Friday, 26 April 2013

Madness 'One Better Day'

Chart Peak: 17


One of a few acts to have appeared on all the first three volumes, a run that ends at this point as they're not on Now 4 (or Now 5 for that matter). 'One Better Day' was also the last Madness single to be released on Stiff records, and indeed one of the last big hits on the original version of that label before it ran out of money a couple of years later; it's presumably for this reason that there was no video budget available and the band had to fund it themselves, and they saved a few bob by using Bette Bright (aka Mrs Suggs) to play the part of the homeless woman. It's good that they bothered though, because there's something rather sweet about the finished clip which amplifies the song's sentiment, a reminder that the poor and dispossessed are still humans with feelings.

In sound only, this is probably the furthest of all their singles from their most famous Madness sound, although it does occur to me that if all the Madness songs you'd ever heard were the ones on Now albums you'd get quite a different impression of them from their best-known songs. The title (buried in a middle-eight) is of course a play on the phrase "seen better days" and there are no laughs to be had here as such, just a sympathetic depiction of life in and out of hostels. Of course, anyone who really knows Madness and their music will realise that the undercurrent of sadness and social commentary has always been there, but rarely did they foreground it as much as here. Though somewhat of its time, the track is brilliantly arranged and the soon-to-depart Mike Barson is particularly impressive on percussion and piano, with that quotation from 'Dancing Queen' (possibly via 'Oliver's Army') providing an additional hook. And even as an agnostic when it comes to saxophone solos, I can't fail to notice Lee Thompson's versatility - his bluesy lead-sax part here is completely different from 'One Step Beyond' but feels totally natural. It's a good record, but it's not what people expected or wanted from Madness, hence the relatively disappointing chart position: their lowest ever peak at the time though each of their next three singles did progressively worse.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 2, 6, 8, 21, 43
Available on: Total Madness

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