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Music / Madness (Band)
aka: Madness

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Still nutty after all these years.
You can make it your own hell or heaven
Live as you please
Can we make it, if we all live together
As one big family.
— "We Are London"

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, aka Chas Smash (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'.


  • One Step Beyond Album (1979)
  • Absolutely (1980)
  • 7 (1981)
  • The Rise & Fall (1982)
    • Madness, a compilation album released in the United States instead of The Rise and Fall.
  • Keep Moving (1984)
  • Mad Not Mad (1985)
  • Wonderful (1999)
  • The Dangermen Sessions, Vol. 1 (2005)
  • The Liberty of Norton Folgate (2009)
  • Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da (2012)
  • Can't Touch Us Now (2016)

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:


  • 2 Tone: They were one of the bands that defined the sound, though they released only one single on the label itself.
  • Album Intro Track: The Dangermen Sessions has the spoken-word "This Is Where", and The Liberty of Norton Folgate has the short instrumental "Overture".
  • All Drummers Are Animals: Averted. Woody is notorious for falling asleep when not otherwise required. Then again, sloths are animals too, right?
  • Answer Song: Baggy Trousers was this to Pink Floyd's Another Brick In The Wall Pt 2. Suggs liked the song but felt the song's portrait of authoritarian teachers making pupils' lives miserable didn't reflect his own schooling where the teachers had so little discipline that he and his fellow students spent most of the time skiving off.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Although he was never the "face" as such, many people felt the group wasn't the same without Mike Barson.
  • Blatant Burglar: The video for "Shut Up". And the song, for that matter, which is written from the point of view of a pair of Blatant Burglars.
    I'm as honest as the day is long,
    The longer the daylight, the less I do wrong
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Played for laughs in "House of Fun"; the thing that the poor protagonist cannot spit out is that he wants to buy a pack of condoms to "celebrate" his birthday. Instead, he keeps coming up with increasingly bizarre euphemisms that confuse the chemist into thinking he wants some balloons.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Their 2007 non-album single "Sorry", whose title pretty much reflects the band's attitude to it.
  • Censored Child Death: In "Time For Tea" (or strictly speaking, the death is only implied).
  • Companion Cube: "Lovestruck" is about a man falling in love with a lamppost on the way home from the pub.
  • Concept Album:
    • The Liberty of Norton Folgate consists of songs about London (although Suggs points out that this is what a lot of their songs were about in the introduction to the album).
    • The Rise & Fall was intended to feature songs about different aspects of the various band members childhoods. It didn't quite work out and only about three or four songs really fit the concept.
  • Cool Shades: Usually worn by Suggs, Smash and Barson, but the others will have them out from time to time.
  • Cover Album: The Dangermen Sessions, Volume One.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: Sung from a female perspective, the Tracey Ullman cover of "My Girl" changes the title and lyric to "My Guy".
  • Cover Version: As well as the aforementioned Dangermen Sessions, they've done quite a few covers of older ska songs, but noticeably fewer than a lot of their 2 Tone contemporaries.
  • Creator Cameo: In the video for their cover version of 'It Must Be Love'; the song's writer, Labi Siffre, makes a brief appearance as a violinist.
  • Epic Rocking: The title track on The Liberty of Norton Folgate runs a little over 10 minutes.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: "Driving In My Car". All sorts of rhythmic shenanigans with car parts.
  • 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).
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Disappear".
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Suggs. Count the number of times he waggles his eyebrows in any given video.
  • Five-Finger Discount: "Deceives The Eye"
  • Follow the Bouncing Ball: The video for "Night Boat To Cairo".
  • Forever Young Song: "Forever Young"
  • The Good Old British Comp: Subject of "Baggy Trousers", and the song is often used as a stock piece to indicate 'nostalgia for schooldays' in British media.
  • Greatest Hits Album:
    • 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.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: "House of Fun" is about a 16-year-old boy trying to buy condoms without using the word "condom", and resorting to a string of euphemisms that confuse the woman behind the counter.
  • 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.
  • Jukebox Musical: They had a stage musical based on their songs called Our House.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to most of what The Specials did.
  • Locked in a Freezer: Happens to Willie during an innocent game of Hide-and-Seek in "Time For Tea". It is not revealed whether he is discovered in time.
  • 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.
    • According to Word of God, the character being addressed by the protagonist of "NW5" is a gangster, although the lyrics don't make it so clear.
  • 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.
  • The Man Behind the Man:
    • 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.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Their album credits always listed their real names, but in pretty much every other context Suggs and Chas Smash were and are referred to almost exclusively by their nicknames. Suggs' real name (Graham MacPherson) is reasonably well-known, but hardly anyone apart from serious fans knows Smash's name (which is Cathal Smyth).
  • 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.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "ONE! STEP! BEYOND!"
  • Record Producer:
    • 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".
  • Repurposed Pop Song: Many of the songs in Our House — The Musical are heavily rewritten to suit the storyline. Of particular note is "Margate", which is a completely new lyric to the music of "White Heat".
  • Rewritten Pop Version: "A Simple Equation" and "Sarah's Song" were both written for the musical, and both have quite different lyrics in the band recordings.
  • Rock Opera: "The Liberty of Norton Folgate" (both the album itself and the title track).
  • Rock-Star 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 protagonist becomes an obscene phone caller instead. Even though the two songs are the work of different writing teams.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the "House of Fun" video, band members dress up in drag as old women and look very like the "Pepperpot" characters from Monty Python's Flying Circus.
    • In "Our House", several band members are dressed as Gumbys from the same show, complete with handkerchiefs on their heads.
  • Special Guest:
    • Ian Dury performed lead vocals on "Drip Fed Fred".
    • Madness once 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".
  • Take That!:
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: "The Bed and Breakfast Man" is about the band's original drummer John Hasler and his shameless sofa-surfing habits.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Suggs' introduction of the band at the beginning of the Live at Madstock DVD includes the line, "Our rhythm guitarist is Chrissy Boy, a man of many words and three chords."
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: "Shadow Of Fear" (what appears to be religious paranoia), "Primrose Hill" (probably about severe agoraphobia).
  • Titled After the Song: Named for a Prince Buster song which they covered on their first album.
  • Trojan Gauntlet: "House of Fun" is about a sixteen-year-old boy trying to buy condoms from a pharmacist, but having trouble communicating because of his fear of being overheard by local scolds.
  • Unexpectedly Dark Episode:
    • "Cardiac Arrest", despite its bouncy music, is about a stressed-out commuter dying from a massive heart attack on a bus. It was the band's only single from its glory period not to make the UK Top Ten.
    • The song "Johnny the Horse" is about an old tramp who was beaten to death by thugs for entertainment.
    • "Mrs. Hutchinson" is about someone visiting their mother in hospital and being told she doesn't have long to live.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "House of Fun" has the teenaged protagonist blurt out a whole bunch of these because he's too embarrassed to ask the pharmacist he wants a pack of condoms in front of other people. Unfortunately, he only confuses her into thinking that he wants some balloons. The song was inspired by a similar scene in Summer of '42.
  • Worst News Judgement Ever: In "In the Middle of the Night", a newsagent and compulsive Panty Thief goes on the run after seeing a photofit of himself on the front page of the Sun, a national British tabloid (referred to in the song by its Rhyming Slang nickname, the Currant Bun). Even given the reputation of the Sun, it must have been a slow news day for a photofit of a local pervert to be front-page news.

Alternative Title(s): Madness


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