Friday, 11 November 2011

Madness: 1979-1986

After Madness reformed in 1992, it took them a good seven years to get around to releasing their first studio album since the reunion. In the decade plus that has passed, they have managed just two new studio albums - and one of those consisted of cover versions.

In their original incarnation, Madness were a bit more prolific - issuing six albums in seven years, along with a significant number of singles. Although the line up keeps shifting back and forth, it does seem as though Madness are here to stay, and a career spanning box set has just been issued. To celebrate, I thought it best to do a feature on the “Early Years”. The post-”Madstock” years will be covered at a later date.

Original Albums & Singles

The band released their debut 7” on Two Tone in 1979 - their one and only release on the label. “The Prince” was recorded as a tribute to ska singer Prince Buster, who had recorded the song which gave the band their name. A cover of this song appeared on the b-side of the 45.

The band then signed to Stiff, and recorded another Buster cover, “One Step Beyond”, as their first single for the label. Mostly instrumental, the intermittent vocals were done by Chas Smash, although as he was not officially in the band at the time, the single subsequently came in a cover featuring the original six piece line up of the band, without Smash. “One Step Beyond” was the first Madness single to be issued on a 12”, with an additional bonus track on this format. Madness would use the 12” on a regular basis throughout the rest of their career as an opportunity to include extra B-sides or remixes of the a-side.

“One Step Beyond” was also the title of the band’s debut LP, issued late in 79, and housed in a similar sleeve to the single of the same name. It was the only Madness album to really showcase their love of ska and reggae (until 2005’s “The Dangermen Sessions”), and as such, is thought of by some as their best album from this period of their career. Two more singles would be released from the LP - “My Girl” and “Night Boat To Cairo”, the latter as the lead track on a 4-song EP, upon which Smash finally appeared on the cover of a Madness record for the first time.

Their second album, 1980’s “Absolutely”, saw the band head in a more Kinks/Ian Dury inspired “pop” direction, although the saxophone sound set them apart from many of their contemporaries. The front cover of the LP showed the group outside Chalk Farm tube station, in Camden, North London - their spiritual home - although slightly different shots were used on different editions; I have a Canadian LP which uses a different shot to my UK copy. By now, they were starting to get a reputation as fun loving clowns who made stupid videos - hence the “Nutty Boys” nickname - but this masked the fact that some of the band’s lyrical content was very dark. The highlight of “Absolutely”, “Embarrassment”, dealt head on with racism, and was based on a real life story of a white woman becoming pregnant by a black man.

Following the release of their third LP, “7”, in 1981, the band taped what would be the first of six stand alone 45’s before the demise in 86. “It Must Be Love” was a Labi Siffre cover the band had started to perform in the live arena, and the decision was taken to issue a studio version as a single. Despite appearing on both 7” and 12”, the same mixes of both sides appeared on each format. The following five non-album singles, for the record, were “House Of Fun”, “Driving In My Car“, “Wings Of A Dove“,. “The Sun And The Rain” and “Waiting For The Ghost Train”.

The final Madness album of the 80’s to feature the seven-man line up was 1984’s “Keep Moving”, after which keyboard player Mike Barson left. Released in 1984, it was the band’s first studio album since 1982‘s “The Rise And Fall“, the first time they had gone a year without releasing a new studio record. The sixth album, 1985’s ”Mad Not Mad”, is a curio - lauded by the NME but slated by Suggs, the band had expanded to a seven piece again by recruiting Steve Nieve from Elvis Costello And The Attractions to play keys on all of the album, although he was absent from live, TV and Video duties. The mixed reaction to “Mad Not Mad” is indicative of how Madness’ albums have been perceived over the years - they have always been thought of as a singles band, and didn’t get around to making a genuinely “classic” LP until 2009’s “The Liberty Of Norton Folgate”. Even the recent CD reissue series seems to ignore the album, despite the fact it was reissued along with all the other LP’s of this period in 2010 - a recent Salvo Records catalogue included in “Record Collector” refers to all the reissues except this one!

Plans for a seventh LP were considered, but with the band starting to fall apart, the decision was made instead to throw in the towel. Barson replaced Nieve for the recording of the stand alone “Waiting For The Ghost Train” single, their swansong release, with the band aping the “One Step Beyond” single cover on the sleeve. By the start of 1987, Madness were no more.

The Madness

A slightly forgotten part of the band’s past is the short lived 1988 reunion. Suggs, Smash, Lee Thompson and Chris Foreman reformed as “The Madness”, presumably to avoid any potential legal wranglings. They released a self titled album on Virgin Records, although it failed to set the charts alight, and stalled way outside the top 50. Two singles were released from the album, although the second, “What’s That”, failed to enter the top 75, the first Madness related release to fail to do so. The situation may or may not have been hindered by the complete absence of a promo video for the song.

The CD version of the album included four extra tracks, which also appeared as B-sides on the various singles. The “I Pronounce You” single included a B-side not on the album, “Patience”. By the end of 88, The Madness had gone the same way as their predecessors, and Madness were finally no more. At least, not until the 1992 “Madstock” reunion shows which eventually, in a long winded way, led to the permanent formation of the band.

In the years that have passed, The Madness have been semi written out of history. Don’t go to a Madness gig expecting them to play anything off this album, indeed, even the group’s “best of” albums tend to ignore this release. The video edition of “Divine Madness” does include the clip for “I Pronounce You”, but that’s about it. More on that release a bit later on.

The Compilations

In the last 10-15 years, there have been a steady stream of Madness compilations, which all seem to cover more or less the same ground. However, the band had already released what could be regarded as at least one definitive set by the end of the 90’s, so you might wonder why they keep coming.

The band’s first collection had appeared midway through their original incarnation, when “Complete Madness” surfaced in 1982. It included all of the band’s 12 singles issued up to that point, and was padded out with a few other odds and sods to give it a 45 minute plus running time. An accompanying VHS was also released, which included videos for all 12 singles, plus a clip for “Bed And Breakfast Man”, from the first LP.

When the band split in 1986, a follow up set “Utter Madness” was released, concentrating on the latter half of the band’s career. Again, album tracks were used to pad the set out. The cover was another variant on the “One Step Beyond” image, and CD copies included a mega mix called “Seven Year Scratch”, which had appeared on the B-side of the 12” version of the “Waiting For The Ghost Train” single.

In 1990, Virgin released the first Madness album to really make an attempt to include some of the band’s rarer numbers. “It’s Madness” was a 16 track affair, split equally between hit singles and B-sides/EP tracks. Four of the six stand alone 45’s were included. It was deemed important enough to spawn a 1991 follow up, “It’s Madness Too”, which veered a bit more in the album tracks direction instead. “The Sun And The Rain” made this release, but “Waiting For The Ghost Train” failed to make the cut. Although the fact that neither set gets anywhere near to including all the missing B-sides, they are both seen as vital cogs in the Madness back catalogue, and they were both reissued in snazzy new sleeves by Virgin in the late 1990’s.

In 1992, with the reunion looming, “Divine Madness” was released. Depending on which format you bought, it was either the final word on Madness pre-1989, or not. The audio edition ignored material from “The Madness”, and for some reason, only included 22 of the band’s 23 singles from the 79-86 period. “The Sweetest Girl”, a single lifted from “Mad Not Mad”, was missing. The video version though included all 23 singles, the “Bed And Breakfast Man” clip and, as mentioned earlier, “I Pronounce You”. It was, therefore, the complete history of Madness on film from the 70s and 80s.

In 1998, “The Heavy Heavy Hits” rectified the situation audio-wise, by including all 23 Madness singles up to 1986. However, with the band eventually heading back into the studio at the end of the 1990’s, it wasn’t too long before greatest hits sets began appearing and re-appearing with revamped track listings including some of these songs. However, as all such sets have been restricted to single CD sets, older songs have had to make way for the new ones. As I type this, there is not one Madness best-of which includes every Madness single from 1979 to 2011. This is probably why the best of’s keep coming, as the labels attempt to strike the right balance between old and new hits - one would assume we will eventually get a complete singles set at some point.


As the Madness reunion kicked off in 1992, a seemingly non stop run of singles started to appear. It began with a reissue of “It Must Be Love” in February, which appeared on several formats, the CD edition of which added old rarities in the form of “Never Ask Twice” (renamed “Airplane” for some reason) and “Don’t Quote Me On That”. “House Of Fun” came backed with a Spanish version of “One Step Beyond”, with an unreleased version of “Gabriel’s Horn” on the 12” and CD editions.

“My Girl” appeared on two different CD editions. The sleeve mimicked the 1979 original - photographs of the at-the-time six man lineup appeared on the cover, and for the 1992 edition, new photos of the same band members appeared on the front. A series of previously unreleased live tracks appeared as b-sides, with CD2 including a version of a song called “Precious One”, which has never appeared on a Madness studio record.

Whilst the Madstock shows, unsurprisingly, concentrated almost entirely on old hits, the band opted to perform a cover of “The Harder They Come” at the gigs. A live album and video from the concerts appeared later that year, and a version of this song that was included on both these releases was also issued as a single to coincide. Live tracks from the shows appeared as B-sides across the various formats.

The final Madness single before the 1999 release “Lovestruck” turned up in 1993, when “Night Boat To Cairo” was remixed multiple times for single release. The 12” included four different versions of the song, with the CD adding the original LP mix.

The Box Sets

During the 90’s and Noughties, a series of Madness box sets were issued that made a decent - but flawed - attempt at putting a sizeable chunk of product into a single package.

1999’s “The Lot”, as it’s title suggests, included all of the six studio albums on CD from the 79-86 period. However, for some reason, the decision was taken to not include the original album covers. Instead, each album was paired up with another one, and these 2-on-1 sets appeared in unique gatefold picture sleeves. A nice touch, but utterly odd. Each of the band’s 24 promo clips from the period appeared as bonuses on a CD-Rom element on each disc, four videos per disc. The releases, more or less, tied in with the accompanying album, but with five clips from “One Step Beyond” in existence, the decision was taken to add the ‘odd one out’, “Bed And Breakfast Man”, to the “Absolutely” disc instead to balance the numbers.

Some years earlier, just after the “Madstock” event, Virgin had released “The Business”, a 3-CD box set dubbed the ‘Definitive Singles Collection’. It was a pretty good set, including nearly every a-side and b-side from the 79-86 period. Repetition was mostly “out”, so where an alternate mix had appeared on a 12”, it was excluded from the set in preference to the 7”/Album mix.

It was not perfect though. “Seven Year Scratch” had to be edited to squeeze onto the box, but this was offset by the inclusion of the jukebox-only “Stretch” mix of “Our House”. But the problem concerned some of the b-sides in the set. The decision had been taken to turn the box into a sort of audio documentary, with interview clips inbetween certain songs, and on occasions, as one song faded out, an interview clip cut in, meaning that a handful of numbers were thus “edited” for this release.

This situation was eased, partly, in 2003 with the “Singles Box Volume 1” CD box set, featuring CD reissues of the band’s first batch of singles from “The Prince” up to “Cardiac Arrest”. All b-sides from this period were present and correct, and the singles were - usually - housed in their original picture covers to boot. However, the problem here is not with this set, but the fact that there hasn’t been a “Volume 2” covering the later years.


I have listed below, in chunks, most Madness releases - on at least one format - covering the 79-93 period. The lists are fairly self explanatory. The ‘Important Madness Singles’ list mostly includes 12” releases, as these usually featured extra tracks/mixes compared to the 7” counterparts, many of which are not on “The Business”.


The Prince/Madness (7”, Two Tone CHS TT3, box set version comes in picture sleeve similar to selected overseas releases)
One Step Beyond/Mistakes/Nutty Theme (12”, Stiff BUYIT 56)
My Girl/In The Rain/Stepping Into Line (12”, Stiff BUYIT 62)
Work Rest & Play EP: Night Boat To Cairo/Deceives The Eye/The Young And The Old/Don’t Quote Me On That (7”, Stiff BUY 71)
Don’t Quote Me On That/Swan Lake (Promo Only 12”, Stiff MAD 1)
Baggy Trousers/The Business (7”, Stiff BUY 84)
Embarrassment/Crying Shame (7”, Stiff BUY 102)
The Return Of The Los Palmas 7/My Girl (Demo)/That’s The Way To Do It/Swan Lake (Live) (12” with comic, Stiff BUYIT 108. Box set version obviously has no comic, and comes in “Nutty Boys” p/s, some original 7” pressings come in different “canteen” sleeve)
Grey Day/Memories (7”, Stiff BUYIT 112, also on Cassette [ZBUY 112])
Shut Up/Never Ask Twice/A Town With No Name (12”, Stiff BUYIT 126)
It Must Be Love/Shadow On The House (7”, Stiff BUY 134, also on 12” [SBUY 134])
Cardiac Arrest (Extended)/In The City (12”, Stiff BUYIT 140, box set version adds LP version of A-side)


House Of Fun/Don’t Look Back (7”, Stiff BUY 146, picture disc also available [PBUY 146])
Driving In My Car/Animal Farm/Riding On My Bike (12”, Stiff BUYIT 153)
Our House (Extended)/Walking With Mr Wheeze (12”, Stiff BUYIT 163)
Tomorrow’s Just Another Day (Warped 12” Version)/A Blue Skinned Beast/Tomorrow’s Just Another Day (Guest Vocal, Elvis Costello)/Madness (Is All In The Mind) (12”, BUYIT 169, export copies pressed for release in South Africa have alternate catalogue number [BUYIT (C) 169])
Wings Of A Dove (Blue Train Mix)/Behind The 8 Ball/One’s Second Thoughtlessness (12”, Stiff BUYIT 181, some 7” copies come in different sleeve to this edition)
The Sun And The Rain (Remix)/Fireball XL5/My Girl (Live at the Brighton Centre, May 1983) (12”, Stiff BUYIT 192)
Michael Caine (Extended)/(Album Version)/If You Think There’s Something (12”, Stiff BUYIT 196)
One Better Day/Guns/Victoria Gardens (Remix)/Sarah (12”, Stiff BUYIT 201)
Yesterday’s Men (12” Version)/All I Knew/Yesterday’s Men (Demo Version) (12”, Zarjazz JAZZ 5-12)
Uncle Sam (Ray Gun Mix)/Please Don’t Go/Uncle Sam (Demo) (12”, Zarjazz JAZZ 7-12)
Sweetest Girl (Dub)/(Extended)/Jennie (12”, Zarjazz JAZZ 8-12)
Waiting For The Ghost Train/Maybe In Another Life/Seven Year Scratch (12”, Zarjazz 9-12)

Some other formats exist that may be of interest, such as the “flag bag” 7” version of “Uncle Sam”, whilst others included - at the time - rare b-sides that made it onto “The Business”, this explains their non-inclusion in this list. The recent Salvo reissues of the band’s first six albums include virtually all of the b-sides, so even some of the singles listed above are now of no more interest to their “shorter” 7” counterparts. Try before you buy, etc, etc, etc.


I Pronounce You/Patience (7”, Virgin VS 1054, also on 7” box set [VSX 1054], 12” [VST 1054] and CD [VSCD 1054] with extra tracks from CD edition of album)
What’s That/Be Good Boy (7”, Virgin VS 1078, also on 12” with extra track from CD edition of album [VST 1078] and CD [VSCD 1078], and a pair of “interlocking“ picture discs)


One Step Beyond (LP, Stiff SEEZ 17)
Absolutely (LP, Stiff SEEZ 29)
7 (LP, Stiff SEEZ 39)
The Rise & Fall (LP, Stiff SEEZ 46)
Keep Moving (LP, Stiff SEEZ 53)
Mad Not Mad (LP, Zarjazz JZLP-1)
The Madness (CD, Virgin CDV 2507)


Complete Madness (LP, Stiff HIT TV1)
Utter Madness (LP, Zarjazz JZLP-2)
It’s Madness (CD, Virgin CDVIP 105)
It’s Madness Too (CD, Virgin CDVIP 117)
Divine Madness (Video, Virgin VID 2692)
The Heavy Heavy Hits (CD, Virgin CDV 2862)


It Must Be Love/Bed And Breakfast Man/Airplane/Don't Quote Me On That (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1425)
House Of Fun/Un Paso Adelante!/Yesterday’s Men/ Gabriel’s Horn (Demo) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1413)
My Girl/ERNIE (Live)/Embarrassment (Live)/Tomorrow's Dream (Live) (CD1, Virgin VSCDG 1425)
My Girl/Precious One (Live)/My Girl (Live)/Disappear (Live) (CD2, Virgin VSCDT 1425)
The Harder They Come (Live)/Land Of Hope And Glory (Live)/Tomorrow’s Just Another Day (Live)/Take It Or Leave It (Live) (CD1, Go! Discs GODCD 93)
The Harder They Come (Live)/Embarrassment (Live)/Grey Day (Live)/Baggy Trousers (Live) (CD2, Go! Discs GOLCD 93)
Night Boat To Cairo (LP Version)/(Paul Gotel Rude Mix)/(Paul Gotel Rude Edit)/(Well Hung Parliament Dub Edit)/(Paul Gotel Rude Instrumental) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1447)

A number of other notable rarities exist, such as the “My Girl” flexi and the “Dance Craze” Compilation cassette. The booklet inside “The Business” lists the most important of these, and also details the early period 45’s that were reissued by Virgin after the band switched labels from Stiff in the mid 80’s. Again, the recent expanded reissues include all of the rarities tucked away on these releases, along with Radio Session material, so I would suggest tracking down the Salvo repressings in preference to the vinyl originals.

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