Madness: Our House

Ska band Madness were at the peak of their success in the late 1970s and early ’80s – they enjoyed a succession of UK chart hits beginning in 1979 with their debut single, The Prince. The band had originally formed as a six-piece in Camden Town, London, in 1976, under the name The North London Invaders.

Several personnel and name changes later, they became Madness and released The Prince on 2 Tone Records, in tribute to their hero, Jamaican singer Prince Buster. The single was a surprise hit, charting at number 16 – leading to a lively appearance on Top of the Pops that set them on the road to superstardom.

Madness Band

Band members

Although the band had started out with six members, they had become a seven-piece by the late 1970s. Graham McPherson, better known as Suggs, had joined Madness as lead vocalist in 1977, but he was temporarily kicked out after going to watch Chelsea FC play, rather than rehearsing!

He was allowed to re-join the band in 1978 when the other members were saxophonist and founder member Lee Thompson, drummer Daniel “Woody” Woodgate, bass guitarist Mark “Bedders” Bedford, backing vocalist Chas Smash, guitarist Chris Foreman and keyboard player Mike Barson.

 

Best-selling singles

The band released an amazing 42 singles in the ensuing years – many of them becoming modern classics and flying high in the charts in the UK, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland and the US. Madness’s influence brought ska music into popular culture, instead of the underground sound it once was.

Their most well-known hits include Baggy Trousers in 1980, It Must Be Love in 1981, House of Fun and Driving in My Car in 1982 and Wings of a Dove in 1983. They were also known for their innovative videos – which were normally filled with madness and mayhem, as all the band members seemed to enjoy themselves to the full during filming.

 

Our House

One of their most famous videos was Our House – which to date has racked up an amazing 10.3 million views on YouTube since its release in 1982.

The single was taken from their fourth studio album, The Rise and Fall. It charted in many countries and won the Ivor Novello Award for best pop song. Peaking at number five in the UK, Our House gave an affectionate and humorous insight into growing up in a working class British household in the 1970s.

The down-to-earth lyrics – co-written by Chris Foreman and Cathal Smyth – enjoyed a mass appeal for people of all ages. They spoke of father who “wears his Sunday best” and mother ironing his shirts and sending the kids off to school with a kiss.

 

Being house-proud

The beauty of the lyrics is that they are timeless. Just about everyone can relate to them, no matter what era they have been brought up in. They describe how there’s always a crowd at “our house” – always something happening and “usually quite loud.”

However, says Suggs, “Our mum, she’s so house-proud”, so “a mess is not allowed”. The lyrics fondly recollect a simpler era, when “we would have such a very good time”. It was an affectionate reminiscence about childhood, recalling, “I remember how we’d play, simply waste the day away.”

Filmed at Willesden Junction, in London, the video included the band members indulging their liking for humorous costumes, acrobatics and a bit of kitchen sink drama.

Today, Our House is recognised as one of Madness’s greatest hits. It was their biggest chart success in the US and became the theme song for children’s television series Dodger, Bonzo and the Rest in 1985. It has also been used for a commercial for Maxwell House coffee and for adverts for Birds Eye in 2007 and 2008.

At the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, Madness performed Our House to accompany a spectacular light show, with a multitude of dancers.

 

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