18 August 2012


The '70s revival of the '60s scene brought about the creation of bands like the Jam, the film Quadrophenia and a revival of Mods and Rockers style. 1979 saw a ska revival bubbling up in the charts. Although Ska was a revival, the groups had a very turn-of-the '80s attitude.

A band which had had two very brief incarnations as The North London Invaders and Morris And The Minors became Madness in 1979 and were very much part of the ska revival scene when they first charted in the September of that year.

Madness soon brought us their very own "Nutty Sound", incorporating elements of ska, fairground music and other things. The Madness logo seen above seemed to be everywhere in the early 1980s.

The band launched themselves on the brand new decade with gusto - and were the first band to appear on Top Of The Pops in 1980, performing My Girl on 3 January.

From the Daily Mirror, 6 May, 1980:

Sheer Madness! Nutty Band Drive The Fans Crazy

Madness are a crazy gang of cheerful loons who live up to their name.

Their outlandish brands of lunacy drive the fans barmy.

And that bouncy, ska-type music - the "nutty sound" they call it - has shot the odd-ball group to success.

Their album "One Step Beyond" has sold more than half-a-million copies.

The seven-man outfit from North London used to waltz on stage doing the "nutty train", a ska-type conga. Now they have a new trick - the "nutty pyramid", with all the guys hanging off each other. They've nicknamed themselves "The Flying Fellinis".

Nuttier still, says Chas Smash, was the group's Spanish version of their hit single "One Step Beyond".

"We heard a Spanish group was going to do a cover version so we thought we'd get in first. None of us can speak Spanish but we learned the words for that."

Chas, 21, was a fan who used to jump on stage and bop away.

They couldn't get rid of him - so he was drafted into the group.

Now he's the leaping, lunatic resident dancer.

Madness got together as a group two years ago.

It all started as a bit of a giggle - something to do on a Saturday night.

In those days most of the guys were musical novices.

Lead singer Suggs - real name Graham McPherson - had such a lousy voice he was kicked out of the band at one point.

Gradually they got better - and persistence paid off.

It's all got beyond a joke now. People actually take the group seriously.

They finish their current twenty-date British tour on Saturday.

Then it's off to Europe for another tour, back here for more dates, and then into the studio to record more nutty sounds.

It just shows what can happen when you take a joke seriously!

Madness did not subscribe to Pink Floyd's Another Brick In The Wall theory that school teachers were out to subdue and mould their charges. Suggs thought that his teachers had found school as much of a drag/challenge as the pupils. So, in 1980, the band came up with Baggy Trousers.

Loved it. Still love it.

All together now: "All the teachers in the pub, passing round the ready-rub, trying not to think of when that lunchtime bell will ring again!"

Talking of school days, Madness saw me through the final years of my compulsory education, and out into the world of work.

Those early '80s school days seem a very happy time. In retrospect. Rubik's Cubes and fags in the bike sheds. Young love and Adam And The Ants. And our gorgeous year tutor. She was a highly attractive and witty woman. And when I meet with old schoolmates now we're still known to drool at the memory of her.

Her wit was legendary. One hot summer's day, she requested that somebody open one of the windows in the classroom. Usually known for my sluggishness (and greasy hair and zits) I flew to do her bidding. Said Mrs B: "Good heavens, Andrew, you'll have a leg fly off behaving like that!"

On another occasion, in the fifth year, my mate Chris came in sporting a large love bite.

Said Mrs B, as she passed us in the corridor, "I'd kill that ferret of yours if I was you, Chris!"

Happy days. Lots of laughs at school. And then home for gloriously unsophisticated grub like sausages, instant mash and baked beans and then Crossroads...

Our House In The Middle Of Our Street...

From the Sun, 16 October, 1981:

Madnificent seven can't miss

By Nina Myskow

MADNESS may be nutty, but they are certainly not daft. Our Baggy Trouser boys are no red-nosed clowns.

No band can score with NINE consecutive hit singles and just be a bunch of buffoons.

Because that is exactly what the seven-man North London band have achieved.

Their single, Shut Up (Stiff), is the ninth Top Twenty hit in a row. Their new album, Madness 7 (Stiff), is perched solidly at No 5. They just cannot miss. So what next?

Lead singer Suggs, 20, says: "You just write the songs, record 'em, release 'em and they go up the charts. Failure is the only thing left!"

Their career is now taking off in another direction - into films.

On Wednesday, "Take It Or Leave It", the story of their early years, was premiered at the Gate Three Cinema in Camden Town. Their local.

The boys put up half the money for the film, £250,000.

And, after the mad movie, thee was a family knees-up in the Dublin Castle, the Camden pub where they first found fame - and shot the final scene of the film.

The boys loved every moment of the nutty nonsense.

Suggs said: "A year ago, we got a bit tired of all the silliness. People expected us to behave like idiots, sort of on-tap loonies. We struggled against it, but in the end we realised that people must take us as they find us."

I find them smashing. They haven't changed a bit from the day I first met them almost two years ago.

Lee Thompson, for instance, is unlike the average wealthy star.

Not for him the flashy Rolls-Royce. Instead, a pushbike.

Thompson says: "I could get a maid to do my washing and that, but I don't want it. You could get lazy like that. I like to wash my own socks."

Suggs says: "The film is based on fact. It has been exaggerated and dramatised a bit. but that's how it was. The only slight problem was that only a certain number of non-Equity members were allowed to act. Some of our Mums and Dads and friends are played by actors and actresses, which is a shame.

"Our work is fun. We love it - as long as the music goes on getting better and better."

And as long as they go on having fun they'll keep on going. The Magnificent, MADnificent Seven.

There was a trend in the early-to-mid 1980s for covering jacket lapels with badges - tiny button badges were particularly popular. Favourite subjects were pop groups (I was a Madness freak), Rubik's Cubes, CND, Greenpeace and slogans like "The Only Good Tory Is A Lavatory".

Our brilliant Nutty Boys simply couldn't help churning out classics. House of Fun, that wacky tale of an attempt to make an important first purchase at the chemist's, was Number One in the pop charts when I left school in 1982. Years later, Suggs described Madness as "The Fagins of the schoolyard," and certainly the band was extremely popular with me and the other lads down at the local comp. We continued to follow its glorious pottiness avidly after we left, too.

In 1982, I walked through the school gates for the last time and out into the big wide world. Memories of the time are surrounded by a strange fairground-type aura, probably courtesy of Madness being at Number One, and their lyrics being on everyones' lips, and deelyboppers, which arrived at the same time!

Deelyboppers - bonkers fashion for 1982! 

Thoughts of Madness bring back happy memories. And their lyrics weren't always simply nutty. Remember Embarrassment?

If you're a Madness fan, you probably find that their lyrics can pop into your head at any moment. I do. Only last week, I managed to make several pretty large errors at work. My colleagues frowned. My colleagues scowled.

And for the rest of the morning I was singing to myself: "Now pass the blame and don't blame me..."



Jon Allen said...

oh yeah, happy days.
I still remember the lyrics to way too many Madness songs.

Great blog. I found it via a search for Access your flexible friend, which was a triggered by seeing a video of Mr Bean spreading butter on his bread with his a
Access card and praising his flexible friend.

Ah, the 80's happys years. I too left school in the decade and started out into the big wide world of university and then work.

Some great memories. I'm off to read the rest of your site.

Oh yes, I had a Rubiks cube too and could complete it in a few minutes.

Drew said...

Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad you like the blog!

Nidge said...

Madness were just brilliant.