What gave you the confidence to keep writing?
Suggs: I wrote “Baggy Trousers” pretty early on, which was a good start. In that context I used to really like Ian Dury and I noticed quite a lot of his songs were just lists of things. That was a list of things I felt about going to school that I then managed to make rhyme and into the format of what could be sung as a pop song. I didn’t set out to do that. Then I came up with the idea of the chorus because Pink Floyd had written that song “Teacher, leave them kids alone” [“Another Brick in the Wall”]. I remembered how put-upon the teachers were at my school so I decided to make the chorus “Oh what fun we had, but at the time it seemed so bad” to try and put both sides of that coin. I suppose there was some innate guilt that I’d let myself down at school and it wasn’t the teachers’ fault any more than it was my fault that the school was so rubbish.
Do you keep the rails of meaning in place when you are writing or do you allow your imagination free rein?
Each time I’ve written a song it’s because of some peculiar combination of coincidences. I was in a pub on the corner and they put “Our House” on the jukebox. I was thinking about the whole thing: the tambourine, the idea we were trying to do something a bit Motowny. We were going to do a concept album about London and then Cathal [Smyth, aka Chas Smash] was the only one who wrote any words. We had this really fantastic string part, then we got to the chorus and there’s no strings because we put the chorus in after. Clive Langer said, “We’ve got to have some sort of chorus,” so we wrote this quite prosaic “our house in the middle of our street”, which I thought was a bit boring, but actually because the song was so melodic and fabulous it really worked. It was totally outside of the idea of crafting in any way.
Clive Langer (producer) and Hugh Gadsdon (manager) Isle of Noises launch September 2013