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Monday, 26 September 2016

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!: Day 270 - Madness

Absolutely - Madness
Stiff Records
Produced by Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley 
Released 26th September 1980
UK Chart #2
US Chart #146

A1 Baggy Trousers
A2 Embarrassment    
A3 E.R.N.I.E.    
A4 Close Escape    
A5 Not Home Today    
A6 On The Beat Pete    
A7 Solid Gone    
B1 Take It Or Leave It    
B2 Shadow Of Fear    
B3 Disappear    
B4 Overdone    
B5 In The Rain    
B6 You Said    
B7 Return Of The Los Palmas 7


    Graham McPherson (Suggs) – lead vocals; percussion
    Mike Barson (Monsieur Barso) – piano; organ; vibraphone; marimba; harmonica
    Chris Foreman (Chrissy Boy) – guitars; sitar; slide guitar
    Lee Thompson (Kix) – tenor; baritone saxophones
    Daniel Woodgate (Woody) – drums; fire extinguisher
    Mark Bedford (Bedders) – bass guitars
    Cathal Smyth (Chas Smash) – backing vocals; trumpet; lead vocals on "Solid Gone"

Singles on Absolutely
September 1980
UK Chart #3

The Business was the instrumental version of Take It or Leave It

In 1981 Madness released a film called Take It or Leave It. In October 2013 it was reissued as a CD/DVD package.

November 1980
UK Chart #4

January 1981
UK Chart #7

Almost a year after the successful Debut Album One Step Beyond had smashed its way to the number 2 spot on the charts Madness released their second album Absolutely that would contain a further three Top Ten Singles.

Hard to believe but where there had been a lot of enthusiasm for the Debut Absolutely was not a hit among all critics (as I've said often, "what on earth do they know?") but to the people that mattered, ie The Record Buying Public, they bought enough of it to also take it to #2 on the UK album chart.

I had to giggle a little at the ignorance of Rolling Stone magazine, who were not huge fans of the ska revival and infact were quite scathing ("The Specials wasn't very good") , and only awarded the album 1 out 5 stars.  They declared that Madness were simply "the Blues Brothers with English accents". I was particularly grieved to discover that the words had been penned by a writer that I'd actually enjoyed a lot, Greil Marcus! I guess there's just an Englishness about the album that cannot be comprehended even by the great Mr Marcus!

(Original Artwork)

The front cover sees the band standing in front of Chalk Farm tube station in Camden. When the original vinyl was released the first, more sombre, cover photograph was changed to a more animated pose after around 10,000 albums were pressed. The two sleeves can be distinguished by Mike Barson's holding of the umbrella: in the earlier pressing he holds it up to his chin while in the later, and subsequently used, releases the umbrella is on the ground. I don't think the album is worth a whole lot of money with the original cover though so you can't go planning that Caribbean Cruise!

As I said above there's a real Englishness about the songwriting of Madness that really came out on their first few albums. Baggy Trousers was a wee gem about schooldays. Suggs said, "I was very specifically trying to write a song in the style of Ian Dury, especially the songs he was writing then, which [were] often sort of catalogues of phrases in a constant stream". He contrasted "Baggy Trousers" with Pink Floyd's hit Another Brick in the Wall: "I was writing about my time at school. Pink Floyd had that big hit with 'teacher, leave those kids alone'. It didn't really relate to me, because I hadn't been to a public school where I was bossed about and told to sing 'Rule Britannia!' and all that".

John Reed in his magnificent book House of Fun: The Story of Madness says of Baggy Trousers that it was "three minutes of unbridled pop ebullience which still resisdes to this day...From the opening sound of a school bell, the song tapped into the timesless images of schooldays in a long-standing tradition from the Jennings novels to the on-screen mishaps of St. Trinians and Will Hay, the Bash Street Kids' capers in the Beano or the BBC's latest hit TV series Grange Hill".

Embarrassment was written by Lee Thompson and the music by Mike Barson. Racism is not the type of thing you often hear being sung about in a pop song and for some people it was a reality they experienced daily. I often think of my own Sister when I hear the song because there were elements of it that were a part of her experience as well. The plot of the song reflected the unfolding turmoil following the news that his teenage sister, Tracy Thompson, had become pregnant and was carrying a black man's child. The subsequent rejection by her family, and the shame felt, was reflected in the song.

It was a brave choice of single for a band who had been seen as a mere novelty band and it paid off by giving the band their third Top 5 hit!

E.R.N.I.E. (Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment) was not a cover of that novelty hit by Benny Hill Ernie The Fastest Mikman in the West, but was an ode to the Premium Bond! If you don't know what that is you can read a little bit of the history of it here.

Madness were keen to not make a One Step Beyond MKII. "We were concious of not making a carbon copy of the debut. Like The Specials, we were always aware we needed to move on with each album" (Suggs).

There was some carry over from the Debut with Close Escape which picked up where In The Middle of the Night left off with the character now seen as a phone call pest.

Shadow of Fear spoke about the paranoia of life in London; Not Home Today dealt with the issue of families who make up excuses to cover up the fact that one of their children is has been sent to Borstal or Prison; On The Beat Pete was a spotlight into the world of a local Bobby (Policeman).

A quality little album and one that is guaranteed to but a smile on your face whilst listening to it...and if you can only sit still whilst listening to it then I'd ask someone to check your pulse to see in fact if you are alive or not!

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!
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