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Lee Thompson - One Man's Madness

  by Fiona Hutchings

published: 10 / 5 / 2018

Lee Thompson - One Man's Madness


Madness fan Fiona Hutchings enjoys 'One Man's Madness', a very different type of documentary focusing on the band's idiosyncratic saxophonist, Lee Thompson.

The first Madness video I ever saw was 'Baggy Trousers' on VH1. "Here, watch the saxophone player in this! You'll like it...," my big brother told me. Fiona meet Lee 'Kix Thompson'. He was right. I really liked him, the song and the band and the nutty flying saxophone player. It's been a while now since Madness were finally recognised as the national treasures they've always been. From playing 'Our House' on the top of Buckingham Palace to helping close the 2012 London Olympics they've finally taken their place as a quintessentially British band. It has sometimes felt like lead singer Suggs is the only one to get picked out for any individual attention though. Kix is not someone you could describe as quiet or retiring though. In fact on reflection I'm amazed it's taken Lee this long to get round to making a film about himself. Still when you see how much work he has to put into this project the wait makes more sense. More than forty years in the making, it is worth the wait. The opening titles land somewhere between 'The Pink Panther' and James Bond. The scope of Thompson's involvement quickly becomes clear – He's credited as doing almost everything. From make up to character development and everything in between, his name flashes up again and again. It foreshadows the fact he plays almost everyone - other than his band mates and a few other musicians. I'm almost surprised that Jeff Baynes gets to direct. I was expecting that to be Lee too. As we are talked though the history of Madness by various talking heads (some of which aren't Lee), there are lots of old photos and clips taken from the 1981 biopic 'Take It Or Leave It'. Both provide an excellent visual history of the band. Also featured are the introductory scenes for the songs on the 'Complete Madness' video collection. This means that, while we discuss the racism in the family angle covered in 'Embarrassment', we are also looking at Kix flashing us in the middle of a busy London street. Oh yeah, and that time he revealed his crown jewels from under his kilt - over the head of her ajesty The Queen - gets a mention too. In a lot of ways those moments sum this whole film up. There are, of course, multiple clips from Madness videos sometimes mixed with different songs including some album/B sides. The police officers from the 'Shut Up' video turn up again and again. Much like the actual police in both Thompson and the band's early career. Some of the tracks discussed like 'Razor Blade Alley' and 'Land Of Hope And Glory' (both huge favourites of mine) I've never heard anyone talk about in any detail before and, so, that's a welcome treat. Lee's non Madness career is covered too from Crunch to his Ska Orchestra. It's surprising how much his band mates remember about Kix's wardrobe back then and all six other nutty boys are present (although never entirely correct) including Chas Smash who left the group in 2014. What does come across strongly is how much the band (whisper it) love each other. Although they'd probably rather die than admit it, the affection and high regard they have for their saxophonist, co-songwriter and general bad influence come across loud and clear. With my day job head on I wonder if the only way Lee can take the considered praise so many heap on his songwriting and musicality is to present it in a very funny way...When the other side of his personality is discussed, however, things can take something of a sinister turn. This is a fascinating and pretty thorough history of both a fantastic band and a real one off musician. If you only know Madness from their greatest hits, there's a taste here of what else you've missed. If you're a rabid fan (guilty), there's still new stories to enjoy. And who doesn't still grin at the story about an earthquake at the first Madstock gig? You need big balls to make a film about yourself in which you play a vast proportion of all the other people. You need even bigger amounts of talent to not come across as an off putting egomaniac. Kix isn't off putting. He's a true one off. Playing these multiple roles in both the front and background could have been a gimmick that gets old fast. It doesn't. It fits the subject perfectly. You might be surprised at who we don't get to hear from though. I would love to know what his friends, family and business associates make of his interpretations of them. And does he ever go too far? Well, you need to watch the film and find out. Alongside the film an album is also being released. It's a compilation of the songs featured in the film by Madness, Crunch, Ian Dury and the Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra. Scattered throughout are clips from the film, interviews and the odd operatic versions of our favourite songs. Anyone in possession of 'The Business' box set will be very familiar with this particular way of marrying both words and music together. For everyone else this is a new audio adventure for your ears. One Man's Madness is being shown at various Showcase cinemas across the UK during May and is released on DVD on June 1st along with the two CD official soundtrack album.

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Lee Thompson - One Man's Madness

Lee Thompson - One Man's Madness

Lee Thompson - One Man's Madness

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