Madness (band)

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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!

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'.

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:

  • One Step Beyond...
  • Absolutely
  • 7
  • The Rise and Fall
    • Madness, a compilation album released in the United States instead of The Rise and Fall.
  • Keep Moving
  • Mad Not Mad
  • Wonderful
  • The Dangermen Sessions, Vol. 1
  • The Liberty of Norton Folgate
Madness (band) provides examples of the following tropes:

I'm as honest as the day is long,
The longer the daylight, the less I do wrong.

  • Career Resurrection: Twice. First in the early nineties when they got back together to perform the first Madstock concert, had a number one greatest hits album and re-charted several of their older songs. Second was in 2009 when they released The Liberty Of Norton Folgate, which demonstrated that they were still a creative force and not just another oldies act.
  • Cool Shades: Usually worn by Suggs, Smash and Barson, but the others will have them out from time to time.
  • 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 and 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.
  • Cover Album: The Dangermen Sessions, Volume One.
  • Cover Version: As well as the aforementioned Dangermen Sessions, they've done quite a few covers of older ska songs, but noticably fewer than a lot of their 2 Tone contemporaries.
  • Creator Backlash: Most notably the 1986 album Mad Not Mad, which was made after Mike Barson left the group. Suggs famously described this one as "a polished turd".
  • 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).
  • Five-Finger Discount: "Deceives The Eye"
  • Follow the Bouncing Ball: The video for "Night Boat To Cairo".
  • 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.
  • Infant Immortality: "Time For Tea" is an inversion (or strictly speaking, a potential inversion as the death is only implied).
  • Jukebox Musical: Our House.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to most of what The Specials did.
  • 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 Lineup
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Suggs describes the ten minute long title track of The Liberty of Norton Folgate as 'progressive pop'.
  • Ode to Intoxication: "Lovestruck".
  • One-Hit Wonder: In the United States, their only big hit was "Our House" and its the song that they are most remember for there, despite having one other Top 40 single ("It Must Be Love"). Compare to their success in the United Kingdom where they were one of the most successful artists of the whole 1980's.
  • 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.
  • 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" Mc Pherson 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.
  • 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: 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: Against the press who had painted them as supporting racism (as they Didn'tDoTheResearch) in "Don't Quote Me On That".
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: Sung from a female perspective, the Tracy Ullman cover of "My Girl" changes the title and lyric to "My Guy".
  • This Is Sparta: "ONE! STEP! BEYOND!"
    • Sparta? THIS. IS. MADNESS!!
  • 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."
  • Two Tone: They were one of the bands that defined the sound, though they released only one single on the label itself.
  • What Could Have Been: Ever wonder why Madness was the only band to perform on The Young Ones twice? The band had been offered a deal for their own sitcom, and the BBC was trying to see how well viewers responded to the band. It is unknown if the deal was rescinded or the band declined, because no sitcom came to fruition.
  • Word of God: "Michael Caine" is supposedly about an IRA informer during The Troubles. Good luck working that out from the lyrics.
  • X Meets Y: Characterised disparagingly by The Rolling Stone as "The Blues Brothers with British accents." The magazine was generally scathing towards the ska revival.