Hey you! Don't watch that, watch this! This is the heavy heavy monster sound, the nuttiest sound around! So if you've come in off the street, and you're beginning to feel the heat, well listen, buster, you'd better start to move your feet, to the rockingest, rocksteady beat of Madness! ONE! STEP! BEYOND!
A British band which originated as the North London Invaders in 1976, Madness started off as one of the premier bands of the 2 Tone ska revival and eventually became one of the most successful pop groups in the 1980s, spending 214 weeks in the singles charts. The group has been active for much of the past thirty years. The best known line-up consists of Graham McPherson, aka Suggs (vocals), Mike Barson (keyboards), Chris Foreman (guitar), Lee Thompson (saxophones), Daniel Woodgate (drums), Mark Bedford (bass) and Carl Smyth (vocals, trumpet and acoustic guitar).Noted for their energetic and 'wacky' style of playing and performing (especially in their earlier music videos), which earned them the moniker of 'The Nutty Boys'. Their music mainly consists of ska and reggae mixed with Beatlesesque, Kinksy pop. Their lyrics often featured humorous observations on growing up in London in a style influenced by Ian Dury. In 2009 they released the critically acclaimed album The Liberty of Norton Folgate, their first new material in ten years which incorporates all of their main influences into something Suggs describes as 'progressive pop'.Discography:
One Step Beyond...
The Rise and Fall
Madness, a compilation album released in the United States instead of The Rise and Fall.
Mad Not Mad
The Dangermen Sessions, Vol. 1
The Liberty of Norton Folgate
Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da
Also of mention is The Madness, a spin-off of the group which only featured Suggs, Smyth, Foreman and Thompson. They were active between 1988 and 1989, after the original line-up broke up (the group as a whole reformed in 1992), and released a self-titled album.Some of their better known songs include:
Fake Band: For their covers album, The Dangermen Sessions, Vol. 1, they created a fictional backstory for a reggae band called the Dangermen and performed old Blue Beat songs (and some of Madness' more overtly ska-influenced numbers) under the name. The "members" were Robert "the Poet" Chaos (Suggs), Jimmy Ooh (Smash), Professor Psykoticus (Mike Barson), Lester Burnham (Bedders), Daniel Descartes (Woody), Christofos Formantos (Chris Foreman) and "Unnamed" (Lee Thompson).
They have four main ones: Complete Madness, Utter Madness, Divine Madness and Total Madness. Being primarily known as a singles band, Complete and Divine are their only number one albums so far. The most recent notably excludes the less well-known singles the band recorded after leaving Stiff Records.
There are several further compilations, and it's a testament to the strength of their songs that an album sold exclusively in Tesco supermarkets in the same year as Total Madness can sell well enough to reach the lower end of the top 40.
Their American debut, Madness, is basically a makeshift greatest hits album that was sold as a studio album there. It was released just as "Our House" was becoming a hit, but for some odd reason their American label declined to release The Rise and Fall.
Infant Immortality: "Time For Tea" is an inversion (or strictly speaking, a potential inversion as the death is only implied).
Japandering: The band appeared in a Japanese commercial for the Honda City minicar, and wrote and recorded a song specifically for it. The song, "In The City", was released in the UK as the B-side to "Cardiac Arrest" and then on the "Complete Madness" hits album. It's actually pretty good.
London Gangster: In "Drip Fed Fred" features guest vocalist Ian Dury playing one of these characters as he greets the "gentlemen and assassins, and ladies of the night" and boasts of his assassination of the eponymous Drip Fed Fred.
Long Runner Line Up: The core septet of Mike Barson on keyboards, Graham McPherson on vocals, Chris Foreman on guitar, Mark Bedford on bass, Daniel Woodgate on drums, Lee Thompson on saxophone, and Chas Smash on trumpet has lasted from 1978-84, and, apart from a year off for Foreman and a total of about four years off for Bedford, from 1992 onwards.
Lyrical Dissonance: "Cardiac Arrest", "Johnny the Horse", "Idiot Child", "House of Fun" and a few others.
Pianist Mike Barson was musical director in all but name from the group's early days. He and Lee Thompson also wrote most of the songs before the rest of the group started to become more involved in the songwriting process.
Carl Smyth is generally considered to have taken Barson's place as "leader". Like Barson, he's not exactly invisible, but his importance within the set-up is probably even less obvious to the general public than Barson's was.
Mind Screw: The music video for "(Waiting for the) Ghost Train", the band's last single before they split which is also about apartheid in South Africa, took the nuttiness Up to Eleven.
The Movie: At the height of their fame in 1982, the group financed Take It Or Leave It, which described their beginnings as a band. Most chose to Leave It, and those who decided to Take It did so because it was So Bad, It's Good (among other things, Suggs kept looking directly at the camera when singing, having become used to doing that in music videos).
The Not Remix: The UK and US mixes of "It Must Be Love" aren't hugely different, but they're different enough that if you're familiar with one, hearing the other will come as a bit of a shock.
Out-of-Character Moment: The (usually) perpetually unsmiling Terry Hall is actually seen doubled over laughing during the Fun Boy Three's cameo in the "Driving In My Car" video.
Panty Thief: The subject of "In the Middle of the Night".
Performance Video: Many of their videos involved performances as a part of the action, but the video for "One Step Beyond" (the first they made) was just a straight performance and nothing else. The cheap'n'cheerful vid for "Night Boat to Cairo" is another prime example.
The prolific production duo of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley originally came together to work on One Step Beyond. They also produced all of Madness' subsequent albums apart from The Dangermen Sessions.
Graham "Suggs" McPherson produced The Farm's hits "Groovy Train" and "All Together Now".
Rock Opera: "The Liberty of Norton Folgate" (both the album itself and the title track).
Rockstar Song: "Rockin' in A-flat" from the first album is about a would-be rock 'n' roller getting a band together and "making all the geezers in the flats complain."
Sarcastic Title: "Land Of Hope And Glory" is a cynical song about a young man imprisoned in a Borstal institution.
Sequel Song: "Close Escape" is a sequel to "In The Middle Of The Night" in which the Panty Thief protagnist becomes an obscene phone caller instead. Even though the two songs are the work of different writing teams.
Society Marches On: When "House of Fun" was released (1982), buying condoms was as described a rather nerve-wracking experience for a young man, being only generally available from behind the counter at the local chemist or from barbers ("Something for the weekend sir?"). The advent of HIV and AIDS shortly afterwards rapidly caused a change in social attitudes, de-mystifying and de-stigmatising condoms making them something you could pick up with your weekly supermarket shop with no more drama than buying a packet of crisps.
Special Guest: Ian Dury performed lead vocals on "Drip Fed Fred". Before that, they also recorded an alternative version of "Tomorrow's Just Another Day" (one of their own songs) with Elvis Costello, who was signed to the same label at the time. Michael Caine also provided voice clips for the song "Michael Caine".
Stage Names: All seven band members have one: Suggs (McPherson), Smash (Smyth), Monsieur Barso (Barson), El Thommo (Thompson), Chrissy Boy (Foreman), Bedders (Bedford), and Woody (Woodgate).
Stealing from the Till: "Calling Cards" is about a gang of criminals who take jobs with the Post Office precisely for this, uh, "perk".