it reminds me of something strange. Quite some years ago I used to be a big fan of Live & Kicking (Zoe Ball used to look OK back then) and in particular used to look forward to the Hit Miss or Maybe section of the show, watching the top 3 records of the week and have some celebrities do a quick review of them (almost like an earlier more crude but more fun version of what we are doing with this blog actually). Anyway I remember one week Brian McFadden was on it as Westlife had just hit the big time so must have been roughly 1998’ish and they were reviewing John Lennon’s Imagine as it had been rereleased for charity. Can’t remember who else was with him but he gave a Maybe! Pulling a funny face and waggling his over sized comedy thumb horizontally to indicate neither a yay or a nay! Even Theakston looked stunned: “You what Brian? You think this a Maybe do you?” Brian replied ‘Well it’s OK. It’s not my sort of thing. I would have thought that they could have jazzed it up a bit with some sort of funky backbeat or sumting (Irish for something)” I remember shouting at the TV “What the f**k you talking about you Paddy Di*k!!! You have no clue about anything. Go and be miserable somewhere and never appear on my TV again”. Although I wanted bad things for him I never would have wished Kerry Katona upon him! That is too much!! Anyway even the rest of the panel looked surprised and let McFadden hang himself with them all giving it rave reviews as one of the best songs ever written, timeless, hope it generates some money for the charity, etc, etc. McFadden looked like a twat and started to backtrack but Theakston was having none of it and said that he had given us his opinion and that was that. You have to live with your mistakes Brian, of all people you should know that! Why do I recall this tale I hear you ask? Well I’ll tell you why. I reckon that if Brian McFadden were to review Suggs’s I’m Only Sleeping he would be like a pig in sh*t! He’d love it. Taking a beautiful song and cheapening it seems to be what flicks his switch. This is so bad even Brain McFadden would like it – 2/10 from me.

Oh Suggs. Bugger off. It’s been a hell of a week, I’m late submitting my review, I’m getting the traditional feisty messages from the other Neggae elders that have submitted their reviews on time and are now looking for answers from me. So, I sit in front of my computer at 8am Saturday morning with half an hour to spare before it’s time to shuttle the kids around town for footie. I click on the link with good intentions, and BOOM. Suggs, dishing out more non sensical tripe. As the video opens with a sleepy Suggs, I’m concerned that this is going to be bad. My worst fears are confirmed shortly after the nice horn introduction which helps to make it slightly Neggified. That’s about it though. The slow tempo of this one had me head bobbing, nodding off, finding myself daydreaming and wishing that I wasn’t listening to this. I get a feeling that Ali Campbell had some influence on the direction of this production. I know there is some sort of story going on with the video but honestly, I’m not bothered. It’s silly and annoying. The more the song goes on, I’m not even sure this is allowed to be even considered Neggae. Oh, feck it. I can’t do this anymore. This song and video is beyond awful. Put me down for 2/10 and that goes to whoever is in charge of the horns.

So we’ve arrived at the point of neggae I’ve been dreading, it’s the gurning gooner Suggs.  I’m going to come clean straight away, I’ve never been a fan of Madness as novelty bands generally do my head in. I have many friends who hold them in high regard and will bristle at me describing them as a novelty band but any band that plays toy instruments, are associated with a stupid dance and hoist there sax player up on wire are complete zaniacs in my book, Madness are Black Lace in suits and sunglasses. In fact the only thing Suggs has ever done that I enjoyed was the Channel 5 karaoke show ‘Night Fever’ and I think this is because I associate it with blazing zoots and necking Stella in an Acton flat whilst feverishly anticipating how strong that night’s betsys were going to be.
For this entry Suggs has decided to take on the Beatles, yes you’ve read that correctly, its boxing equivalent would be Butterbean taking on Tyson in his prime.  The song in question is the woozy, psychedelic ‘I’m only sleeping’ , ‘this could be interesting’ you think, ‘maybe Suggs will incorporate a neg/dub crossover to mirror the lazy, hypnotic style of the original?’. The intro immediately dispels  any such thoughts with ‘comedy’ snoring, an alarm clock and a jaunty beat beloved by fat, bald men who’ll hit the dance floor of their local pub/social club as soon as it kicks in and will clear it immediately of any females. Added to this uninspiring production you’ve got a sped up sample of some of the theme from ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ and various other cartoon sound effects including a skidding car, a cuckoo clock and other Dangermouse cast offs. I’m not even sure this can be classed as neggae as it sounds like a Legz Akimbo ska offering.
Suggs deploys his usual affected vocal style which sounds like a tranquilised Tommy Steele having a stroke, I do have to give that to him, his vocal style is distinctive but mind you so is Orville’s and I don’t see any of my mates queuing up to worship him.  He’s got some female backing singers which are probably Louchie Lou and Michie One in attempt to keep the wolf from the door.  Lyrically it’s the Beatles so I’m not going to pick holes in it but when Suggs sings this line ‘Please don’t wake me, No, don’t shake me, leave me where I am, I’m only sleeping’ I start to imagine him singing this to me from a roadside ditch in minus temperatures dressed in summer attire, this makes me smile.
The video is standard Madness/Suggs bollocks with that quim taking every opportunity to mug to the camera in a comedic and arch manner. What an enigma, is he basically sharing a knowing wink with the viewers at the absurdity of it all? Actually who cares, he’s an annoying spunkrag. There’s bits of him being literal about the lyrics like a 12 year old with learning difficulties giving a dance recital and some other shit with people playing instruments in a wardrobe or acting like Stag Beetles who’ve been flipped onto their backs. At best it’s an incoherent mess.
As this may have given a new generation an interest in the Beatles I’ll give it a mark, but basically he can Sugg my bloodpumper – 1/10

After their breakup in 1986, Madness never really went away. Thanks to their quirky, witty videos and quality, well-crafted quintessentially English pop music they were fixtures on the radio and TV in the following years that made up my adolescence. In 1992 their Madstock concert caused an earthquake, they sold a few watches too. But unfortunately, Unlike their Britreggae peers UB40, Madness missed out on the Neggae payday – having to wait a few years for their return to the top 10 with the excellent Lovestruck. Wise old Suggs went out on his own though, and at the tail end of Neggae bagged several top 40 hits, thus keeping his profile high and securing the gig as host on the phenomenal Channel 5 Karaoke show Night Fever. Will Mellor and Barry form Eastenders joined him.
The summer of 1995 I completed my GCSEs and rather opened my mind to many new musical avenues. A combination of a heatwave, solid underage pub drinking, full time employment and hash cakes resulted in my exposure to more music, and more music magazines. I grew out of my brief Rave fascination, and although traditionally a fan of black music, delved deeper into the Britpop sounds that dominated the radio.
I started reading Q and learnt about the Beatles periods that weren’t moptop or Pepper. At the same time, my pal Dom Payne unearthed his Mum’s pristine Beatles LPs. She was a Beatlemaniac from the start but found their post-Pepper output ‘a bit weird’ so that’s where the LPs stopped. We did however gorge on Rubber Soul and Revolver that summer round his – the swirling, eclectic sounds were perfect fodder for young fertile minds that were open to any form of stimulation.
From then on I was a confirmed Beatles nut. I did what any teenager in his right mind would do in the 90s to get the rest of their output: I took out the offer with the Britannia music club to receive 5 free cassettes for the price of one in the post. And then spent the next two years getting sent stuff I didn’t want.
So, when Graham ‘Suggs’ McPherson took on Lennon’s Psychedelic, Somnambulant gem I’m Only Sleeping and turned it into a jaunty Neggae workout – I took it as a personal affront. It felt disrespectful, cheap almost. All those wonderful sounds and textures flattened out, reducing this country’s two greatest musicians to a CJ Lewisesque romp. I absolutely hated it.
Time has tempered my feelings towards it somewhat, and I can see that it is not without its charms. The BigBeat style drum breaks are well produced, and the riddim overall snaps quite nicely. A quick glance on Discogs revelas that Sly and Robbie put it together – and you can tell. I also like the fact that Suggs retained the services of Monsieur Barso and Chas from Madness, enabling I’m sure the full reunion proper a few years down the line. I like theEnnio Morricone inspired keyboard whistle noise, a reference surely the ScandiNegg classic All That She Wants by Ace of Base. I also can’t deny that the trombone replacing George Harrison’s backwards guitar works well.
BUT… He loses points for stretching the song out for another minute. Thinks he’s better than the Beatles does he? He loses another point for the freakydeaky video. Started off like an advert for Kellogs Fruit’n’Fibre but then quickly morphed into Lullaby by the Cure which as a child gave me nightmares. Thanks for dredging all that up Suggs. This song was pitched as a double A-Side, with Off on Holiday bringing up the rear. Where I come from, a double A-side suggests two songs of such high quality that the artist can’t choose which should lead. If this were true, and Suggs really felt Off on Holiday was Number One material, he would have spent more that £50 on the video. Atrocious.
When Q did Cash for Questions (readers received a tenner if their submitted question gets asked) with Suggs a few years back, I pitched in with this:
“You had a top 10 hit with I’m only Sleeping in 1995. Have you thought about doing a full on Nineties Reggae version of Revolver from start to finish? I’ve done the artwork for you to get you started.”

Front cover:


Back Cover:


Note, this was before the EasyStar Allstars started doing reggae versions of entire LPs such as Dub Side of The Moon and Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band. Suggs would have been well ahead of the curve. But, in the words of John and Paul, I received ‘No Reply’.
Score: A surprisingly high 6/10 for me