The Music Lounge

Thirty Five Years of Embarrassment

The classic Madness single….

madnIn November 1980 the British Ska/Pop band Madness released ‘Embarrassment‘, not only one of, if not their greatest songs but a classic of the eighties. Short, sharp and dynamic its energy can be found not only in the driving melody and the flowing saxophone but also in the dark lyric which epitomised a generation so brilliantly represented by the band.

And Madness did represent a generation, they were edgy but not obscene, suitably daft but child friendly, they were the proverbial boys next door. But as fun as it all was there was another side to Madness and within the lyric of Embarrassment can be found a tale so many could identify with.

The lyrics were written by the bands saxophonist, Lee Thompson following the problems his teenage sister, Tracy faced when she fell pregnant to a coloured man. As Thompson toured heavily with the band so news of his sister’s pregnancy trickled through to him, it was said that the family initially reacted badly to the news and prompted Thompson to write the lyric. But it was a lyric which transcended any one story, it captured so brilliantly the everyday lives of the working class family in Britain in the late 70s and early 80s and like The Jam and The Specials, the band proved that a very good pop song could carry a potent message.

It is a song I never tire of, Madness were one of the few bands who rose above the tribal attitudes of fans at that time. There simply wasn’t a box to put Madness into so we could all like them. Who couldn’t like Suggs or the fez hats and silly walks? The band buggered about in high spirits but anyone who thinks they were just a group of young lads getting away with it should think again. They wrote some of the finest songs of the early eighties and you could do worse than revisit their lyrics for proof of their true worth.

2 replies »

  1. Madness you’re an embarrassment! I’m black British of Jamaican parentage and have grown up listening to madness – lm now in my 60s. . They were until recently, my number 1 Ska band.
    Hearing the reason why that song was written, makes the band a racist – it should never have been published. I hope it comes back to haunt them if it has n’t already done so. So disappointing!


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