Friday, December 23, 2011

For Jason

At this time I am enjoying an all-too-infrequent visit from my youngest child,my son Jayson for the holidays Not long ago he relocated to the state of Indiana,basically going where the work was. It was hard to see him go, but the way he's established himself there,full-time job,attending a university for computer sciences,and maintaining a really nice apartment, makes me beyond proud. This post and the accompanying selection, is dedicated to him and the way he's holding it down. It gets better from here, baby boy and I hope you enjoy The Average White Band's excellent rendition of the Isley Brothers' classic "Work To Do". When you're here, things just feel a little more complete.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Formed in Camden Town, London in 1976, these gentlemen were and are one of the most prominent (and arguably best) bands of the late 70s two-tone ska -punk revival. While their line-up has varied slightly over the years, the seven -man core group is Mike Barson on keyboards, guitarist Chris Foreman, Mark Bedford on bass guitar, saxophonist Lee Thompson, drummer Daniel Woodgate, Cathal Smith on trumpet and backing vocals and lead vocalist Graham "Suggs" McPherson.
Their first hit came in 1979 with "The Prince", a song which like the band's name, was a tribute to their idol, ska legend Prince Buster. Released on the 2 Tone label, it went to #16 on the U.K. charts. After touring with fellow 2 Tone acts The Specials and The Selecter They recorded their debut album One Step Beyond. Released on Stiff Records, the title track spent 32 weeks on the U.K. charts peaking at #2

The band's second studio release, Absolutely, featured more of the heavily ska-influenced material most notably "Baggy Trousers" which peaked at #3 in the U.K. and "Embarrassment" which went to #4. Reviews were mostly positive, with the notable exception of Rolling Stone Magazine, which scathingly criticized Madness as "the Blues Brothers with English accents". Not the first or last time that venerable publication got it wrong in my humble opinion.

Unlike the previous albums, the band's third release, ingeniously titled 7, was a departure from the straight ska material in favor of a more pop-oriented musical  direction. "Grey Day" (#4), "Shut Up" (#7) and "Cardiac Arrest" (#14) revealed this change including a different vocal style by Suggs. One of the most striking excamples of this new direction was the 1981 release of acover of Labi Siffri's 1971 hit  "It Must Be Love", a masterfully crafted rendition that became one of the band's signature tunes.

1982 Madness released their first and only #1 hit, "House Of Fun".The song was performed live on the British tv series The Young Ones, and was included on their first compilation disc, Complete Madness. The fourth studio album, The Rise And Fall , was a huge hit in Britain but was not released in the U.S. It contained the band's biggest internationally known song "Our House", which appeared in the U.S on the aforementioned Complete Madness collection.

In 1982, their single "Wings Of A Dove" went to #2 in the U.K. and the following album, Keep Moving peaked at #6. By this time the band had their own label, Zarjazz Records, and their own recording studio, Liquidator Studios. The studio is still used by many musicians including Madness themselves.
The band broke up in 1986 and later re-united in 1991, which brought about the re-release of "It Must Be Love" and a live show, called Madstock. Madstock was held on August  8 and 9 at Finsbury Park in London and was attended by over 75,000 fans. The song's second coming got it to #6 U.K. while a singles compilation album Divine Madness peaked at #1. Subsequent to the Madstock reunion a live album was released featuring a Madness performance of Jimmy Cliff's venerable song "The Harder They Come". This was released as a single that went to #44  U.K. with the album reaching #22.

Madness was awarded "The Idol Award"at The Q Awards  in London. The band's final show was at  London's Earls Court in December 2010. Truly one of the finest bands to walk the stage. This final clip is a collaboration, written with Elvis Costello called "Tomorrow's Just Another Day."