MADNESS AT GLASTONBURY 1986-2009 : A review of their 3 appearances...



  • Madness at Glastonbury – 7pm Sunday 22 June 1986 – Pyramid Stage


Glastonbury Festival was founded in 1970 by farmer and land owner Michael Eavis. Its occurrence in the 1970s was sporadic, taking place on just four occasions. The first pyramid shaped stage was built in 1971. The Festival was relaunched as a CND Festival in 1981 and has taken place virtually every year since. Linking the Festival to CND tied it closely to Michael Eavis’s strong left-wing political views of that time and was a clear statement of protest to Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government that came to power in 1979. Glastonbury Festival became the biggest source of funding for the CND, with £100,000 going to them from the 1986 Festival alone. The now world famous ‘Pyramid Stage’ was rebuilt for the 1981 Festival using telegraph poles for the main frame and ex-MOD corrugated steel sheeting to protect it from the elements. It remained in situ for the next 13 years, getting around planning laws by using it as an agricultural store for cattle feed in the winter months.

Above: Lineup Poster for the 1986 Festival

The link to CND was not unanimously supported by the festival organisers and many with a closer bond to the Festival’s spiritual background, were unimpressed when the image of the sun, which was to have pride of place at the apex of the pyramid, was replaced with a large CND logo. It was on this Pyramid Stage that Madness played in 1986, but it met its sad demise in 1994 when it mysteriously burnt to the ground shortly before that year’s festival. A more standard shaped festival stage took its place for the next few years until a permanent replacement was designed for the 2000 Festival and it was on this Pyramid Stage (Mk #3) that Madness played in 2009.


Above: The Pyramid Stage 1981 - 1994 (R.I.P.)

In addition to its increasing prominence as a leading UK music festival, I don’t think it would be wrong to say that the other main reason for Madness choosing Glastonbury to perform at in 1986, was its association with CND. They had previously played for the National CND Rally in 1985, they supported CND both individually and collectively and endorsed the organisation both through the later MIS Comics, as well as fronting several national CND advertising campaigns.


Above: Madness / CND  Advert from Glastonbury Festival Programme 1986

The Guardian's review of Glastonbury 1986 explained that in political terms it was not a campaigning event, "the music is up front, the politics are laid well back."


Above: Interview with Suggs from Glastonbury Programme 1986 regarding their support for CND

It's clear from the 1986 Festival Programme that Madness were one of the main attractions that year. They dominate the programme more than any other band with a full page interview with Suggs about the band’s association with CND, a full page advert for CND comprising a photograph of Madness with a large CND poster and also a brief biography of the band.


Above: Front cover of the Glastonbury 'CND' Festival Programme 1986

The 1986 Festival was less than half the size of the current Festival, with 60,000 ticket holders. There were only a handful of stages, the pyramid shaped stage still only called ‘Stage 1’ in the programme rather than ‘Pyramid Stage’ and a much smaller site area. Tickets were only £17 per person, compared to the £185 now paid. The programme was only £1 compared to the £10 price tag shown on this year’s.


Above: A ticket from the 1986 Festival 

Madness were booked to perform at 7pm on the Sunday night, a slot which followed Simply Red but prior to Level 42. Interestingly they occupied much the same slot on the Pyramid Stage at the 2009 Festival, appearing at 6pm on the Sunday.


 Above: The Lineup for Stage 1 - Sunday 22 June 1986...Clearly they didn't save the biggest act for the final slot in those days!

The Glastonbury Festival of the mid-80s was rife with conflict between rival factions. Drug dealers and security guards, local farmers and land owners, festival-goers and travellers. Melvin Benn of Mean Fiddler remembers the festival of this era as having "…gangs from Bristol effectively running parts of the site. And anarcho-travellers. Decent hippie travellers didn’t get a look in…there were no-go areas…it was a free for all." Stonehenge Festival had been closed down in 1985 and the ‘anarcho-travellers’ that it used to attract then flocked to Glastonbury. Conseqently this led to a massive increase in attendance levels in 1986, with lots more travellers than normal arriving at the site for their summer celebrations and a huge increase in 'fence jumpers.' Convoys of travellers from across England would converge on Glastonbury, all assuming they could attend without paying. Michael Eavis described it as being "very difficult to control and quite dangerous". The convoys were blasted by government ministers and broken up by police and made national headline news at the time.


Above: A sign on a bus from a 1986 Glastonbury 'Peace' Convoy 

Until the mid 1980s the perimeter fence only enclosed half of the site, so anyone not wanting to pay merely walked around the edge! There was also no professional security team to safeguard the bands and the stages at the Festival. Vigilante style gangs would often turn up and take control of parts of the site. A group of Hells Angels forced their way into the festival for two or three years in the mid 80s as there was no real way to stop them. The festival organisers decided the best way to tackle the problem was to attempt to strike up a rapport with their leader. But their demands were often difficult to manage. Main stage organiser Mark Cann remembers one difficult instance when the Hells Angels were demanding to go on the Madness bus because they wanted to "say hello to Suggs"! Perhaps an early example of Madness’s extremely broad fan base!


 Above: The 1986 Programme included brief biographies for the headline bands.

Madness played a 19 track set to an enthusiastic crowd. The weather shone for their set, even though Suggs admitted they had included Grey Day... just in case!


Above: Suggs and Chrissy Boy on the Pyramid Stage - 1986 

The full set list for their performance was:

  • Take it or Leave it
  • Baggy Trousers
  • Precious One
  • Michael Caine
  • Grey Day
  • My Girl
  • Tomorrow’s Dream
  • House of Fun
  • Yesterday’s Men
  • Night Boat to Cairo
  • Time
  • It Must Be Love
  • Shut Up
  • I’ll Compete
  • Embarrassment
  • Our House


  • Madness
  • The Harder They Come
  • One Step Beyond

 Above: Carl and Lee on the Pyramid Stage - 1986

The tradition of always starting gigs with One Step Beyond and closing with Night Boat to Cairo has really been a pattern set since their return in 1992. Precious One had entered the set list by this stage and was played at a few concerts in 1986. Interestingly The Harder They Come was also aired. I am unclear whether they played it at any other gigs in 1986 or whether this was the only time it was performed prior to their 1992 comeback at Madstock, when of course it went on to become their next single. [Please let me know if you know to the contrary] Contrary to the 2009 set list, which seemed to have been brilliantly planned to steadily build the crowd into a frenzy by the end of their performance, the 1986 set interspersed their biggest most energetic hits with slower tracks, rather than keeping them all to the end.


 Above: Carl and Lee on the Pyramid Stage - 1986

Their performance that evening coincided with the infamous England vs Argentina football match, the first since The Falklands conflict, ending with Argentina winning 2-1 following the famous ‘Hand of God’ goal by Diego Maradona. Suggs tried to keep the crowd up to date with the score throughout their performance. Chants for 'Madness' were at times replaced with 'Engerland...Engerland…Engerland' etc!


 Above: Suggs keeps the crowd updated with the football score!

By all accounts the band had a great time at the 1986 Festival. Lee even sought to document his Glastonbury experience in MIS Comic - Issue 14, with a half page review that included a photo of him with a very young Tuesday and a very young Daley with a 4 pack of beers!


Above: Lee Thompson's "Glastonbury" article from MIS 14 - Photographs of Lee & Tuesday + Daley with a 4 pack of beers!
[Like Father Like Son !!!]

As Lee recalls in MIS 14:

"Our crew truck with backline (instruments) were no where to be found 40 minutes before we were due on. The rest of the band had arrived and our tour manager Huw was looking slightly tense, as he approached me and asked if the worse came to the worse would I mind using someone else’s saxophone. But of course I didn’t mind, a sax is a sax is a sax, anyhow I had absolute confidence in the road crew, Rob and Toks, they hadn’t missed turning up at a show without equipment ever (well except Sydney May’86). The sun popped its hat on for the forty or so minutes we were on stage. The crowd seemed to go on forever, many of them at the back constantly on the move, rather strange seeing this, I didn’t realise there were so many real hippies left on the planet."

Whilst fortunately an audio recording of their 1986 performance survives, video footage of their performance is significantly harder to track down. The guru of Glastonbury video footage is Julien Temple, director of the excellent 2006 Film – "Glastonbury". In making the film, a request went out to Glastonbury regulars for copies of all historic footage they might own and it is rumoured that Julien personally watched every piece of footage that was submitted, amounting to many hundreds of hours. Consequently, with his connection to Madness via the Norton Folgate film, I found an opportunity to ask him about Madness’s 1986 performance at the Norton Folgate launch party earlier this summer. He replied that the Madness performance from 1986, together with The Smiths performance from 1984, were two important pieces of archive footage that he was looking out for, but sadly found neither, so assumed they were never filmed. However, a recording of 8 tracks from their set does exist, recorded by someone in the crowd. Its existance has been confirmed to me by both a prominent Madness collector (who has a copy of it somewhere), as well a Glastonbury internet forum, where a member also has a copy. Hopefully within a few months, we might be able to provide a link to the footage from here.

Reviews and artefacts of 2007 and 2009 performances to be added soon.



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