Alton Ellis

Mad Mad

Song Review by

With an exuberant blast of brass, "Mad Mad" surged into the sound systems in 1967 to eventually become one of Studio One's most beloved riddims. Intricately arranged by Jackie Mittoo, the song was not one of the label's typically lavish rocksteady fare. For starters, the melody line was slighter and far less lush than usual, while the chorus didn't actually jog with the verses.

However, Mittoo made it work regardless, building the arrangement around a compulsive rhythm, jangling cowbell and the song's signature brass line, all offset only by Mittoo's own sparkling piano...and Alton Ellis's soulful vocals abetted by the warm harmonies, of course.

His lyrics are obscure, but all the talk that's enough to drive one mad is a veiled reference to the ugly behavior Rastafarians were bedeviled by daily. Back in 1967, few artists dared be plainer in their positions, but such songs helped set the stage for the flowering of roots and culture in the following decade.

The riddim, on the other hand, would storm the dancefloors again and again over the years. It was a particular favorite of Junjo Lawes, who scored big with the song's most popular version, Michigan & Smiley's "Diseases", and continues to be versioned to this day.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
When Rhythm Was King 2007
Various Artists
Heartbeat 4:07