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Blog: House Of Fun

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Last night was an epochal evening, a great moment in history, one that surely be remembered for ever more as, yes, the night MJ Hibbett & The Validators recorded their version of "House Of Fun" by Madness.


The evening began with my DASH to St Pancras, slowed slightly by bumping into one of my former bosses from Leicester. East Midlands Trains have, SENSIBLY, eased the boundaries of "peak time", so now I can get a train out of London as LATE as 16.25 (rather than 15.55) and come back from Leicester as EARLY as 08.56 (not 09.48). OK, I know it's not a huge change, but it makes a big difference when you're trying to get out of work!

Derby, CHIPS, a stroll through the city centre to The Snug, and I was soon in the control room with Rich and Producer Pattison. We had some time to use before the rest of The Vlads got there, so we did some jiggery pokery to extend the intro to We Can Start Having Fun, identified a need to a) radically increase the volume of the guitar solo ("It needs to be as loud as the vocals!" i said. "It is - there's no vocals in this bit!" said Mr Pattison) and b) probably replace it with a Violin Solo anyway.

We then went into the studio itself to record a big pile of extra backing vocals for Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid. The first couple of batches were just to RAMP UP the crowd singalong, but then Tim got us doing DEIRDRES backing vocals i.e. like the recently split-up Young Indie-Pop Band, THE DEIRDRES. "HEY!" we sang, "THERE!" "EMO!" we added, "BOY!" It was all we could do to stop ourselves baking some CAKES for sale at gigs. When we'd finished Tim said "See? We CAN have fun without being silly." I didn't know whether to feel pleased or chastened, but DO expect to have ALL my pocket money this week.

With that done we got set up to try and learn the song. This was slightly HEAVY GOING until our MUSICAL DIRECTOR Mr FA Machine arrived. He and I had agreed to swap instruments, with me on bass and him on guitar, and this was a WONDERFUL THING. Frankie is a pretty AMAZING guitarist, and he WHISTLED through various different ways of playing the song, and I was very very happy to be able to actually PLAY ALONG. I am, as I am sure anybody who's seen me in action will know, NOT a natural guitar player, but give me a BASS and I am at home. It was LOVELY for me to be able to play an instrument with a bit of confidence, especially when Frankie could lean over and say "How about playing THIS?" show me something, and then for me to BE ABLE TO PLAY IT. Evenutally.

We worked stolidly, methodically, at the song for about 90 minutes, the three of us BOSSING EACH OTHER ABOUT, only moving on to the next section when we were sure we'd got each previous one SORTED. "House Of Fun" is a RIDICULOUSLY complicated song, with inversions, bridges, extra bits, shortened bits and ALL sorts, and the fact that it doesn't SOUND like it is testament to what a GRATE band Madness really are.

Emma and Tom arrived, and they got set up in the control room, Tom playing along to work out his bits, Emma giving us GUIDE vocals, which by this stage was INCREDIBLY handy. After another half an hour or so we were ready, and after four or five attempts had a VERSION. One more go from THAT and we were done - and it sounds PRETTY NIFTY. It's for (hopefuly) inclusion on a French Tribute Albu, and we'd been told we were NOT to do an overly faithful cover version but to do our own take and I must say, tho the final product is very recognisably "House Of Fun", it sounds a lot like us TOO.

Much of the evening then flew by in overdubs, first of my vocals, then Emma's, then some GROUP ones and finally Tom's violin. The nice thing was we were working as a TEAM, with Producer Pattison and Musical Director Machine especially coming into their own this time. Every time I left the room I'd come back to see Francis IN CONFERENCE with another Validator, saying "Hmm, but how about if we try THIS note there? Isn't THAT delightful?"

Meanwhile there was further SHENANIGANS as I wandered about shooting bits of VIDEO. We're planning to release The Advent Calendar Of FACT as a download-only Christmas Single, and I'm going to make a video for it which will partly, SORT OF, look a bit like Band-Aid. A BIT. This meant lots of sneaking around filming people while RECORDING, and also some filming people PRETEND to record - ooh, it was like The Beatles recording "Hey Bulldog" and making it the vidoe for "Lady Maddona"!

My favourite bit was a tiny little snippet for the line "a drunken mob of Carol Singers", when I filmed The Validators CAROL SINGING at the door to the studio. As they burst spontaneously into song you would have thought BUTTER WOULDN'T MELT. Happily order was soon restored by the usual bout of wind-breaking, bad language and Remarks In Poor Taste... oh that Mrs Pattison, you can't take her anyway!

With everything finally finished we bid our farewells to each other and then to Rich and headed home, with Tom and I dropping into Pattison Mansions on the way home (we'd stayed a bit later than the others) to drop in Tim's iPod and LANYARD. He ALWAYS seems to leave something behind - perhaps in future it can be the subject of a SWEEPSTAKE.

We eventually got back to Leicester to spend an increasingly hopeful, yet KNACKERED, couple of hours drinking The Whisky and starting to believe that MAYBE Obama might actually WIN! I still feel dodgy SAYING it in case i JINX it and they go back and say "No, hang on, there's all these other votes we forgot to count" or something, and i KNOW that, like May 2 1997 today will probably be the start of a gradual slope into disappointment, but for now: WAHEY! USA! LET! US! ROCK!

posted 5/11/2008 by MJ Hibbett

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Every time I left the room I'd come back to see Francis IN CONFERENCE with another Validator, saying "Hmm, but how about if we try THIS note there? Isn't THAT delightful?"

EH? You SURELY mean "Every time I left the room I'd come back to see Francis reading EMPIRE and getting annoyed with everyone distracting him"
posted 6/11/2008 by Francis

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