Along with the Specials, Madness were one of the leading bands of the ska revival of the late '70s and early '80s. As their career progressed, Madness branched away from their trademark "nutty sound" and incorporated large elements of Motown, soul, and British pop. Although the band managed one crossover American hit in 1983, the band remained a British phenomenon, influencing several successive generations of musicians and becoming one of the most beloved groups the country produced during the '80s.
The origins of Madness lie in a ska group known as the Invaders, which was formed by Mike Barson, Chris Foreman, and Lee Thompson in 1976. By 1978, the band had changed their name to Morris and the Minors and had added Graham "Suggs" McPherson, Mark Bedford, Chas Smash, and Dan Woodgate to the group. Later in 1978, they changed their name to Madness, in homage to one of their favorite Prince Buster songs. The following year, Madness released their debut single, a tribute to Prince Buster entitled "The Prince," on Two-Tone. The song was a surprise success, reaching the British Top 20. Following its success, the band signed a record contract with Stiff Records and released another Prince Buster song, "One Step Beyond," which climbed to number seven.
Madness quickly recorded their debut album, also titled One Step Beyond, with producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. Released toward the end of the year, the album peaked at number two in Britain and it stayed on the charts for well over a year. At the beginning of 1980, the band's third single, "My Girl," peaked at number three. For the next three years, the group had a virtually uninterrupted run of 13 Top Ten singles, during which time they were one of the most popular bands in Britain, rivaled only by the Jam in terms of widespread popularity. Where the Jam appealed to teenagers and young adults, Madness had a broad fan base, reaching from children to the elderly. Which didn't mean their music was diluted -- they continued to expand their sound, both musically and lyrically.