Madness (formed 1976) Madness is a British ska/pop band – they are originally from Camden Town, London. Madness originally rose to fame in the 1980s but their popularity has endured through into the 21st century.
The Early Years: The band that would become Madness originally formed as The North London Invaders. The lineup at that time consisted of Monsieur Barso (Mike Barson), Chrissy Boy (Chris Foreman) and Kix (Lee Thompson). Chas Smash (Cathal Smyth) was later recruited, as was John Hasler. They were also joined by Dikron.
The lineup of the band was in constant flux, and they were joined by Suggs (Graham McPherson), Woody (Daniel Woodgate) and Bedders (Mark Bedford).
The name of the band was changed; first to Morris and the Minors and then to Madness. They chose the name as a tribute to Prince Buster – one of their favourite ska / reggae artists, who had a song of the same name.
Music Career: Madness’ debut single ‘The Prince’ (another tribute to Prince Buster) was written by Kix and was released on 2Tone Records. The label was owned by Jerry Dammers of The Specials. Madness performed the song on Top of the Pops.
The band’s debut album One Step Beyond. was released on Stiff Records (home to Elvis Costello and Ian Dury) in 1979. As well as releasing the title track as a single, they also released ‘My Girl’ and the ‘Work Rest and Play EP’, which featured ‘Night Boat To Cairo’.
In 1980, Madness’ second album Absolutely was released. The album reached number two in the UK album charts and spawned some of Madness’ most successful singles, including ‘Baggy Trousers’ and ‘Embarrassment’.
1981 saw the release of Madness’ third studio album, entitled 7. Three hit singles were released from the album – ‘Grey Day’, ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Cardiac Arrest’. All three were Top 20 hits in the UK. At the end of the year they also released another of their biggest hits: a cover of Labi Siffre’s ‘It Must Be Love’.
The following year, Madness released ‘House of Fun’, the only number one hit of their career to date. They played the song live on the sitcom The Young Ones, which starred Rik Mayall, Ade Edmonson and Nigel Planer.
Madness’ fourth studio album was entitled The Rise and Fall and was released in 1982. ‘Our House’ was the most prominent single to be released from the album. It was around this time that Monsieur Barso decided that he wanted to take a break from touring. The band was joined instead by James Mackie, who made his live debut with the band on an episode of the US TV show Saturday Night Live.
The next album for Madness was Keep Moving, which reached number 6 in the UK charts.
Following Monsieur Barso’s formal departure from the band, Madness left Stiff Records and formed their own record label, Zarjazz Record, a subsidiary of Virgin Records. Their sixth album Mad Not Mad, was released on the label in 1985, with Steve Nieve this time replacing Barso. Critically, the album was a flop and also performed badly financially.
In 1986, Madness announced that they were going to split, because of ‘musical differences’. They recorded a farewell single ‘(Waiting For) The Ghost Train’. Two years later, Suggs, Chas Smash, Kix and Chrissy Boy formed a new band named The Madness. They lasted for one album before splitting.
A singles compilation named Divine Madness was released in 1992 and went straight to number one in the UK charts. In August of that year, the band played two days of reunion concerts in Finsbury Park, named Madstock! A live album was released as well as a single – a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come’.
In 1999, Madness released their sixth studio album, Wonderful. The single ‘Lovestruck’ gave them their first Top 10 hit in 16 years.
Madness played a number of low-key gigs in 2004, using the name The Dangermen. Subsequently, they released an album entitled The Dangermen Sessions Vol.1 in 2005. Two years later, Madness released a non-album single, ‘Sorry’. The single included a collaboration with Baby Blue and Sway, two young hip hop artists.
2008 saw the release of a new album, The Liberty of Norton Folgate. Alfie Allen and Jaime Winstone starred in the music video for ‘Dust Devil’. In 2009, Madness performed on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.