Released today in 1986: (Waiting For) The Ghost Train

Zarjazz JAZZ9

Zarjazz JAZZ9

“After 400 Top 10 singles, three record labels, the odd video, two managers, countless innuendos and being banned from here to eternity for our lack of professionalism by people with as much flair as a yoghurt carton, the nutty ghost train grinds to a halt and pulls into the station: terminal Madness. Oh what fun we had. But for now it’s a heartfelt thanks to all who helped us on our way, particularly our fans and friends. We came, we saw, we left.” So ran the press release issued a month prior to the final Madness single, (Waiting For) The Ghost Train. Record Mirror wrote of it: “Their last single puffs out of the station in a deceptively subdued manner, and it takes a while for this stealthy lump of glumness to win you over. But there’s enough model Madness inflections (squeezed sax, basso profundo vocals, grim jolliness) for all those weeping on the platform to have one last dance. It may not be a Madness classic, but it is, at least, that rare thing in pop – a dignified end.”

The end hadn’t been certain at the beginning of the year. Although the glory years of those “400 [ish] Top 10 singles” were definitely over, work on another album began in the summer of 1986 after a tour. Nearly a dozen tracks were demoed during these sessions, with Dan Woodgate saying that he and Mark Bedford “were working really hard concentrating on the songs. We’d get together what we thought would be the right rhythm section or the right feel or beat… we found ourselves being left more and more alone and eventually we got summoned upstairs and there was a meeting and it was like the rest of them had all sat down together and allegedly said ‘We’ve had enough. Let’s call it a day’.”

It’s likely there was less active decision-making to finish the band than that. “I wasn’t sure myself what we should do,” said Graham McPherson. “I didn’t have a clear enough idea where we were going. I didn’t feel strong enough to lead in any direction and I didn’t feel like I wanted to do in the direction that anyone else who was still in the band wanted to go. So that was it.” What was needed was a leader, such as Mike Barson, who did re-join for the final 45. An album, Utter Madness, followed, which compiled singles they had released after their previous ‘greatest hits’ effort Complete Madness in 1982. It sold poorly in comparison: Complete had gone platinum within weeks of release, while Utter struggled to make its silver certification in early 1987. (It would be eight more years before it went gold.)

That was expected to be the end of the story, but the following year the members Woodgate referred to as “the rest of them” resumed recording as The Madness. McPherson, Lee Thompson, Cathal Smyth and Chris Foreman released one album as a quartet. It was not well received and the project was abandoned after their second single, What’s That, became the first Madness-related release not to be a hit.

☛ What happened next
In 1992, Madness’s earlier hit It Must Be Love was reissued as a single ahead of a new compilation album. It made the Top 10 and the album Divine Madness went to #1, becoming the group’s best-seller. Several other past singles were also reissued and made the charts again. With interest in the band the highest it had been for many years, a reunion concert was proposed, to feature all seven members of the classic line-up. This became the two-day Madstock! Festival that August, a resounding success. A live album and the first new Madness single since 1986 were released before the year was out.

Since then, members of the group have dropped in and out but Madness has continued as a going concern. Further Madstock! festivals followed later in the 1990s before the group delivered their first studio album for 13 years, Wonderful, in 1999. Lead single Lovestruck returned them to the Top 10. Further exploitation of their back catalogue came in 2002 when a musical based on their best known songs, Our House, opened in the West End, going on to win the ‘Best New Musical’ Olivier award the following year. The year after that, to celebrate their 25th anniversary they performed as The Dangermen, playing covers of ska songs as they had when they had first formed; an album was released to tie in with this. They formed a new label of their own Lucky Seven Records and released the 2009 album The Liberty Of Norton Folgate on it. They remain in demand for notable gigging opportunities, two of the highest profile recent events being their performance at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in 2012 (the same year as they released their most recent studio album, Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da), and their show in 2013 at BBC Television Centre to commemorate its closing. A new album is believed to be forthcoming.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Oct. 27
1980
U2 I Will Follow (Island WIP6656)
1986
David BOWIE When The Wind Blows (Virgin VS906)
Kate BUSH Experiment IV (EMI KB5)
Nick KAMEN Each Time You Break My Heart (WEA YZ90)
MADNESS (Waiting For) The Ghost Train (Zarjazz JAZZ9)
Owen PAUL One World (Epic OWEN5)
The PRIMITIVES (Tracy Tracy) Really Stupid (Lazy LAZY02)
SEVENTH AVENUE (Big Fun) Love’s Gone Mad [Re-issue] (Tangerine SEG1)
SPANDAU BALLET Through The Barricades (Reformation SPANDS1)
WE’VE GOT A FUZZBOX AND WE’RE GONNA USE IT Love Is The Slug (Vindaloo UGH14)

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