Madness were by far the biggest act Stiff ever signed, in fact it’s generally accepted that their success kept the label afloat for several years! Their debut 7”, One Step Beyond (BUY 56) was the start of a string of eighteen chart hits across three main eras of the band’s progression. There was the credible period, with the Work Rest & Play EP (BUY 071) and Embarrassment (BUY 102). Then followed the more-juvenile-than-madness period, with House Of Fun (BUY 146) and Driving In My Car (BUY 153). Then they finally hit their mature but audience-waning period, giving us Michael Caine (BUY 196) and One Better Day (BUY 201).
Starting out as the North London Invaders, they became Morris and The Minors before finally settling on a seven-piece line-up under the name of Madness. The initial members were Mike Barson (keyboards), Chris Foreman (guitar), Lee Thompson (saxophone) and Chas Smash (initially bass, then trumpet and backing vocals). By the time they were joined by Suggs (vocals), Daniel Woodgate (drums) and Mark Bedford (bass), the late 70s ska revival was in full-force, although 2 Tone records beat Stiff to releasing Madness’ debut, The Prince, which became a number 16 hit in 1979.
The next year started a run of hits that would have Madness spend over 200 weeks on the UK singles chart, the biggest being 1979’s One Step Beyond (#7) and My Girl (#3), 1980’s Baggy Trousers (#3), 1981’s Grey Day and It Must Be Love (both #4) and 1983’s Wings Of A Dove (#2).
While such singles became ubiquitous, other Madness songs showed how the band and Chas Smash - a/k/a Cathal Smyth – in particular was developing as songwriters. “Wonderful, Tomorrow’s Just Another Day… they all share personal experience but within the shape of a single,” he said in 2007. “There’s also what I think is a great melancholia within those songs whilst being constructed in a classic pop way. I never stopped writing (while Madness were away form the limelight in the 90s) and there are songs of mine lined up for the next Madness album.”