It was at the end of 1981 that the 'Nutty Boys' released "It Must Be Love". At this time they had already notched up 9 hit singles, 2 of which had gone 'gold', plus they had released 3 albums.
After such success with their own material it's understandable that originally the band wasn’t keen to release a cover of someone else's song. Writer Labi Siffre had previously released it as a single in 1971 and it appeared on his Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying album. Keyboardist Mike Barson heard a copy and secretly thought it would be a good song for the group to play. He began playing it, the band joined in and it started to appear as an encore song.
"I just thought it would really fit with Suggs' voice"
Stiff Records label owner Dave Robinson heard the song and insisted the band record it but they weren’t interested. Then Robinson laid a bet with the band that they could have his record company if "It Must Be Love" wasn’t a top five hit and the band finally agreed.
"I had to guarantee to give the band my entire record company to get them to put this out"
Fortunately for Robinson it reached #4 in the UK chart and was a hit in the USA. "Shadow On The House" was on the B side and it appeared on the #1 compilation album Complete Madness released in 1982.
The band stamped their own distinctive sound all over the cover adding a reggae beat and extra instrumentation. Labi Siffre liked it so much he agreed to appear in the video. On Top of The Pops when Jimmy Saville introduced the video of the band playing their electrical instruments underwater, he advised against anyone copying them!
"I really like the songs thatthey wrote - they knew what they were doing"
What makes the track such an effective love song? Musicologist James Doheny claims the pizzicato strings reminiscent of a Rigoletto scene give the song a cartoon element. This stops it becoming too slushy and mawkish, however there is vulnerability and as he sums up "it's the appeal of the romantic hooligan".
The song was re-released in 1992 after a memorable get-together gig for the band. It has subsequently been used in a couple of TV ads. In 1998 Madness failed in a court case to stop a high street bank from using the song and changing the lyrics. More recently it was used to advertise a frozen food supermarket chain.
they made the song their own but I don't think they ruined it in the process ...