My hometown is a cultural no man’s land. But thanks to my parents’ good taste, an internet connection, and reliable secondhand venues like Goodwill, I was never completely isolated.
When I was sixteen the local video rental finally decided to purge its VHS collection. I snagged a holy grail called Greenpeace Non-Toxic Video Hits because I spied my boy George Harrison, ala Rubber Soul, on the cover. It’s one of those beautiful relics that’s sat in the window for well over a decade– possibly a couple– so the colors have been bleached out and everything’s blue and pink. I treasure it. It’s where I discovered Kajagoogoo and Heaven 17. And the desperately awesome Peter Gabriel track “Shock the Monkey.” It’s also got Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, Queen, Talk Talk, and my other boy Thomas Dolby. And a truly insufferable Roger Taylor video involving a game of chicken and lots of sultry staring into the camera. Gag. But also, this is where I discovered Madness in earnest, via “Wings of a Dove.”
I have warm memories of that summer and my swan dive into Madnessland. It’s not like I– a sixteen-year-old rural American girl– had much in common with Madness. But the warmth and the spirit of fun and funniness was absolutely universal. The English colloquialism just made it more exciting and broadened my small world. Being a teenager was exhilarating because everything was completely new. I reveled in my new band. Youtube was a vast treasure trove.
I eagerly lapped it all up. Even their Young Ones performances were exciting for me, despite my having zero understanding of what the heck Young Ones was (or what institutions the both of them were in the UK).
Madness exemplify everything I love about music. For me, it’s not just about entertainment. It’s about enriching my experience as a human being. Their perfect pop songs are clever, heartfelt, silly, and pure personality. Now, nearly ten years later, they still share the top spot in my musical pantheon. Long live Madness.
Here’s to many more Madness pieces to come.