Daily Song Study

Madness – House of Fun

In songs on January 25, 2012 at 10:20 am

The ska revival of the late ’70s and early ’80s produced some interesting sounds, the oddest of which were Madness.

In addition to being an excellent example of that era’s mix of emotionally detached vocals (Pet Shop Boys, etc) and sly commentary within radio-friendly melodies (Boomtown Rats), today’s example is also a tribute to the voice of the producer.

The traditional tale is that a producer comes in and waters down the voice of the artist for greater commercial response. And while this certainly happens a lot (see Aimee Mann & Sara Hickman, among many others), often a producer can be a useful voice outside of the artist’s head that gives the music a clearer perspective.

For instance:

Today’s song was originally recorded under the title “Chemist Facade”, without the “Welcome to the House of Fun” chorus. However, while the song was being recorded, head of Stiff Records Dave Robinson demanded that the band add a chorus, to ensure the song was a hit. Upon hearing this, band member Mike Barson immediately wrote the “Welcome to the House of Fun” refrain on his piano.

However, at this point, the song was already recorded, and the management decided not to re-record the whole song. Instead, the recording was edited, and the chorus instruments and vocals dubbed onto the recording. This proved to be difficult, mainly due to technical limitations at the time, and it resulted in the first part of the word “Welcome” being cut off. Due to this, the chorus seemed to begin “Elcome to the House of Fun”, so lead singer Graham “Suggs” McPherson was forced to overdub the word “Welcome”. Although this proved to be a tough task, it was completed successfully, and the song is far better for it.

Songwriters and performers have choices to make at many points during the creative process, and one of the most important is deciding which outside opinions deserve consideration. With technology and communication being what it is these days, it’s fairly easy to incorporate a suggestion and then scrap it if it doesn’t work. Nothing will ensure the best outcome one hundred percent, and opinions will always differ across the vast mass of humanity. But it is good to step outside one’s grand vision now & then to see if something is really there or if it is in fact a mirage.

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  1. […] the idea of social commentary within catchy melodies yesterday reminded me of our old friend Marina Diamandis. Today’s example is a biting look at […]

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