Hey you! Don’t listen to that, listen to this!
If you were to look back at 1976 and focus in on a little town in north London called Camden, a group of British troublemakers started a band.
From perpetrators to popstars, this group had been titled the Invaders, an incentive that was put in place to make sure that the members would stop getting into legal trouble, like stealing records from local music shops. This was the start of Madness.
The hailed “nutty boys” of London pushed themselves into fame with their song “One Step Beyond” in 1979. Lead Vocalist Graham “Suggs” McPherson, who defined the group with inexplicable charm and vocal ability, found it difficult to commit to the group. He had his priorities elsewhere: watching the Chelsea Football Club.
However, it did not take much time for the rest of the boys to invite Suggs back when they realized the new lead singer John Hasler was just not delivering. After Suggs and the boys reunited in 1979, the group officially established themselves as Madness.
I had never heard of Madness until around a few months ago, when a dear friend of mine showed one of our classes a parody video of the song “Our House.” Although the video was perplexing, I was intrigued. As a frequent listener of British indie bands, like The Smiths and Arctic Monkeys, I wanted to hear more of Madness.
On my drive back to Lakeland from winter break, I blared “Yesterday’s Men,” through my car speakers, followed by “Is There Anybody Out There?”, “Embarrassment” and of course, “Our House.”
Madness has an extensive lore that stretches beyond their first successes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Not only did the band have two musicals made about them, but after a hiatus, the Madness reunion sparked a comeback that swept the U.K. in November 2023. Madness album “Theatre of the Absurd ” deposed the reigning No. 1 spot held by Taylor Swift’s “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” on the Official U.K. Albums Chart.
With Swift’s music dominating the world, I think it is well deserved for Madness to have some spotlight. There is no denial, Swift does an impeccable job connecting to her audience with lyrics about heartbreak, love and romance. Her shows have sold out around the world and she has risen to historic fame.
However, I have always found Swift’s music to conform to the framework of any other pop song. The content is all the same; there is a special appreciation that I hold for music that makes the listener think, “What does this mean?” Madness does just that.
On Tuesday, Jan. 16, Madness announced on their Instagram that they will “be back across the sea in May,” and released their tour dates for this upcoming year. With only five shows lined up in big cities – Seattle, Oakland, Las Vegas, Boston and New York – fans are begging for more locations. One user on the announcement post commented, “Come on lads. This is a big country and lots of fans all over it. Let’s get some more dates!”
For anyone searching for a new listen, Madness will certainly break up any monotony of modern day mainstream music. Although this band was formed over fifty years ago, their comeback has shown a spotlight of relevance back onto ska.
“We all clicked because we were all dysfunctional, lonely spirits,” Bass guitarist Cathal “Chas” Smyth said in an interview with VH1 in the 1980s. Maybe that is true, but one thing is for sure: they know how to make some good music.