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Sunday Night Music Byte

Madness are a British pop/ska band from Camden Town, London, that formed in 1976. In 2009, the band have continued to perform with their most recognised lineup of seven members, although their lineup has varied slightly over the years. They were one of the most prominent bands of the late-1970s 2 Tone ska revival.

Madness achieved most of their success in the early to mid 1980s. Both Madness and UB40 spent 214 weeks on the UK singles charts over the course of the decade, holding the record for most weeks spent by a group in the 1980s UK singles charts. However, Madness achieved this in a shorter time period (1980–1986).

Early in their career, Madness were linked to skinheads; members of a British working class subculture that the media often stereotyped as racist (although many skinheads, including the original generation, are non-racist or anti-racist). Not only were Madness, along with other 2 Tone bands, popular with skinheads, but it was said that the band members themselves were associated with the subculture. The band’s relationship with the skinheads varied at times. Mike Barson was particularly displeased with the band’s skinhead association, often finding it disappointing that so many were present at performances. Prior to becoming a full member of the band, Chas Smash had been involved in fights with skinheads at performances. In one particular incident on 18 November 1979, Madness were supported by “Red Beans and Rice”, who featured a black lead singer, and the band were prevented from completing the performance due to the racist chants from certain members of the skinhead filled audience. Suggs later came on stage to show his displeasure at their behaviour, but this did not stop much of the audience from Nazi saluting at the end of the show.

In a 1979 NME interview, Madness member Chas Smash was quoted as saying “We don’t care if people are in the NF as long as they’re having a good time.” This added to speculation that Madness was a racist band supporting the National Front, although the band members denied those allegations, and Chas Smash responded to the NME article in the song “Don’t Quote Me On That”. Eventually, band members denied their skinhead roots, which disappointed much of their skinhead fan base.

You might remember this video clip of Madness performing their hit, “Our House“.


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