The original Jamaican Ska is great stuff, albeit often pretty rough round the edges. It was an important movement that laid the foundation for reggae and the later waves of Ska music.
Madness, along with bands like the Specials, is part of the predominantly British second wave of Ska. This revolved heavily around 2tone records, so named because many Ska bands had black and white members at a time when Britain suffered from racial violence.
“One Step Beyond”, released on the 1979 album of the same name, is actually a cover of a 1964 Prince Buster song. This great homage to a Ska legend is a nice touch.
The song is built around the brass riff, which stands in for any real vocals. There’s some cool chants (Don’t Watch That, Watch This!), and a distinctive Madness feel.
The song is indisputably a Ska song, with the skank and the walking bass. Many of Madness’ other songs are more rock n roll orientated, but not this one.
This kind of Ska song can feel a bit samey, but not nearly as much as the later third wave. “One Step Beyond” though, doesn’t suffer from this. It’s a real classic, and a perfect fusion of Jamaican and English culture.
The Madness song is very much associated with football, especially Chelsea FC. With its jubilant, triumphant catchiness, it isn’t hard to see why!