Madness are a British pop/ska band from Camden Town, London, that formed in 1976. The band continue to perform with their most recognised lineup of seven members, although their line-up has varied slightly over the years. They were one of the most prominent bands of the late-1970s 2 Tone ska revival.
Madness achieved most of their success in the early to mid 1980s. Both Madness and UB40 spent 214 weeks on the UK singles charts over the course of the decade, holding the record for most weeks spent by a group in the 1980s UK singles charts. However, Madness achieved this in a shorter time period (1980–1986).
The core of the band formed as The Invaders in 1976, and included Mike Barson (Monsieur Barso) on keyboards and vocals, Chris Foreman (Chrissy Boy) on guitar and Lee Thompson (Kix) on saxophone and vocals. They later recruited John Hasler on drums and Cathal Smyth (better known as Chas Smash) on bass guitar. Later in the year, they were joined by lead vocalist Dikron Tulane.
This six-piece line-up lasted until part way through 1977, when Graham McPherson (better known as Suggs) took over the lead vocals after seeing the band perform in a friend's garden. Smyth, who left after an argument with Mike Barson, was replaced by Gavin Rodgers, Barson's girlfriend's brother. McPherson was kicked out of the band for too often choosing to watch Chelsea instead of rehearsing. Thompson left the band after Barson criticised his saxophone playing.
By 1978, the band had allowed McPherson to return, after filling in temporarily for Hasler (who had taken over vocals when McPherson was removed). Thompson returned after patching things up with Barson, and Daniel Woodgate (Woody) and Mark Bedford (Bedders) also joined the band, on drums, replacing Garry Dovey, and bass guitar, replacing Gavin Rodgers, respectively. After briefly changing their name to Morris and the Minors, the band renamed itself as Madness; paying homage to one of their favourite songs by ska/reggae artist Prince Buster. The band remained a sextet until late 1979, when Chas Smash (AKA Cathal Smyth or Carl Smyth) rejoined and officially became the seventh member of Madness as a backing vocalist and dancer.
In 1979, the band recorded the Lee Thompson composition "The Prince". The song, like the band's name, paid homage to their idol, Prince Buster. The song was released through 2 Tone Records, the label of The Specials founder Jerry Dammers. The song was a surprise hit, peaking in the UK music charts at number 16. A performance of "The Prince" on popular UK music show Top of the Pops helped Madness gain public recognition. Madness then toured with fellow 2 Tone bands The Specials and The Selecter, before recording their debut album.
That debut album, One Step Beyond... was released by Stiff Records. The album included a re-recording of "The Prince" and its B-side "Madness", and the band's second and third singles: "One Step Beyond" and "My Girl". The title song was a cover of the B-side of the 1960s Prince Buster hit "Al Capone". One Step Beyond... stayed in the British charts for 37 weeks, peaking at number 2. After the release of "My Girl", the band felt that they had exhausted the material from One Step Beyond..., and did not want to release any more singles from the album. However, Dave Robinson, head of Stiff Records, disagreed. Eventually, a compromise was made, and the band decided to release an EP featuring one album track and three new tracks. The result was the Work Rest and Play EP, which was headlined by the song "Night Boat to Cairo", from the One Step Beyond album. The EP reached number 6 in the UK singles chart.
Madness live recordings as well as those by other 2 tone bands were used in the documentary film and soundtrack album, Dance Craze.
In 1980, the band's second album, Absolutely reached number 2 in the UK album charts. Absolutely spawned some of the band's biggest hits, most notably "Baggy Trousers", which peaked at number 3 in the UK singles chart. "Embarrassment" reached number 4 in the charts, and the instrumental song "Return of the Los Palmas 7" climbed to number 7. Although the album reviews were generally less enthusiastic than those of One Step Beyond..., they were mostly positive. Robert Christgau gave the album a favourable B- grade, but Rolling Stone awarded the album just one out of five stars. Rolling Stone was particularly scathing of the ska revival in general, stating that "The Specials wasn't very good" and Madness were simply "the Blues Brothers with English accents".
In 1981, the band's third studio album, 7, reached number 5 in the UK album charts and contained three hit singles: "Grey Day" (no. 4, April 1981), "Shut Up" (no. 7, September 1981), and "Cardiac Arrest" (no. 14, February 1982). In an article in 1979, Chris Foreman explained that the band's music would move with the times, and change styles as time goes on. This was shown to be the case, as unlike the two ska-filled, fast-paced albums that preceded it, 7 was somewhat of a change in direction. Suggs' vocal performance changed significantly, and his strong Cockney accent from the previous albums had been watered down. The album strayed from the ska-influenced sound of One Step Beyond... and Absolutely, and moved towards a pop sound; a trend that continued with subsequent albums. Near the end of 1981, Madness released one of their most recognised songs: a cover of Labi Siffre's 1971 hit "It Must Be Love". The song climbed to number 4 in the UK, and in 1983, the song peaked at number 33 in the US charts. In 1982, Madness released their only number 1 hit to date, "House of Fun", which they played live on the 1980s series The Young Ones, and also reached number 1 in the album charts with their first compilation, Complete Madness.
In November 1982, they released their fourth studio album, The Rise & Fall, which was well received in the UK, but did not get an American release. Instead, many of its songs were included on the US compilation Madness, including "Our House", which was their most internationally successful single to date. "Our House" reached number 5 in the UK music charts and number 7 in the US charts; it was also performed live on The Young Ones. Many reviewers compared the The Rise & Fall to The Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society, and it is at times retrospectively considered a concept album. The album also featured "Primrose Hill", which was more similar to The Beatles song "Strawberry Fields Forever", containing similar psychedelic imagery and a layered arrangement. At this time Mike Barson wanted a break from touring so James Mackie took his place for live appearances and tours. Mackie made his live debut with Madness on the US hit television show Saturday Night Live.
In 1983, their single "Wings of a Dove" peaked at number 2 in the UK charts, followed by "The Sun & The Rain" (no. 5, November 1983).Their following album, Keep Moving, peaked at number 6 in the UK album charts, and two singles from that album reached the top 20 in the UK music charts.The album received some good reviews, with Rolling Stone magazine giving the album four out of five stars, applauding the band's changing sound. This was an improvement as the last album reviewed by the magazine, Absolutely, was heavily criticised.
In October 1983, Mike Barson decided to leave the band, partly because he had relocated to Amsterdam, Netherlands. He officially left the band in June 1984, following the release of "One Better Day". The six remaining members left Stiff Records and formed their own label, Zarjazz Records, which was a sub-label of Virgin Records. In 1985, the label released the band's sixth album, Mad Not Mad. Barson's keyboard parts were filled by synthesisers and Steve Nieve joined the band to take his place. In later years, frontman Suggs described the album as a "polished turd". The album reached number 16 in the UK charts, which was the band's lowest position on the album charts to date. Despite the poor chart showing, the album was listed as number 55 in NME's All Time 100 Albums. The singles for the album fared even worse, with "Yesterday's Men" peaking at number 18 in the UK charts. The subsequent singles, "Uncle Sam" and "Sweetest Girl", failed to make the top 20, which was a first for Madness singles.
The band then attempted to record a new album, and 11 demo tracks were recorded. However, "musical differences" arose between band members, and in September 1986, the band announced that they were to split. Barson rejoined the band for a farewell single, "(Waiting For) The Ghost Train", but did not appear in the music video. The band officially split following the release of the single, which reached a high of number 18 in the UK. In 1988, four members of the band – Suggs, Chas Smash, Lee Thompson and Chris Foreman – continued under the name The Madness. After one self-titled album and two singles that failed to make the top 40, the band split.
Towards the end of 1991, "It Must Be Love" was re-released and eventually reached number 6 in the UK singles chart in February 1992. Following that, the singles compilation Divine Madness was released and peaked at number 1 in the album charts. Madness then announced plans for a reunion concert, Madstock!, which was held at Finsbury Park, London on 8 and 9 August of that year. The original lineup reunited, performing together for the first time since Barson left the band in 1984. Over 75,000 fans attended the weekend festival, and the dancing of the boisterous crowd seemingly caused an extraordinary event of ground-shaking proportions (during "One Step Beyond", according to the legends).
As seismologist Alice Walker told the 1999 BBC documentary Young Guns Go For It:
"On the 8th of August 1992, the police phoned the British Geological Survey, and they said that people had been phoning in saying that there had been an earthquake in London. They had described some effects like heavy lorries passing outside. People were frightened. Tower blocks were being evacuated because people thought the tower block was going to fall down. It was an intensity of about five. When I told the police that I thought the cause of the disturbance was a Madness concert at Finsbury Park, they didn't believe me at first. I got a phone call the next night from the police who said exactly the same felt effects had occurred – and so they did believe me after all. So my reputation as a seismologist still remains intact!"
According to the UK's Health Protection Agency:
"One of the most bizarre investigations conducted by BGS using its seismic network, was in connection with an earthquake reported to be felt strongly in North London in August 1992 when three blocks of flats (8-9-storeys) were evacuated following minor damage that included cracked windows and a cracked balcony. Our seismic network showed that there had not been an earthquake or an explosion, and we were able to deduce that the cause was resonance set up by dancers at a Madness rock concert in nearby Finsbury Park. The resonance frequency of such dancing, in harmony, is tuned to the natural frequency of apartment blocks of this height, so that the movement is amplified."
Subsequent to the Finsbury Park comeback, a live album was released, and the associated single, "The Harder They Come" (a cover of Jimmy Cliff's 1973 song) reached number 44 in the UK, with the album reaching number 22.
Released in 1999, this was the band's first original single in 13 years. It was a hit for the band, entering the top ten in the UK charts.
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The band continued to reunite for annual UK Christmas season tours and held three more Madstock! festivals; in 1994, 1996 and 1998. Also in 1998, Madness returned to America for their first tour there since 1984. The live album Universal Madness was recorded at the Universal Amphitheatre in L.A. and released the following year. In 1999, Madness released their first studio album since 1986, entitled Wonderful. The album reached number 17 in the UK album charts, and the lead single, "Lovestruck", gave the band their first new top 10 hit in the UK since 1983. Neither of the two subsequent singles from the album, "Johnny The Horse" and "Drip Fed Fred", entered the top 40 of the UK charts.
From 28 October 2002 to 16 August 2003, a musical based on Madness songs, Our House, ran at the Cambridge Theatre in London. Madness played a role in the executive production of the show, and Suggs played a role in the production for a period of time, playing the central character's father.It won an Olivier Award for best new musical of 2003, and the performance was released on DVD on 1 November 2004. There was also a previous musical based on Madness songs, One Step Beyond!, written by Alan Gilbey. The musical had a brief run at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1993.
In 2004, the band played a series of low-key concerts as The Dangermen, performing covers of classic reggae and ska songs. A lot of the songs were those played by the band when they were first forming, and the band performed the songs as a celebration of their 25th anniversary.
This led to the release of the album The Dangermen Sessions Vol. 1 on V2 Records in August 2005. During the sessions which produced the album, in mid-2005, guitarist Chris Foreman announced his departure, citing "the petty, time consuming bollocks that goes on in the band" as his reason for leaving. The band completed the album without him, and on release, it peaked at no. 11 in the UK album charts, which was the band's highest studio album chart position in 21 years. Although two singles were released, neither was a major success in the UK. The more successful of the two, Shame & Scandal, reached number 38, but was more successful in France where it peaked at number 12. Girl Why Don't You? reached no. 77 in the UK and the band left the V2 record label shortly after. At this time, Kevin Burdette joined as the band's guitarist for live appearances and also appeared in the videos for both 'Sorry' and 'NW5' in early 2007.
The six remaining original members of Madness began working on their first original album in seven years.
In March 2007, the non-LP single Sorry was released on the band's own record label Lucky 7 Records, peaking in the UK charts at number 23. The single included a version featuring UK hip hop artists Sway DaSafo and Baby Blue.
The new Madness song NW5 (then still titled NW5 (I Would Give You Everything)) and a re-recorded version of It Must Be Love were featured in the German film Neues vom Wixxer in . The two songs were released in Germany as a double A-Side, and both of them were turned into music , which – besides members of the film's cast – featured Suggs, Chas Smash, Woody and stand-in guitarist Kevin Burdette. A re-recorded version of 'NW5' was released as a single on 14 January 2008 in the UK reaching no. 24 – this recording featured original Madness guitarist Chris Foreman, who had re-joined the band in time for the 2006 Christmas tour, but had not participated in the original recording of the song.
In June 2008 the group showcased the majority of their new album The Liberty of Norton Folgate at London's Hackney Empire for 3 nights. The Hackney Empire performances were recorded and sold to fans as they left the show on USB wristbands. Madness played two dates in December 2008, firstly in Manchester on 18 December, and secondly a return gig to The O2 in London on the 19th. In December 2008 the band also announced that for their 30th anniversary in 2009, they would be staging a 5th Madstock festival in London's Victoria Park on 17 July, 11 years after the last Madstock concert. It was originally rumoured that the newly reformed The Specials would make an appearance after finishing their reunion tour. However, this did not occur, although original Specials keyboardist Jerry Dammers – who was not part of the reunion line-up – was announced as a support act with The Spatial AKA Orchestra shortly before the festival. Dammers would support Madness again during their 2009 Christmas tour, when he opened each night with a DJ set.
Through late March and early April 2009 the band played a series of festival and separate headlining dates across Australia. The lead-up single from their latest album, entitled Dust Devil, was released on 11 May on Lucky 7 Records. Alfie Allen and Jaime Winstone co-starred in the music video. The single charted at No. 64 on the UK singles charts and at No. 1 on the UK Independent charts on 17 May 2009.
The new album, entitled The Liberty of Norton Folgate was released a week later, on 18 May 2009. It charted at No. 5 in the UK album charts. The band continued to play various festivals, including Pinkpop, Splendour, and Glastonbury. On 27 September 2009, the band also played a free concert on a closed-off Regent Street in association with Absolute Radio.
On Friday 28 August Madness played the Rock en Seine festival near Paris, on the same night where Oasis brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher engaged in a physical altercation, resulting in the split of the band. As Oasis cancelled their headlining slot, Madness, even though having played earlier in the evening, were asked to replace them. Madness accepted the invitation and both of their sets during festival were said to have been extremely well received.
As in previous years, the band embarked on a Christmas tour of the UK (also playing one concert in Dublin), playing at various medium sized venues. Bassist Mark Bedford was absent and replaced by Graham Bush for the tour – according to Madness guitarist Chris Foreman, Bedford is taking some time off from the band and has not specified a return date yet.
Some members of the band appeared in Catherine Tate's Nan's Christmas Carol. They first posed as carol singers, then played one of their usual songs over the credits. On 18 January 2010, Madness released a fourth single, Forever Young, from The Liberty of Norton Folgate. The single failed to chart.
During an interview with RTÉ 2fm radio host Dave Fanning on 24 May 2010, drummer Daniel Woodgate stated that the members of the band are currently finalising songs for the follow-up to The Liberty of Norton Folgate. The band hope to be able to start recording the album later on in 2010.
In September 2010, Madness were awarded the 'Idol award' at the Q Awards in London. Guitarist Chris Foreman, stated in his acceptance speech that Madness were recording a new album.
Madness toured the UK throughout November and December 2010 with their final show at London's Earl's Court, where they played a new song from their upcoming album. However, two concerts, in Hull and Sheffield were cancelled due to the extreme weather conditions caused by heavy snowfall, although they were later rescheduled for 5 and 6 February 2011 respectively.
As of December 2010, Madness are working on a new album, the title of which is as yet unknown. However, it will more likely than not contain the songs 'Big Time Sister', 'Blue And Black', 'Kitchen Floor/I Got You' and 'My Girl 2'.
In June 2011, the band performed at Meltdown Festival at the Royal Festival Hall, curated by inspiration Ray Davies, who also introduced the band on stage. The concert served as the premiere of three more new songs – '1978', 'Can't Keep A Good Thing Down' and 'Death Of A Rude Boy', all of which are expected to feature on the as-yet-untitled new album.
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