A sense of place, always present in Madness's music (the cover of Absolutely, their second album, showed them outside Chalk Farm tube station) gradually intensified, climaxing with 1982's The Rise and Fall.
Here Madness shouldered past the 'new Kinks' tag and lunged for 'new Beatles' status. The front cover of the gatefold sleeve was a Magical Mystery Tour-like tableau of the band atop Parliament Hill and garbed in semi-surreal attire.
Inside, "Our House" (another massive hit) was Madness's "Penny Lane", bittersweet nostalgia for the familiar surroundings of childhood.
Madness - Our House 1982
On "Primrose Hill" - Madness's "Strawberry Fields" - they even hired prog arranged David Bedford to write brass-band orchestration.
Madness - Primrose Hill 1982
Kevin Rowland's new 'new soul vision' was heralded in March 1982 with "The Celtic Soul Brothers", which replaced the old Dexys horn fanfares with the jaunty jangle of mandolins and boisterous folksy violins (supplied by the Emerald Express Fiddlers).
Dexys Midnight Runners - The Celtic Soul Brothers 1982
The follow-up "Come on Eileen" was a massive number 1 in the summer of 1982 - in Britain, America and around the world. Accompanied by an unexpectedly playful video, "Eileen" was an honest-to-goodness love song. Rowland archly admitted to having impure thoughts: 'You in that dress/My thoughts I confess/Verge on dirty'.
Dexys Midnight Runners - Come On Eileen 1982
Another massive hit, a cover of Van Morrison's "Jackie Wilson Said", acknowledged the heavy debts the new Dexys owed to the latter's 'Caledonian Soul' sound of Irish folk-infused R&B.
Dexys Midnight Runners - Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile) 1982
Rowland's response to fame was the calculated career-suicide move of 1985's Don't Stand Me Down, which featured no singles, just eleven-minute songs including bizarre comic dialogues like "This Is What She's Like", rants against the English upper classes and meta-soul exercises like "The Occasional Flicker".
Dexys Midnight Runners - This Is What She's Like 1985
Dexys Midnight Runners - The Occasional Flicker 1985
On the front cover, Dexys made a final confounding image shift: they appeared wearing ties, pin-stripe suits and neatly combed hair, looking for all the world like investment bankers in a photo for a corporate prospectus. 'So clean and simple; it's a much more adult approach now', said Rowland, rationalizing what in some senses was mod logic taken to the extreme: dressing like the ruling class.
2-Tone signposted its sources and reference points with countless remakes, tribute songs and interpolations (like the 'no gimme no more pickneys' vocal lick from Lloyd Charmers' "Birth Control", borrowed on The Special's "Too Much Too Young").
Lloyd Charmers - Birth Control 1969
The Specials - Too Much Too Young 1980
Even the 2-Tone logo - a black-and-white figure representing the imaginary rude boy Walt Jabsco - was modelled on a photo of the young Peter Tosh from The Wailers.