MADNESS - A Biography
Madness are an English band who were at the forefront of the ska revival in the UK in the late 1970s. Formed in London in 1976, the line-up at the time of their first single, Mike Barson (Monsieur Barso) - keyboards, vocals; Chris Foreman (Chrissy Boy) - guitar; Lee Thompson (Kix) - saxophone, vocals
The band was formed in London, England in 1976, by Mike Barson (Monsieur Barso) on keyboards and vocals, on guitar and under the name The North London Invaders. In 1978 they were joined by frontman Graham McPherson (Suggs) on vocals, Mark Bedford (Bedders) on bass guitar and Daniel Woodgate (Woody) on drums. After performing periodically as The North London Invaders the group changed their name to Madness. Carl Smyth (Chas Smash) on trumpet and vocals, joined in early 1980.
The band's first single, released September 1st 1979 on The Specials' 2 Tone label, was 'The Prince'. The song, written by Lee Thompson, was a tribute to the Jamaican ska musician Prince Buster, whose song, 'Madness', the band had named themselves after and which also was released as the B-side of 'The Prince'. This was followed by the album 'One Step Beyond...' in 1979, named after another Prince Buster song, which stayed in the British charts for over a year, peaking at number 2. 'One Step Beyond...' was released on Stiff Records, which became the band's recording label. From 1979 through 1988, the band released 25 singles and eight albums (including two compilation albums) in the UK. During the early 1980s Madness were one of the most popular bands in Britain. In 1984 the band formed their own record label; Zarjazz Records. The album 'Mad Not Mad' was the first Madness album released on this label, in 1985.
The band's first 20 singles all made it into the UK top 20, as the band's self-described "nutty sound" evolved to include polished pop elements along with large doses of ska, reggae, and other Caribbean musics. Madness had limited success in the US, however, with only two singles making the top 40 ('Our House' peaked at #7 and 'It Must Be Love' hit #33). This was perhaps a result of their quirky style, and the limited marketplace for ska in the US -- although the band still had a strong underground following there, and also were a popular staple of early MTV. Years later, many American 3rd generation ska bands such as No Doubt and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones cited Madness (who had been fondly nicknamed "The Nutty Boys") as a major influence on their music.
The band's videos were highly creative and entertaining, which was partially responsible for their heavy inclusion on early MTV and on the BBC's 'Top of the Pops'. The videos relied on humor and storytelling to an unusual extent, producing a product that stand alone as creative output, and are not just slick promotional material.
Following the 1984 departure of Barson, the group soldiered on as a six-piece ensemble for a time, but offically split in 1986 with a farewell single '(Waiting For) The Ghost Train'. Less than two years later, though, Smyth, Thompson, Foreman and vocalist Suggs re-formed as a quartet known as The Madness and released a self-titled album in 1988. The two singles from the album failed to hit the UK top forty, and the band split up again.
However, all seven original members reformed as Madness in 1992 when a repackaged greatest hits compilation 'Divine Madness' reached #1 in the UK album charts and a re-release of their cover of Labi Siffre's 'It Must Be Love' made it to #6 UK. This generated enough media hype for an open air concert to take place at Finsbury Park, entitled 'Madstock'. The show was an enormous success - so much so that further 'Madstocks' were held in 1994, 1996 and 1998 along with regular Christmas tours and other live appearances. The band released a brand new studio album in 1999, entitled 'Wonderful', and Madness entered the UK Top 10 singles chart for the first time in sixteen years with the first single from the album, 'Lovestruck'. A further two singles were released, 'Johnny The Horse' and 'Drip Fed Fred', (a collaboration with long time friend Ian Dury (of Ian Dury & The Blockheads fame)) both of which charted, but just failed to reach the top 40.
In 2002, a collection of Madness songs were adapted into a stage musical called 'Our House' in London's West End.
During 2000 - 2004, the original seven members still performed periodically as Madness, but in 2004 played a series of gigs as The Dangermen. In August 2005, Madness released their first new studio album in six years, entitled 'The Dangermen Sessions Vol.1', which consisted entirely of cover songs. Chris Chrissy Boy Foreman can only be heard on three songs on the album ('Rain', 'Lola', and 'Ready for Love') as he left the band during the recording sessions. Foreman announced his departure from Madness on their website in May 2005 citing "the petty time consuming bollo**s that goes on in the band. Which is about as diplomatic as I can get." Madness have since played a series of gigs in UK forests (presented by the Forestry Commission) with a replacement guitarist.
On November 18th 2005 Madness played in Wrexham as part of the BBC charity event 'Children in Need'. Most of the band were there apart from Mark Bedford and Chris Foreman.Graham Bush stood in for Mark Bedford.
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