Anybody who says they don’t like Madness is very
probably lying. Madness are, quite simply, a bona fide national treasure; a
band who inspire such goodwill and bonhomie that we are lucky to be graced with
their continuing presence on Britain’s music scene. The archetypal pop group
and ultimate singles band, Madness have been making records since 1979 and –
during their thirty-plus year career – have enjoyed a string of Top Ten hits
which form part of the lifeblood of British popular music. Madness songs are
considered to be comparable with those of the other great British bands like
The Kinks, The Jam and even The Beatles; and Madness lyrics always reflect the
issues of the day in a uniquely palatable way . Their ability to document
serious issues within seemingly sweet pop songs has resulted in an influence on
generations of musicians that cannot be overstated. Reverberations of Madness
can be heard in the likes of The Smiths, Blur, Arctic Monkeys and a host of
other huge acts that came in their wake.
When Top Of The Pops rocketed Suggs, Chas,
Barzo, Woody, Chrissy, Thommo and Bedders into our living rooms with The
Prince in 1979, the band became an institution almost overnight.
Spearheading the 2Tone Ska revival, along with The Specials, Madness went on to
have an almost uninterrupted run of 14 hits in the early 80s, totalling sales
of over 6 million singles.
One Step Beyond…, Madness’ debut album, stayed in the charts for nearly a year,
cementing its position as one of the most seminal albums of the period. When Absolutely
was released the following year (1980), Madness mania had the country in
its grip and there wasn’t a kid in the UK who didn’t know the words to - and
appreciate the sentiment of - the consummate schooldays anthem ‘Baggy
Trousers’. Not content with dominating the music charts, Madness also made
the film, Take It Or Leave It,
an autobiographical account of the band’s beginnings and rise to popularity,
with the band members playing themselves. It’s considered a must-see movie for Madness fans and music lovers
7 followed in 1981, signalling a change of direction for the
band, who were moving away from their Nutty Boy mod image and sound towards a
more mature sensibility; illustrated to devastating effect on the single ‘Grey
Day’. It was around this time they released the non-album single ‘It Must Be
Love’, a Labi Siffre cover and the song that would provide them with a
fail-safe, feel-good, sing-a-long highlight in every show
they’ve played since.
The Rise & Fall, arguably the boys’ magnum opus, was released in 1982 and
provided them with their most internationally successful single ever, ‘Our
House’. Again, a non-album single was released during this time and ‘House Of
Fun’ – a seedy but fun coming-of-age tale - went straight to the UK number one
slot and stayed in the charts for nine weeks.
Keep Moving, released the year after, marked (albeit temporarily) the end of
Madness as they were known, with keyboardist Mike Barson leaving the band soon
after to spend time with his family. ‘Michael Caine’, the album’s biggest
single, was an uncharacteristically sombre affair, while the accompanying
non-album singles ‘Wings Of A Dove’ and ‘The Sun And The Rain’ showcased
Madness’ enduring talent for all-out fun and unparalleled bittersweet pop
1985 heralded the release of the band’s sixth
album, the Barson-less Mad Not Mad. By this time, the UK’s pop landscape
was looking considerably more polished and production was king. Despite the influence
of its environment and the absence of a key songwriter, Mad Not Mad
avoided falling foul of style-over-content criticisms and threw up some great
singles in the form of ‘Yesterday’s Men’ and ‘Uncle Sam’. Still without Barson,
the band had a break before releasing their next album, The Madness, in
In 1992, Madness fans were thrilled to learn
that the boys would be hosting their very own festival. Madstock! took
place on the weekend of 8th and 9th August in Finsbury Park and the
band appeared with their original line-up. It was a resounding success, with
over 75,000 fans witnessing the reunion of the band they loved; a band who
hadn’t played all together since Mike Barson left in 1984. So lively was the
gig that during a performance of ‘One Step Beyond…’ a mini earthquake was
reported, measuring five on the Richter scale. Madness were back.
Madness concerts are always an event and three
more Madstocks were held over the years that followed (in 1994, 1996 and 1998)
and the band continued to reunite for annual Christmas season tours. In 1999
they released their first studio album proper since 1986. Wonderful
reached #17 in the UK album charts, with single ‘Lovestruck’ giving the band
their first Top Ten hit in the UK since 1983.
Ten years and a few solo projects later, Madness
returned with The Liberty Of Norton Folgate in 2009, a concept
album and psycho-geographical love letter to their favourite stomping ground –
London. Preceded by a series of vaudevillian shows at the Hackney Empire and an
accompanying film by Julien Temple, the album was acclaimed - both commercially
and critically – and universally received as one of their best. Spurred on by
the warm reaction to their return to form, the band kept a high profile with
numerous festival appearances over that summer and a legendary performance at
the Camden Crawl in London, when Inverness Street was blocked off and
the band performed from the top of a double decker bus. The obligatory Christmas
tour ensued, complete with matinee shows for the kids and the band’s very own
‘Total Madness’ routemaster bus.
Over the last two years, Union Square Music have
been busy remastering and expanding the original Madness albums. One Step
Beyond…, Absolutely, 7, The Rise & Fall, Keep
Moving and Wonderful have all been lovingly repackaged in
digipacks with videos and extra tracks and full colour booklets containing
lyrics and liner notes by the likes of Irvine Welsh, Phil Jupitus and David
Quantick. With best ofs Complete Madness, Total Madness and Ultimate
Madness still catering to new fans, the die-hards were treated to a
definitive box set ’A Guided Tour Of Madness’ in 2011 which included all of
their hit singles, favourite album tracks, the slowed-down version of Baggy
Trousers (Le Grand Pantalon) recorded for the Kronenbourg TV ads, plus their
classic 1992 reunion concert at Madstock on DVD.
The band stole the show at the 2012 Diamond Jubilee concert for The Queen, where they serenaded Her Majesty from the roof of Buckingham Palace with ’Our House’ and ’It Must Be Love’, while projecting groundbreaking animations onto the front of the palace.
Having played Mexico and the US in 2012, with great success, the band then went on to release their tenth studio album Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da, which was released in late 2012. 2014 sees them undertaking numerous festival and racecourse appearances as well as their fourth House Of Fun Weekender at Butlins in Minehead and a UK Christmas arena M.A.D.H.E.A.D tour.
On the 16/10/2014, Madness celebrated their 35th anniversary by releasing a 35th anniversary version of One Step Beyond.
The Madness legend continues, making them one of the most important heritage (and current) acts that Britain has ever produced.
For Madness tickets, Madness tour dates, Madness t-shirts, merchandise and all other info, please check www.madness.co.uk.