Madness are an English ska-pop/new wave band that was initially active as a recording unit between 1979 and 1986. Comprised of between six and seven members during various iterations, the band emerged amidst the two-tone/ska craze that swept the UK at the turn of the 1980s.
Formed circa 1976/77 in the North London borough of Camden, Madness — initially called the Camden Invaders — was inspired by the lavish arrangements, tuneful angularity, and stage-bound charisma of Deaf School, the Liverpool eight-piece whose 1976 debut, 2nd Honeymoon, was a turntable favorite among Madness members, who produced similar large sounds thanks to their brass-augmented lineup.
In October 1979, Madness exploded on the UK public with the skankin’ toaster “Once Step Beyond” and its namesake album. Many hits followed as the band evolved from the choppy, staccato sounds and rhythms of their debut to the soulful carnival pop that endeared them to MTV audiences across the pond, an achievement marked by the band’s twin “house” hits of 1982: the zoloey “House of Fun” and the stately piano-thumper “Our House.”
After hitting the UK charts with the comedic “Ghost Train” in 1986, the band dissolved, only to reunite in altered versions in the years and decades ahead.
The first six Madness albums were produced by ex-Deaf School guitarist/composer/mastermind Clive Langer, who would utilize the sounds he developed with the Camden combo on his own, concurrent recordings with The Boxes.
Members: Chris Foreman (guitar, 1976-2005, 2006-present), Mike Barson (keyboards, 1976-84, 1992-present), Lee “Kix” Thompson (saxophone, 1976-77, 1978-present), Chas Smash (vocals, trumpet, bass, 1976-77, 1979-2014), John Hasler (drums, vocals, 1976-78), Dikron Tulane (vocals, 1976-77), Graham McPherson [aka Suggs] (vocals, 1977, 1978-present), Gavin Rodgers (bass, 1977-78), Garry Dovey (drums, 1977-78), Daniel Woodgate (drums, 1978-86, 1992-present), Mark Bedford (bass, 1978-86, 1992-2009, 2012, 2013-present), Steve Nieve (keyboards, 1984-86), Seamus Beaghan (keyboards, 1986)
Madness formed in 1976 as the Camden Invaders. Founding members included keyboardist Mike Barson (Monsieur Barso), guitarist Chris Foreman (Chrissy Boy), and saxophonist Lee Thompson (Kix). They were soon joined by drummer John Hasler, bassist/singer Cathal Smyth (Chas Smash), and vocalist Dikron Tulaine. This lineup gigged through mid-1977, influenced by the retro pop-rock and R&B strides of Kilburn and the High Roads and Deaf School. (Mike’s brother, Dan Barson, played in fellow retro-rockers Bazooka Joe, whose live favorite “Rockin’ in A♭” was adopted by Madness for their debut album.)
After a series of lineup changes, bassist Mark Bedford (Bedders) and drummer Dan Woodgate (Woody) secured the rhythm section. Tulaine moved into acting, clearing way for singer Graham McPherson (Suggs). Smyth left but soon returned to serve as their MC before rejoining as a full member. After a brief stint as Morris and the Minors, they chose the name Madness in homage to a tune by Jamaican ska legend Prince Buster.
During 1979, Madness became live favorites at London haunts like the Dublin Castle, where they honed their mix of ska, R&B, and music hall. Along with like-minded acts like The Specials, The Selecter, and The Beat, Madness became fashion trendsetters with their cropped hair, thin suits, and porkpie hats.
That June, they entered Pathway Studios and cut their first single, the Thompson original “The Prince,” another Buster tribute. It was backed with the Buster cover “Madness” and released that August on The Specials’ 2 Tone Records label. Plugged with a September 6 performance on Top of the Pops, the single reached #16 on the UK charts.
One Step Beyond…
Madness released their debut album, One Step Beyond…, on October 19, 1979, on Stiff (UK, Europe) and Sire (North America).
“The Prince (2-tone version)”
Released: 10 August 1979
“It Must Be Love”
“House of Fun”
“Driving in My Car”
The Rise & Fall
“Wings of a Dove”
“The Sun and the Rain”
Singles from Keep Moving (UK)
Singles from Keep Moving (US)
“Wings of a Dove”
Released: 20 August 1983 (UK. Not issued as a single in the USA)
“The Sun and the Rain”
Released: 29 October 1983 (UK); 1984 (USA)
Mad Not Mad
Released: 19 August 1985
“(Waiting For) The Ghost Train”
- One Step Beyond… (1979)
- Absolutely (1980)
- 7 (1981)
- The Rise & Fall (1982)
- Keep Moving (1984)
- Mad Not Mad (1985)
- The Madness (1988)
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