“An earthquake is erupting, but not in Orange Street!”
In the late ‘70s amid the post-punk carnage, Camden Town began to shuffle to the ska sounds of local rude boys Madness, a conglomerate of enthusiastic music fans inspired by original Jamaican ska and rock steady who’d skipped school to trip down the stairs of The Hope And Anchor and pay homage to ‘The Prince’. The nutty boys dance was born and their camaraderie and distinct sense of humour – vintage British sitcom meets back-of-the-bus bravado – ensured lasting fame.
They were the raucous lads next door; their initial playfulness disguising the fact that they held gifted songwriters in their ranks who could spin a political yarn into a piece of social commentary that parodied everyday English life. They played out a series of soap operas which unfolded through a string of hits and ground breaking videos in the days when MTV held sway.
Tommy Cooper fez’s, vaudeville antics, saxophone players hanging from cranes, Gospel choirs, underwater guitar solos and carefully-chosen covers followed, rubbing shoulders with anti-Thatcher prose and a re-tooling of their ska inspiration. ‘My Girl’, ‘Embarrassment’, ‘It Must Be Love’ and ‘Cardiac Arrest’ pre-dated their first fully-fledged number one ‘House Of Fun’ and the hits just kept on coming with ‘Driving In My Car’, ‘Our House’, ‘Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day)’ and ‘Yesterday’s Men’ further enhancing the legend.
In the mid-’80s they disintegrated, returning in the ‘90s with a new found maturity, a musical, and Madstock before releasing the conceptual gem ‘The Liberty Of Norton Folgate’ which underlined their penchant for social awareness and epic baroque pop.
Throughout, their live reputation and comedic prowess has ensured their music inspires around the world and the mix of gifted musicians who lurch, lurk and lounge behind vocalist Suggs continues to excite audiences everywhere; their unique take on English culture and London life an immediately lovable and lauded part of their DNA.