Today’s music video of the day is for My Girl, the third single to be released off of Madness’s debut album, One Step Beyond… This song spent 10 weeks on the UK singles chart, peaking in the third spot. The song was written by Mike Barson, Madness’s keyboardist. Barson has said that the song was somewhat autobiographical and about a man who would rather stay home and watch TV rather than go out or have long conversations with his girlfriend. Barson reportedly wrote the lyrics on the back of a cigarette packet while working as a delivery driver.
This video was shot at the Dublin Castle in Camden, London.
“I remember thinking that Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall showed a very different school experience to ours. In my school, I generally felt sorry for the teachers who were given a hard time because we were all up to no good. So I tried to redress the balance a little bit with this song. The title refers to the high-waisted Oxford bags we used to wear with Kevin Keegan perms – the worst fashion known to humankind. It became so popular with primary school kids that it resulted in us doing a matinée tour.”
— Suggs, in an interview with Daily Mirror
“‘Baggy Trousers’ was sort of an answer to Pink Floyd, even at that age I thought the line ‘teacher leave the kids, alone’ was a bit strange, sinister – though I think Floyd are a great band. It sounded self-indulgent to be going on how terrible schooldays had been; there was an inverted snobbery about it too. ‘You went to a posh public school? You wanna try going to my school.'”
— Suggs, in an interview with Uncut magazine
This is the video in which saxophonist Lee Thompson “flies” while performing a solo. The flying, of course, was done through the use of wires and a crane. It was one of Madness’s early trademark moments and it was also one that was frequently recreated in later performances.
This video was important in the history of Madness. Filmed at a time when music videos were still considered to be a novelty and most band’s music videos were just clips of the band performing in concert, the video for Baggy Trousers was viewed as being something very different indeed. It premiered on Top of the Pops and was so popular that the British public started to eagerly anticipate future videos from the band. Madness proved themselves to be more than capable of delivering what their fans wanted.
This is a very British video but then again, Madness is a very British band.
They are also a very underrated band, even in the UK where they’ve been consistently popular since before I was born. Because the members of Madness often seemed to be having so much fun playing around in their videos and their performances, it was often overlooked just how musically gifted they actually were. Though the video may feature all of the usual silliness that people had come to expect from Madness, the lyrics of the song are anything but silly.
I have not been able to find a credited director for this video. Even at the imdb, no one is credited. I do know that most of Madness’s videos from the early 80s were directed by Dave Robinson and this video looks like his work. But, until I know for sure, this video was directed by the four question marks.
Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day) appeared on Madness’s fourth album, The Rise & Fall. It spent 9 weeks on the British charts, peaking at #8. Like a lot of Madness songs, it didn’t get as much play in the United States as it did in the UK. In fact, in the States, Madness was often incorrectly described as being a one-hit wonder by people who were only familiar with Our House. In fact, Madness is one of the most successful and popular bands to come out of the UK and they’re still performing with six of the seven members of the original line-up. When you consider the number of line-up changes that most bands go through, that’s more than a little amazing.
Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day) opens with a scene that feels like vintage Madness as two end-of-the-world prophets confront each other on a street corner. It then segues into several different scenes. Madness is in jail. Suggs is trying to get into his house. At one point, it appears that band is in danger of turning into Alex and his Droogs from A Clockwork Orange. Suggs has said that, “Madness videos were seven extroverts all mucking about trying to outdo each other,” and that is a good description of what’s going on in a video like this one.
This video was directed by Dave Robinson, who directed several videos for the band.
To help to continue to promote the holiday spirit, here’s an AMV of the Day.
Anime: shingeki no kyojin, bakemonogatari, high school of the dead, mirai nikki, another, dance in the vampire bund, deadman wonderland, kara no kyoukai, psycho pass, hellsing ultimate, shiki, tasogare otome x amnesia, tokyo ghoul, ghost hunt, umineko no naku koro, Shinsekai Yori
This is probably one of the best songs ever written about a 16 year-old buying condoms before heading to a brothel (that would be the House of Fun referred to in the title). Only Madness could have pulled it off.
This video was filmed at a Camden joke shop, a Kilburn chemist (or pharmacy), and a roller coaster in Great Yarmouth. Reportedly, the band had to ride the roller coaster 54 times before director Dave Robinson was happy with the footage.
“We used to play the Hawaii 5-0 theme as a novelty cover version to start our shows. When we got bored we did this track instead, but the original recording was only 45 seconds long. We didn’t even think it would get on the album. Our record company boss heard it and got our producers to loop it. We still start every gig with it. We’ve tried other songs but that’s the one we always come back to. Cathal’s introduction is a clarion call.”
— Graham “Suggs” McPherson on One Step Beyond
One Step Beyond is actually a cover. The original version was done by Jamaican SKa singer Prince Buster. For Madness’s version, a spoken intro was provided by Chas Smash, who was not an official member of the band at the time but who would join a few weeks after the release of One Step Beyond.
The live performance that’s featured in this video was filmed at The Hope and Anchor, a pub in North London.
“We were trying to do Motown with this one. Lee Thompson’s sister had a baby with a black man and it caused consternation in his family. It’s a great lyric – really sensational. You couldn’t believe such sensitivity could come from such a rough diamond, but Lee is one of the best lyricists of his time. We were having trouble with people associating us with the NF, so it was nice to establish once and for all that we weren’t.”
— Suggs on Embarrassment
The NF that Madness’s frontman refers to was the National Front, a fascist British political party that was at the height of its prominence when Embarrassment was recorded. Because Madness was a ska band and because many of the skinheads who supported the National Front were also into ska music, Madness had to spend a good deal of their early career just assuring people that they were not themselves supporters of the National Front. (Today, of course, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could listen to any of Madness’s songs and mistake them for supporters of the NF.) This song, which sympathetically tells the story of a woman who has been rejected by her racist family because she’s having a black man’s baby, is not only a repudiation of everything the NF stood for but it’s also one of Madness’s rare “serious” songs.
“In the pool, I had these lead weights on. I thought I was gonna die. The hire guitar got bent so we got a hairdryer and sent it back. They said, ‘The neck’s like a banana.’ So we had to buy it.”
— Guitarist Chris Gabrin on performing under water in the video for Madness’s It Must Be Love
In America, this song and video was released as Madness’s follow-up to their first (and, to date, only) hit in the United States, Our House. Unfortunately, for the band’s U.S. popularity, the video was heavily influenced by the very British Ealing comedies and it was not immediately appreciated by audiences across the Atlantic. I think if the video were released today, at a time when more people are aware of international cinema and appreciation of British comedy is now a mainstream phenomena as opposed to just the kids in the computer lab talking about Monty Python, it would be better received in the States.
In the U.S., It Must Be Love peaked at #33. As with most of Madness’s song, It Must Be Love was far more successful in the UK, where it has twice reached the UK Top 10, once when it was originally released and then when it was re-released in 1992.
Obviously, the British have always been better about appreciating a bit of madness than the Americans.
“‘Grey Day’ was a definite step on for Madness. I remember going to a club with a copy of it and Joe Strummer was DJing. I asked him to put this on, because I thought I’d finally done something that he could dig, not just jumping up and down – but he wouldn’t play it.”
— Madness lead singer Suggs on Grey Day
Grey Day may not have been good enough for Joe Strummer but I definitely appreciate it.
The first version of Grey Day was first performed by Madness when they were still known as The North London Invaders. Three years later, they revisited the song and recorded it in the Bahamas “for tax purposes.”
The video was directed by Chris Gabrin, who was active in the 80s. He also did videos for The Cure, Culture Club, John Mellencamp, and Pat Benatar.