It was just a week after the break-up of The Smiths in 1987 when Johnny Marr came up with a tune he felt was worth getting some lyrics added to.

He knew his good pal Kirsty MacColl was going through a tough time of it with writer’s block, and his hope was that she would somehow be inspired from him sending her a tune.  It eventually did do the trick, although it would be almost four full years before Walking Down Madison took her back into the charts and onto Top of The Pops.

mp3: Kirsty MacColl – Walking Down Madison (7″ edit)

Incidentally, my wee bit of research for this shows that this was Kirsty’s fourth and last solo Top 30 hit.  Her first had been There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis (#14, 1981) while Walking Down Madison, a full decade later peaked at #23.  There’s a real irony that such a talented songwriter had her two biggest hits courtesy of cover versions – A New England (#7, 1985) and Days (#12, 1989) – I still think it’s a huge injustice that Free World stalled at #43 just a few months before Days was such a hit.

Free World had been a commentary on how the 80s had seen an ugly rightwards drift in UK politics, and the social conscience side of Kirsty was again to the fore on Madison, especially via the rap delivered by Manchester-born DJ and rapper, Aniff Akinola.

It’s quite damning on society that the scenarios mentioned in the song are very much still with us more than 30 years later.

Here’s the b-side of the 7″ side:-

mp3: Kirsty MacColl – One Good Thing

I’ll be kind by saying that it was always likely destined to be a b-side rather than fitted on to the consistently good album, Electric Landlady, released a few weeks after Madison.



  1. I loved Electric Landlady from the title alone before I’d even heard the album in full. Walking Down Madison is on another level again and a reminder of Johnny’s ability to both complement and invigorate the many, many artists that he did (and continues to) collaborate with.

    Nice to see a name check for Aniff Akinola aka Aniff Cousins, who popped up on several other early 1990s tracks that I enjoyed, including System 7’s Freedom Fighters and E-Z Posse’s The Sun Machine and as a member of Chapter + The Verse (personal favourite being In Another World). Great stuff!

  2. Not sure it would have been evident from walking down Madison Avenue but the disparity between the haves and have-nots wasn’t too hard to find in NYC circa 1987.
    I like this song–sounds like a Suzanne Vega number with all the parts upgraded.

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