Welcome to the park of fun

Angela Lewis
Friday 05 June 1998 23:02

Aaah, yes, it's time for good old Madstock again! Remember that golden year in the Eighties when Madness's "special guest", Morrissey, saw fit to prance around in a Union Jack in a bid to seduce thousands of braying skinheads? Oh, what larks, our Moz. Nice one.

Seriously, though, you get the feeling Madness are still trying to live down that incident, which has gone down as one of the Most Horrible Events at a Pop Festival Ever. As if to ward off any whiff of bootboy nationalism, this 20th-anniversary-of-Madness knees-up is billed as an international pre- World Cup Friendly. There's something for the happy multicultural pop audience (Finley Quaye), brill thrills for the indie kid (Catatonia, Space), but most importantly, reggae reigns supreme - with Jazz Jamaica, Toots & the Maytals and veteran ska smoothster, Desmond Dekker (pictured).

The man who brought to the UK the sound of Sixties Jamaica with the likes of "007" and "Shanty Town" is in Europe for a series of dates spread over a few months, Europe being a place where the masterful warm vibes of ska may have risen and fallen in popularity over the last 30 years, but never died.

"When 'Israelites' came out and went to number one, the whole world knew that reggae music was here to stay," Dekker says happily. "It's like no other music - you can't get enough of it. Reggae music can take on different phases - you can do a little rap to it, and a little calypso, enjoy yourself with a little jungle - I think the mixture is fantastic."

The recent 50th anniversary of the first arrival of the Empire Windrush, which carried the first post-war West Indian immigrants to Britain, seems almost to tie in with Madstock, symbolising as it does the influence of Jamaican culture on London over the decades. For that reason, you can imagine Desmond Dekker being as eagerly watched in the wings by Finley Quaye as by Madness - who have connections with DD via Stiff Records, who release his album, Compass Point.

As for the event itself, Dekker reckons it will be a family day out, but even he isn't immune to patriotic fervour quietly gathering pace. "Cricket is my favourite sport but I think the Jamaican [football] team stand a very, very good chance [in the World Cup] - I am proud of them. Who knows - they might come home with Cup."

Oops. Careful now.

Madstock IV, Finsbury Park, N4 (0171-344 0044) tomorrow

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