Every society considers some of its members to be “mad,” “crazy,” “insane,” or “mentally ill.” Regardless of the particular term that is used, the core aspect of madness lies in its incomprehensibility. Universally, when social action seems to lack purpose, intent, or reason, observers are likely to apply labels of madness to it. To say that incomprehensibility is the major criterion observers use to classify madness is not just to say that they fail to understand or empathize with a person’s motives. Rather, it implies that the behaviors of the mad seem beyond the realm of understanding. This lack of comprehensibility distinguishes madness from other types of behaviors that violate social norms. For example, murders that stem from recognizable motives such as jealousy, quarrels, or vengeance are not viewed as signs of mental illness. Someone who randomly kills a stranger without any possible motive usually cannot be placed in any socially recognizable category of murderer, and is likely to be viewed as mad.
Historically, labels of madness were reserved for people whose behaviors fell well outside the boundaries of normal social interaction. Beginning with the earliest written records, madness encompassed behaviors that appear to be “without reason.” The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (c. 470–399 BCE), for example, noted that the Greeks of his time “do not call those mad who err in matters that lie outside the knowledge of ordinary people: madness is the name they give to errors in matters of common knowledge” (Rosen 1968, p. 94). Since ancient times, societies have also recognized a second type of madness that features profound sadness and withdrawal that is not proportionate to the social circumstances of the sufferer. The eminent German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin (1856–1926), writing at the turn of the nineteenth century, codified these two categories of disorder as dementia praecox or schizophrenia and manic-Depressive or affective conditions, which remain as major types of disorders.
While the core meaning of madness as incomprehensibility is universal, the boundaries of this label, as well as the specific behaviors that fall within it, are culturally specific and highly variable. The social responses to people who are considered mad have diverged considerably across cultures and throughout time. The simplest social groups, where individuals are bound to a small number of kin and group members throughout their lives, typically respond to those they consider mad with sympathy and tolerance, and attempt to maintain them in the group with little stigma. The Yoruba of Ghana provide a typical example. “The majority of chronic schizophrenics in rural districts,” according to M. J. Field in Search for Security (1960), “are treated with such patient and sustained kindness by their relatives and tolerance by their neighbors that the prognosis for their recovery is probably better than it would be were they herded with other patients in understaffed mental hospitals” (p. 453).
With growing social complexity comes a lower tolerance for the aberrant behavior of the mad. Most Western societies have associated madness with unpredictability and violence and have shunned and excluded the mentally ill from social life. In ancient Israel, Greece, and Rome, for example, the mad often roamed through the countryside and were commonly mocked, ridiculed, and abused. Likewise, in medieval Europe, the mentally disordered did not participate in community life, were stigmatized, and often treated harshly. The French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926–1984), however, asserts in Madness and Civilization (1961) that before the seventeenth century madness was linked to wisdom and insight and “man’s dispute with madness was a dramatic debate in which he confronted the secret powers of the world” (1965, p. xii). While Foucault probably exaggerates the respect shown to the mad during this period, it is true that no formal institutions existed to confine the mad and they were left to roam the countryside at liberty, provided that they did not create disturbances.
The breakdown of social cohesiveness in Western societies resulted in a more dramatic exclusion of those who were viewed as mad. Confinement in mental institutions arose between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries in western Europe and at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the United States. This growing segregation reflected growing urbanization, geographic mobility, and immigration that contributed to the breakdown of cohesive communities.
In the United States, the initial mental hospitals of the early nineteenth century emphasized what was called moral treatment that provided individualized and sympathetic care within small residential facilities. By the middle of the nineteenth century, however, mental institutions had become much larger and more bureaucratic. Under such circumstances, moral treatment became more problematic. The new profession of psychiatry developed around these formal institutions, and nearly all early psychiatrists had positions in mental hospitals. These facilities served as the central institution devoted to the care of the mentally ill until well into the next century. By the beginning of the twentieth century, their residents were often elderly, from impoverished backgrounds, and members of disadvantaged ethnic groups. Many stays were long term, and often persons who entered these institutions ultimately died within them. But some individuals passed through them for short stays and may have benefited from their experience. To be sure, mental institutions had serious flaws, including their huge size, overcrowding, geographic isolation, involuntary confinement, depersonalization, and coercive and custodial treatment. Nevertheless, they provided the most seriously ill persons an integrated range of services—housing, food, symptom management, medical treatment, a place for social interaction, and respite from stressful community conditions—in one centralized location.
Beginning in 1955, the use of mental hospitals to confine the mad began to break down in the United States as the average number of residents in state and county mental hospitals started to decline from a peak of 550,000 to 370,000 in 1969 to about 60,000 in 1998. Taking growing population size into account, the number of residents in state and county mental hospitals fell from 339 per 100,000 persons in 1955 to 91.5 in 1975 and to only 21 in 1998. A variety of factors led to the steep decline in the use of traditional mental institutions. The introduction of psychotropic drugs in the mid-1950s, political and legal movements devoted to stiffening requirements for institutional commitment, the expansion of the civil rights of mental patients, and the growth of community treatment all played a role. But the development of government entitlement programs, notably Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance, and housing supplements, were the most significant facilitators of community treatment.
Until the end of the nineteenth century, the category of madness was largely reserved for people who behaved in bizarre and incomprehensible manners. At that time, the boundaries of this category began to undergo a dramatic expansion. Stimulated by the rise of psychoanalysis, outpatient treatment developed as a parallel system to inpatient mental hospitals. In contrast to the generally impoverished, poorly educated, and socially marginal persons who resided in mental hospitals, outpatient clients were often financially well-off, highly educated, and intellectually sophisticated. Over the course of the century, the type of problems associated with outpatient psychiatric care expanded from severe and disabling disorders to encompass people with problems of living, such as troubled marriages, wayward children, and lack of purpose in life. In contrast to the declining population of public mental hospitals, treatment in outpatient mental health settings in the United States increased by over twentyfold between 1955 and 2000.
A major change in the response to the mentally ill occurred in 1980 when the psychiatric profession codified hundreds of different mental illnesses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM -III). This manual includes not only the sorts of incomprehensible behaviors that have always been viewed as forms of madness, but also numerous forms of emotional, behavioral, psychophysiological, and many other disorders that extend well beyond the traditional boundaries of madness. It reflected the idea that mental illnesses, like physical illnesses, were specific disease entities that were likely to have biologically based causes. The DSM ’s categories of mental illness have expanded to the extent that population surveys estimate that half of all Americans will experience some mental illness during their lifetimes, and over a quarter have some disorder at any given time. At the same time, there has been an explosive growth in the use of psychotropic medications. These medications, first introduced in the 1950s, have exponentially expanded to the point that 10 percent of women and 4 percent of men consume them in any given month. Indeed, three of the seven largest selling prescription drugs of any sort are now antidepressant medications.
The concept of madness has simultaneously shrunk and expanded over the course of recent history. As mental illness has replaced madness as the term most likely to be applied to incomprehensible behaviors, fewer people experience exclusion, confinement, and stigma. The social distance between the mad and the normal has decreased with the growing emphasis on the similarities between mental and physical illnesses and on the perceived biological origins of mental illness. At the same time, this concept has expanded as more behaviors are regarded as signs of mental illness, more people are seen as suffering from this condition, and more individuals seek help from medical and mental health professionals.
The evolution of madness into mental illness has brought both benefits and costs. On the one hand, it has led to efforts to destigmatize the mentally ill and treat them less coercively, as well as to a growing understanding of the causes of and effective responses to these conditions. On the other hand, no adequate program has replaced the many services mental hospitals used to provide, and the most seriously ill do not receive adequate care in the community. In addition, the expansion of the boundaries of mental illness have medicalized many normal behaviors and led to an overconsumption of psychotropic medications. The responses to madness at the beginning of the twenty-first century are far better than for most of Western history, but still have much room for improvement.
SEE ALSO Foucault, Michel; Mental Health; Mental Illness; Psychotherapy; Psychotropic Drugs; Schizophrenia; Stigma
Field, M. J. 1960. Search for Security: An Ethno-Psychiatric Study of Rural Ghana. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
Foucault, Michel. 1965. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Pantheon.
Grob, Gerald N. 1994. The Mad among Us: A History of the Care of America’s Mentally Ill. New York: Free Press.
Horwitz, Allan V. 1982. The Social Control of Mental Illness. New York: Academic Press.
Horwitz, Allan V. 2002. Creating Mental Illness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lunbeck, Elizabeth. 1994. The Psychiatric Persuasion: Knowledge, Gender, and Power in Modern America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Rosen, George. 1968. Madness in Society: Chapters in the Historical Sociology of Mental Illness. New York: Harper.
Allan V. Horwitz
"Madness." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/madness
"Madness." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved May 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/madness
See also 122. DISEASE and ILLNESS ; 254. MANIAS ; 313. PHOBIAS ; 334. PSYCHOLOGY .
- Obsolete, insanity.
- a violent form of mania; incurable insanity.
- 1 . a congenital condition of low intelligence.
- 2 . a form of temporary insanity. Cf. dementia.
- Obsolete, amentia.
- behavior characteristic of insanity. See also 301. ORDER and DISORDER .
- a mental patient.
- one of various forms of schizophrenia characterized by stupor, sometimes alternating with excited behavior and mechanical, repetitive behavior, accompanied by muscular rigidity. —catatonic , n., adj.
- a state of maniacal excitement characterized by restless behavior, confused speech, and sometimes hallucinations.
- madness or insanity. Cf. amentia.
- dementia praecox
- 1. Obsolete, the doctrine of demoniac possession.
- 2. Archaic. demonomania. —demonian , n., adj.
- Medicine. a monomania in which a person believes he is possessed of devils. Also called demonopathy.
- Medicine, Obsolete, a state in which a person believes he is possessed by a devil or has been endowed with supernatural powers.
- a disordered mental condition in which the sufferer is prone to hallucinations.
- a form of insanity or dementia praecox that can appear at puberty, characterized by foolish behavior and deterioration of the mental faculties.
- an acute mania.
- 1 . periodic insanity, once thought to be caused by the phases of the moon.
- 2 . any form of insanity. —lunatic , adj.
- an abnormal tendency toward deep melancholy.
- an abnormal fear of becoming insane.
- an abnormal fear of madness.
- 1 . Medicine. a form of mental illness characterized by the unreasonable conviction in the patient of his own greatness, goodness, power, or wealth.
- 2 . an obsession with extravagant or grand actions. — megalomaniac , n., adj. —megalomaniacal , adj.
- a condition of abnormal gloom or depression, often of an intensity to become a form of insanity. —melancholiac , n., adj. —melancholie , n., adj.
- Obsolete, a person suffering from melancholia; a melancholiac.
- a form of treatment for mental illness that involves placing the patient under the influence of a narcotic.
- the process of correcting bodily or mental distortion.
- a mental disorder characterized by behavior that stems from an elaborately constructed system of delusions of persecution and grandeur. —paranoiac , n. —paranoid , adj.
- a state resembling paranoia.
- moral insanity.
- any severe mental disorder or disease. —psychotic , n., adj.
- a psychotic condition marked by erratic behavior, withdrawal from reality, and intellectual and emotional deterioration. Also called dementia praecox . —schizophrenic , n., adj.
- a mild form of schizophrenia, characterized by withdrawal, inversion, etc. —schizothyme , n. —schizothymic , adj.
- a mild mania.
- a form of insanity or mental disorder in which the sufferer imagines that he is an animal. —zoanthropic , adj.
- a form of hallucination in which the sufferer imagines he sees animals. Also called zooscopy.
"Insanity." -Ologies and -Isms. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/insanity
"Insanity." -Ologies and -Isms. . Retrieved May 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/insanity
- Alcithoe driven mad by Dionysus. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 16]
- Alcmeon driven mad by the Furies. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 16]
- Ashton, Lucy goes mad upon marriage; stabs husband. [Br. Lit.: Bride of Lammermoor ]
- Bedlam (Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem) first asylum for the insane in England; noted for brutal treatment of its patients. [Br. Hist.: EB, I: 924]
- Belvidera goes mad when husband dies. [Br. Lit.: Venice Preserved, Benét, 1052]
- Bess o’ Bedlam inmate of London’s lunatic asylum; female counterpart of Tom o’ Bedlam. [Br. Folklore: Walsh, Modern, 55]
- Broteas angered Artemis; she drove him mad. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 47]
- Butes Dionysus drove him mad. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 48]
- Cleese, John performs a manic comic character with persecution complex. [Br. TV: “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” in Terrace, II, 108]
- Clementina, Lady mentally unbalanced; vacillates between love and religion. [Br. Lit.: Sir Charles Grandison, Walsh Modern, 99]
- Dervish (Darwesh ) member of ascetic order; frenzied, whirling dancer. [Muslim Rel.: Parrinder, 75; Jobes, 433]
- Dympna, St. curing of madness attributed to her intercession. [Christian Hagiog.: Attwater, 107]
- Elvira great mad scene caused by betrayal of Arthur. [Ital. Opera: Bellini, Puritani, Westerman, 133–135]
- Erinyes (Furies ) three sisters who tormented those guilty of blood crimes, driving them mad. [Gk. Myth.: Benét, 320]
- Furioso, Bombastes goes mad upon loss of betrothed. [Br. Opera: Rhodes, Bombastes Furioso, Walsh, Modern, 64–65]
- Gunn, Ben half-demented castaway. [Br. Lit.: Treasure Island ]
- Hieronimo Spanish general goes mad on seeing the body of his murdered son. [Br. Drama: The Spanish Tragedy in Magill II, 990]
- King Lear goes mad as all desert him. [Brit. Lit.: Shakespeare King Lear ]
- Leverkühn, Adrian brilliant musician attains pinnacle; rapidly deteriorates mentally. [Ger. Lit.: Doctor Faustus ]
- Lucia frustration causes her to murder husband. [Ital. Opera: Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor, Westerman, 126–127]
- Mad Hatter crazy gentleman who co-hosts mad tea party. [Br. Lit.: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ]
- Madwoman of Chaillot, The four eccentric women foil capitalistic exploiters. [Fr. Lit.: Benét, 618]
- Mahony, Dr. Richard tries in vain to stay the insanity that eventually overwhelms him. [Australian Lit.: The Fortunes of Richard Mahony in Magill II, 341]
- March Hare crazy rabbit who co-hosts mad tea party. [Br. Lit.: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ]
- McMurphy, Randall Patrick brash Irishman, lobotomized in asylum after causing numerous scandals. [Am. Lit.: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest ]
- Myshkin, Prince four years in sanitarium; thought mad, treated for epilepsy. [Russ. Lit.: The Idiot ]
- Ophelia goes mad after father’s death. [Br. Lit.: Hamlet ]
- Orlando driven insane by lover’s betrayal. [Ital. Lit.: Orlando Furioso ]
- Rochester, Bertha insane wife of Edward Rochester. [Br. Lit.: Jane Eyre ]
- Tom o’ Bedlam an inmate of London’s lunatic asylum. Cf. Bess o’ Bedlam. [Br. Folklore: Benét, 3]
- Very, Jones “monomaniac” or “profoundly sane” ? [Am. Hist.: Hart, 883]
- Wozzeck thought of blood drives him to murder and suicide. [Aust. Opera: Berg, Wozzeck, Westerman, 480–481]
"Madness." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/madness
"Madness." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Retrieved May 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/madness
insanity, mental disorder of such severity as to render its victim incapable of managing his affairs or of conforming to social standards. Today, the term insanity is used chiefly in criminal law, to denote mental aberrations or defects that may relieve a person from the legal consequences of his or her acts. The case of Daniel McNaughtan, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity after making an assassination attempt on British prime minister Robert Peel (1834), gave rise to the modern insanity defense used in many Western nations today. In the United States, the 1954 case of Durham v. the United States led to the establishment of new rules for testing defendants. Today, psychologists may perform tests to determine whether or not the defendant is mentally stable. Such tests try to ascertain whether or not a defendant can distinguish right from wrong, and whether or not he acted on an
John Hinckley's assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan (1981) became another landmark in the history of the insanity defense. The court's initial verdict of
"not guilty by reason of insanity"
generated public outcry and renewed interest in the verdict of
"guilty but mentally ill,"
which is permissible in some states. This verdict allows defendants deemed mentally ill to be hospitalized but requires them to carry out a reasonable prison sentence as well. In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled it permissable to keep a mentally ill defendant hospitalized for a term longer than the maximum sentence for the crime with which the defendant was charged. Many have contended that the insanity defense is nothing more than a legal loophole, allowing serious criminals to escape imprisonment. In fact, the plea is rarely employed in the United States, and it is estimated that less than 1% of defendants have used it successfully. Recent years have seen the restrictions surrounding insanity defense considerably narrowed, with the sole criteria for a successful plea being the determination of whether or not the defendant knew he was breaking the law.
See R. Simon and D. Aaronson, The Insanity Defense (1988); R. Porter, A Social History of Madness: The World Through the Eyes of the Insane (1989).
"insanity." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/insanity
"insanity." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/insanity
"insanity." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/insanity
"insanity." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Retrieved May 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/insanity
Madness stood at the forefront of the ska revival that moved through the British pop music scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Incorporating the rhythms and horn arrangements of the sound that later spawned reggae, Madness paid tribute to the music they had listened to while growing up in London. The group didn’t just copy what had gone before, though. The distinctive, jerky, and enthusiastic dancing styles of horn player and emcee Chas Smith and lead singer Suggs marked a Madness concert. Adding touches such as Smith’s shouting,“Hey, you! Don’t watch that, watch this!” at the beginning of their song “One Step Beyond,” the group created whatthey themselves called a “nutty sound.” For all the fun in their performances, their lyrics often made thoughtful observations on everyday concerns of working-class London.
This combination of silly and serious helped make Madness one of the most popular music acts in the United Kingdom and Europe, although they remained mostly unknown in the United States. As the members’ lives began to change, so did the band’s fortunes, and in
Members include Mike Barson (bom April 21, 1958, in London, England), keyboards; Mark Bedford (born August 24, 1961 in London), bass; Chris Foreman (born August 8, 1958, in London), guitar; Graham “Suggs” McPherson (born January 13, 1961, in Hastings, England), vocals; Chas Smash (born Cathal Smythe, January 14, 1959), emcee and trumpet; Lee Thompson (born October 5, 1957, in London); Dan Woodgate (born October 19, 1960, in London), drums.
Band formed as Morris and the Minors, 1978; changed name to Madness and released first single,“The Prince,” 1979; released first album, One Step Beyond, 1980; scored first American hit with single “Our House,” 1982; Barson left band, 1983; formed own label, Zarjazz, 1984; released Utter Madness, Zarjazz, 1985; group disbanded, 1986; group reunited for first of four annual Madstock concerts, 1992; went on first tour since disbanding, 1998; released first studio album in thirteen years, Wonderful, 1999.
Awards: New Musical Express Singles Act of the Year, 1980.
Addresses: Record company —Virgin Records Ltd., 553-579 Harrow Road, London, W10 4RH, UK. Web site —http://www.madness.co.uk.
1986 they disbanded. But they never totally stayed apart, reuniting occasionally for live performances. In the meantime, another ska revival occurred, and the bands that led it—No Doubt, Sublime, and Mighty Mighty Bosstones—acknowledged Madness as a major influence. Unwilling to be merely legends, Madness got together again, releasing not only a live album, but also, in 1999, their first studio album of new material in thirteen years.
Madness began to take shape in London, England in 1976 with a band called the Invaders. The included such future members of Madness as keyboard player Mike Barson, saxophonist and vocalist Lee “Kix” Thompson, guitarist Chris “Chrissie Boy” Foreman, and Smith. These four hooked up with Suggs, bass player Mark Bedford, and drummer Dan “Woody” Woodgate to form Morris and the Minors in 1978. Smith had been playing bass, but he traded it for horns and the emcee’s role. Meanwhile, with his distinctive vocal style, Suggs became the group’s front man. The band became Madness the next year, taking the name from a song by legendary 1960s ska performer Prince Buster. Their first single, titled “The Prince,” continued their tribute to their idol. It also became the first of their 21 singles to make the Top 20 on the British charts.
The success of “The Prince” earned Madness a contract with one of the most prominent labels of the British New Wave, Stiff Records. Their first single for their new label,“One Step Beyond,” reached the British Top Ten, and the album of the same name remained on the charts for a year. Their follow-up album Absolutely repeated the success in 1980. The hit songs from their second album included “Embarrassment”,“Baggy Trousers,” and “The Return of the Los Palmas Seven.” All in all, there was a Madness song on the British charts for 46 weeks out of that year, earning them New Musical Express magazine’s Singles Artist of the Year award. Still, their popularity remained confined to their side of the Atlantic. Although Sire Records had released the first two albums in the United States, neither had cracked the Top 100 lists, a weak performance that cost Madness their access to the American record market.
Madness was not the only popular ska group in England at the time. Acts such as the Specials, Selecter and the Beat (known as the English Beat in the United States) also thrived on reviving the popular dance music that came out of London youth clubs in the 1960s. Madness, though rooted in ska, also drew on other music that they heard while growing up in racially mixed, working-class neighborhoods. This meant that the traditional styles of English music halls also came into Madness’s sounds. Combining the music of their childhood with songs about the lives that they saw around them, the group earned comparisons with the Kinks as keen observers of British society.
Madness’s popularity continued to grow in England and throughout Europe with an almost universal appeal. They found themselves playing in front of audiences that included children and senior citizens. In order to accommodate all their fans, the band even started performing matinee concerts so children under sixteen could attend. Still, they found their appeal a bit too broad. Young skinheads associated with the racist National Front movement flocked to Madness shows, evidently drawn in by this all-white band playing black music about working-class life. In an effort to end this unwanted appeal, the group included an explicit attack on the National Front on their EP Work Rest and Play. Madness also continued to write surprisingly controversial lyrics for such a popular group. Their 1982 single “Cardiac Arrest” failed to make the British Top Ten because of radio programmers squeamish about its graphic anti-stress message.
“Cardiac Arrest” from the album The Rise and Fall, showed Madness’s increasing musical maturity. Incorporating more pop styles into their compositions, their songs became more serious while retaining the band’s trademark wit. According to the Encyclopedia of Popular Music, songs such as “Grey Day” and “Our House” displayed an “ability to write about working-class family life in a fashion that was piercingly accurate, yet never patronizing.” The latter song became their first hit in the United States, appearing on their first American record in three years, a compilation album called Madness. Not that the band had been completely invisible in the States (their creatively whimsical videos had appeared on MTV), but there had never been any records available to go with the television presence. The situation changed with “Our House,” and with heavy video and radio play, the song finally put Madness in the American Top Ten.
The band’s fortunes took a downward turn at the end of 1983 when Barson left. One of their most important songwriters, he became tired of the pop star life and moved with his family to Holland. Madness carried on, with their first single after Barson’s departure,“Michael Cane.” The song and the album Keep Moving did well on the British charts. The group also formed their own label, Zarjazz, which soon ran into financial difficulty. Their first album on Zarjazz, Mad Not Mad, did not make the Top Ten, nor did any of the singles from it. At the end of 1986, the band announced that they were calling it quits. Their final single,“Waiting for the Ghost Train,” peaked at number eighteen on the charts two months later.
Madness did not stay gone for long. In 1988, Suggs, Smith, Foreman, and Thompson joined with keyboardist Jerry Dammers from the Specials, along with keyboardist Steve Nieve and bassist Bruce Thomas from the Attractions. They called this band the Madness and released an album of the same name. It came nowhere near the success of the group’s earlier incarnation, though, and they disbanded once again. The members of the band went their various ways, forming orworking with other bands, with some even taking on other roles in the music industry. In the summer of 1992, the original lineup came together again in London for a pair of outdoor concerts. They dubbed the show “Madstock.” The shows proved to be such a success that they held one each summer for the next four years, until announcing once again that they would not reunite for any future shows. In the meantime, Suggs had released his first solo album, The Lone Ranger, in 1995 with some modest success.
However, the appeal of performing on-stage and the popularity of their shows proved too much for Madness to stay separated. In 1998 they went on tour, including stops in the United States. They recorded a show in Los Angeles, which they released as the album Universal Madness in 1999. This reappearance of Madness in the midst of another ska revival prompted an assessment of the band’s legacy and how well they were holding up. Washington Post reviewer Mark Jenkins was especially impressed by the performance of “Our House” on the live album and wrote,“If the band can write some new songs as playfully indelible as this one, Madness will be as much competition as inspiration to its contemporary American disciples.”
Evidently, the band had the same idea, and in 1999 they went back into the studio, with Barson participating. They also turned to their original producers, Clive Langley and Alan Winstanley. The sessions resulted in their first album since 1986, Wonderful, released in England in November of that year. Musically they picked up right where they left off. Dele Fadele wrote in New Musical Express, “A fine balance is kept between kitchen-sink miserabilist tendencies and jolly grown-up japes.” Their ability to counterpoint their musical exuberance and, at times, their downright silliness with mature themes in some of their lyrics had always been a Madness hallmark. By returning with new material in the same vein, they created an opportunity for an audience familiar with ska through Madness’s pupils to learn from the masters themselves.
One Step Beyond (includes “One Step Beyond”), Sire, 1979.
Work Rest & Play (EP), Stiff, 1980.
Absolutely, Sire, 1980.
Seven, Stiff, 1981.
Rise and Fall (includes “Our House”), Stiff, 1982.
Madness, Geffen, 1983.
Keep Moving, Geffen, 1984.
Mad Not Mad, Geffen, 1985.
Utter Madness, Zarjazz, 1986.
Total Madness: The Very Best of Madness, Geffen, 1997.
Universal Madness, Golden Voice, 1999.
Wonderful, Virgin, 1999.
Buckley, Jonathan and Mark Ellingham, editors, Rock: The Rough Guide, Penguin, 1996.
Larkin, Colin, editor, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, volume 5, Muze, 1998.
Robbins, Ira, editor, The Trouser Press Record Guide, fourth edition, Collier, 1991.
Washington Post, April 30, 1999, p. N16.
“Madness,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com.
“Madness,” Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.tunes.com.
“Madness Wonderful,” New Musical Express, http://www.nme.com, November 11, 1999.
"Madness." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/madness
"Madness." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved May 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/madness
"madness." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/madness
"madness." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved May 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/madness
"madness." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/madness
"madness." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved May 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/madness