The emergence of these heroes of Haverstock Hill coincided with a sea change in popular London culture as recessions turned into riots and folk looked for new ways to lift the 70s gloom. Madness found a solution in the second hand bargain bins of Camden Town’s record stores and were often seen thumbing through the ska boxes like kids in a sweetshop.
As our own Ian McCann’s perfectly-pitched sleevenotes point out, they weren’t hidebound by ska but added their own imprint: a gloriously catchy end of the pier atmosphere that was constantly evolving. Pretty underrated as musicians, it’s constructive to listen to the likes of House Of Fun, Grey Day and the magnificent Day On The Town, if only to marvel at the keyboards acumen of Mike Barson, drummer Daniel Woodgate’s slinky off-beat clatter and the scintillating sax playing of Lee Thompson.
Madness grew into a role that was about far more than wearing a Crombie and a pair of Sta-Prest. The delicious Victoria Gardens and In The City capture a time and place with affectionate accuracy. Having the gifted production duo of Langer and Winstanley on board was a boon, but Madness were a force of nature.