madness-one-step-beyond.jpg ONE STEP BEYOND
Stiff Records SEEZ-17

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• “My Girl” original music video. Thanks to UnionSquareMusic.

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8.80 “A classic”

The rockingest rocksteady beat of Madness ruled my junior world and, as far as I was concerned at that stage, Lord Suggs and Chas Smash were the two coolest guys who had ever roamed the Earth. I never actually owned any records in 1979, but all of the singles from this LP were seeping into my consciousness via Radio 1 and Top of the Pops. This, for me, is synonymous with growing up, and Madness and I are deeply bonded for life. The nutty six were: Suggs (18, lead vocals); Mike Barson (21, keyboards); Chris Foreman (23, guitars); Mark Bedford (18, bass); Lee Thompson (22, saxophones) and Dan Woodgate (19, drums, percussion). It wasn’t quite official yet, but Chas Smash (20, vocals, fancy footwork) would soon be announced as the seventh member, and to this day I still look at that sextet cover as a travesty of justice.

The 19th October 1979 was a bit of a monumental day for the British Ska revivalists, with both “Specials” and “One Step Beyond” hitting the shops in a stupendous double-whammy statement of intent. Whilst the former slightly takes my head, the latter steals my heart. Both have my soul. Chas’s epic intro to “One Step Beyond” is the first thing to be heard on the LP, and the message is clear from the off – “you better start to move your feet”. The nutty boys proceed to mash up Prince Buster’s original in their own inimitable style; these audacious upstarts are here to boss the joint. The almighty “My Girl” is next, and we’re introduced to the pseudo-classical greatness of Mnsr Barso’s piano alongside Suggs’s every-lad vocal, which this writer still has word-perfect to this day. The magnificent start is maintained on “Night Boat To Cairo”, an unlikely tale of a toothless, carefree oarsman, seemingly meandering down the Nile in a somewhat hapless fashion. Once again, classical undertones are at play – an oft overlooked aspect of this band – as the piece fades away in a fiddling blaze of glory.

Avoiding conflict with 2-Tone, a new version of the debut single from 2 months ago – “The Prince” – is recorded, but is perhaps just a shade too polished by comparison (although I’m being very picky in that statement, for it’s a classic all the same.) The big-up to Jamaica’s stars from these young pretenders has been a revelation for countless thousands of British white kids. Who knew education could be such fun? Just as The Specials did on their debut, Madness demonstrate imagination and versatility with the pseudo-Jazz finger-clicking goodness of “Razor Blade Alley” – conceived by saxophonist Lee – which comes complete with wandering bass and tinkling piano. Flowing seamlessly from this, they take on Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” –what Madness is this? They’ve got some balls. “Rockin’ In A♭” reveals the band’s R n B roots, Madness being “first to market” with this song which came from Mike’s brother’s band, pub rockers Bazooka Joe. Suggs gets into the spirit of the thing, exercising the ol’ vocal cords with a bit of a Buddy Holly job. All four of the cover versions have been terrific, and a classic version of “Madness” ends the album where it began – with a tip-of-the-hat to Buster. This may not be uptown Jamaica but it is, most certainly, a treat.

The Jukebox Rebel

# Billing Title Writer Time Rating Headline review
A1 Madness One Step Beyond Cecil Campbell 02ː18 10.0.png “Utterly perfect Ska / Rocksteady”
A2 Madness My Girl Mike Barson 02ː44 10.0.png “Utterly perfect Ska / Rocksteady”
A3 Madness Night Boat To Cairo Mike Barson, Graham McPherson 03ː31 9.7.png “All-time classic Ska / Rocksteady”
A4 Madness Believe Me Mike Barson, John Hasler 02ː28 8.5.png “Excellent New Wave”
A5 Madness Land Of Hope And Glory Lee Thompson, Chris Foreman 02ː57 9.6.png “All-time classic Ska / Rocksteady”
A6 Madness The Prince Lee Thompson 03ː18 9.1.png “Classic Ska / Rocksteady”
A7 Madness Tarzan’s Nuts Mike Barson 02ː24 9.2.png “Classic Ska / Rocksteady”
B1 Madness In The Middle Of The Night Graham McPherson, Chris Foreman 03ː01 7.7.png “Great Reggae”
B2 Madness Bed And Breakfast Man Mike Barson 02ː33 9.5.png “All-time classic Ska / Rocksteady”
B3 Madness Razor Blade Alley Lee Thompson 02ː42 8.2.png “Fantastic Jazz”
B4 Madness Swan Lake Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 02ː36 8.9.png “Excellent Ska / Rocksteady”
B5 Madness Rockin’ In A♭ Bill Smith 02ː29 8.1.png “Fantastic Blues / Rhythm n Blues”
B6 Madness Mummy’s Boy Mark Bedford 02ː23 7.7.png “Great Reggae”
B7 Madness Madness Cecil Campbell 02ː38 9.1.png “Classic Ska / Rocksteady”
B8 Madness Chipmunks Are Go! Cathal Smyth, Brendan Smyth 00ː51 6.7.png “Good Operatic / Choral”

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