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60 Seconds with Suggs

The Madness singer, 57, is spilling all about fame in a new one-man show — and here talks the magic of pubs and showing his pants to Bowie

Tell us more about the show…

My first one-man show was kind of about how I went from rather humble beginnings to becoming what we now know as ‘Suggs’. This new one is more about when you become famous, the bizarre and the bewildering. I’ll be playing the piano, singing songs and hopefully entertaining.

I hear there’s a story about David Bowie and your underpants…

A friend of mine was working with David Bowie and we got invited to stay in his house. We drove up there in my friend’s Range Rover with our suitcases on the roof, to this secret lair. We heard a loud crunch as all our suitcases got knocked off the roof. And I had the unedifying sight of the coolest man in the world crawling around his driveway picking up my socks. But we gathered our decorum and got our underpants back. He was a very charming man. It’s sad he’s gone now.

Pants host: David Bowie

Did you get star-struck?

Totally, sitting opposite Bowie was probably the most star-struck I’ve ever been. When we appeared at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert, that was a bit of a shocker. I looked and there was Sir Elton John, Sir Cliff Richard, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Lenny Henry, Sir flipping Stevie Wonder — I remember Mike [Barson] in our band going, ‘What the F are we doing here?’ You are constantly feeling you are going to get tapped on the shoulder any minute. It’s like The Matrix except we’ve taken the blue and the red pills, we’re in two parallel realities. To be on the roof of Buckingham Palace is mind-blowing considering where we come from.

I’ve seen you out and about in Soho. What’s your favourite watering hole?

The French House has always been a rock in my family life and it’s still a great pub. Generations of my family have been going there since I was a kid. I really regret the demise of pubs — so many are closing. We got our first gigs in pubs, I met all my mates in pubs. The property price thing is a tragedy and a danger to London. There used to be 20 pubs in Camden Town that had live music, like the Dublin Castle — that’s where we got our first play — but there’s not many left for young bands. In London, property is more valuable than people nowadays. We need to keep some character before it’s washed away.

Do you have any recurring dreams?

Yeah, and they more often than not involve the band, which is really annoying seeing as I spend most of my life with them! It’s a really mundane dream about not getting to gigs on time and cars breaking down. Obviously unconsciously I have some fear of this happening, though it hasn’t for a long time. It’s really boring to keep seeing their faces — I’d rather see some 1950s film stars or anybody other than the band.

Shoe fetish: Suggs likes a Tod’s loafer

Do you believe in ghosts?

No. I think life’s magical enough. I don’t understand why you need to think there’s any more than there is.

What were you obsessed with when you were a kid?

I was pretty obsessed with Chelsea Football Club until music came along. I’m pretty good at drawing and painting as well. I’d have liked to go to art college but I didn’t have enough ‘levels’, or whatever they were called. The band came along when I was 17 so off I went.

What’s your favourite way to spend a day?

One of my favourite things is Sunday lunch with all my family and a few waifs and strays. Sitting round the table chatting with people you love and care about and laughing… somebody said one of the greatest gifts we have is hospitality. If you can afford to buy someone a glass of wine and have a nice time then that’s a great thing.

What’s your most glam and least glam moment lately?

I bought a pair of navy blue Tod’s loafers. I don’t normally splash out but I couldn’t resist them. My least glamorous would be probably the dressing room in the last theatre I was in, which shall remain nameless. It was basically an underground bunker. I send my family pictures of my rider, which when I’m with the band, is more of a sort of bar in The Waldorf Hotel. When I’m doing it on my own, it’s a bottle of water, a bottle of Stella and a banana. Any more than that and I start to forget what the hell it is I’m supposed to be doing and talking about.

Suggs’s one-man show, What A King Cnut: A Life In The Realm Of Madness, is on nationwide tour, ending soon.