I loved the whole 2-Tone / Ska period of the late 70s early 80s. It gave me a route into "pop" music and for the first time a style of music away from the alternative guitar sound that I was loving at the time. Madness were just the most amazingly entertaining band and continue to be so over 30 years on.
The sound they have is unique, the ska influence and almost fairground style has never been recreated or surpassed. I think the lyrical content of some of their songs has sometimes been underated as serious issues have been covered in the beautifully melodic songs with "Embarrassment" talking about teeenage pregnancy being a perfect example. And no-one around back in the 1980s will forget the Madness music videos, which were pioneering and may look somewhat cheap and basic compared to the videos of today, but at the time they were groundbreaking and without any of the wonderful special effects that can be used today. They are the one band who I have still never seen live. I was supposed go in 1983, but suffered a kidney illness so was in a hospital bed rather than at the concert. I can't believe that I still haven't seen them play live and that is something I must put right very soon indeed.
In the 1980s they could do little wrong commercially and it was just hit after hit single and a string of successful albums. Their debut album "One Step Beyond" was the first vinyl LP that I ever bought at Woolworths for £4.99 having saved up my pocket money. But it was the 2nd album "Absolutely" which is my favourite Madness album and is probably still one of my favourite albums ever. It's not so easy to choose a favourite single. "My Girl", "Baggy Trousers" and "It Must Be Love" probably are my top three.