Madness

Uncle Sam

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"Uncle Sam" peaked at Number 21 in October of 1985, making it the first Madness single not to make it into the U.K. Top 20. The problem couldn't have been that it wasn't catchy enough -- the bouncy, brass-heavy ditty is as infectious as anything the band has ever released. Nor is it likely that the song, which composer Lee Thompson claimed was "about a certain brand of grain nobody wants anymore," was too politically charged -- casual radio listeners probably never even picked up the anti-American subtext. More likely, the reason was that British music fans were beginning to tire of the aging "nutty boys," who called it quits a few months after "Uncle Sam" tanked in the charts. But that shouldn't discourage anyone from buying this 12" single, which includes two otherwise unavailable recordings of the song. Michael Brauer's "Ray Gun Mix" (undoubtedly intended as a pun on "Reagan") is probably the best extended remix of a Madness song ever recorded to date. It soups up the drum programming and adds toy weapon noises that are well-suited to the song's arms-race themes. The demo version, recorded "at home" by Thompson and guitarist Chris Foreman, reveals that the song's lyrics were originally a little more virulently anti-American. Thompson, who supplies the vocals in this rendition, dedicates the song "to Ronald Reagan and his uncle, who died in the Civil War." The single also features "Please Don't Go," a catchy B-side track reminiscent of the Monkees and early Beatles.