Madness were one of the most successful British pop groups of the early-80s. Although they only had one chart-topping single, they had lots of Top Ten singles and albums, and they barely ever seemed to be absent from the chart. By the mid-80s though, their hits had started to get smaller, and they ended up going their separate ways for a while.
In the late-80s, there was the spin-off group The Madness, but this was rather short-lived, and by this point the line-up just about consisted of frontman Suggs and some blokes. Going into the early-90s though, all of the original line-up finally got back together, and they had a new wave of fame with some successful concerts, a best-of, and their first Top Ten hit single for a long time.
In the mid-90s, for the first time, Suggs decided to go out on his own, and launched a solo career, which seems to have been a little maligned when compared to his Madness work, although he did have a few big hits plus some memorable moments. The idea was to perform some ska-tinted cover versions of classic songs which didn’t take themselves too seriously, along with a few original ideas, and this did go to plan to some extent.
In August 1995, his first solo single was released, a cover of “I’m Only Sleeping” by The Beatles, and this reached no. 7, his first solo Top Ten hit. This was followed in October 1995 by “Camden Town”, a tribute to the area in London where Madness formed, but this missed the Top Ten. In the same month, his album “The Lone Ranger” was released, and this made the Top 20.
In December 1995, “The Tune” was released, becoming his third Top 40 hit single of the year. Going into 1996, in April “Cecelia” was released, a cover of the Simon And Garfunkel song. This got off to a quiet start, but then he performed this on BBC1’s The National Lottery Live, back when this was a very big show, and was getting about four times the ratings of Top Of The Pops.
This led to a remarkable leap up the chart of 24 places, to become his second and final solo Top Ten hit single, which eventually peaked at no. 4. Next in September 1996 was “No More Alcohol”, which sampled “Tequila” by The Champs. In May 1997, being a big Chelsea fan, he was invited to perform their song for the FA Cup Final (this is a tradition that seems to have gone from the chart in more recent years though).
“Blue Day” didn’t make the Top 20, but all these years on, this is still considered to be something of an anthem by Blues fans. Also around this time he became the host of Channel 5’s pop music game show Night Fever. Finally, in September 1998, “I Am” was released. This featured on the soundtrack to the critically-panned film The Avengers, and he was just about the only one who escaped from all this with some dignity.
I remember that he was also among the pop stars who sent a farewell message to the final edition on ITV of The Chart Show, what a kind guy. “I Am” reached no. 38, to become his seventh and final Top 40 solo hit single, which is probably more than most people expected he would have. By 1999 though, he had finally got the old group back together once again.
Madness also went on to have their biggest hit single for a very long time, and this turned out to be a successful reunion. Since then, Suggs has continued to work with Madness (and do adverts for fish fingers), and they have made several more albums, along with going on more tours, and The Nutty Boys (or is it The Nutty Granddads now?) are still very fondly thought of by lots of fans.