Suggs feat. Louchie Lou & Michie One – No More Alcohol

Release Date: Sept 96
Chart Position: 24

‘And now, the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain’

It’s the last one, unbelievable, after two years of toil, hardship, listening to some utter dogshit and having to bully Jonny we’re finally there. I’m going to start with a shout to the homies who didn’t make it.

Jamie – Started the blog writing about the Republic of Ireland’s 1994 World Cup campaign and often missed deadlines as he was dressing up his dog as Spiderman. Once he was told it was a nineties reggae blog the output improved dramatically. The China Black autograph story is my favourite neggae based anecdote ever, like a Jamaican Peter Ustinov. – 7/10

The late Keith De Vivre (God rest his soul) – Inconsistent delivery, often dependent on availability of class As, booze and whores. At best creative genius, at worst lazy f*cker. – 5/10

Franks – Who? I hear you ask, in a signing reminiscent of Arsenal signing Clive Allen he didn’t manage one review and then became the Neggae equivalent of Richey Edwards as he dropped off the face of the earth (well the Neggae message group anyway) – 0/10

Norm – Initially suspected of being under contract from Lilt, Malibu and Egg with the amount of product placement contained in reviews, soon grew into it and liked the gauging the kid’s reactions to songs proving that Neggae spans generations. Still not been fully forgiven for his role in the Dawn Penn scandal. – 7/10

James BC – Came late to the party and has consistently delivered on before deadline with a writing style that puts the rest of us to shame. Some very dubious scoring though, particularly the Shaggy efforts with Grand Puba and Maxi Priest. 7/10

Now to my two fellow survivors of Neggae, it’s been a journey which has been fraught along the way but we’ve come through the trials and tribulations to complete a historical document of the boom time of commercial Reggae. For this we can be proud of ourselves.

Jonny – After a very shaky start he responded positively to coaching, advice and  constant bullying from his fellow Neggae elders he really turned it round. The unsung hero of the blog, the Neggae Makelele, as he worked very hard to create very little and made the rest of us look good. – 9/10

Vince – Creator of the blog, without him there’d be no documenting of Neggae. Started off  strongly but then like Capello’s England rein lost the dressing room with a disciplinarian approach which included censorship and rejecting reviews, Jonny and I used to call him Postman Pat behind his back. Took a leaf out the Manchester United board’s book during the Moyes rein and promoted his star player to a coaching role which improved results immediately. – 9/10

Gouldy – The only reason I read this blog – 10/10

Now onto the last ever Neggae hot 90 entry and fittingly it ends with my old nemesis Suggs. The first thing I had to was refresh the link four or five times as I thought Vince had supplied the wrong one, it’s the f*cking ‘Macarena’ isn’t it? So basically we start off with the Macarena then the famous sax riff from ‘Tequila’ kicks in (I always preferred the Terrorvision song) so in summing up this production is Jive Bunny lite, abysmal. Suggs gurns his way through the song and ropes in Louchie Lou and Michie One to tell him off again, which is a bit weird and shows masochistic tendencies. Lyrically Suggs jokes his way through a description of alcoholism, making light of what’s basically a disease. Let’s look at some facts.

  • Every year alcohol causes around 4% of cancer cases in the UK, about 12,500 cases;
  • Heavy drinking can reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can trigger type 2 diabetes;
  • Alcohol is linked to suicide, self-harm and psychosis;
  • There are over 8000 alcohol related deaths in the UK every year.

So nice one Suggs, laugh it up, can’t wait for your ‘Cancerbantz’ single.

The video is a confused mish-mash which starts off with cowgirls doing a line dancing version of the Macarena. The standard bloke on sax being lifted through the air on a wire shot, nice to see some originality in the Suggs-related canon of music videos. We continue to Suggs as a boxer, then the unthinkable hell of multiple Suggs. It finishes with Louchie Lou and Michie One dressed as Neggae versions of Nefertiti before the final act of everyone falling down, because they’re drunk, great stuff! I have to say it’s a shame a period of such epic highs and lows has to finish off with this shit but it does go a long way to explain the subsequent success of Embrace and other shit-pop bands, they seem like the Beatles in comparison to this. Suggs, you’re a wretch of a man.

Score: 1/10 – Farewell Neggae, it’s a shame your death was as dignified as Stephen Milligan’s.

James BC
Everyone agrees that the neggae era properly ended with Mysterious Girl, reviewed last week, but like that hilarious guy in assembly who had to keep clapping longer than everyone else, there was always gonna be one twerp who didn’t know when to stop. And it was always gonna be Suggs. If you look at the charts for 95-97 you’ll see that Suggsy somehow got embroiled in a single-releasing competition with George Michael – a big mistake as it turned out, since no matter how dirgetastic George’s tunes got, all EIGHT of them made the top three, while this, the sixth track to come off The Lone Ranger album, only got to number 24.
And that’s despite the efforts of Suggs‘s marketing team who, canny as ever, realised that the millions of people who had already bought The Lone Ranger would need an extra incentive to stump up again for this single, so they came up with this pretty substantially remixed version of the original song. On the album, Alcohol (not No More Alcohol) is as much a queasy, woozy, clammy cautionary tale as it is a knees-up. No More Alcohol, on the other hand, doesn’t let its knees drop for a second. It speeds things up, bins the original chorus and most of the instrumentation, loops the Tequila interpolation and mixes in the Macarena for added subtlety, plus another all-new Louchie Lou and Michie One rap.
Does it work? No, not really. If you want the Macarena, get the Macarena. If you want Tequila, get Tequila. If you want both of them, get Now That’s What I Call Butlins Chucking Out Time Volume 4. Suggs‘s contribution doesn’t add a lot when the original, menacingly double-edged lyric is completely lost in a fug of enforced fun. And even Louchie and Michie are in very poor form compared to their game-saving performance on Cecilia. I hate to say it, but their appearance seems almost like filler that is purely there to pad the track out to the requisite three minutes.
As for the video, most of it is classic Suggs mime-dancing and acting out lyrics, backed up by line dancing cowgirls who must have made an impression on Pete Waterman’s mind at least. Just over a year later the audition process was complete and “the mighty” Steps were unleashed on the public, with the glory of neggae a distant (though never fading) memory.
And that’s it. No More Alcohol, No More Neggae. That is to say, with the greatest respect to T-Spoon, Mr President, Kevin Lyttle, Sean the Paul, the Second Coming of Shaggy, Snoop Lion and all the rest who followed later, the neggae glory years were done. Let’s remember the highlights, not this somewhat shoddy afterthought.
Score: 4 out of 10

So here we are at the final hurdle and how fitting that it is a massive low vs. last week as it typifies this whole experience. Mysterious Girl was masterpiece of summer fun that cheered everybody up when they were down and reminded us all of care free open air boozing. This unfortunately only reminds me of the lows of the era.
Is this even neg? Is Suggs even a person? Strictly speaking do cowgirls line dancing on a beach classify as neggae, reggae, or anything like that? I don’t think so. Having said that and given that this is the final review I am not in quite as bad a place as I would normally be with it, although I am not softening my opinion of Suggs. The only positive I can take is that it reminds me of the Macarena which does bring back some great memories, most fondly of cheap nightclubs and loose girls which were both very important parts of my life almost 20 years ago.
I’m not going into too much detail of the tune, it is what it is really, a classic irrelevant Suggs affair that did nothing other than cheapen the movement.
Score: 2/10 from me on this one.

So there we are, I made it, I must confess there were times when I thought I would buckle. But unlike Synan Jr, Rushie, Keith and Norm (couldn’t bring myself to include Franks) I didn’t bottle it. I hope that my irrational anxiety of ‘new message’ alerts will ease now.

In the history of pop music. genres often end with a whimper rather than a bang, a sold-out, wheezing, end-of-the-pier facsimile of their more vital selves only a few years earlier. The Beatles conquered the US in ’63 because all the original rock’n’roll rebels has been replaced by sugary momma’s boys. Elvis, Richard, Berry and Lee Lewis through a combination of the draft, finding God and incarceration (for underage sex – natch) effectively went missing – and the first wave of rock n roll limped to a close with the likes of Gene Pitney, Bobbys Vee and Vinton. Clean cut, good looking guys that would shift units but stay out of trouble.
The excellent recent BBC4 Northern Soul documentary Living for the Weekend thoroughly examined the death of this Great British movement. Northern Soul was built on a finite stock of rare, 60s soul hidden gems. When these started running out, the key DJs of the scene panicked in two different directions. The Wigan Casino ‘purists’ wanted anything from the 60s with a 4/4 beat, so head DJs such as Russ Winstanley started scrabbling around for anything that had the ‘Wigan Stomp’ – even turning to ropey instrumental TV themes. At rival nightspot the Blackpool Mecca, Ian Levine was trying to move the genre forward, exploring the burgeoning New York disco scene. His acolytes loved it but the purists hated it, to the point where they printed and wore “LEVINE MUST GO” T-shirts. Levine would go out of his way to troll them, and ended up playing blatantly homosexual disco-pop such as Sylvester’s You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real). Years later he would regret this decision, stating his playlist became so pop it wasn’t much different from that at any Youth Club Disco up and down the country.
Neggae too, ends in a similarly forlorn fashion. Suggs cashing in on the summer holiday hit Macarena – complete with line dancing cowgirls and (ashamedly) making Louchie Lou and Michie One spit a few bars in the only Neggaeish part of the song. Suggs has killed Neggae, pissed on it, dressed it up in a “Y VIva Espana” summer dress, put some lippy on it, had his way with it, and then put it away in his dungeon ready for the next time he’s bored. An ignominious end to one of the last truly great pop movements.

I’d like to thank everyone who has written, read, shared, commented or liked anything on the Neggae blog – its been hard work but much fun. Watch this space for the Wikipedia page, Guardian articles, OED definition and BBC4 documentary which will all be worked on next.
Score: zero.



Suggs feat. Louchie Lou and Michie One – Cecilia

Release Date: Apr 96
Chart Position: 4

Egad, the 60s Neggae love-in continues apace. Until documenting all of this I really was not aware of how much 60s music and art was utterly plundered by the chief protagonists of the Neggae movement. The Beatles, Mamas & the Papas, Isley Brothers, the Equals and now Simon and Garfunkel. All seemingly coupled with videos that featured monochrome, Ready Steady Go! stylings or time travel. Or both.
This  is in keeping with the rest of the mid to late 90s pop music in the UK. Oasis were half-inching pages of chord sequences and melody lines from the Beatles, while Kula Shaker were dining out on Grateful Dead and Early Pink Floyd style psychedelia. Even the Spice Girls Stop! Or Boyzone’s Vision of You were clearly referencing Motown production, but in a horribly cheap way. This particularly sad avenue of British Pop was later christened Fauxtown by Neggae acolyte Simon ‘Rushie’ Rush. Spot on too.
But what of Suggs’ effort then? Well in my opinion, it’s not bad at all.
In fact, listen closely and it’s got a chunky little groove. In fact – this is MOOMBAHTON! Or at least Reggaeton. Either way it is a thoroughly modern riddim for which Suggs should be praised. I also like the Cypress Hill style squeak on the 4th beat. Whatever your feelings of Suggs’ efforts on this chart he always clearly spent a few quid in both the recording and TV studios.
The Louchie Lou and Miche One refrain is decent – no denying it. Excellent harmonies and a clever spin on the previously male-only protagonist narrative.
This is Suggs solo career highlight – his moment in the balmy spring sun of 1996. I guess without Cecilia, Madness would not have got the career rebirth that produced the excellent Wonderful featuring marvelous lead single LoveStruck. So that’s good. And of course there is the Chris Eubank moment on TOTP:

This deserves a point for that alone.
Score: Suggs’ best to date. 7/10.

James  BC
This is Suggs‘s biggest solo hit and although I don’t like it as much as some of his self-written material, I can see why it captured the nation’s imagination. It’s a deft choice of cover, playing up toSuggs‘s strength as an end-of-the-pier shaman: an embodiment of or conduit for undemanding family fun. Not to mention that it sneaks in a surprisingly hard dancehall beat – probably the tuffest we’ve had since Boombastic – along with the novelty sound effects and attempted Hey Jude-style singalong.Suggs_Cecilia

Louchie Lou and Michie One’s interlude is the highlight for me, giving the song a bit of extra bounce and much-needed variety since there’s only one proper verse. The interplay between them is the thing – the young Rizzle Kicks must have been paying attention because it seems to be the template for all their solo material and especially their bit on the Olly Murs behemoth Heart Skips A Beat.

I don’t have too much else to say so I’ll leave you with ten facts about Suggs:

1. The sleevenotes to The Lone Ranger album reveal that its cover is “based on an idea by Marcel Duchamp” – an homage to the cubist classic Nude Descending A Staircase.

2. Suggs recently curated a three-disc CD compilation called ‘The Suggs Selection’. The most recent track featured, wholly incongruously among the Motown and mod classics, is ‘Teardrop’ by Massive Attack from 1998.

3. Suggs used to manage talented baggy also-rans The Farm in the wilderness years of the early 90s.

4. Suggs‘s favourite day of the year is pancake day. He does a great trick where he puts a jumbo sized pancake on his face and eats it with no hands.

5. Suggs happened to be in the next studio when George Michael was recording the Older album. If you listen closely to Fastlove, you can faintly hear his voice joining in on the “ooh ooh baby baby” bits.

6. One of The Lone Ranger’s album tracks, 4am, was reworked for Madness’s Wonderful album a few years later. In defiance of all expectation and sanity, the Suggs solo version is actually better.

7. Suggs wrote lyrics for Madness but another band member would almost always write the music. The only single where he’s credited as sole writer is the band’s (first) swansong “Waiting For The Ghost Train”. None of the band were speaking to each other so he had to come up with a tune himself.

8. Suggs came up with his name by opening a book about jazz musicians at random. He didn’t like the name that came up so he went with Suggs instead.

9. Suggs‘s great uncle on his mother’s side was a prince of Liechtenstein. The royal palace there has a plaza named in his honour, the Jardin des Suggs.

10. In his autobiography Suggs admits to being a prolific graffiti artist, finally solving the mystery of who was writing SUGGS all over London in the 70s.

(I could only think of seven actual facts so three are made up.)
Score: 6 out of 10

Like a bad smell Suggs has yet again turned up, I hope this is his last entry but I’m too scared to look at the remaining entries in case it’s not. This time he’s taken on another sixties classic, Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Cecilia’.
I remember this coming out and being absolutely disgusted by it however, listening to it now it’s not half as bad as I remember, writing that has made me feel like I’ve just had a one on one art class with Rolf Harris, I need a shower.
We start with a classic drum roll intro and naturally some sound effects as this is Suggs after all. The production is upbeat throughout and there’s all sorts going on, accordion, flute, Hammond, this is basically the neggae equivalent of Dario G’s ‘Carnaval De Paris’, which featured an instrument from every country taking part in the 1998 World Cup (Steel Drums for the Reggae Boyz natch). Suggs’s vocal delivery is his usual style, the bloke’s more arch than Marble. He’s then helped out by Louchie Lou & Michie One and they do actually add something to it, providing a counterpoint to Suggs whinging about being treated badly by Cecilia by rightly pointing out he was treating the place like a hotel and taking her for granted. The line ‘And you know I wouldn’t stray’ is delivered in pure Ace of Bass style. Overall the jaunty production counteracts the lazy delivery of Suggs and they rub along nicely together.
The subject matter is Suggs being played by a woman and who can blame her frankly, you can just imagine what it would be like;

C- ‘Suggs we really need to discuss how we’re going to pay this month’s mortgage, since you lost the Channel 5 gig the money’s dried up’
S – *raises finger, mugs to camera, raises eyebrows* ‘There’s reggae in the jeggae, there’s music everywhere’
C – ‘!’

He somehow gets her back in the end, I can only imagine his new compilation album, ‘The Suggs Selection’ has done ok.
The video is a mostly monochrome affair and shows that Suggs has been punching to say the least, she all dat. An added bonus is you could save money on recreational drug use by just getting her to walk about in that dress and inducing acid flashbacks (the neggae blog does not condone the use of drugs in anyway, here’s an anti-drug message to hammer home the point, groovy). The best thing about this video is Cecilia’s utter disdain for Suggs throughout the majority of the video, mirroring the thoughts of a nation. ‘Interestingly’ this isn’t the only Neggae link with Cecilia as Ace of Bass released the self-penned sequel, I didn’t get to find out what happened to her because I couldn’t sit through that shit, although ti does throw a lot of weight behind the ‘Ace of Bass aren’t neggae Vince you dick’ campaign.
Score: As dirty as it makes me feel I didn’t mind this and in unprecedented scenes I’m going to give Suggs 7/10, although the fact I’m slightly in love with the girl with the video may have swayed me.

This effort from Suggs is a bit like Brazil’s goal against Germany the other night, the damage has already been done and this is very little consolation for an otherwise stupid solo career. Suggs is a bit like a joke that you don’t get but for some reason a few other people do, despite them explaining it to you it still doesn’t make sense, and then you start hate them aswell. Thank the Neg Gods that this is the last appearance from him on the hot list; I don’t think I can go another round with him after this one.
So the track itself is by far away his best offering through these very eggy few years for Suggs. Its probably the only song of his I would dream of singing along to if I heard it on the radio, and probably the only one of songs that is in my collection somewhere today. Its actually alright, catchy, simple and cuts right to chase in what its all about. It’s about as light hearted as Suggs could be before he gets weird like he has done in some of his earlier work we have reviewed.
Not sure about the video, looks to me like they found some new functionality in the studio and had to test it out quickly to get their moneys worth from it. It might have looked impressive then, but now its totally idiotic, makes no sense and is irrelevant.
Score: 6/10 for me on this one, an extra point for it being the last time I have to talk about Suggs ever and an extra point because we are now only 6 weeks away from the end of this nightmare.


Suggs – The Tune

Release Date: Dec 95
Chart Position: 33

So testing times this week at Neggae Towers, with bust-ups, spats, tantrums, walkouts – but ultimately some  bold decision-making that is going to see us through the tough times we face ahead.
Frankly, morale is low – we’ve not had a decent tune in weeks and when you look out on the the Neggae Hot 90 horizon and all you can see is this tosser:alfordcokeIt gets you down. I know exactly how the lads feel.
But.. we’ve only got 11 weeks to go so if we can dig deep and plough through we can end this blog with a Crystal Palace-like flourish to give this beautiful genre the send off it deserves.
Before I get on with the music, a few of housekeeping points that need addressing. Firstly, we are very sad to see Chris ‘Norm’ Lamont bowing out from the Neggae blog. Inventor of the genre, spreader of Neggae through the American colonies, lover of Lilt and the Egg, Chris is taking some time out to spend it with his family, and we absolutely resect that. All the best Chris, we’ll have a pint of Red Stripe at the bar at the wrap party when we’re all out the other side of this.
This week we were initially to review the Orinoco Flow knock-off that is Somethin’ Stupid by Ali and Kibibi Campbell. By a flaw in the data retrieval process, this accidentally got added to the Neggae Hot 90. Well, after closer Quality Assurance control it transpires this is definitely not Neggae; it’s Holy Communion Party Karaokeggae. It doesn’t belong here. So to honour this genre and the brand of UB40 it’s therefore been managed out.
Finally, there’s been a few personal barbs made in Suggs’ direction recently that I believe have overstepped the mark into bullying of the ex-Nutty Boy. Some of the more powerful elders have I believe been exerting influence over the weaker judges, creating a frenzy not unlike the ending of Lord of the Flies. A meeting took place, and you’ll be glad to know that all views were taken on board, and a decision was reached – pretty much like this:

Readers of this blog can now expect much more measured reviews and complete agreement on all of this I’m sure from the other Elders’ reviews below.
On to the song..
The Tune was Suggs’ 1995 Yuletide effort with a fantastic ‘Blackadder Christmas Special’ style video complete with lashings of Fake Snow and Victoriana. Suggs’ hopes of capping his comeback year with an Xmas number one were unfortunately dashed as the song only reached 33, getting nowhere near Earth Song and ensuring that Michael Jackson slept with ease over the Christmas period (probably after bumming a child.)
“But is it any good Vince?”  I assume you ask in your inner monologue. Well, not really. Sounds like his last two – which all sound like the theme to the Coco Pops adverts. I like the skittering drums and the deft piano, but ultimately there’s nothing there. And it’s 3 minutes too long – with pointless instrumental bridges. The middle eight bizarrely recalls the melody from Chain Reaction by Diana Ross. Which is her worst song by the way.
The video’s good though – the time machine and the dressing up box and shit. I liked that.
Score: There’s a reason this doesn’t feature on ANY Xmas compilation albums. 2/10

Apparently this week we’re not allowed to let personal opinion enter the review of this song, which I thought was the whole point of a review? I’m still undecided whether Vince’s editorial edict is yet another attempt to enforce an Orwellian air of censorship over the blog or just him trying to get the song better marks because he likes it, either way that jive turkey can swivel, I’ll write what I want.
This week is the return of that odious spunk bubble Suggs who took time off trawling Soho pubs with his mum to pebbledash all over the Hot 90 (I do owe an apology to Suggs having recently referred to him as a Gooner, he is in fact Chelsea which is really endearing). The song is called ‘The Tune’(!) and starts off reasonably enough with a horn section, jaunty beat and sax it’s the neggae equivalent of a cockney drinking song. I can imagine Chas and Dave wearing Rasta wigs and covering this and it’d be alright, apart from maybe the wigs. Then Suggs joins in with his affected vocal style which is a particular bugbear of mine, he tries too hard. The equivalent of that bloke at work who tries to make a joke out of the most mundane comment;

‘Sorry I’ve had to pull out of that meeting as I’m too busy’
‘Pull out? Didn’t want to make the meeting pregnant eh? Geddit? Geddit?’
‘You are destined to die alone and crying in a bedsit surrounded by piles of used, crusty wanksocks’

You know the type. SUGGS The Tune 7 A
Lyrically the song is a bit of a nonsense, I think the gist of it is being at a party in a psychiatric ward and personally I’m with Nurse Rathcett on that idea. I think that’s the gist of the song anyway as Suggs seems to have played a bit of sentence roulette and chucked anything in there. The video is typical Suggs and by that I mean zany, zanier than Billy and Alex Zane riding space hoppers in Tanzania. We’ve got the lot

• Mugging to the camera;
• Sped up camera work;
• Literal acting out of the lyrics;
• Other assorted berks;
• People coming out a box.

I was pretty disappointed to see this bloke had sold out though, I’m assuming DVDs did for his career. Overall this isn’t his worst by a long stretch but I’ve seen the hot 90 and know there’s much, much worse to come.
I’m now about to send this to Vince for publication so fully expect it to appear like this:

redactorama-thumbScore: 4/10 – jog on you suggy c*nt

James BC
Revisionism strikes.
Up until lunchtime on Friday the next song to review was going to be Something Stupid by Ali and Kibibi Campbell (that’s his daughter, who couldn’t have been more than ten years old at the time). However Vince has now stricken that from the record on the grounds that it is not reggae enough, has no skank, and has no connection to neggae whatsoever except for the Campbell name, itself severely compromised by this point thanks to the Yeah Be Yeah debacle. It’s hard to argue with the decision but it does mean we’ll never know what the other elders think of that effort. To me it has “cutesy album filler” written all over it so I’m baffled at to how it was a single – I dread to think what the rest of the Big Love album must have been like.
And then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like “I’m going to make a solo album and recruit my tiny daughter to help me reinterpret the Sinatras.”
It does seem like a missed opportunity, since the more I think about the prospect of ALI CAMPBELL covering FRANK SINATRA, the more blackly hilarious it gets. But perhaps including terrible songs just to take pot shots at them runs contrary to the positive One Love philosophy of the neggae blog and the neggae movement in general, may it last forever. (Don’t believe anyone who tells you it ended in 1996, Snoop Lion is living proof that they are wrong.)
Anyway, instead of Something Stupid we have The Tune by Suggs, which whatever else you might say about it, cannot be accused of lacking skank. Unlike the three Suggs tracks we’ve encountered already, The Tune is much more ska than it is reggae: Suggs drops the sunny afternoon observations in favour of a frenetic party tune much more in the early Madness vein. Lyrically it’s a neggae equivalent of Blinded By The Lights by the Streets, except that instead of pills, Suggs‘s party takes a turn for the messy due to (1) having had a little more to drink than is wise and (2) having suddenly got old and uncool without realising it until that exact moment. The lyric comes from the point of view of a man who hasn’t been clubbing for a while but finds himself in a going out scenario, perhaps on the spur of the moment after a work do, sort of having a good time but also realising that the scene has shifted in his absence and he has no chance of properly comprehending the music that is now popular. He blunders about dancing badly (Suggs is very suited to this role) and veering between euphoria – if anything having a little more fun than is healthy – and a queasy contemplation of his own limitations and ultimate mortality. Just like the “madman’s song”, which today would be Skrillex or Magnetic Man, and at the time would have been the Prodigy or the Chemical Brothers, or some of that freaked-out Kula Shaker shizzle, he himself is not quite wrong but not quite right either.
This moment is a universal part of the human experience, so if you haven’t lived it yet then you can be thankful – but also be aware that your youth will not last forever. One day you too will be old and modern music will be too much for you. Even if you enjoy it you will not quite get it, you will become an outsider on the dancefloors you once dominated and the young people who truly belong there, even if they sort of admire that an oldster like you can still try to get your groove on, will not recognise or accept you as one of their own.
None of this is in the video, but I swear it’s there in the song. The Tune is firmly in the Madness tradition of seemingly jaunty songs that actually plumb the dark depths of human experience, a worthy successor to Embarrassment and House of Fun even if it’s not quite in the same league as those two classics. The lyrics were written by Madness’s background genius Mike Barson, but Suggs does a great job of fleshing out the role. The dad-style humour of the spoken “one, two, four, five” and “do you know my brother” bits, which help to fill in the loveable yet pitiable character of the protagonist, can only have come from him. And he even went full method actor on the B-side by covering Alright by Supergrass – the sound of this 80s star and Virgin Radio personality insisting that “We are young” over weirdly exhausted 1950s production adds massively to the pathos.
I’ve already said how I think recruiting Sly and Robbie to update him for the 90s was a masterstroke by Suggs, but they aren’t actually involved much with this one, only being credited with “additional production”. Sadly no one has yet come out with a meticulous history of the recording of the Lone Ranger album like they do with the Beatles so I can’t tell you exactly what the legends’ contribution was – maybe the honking sound at the end of every four bars? But as a true believer in the Madness boys’ genius, it’s reassuring for me to see that they put together something this danceable, poignant and multi-layered without outside help. Well done Suggsy.
Score: 9 out of 10

And so this seemingly endless assignment continues. Today was the first day for a while I got the genuine neg fear, the feeling I get when I know I have to deliver something, just anything to be able to move on with my life for another week. I was supposed to do this last night, but just blanked it from my mind only to wake up at 4am this morning in a state of distress knowing that the task and the elders are not going anywhere and will not have forgotten to bully me via various online social networks as soon as they awake.
‘Come on Jon, you can do this, you have managed far more complex and challenging tasks in your life to date. Don’t let this get you down!’ I kept repeating to my myself in the mirror this morning, a bit like the final scene from Boogie Nights, actually a lot like that in more ways than one! My wife heard me and could tell I was in some kind of emotional turmoil. She comforted me and promised she would cook me my favourite meal tonight if I got on with it and gave it my best effort. ‘What’s the song this week? Is it a good one?’ she asked, but to be honest I don’t even know, I haven’t even listened to it yet. All I know is that it is not a blockbuster as they seem to be drying up by now and I would have spotted it if it was. ‘I’m sure it’s a good one, you might enjoy it. Just listen to the song and think of how it makes you feel and any fond memories that it brings back’ she offered in support.
So I picked myself up off the bathroom floor, wiped away the tears, got dressed and headed for work to deal with it like a man. I even put on Stay Young by Oasis in the car, that song always makes me feel like I can achieve anything. I parked up and strolled into the office confident and with a new sense of purpose ‘I can f*****g do this!’ I said as I walked up the stairs and even had a little fist pump to help motivate me. I open up my PC and check out which artist and song it is.
I feel like a dagger is being pushed slowly and very deliberately through my chest by the Grim Reaper dressed up like Bob Marley. I can’t breathe and I push my chair back a bit and rest my head on my desk. A cleaning lady doing her early rounds stops to makes sure that I am OK but I put a brave face on and thank her for her concern.
After taking a few minutes to pull myself together and again build myself up, I am ready to listen to the tune ‘stay open mined’ I keep saying to myself, ‘it might be one of his better ones’.
I hit play.
After 30 seconds I am in the full foetal position under my desk, shaking and grinning almost hysterically. Like in a cartoon when Tom gets knocked out somehow and has little Jerry’s spinning round his head laughing, I have the same, but they are all neg artists laughing at me; Johnny Gill, Aswad, Bitty Mclean, Bob, Patto, they are all there laughing at me. A guy in my team, who is also in early arrives to see this all going and offers some support. ‘I’ll be OK thanks, I’ve just got some personal issues’ I explain to him, ashamed and embarrassed that listening to a Suggs tune released almost 20 years ago can reduce me to such a state. ‘OK man, but if you need anything or need to talk let me know’ he offered, but how can I share this? He won’t understand. Nobody does.
When will this all end? Who bought this crap in the 90’s? How did Suggs have a career? Does he know what this has done and is still doing to people? I can’t bring myself to write anymore, I have to move on and put it behind me.
At least my wife will now be cooking my favourite meal tonight.
Score: 0/10 – please please make this stop!


UB40 – Until my dying day

Release Date: Nov 95
Chart Position: 15

James BC
Until My Dying Day is where UB40’s digital neggae sound finally reaches its peak. They’ve now computerised every aspect of the track to the point where the band could probably walk off stage (possibly after a disagreement about royalties from the Geffrey Morgan album) and the song would carry on playing exactly the same. Normally you can at least rely on the brass to bring a bit of acoustic warmth, but here Brian Travers has got his hands on 808 state’s old electro-clarinet and replaced his lusty parping with an atmospheric tootling effect. Meanwhile the standard reggae keyboard stabs give way to a fiddly synth figure and Jimmy Brown has given up completely and delegated the drumming to that syndrum pad from Phoenix Nights that “shits on a cowbell”.
Up to this point, the more digital UB40 have got, the cheesier they’ve got. But on this track the complete abolition of any human input actually takes them back to something a little more like their 1980 sound: spooky, menacing, questioning, unresolved. You can’t really call it reggae, which is shocking to say about a UB40 track, but the fact is if skank was water this would be the Atacama Desert. Even so, there is a fair bit to like:
that endless synth figure draws you in and gets under your skin, the moody strings for once don’t sound out of place, and Ali’s voice really suits the mood: often mealy-mouthed on the love stuff, he sounds sinuous and compelling slinking around in the synthy gloom, singing about how he’s not going to tell us the thing he’s telling us he’s not going to tell us.
Overall, then, this does a lot wrong, but gets a fair bit right almost by accident. If every neggae song had sounded like this then I doubt Vince and the boys would have bothered with the blog, but I can go with it as a one-off. Bonus points as well for using the same four chords as Get Lucky – sing one over the other on your tea break and enjoy.
Score: 6 out of 10.

Another bout of UB40. That’s two weeks in a row of inspiring, islandic beats and tunes…. I think not. In fact, I’m not even sure how this makes it on to the Hot 90. I’ve come to the realization that you either love UB40 (Ali Campbell) or you hate them. I fall into the latter category. I’m tired, I’m bored of having to review this group over and over again. When will it end? It seems that we get a UB40 hiatus every now and then, I recover mentally and boom, there they are, same $h*t different day. This is gonna be hard to review as I only had a chance to listen to it a couple of times before the link broke. Maybe it’s for the best. My first impressions are not good, I did try to locate another version, found some dodgy remix that made it slightly more acceptable to listen to than the one provided. Here are my initial thoughts.
1) This is bad
2) This is too slow
3) The Ali C show has run its course
4) They still employ the same videographer
5) This is bad
6) I wish I was listening to Shaggy
1/10 – no explanation needed – see above notes

ub40 dying day
I think that this is worst song we have do so far. I had to play youtube link a number of times on different devices as I was convinced it didn’t work and even looked for different versions online as I thought there was some kind of error, but it really is that shit. What the hell were they doing? Ali’s sounds like he’s doing an impression of Vic and Bob doing an impression of Ali Campbell with a cold. The delivery is so bad, I was expecting better from the UB’s….
I really can’t think of a single positive…..its no longer than 3.42mins long? As far as I am aware no one has died? But that is about it. I’m starting to think that the ride is over, neg is dying.
Although its bad I do think that UB40 have offered up a very poignant moment in neg history, with it symbolising the death of something once loved by so many. Like Airwolf, The A Team, Michael Jackson and Heartbreak High, you just wish it could have ended on a high, but they kept on and on at it. Neil Young once wrote ‘it’s better to burn out than to fade away’, and I feel this is never more true than this effort from the UB.
A sad day, the beginning of the end for neg 1/10.

Until My Dying Day was a non-LP single, released as a tie-in for UB40’s Greatest Hits Vol. 2. If you look at the tracklisting, they should have really called it “UB40: The Neggae Years” – as without the resurgence in the popularity that we are covering on this blog, I don’t think the LP (and therefore this lead single) would have been created or released. So Until My Dying Day is basically the most Neggyist of Neg – It’s self-fulfilling Neggae.
A fairly downbeat and melancholy number, it attempts to deal with age old issues of trust and confidentiality in love. Unfortunately, the questioning-slash-bargaining tone of the “tell-me-your-secrets-and-I-won’t-tell-a-soul” lyrics just come across as a little bit paranoid bordering on passive-aggressive.  A lot of UB40 music is imbibed with the positive qualities of Marijuana – the bouncing, good vibes , the cheery lyrics. Well this is the flipside.
Sonically it is great, a very modern sounding production which I bet would still sound great on a decent digital radio today. For me it’s certainly 90sdance-influenced, with the synth washes and electronic baselines highlighting that the YowBees must have been to a rave or three. And is it me, or is the melody a rip from the verse part of this banger?
Where UB40 are clever musicians though you can still here the reggae influences throughout. Top stuff.
Videowise, well it’s not going to win any awards. UB40’s videos are always a fairly bland experience; and after a couple of weeks of Suggs mugging for the camera this feels like a Ingmar Bergman short. Moody look bass-playing, stroppy drumwork, a touchy performance from Ali – its what you expect. Wasn’t expecting a burial scene in a modern 90s apartment. Whose death was being commemorated though? Yitzak Rabin was assassinated in November 1995 when this came out – but its not him.
In fact, its not a person they are putting six feet under; its Neggae itself. This is UB40’s last effort on the Neggae Hot 90 – and they’re saying “Without us, this scene is dead”. They’re metaphorically taking the ball home because their Mum’ just shouted that the Findus Crispy Panakes, chips and beans are ready. She’s called time on the Neggae kickabout.
Score: A Show-closing 8 out of 10 for me.

This week we find Ali and the chaps in cagey mood with ‘Until my dying day’. I can only think that the boys had some moody funk before recording this as there’s a paranoid almost cold war like feel to this, it’s the Le Carre novel of Neggae.  The production could be by Vangelis from the ‘Blade Runner’ soundtrack with its minimal electro feel and sinister strings.
Lyrically Ali is promising not to reveal an un-named person’s secret for love nor money until the day he dies. I’m not sure of the sincerity of this promise as he could die at any moment, he can’t predict being fatally crushed by a palm tree or falling into one of Birmingham’s many canals and drowning, I can only assume he used one of those internet life expectancy clocks and actually thought it was true.  He seems to be directly referencing the tabloids at one point saying he won’t sell at any price (although given some of the shit they’ve churned out for cash I’m not sure this is strictly true)
‘Don’t ask me what I saw
You know my secrets not for sale’
Which makes me wonder what this neggae secret is, so I’m running a book* if anyone is interested.
*In the event of a palpable error no bets will be settled or stakes refunded.

Evens – Shabba Ranks bums cats;

5/1 – Chaka Demus and Pliars are the neggae equivalent of Milli Vanilli;

10/1 – CJ Lewis is actually Dion Dublin;

20/1 – Snow was actually Jon Snow in disguise and was an international hoodwink on the scale of Orson Welles doing ‘War of the Worlds’;
The video looks like it was shot in some shitty bar/club in the nineties, or present day if you’re in Woking, and doesn’t have a lot going on in it. It mainly consists of moody shots of the boys dressed in their Foster suits and black shirt and tie combos and sums up the whole thing pretty well as it’s pretty mundane.
This sums up the mood when the bar runs out of Red Stripe, Neggae is supposed to be fun.
4/10 as they’ve done worse.


Suggs – Camden Town

Release Date: Oct 95
Chart Position: 14

Camden Town is effectively Suggs’ loveletter to his old stomping ground, an affectionate ode to the streets where he are the Nutty Boys grew up and cut their teeth. Take note, this is not about London per  se– but specifically NW1. Madness were famously travel-shy, failing to capitalize on their National fame in the early 80s by missing tour after tour. A fondness for the plethora of North London boozers, caffs, the green stuff and lie-ins were the general reasons cited. As manager Dave Robinson cited in the excellent “If it Aint Stiff” BBC4 docco, “Madness didn’t want to leave Camden Town” LET ALONE THE BIG SMOKE.suggs camden town

So its no surprise Suggs felt the borough should be committed to vinyl – but is it any good? Yes, it is actually. It’s no Boombastic, but it doesn’t deserve some of the scorn that I’m sure the other Elders will heap on it. Suggs turned in some stinkers during the fag-end years of Neggae don’t get me wrong, but (just like the place itself) Camden Town is not without its charms.

Seeing instantly recognizable 90s London filmed over a reggae soundtrack gave me a pang of nostalgia for the Opening Credits of Desmonds. Don’t Scratch My Sofa. F*ck me what a tune. Like Free Nelson Mandela but with added record scratches. But instead of young, beautiful, black urbanites we have Suggs doing his drunken-tiptoeing-to-bed-so-I-don’t-wake-the-missus danceendearing when he was 19 but less so with a middle-aged derby. Fair play to the video producers for shelling out on a trip to JA though – I reckon this video alone cost more than all of Bitty MaClean’s put together.

As for the song – well it the Theme tune to Coco pops isn’t it? Have a listen.

That or Um Bungo.
I’ve always been partial to both of these ditties, but I’ve never felt the urge to base a pop song around it. That said, Noel Gallagher launched his career off the back of an Old Coke jingle – so maybe they’re on to something. Maybe in 20 years time I should dine off that Reisen song. Might get a number one out of it. Although by then I imagine pop music will be reduced 6 second Vine holograms consumed by domestic help drones scanning a barcode directly into humans eyes. Actually I’m not going to bother. Can’t be f*cked with it.

Back to the here and now –the production is what truly saves this. Sly and Robbie, the Leiber and Stoller of Neggae, craft a gorgeous low slung groove that covers all of the imperfections listed above. Echoed drum breaks, punchy keys, heavy horns – it’s a delight. I’d quite like to hear a dub version of it actually. with Finley Quaye on vox. And at least Suggs is mullering his own record, and not murdering the Beatles or Simon and Garfunkels.
Score: 6/10 – well done Suggs.

James BC
Here’s Suggs again, and once again I dread to think what the others are writing. Sometimes it seems I’m the only person in the world who looks back fondly on the Suggs’s 90s solo work, and that includes the nutty man himself: in his recent autobiography he dedicates a princely one paragraph to it, almost all of which is taken up with that anecdote everyone already knows about Chris Eubank introducing Cecilia on Top of the Pops. If on the other hand you want to know what happened when Suggs went cycling around Italy with Clive Langer, you’ll be delighted to find an entire chapter on the topic. Basically nothing is the answer, by the way.
But on I press: no amount of apathy from the man himself, or antipathy from everyone else, is going to dampen my enthusiasm. Camden Town is a perfect example of what’s great about the The Lone Ranger album: a relaxed groove backing some twinkly, off-beat lyrics, this time about Suggs’s home part of London, Camden. Suggs does a good job of capturing the buzz of the place, wide-eyed visitors trying to take everything in at once, with a subtle frisson of menace in the “tourists sing” and trombone bit in the middle, plus the drunkenness and petty crime chucked in among the multicultural vibrancy. Sly and Robbie’s production is key once again – Suggs wears it so lightly that you’d hardly guess he’s working with two of the all-time greats, but their quality does take the song up a notch.
I’m not ever so keen on the sax solo, but I’d say it’s outweighed by the valiant attempt to shoot a proper neggae video (beach dancing, larking about, sand, horns etc) on a budget of £1.75. All in all a likeable effort.
Score: 7 out of 10 – might have been more if he’d specified which exit of the underground to meet at.

Suggs, I find your music boring and about as inspirational as a toasted parsnip and mayonnaise sarnie. If you’re into that you may very well enjoy Suggs and Camden Town. I however, am not.
What did I learn from this song? Apparently Camden is a very diverse place that has a lot going on. Excellent. But having to listen to Suggs and his monotone voice for however long this song goes on is is Johnny-Gill-esque. It is painful and it irks me.
Dont get me wrong.
It has some positives.
Not many but some.
There’s some nice neggae beats, drum and horn background bits and pieces throughout. I liked that. But…
The video is annoying.
Suggs prancing around does my head in. I’ve watched this 4 times in a row trying to come up with something constructive to write but can’t. Sorry.
I wish this week’s challenge was to write a twitter style review and keep it under 140. It would’ve gone something like this:
Score: Suggs, Camden Town #cack #fellasleep #2/10


  • Screech in Saved by the Bell
  • Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequel debacle
  • Ross in the latter stages of the Friends saga
  • Suggs in the mid 1990’s UK Neggae scene

What do these all of these characters have in common? They became irrelevant add ins to what were otherwise important social and cultural movements.

Suggs has started to ruin it for everyone with his jokey dim-witted approach. I got Madness (I think?) and although I was not their biggest fan, I did understand the relevance of their music, but Suggs on his own has contributed very little. Nothing of any importance anyway.

‘In Camden Town, I’ll meet you by the underground’ – Is that really what you have just offered up? Twat!

Score: Not wasting any more time with this. Go away Suggs!! 1/10

Suggs makes an unwelcome return to the hot 90 this week with his ode to Camden Town; I’m going to try to be objective about this entry as I think I managed to get rid of my vitriol in his last appearance. Being of an impressionable age during the Britpop era I spent quite a lot of time in Camden as a yout’ myself and can’t help thinking Suggs is somewhat overegging the romanticism of the place, I’ll go into details later.
I like the start to this song, it’s a proper neggae intro with the classic drum roll start and jaunty bassline that sounds like it could have sound tracked a cartoon. Obviously Suggs is still singing so this puts a bit of dampener on it but the horns are nice as well. Not so sure about the synth that’s introduced for the chorus but must admit the guitar break in there is nice and evokes memories of Siouxsie and the Banshees covering ‘Dear Prudence’. There’s a tribute to ‘Ghost Town’ later on with the vocals but I could do without his spoken refrains, it’s all bit like the elder Kevin doing voice overs in the ‘Wonder Years’, in case you were wondering Winnie Cooper turned out to be decent. The song meanders on in this manner and you know what? It’s ok, there are still a few ‘Stoppit and Tidy Up’ style noises but they’ve not been done to death.

Lyrically I have to take issue with this song with the main objection being this

In Camden Town I’ll meet you by the underground’

Don’t do that, you’ll just get hassled up by teenage drug dealers and end up getting skanked by buying a piece of bark for £10 under the misapprehension it’s a bit of solid, happened to a friend of a friend of mine and wasn’t me, no sireee, nothing to do with me, honest guv. After this frankly shocking piece of advice he follows it up by advocating the use of drug paraphernalia

‘There’s tapas, fracas, alcohol, tobaccos
Bongs, bongo bingo, Portuguese maracas’

Which is all very well, but this is simply a gateway to buying a load of Yellow Submarine legal highs at ‘Herman’s Head Shop’ asking the shop assistant how many you should take to get really f*cked and then thinking ‘I’m an experienced psychonaut who’s been on many missions of spiritual and physical ecstasy, I will take double the maximum recommended dose, like I do with Night Nurse’. Apparently this can then lead to nearly passing out on a crowded tube then thinking you’re better so going for a pint to level you out but then realising you’re not that much better as the pint comes straight back up into the pint glass. Don’t be pithy about these things Suggs, it’s a serious matter.
Suggs has also ignored one of my biggest gripes about Camden or more specifically promoters who hold events there and the lack of information they give out. Picture the scene, you’re in the World’s End pub enjoying a few pre club Lowenbraus and testing out the night’s Mick Mills, you have a full on gag whilst dropping the first one so you know you’re in for a good night. The pub starts calling last orders at around 11 so you move on to the Underworld for London’s Premier Britpop night. Paying your money in a state of delirium you start to sense something’s a bit wrong but can’t quite put your finger on it. You advance down the corridor and the music sounds a bit different making you think ‘Blimey, Kula Shaker’s new one sounds a bit heavy’. The doors to the main venue open and you find yourself surrounded by people wearing black make up adorned in ‘Cradle of Filth’ t-shirts, bedecked in a vintage Brazil football t-shirt, combats and a blue corduroy jacket with the Jamiroquai logo as the zip pull it’s fair to say you’re standing out as the twat who didn’t know the night had changed. Unperturbed by this experience you return to Camden a few weeks later to go to the mod night ‘Blow Up’ which is located in the upstairs of the Laurel Tree pub.  You pay your money at the door getting some strange looks form the person collecting it, as you turn the corner of the staircase you’re confronted with a crowd of burly ageing skinheads in bomber jackets as yes, ‘Blow Up’ has changed dates and you’re at a skinhead revival night with the whole scene resembling a sevs prison gym. The night out culminates with you sitting in a lounge in Hounslow at 6am whilst vomiting into a saucepan due to ingesting too much cheap speed whilst an ex con tells you he wishes you could have been in Feltham Young Offenders with him as ‘it was a right laugh and you’d have loved it in there’. Suggs had the chance to stop future generations making these mistakes and I feel his carefree attitude has meant him missing a chance to give back to society.
The video starts off with Suggs doing his ‘hilarious’ berking about shtick round Camden, he then gets the tube to Jamaica. This is again irresponsible as London Underground staff are going to have to deal with American tourists asking them which line they need to get to Jamaica. A good job Bob Crow’s not about to see this as it would drive him to a state of apoplexy. The rest of the video is Suggs basically lording up on a Tropical beach somewhere which to me seems a bit hypocritical when the whole song is singing the praises of Camden. If the lyrics were ‘Camden Town, its ok I suppose but I’d much rather be in the Caribbean’ then this would be forgivable.
Score: I’ll give this 3/10, its no ‘Waterloo Sunset’


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


Shaggy – Oh Carolina

Release Date: Feb 93
Chart Position: 1

So, we come to what may be called the first “big hitting” single of the Neggae movement.
Oh Carolina hit the #1 spot in March 1993. Knocking aside Dutch Duo 2 Unlimited and blowing open the UK Neggae flood gates for a multitude of artists to follow in its footsteps. From here on out there really was no, no, no, no, no, no limit for Neggae. Having been primed by a re-hash of UB40 from 808 state and a Bob Marley B side, the UK public had a taste for something familiar, yet with a slightly modern feel. Oh Carolina was the perfect ingredient for mainstream commercial success.

Jump and Prance


The track was recorded by Orville “Shaggy” Burrell during his time in the US Marine Corp and upon his return to Brooklyn NY it would see him wine’ and grine’ his way to Global superstardom. That first step to stardom however would be taken in the UK and not in “the land of the free”. Shaggy’s debut single was poorly received by music buyers in his adopted homeland, peaking at #59 on the US bill board chart.
Why you may ask? A sample so obvious that it smacks you in the face with a plate of Ackee and Salt fish, that’s why. If your parents ever loved Ska or Reggae or were a part of mod culture in London in the 1960’s, they would have found this remake highly infectious and somewhat hummable. The sample choice and single release date was so well timed that it was a shoe-in to thrive in a UK music market already glowing with a Red, Gold and Green hew.
First recorded by the Folkes brothers and Produced by Prince Buster in 1960, Oh Carolina is considered by some to be the birth of Ska. Released on Blue Beat Records, the single was massively popular in 60’s mod culture. Played to death in record shops on Portobello Road and often aired at the Twisted Wheel nightclub in Manchester. Just to drive in an extra nail of commercial viability, team Shaggy opted to sample the bass line and perhaps the saxophone from Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme. A TV theme tune, again from the 1960’s which has been re recorded by a plethora of artists. Emmerson, Lake and Palmer and The Blues Brothers being two of the more prominent. All bases covered.
So the Shaggy version?
It doesn’t differ greatly to the original does it? No. But then it doesn’t have to. Unlike its Neggae predecessors, this cover stays true to form. Great samples. Chunkier beats with depth and digital repetition, the odd scratch to be “down with the youts” and a boxing match round bell chucked in for the sake of it. That is the measure of a good Neggae track. It’s almost Reggae, but not quite the same. Yet we still like it so we nod along and tap fingers and toes.
Yes, when Shaggy comes slurring on the radio these days it does grate me. His general presence at any media event is annoying. Yet at the time, this was fresh. Bringing golden old rope to a new broader demographic of kids, mums and granddads alike. The fact that the single went gold in the UK also meant that the Folkes brothers got a long overdue payday. All’s well that ends well.
This was just the beginning for Orville Burrell however. Do we owe Shaggy for the Neggae explosion? Or does he owe UK mod culture for the leg up he needed to a long and successful career in the music business? Who cares? For me, Oh Carolina officially kicked off something a whole lot more interesting here in the UK.
Score: A Prowling, Jumping and Prancing 7 from me.

BOOMSHANKA, BARE RIDDIM. ‘EAR ME NOW and various other things white middle class people shouldn’t say, but my excitement at reaching this landmark has made me forget social convention.  Let’s not underplay the importance of this tune; it put Neggae on the map. It’s the first hit for the man who bestrode Neggae like a growling Colossus, the Negfather. The intro immediately catches your attention (and for some reason reminds me of this) , then the doorbell rings which signifies the introduction of the beat and bassline and as soon as that kicks in it’s like mainlining Johnny Swan’s finest, and you find yourself suffering from full blown Neggae Addiction. A nice respectful use of the sample and even the cartoon character samples and faux scratching can’t detract from the love and craft that’s gone into producing this track.
Shaggy’s decent, he gets the criticism leveled at him that he can’t sing properly, I don’t really agree and the same criticism didn’t stop Dylan or Hendrix. The joyful, happy go lucky nature of the song mean this is one for all the family, Grandma, Dark Uncle Fred and your little brother (keep him away from Uncle Fred though, daggering a 5 year old isn’t appropriate BBQ behaviour). In summing up a Neggae classic that put the genre on the map, it has me reaching for a can of Tropical Lilt every time I hear it.
Score: 8

I know exactly where I was when I first heard this record. It was watching Top of the Pops with Dad and (probably) Jamie. Although he sang along to it, Dad dismissed it due to the fact that “all he’s doing is rappin’ over an old song. It’s rubbish!
There was nothing new in this reaction, he felt this way about Salt & Peppa’s Twist and Shout, the Fat Boys’ Wipeout and Candy Flip’s Strawberry Fields. Whenever he took this view, it always made me like the song even more. Not so much as a form of rebellion, but more in a protective sense. Like most children I loved new music (so in the 80s this was hip-hop, in the early 90s dance), so anyone criticizing it galvanized my love for it even more. Now I’m 33 I increasingly cannot stand new pop music, but there you go.
Throughout our Top of the Pops watching career, my Dad and I effectively entered into a well-humoured but predictable standoff. Whatever I liked he would pooh-pooh, whatever he liked (usually ballads, novelty songs) I would similarly scoff at. The one time I got caught out however was with Oasis. When they made their TOTP debut with Shakermaker Dad instantly remarked, “I like him. He’s a bit like John Lennon. Yeah, like these boys.” I dismissed them as ‘grebos’ (catch-all 90s term, completely misused) that wouldn’t last. I then obviously had to do an embarrassing 180 when they continued releasing belters, which my Dad never let me forget about.
But I digress…
This is the first song on the Neggae Hot 90 that I bought. On cassette. From Woolworths. For 99p. I played it a lot for a few months but then got massively into Jamiroquai and looked upon it and pretty much everything else with disdain. Shaggy then went on to make a lot of awful music which I lumped Oh Carolina in with.
Luckily this blog has made me realize what a cracking pop record it is. The crackly vinylu intro, the boxer’s bell, the ‘boing’ (which would dominate Big Beat later), the Peter Gunn sax sample that turns it from wholesome ska to lascivious dancehall, Shaggy’s playful toasting; all clever, clever stuff. It’s a good video too, telegraphing the juxtaposition of the old and the new that irked my Dad but thrilled me.
Score: 9 (and much refound love)

After being originally released by Ska in the 60’s this pimped up version in 93 remains one of the greatest commercial reggae tracks of all time and I could go on and on about it all day…..but where would I start? The little piano intro? The chimes in the background as the base line punches in? Shaggy’s unique baritone-range belting out the intro? it’s all just so good!
This was it, this was the first big neggae tune I remember almost 20 years ago and I still enjoy it as much now as I did then. Although I do miss booming it out in Norm’s 1989 Ford Fiesta as we cruised round South West Byfleet hanging a right on Elmstead Road and into Upper Pyrford letting all the honeys know we were in town and we meant business. Success rate was high, but chuck this into the mix and it took it to a whole new level.
This was Shaggy’s big entrance to the pop world and didn’t we know it. He had raised the bar of what we should expect from the genre. He sounded great and he was here to stay as this was just the first of four UK number ones. The delivery was something we had simply not heard before and it was going to change things forever as the song went on to grace the top 10 in no fewer than 12 separate countries.
The lyrics are sublime, the bits you can make out are genius “Anna move just like a squirrel” and “Gal yuh fi jump an prance” my particular favourites. However the bits you can’t quite follow – pure neggae. The video is pretty average, although non offensive it is easily forgotten. The blending of some authentic music hall footage cutting to a modern day Shaggy trying to pull some bootylicious girl as she strolls down the street is mildly amusing but the production lets it down.
To summarise, I think this was and still is a huge track that would be one of only a few defining moments in this almost cult movement. Would it get played at my BBQ? Damn right it would, on loop, and if people don’t like it I would ask them to leave.
Score: 9, only as I know there is more Shaggy out there

Ok chaps, I’ll keep this short and sweet. I’m not sure I can be objective on this one, so here it goes.
This bad boy was purchased at Woolworths in West Byfleet within days of release and I am proud to say that I contributed to Shaggy reaching #1 in ’93!
3 minutes and 12 seconds pure neggae.
I’m out.
Score: 10