Mad Not Mad

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Mad Not Mad
Mad Not Madoriginal.jpg
Studio album by
Released30 September 1985 (1985-09-30)
RecordedMarch–April 1985
StudioWestside Studios, London and Air Studios, London
LabelZarjazz (UK)
Geffen (US)
Madness chronology
Keep Moving
Mad Not Mad
The Peel Sessions
Singles from Mad Not Mad
  1. "Yesterday's Men"
    Released: 19 August 1985
  2. "Uncle Sam"
    Released: 14 October 1985
  3. "The Sweetest Girl"
    Released: 10 February 1986
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic2.5/5 stars[1]
Number Onepositive[2]
Record Collector3/5 stars[3]
The New Rolling Stone Album Guide2/5 stars [4]
Smash Hits7/10 stars[5]

Mad Not Mad is the sixth studio album by the English ska/pop band Madness. It was originally released in September 1985, and was their first official release on their own label Zarjazz, a sub-label of Virgin Records.[6] The album was recorded over a period of two months in 1985 at Westside Studios and at AIR Studios, both in London. The album was their last recording of original material until they officially reformed in 1992.

The album peaked at No. 16 in the UK charts, and achieved silver status from the BPI. However, Mad Not Mad remains the band's poorest-selling studio album to date.

On its release the album was received favourably by the majority of music critics, although opinions have become much more negative in subsequent decades. After only a few weeks of its initial release, the writers of NME listed this album at number 55 on their list of the "100 Best Albums of All Time".[7] The band themselves have been quite vocal that they were less satisfied with the album. In a BBC Radio 1 interview in 1993, their lead singer Suggs described Mad Not Mad as "a polished turd", referring to its distinctively glossy mid-1980s production by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, who had both produced all of Madness' work since the group's debut). In a 2009 interview Suggs said that with Mike gone they "slightly over-compensated, arrangement-wise and musician-wise" but there were "some great songs on that album, for sure".[8] However, NME's view of the album is still favourable, including it in its 2015 list of "50 Albums Released in 1985 That Still Sound Great Today".[9]


Over the course of the album, the band both express their feelings and private problems, and address political issues. They touch on politics on "Burning the Boats", but also on a maturing disenchantment with the youth culture on "Yesterday's Men". It also features the satirical track "I'll Compete" which acknowledges their declining popularity and sales with the lyrics "Let us hurry now, time is catching up", and also exaggerates on them maturing with the line "I'm five years closer to my pension scheme".[10]

Mad Not Mad features three prolific guest backing vocalists, including the female duo Afrodiziak (composed of Caron Wheeler and Claudia Fontaine), and Jimmy Helms. The album is notably the band's only album not to feature their keyboardist and founding member Mike Barson, who had left the group the previous year to spend more time in Amsterdam with his then wife Sandra. Barson's keyboard parts were filled by synthesizers, and Steve Nieve joined the band to take his place. After the album Madness disbanded, but Barson did join them for the recording of their one-off single "(Waiting For) The Ghost Train".

The album featured the songs "Yesterday's Men", "Uncle Sam", and "Sweetest Girl" which were all released as singles, with corresponding music videos. The three singles that were released all reached the Top 40 in the UK charts, however the latter two failed to make the Top 20, which was a first for any Madness single. The aforementioned "Sweetest Girl" was a cover version of a song by the British post-punk/new wave band Scritti Politti.


Mad Not Mad was met with a lukewarm reception, especially on adult contemporary radio, being criticised for its over reliance on slow, dark and downbeat songs. The album was preceded by the song "Yesterday's Men" as the first single, reaching No. 18 in the UK. The album itself was released weeks later surprisingly only going to No. 16 in the UK, though it still went silver there. The track "Uncle Sam", released in October 1985 peaked at No. 21 in the UK (in a disappointing chart performance considering the lead singles from their previous albums were Top 20 hits in the UK). The third and final single, "Sweetest Girl", peaked at only No. 35 in the UK.

Critical reception[edit]

In a retrospective review for AllMusic, critic Darryl Cater wrote of the album "Clive Langer and Alan Wistanley occasionally strike an inspired balance between soulful pop and subtle reggae rhythms, but more often they replace the warmth of Barson's pianos with a cold emphasis on drum machines and synthesizers. Some of the songwriting, however, is on par with the band's most mature work, and the lively melodies lend a perfect irony to the band's wry social commentary and personal brooding."[1] And reviewing for Record Collector critic, Terry Staunton wrote of the album "The Nutty Boys were veering towards an altogether gloomier form of nuttiness when this album first appeared in 1985. The wacky humour of old, already on the wane in their previous outing, Keep Moving, was almost totally eclipsed by sombre tones of resignation, best exemplified on the single Yesterday's Men."[3] And The New Rolling Stone Album Guide wrote that the album "finds the lads sinking into [an] unseemly self-reflection".[4]


The album was re-released in the United Kingdom, in October 2010[11] on Virgin featuring rare bonus content. The reissue was a 3-disc set which comprises a 14-track with the original album digitally remastered from the original 1/2" mix tapes; alongside three bonus single remixes and '(Waiting For) The Ghost Train'; a Bonus 10-track CD including demos of all the album's singles and their respective B-sides; plus a Bonus DVD containing all the music videos for the singles as well as live performances from five BBC TV shows. It also features liner notes written by comedian and Madness fan, Phill Jupitus.[12]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
1."I'll Compete"3:21
2."Yesterday's Men"4:37
3."Uncle Sam"
  • Foreman
  • Thompson
4."White Heat"
5."Mad Not Mad"
  • Smyth
  • McPherson
Side two
6."Sweetest Girl"Green Gartside5:47
7."Burning the Boats"
  • Foreman
  • McPherson
8."Tears You Can't Hide"Smyth3:08
10."Coldest Day"
Total length:42:19
Additional tracks


Back inlay of Mad Not Mad album
Session musicians
Production team

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1985) Peak
Swedish Albums Chart[13] 42 1
UK Albums Chart[14] 16 9

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Darryl Cater. "Mad Not Mad - Madness - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  2. ^ Bell, Max (5 October 1985). "Albums". Number One Magazine.
  3. ^ a b "Mad Not Mad - Record Collector Magazine". Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  4. ^ a b Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). "Madness". The Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Fireside Edition. pp. 508. ISBN 0-74320169-8.
  5. ^ White, William (25 September 1985). "Review: Albums". Smash Hits Magazine.
  6. ^ [1] Archived 14 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "NME Writers All Time Albums". Retrieved 2 June 2007.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Madness – Mad Not Mad". Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  12. ^ "Madness Mad Not Mad UK 3-disc CD/DVD Set (520726)". Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  13. ^ Steffen Hung (17 February 2012). "Swedish Charts Portal". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  14. ^ "UK Singles & Albums Official Charts Company". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 29 February 2012.

External links[edit]