Guided by the ace production team of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, Madness’s cartoonish “nutty boy” image, cockney enunciation, and mutating neo-ska sound struck a deep chord in Britain, where they had 19 consecutive Top 20 hits between ’79 and ’85.
Highlights include the manic ska propulsion of “One Step Beyond,” “Baggy Trousers” and “Madness”; the carnivalesque “House of Fun”; and the double-time soca celebration “Wings of a Dove.” Just thinking about “One Step Beyond” makes my feet start moving uncontrollably.
They also struck the Top 40 twice in America, with the irresistible nostalgia of “Our House,” and the ska-orchestral hybrid “It Must Be Love.”
When recorded in ’81, the strings on “It Must Be Love” were a bold stroke. Recalls Langer, “We had the strings play pizzicato: ‘plink, plink, plink,’ which at that time equired real musicians. It was quite an experiment and you took a lot of responsibility because you had to pay the bill. Now you can just use a sample.”
Winstanley adds, “A few years later Trevor Horn told me that he nicked the pizzicato strings idea from us for the first ABC record – that was quite flattering really.”