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Madness: Wings of a Dove

 05 Mar 2019  Blog

It's hard to believe that British band Madness have been going strong for 40 years since their first UK chart hit. Their unique blend of ska and that famous "nutty sound" has kept them at the forefront of the music industry since their debut single, The Prince, reached number 16 in 1979.

The band formed in Camden Town in 1976, calling themselves The North London Invaders. They changed their name to Madness and signed for 2 Tone Records in 1979. Their first appearance on Top of the Pops, performing a tribute to Jamaican singer Prince Buster, made them an overnight sensation.


Band members

In those days, the line-up included lead singer Graham McPherson (aka Suggs), founder member and saxophonist Lee Thompson, drummer Daniel "Woody" Woodgate, backing vocalist Chas Smash, guitarist Chris Foreman, keyboard player Mike Barson and bass guitarist Mark "Bedders" Bedford.

Their music became known as the "nutty sound" as they further cemented their credentials as one of the greatest bands of all time with the release of their second single, One Step Beyond, also in 1979. It reached number seven in the UK and was number one in France, also charting in other parts of Europe.

Their debut album, called One Step Beyond, peaked at number two and achieved platinum status in the UK. It also introduced Madness to the American market.

Over the next four decades, the band released 42 singles, which were hits all over the world. Of their 12 studio albums, 11 of them went into the top 20 of the UK charts, while 16 of their singles went top 10.


Legendary hits

While ska music had been somewhat underground for many years, Madness were credited with bringing it into mainstream pop culture. Their songs were accompanied by legendary videos, when all the band members seemed to be just having a great time.

These included Baggy Trousers in 1980, It Must Be Love in 1981, House of Fun in 1982 and Wings of a Dove in 1983.

Written by Suggs and Chas Smash, Wings of a Dove was unusual for Madness, as it featured the steel drums of Creighton Steel Sounds and a gospel choir, The Inspirational Choir of the Pentecostal First Born Church of the Living God.

It was known as a "celebratory song", with the lyrics telling people to just be happy: "Look up at the rooftops when you're walking round, don't think for a moment of looking down."


Party plane

The video was set on board a plane, where everyone (including the choir and the steel band) was having a party. Chas Smash was the plane's pilot, but lost control, so everyone bailed out in a white van, which gently parachuted to earth, saving all the passengers.

It was reported that Dave Robinson, who directed all Madness' videos, had bought the footage of a white van parachuting to earth some time earlier and had been looking for an excuse to use it in a promo video! The lyrics to Wings of a Dove gave him the chance to do so.

In 1985, Madness contributed Wings of a Dove to the compilation album, Greenpeace – The Album, which was supported by many artists of the era. It remains one of Madness' most popular singles to this day - on New Year's Eve 2018, the band performed it live on BBC1.

The band is still going strong, with the current line-up including most of its original members from 1979, although Chas Smash eventually left to pursue a solo career in 2016. They have a UK tour planned for 2019, kicking off on 17th May at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool.


Dove v pigeon

The phrase "wings of a dove" conjures up a romantic image of a beautiful bird being released to represent peace and love, as it's often associated with weddings, but in reality, it's actually no different from the humble pigeon!

While people consider doves a symbol of peace, pigeons have been nicknamed "flying rats" and are viewed as being a nuisance!

Yet according to Paul Sweet, the American Museum of Natural History's collection manager in the department of ornithology, both doves and pigeons are members of the 308-species Columbidae family. There’s no difference between them scientifically, but colloquial English categorises them by size.

People tend to think of a dove as being smaller than a pigeon, but that’s not always the case. The common pigeon that we see in abundance in parks, in our gardens and in urban areas is called both a rock pigeon and a rock dove.

According to Sweet, it would be more accurate to tell people you were releasing pigeons at your wedding, or that you were feeding doves in the park. Speaking scientifically, you'd be correct either way, although it doesn't have quite the same ring to it!


Pigeon netting

Pigeons are known for causing damage in towns and cities. Henry Cowls' pigeon netting is a simple, effective and humane means of deterring the birds from invading urban areas.

Choose from our knotted pigeon netting and bespoke-size knotted pigeon netting, made from heavy-duty UV stabilised polyethylene, that can withstand the harsh British climate for up to 20 years.

Please contact us for further information on our products and services that will deter pigeons and doves.

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