Synopsis of Pop Music
"Our house, in the middle of our street..."
There are all kinds of pop bands playing all different styles of pop, but there is only one band who mastered the ‘nutty sound.’ Their name was Madness, and their self-described ‘nutty sound’ was an unforgettable and instantly recognizable combination of ska rhythms and flawlessly-crafted pop hooks. Although they are remembered mainly in America for a single Top-10 U.S. hit (“Our House”), they managed to dominate the charts during the first half of the 1980’s in other countries, especially England. In the process, they made the sounds of ska accessible to pop listeners everywhere and thus paved the way for bands like No Doubt.
Madness began its life as the Invaders, a ska band formed in 1976. After a few lineup changes, the group renamed themselves Madness after a song by ska legend Prince Buster. They also began to crossbreed pop elements into ska rhythms to create their soon-to-be-famous ‘nutty sound.’ In 1979, Madness recorded “The Prince,” a tribute to their hero Prince Buster. Everyone was surprised when this ska-pop effort made the U.K. Top-20. They followed it with a Prince Buster cover, “One Step Beyond,” a sax-driven instrumental punctuated by a heavily echoed voice shouting “One step beyond!”
“One Step Beyond” became a U.K. Top-10 hit and transformed Madness from up-and-coming band to overnight sensation in the U.K. Over the next two years, the group scored an amazing 13 Top-10 singles in London with songs like “Baggy Trousers,” “Return Of The Las Palmas Seven,” and “Night Boat To Cairo.” The key to their success was their broad appeal: Whereas bands like the Clash appealed mainly to teens and young adults, people at any age could appreciate the exuberant energy and slick, catchy pop hooks of a Madness record. Strangely enough, none of these records really caught on in the U.S., although an amusing performance video for “One Step Beyond” became a much-played favorite during the early days of MTV.
Back in England, Madness continued to rule the charts, building on their accessible-to-all-ages image by playing several matinee concerts so children under 16 could attend their shows. On the charts, they scored further U.K. smashes with “House Of Fun,” a comical look at becoming ‘the legal age,’ and “Our House,” a witty slice-of-family-life tale pumped up by sing-along harmonies. MTV latched on to the latter song and began playing it in heavy rotation. American new-wave fans responded to the energy and catchiness of “Our House,” making it a Top-10 hit on American shores in 1983. That year, the group also scored another U.S. top-40 hit with “It Must Be Love.”
Madness scored on the U.K. charts for a few more years with songs like “Michael Caine,” a humorous tribute to the actor of the same name. They disbanded in 1986, but returned briefly in 1988 as a quartet called The Madness. After releasing one album, the group returned to retirement for the rest of the decade. In 1992, the group reunited for Madstock, a two-day series of concerts that were recorded for a successful video and live album. The group continued to do these annual Madstock concerts for another four years.
Madness temporarily reunited in 1999 for Wonderful, a studio album that commemorated their 20th anniversary. The group doesn’t work together on a regular basis today, but Madness continues to reunite periodically for the occasional concert tour. These tours are always well-attended, proving Madness’ ‘nutty sound’ is as fresh as ever.
Artist Release History10/79 - One Step Beyond
10/80 - Absolutely
09/81 - Seven
04/82 - Complete Madness
10/82 - Rise And Fall
1983 - Madness
02/84 - Keep Moving
09/85 - Mad Not Mad
11/86 - Utter Madness
12/92 - Madstock
03/99 - Universal Madness
12/99 - Wonderful
Pop Sub Categoriesrock
Essential Music AlbumsMadness (Geffen)
Band MembersGraham 'Suggs' MacPherson vocals
Mark Bedford bass
Mike Barson keyboards
Chris Foreman guitar
Lee Thompson saxophone
Chas Smash trumpet, vocals
Dan Woodgate drums