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4.2 out of 5 stars167
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 27 May 2014
Madness fans: THIS BOOK ISN'T ABOUT MADNESS. There are a few interesting revelations, but it's about "What made Graham MacPherson into Suggs". Just thought I'd start there, as it seems to be a constant complaint in other reviews.

I've read a lot people associated with 2-Tone, and this was my favourite read, because (1) It's not ghostwritten, or not much at least, because you can tell Sugg's way of speaking coming through the words. (2) He doesn't big himself up, quite the opposite if anything. (3) No-one gets slagged. Nice, easy read, plenty of anecdotes, made for holiday reading. you may not learn much, but there are plenty of fact-heavy books for that, this is just a pleasant few hours of company with a nice guy.
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This is a slightly odd autobiography. For the first two thirds or so it tells the story of Suggs's life from childhood to the present day, and it is an enjoyable read, although some will be disappointed that Madness seem to be treated almost as an aside in a way, with fewer than expected stories about the band and its members. Towards the end however it does seem as though Suggs was maybe told by the publisher that the book was too short, so the remaining part is taken up with what feel like extended anecdotes about family holidays, friends, football, meals he's had and so on. It's entertaining enough, but it feels a little "will this do?", as though it was added to pad the book out. An easy read, but it feels like it needed more work to knock it into shape.
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on 24 November 2013
Disappointing. Madness were the first band I ever saw live, and The Prince still has to be the most infectious dance track ever. But there just isn't enough of Madness in Suggs' book. It's as if he's trying so hard to be someone other than the singer from Madness, that his motives obscure his own (and the band's) true legacy. Want stories about the creation of One Step Beyond? Or how and why the song Michael Caine evolved and how they got the man himself onto the record? Or how they matured into some of the finest songwriters around? No chance. Want to know how Suggs makes bruschetta, or enjoys cycling in southern Italy? Then you're in business.

He's a third of the way into the book before Madness even emerge as a band. You're wondering how he's going maintain that detail throughout Madness' career. Simple; he doesn't. A few chapters later, they're splitting up. No mention of the six albums recorded in between. He goes into excruciating detail about a New Year's Eve, but doesn't mention recording Absolutely, 7, the Rise and Fall etc. The sequencing jumps around a lot and while I'm sure there's something to be said about avoiding a straight, chronological narrative, it sill leaves you feeling a little short-changed.

What is written is good however; very entertaining. There's a real warmth and honesty to his tales, and he's a good narrator/raconteur. I'd imagine his one man stage shows are a gem.

So, caveat emptor. Be aware that you are getting a well written and entertaining autobiography. You are not getting a book about Madness.
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on 25 October 2013
For any Madness Fan, or anyone interested in the Social and Music scene of the 70's and 80's this is a fantastic read. The style is honest and truthful, but the narrative walks the reader through the authors extraordinary lifetime events in a natural and moving way. - Recommended.
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on 20 November 2014
Fantastic story of how Suggs got his stage name, rose to fame.

Some people have said "Oh, theres not enough about Madness in here" - Er, when he was born, just like the rest of the band; they didnt release One Step Beyond in the late 1950s as Madness. Its a book about Graham McPherson, not a biography of Madness.

Still a great book though.
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on 24 April 2014
Like many, I was eager to read this book. There have been hints about difficult relationships in Madness, and these are briefly referenced, but in no detail and we learn little about the workings of the group, or indeed recording the music. Presumably the lack of detail about group dynamic is that he still has to work with these guys, and also - to be fair - it is none of our business.

He recollections about some parts of London in the 70s is at times alarming: violent world, with poor accommodation too. Maybe some parts of Britain are still like this. But it's shocking and worth reading.

As I said in the review title, Suggs is a great story teller and this book is very easy to read. But make no mistake, this is a biography about Suggs, and not about Madness, which is fair enough and actually makes sense - just not what I was expecting.
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on 14 June 2015
Look I love Suggs and indeed Madness, (they soundtracked my childhood), so I came at this with a lot of goodwill. Suggs is undoubtedly on the verge of being a 'National Treasure' so I bought this as a holiday read.
Blimey it was hard work. Written in a rather arch style where he is the hero of his own movie as it were and endless recounting of the clothing he was wearing, it got well ..... I hate to say it....tedious. And the absolute shame of this book is he has such a bl**dy good story to tell, drug addicted jazz father, cabaret/louche mother, childhood exile in Wales, being in one of the definitive UK bands in one of the definitive era's for music, then onto to the aforementioned national treasure status and yet he fails signally to deliver. That Close? Not even near to being a decent retelling of his story.
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on 23 November 2013
As a lifelong Madness and Chelsea fan I was expecting a good read - which is exactly what I got! Admittedly I did panic a bit when I was about two thirds through and there hadn't been very much detail about the band's successful years, but this was addressed more towards the end of the book. A little more of this wouldn't have gone amiss and as others have commented, a little more chronological order to things would have made it all a little easier to follow. Hence 4 stars and not 5.

Reading the book has encouraged me to buy and listen to The Liberty of Norton Folgate, which I'll be doing very soon. It seems I've missed out on a real treasure.

In summary - a good guy, a good read and a brilliant, unique band.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 October 2014
A supremely enjoyable biography.

I am a similar age to Suggs and also grew up in north London so there were many aspects of his story that I recognised from growing up in the same place at the same time.

That said, he has plenty of amusing and interesting tales to tell, and this book is peppered with them. He's also an enthusiastic and engaging narrator. So, whatever your background, if you enjoy books that embrace social history, music, travel, humour, growing up, families, and this thing we call life, then you should find plenty to enjoy here.
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on 4 December 2013
Suggs is a prime example of the cliche "national treasure", and as such you want his autobiography to show him to be as lovable as you have always thought him to be. 'That Close' doesn't disappoint. He has lived the charmed life of an ordinary North London boy for whom "pop star" seemed a preferable destiny to any of the dead-end jobs that careers officers, Job Centres and necessity would have in mind for him, although it may not be ordinary for such to spend much of his childhood drinking Coke (with the sophisticated touch of ice and lemon), perched on a bar stool in the Soho jazz club where his mum performed, being patted on the head by legendary Bohemians of the like of George Melly and Francis Bacon. As you read you can hear Suggs telling you the story across a table of empty pint glasses, right down to his use of the word "them" in preference to the "those" his disappointed English teacher would have preferred. 'That Close' is as devoid of pretention or prejudice as is the man we think and hope we know. I deny Suggs a fifth star only because there isn't much of the juicy revelation about pop's fellow travellers that he must be armed to provide. He knows more about some of them than he's letting on. "Do unto others..." is a motto you would expect him to live by, though, and he does. Good on him. If Suggs and Madness are among your popular cultural heroes, his book will confirm it. Nice man.
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