Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Take it or Leave it!

I decided to, on routine, check up on a particular YouTube channel last night because that channel is amazing in terms of Madness material. I've heard things I'd never heard before such as demos and b-sides and experiments that band had produced. I've also found songs I'd wished I could hear on the computer but had on vinyl instead, and I found them on that channel.
Last night, I'd gotten a kind of Christmas present (well I counted it as that). It was a film, uploaded in nine parts.


In early 1981, the head of Stiff records Dave Robinson, who managed the band, got an idea to create a drama/documentary film of the band's formation. The film covered the band's first days of attempting to play music together, learning their instruments and changing their line-up. 


This was that film I'd located. Wow!



(Comes in 9 parts)


I'd known about the film for a little while. I'd seen snippets of it on YouTube. I'd read a bit about it. I really wanted to see it, because I found that kind of thing about the band fascinating. The problem was my location - it wasn't easy to come across Madness albums or singles here in Ottawa, let alone a low-budget, independent film on that band. We're in a different region. On VHS, we use the NTSC format. In the UK they use the PAL format. This is basically different viewing formats used on TVs. On DVD, the UK would be Region 2 while here we'd be Region 1. To keep the money coming in the film business, they limit the possibilities of getting something easily and free. There's no way I'd be able to see Take it or Leave it here. Wrong region or format. It wasn't a huge film, it was just something the band and the record label produced. It didn't garner a lot of attention and not a lot of people raved about it - only big fans of the band did, and that was a minority in the eighties world of pop idols and music. Everyone was too interested in Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Madonna, or other big stars of the time to go and see a film about some band forming. Because of that, it wasn't mass produced and so it was unlikely that it would be found in video stores here in Ottawa, back then or now. Especially since North America never took interest in the band until they released their single "Our House."
Even their music is hard to come by, as I've only found it at places like CD Warehouse. The vinyl I managed to find at a record store at Lincoln Fields Mall.


It began in 1976 with Mike Barson (piano/keyboard) Chris Foreman (guitar) and Lee Thompson (sax) getting together one afternoon and playing to records. Throughout the next several years they'd accumulate members and change their line up, with Barson being the dominating authority. Eventually they got gigs in places such as the Dublin Castle and finally, with Chas Smash becoming the final member, they recorded their first album. After that scene, the film skips to the present day (that being 1981) where they're preparing to perform in front of a huge audience. That's where it ends.


It was very interesting to watch, seeing the members of the band doing other things than performing on music videos or on old live footage. I didn't expect to see Lee Thompson start a job as a truck driver, only to tear the roof off the truck due to the poles he'd put in sticking out the front and catching on a bridge. His reaction when they got to the site was hilarious.  "Sorry about that, the traffic. . .aaaahhh!"


I've been wanting to watch this for a long time, and now I've been able to. It was amazing. And very realistic and true.
Something to return to now and then. I'm glad I saw it. Many thanks to the owner of that YouTube channel - you're something special! Madness! Yeah!


Justin C.

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