The Invaders were a bluebeat-obsessed North London band numbering Mike Barson
(keyboards), Lee "Kix" Thompson (sax, vocals), "Chrissie Boy" Foreman (guitar)
and Cathal Smith AKA Chas Smash (bass, initially) among their personnel.
The Invaders made their first public appearance !
In 1978 they added Suggs (born Graham McPherson, vocals), Mark Bedford (bass) and
"Woody" Woodgate (drums); Smash moved to horns, backing vocals and on-stage lunacy.
In January 1979 The Invaders play their last gig at the London Fiam-makersCo-op, after which they change their name to Madness, playing their first gig
on the night that Thatcher was elected; something very special and uniquely
English was born.
Madness' musical roots were in ska, Jamaican reggae's faster-paced precursor -
an eminently danceable vehicle for social comment on Trenchtown society in the
sixties, witty and serious by turns. The group's trademark nutty sound, honed
in their early gigs in packed, sweaty pubs with the seven of them squeezed onto
postcard-sized stages, blended authentic-sounding ska with Barson's
western-saloon piano and, in their own songs, spot-on observations of growing
up in London in the Seventies, delivered in Suggs' deadpan geezer vocals.
In March 1979 Madness signed to the ska-revival label 2-Tone, releasing The
Prince, their infectious tribute to ska giant Prince Buster, in October. It
reached #16 in the UK chart. Despite setting out on a 2-Tone tour, they then
signed to Stiff records, releasing the album ONE STEP BEYOND in November.
One Step Beyond the single reached UK #7 in December 1979, beginning a string of
top ten hits that would last until 1984.
Unfortunately, some of the fans who turned up to their early concerts were
National Front members, probably attracted by the fact that unlike the other
2-Tone bands such as The Beat and The Selecter, they were all white, while
their music was less overtly political than the deadly serious SPECIALS (»).
Annoyed by this unwanted attention, the group included an anti-NF track on the
Work Rest and Play EP which featured Night Boat To Cairo.
Everyone liked Madness; they were so transparently good-humoured, so obviously
full of life and enjoying themselves, that you would have had to be hostile to
human life itself not to rate them. For the first half of the eighties they
were the consummate singles band (though this shouldn't detract from equally
notable album tracks like The Bed and Breakfast Man and Benny Bullfrog,
both from SEVEN, released October 1981).
In November One Step Beyond, produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley
(who will produce most of the band's records), hist UK #2 during a 78-week chart stay.
Meanwhile, the band completes a three-week US tour of NewYork, California and Texas.
Their success was aided by the iconic Suggs' presence and jerky, boxer-like stage moves,
and by a series of increasingly funny and inventive videos (check out the flying
sax-player in Baggy Trousers (October 1980), their ode to Seventies schooldays).
Their finest moment was probably House of Fun (May 1982), a magnificently
surreal tale of coming of age and adolescent misunderstandings at the chemists,
and another inventive video. There was also a melancholy side to their work
which surfaced in songs such as the unremittingly gloomy Grey Day (May 1981).
As time went on this world-weary, reflective strain became more pronounced,
especially after Mike Barson got fed up with the rock'n'roll lifestyle and went
to live in Holland at the end of 1983.
Barson's retirement was the beginning of the end for the group; he had been
responsible for most of their best musical ideas, and the record-buying public
began to lose interest. Without his influence, songs like Yesterday's Men
(1985) sounded lack-lustre, while their ham-fisted cover of the SCRITTI POLITTI
(») classic The Sweetest Girl only reached UK #35 in 1986. In July Madness
played their final gig.
In 1988 the group reformed as THE MADNESS, a four-piece that was met with even
less interest; their second single, What's That, failed to chart. They gave
up within the year. Suggs had an unsuccessful stint in stand-up comedy,
followed by managing and producing THE FARM and hosting a chat show on the
now-defunct satellite channel BSB. Thompson and Foreman returned to their ska
roots with THE NUTTY BOYS, Smash became an A&R man for Go! Discs, Bedford
studied graphic design, while Woody worked with VOICE OF THE BEEHIVE.
And that would have been that, except that in 1992 the greatest hits collection
DIVINE MADNESS went to #1. It was obvious that there were a lot of Madness fans
still out there, so the whole band, including Barson, reformed for two
triumphant concerts in North London's Finsbury Park on August 8th and 9th. An
alarming proportion of the audience, some decked out in Night Boat To Cairo
fezzes, knew all of the words to all of the songs.
Although they repeated the event in 1994, it didn't lead to any new songs being
released. In 1995, however, Suggs is due to release a solo album in
collaboration with Barson which is said to be well worth waiting for.
Madness gave on 22 june a reunion in London's Finsbury Park like they did on august 8th and 9th.
This text is a compilation of several histories and originally from the FAQ by Robert Hazelby and another history sent to me.