In their home country of the UK, Madness were a phenomenon. One of the most popular and influential acts from the second wave of ska, also known as 2 tone, Madness landed chart hits in Britain with a high frequency.
That includes a number one hit, 1982’s ‘House of Fun’, but there were many more Madness hits. From the release of 1979’s ‘One Step Beyond’ single, Madness couldn’t lose on the UK Singles Charts, notching nine top ten singles in a row over the course of two years. All in all, the band landed 17 different top ten hits and a remarkable 31 top 40 hits over their career.
It was a different story in America, however. Ska had largely failed to translate to the US audience, with the biggest exposure coming from British new wave artists who occasionally incorporated the styles of the genre into their songs. Bands like The Specials and The Selecter found little success in the States compared to their home country, and bands like The English Beat mostly scored hits with toned-down new wave tracks like ‘Save It For Later’.
Madness weren’t completely unknown in America, but in terms of chart success, the band had failed to land a single song on the Billboard Hot 100 by 1983. That all changed when the group released their self-titled compilation that same year, which featured a number of songs that had yet to see an American release. One of those songs was ‘Our House’, a consciously non-ska track that was originally featured on the UK-only album The Rise and Fall.
With its catchy singalong chorus and strong earworm capabilities, ‘Our House’ was a breakthrough for Madness in America. For the first time, they had a rising pop chart hit and were making inroads in the mainstream, with ‘Our House’ eventually topping out at number seven. The band were able to perform the song on season nine of Saturday Night Live, and the success of ‘Our House’ helped catapult their signature cover of ‘It Must Be Love’, previously released in 1981 but remixed on Madness, to number 33 on the Hot 100.
However, the band weren’t able to notch any more hits in America, despite staying strong in the UK. Internal strife was increasing as well, with the band officially calling it quits in 1986, just three years after their breakthrough international success. Calling Madness a one-hit-wonder anywhere else in the world would be a ludicrous statement, but in America, their legacy largely lives and dies with ‘Our House’.