30 June 2006

Cuddly Toys - Madman


Cuddly Toys - Madman cover

Madman was one of two songs written by David Bowie and Marc Bolan in September 1977.

Marc had been the acoustic elfin kid, the glam rock pioneer and prime star, then gone through a mid 70s cocaine fuelled two-parts-glam-one-part-soul period (which everyone slags off but I really like).

Then he moved back to London, got into punk, went teetotal and was getting it together.

It's hard to explain just how much punk was hated by the establishment. Even within the music press, it was decried as just noise and not proper music, as encouraging violence and glorifying squalor. But Bolan saw in it the same vigorous youth energy he'd always loved in early rock n roll. He wrote articles defending it, praising punk bands for 'holding a mirror up to society'. He got The Damned in as the support on his 1977 tour.

He was given a TV show, presenting and playing two or three songs and introducing other bands. There was some cack that the Industry paid to be on - Bay City Fuckin Rollers in 1977, for fuck's sake - but he also got on The Jam, The Damned and Generation X.

His own band was still a load of sessionists in overalls, but as the Marc show's punky versions of his old hits demonstrated, he was ready to head out into something with more balls.

For the last show, his old mate from way back came over to play a new song. Bowie and Bolan had been friends in the early 70s. Their shared producer, Tony Visconti, recalls the two of them having long conversations about the importance of retaining artistic control and not letting managment dictate your career. When Bowie's band The Hype played their only gig in 1970, Bolan was the only audience member who'd got into their spirit of outrageous costumes and came along dressed as a gladiator.

They played on a couple of tracks together that year; the single Oh Baby, credited to Dib Cochran and The Earwigs, and Bowie's original single of The Prettiest Star (might put either or both up here if anyone wants 'em).

Then Bolan became a huge star while Bowie released a rapid succession of great records that nobody bought. Hunky Dory, with Changes as the flagship 45, and it utterly stiffed! What the fuck else was anybody buying that justifies that?

When he demoed his next album, the song that went on to be Lady Stardust was called Song For Marc.

As Bowie's star ascended far higher, Bolan went a long way down the avenue of peculiar concept album titles. Zinc Alloy And The Hidden Riders of Tomorrow; or A Creamed Cage in August. I shit you not. Great album, mind.

But by 77 both of them had been through weird times and were getting it back together. Bowie had gone to Berlin and abandoned any attempts at commercialism whilst being monstrously prolific. That year he'd already put out Low and co-written and played on Iggy Pop's The Idiot and Lust For Life. He'd just finished Heroes when Marc talked him into coming on the Marc show.

On 9th September they recorded it. Bowie did Heroes, and he and Marc were going to do two numbers they'd just written together, Sitting Next To You and Madman. Both are exactly the kind of wired, simplistic and compelling artrock that you'd expect 1977 Bolan and Bowie to come up with of the top of their heads, loose yet anguished.

Filming of the show had over-run, and they were only half a minute into the first song when Marc fell off the stage and technicians on a work-to-rule overtime ban stopped filming. Bastards.

On 15th September Marc had a night out in London with friends and his partner, Gloria Jones. In the early hours of the 16th, their car failed to make a corner and hit a tree on Barnes Common, killing Marc instantly. He was two weeks short of his 30th birthday.

By strange coincidence, not only did Bowie appear on Marc's show only to have the presenter die before it was broadcast, but the same thing happened that year with his appearance on the Bing Crosby Christmas special.

It's said that Marc had given a tape of Madman to some fans. Whatever, the song first saw the light of day as this Cuddly Toys single in 1980.

The band on the back are wearing glittery clothes - waaaaay out of date for 1980 - and the personnel are listed as Sean Purcell, Tony Baggett, Faebhean Kwest, Billy Surgeoner and Paddy. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that, ahem, Faebhean was the singer.

According to the practically definitive Illustrated David Bowie Discography (who've taken their astonishing downloads section down, grumble grumble), Madman was written by Bolan, Bowie and Steve Harley.

The originals of Madman and Sitting Next To You have appeared on numerous shitty bootlegs over the years, but in 1995 all takes of them were released in decent audio quality on a bootleg CD called Marc Bolan With David Bowie And Other Friends (Bolan Collectors Series MBCS102). There's also The Last Sessions, which does the same job.

I'd give my nads for a copy of either disc.

[MP3 deleted to make room for new ones. Sorry!]


Gyrus said...

I've only known T. Rex through compilations, had no idea of their albums or how each are seen. Teenage Dream and Dreamy Lady were always among my favourites - I take it they're from the "cocaine fuelled two-parts-glam-one-part-soul" bit? Wow, I may have to check out Zinc Alloy And The Hidden Riders of Tomorrow or A Creamed Cage in August. God help me.

merrick said...

Yeah, Teenage Dream was where it all really went out that way, and Dreamy Lady is exactly the stuff I'm talking about.

Being with Gloria Jones (early 70s Motown writer and producer and, fact fans, the early 60s soul singer who did the original Tainted Love) clearly puled him out towards black American music.

The albums are patchy, but there's a funky shine to them that nobody else ever seemed to do.

It's Tanx, Zinc Alloy and Bolan's Zip Gun that really count for that bracket, and arguable Futurisitc Dragon too.

The one album after that, Dandy in The Underworld, is a bit more disappointing. The ploddy sessionist backing band let it down, but also there's no great songs bar Teen Riot Structure.

I recently got a DVD compilation of Marc's performances on the Marc show, put out by Network (check them out btw, they reissue all manner of cool stuff. And, erm, On The Buses too). You've certainly got to make some allowances, but the clues are all there. The man himself is clear and focused and has a fiery clarity to him. A bit more of the punk thing and who knows what might've been.

anthonyqkiernan said...

Is my download gubbed or does that jump?

merrick said...

Anthony, thanks for the heads up on the glitchy file.

For reasons too boring to go into, i recently had to change the way I do encoding, and it seems to give greater opportunity for glitches. Won't Get Fooled Again suffered that too.

I've re-encoded Madman and uploaded the new file, downloaded it and it plays fine.

In future, I'll do that each time I upload a track just to be sure.

Gael said...

Ah The Cuddly Toys. I think I'll have to poke around in the fluff under my bed and see if I've still got Madman...Sean Purcell, the band's singer died a few years ago. Shame.

Anonymous said...

The Cuddly Toys started out as the punk-by-numbers band The Raped. Having little success (gee, I wonder why?) they changed their name, sound, and image and became The Cuddly Toys. Their first album, which this is culled from, was called Guillotine Theatre and sounded much like this single. A second album, Trials And Crosses, was much more New Wave/New Romantic sounding, and I believe Sean Purcell was the only member to make it on both albums.

Fabian Kwest now performs 20's era blues on acoustic guitar at various pubs around London.

Anonymous said...

As a complete Bolan fanatic I have been looking for The Cuddly Toys Madman, for some time. I had it on vinyl,thanks! I was in a band called The vandals (with Alison Moyet) and we supported The Raped (Cuddly Toys) in 1978 in Basildon so there!

MrSpecialPants said...

I loved Cuddly Toys, they should've been huge.

Anonymous said...

Would love to get the Prettiest Star and Dibs tracks. Be fab if you could post 'em. Thanks once again for the web's best blog.

Step said...

I remain a Cuddly toys Fan. saw themsupporting Classix Nouveaux at West Runton in 82.
I have a Madman T shirt (self produced) and I also produce vintage Punk/Mod/NEw Wave Badges and have 2 Cuddly Toys designs (Madman Cover and classic logo black on white) Let me know if you're interested.
Vastly underated band. I,ve also got Igloos single plus 12" Goat relaease which I think is rare!!

ScooterlessMike said...

Had the honour of working with Bill Surgeoner of the Cuddly Toys in the late 80s - in Debenhams of all places. Still making music out of hours. Diamond geezer.

MrSpecialPants said...

I'd love some Cuddly Toys badges step,and also more info on the Goat 12", how do I contact you?

Anonymous said...

Can you re-up this song please?

merrick said...

Anonyperson, sorry, that's not how it works. I only have a limited amount of server space, so i can't keep everything up indefinitely.

If you want an MP3, leave your email address in the C@omments for that track (don't type it normally; make name@domain.com into nameATdomainDOTcom or somesuch, otherwise spambots will harvest your address).

i'll email you the file (via yousendit.com so it doesn't crash your inbox).