Madness were formed in North London as The Invaders, changed their name to Madness (after a song by ska hero Prince Buster). In 1979, the Specials launched ‘2 Tone Records’ and Madness were invited to cut their first single The Prince/Madness that scored their first hit.
Madness then signed with Stiff Records and became the biggest act on the label by far, with 13 further consecutive UK hits and five Top 10 albums by the end of 1982, nearly all being composed within the band.
With their appealing mixture of ska, music hall, pop, R&B, visual comedy and biting yet amusing social comment, Madness became the most consistent UK hitmakers of the 80’s with guaranteed sell-out shows wherever they appeared. American success eluded them until 1983, perhaps because of the curiously British humour and appearance.
In 1981, Madness took to the movie scene and made their only feature film ‘Take It Or Leave It’. They went on to release ‘Complete Madness’; a TV advertised hits compilation that topped the UK charts for three weeks during 1982. Our House (1982) marked their US breakthrough, followed by a five-week tour that included dates with David Bowie and The Police.
Following their Christmas gig at the Lyceum in aid of Greenpeace, Mike Barson announced his decision to quit the band to live in Holland with his Dutch wife Sandra. As a six-piece, the band greeted 1984 with ‘Michael Caine’, a single on which the actor actually sang. They also opened their own ‘Liquidator’ studio in London. After five years and 18 consecutive hit singles, they left Stiff Records in May 84 to form their own Label, ‘Zarjazz’. Feargal Sharkey was their first release.
Pulling in members of UB40, The Specials, General Public, Pioneers and Afrodiziak, Madness put together the admirable Starvation charity single as their contribution to the African famine relief in 1985, with the single peaked at 33 on the national chart. Meanwhile, a band called ‘The Wayfarers’ played to a packed audience at the Bull and Gate Pub in Kentish Town, which proved to be Madness rehearsing their new album prior to recording. The following hit single, ‘Uncle Sam’, showed the band had lost none of its good, healthy humour.
The band also released the album ‘Mad Not Mad’ in the same year which spawned several minor hit singles. However, the level of success had diminished, and difficulties with the Zarjazz operation prompted a split within the ranks. Suggs, Foreman, Smyth and Thompson resurfaced two years later as ‘The Madness’ having signed with Virgin UK. Their eponymous debut LP was released in May 1988. Mark Bedford has since dabbled with television scores, while Graham McPherson (Suggs) managed ‘The Fall’ and successfully appears on television.
Today Madness are back in the public eye once again with a new material. Recent appearances on Top Of The Pops with their single ‘Lovestruck’ has shown the public once again that even after all this time they still have the necessary get up and go to continue to pump out great music.
Over the last twenty years Madness have spent almost 300 weeks in the UK charts and amassed more than 28 Top 40 single successes. This started off with “The Prince” reaching number 16 back in 1979. Top 10 hits include: “One Step Beyond” (7), “My Girl” (3), “Baggy Trousers” (3), “Embarrassment” (4), “Shut Up” (7), “It Must Be Love” (4), “House of Fun” (1), “Driving in my Car (4), “Our House” (5). When added to the hits of Bad Manners, including, “Lip Up Fatty” (15), “Special Brew” (3), “Can Can” (3) and “My Girl Lollipop” (9) you can see that there is an impressive list of tracks to choose from.
Badness are regarded as The Ultimate Tribute Band To Madness & The Ska Era and amongst the leading tributes in the UK. Formed in 1994, Badness have established themselves as the premier tribute to the sounds of Madness, Bad Manners and Buster Bloodvessel.
“I have never seen so many dancing to Baggy Trousers in my life, seriously the band were great, by the 4th number they nailed them, they were up dancing, by the end of the first set they were dancing in their seats and around the room. It was packed to the roof, the show brought the audience to their feet. Unbelievable” Entertainments Director Ocean Village P&O