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Madness

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Biography

Along with the Specials, Madness were one of the leading bands of the ska revival of the late '70s and early '80s. As their career progressed, Madness branched away from their trademark "nutty sound" and incorporated large elements of Motown, soul, and British pop. Although the band managed one crossover American hit in 1983, they remained a British phenomenon, influencing several successive generations of musicians and becoming one of the most beloved groups the country produced during the '80s. The origins of Madness lie in a ska group known as the Invaders, which was formed by Mike Barson, Chris Foreman, and Lee Thompson in 1976. By 1978, the band had changed their name to Morris and the Minors and had added Graham "Suggs" McPherson, Mark Bedford, Chas Smash, and Dan Woodgate to the group. Later in 1978, they changed their name to Madness, in homage to one of their favorite Prince Buster songs. The following year, Madness released their debut single, a tribute to Prince Buster entitled "The Prince," on Two-Tone. The song was a surprise success, reaching the British Top 20. Following its success, the band signed a record contract with Stiff Records and released another Prince Buster song, "One Step Beyond," which climbed to number seven. Madness quickly recorded their debut album, also titled One Step Beyond, with producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. Released toward the end of the year, the album peaked at number two in Britain and it stayed on the charts for well over a year. At the beginning of 1980, the band's third single, "My Girl," peaked at number three. For the next three years, the group had a virtually uninterrupted run of 13 Top Ten singles, during which time they were one of the most popular bands in Britain, rivaled only by the Jam in terms of widespread popularity. Where the Jam appealed to teenagers and young adults, Madness had a broad fan base, reaching from children to the elderly. Which didn't mean their music was diluted -- they continued to expand their sound, both musically and lyrically. In the spring of 1980, Madness released the Work Rest and Play EP, which reached number six on the strength of the EP's lead song, "Night Boat to Cairo." Also during the spring, One Step Beyond was released in the United States, where it peaked at 128. Madness' second album, Absolutely, was released in the fall of 1980. The record peaked at number two on the British charts, but it stalled at number 146, in the U.S. Sire dropped the band after the commercial disappointment of Absolutely, leaving Madness without an American record contract for several years. Back in England, Madness continued to gain momentum, as the group began playing matinee shows on their tours so children under 16 years old could attend the concert. In the fall of 1981, the band released their third album, Seven, which peaked at number five. In January of 1982, Madness hit number four with a cover of Labi Siffre's "It Must Be Love." In March, their streak of Top Ten hits was interrupted when "Cardiac Arrest" stalled at number 14 on the charts, due to radio's reluctance to play the tune. The band bounced back a few months later with "House of Fun," their first number one single. That same month, the hits compilation, Complete Madness, reached number one. Madness returned in the late summer of 1982 with The Rise and Fall, their full-fledged shift to pop. Like their previous albums, it was a British hit, reaching the Top Ten, but it also contained the seeds of their brief American success with the Top Five British single "Our House." The single was released in America on the group's new label, Geffen, and it received heavy airplay from MTV. The music-video television network had previously played the videos for "House of Fun," "It Must Be Love," and "Cardiac Arrest" when the band's albums were unreleased in the United States, thereby setting the stage for "Our House" to become a massive hit. With "Our House," Madness had MTV exposure coincide with a record release for the first time, which sent the single into the American Top Ten in the summer of 1983. The success of the single brought the U.S. compilation album, Madness, to number 41. Madness managed one more American Top 40 hit that fall, when "It Must Be Love" peaked at number 33. At the end of 1983, Mike Barson -- the band's key songwriter -- left the group to settle down with his wife. Although Madness was able to stay near the top of the charts with their first post-Barson release, "Michael Caine," the band's fortunes began to decline over the course of 1984. Upon its release in the spring, Keep Moving hit number six on the British charts; in America, the record reached number 109. In June, the group released its final single for Stiff Records, "One Better Day," which peaked at number 17. In the fall, Madness formed their own record label, Zarjazz. They released "Yesterday's Men," their first recording on Zarjazz, in September of 1985, nearly a year after the label's formation. The record peaked at number 18 and its parent album, Mad Not Mad, reached number 16 upon its October release. Their chart decline continued early in 1986, when their cover of Scritti Politti's "Sweetest Girl" peaked at number 35. For most of 1986, the group was quiet. In September, Madness announced they were disbanding. Two months later, their farewell single, "Waiting for the Ghost Train," was released, charting at number 18. After staying dormant for a year-and-a-half, the group reunited at the beginning of 1988 as a quartet called the Madness, releasing its comeback single, "I Pronounce You," in March. The Madness featured Chris Foreman, Lee Thompson, Chas Smash, and Suggs, and was augmented by the Specials' keyboardists Jerry Dammers and Steve Nieve, and Bruce Thomas (bass) of the Attractions. "I Pronounce You" reached number 44 on the U.K. charts and its accompanying album stiffed upon its spring release. The group disbanded for a second time that fall. In the summer of 1992, the original lineup of Madness reunited to perform two outdoor concerts at London's Finsbury Park. The group dubbed the event Madstock and released a recording of the shows on Go! Records. Madstock became an annual event for the next four years -- every summer the band would reunite and headline an outdoor festival at Finsbury Park. Suggs launched a solo career in 1995 with The Lone Ranger, which performed respectably in the U.K. charts. In 1996, Madness played the final Madstock and announced they planned not to reunite for future concerts, but by 1998 they were back on the road, with a Los Angeles date recorded for release as Universal Madness the following year. The group also reunited with original producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley to record their first new material in over a decade. The resulting Dangermen Sessions, Vol 1 was released in 2005, followed in 2009 by The Liberty of Norton Folgate, the group's tenth studio album. In 2011, Madness launched the annual "House of Fun Weeknder," a three-day festival curated by the band in which they performed alongside a wealth of like-minded artists. During 2012, the band took part in high-profile performances that celebrated the best of British culture. They played from the top of Buckingham Palace at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee party and also appeared in the closing ceremony of the London Olympic Games. As 2012 drew to a close, Madness released a new album called Oui, Oui, Si, Si, Ja, Ja, Da, Da. The group returned in 2016 with their 12th studio effort, Can't Touch Us Now. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Top Tracks

  1.   Track
    Popularity
  2.   Our House
  3.   It Must Be Love
  4.   One Step Beyond
  5.   House of Fun
  6.   Madness
  7.   Baggy Trousers
  8.   Grey Day
  9.   Night Boat to Cairo
  10.   The Return of the Los Palmas 7
  11.   On the Town
  12.   My Girl
  13.   Dangermen (aka High Wire)
  14.   Shame & Scandal
  15.   Rockin' in a Flat
  16.   Disappear
  17.   Michael Caine
  18.   Stepping Into Line
  19.   Mummy's Boy
  20.   Swan Lake
  21.   White Heat
  22.   Shut Up
  23.   Tiptoes
  24.   Africa
  25.   Overdone
  26.   My Old Man
  27.   So Alive
  28.   Missing You
  29.   Blue Skinned Beast
  30.   Dust Devil
  31.   Land of Hope and Glory
  32.   Maddley
  33.   Light of the Way
  34.   Dreaming Man
  35.   I Was the One
  36.   Black and Blue - Track by Track
  37.   Powder Blue - Track by Track
  38.   Small World - Track by Track
  39.   So Alive - Track by Track
  40.   Leon - Track by Track
  41.   Misery - Track by Track
  42.   Kitchen Floor - Track by Track
  43.   Whistle in the Dark
  44.   Soul Denying
  45.   Given the Opportunity
  46.   Pam the Hawk
  47.   (Don't Let Them) Catch You Crying
  48.   Don't Leave the Past Behind You
  49.   Mumbo Jumbo
  50.   You Are My Everything
  51.   Blackbird
  52.   Grandslam
  53.   I Believe
  54.   Good Times
  55.   Powder Blue
  56.   Death of a Rude Boy
  57.   Small World
  58.   Circus Freaks
  59.   Misery
  60.   Kitchen Floor
  61.   How Can I Tell You
  62.   La Luna
  63.   My Girl 2
  64.   We Are London
  65.   The Liberty of Norton Folgate
  66.   Sugar and Spice
  67.   NW5
  68.   Forever Young
  69.   Bingo
  70.   Round and Round
  71.   You're Wonderful
  72.   Bed and Breakfast Man
  73.   So Much Trouble in the World
  74.   Rain
  75.   You'll Lose a Good Thing
  76.   Lola
  77.   John Jones
  78.   Israelites
  79.   You Keep Me Hanging On
  80.   Taller Than You Are
  81.   I Chase The Devil AKA Ironshirt
  82.   This Is Where
  83.   Sarah's Song
  84.   Simple Equation
  85.   The Prince
  86.   Day on the Town
  87.   The Opium Eaters
  88.   When Dawn Arrives
  89.   Benny Bullfrog
  90.   Promises Promises
  91.   Tomorrow's Dream
  92.   Chipmunks Are Go!
  93.   The Business
  94.   Don't Look Back
  95.   Shadow on the House
  96.   Never Ask Twice (AKA Airplane)
  97.   Memories
  98.   You Said
  99.   In the Rain
  100.   Shadow of Fear
  101.   Solid Gone
  102.   On the Beat Pete
  103.   Not Home Today
  104.   Close Escape
  105.   E.R.N.I.E.
  106.   A Town With No Name
  107.   Mistakes
  108.   No Money
  109.   Saturday Night Sunday Morning
  110.   Elysium
  111.   Going to the Top
  112.   Drip Fed Fred
  113.   The Wizard
  114.   The Communicator
  115.   Johnny the Horse
  116.   Lovestruck
  117.   Tomorrow's Just Another Day
  118.   Coldest Day
  119.   Time
  120.   Burning the Boats
  121.   Sweetest Girl
  122.   Mad Not Mad
  123.   Uncle Sam
  124.   Yesterday's Men
  125.   I'll Compete
  126.   Waltz Into Mischief
  127.   Time for Tea
  128.   Turning Blue
  129.   Give Me a Reason
  130.   One Better Day
  131.   Victoria Gardens
  132.   March of the Gherkins
  133.   Brand New Beat
  134.   The Sun and the Rain
  135.   Wings of a Dove
  136.   In the City
  137.   Take It or Leave It
  138.   Cardiac Arrest
  139.   Embarrassment
  140.   Calling Cards
  141.   Primrose Hill
  142.   Rise and Fall
  143.   Razor Blade Alley
  144.   Tears You Can't Hide
  145.   Sign of the Times
  146.   Pac-A-Mac
  147.   Never Knew Your Name
  148.   Leon
  149.   Believe Me
  150.   I'm Walkin' by Fats Domino
  151.   We Want Freddie
  152.   Circus Freaks - Track by Track
  153.   Herbert
  154.   Black and Blue
  155.   That Close
  156.   Rainbows
  157.   Clerkenwell Polka
  158.   Mrs. Hutchinson
  159.   4 Am
  160.   Samantha
  161.   Prospects
  162.   Keep Moving
  163.   Tarzan's Nuts
  164.   In the Middle of the Night
  165.   Le Grand Pantalon (Baggy Trousers)
  166.   Uno Paso Adelante
  167.   Don't Quote Me on That
  168.   If I Didn't Care
  169.   Mr. Apples
  170.   Overture
  171.   MKII
  172.   Idiot Child
  173.   That's the Way to Do It
  174.   Can't Touch Us Now
  175.   Suggs & Bedders Track by Track
  176.   Another Version of Me
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