Friday, September 26, 2014

Madness - House of Fun

While American readers may view Madness as a one hit wonder (they actually had 2 top 40 hits in the U.S. -- "Our House" and "It Must Be Love"), the group were superstars in their native Britain.  Between 1979 and 1983, every single that they released broke the top 10, except "Cardiac Arrest," which hit #14.  That translates to 15 hits during that period.  Additionally, they (along with The Specials) were the face of the 2 Tone ska revival of that time.

The group formed in London in 1976, and were called The North London Invaders and Morris and the Minors before changing their name to Madness in 1979.  The name came from a Prince Buster song; he was also the topic of their first single, 1979's "The Prince."  The band's songs were infused with humor, but it was their strong pop-influenced ska that truly made them stars.  However, at their 1983 peak, keyboardist and songwriter Mike Barson abruptly quit, leaving the industry in order to spend more time with his family.  The band soldiered on for a few years, with less success, before breaking up in 1988.  As with many 1980's acts, Madness has re-formed in recent years, and continues to perform and record as of this writing.

For the blog, we opted for the 1982 non-album single "House of Fun."  It was the group's only #1 hit in the U.K., though the song did not chart in the U.S.  We particularly like the contrast between the whimsical music and the coming-of-age lyrics.  The low-budget but appropriate video was primarily filmed in three locations -- the joke shop and chemist were in London, while the roller coaster was in Great Yarmouth.  I believe that the clip received some airplay on MTV back in the day, but it did not go into heavy rotation.

Cool trivia fact #1:  "House of Fun" charted a second time in 1992 when it reached #40 in the U.K.

Cool trivia fact #2:  The song was originally titled "Chemist Facade" and did not have the chorus, which was quickly written (by Mike Barson) and recorded.

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