It’s a certain rarity for ska bands to live through the decades and remain relevant today. Ska music had its heyday in the 70s, 80s, and somewhat influenced the 90s. Although ska music is not dead, it has taken a step back from popular culture. Ska has returned to its original roots and cultivated itself back to the underground scene. Many bands have shaped ska music to what it is today; The Beat, Bad Manners, and The Specials to name a few.
Without a doubt, the most influential ska band that everyone knows is Madness!
Formed in 1976 in Camden, London. Madness are one of the most prominent ska bands from the 1970s until now. Although their biggest shine in the limelight stemmed from 1980 to 1986, the group continues to pack the crowds in at shows, proving age isn’t slowing them down. Known for their outlandish attitude and whacky music videos, Madness flipped the music industry on its axis in terms of style and direction.
With any great band comes controversy, and Madness had their fair share. During the 1980s, the band slipped in and out of being associated with skinheads. Often stereotyped in the media as being racist, the British bulldog working-class sub-culture. Many fans of Madness were skinheads and rumours circulated that several members of the band were, in fact, skinheads themselves, although this has never been proven.
With hits such as “Our House”, “Baggy Trousers”, and “It Must be Love” the band had a massive influence on British music in the 1980s. The success would be very short-lived as the band would inevitably spilt in 1986 due to a drop in the UK charts. After the release of "(Waiting For) The Ghost Train", which reached number 18 in the charts, the band went their separate ways.
Towards the end of 1991, "It Must Be Love" was re-released and eventually reached number 6 in the UK singles chart in February 1992. After the release of their singles compilation Divine Madness, which hit number 1, the band announced a reunion concert; Madstock! The original lineup from 1984 performed together at Finsbury Park in London on August 8th and 9th.
In 1999, Madness released their first album since 1984 titled Wonderful. Reaching number 17 in the UK album charts, with the lead single "Lovestruck" giving the band their first new top 10 hit in the UK since 1983. Following their reunion success, a musical based on Madness songs ran from 28th October 2002 till 16th August 2003. Our House was performed at the Cambridge Theatre and even featured lead singer Suggs playing the lead character's father for a while.
Continuing their success in the 2000s and releasing albums such as The Liberty of Norton Folgate (2009), Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da (2012), and Can't Touch Us Now (2016), the band are still going strong today. Most original members of the band are in their late 50s or into their 60s with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. A lot of controversy surrounds the band, however, nothing has been proven as fact and will lie with myth. Without a doubt, Madness are one of the most well-known bands within the UK, their songs pioneering, timeless, and the backbone to ska music itself.
I wonder how many of us reading this were conceived to “It Must Be Love”?