Take It or Leave It - Commentary
Dave says they were badly stuck for a beginning; and then the band had to get to the airport so they thought they'd
use the taxi to the airport. They tried to keep everything as realistic as possible; making them ahead of their
time in many ways.
Dave let the band do as they pleased during the filming at the airport; meaning that a lot of great, original ideas came through - like Lee sneaking up on random people (strangers and band members alike) and putting stickers on their backs!
The film starts with Lee, walking the streets of London. Chris points out that
there's no Starbucks to be seen and nobody has a mobile phone pressed to his ear.
Dave mentions that they started the film in black and white to give a sense of age. The lab told him to let them do all the film in one go to make things easier for them; and then they bleached the lot! He says it was completely burnt out, looking like a snow scene with a few black dots on. When he approached the lab about it, they merely said "sorry". Dave was unimpressed and the band blamed him.
Chris says at least it gave them a practice run.
Lee and Mike heading for "Rock On". The moving camera was in fact a camera man being
dragged along on a trolley. It jolts a bit as a result; but it looks good.
Mike had to keep trying to egg Lee into following the script they'd work out, because he seemed determined to ad lib.
The sound were never ready; and failed to take notice of Dave who hated saying "action" and opted for saying
"shoot" or "go". The band were constantly having to start again because the sound crew hadn't been recording.
The music shop keeper in the film actually worked for both "Stiff Records" and "Rock On", so he got the part.
Chrissy and his wife in their home. The child in the shot with them isn't actually Chrissy's
kid; although it isn't actually explained why he's there. Chrissy says it was really sad, because his dad was in prison, and he
kept calling Chrissy "dad".
First rehearsal; with Mike, Lee and Chris. They're really playing at Mike's mum's
house; probably in Mike's room.
The whole film uses the original locations and props whenever possible.
Lee's music lesson. Dave asks Chris where Lee got the idea for the sax with no
serial number, was it from a film? Chris says no; Lee really did "miss appropriate" a sax back in the early days and
scratched off the serial number in case the real owner had taken note of it.
Dave says Lee's the "mean street" character.
Chris meets John Hasler in the Job Centre. Dave says this bit's good - true to
type and typical of the era. Signing on has changed a bit since then!
Rehearsal at Mike's; this time with the addition of John Hasler on drums. Chris
is using his first guitar, which he says he got for ten pounds.
They really did cover John's drums when they rehearsed, because they were a bit loud. Chris says that they let him be drummer because he went out and bought a drum kit, showing real keenness.
They note that Mike really showed his resilience; because in the early days it was hard to imagine that the band would go anywhere.
Dave says his sarcasm was great; but would you really want to work with him? Chris didn't mind much because he'd known him ages; everybody else tended to get annoyed by Mike. Chris points out that Mike's attitude was exaggerated for the film - if Mike had really spoken to Lee in the way he does at times, Lee would probably have attacked him. Mike's a good actor; really good at looking frustrated and annoyed.
Lee could never understand that he had to convert the notes for a piano into a different key for the sax. Chris says the penny didn't drop until about the time they were producing “One Step Beyond”.
Dave loves the part where Lee gets angry and starts shouting at Mike; repeating every line of Mike's like an echo whilst chucking his sax into a carrier in bits.
Suggs and Chalky. Chris laughs at Suggs' use of the word "bloomin'" when he's talking to Chalky about having
to go to a "bloomin' cafe" with a social worker. He remembers that they weren't allowed to swear because there
might be young children watching and they didn't want to encourage them to do the wrong things. Back in those days,
"bloomin'" was borderline.
At that time, Chalky was just a friend of the band. He later became joint manager of Madness with Tokks for a time.
The Post Office. Chrissy didn't really work in a Post Office, he just thought it'd work well in the film. Dave likes the bit where he tries shoving a large package into a small pigeon hole.
Mike and Si in the Tube Station. In reality, they didn't go as far as they do in the film; but they really
did mess about - and got caught - and were sent to prison for a couple of weeks. Barso could never run very fast
for very long; so he was always caught.
Chris says that all the band members were quite bad, but they never did anything awful, like mugging people. They did a bit of vandalism and shoplifting though, mainly out of boredom. They weren't trying to be nasty or anything; they just wanted fun. Dave says that the problem was the system, because they didn't know what to do with young people back then.
The Invaders play in Si's garden. The location really is Si's house. The singer was never a part of Madness.
They didn't want him to sound too good, so they made sure he couldn't hear himself too well.
Dave points out that Chris is beginning to play better at this point. It's a good piece of acting, playing badly on purpose and improving gradually as time goes on.
Chris says he can remember Si saying that he was having a party and wanted the band to play and how excited/nervous they'd been... and then they were put in the garden! At first they had a crowd out there, then they had a couple of people... and then they had one person out there being sick somewhere...
Chris doesn't remember Mike having a go at Si; though he can remember asking why the gear was being taken through to the garden. He's sure Barso would never have been that aggressive... though he might have, because they did argue quite a bit back then.
Carl was funny. He had the part where he asks Mike to let him become The Invaders' bass player all worked out right up to the time when it actually came to saying something.
Suggs did the traditional bit where you nose around your host's bedroom, maybe nick a few records (Chris says he would never have done that; he's too nice a bloke!). There's also a part where he bumps into Hasler in the toilet and has a chat with him about the gig. He says he can sing twice as well as the singer they had. Chris points out the “wee” sound effect that they had looping forever in the background of the scene... I think it's actually a tap running.
Mark and Woody at an audition The twins were in fact actors who turned up for an audition. Dave thought
they were fun and gave them this part. It took a lot of doing, but they managed to get them to say their lines at
the same time.
Woody has a woolly beanie hat on during most of the film because when he joined the band he had long hair; which they made him get cut. It's an attempt at continuity.
Chris and Mike. Chris never actually worked with Mike, but they used a bit of artistic license during filming to give a rough idea of the band members' backgrounds.
Suggs' first rehearsal. Carl really did play bass for a time. Chris says he can play anything - even
He still thinks Mike seems too harsh and unpleasant; he wasn't that bad really. Dave points out that Mike did have a certain standard that he was aiming for though.
Chris says he can remember the first rehearsal that Suggs and Chalky came along to. He was walking on the other side of the road to them; thinking they were a pair of yobbish skinheads because they were making a lot of noise and sharing a bottle of vodka. He says it actually happened at Mike's mum's house, not the little room where they rehearsed later on.
Dave thinks the bottle of vodka is a bit over-the-top; Chris says it probably wasn't such a big bottle, but Suggs really did turn up with vodka.
They used to do loads of old Rock 'N' Roll songs; all of which had good guitar solos in - Chris used to really get into them.
Lee keeps disappearing. Chris says that things haven't changed much with the band. At the time the
commentary was recorded, Madness had a lot of work on (trying to sort out the "Our House" musical); so Thommo went
off to Australia for a time.
Mike gives Chas a lift home. Dave doesn't like the parts where the band are driving in the dark. To him,
it's too dark. Chris says they should have sent it off to the people that bleached the black and white film
- it might have come out like daylight! He likes it as it is though; it looks realistic.
Barson did test everyone to see if they were prepared to stick with it. Chris says Carl still holds a grudge/argues with Mike about some of the things he was put through. Mike says he didn't drop Carl off in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, but Chris remembers it happening.
Late start. Chrissy says he had to drag Mike out of bed enough times - it still happens now in fact; when he
returns to the UK he sometimes stays with his mum.
Dave says he was always amazed by Chrissy's time keeping - he was the only one who used to turn up on time, from what he remembers. Chris says that he, Mark and Woody are pretty reliable but everyone else are usually on a different planet. Carl would even turn up on a different day!
Mike had no time for things like sport. When Suggs missed a rehearsal due to the cup final, most people would have understood that; but as it was, Mike kicked him out. Mike had the van and place to rehearse, so he had the power. If he said he didn't want someone in the band, the others couldn't really argue.
Thommo was always leaving and coming back, but Chris hung in there. It was John Hasler that kept the band going though; he was always bringing in new people when they were needed.
Lee's latest job. Lee turns up late for his new job as a driver for a builders' van. This is a bit
exaggerated, but taken from real life. He acts well too. Dave laughs and says that if the foreman knew Thommo he
wouldn't give him the keys!
Dave says he likes the way Lee seems to hang on every word the foreman says, asks no questions, waits for him to go and then asks "What are flattens"? Chris says he's really like that. He remembers a time when he told him that he took his car to the garage and that the mechanic said it would be a "long 'un"... What's a long 'un?
Dave says he can remember how Thommo used to do tricks on "Top of the Pops" - without telling anyone before hand - and used to get upset when the camera crew missed them. He thought it was all captured through some magic process!
Mark in his flat. That was really filmed in his flat, but they didn't use his real mum
because they were told they had to use actors.
Chris can remember being with Mike when they picked Mark up for the first time. He was the clean-cut, almost "mummy's boy" type; very different from the rest of the band.
It was Gary (the drummer at the time) who introduced Mark to the band. He lives in New York now but Mark still keeps in touch with him.
John Hasler and Suggs. Again it's acknowledged that if John hadn't been around, Madness wouldn't have
happened. He took over singing from Suggs when he was kicked out, he brought in Gary Dovey to play drums and he
kept everything going. Though they didn't show it in the film (because it would have made it so much longer) they
did a few gigs with John singing. Suggs came along to them and it was clear that he was sorry and wanted to come
When John was on holiday, Mark arranged a gig; so Chris overrode Mike's authority and asked Suggs to come back.
Plastered. Chris loves this bit - very funny. He wishes the bit with them painting a window had made it
into the film too (and I wish they had been able to put that bit on the DVD). He acknowledges that, as with their
music videos, very little was left out and it was well edited.
Gary's last rehearsal. This bit is apparently typical of Thommo. He patches things up with
Barso, comes back and gets rid of the drummer! Chris said that this part was annoying because the song had a great guitar solo in
that he never got to play.
Chris points out that Gary wasn't very good at playing badly.
Back to night-time driving. Dave wishes they'd put lights inside the van so you could see what was going on
better. Chris still says he prefers it as it is – it looks natural.
To get the shots that they did, the camera crew filmed from the back of a station wagon.
After the film was made, Barso said parts were a bit trite; like when they say they need a drummer and Mark pipes up saying "I know a drummer". But that was how it happened. Bedders already knew Woody, and that's how he came to be part of the band.
Woody joins the band. They start jazzing things up here. They speed up the bit
where the band help Woody with his drums and set up.
When the song starts, this is the real beginning of Madness. This is the point where things really start to happen. Suggs comes back and now the line-up is complete (if you don't count Carl who returned later).
Chris laughs at Suggs "eating" the mic; he says he always used to do that. He points out that Suggs keeps looking into the camera when he's singing, because it was difficult not to after all the music videos they'd done.
The Acklam Hall. They wanted to film in the real Acklam Hall, but it had been burnt
down. The skinheads were the real thing though.
Chalky and Chas were good at dealing with people like that. Chris says he remembers that when they played there, he went off to the loo and met someone who he took to be a mate of Suggs'. Naturally, he started chatting to him; which wasn't a good idea because he reacted by behaving in a threatening manner. He really wished Chas was there! They did make it out to be worse than it was for the film; just to make it more interesting.
Dave likes the bit with Barso dragging the rest of the band off to the dressing room before they start fighting the skinheads. Typical of Mike, that.
"In the Middle of the Night" - Suggs read something in the paper about a man who stole womens' underwear off
lines and thought it would be a good, funny subject for a song.
After the performance. The real Clive Langer makes an appearance at this point to act out the first time he
met the band. Woody's dad also makes a brief appearance to tell his son that he was marvellous.
Return of the skinheads. They point out that Suggs looks as if he's getting ready to run while the others
are busy exchanging insults/threats with the skinheads.
Chris says that the idea behind Chas punching out the light was so that the violence was only suggested by sounds.
In reality, Chalky and Chas got left behind when the band made a run for it and managed to blend in somehow; but as the other band members made their escape a car backfired and Chalky said "they've got shooters!" - they really thought that they had guns for a moment.
Renaming the band. Chris says that this part could have been better; because someone suddenly shouts out
that "let's call ourselves Madness" line while Mike argues and says he doesn't like it. Then they play their cover
of "Madness" by Prince Buster.
This part was done in this way because they suddenly realised that up until this point in the film, the band was still called The Invaders and couldn't think of a better way of dealing with the name change.
It's very hard to get permission to film in places like Tube stations, so they just went in and did it. "Guerilla Filming" Dave calls it.
During the filming of this part, the band members really did get quite drunk... to the point where Suggs looks as if he's about to fall over, and Woody has to be helped out of the watering hole that they ended up in. But it was all good fun.
Mike and Chris. Barso gave Chrissy a lawnmower that didn't work; and then said that he couldn't hear much
mowing going on. Chris says he thinks he really did have a hangover when they filmed that part, so he didn't have
to try hard to act that. Dave laughs and says realism is great.
Mike owned one van and then Thommo "got hold of" another van (Chris has a feeling there was something dodgy about that somewhere along the line but he can't remember; Dave says there must have been if Lee was involved!). Thommo's van was used for the band's gear and Mike's was used for the band to travel in.
When Mike sprays his logo on the back of his van, he moans at Chris when the paint runs as if it's all his fault. Chris laughs and says that was quite typical of Barso.
Double booked. The "owners" of The Dublin Castle were in fact actors from The
Abbey (a big Irish theatre).
Come The Nashville performance, they put in some slow-motion (and other) effects to make things look more professional.
The car chase (where they're speeding to The Dublin Castle) was all filmed out the back of a car without a license. The members of Madness weren't in the vans at this point because it was too dangerous - the vans were driven by stunt drivers.
Everyone in The Dublin Castle was getting very drunk while they "waited" for Madness. Meanwhile, the car chase continues. During the filming of this part, Dave broke his foot - he was on top a scaffold which fell over.
It's when the group arrives at The Dublin Castle that Carl rejoins the band. Chris says the reason they showed Lee phoning him about this gig was to show that he was still around. He remembers a gig in Aylesbury where Carl turned up when they were just about to start and came through the audience. It was at that point that they realised he should be member number seven.
One Step Beyond. Dave remembers hearing "One Step Beyond" when the band were
playing at his wedding and knowing that that tune was something special. Then he had to fight them to make them
record it - and when they finally did, they recorded it too short! Dave was really upset and annoyed. He got it
edited, which Lee could never get his head around. He asked if he'd got another band in to record the extra bit!
Bed and Breakfast Man. This song was actually about John Hasler, because he'd turn up at people's houses at
tea time, eat all their food and stay the night; so Gary Dovey called him "the bed and breakfast man". Chris still
argues with Mike over the rights to the song, claiming that he wrote quite a few of the lyrics. Chrissy also used
to sing the song in the early days, having taught Suggs to play the guitar chords.
Pathway Studios. They had to get a stunt biker to be Woody because the way he was cycling was too dangerous.
Chrissy says he remembers Woody, on the way to the studio, saying "I know the way" and getting completely lost.
Chris admits that he used to smuggle bits of bacon and the like into Woody's salads because he was a vegetarian and was always just given a salad. Things are different today, but back then veggies weren't given much nourishment and Chris used to worry about Woody.
Returning to Pathway. They really did throw Woody in the back of the van the second time around, but they
didn't tie him up.
Dave asks who it was atop the van.
"Suggs. He's such a..."
"A ham, isn't he?"
"He made a big dent in the roof!"
"What a yob!"
Present Day (1981). This part wasn't scripted. Dave just stuck the seven band members in a dressing room
with a camera.
The part with Mike looking for his sunglasses when they're on his head is just him making fun of himself (which he does well). He was always putting his glasses down and losing them. Chrissy says that when they were all wearing the same suits, he put his trousers on and wondered why they were up around his ankles... not realising that he'd actually picked up Lee's trousers!
End credits. The film ends showing a few clips of music videos; to say that it
was the end of the film but not their career.