Madness, “Night Boat To Cairo” and The Nutty Boys, Forty Years On

Three years ago, back in the early days of this blog, I wrote a light-hearted post about the band Madness and the whole 2 Tone movement (link here). It coincided with Glastonbury (where they had just performed), and was supposed to form a bit of respite ahead of all the political upheaval about to come our way after the divisive disaster that was the EU Referendum result. I don’t even think the word Brexit had even been coined yet, and there is nothing I hate more than a stupid-sounding new word created from two other words. In linguistics it’s called a portmanteau, which ironically has a French etymology. Oh how the French must be loving us now!


But here we are a full three years and more on from that post, and the political upheaval is still with us and has ramped up to a whole new level. Talking of new words, I have just discovered one that has apparently been around forever, but for good reason has never before entered our personal vernacular – Prorogation. Yep, that’s the latest trick up the government’s sleeve, so The Madness continues. Getting back to Madness the band, last Friday they came to our town, and down to a bit of luck I managed to see them.

Madness – Promotional pic for the 2019 tour

I’ve now hosted 25 sets of guests since acquiring the holiday hideaway so it’s been a busy old summer, and the downside is I haven’t really been able to commit to much, as I’m either greeting people or getting ready for the next set of people. We did have a free evening last Friday however so I persuaded Mr WIAA to head into town with me for a bite to eat. On the way home we swung by our very central Highland Games stadium (yes, we have one), as I knew Madness were going to be playing there that very night. As luck would have it, there were tickets left, so it was a no-brainer we would join all the other locals of a certain age who fancied a trip down memory lane.

Night Boat To Cairo by Madness:

What a great night we had – It was dark, but warm and dry, and Suggs and the boys were in tip-top form, closing the show with a very rousing performance of Night Boat To Cairo (complete with tea towel). If you owned the album “One Step Beyond” back in the day, and played it on repeat as I did, you will always remember Night Boat as being the third track on Side One after the Title Track and My Girl. We just don’t consume our music in that way nowadays so Sides and Track Numbers are largely irrelevant. Bit of trivia, the term Night Boat has passed into cockney rhyming slang as a term for a giro, or unemployment benefit cheque but you’d have to be British to get that one I imagine.


Last week I wrote nostalgically about the year 1978, but this week it’s all about 1979, as that was the year I discovered Madness. The thing I enjoyed most about the concert however was the comforting thought that despite the political upheaval, and all the changes to how we live over the last 40 years, one constant has been those Nutty Boys from Camden Town. They look older close up, but the songs are the same, the band members are the same (although they are now missing Chas Smash), the clothes are the same, and the saxophone solos are the same. Suggs, aka Graham McPherson, still has that very unique, staccato-style way of speaking, … and moving. Yes, somehow all very comforting, and at the moment I think I would rather have the Nutty Boys run the country than BoJo (another portmanteau?) and Walter from The Dandy.

Until next time….

Night Boat To Cairo Lyrics
(Song by Mike Barson/Graham McPherson)

It’s just gone noon
Half past monsoon
On the banks of the river Nile
Here comes the boat
Only half-afloat
Oarsman grins a toothless smile
Only just one more
To this desolate shore
Last boat along the river Nile
Doesn’t seem to care
No more wind in his hair
As he reaches his last half mile
The oar snaps in his hand
Before he reaches dry land
But the sound doesn’t deafen his smile
Just pokes at wet sand
With an oar in his hand
Floats off down the river Nile
Floats off down the river Nile

(All aboard, night boat to Cairo!)

(Night boat to Cairo!)

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days. I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 57 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team, Bacharach and David. The opening line to that song was, "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

20 thoughts on “Madness, “Night Boat To Cairo” and The Nutty Boys, Forty Years On”

    1. Thanks for sharing your post about Chas – Someone did visit my original post a good while later and told me about Chas/Cathal, so glad it wasn’t just down to a falling out (will probably have to update that part now) but a shame his album wasn’t radio-friendly enough to get more attention. Yes Cathal, many of us by the time we get to middle-age reflect on “how it should have been”, which is why revisiting the tracks of your years can sometimes be tough. Really chuffed to see Suggs is still married to his teenage sweetheart though, and has been for nearly 40 years now.

      One Step Beyond-great live act I would say! They certainly were on good form on Friday, so long may it continue.


  1. It’s gone beyond madness in the last few days Alyson.

    Glad you got to see the band. I’ve never seen them but would imagine that it would be a good night out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I started my blog just ahead of the build up to the EU Referendum and here we are 3 and a half years later no further on, and in a much worse state in terms of harmony and confidence in our leadership. When I’m old and grey I’ll look back at this blog and see how it all played out in the pages.

      Yes, a fantastic fun band to go and see – Once in 1979 and once in 2019. Who would have thought.


  2. Another great post, as ever.
    I admit to being a bit slow on the uptake, but now I have proof. After the reference to “Night Boat” being rhyming slang for “Giro”, I was sitting here thinking – like Gilbert OSullivan – that ‘nothing rhymed’ but realising that the problem was surely mine, and it actually took me nearly five minutes to realise – remember, really – that, in rhyming slang, you only say the first bit, so that only someone who knows the rest, and what rhymes with it, will understand the meaning.
    (On the subject of Cockney rhyming slang, I find it incredible that Victorian gaolkeepers were really so thick that they didn’t cotton on to what their charges were saying, as it were, behind their backs to their faces?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for dropping by Janice.

      Yes, funny how rhyming slang evolved so that the part that actually rhymed is dropped. Good one that though, “Night Boat”. When I read your comment at first I thought you mentioned Victorian goalkeepers and wondered what football had to do with it all but I get it now! Indeed.


    1. Yes, tickets once-upon-a-time would have gone fast but a fair-sized venue so there was still space left on the night (but not a night boat to Cairo – groan!).

      One Step Beyond still feels like an album where the phrase “you had to be there” applies, but would be interested to hear what you think. We have couple friends where the husband is also a fan, and back in the day we were always the two who got up and did that very distinctive Madness-style dancing. They visited recently and despite starting the evening with a sedate dinner party for 6, later on the rug was thrown back and we got up and danced to Madness – Sadly, next day, every muscle ached. I tend to forget how old I am!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. The concert sounds way too fun! I’d love to see them, not sure if they even make it over to the States these days. Anyway, Iagree with you that they would be way better that what you got now for running the country. There’s even enough of them to make a whole Cabinet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wasn’t sure how well known they were in the US but they obviously made an impact on you. As I said in my post, in the 40 years I’ve been a fan, they do seem to have been one of life’s constants so all very comforting.

      As for the politics, it’s an Embarrassment (another Madness song!) on both sides of the pond nowadays. It’s all a massive mess here, so a cabinet full of Nutty Boys could be no worse!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to be a fan of the tv drama House Of Cards but it’s all playing out in real life nowadays. I watch far too much news on telly nowadays which is bad for my mental health! Had a brisk walk up through the forest this morning and have reminded myself how good it is for body and mind – Would thoroughly recommend it.


        1. Night-time walks are great as you see everything lit up, or not in the case of my street, as they’ve changed the street lights to low energy ones so it’s pretty dark out there – But if it helps save the planet, fair do’s.


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