"The Prince" is a song by British ska/pop band Madness. It was written by Lee Thompson, and was the band's first single. On 10 August 1979 the single was released through 2 Tone Records and peaked at number 16 in the UK singles chart, spending a total of 11 weeks in the charts.
Although musically identical to Willie Dixon's "Howlin' for My Baby" as performed by Howlin' Wolf, "The Prince" is a tribute to Jamaican ska singer Prince Buster who highly influenced Madness (the band took their name from one of his songs, "Madness", which they also covered on the b-side of "The Prince").
As this was the band's first single, they were relatively unknown prior to the release. Due to this fact, no music video was filmed for the single. However, the band later bought the rights to a performance on Top of the Pops from 6 September 1979. This performance has since become associated with the single, and has featured on compilations featuring the band's music videos.
The song was initially recorded on 16 June 1979 at the Pathway Studios, Highbury. The track was then remixed on 9 July of the same year, along with the single's B-Side, "Madness". The remix was in order to remove the hum from Thompson's saxophone solo. However, Mike Barson showed displeasure at the mix of "Madness".
The song was rerecorded later that year for the One Step Beyond... album. As well as having a distinctively clearer sound, the song had a slight change in lyrics and Mike Barson later admitted in the 33 1/3 book One Step Beyond.... Furthermore, the song was recorded at a John Peel session, and the recording was preferred by Barson to the single version. The B-side, "Madness", was also re-recorded for the album in a more multi-layered arrangement.
Many of Madness's compilation CDs are notorious for not including the correct single versions of these songs. One notable exception would be the CD called "Ultimate Collection", which actually refers to the tracks as the Two Tone Single Versions on the tracklisting. Another notable exception would be the 2011 release "A Guided Tour of Madness". Almost all other compilation CDs not put out by Two Tone Records that contain the song Madness have the album version. Some compilation CDs that contain The Prince have the album version and some have a recording that resembles the single version but isn't quite right. It's possible that this would be the original demo that the release was remixed from. Compilations that have this alternate single version of The Prince include "The Business" box set, "It's Madness Too", and "The Singles Box: Vol. 1".
These compilation snafus would appear to be due to copyright issues. The original single is owned by Chrysalis Records while most of their other work is owned by Stiff Records.
- "The Prince" (Lee Jay Thompson) – 2:30
- "Madness" (Cecil Campbell) – 2:32