A life in music No.6 – 1979
Madness – ‘One Step Beyond’
34 years ago I was a spunky school kid sporting loafers, sta-prest and a Fred Perry, carrying an unhealthy obsession with pop. Madness’ debut album One Step Beyond was made for a boy like me. The brand new 2 Tone label was seen as the second wave of ska; coming off the back of punk it was faster and edgier than in its ‘60s heyday, and in most cases, due to the social unrest at the time, had a strong political lyrical edge. Madness were at the centre of that early 2 Tone scene, but politics seemed to be the last thing on their minds.
Unlike their 2 Tone counterparts Madness regularly swayed from the labels’ ska roots, blending rock’n’roll, rockabilly and ‘60s pop into their sound. Lyrically too the subject matter was more diverse, from schoolboy tales of playground action and first loves to underwear thieves and random cockney patois. As much as anything the 2 Tone label had a wonderful identity; beyond the tonic suits and loafers it was something teenagers could instantly relate to. I dived into the deep end consuming the music with a fevered passion of which only a teenager is capable.
One Step Beyond was totally of its time, but nostalgia apart it is still a brilliant debut album. Looking back, I feel lucky to have been thirteen years old in 1979. The Top 20 Singles Chart, Top of the Pops, Smash Hits, Our Price, Cassette Players are all long gone but I’d take those days over our current instant download culture any day. My love affair with Madness ended with the release of their third album, but Absolutely, and in particular One Step Beyond are iconic, brilliantly British pop masterpieces.
1972: Theme To Robinson Crusoe
1973: Sweet – ‘Blockbuster’
1977: E.L.O – ‘Out Of The Blue’
1978: Blondie – ‘Picture This’
1979: Squeeze – ‘Cool For Cats’
1979: Madness – ‘One Step Beyond’