Madness - Total Madness

Back in the day 2Tone was the only contemporary path worth considering for a serious young boy about town and, for a brief spell, Madness were in the frame as a band worth spending your pocket money on. The Prince and Madness hinted at a collective who’d the potential to give The Specials a bit of a kick up the arse; but this was short-lived and the bands veered off in radically different directions. The tracklist here tells its own story, smash hit single after smash hit single the evidence that Madness were initially riding someone else’s train and that the 2Tone thing was little more than a vehicle to public attention. The self appointed Nutty Boys, it transpired, were proper musicians with a proper songwriter. The hits don’t lie, Madness were a pop phenomenon. I kissed them adieu pretty quickly as it just wasn’t done to be spending money on records that your Gran might have a sing along to down the Bingo. Driving in My Car was no different to Day Trip to Bangor as far as most were concerned; thankfully Ghost Town wasn’t her scene.

House of Fun was the straw that broke this camel’s back; silly videos and musical hall gags just were not to be tolerated. These were Stalinistic times and bands were either in or out, there was no middle ground. With stunning footwork and historical revisionism that would have made both Danny Blanchflower and Stalin himself proud I managed to skip from Ska to Punk to Metal in the space of about 6 months in the early 80s, getting my head kicked in by a different group outside the youthclub each week. The popular soundtrack to those kickings was dominated by Madness and, listening to this collection, it is easy to see why. They were genuine pop geniuses who combined the social commentary of Ray Davies and the musical suss of Lennon & McCartney. They’ve since made somewhat of a comeback and there’s a couple of new tunes on here which, despite the grandeur of latest concept album …Norton Folgate, stick out like sore thumbs. Madness, as a pop phenomenon, burned quickly and brightly and it is testament to their genuine bond as a band that they are still out their performing and making new music. The sequencing of this, the latest in a long line of compilations, is quite clever in that it is not chronological and thus there’s a decent mix of the rough diamonds and polished diamonds from their repertoire.

If you don’t own any Madness records then this is the ideal place to begin your discovery of an underrated stalwart of British pop history. Even if you do own the music there’s good reason to investigate this bargain set as it contains the music videos of each and every one of their singles. Worth it for Baggy Trousers alone methinks.



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