Feb 092015

A friend of mine recently lent me a copy of some old Madness Greatest Hits. It got me thinking about the first Madness song I heard when I was a wee lass visiting my English family during the summer of 1982:

I have a soft spot for that track and even more so, for their earlier, more ska-inflected sound. (My sister had a great ska compilation that mixed “Night Boat to Cairo” into The Specials’ “Friday Night, Saturday Morning,” a one-two punch I always think of when I hear either of those songs. But I digress.)

Fast forward ten years or so to the next great Wave of English Working Class Rock, and you get songs like this:

In the early Aughts you can hear a semi-distant refrain, these guys taking the piss:

Help me connect the dots. Choose a band a decade earlier than Madness, one that celebrated the rich life of the English prols. Or can you think of their distant echo in, say, 2012 or beyond?


  13 Responses to “Just Another (Decade)”

  1. Isn’t Madness squarely rooted in the progression from the Kinks to Ian Dury and Squeeze, then, later, to the likes of Blur? Did anyone come before the Kinks? I guess people along this track have followed Blur, even that Lilly Allen (?), who gained (no pun intended) a ton of attention during her 3 weeks of fame for being 6 pounds overweight and uttering a few naughty words and unpopular opinions.

    The cartoonish presentation of Madness, both visually and musically, has always been a major stumbling block to my enjoyment of their music. I even have trouble fully enjoying “Our House.” Oh right, I don’t like their producers. Too clean for my tastes!

  2. ladymisskirroyale

    Thanks for the input, Mod. I was discussing this with Mr. Royale, and he also mentioned the Well of the Kinks. Not knowing much Kinks material (gasp), I wasn’t able to comment. Are there any Kinks tracks that you think would be representative?

    I too had thought of Squeeze, but not Ian Dury. Good one. I’m wondering whether they borrowed from the old English Music Hall tradition, which I think was entertainment primarily for and by the working class folk.

  3. Friend of the Hall Martin Newell should fit into this progression somewhere.

  4. diskojoe

    I haven’t been around lately since I’ve been harvesting a mighty big snow crop the past few weeks. I actually just listened to the new Kinks box set, which I do like even though I have 95% of it already. I think that some of the Kinks songs that would fit would include “Dead End Street”, “Harry Rag”, “Don’t You Fret”, as well as a good chunk of Muswell Hillbillies, if not the whole album.

    As for Madness, I currently have the 1st album & a singles compliilation, which is enough for me. Martin Newell’s work does fit in, especially his Cleaners From Venus stuff.

    Finally, I know that ladymisskiirroyle diigs The Go-Betweens. All I have is the 1978-1990 complilation. What can you recommend to go from there w/o buying that new box set?

  5. cherguevara

    Madness’ album, “The Rise and Fall” is one of the most underrated albums in pop music. Seriously. Funny this thread is here now, as I gave the album a spin just last week and thought it really held up – it had been on my mind for a few weeks before I got around to giving it a spin. Beneath the “nutty” image is some fairly sophisiticated songwriting and arranging, along with lyrics that paint a droll and cutting slice of British life. The albums before are fun, the ones after, increasingly “mature.” This is the one you need. The album is well thought out from start to finish, thoughtfully paced, very cohesive. The hits are nice and all, but you can’t say a Kinks best of is the same as hearing “Arthur” or “Muswell Hillbillies.” I think Madness definitely connect the dots between Blur and the Kinks. And after Blur, perhaps Arctic Monkeys. Before the Kinks, I don’t know… maybe something like this George Martin production:


  6. ladymisskirroyale

    Thanks for the update and info, cher. The posted Madness song mentions Muswell, so I think your hypothesis about “Muswell Hillbillies” is correct.

    I’d never heard that “Right Said Fred” tune; I thought you might be taking the piss and posting the man/band of the same name. But you’re right, that tune seems a good preamble to Madness. Those Brits and their novelty tunes!

  7. ladymisskirroyale

    Ah, we could discuss the Go-Betweens for eons!

    I would separate them into 3 phases (early, mid, and post-breakup/new music). My two favorite albums are in the prickly, early phase, when you can most hear their Dylan roots and a lot of the anguish of trying to be a musician in Australia and England. Those albums are “Before Hollywood” and “Spring Hill Fair.” Interesting drumming on those bits.

    The mid phase is more polished, and includes Mod’s favorite, “Tallulah.” I like “16 Lovers Lane” but it is very polished; Lindy Morrison, the original drummer, had left by then and some of her drumming was replaced by a drum machine. The bassist, Robert Vickers is also in and out of the band at this point. A violinist and oboist (girlfriend promoted to band member) also takes a stronger role.

    Later stuff is more wistful and mellow but still includes the interesting stories and back and forth between Grant and Robert that I love so much about the band. Janet Weiss drums on some of those albums. Check out “The Friends of Rachel Worth” or “Bright Yellow, Bright Orange.”

  8. Actually, the one album by them I really like is Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express. There are other songs I like spread across the other albums, but the stuff after that usually has too much reverb.

    PS – I think this reply has the seeds of a new RTH thread. Stay tuned!

  9. What about Brinsley Schwarz? For some reason I had Nervous On the Road on 8-track as a teenager and I thought this is how the workingmen get down in England.

    I still like “Home In My Hands”

  10. ladymisskirroyale

    Oops, sorry about that Mod.

  11. ladymisskirroyale

    I’m glad you like it. I’m reading a book about the Go-Betweens now, and it includes the same interview.

  12. bostonhistorian

    The Kinks and Ian Dury are very much the forefathers of Madness. “The Rise and Fall” is excellent, but “The Liberty of Norton Folgate” which was released in 2009, is even better, I think. How many bands can say they released what might be their best LP thirty years after their first?

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