Musician - Author
Madness was the culmination of changes in a core of musicians formed
in North London in 1976. They were originally known as The North
London Invaders but like so many bands underwent changes in
personnel until Graham McPherson known as “Suggs”, joined them. He
saw them playing in a friend’s garden but only stayed with them for a
few months. However, he rejoined in 1978 and after changing their
name to Morris and The Minors, in 1979 they finally settled on
Madness or The Nutty Boys as they were soon to be known.
They continued with the same line-up and began creating quite a stir
performing at The Dublin Castle in Camden Town and in early 1979 they recorded Lee Thompson’s song, “The Prince” which paid homage to the ska/reggae star Prince Buster. It was released on the 2Tone Record label and peaked at number 16 in the charts.
They recorded their debut album “One Step Beyond”, which was released in October 1979 including a rerecording of “The Prince” on Stiff Records. The album spawned two very successful singles “One Step Beyond, “and “My Girl.” That album stayed in the charts for 78 weeks.
Their success continued into 1986 and they had 15 singles reach the Top 10 including their number one, “House of Fun” and “Our House,” their number 7 hit in the USA.
Rather than release any more singles from the debut album Stiff Records released an EP which contained one track for their debut album plus three new tracks which included the hit, “Night Boat to Cairo.”
The unusual funny and instantly recognisable videos directed by Dave Robinson at Stiff Records were incredibly successful and gave them and their music a whole new audience around the world.
Their second album “Absolutely” was released in 1980 and again spawned hit after hit including “Baggy Trousers”. Their third album “Z” took them in a slightly different direction and away for the ska and fun filled music and towards mainstream pop. They changes in style still achieved success with their ever-growing fans not only in the UK but around the world.
Near the end of 1981 the band released what is considered to be their most commercial and well-known track, “It Must Be Love,” a song written and released years by Labi Siffre many years earlier. (As I write this article it has just come on the radio) It reached number 4 in the charts and two years later it peaked at number 33 in the USA. The following year the had their only number one hit in the UK with the track “House of Fun.”
November 1982 saw the release of their fourth album “The Rise and Fall” which although well received didn’t achieve the success of their previous releases. And, rather than release the album in the USA some of the tracks were included in their US compilation release.
In 1983 their single “Wings of a Dove” reached number two in the charts followed by “The Sun and the Rain” which also reached the top ten. Their fifth album “Keep Moving” was released and reached number six in the album charts.
They released their sixth album “Mad, Mad, Mad” in 1985 but it failed to achieve the previous success of their releases.
Following the release of their single “(Waiting For) the Ghost Train” from that album the band decided to split.
Madness have since reformed on numerous occasions with an ever-changing line-up and their annual UK Christmas concerts are always a great success. The band have recorded and released albums and singles since the split and you never know they may reform with the original members in the future.
In the meantime, their unique “nutty” sound and fun music continues to fill the airwaves.