Madness: One… Too… It’s… Madness

by | Issue One, Madzine

One… Too… It’s… Madness

So why was the “It’s… Madness” series so crucial to the Madness community?

Well, it was 1990, and the fans were in the emotional moments of the madness break-up, having split four years earlier in 1986; with that Nutty Sound now passé and nothing new to be heard from Madness, we were just left with time and then like Jones… along came the Pickwick distribution deal and Virgin released the first “It’s… Madness” album. Excuse me? MADNESS on Pickwick, WTF! It was a sad day in W.H. Smiths.

Pickwick Records was an American record label and British record distributor known for its budget album releases of sound-alike recordings, bargain bin reissues, and repackaging and was the dreaded imprint that only our grandparents seemed to own and the place for dead-end celebrities like Ken Dodd and the Diddy men. Gently now… I’m trying to overlook this trauma (because It’s… ‘still’ Madness). Okay, what was so special about these two half-like hit bargain basement releases?

One… Too… It’s… Madness

1990 Virgin / Pickwick – VVIPD 107 & VVIPD 115 (Black Logo Disc)

Firstly, it was the first time that so many b’sides and the one remix (Victoria Gardens) had finally been released for the first time on CD, it was even marketed that way with “Includes tracks never previously available on CD”. You have to remember (if you were of age at this time) it was the beginning of the 90s, and we were yet to meet the MP3 phenomenon. Nobody had the technical ability to rip vinyl and distribute it other than recording it on tape cassette. I don’t recall there ever being a commercial or bootleg available featuring non-hit tracks other than live Madness tracks on bootleg tape cassettes.

Now at this point, Stiff was long gone. Virgin records owned the Madness catalogue, and the “It’s… Madness” series of releases was the first compilation album to be released since “Utter Madness”, and from this point forth, it was to be consistently reissued, repackaged right up until 2006 and left real collectors dazed and confused.

With 16 years of label reassignment, reissues, redesigned covers, different imprints, cancelled releases and label mix-ups … who wouldn’t be lost eh? During 1992 and the third reissue of the “It’s… Madness” series, Virgin decided to dump Pickwick distribution mainly due to Madness’s sudden and unexpected resurgence; Virgin records wanted total control of distribution rights, including copyright and publishing, and this remained until 1998.

So let’s learn and understand more about these albums; the releases had become historically ingrained in Madness history, as much as in 1998 when Madness themselves got involved in redesigning CDVIP105 / CDVIP117, the artwork for the fourth re-issue of the albums. I can almost hear Mark (Bedders) Bedford crying at W.H. Smiths in Camden Town when he first saw the original designs in 1990.

A final note before we take a look at the It’s… Madness releases between 1990 and 2006 in more detail, Let me tell you something, you haven’t seen anything yet; the insanity of the re-issued, re-packaged, re-tracked “HITS” albums was sadly beginning for Madness, and it is fair to say it was 1990 when the Madness started.

Let’s take a closer look at the tracks that graced the first of the “It’s…Madness” album series.

1. House Of Fun (Barson/Thompson) 1982 – Entered the British singles chart at No.8 on the 22nd May 1982; one week later, it was No. 1. The band’s twelfth single became their first chart-topper.

2. Don’t Look Back (House Of Fun, B Side) (Foreman) 1982
The ‘B’ side of “House Of Fun”. The single stayed on the charts for over two months!

3. Wings of a Dove (Smyth/McPherson/Smyth) 1983 – Came straight in at No. 19 on the 20th of August 1983, and three weeks later stood at No.2 in the charts, held off the top Reissue (Red Logo Disc) slot by UB40’s “Red Red Wine”

One… Too… It’s… Madness

This Virgin / Pickwick VVIPD107 repressed version credits track 10 correctly on the CD but has no black background to Virgin VIP.

4. The Young And The Old (from Work Rest And Play E.P.) (McPherson/Barson) 1980 – One of four tracks featured on the “Work Rest And Play E.P.” marked the comeback of this forgotten format. It started its chart life at No. 14 on 5th April 1980 and soared to its pinnacle No. 6 position the following week.

5. My Girl (Barson) 1980 – The band’s third single, which achieved their highest chart position up to that point in January 1980. After a relatively humble No.54 chart entry as the new decade dawned, the record took only three weeks to hit No.3. Four years later, Tracey Ullman covered the song (Re-titled “My Guy”) and got a Top 30 hit as well!

6. Stepping Into Line (My Girl, B Side) (Hasler/McPherson/Foreman) 1979 – The ‘B’ side of “My Girl” stayed in the British charts for ten weeks!

7. Baggy Trousers (McPherson/Foreman) 1980 – Arguably Madness’ most successful single in that it remained in the chart for FIVE MONTHS. Another Top 3 smash moved around positions three, four and five through September and October 1980 with the arrogance only a sure-fire hit can display.

8. The Business (Baggy Trousers, B Side) (Barson) 1980 – The ‘B’ side of “Baggy Trousers”, and like all the “Other Sides” featured here, it’s never been available on a compilation (or a CD) before.

9. Embarrassment (Barson/Thompson) 1980 – The follow-up to “Baggy Trousers” and almost as successful, hitting No. 4 on the 6th December 1980.

One… Too… It’s… Madness

1992 It’s… Madness – Virgin VIP – CDVIP105 / CDVIP117 – First Reissue (Red Logo Disc)

One… Too… It’s… Madness

1999 It’s… Madness – Virgin – CDVIP228 / CDVIP229 – Second Reissue With New Artwork

10. One’s Second Thoughtlessness (Thompson/ Woodgate) 1983 – B’ side of Wings Of A Dove 12″ Only. A real rarity, this, having only been previously available on the 12-inch of “Wings Of A Dove”, the band asked especially that this track be included. You’ll be glad they did.

11. Grey Day (Barson) 1981 – Madness’ eighth single, eighth hit. Entered the Top 20 at twenty at the end of April 1981, shot to No.5, dropped a place to No.6, then revived to fight another day and bounced to its peak of No. 4.

12. Memories (Grey Day, B Side) (Foreman) 1981 – The ‘B’ side of “Grey Day”, enjoying ten weeks in the charts.

13. It Must Be Love (Labi Siffre) 1981 – Up to this one, the band’s tenth single, the singles had been Madness originals. This broke the tradition. Labi Siffre had begun his chart-making with “It Must Be Love”, his song, in 1971, reaching No. 14. Madness went ten places better at the end of 1980 and, to celebrate its release, featured Labi in their promo video.

14. Deceives The Eye (from Work Rest And Play E.P.) (Bedford/Foreman) 1980 – Another track from the “Work Rest And Play E.P.”. Not one of the better-known songs from that Top Ten hit, so well worth another airing here.

15. Driving In My Car (Barson) 1982 – Follow-up to the No. 1 hit, “House Of Fun”, and crashed at No.6 on the 24th of July 1982. Surprisingly, it only climbed two places to No.4 the following week, where it remained for three weeks.

16. Animal Farm (Driving In My Car, B Side) (Barson/Madness) 1982 – The ‘B’ side of “Driving In My Car”, Two months in the chart, bringing the group’s total of weeks in the singles listings, at that stage, to a stunning 144! (Their GRAND TOTAL stands at 237 weeks!!)

As previously mentioned, it’s 1998, and Virgin had decided to dump Pickwick and continue mining the Madness catalogue with the bargain bin reissues and repackaging due to Madness’s sudden and unexpected resurgence. Then, of course, Madness themselves got involved in redesigning the artwork for the fourth reissue of the albums.

Mark Bedford took the lead on the redesigns along with Robert Stimpson and Dani Golfieri, and interestingly Ian Wright created the illustrations of Madness for the two new sleeve designs – many of you will know Ian’s work for the distinctive and familiar ‘Nutty Train’ characterization for the sleeve “Grey Day” and other Madness artwork.

Ian had already designed some early single sleeves for The Undertones. Julian Balme (who would later create many iconic sleeves – including The Clash’s Combat Rock) knew Ian had this picture, so he invited Ian to Stiffand saw Dave Robinson for a few minutes, and he said, ‘Do you want to sell it?’ He bought the picture from Ian there and then had it on his wall. Later, the band went to his office to talk about sleeves with him. The band were like, why don’t we use that?

One… Too… It’s… Madness

1999 It’s… Madness – Virgin  – Rare Catalogue Error CDVIP105 Rather Than The Correct CDVIP228 Issued With New Artwork & Red Logo Disc

One… Too… It’s… Madness

A handful of copies of It’s… Madness were pressed by Disky using the new artwork. This is one of these scarce versions with the latest artwork. 

Anyway, let’s continue… So the confusion deepened when, in the same year, the imprint “Disky Records”, a Dutch record label that operated from the early 1990s until the mid-2000s. During its existence, the label released numerous compilation albums featuring popular music from various genres. Disky, in 1997 suddenly appeared to be marketing and distributing the “It’s… Madness” series. Very early on, a handful of copies were pressed of “It’s… Madness” by Disky using the new artwork created by Mark Bedford and his team, a scarce pressing.

Once the confusion of the artwork was remedied, the original artwork was used but now was redesigned (adapted) again by Artiee, Broek op Langedijk for Disky; remember the 16 years of label reassignment, reissues, redesigned covers, different imprints, cancelled releases and label mix-ups? A challenging life for a hardcore collector, and I am sure after publishing this article, I will discover more physical variations of this series!

Let’s take a closer look at the tracks that graced the second of the “It’s… Madness” album series. “It’s… Madness Too”

1. The Prince (Album Version) (Thompson) 1979 – Madness, the first single, was released on 2-Tone (TT3) and reached No. 16 on 6th October 1979. However, the album version of the Prince was used on the album.

2. Madness (Album Version) (Campbell) 1979 – ‘B’ side of “The Prince”. Stayed in the charts for 11 weeks.

3. One Step Beyond… (Campbell) 1979 – The boys’ second single, first on Stiff Records. It entered the charts at No.51 on 10th November 1979, three weeks later achieving its pinnacle, No.7.

4. Mistakes (One Step Beyond, B Side) (Barson/Hasler) 1979 – ‘B’ side of “One Step Beyond” Over three months in the charts.

5. The Return of the Los Palmas 7 (Barson/Woodgate/Bedford) 1981 – Hit number seven hit No.7 on 25th February 1981.

6. Night Boat to Cairo (from Work Rest & Play EP) (Barson/McPherson) 1980 – The lead track on their first EP – a brave move so early on in a career – straight in at No. 14 on the 5th April ’80, climbing to its peak of No.6 the following week.

7. Shut Up (McPherson/Foreman) 1981 – Straight in at No. 10 on 3rd October 1981 – yet another No.7 peaker for the band.
8. A Town With No Name (Shut Up, B Side) (Foreman) 1981 – ‘B’ side of “Shut Up”, the ninth Top 20 in a row.

9. Cardiac Arrest (Smash/Thompson) 1982 – Entered the charts at No. 14 on 6th March 1982, dropped to No. 15 the following week, climbed back to fourteen the next week, finally giving up and dropping to twenty. The first single not to go Top 10 since “The Prince.”

10. In The City (Cardiac Arrest B Side) (McPherson/Barson/Smash/Foreman/ Crutchfield/Inoue) 1982 – “B’ side of “Cardiac Arrest”, which, despite missing the Top 10, still managed ten weeks in the charts.

11. Our House (Smyth/Foreman) 1982 – Ended 1982 with a Top 5 smash in the UK, and then it hit the Top 10 in the States five months later, the band’s American hit.

12. Walking With Mr. Wheeze (Our House, B Side) (Barson) 1982 – ‘B’ side of “Our House”, three months in the American Charts!

13. Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day) (Smyth/Barson) 1983 – Crashed up to No.9 in its second week, peaking at 8 in its third.

14. Victoria Gardens (Smyth/Barson/Smyth) 1984 – Nearly became hit number nineteen in April ’84, then withdrawn at the last minute as “One Better Day” was considered a better choice. Shame.

15. The Sun and the Rain (Barson) 1983 – The last Top 10 single for Madness, hitting No.5 on the 19th of November 1983.

16. Michael Caine (Smyth/Woodgate) 1984 – Still a classic, featuring the voice of Mr Caine himself. Hit No. 11 on the 17th of February, 1984.

One… Too… It’s… Madness

Taiwanese “It’s… Madness” 1998 Release

Rare CD from Taiwan on the EMI-Gold label from 1998; being from the Pacific region, it is challenging to find.

One… Too… It’s… Madness

Australian “It’s… Madness” Release

Australian release of “It’s…Madness” on Virgin Records in 1992 with the reference CDVIP105, same as the UK version.

One… Too… It’s… Madness

Netherlands “It’s… Total Madness” Box Set.

Unique box set of 32 tracks spread across two 16-track CDs, it comes in a stylish slipcase, rare and hard to find.

One… Too… It’s… Madness

Taiwanese “It’s… Madness Too” 1998 Release

Rare CD from Taiwan on the EMI-Gold label from 1998; being from the Pacific region, it is challenging to find.

One… Too… It’s… Madness

Brazilian “It’s… Madness Too” Soup Box

This is a rare CD that is in high demand, but difficult to find. It comes in a unique “Pop Hits Soup Can” card sleeve and contains the original Brazilian EMI CD release..

One… Too… It’s… Madness

UK “Madness Collection” Cancelled.

2006 third reissue on EMI Gold – “It’s… Madness”  3407132 was renamed “Madness Collection” but was never released and cancelled.

We have yet to scratch the surface of the reissues, redesigned covers, different imprints, cancelled releases and, of course, the international releases that found their way into Madness history. It would take a book to cover all the releases and variants – the good news is that this article will be published on to subscribers and continue to grow in content and detail, and just maybe become part of a more comprehensive book.

Finally, let’s end this journey with the interestingly cancelled 2006 re-release of “It’s… Madness” called “Madness Collection”. EMI Records cancelled the release, a relatively rare unreleased CD on the EMI Gold label; however, it’s unknown who and why EMI pulled the plug.

Overall, “It’s Madness” is a great introduction to the band’s music and an essential album for any fan of ska or British pop music. If you have any further questions about the band or their music, feel free to ask!

One… Too… It’s… Madness

Taken from Madzine (Issue One)

Madness: One… Too… It’s… Madness


Well, it was 1990, and the fans were in the emotional moments of the madness break-up, having split four years earlier in 1986; with that Nutty Sound now passé and nothing new to be heard from Madness, we were just left with time and then like Jones... along came the Pickwick distribution deal and Virgin released the first “It’s... Madness” album.
Madzine Author

Written by Darren Bowen

For over 40 years, I have been a passionate fan of Madness, collecting their music and memorabilia with passion and dedication. Over time, my expertise and knowledge of the band have grown, and I am now widely recognized as a foremost authority on all things Madness.

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