Here's a not so guilty pleasure... aspects of the career of the enigmatic Adam Ant.
In 1980, at the age of 11, I was given pocket money to the tune of £1 a week. This in fact was just about sufficient to by a tune a week (OK, two tunes if you count the b-side!). At the time, a 7" single was 99p in Woolworths or WH Smiths (the most usual record outlets unless you lived in a big town or city or were lucky enough to have a local enthusiast owning an independent record shop).
In November of that year, I took my pound into town to purchase 'Antmusic', at the time the latest hit single from the 'Kings of The Wild Frontier' album.
In a slow but determined process, I started to backfill the collection, firstly with the 'Kings' and 'Dog Eat Dog' singles, then the album itself. In the meantime, the band fully embraced the teen market that the success of the album and 'Antmusic' had opened up to them (myself included) and the result was the 'Stand & Deliver' and the 'Prince Charming' album, with it's associated chart friendly singles. Even then I was starting to have some doubts, now being a discerning 12 year old music critic! Nevertheless, if I had some misgivings about the A-sides, the B-sides were always more interesting, 'Fall In', 'Christain D'ior' and 'Beat My Guest' to name three. I did not know until some time later that these songs were re-recorded versions of songs from a more dangerous period in the Ants history.
Whilst on the one hand I was listening to 'Prince Charming', on the other, I was still delving further backwards into the back catalogue which was infinitely more interesting, 'Cartrouble', 'Zerox' and 'Kick'. This I think was one of my first exposures to punk/post punk (if you exclude buying up the singles released off the back of 'The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle'!). To cap it all I got hold of a copy of 'Dirk Wears White Sox', which to my mind has stood the test of time better than 90% of the albums released at the same time.
In late '81 a tour was announced that was to prove to be their last. My uncle, as a Brighton taxi driver managed to get tickets as he was on the spot at the time. Such was the popularity of the band at this time that the tickets sold in a matter of an hour or so after the box-office opened.
This was my first gig. I had turned down a ticket to see the Police a couple of months earlier on their 'Ghost In The Machine' tour as the Ants tour had been announced and I had high hopes for that one.
Adrian (on the right sporting Dee Dee Ramones hairstyle courtesy of my Dad!)
Pre-gig 28th December 1981
The show as I recall was very well-staged and theatrical, with costume changes and set changes throughout. The band played well, they were after all at this time a collection of very accomplished musicians, but what I remember most was the pre-'Kings' material, 'Physical' and 'Cartrouble'.
Early in 1982, Adam disbanded the Ants and went off with Marco and Merrick in tow to pursue a solo career. I was a lucky winner of a ticket to see his first solo gig to an invited fan-club audience. Unfortunately, this being in London I was not allowed to go, being just 13 at this point.
Fast forward to the late 80's, Adam and the Ants seemed a long distant memory, by this point I was heavily into the Stranglers along with many other bands of the era. I was at Brunel University and went to see T.V. Smith of Adverts fame at the Anglers Retreat in West Drayton. It was here that I met some folks from the local area (Hayes and Uxbridge) who I'm happy to say are still good friends 20+ down the line. Discussions on punk ensued and a common interest in the Ants came up. It was at this point I was first introduced to the really good stuff, the stuff that could only be acquired on the then flourishing bootleg stalls of Camden Market. It was at this point that I first discovered the original recordings of many of the songs that had been recycled as B-sides of the hit singles.
The Madam Stan Demos.... The Decca Demos.... The Fetish Demos....
Here in fact was by far their best material (all from the '78 to '79 period) of which the vast majority had never seen the light of day!!
A far cry from the Dandy Highwayman of the early '80's Adam and the Ants gigs in this period were dangerous affairs, violence was common, elements of the audience were quite unsavoury (perhaps in part with Adam's flirtation with Nazi imagery, something that a hostile music press homed in on). Certainly, older fiends of my Hayes mates told of guaranteed punch ups whenever the band played outside of central London!
Adam & The Antz Marquee London 1978
To illustrate how different the punk-era Ants were from the Saturday morning TV band the finished up as, I would recommend a listen of the 'In Bondage '78-'79' CD, which brings together some of the aforementioned demos, with a gig from the Marquee Club in London's Wardour Street.
3. Vive Le Rock
4. Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face)
5. Gotta Be A Sin
6. Beautiful Dream
7. Room At The Top
8. Man Called Marco
9. Kings Of The Wild Frontier
1. Stand & Deliver
3. Ants Invasion
4. Killer In The Home
5. Ant Music
7. Goody Two Shoes
9. Band Introduction
10. Christian D'ior
11.20th Century Boy
Full artwork here:
In the following years, Adam hit trouble. Initially ridiculed as just another washed up pop star struggling to cope with a stalled career, he became a press darling for all the wrong reasons.
However, more recently, Adam has had a more sympathetic reception as public understanding of bipolar disorder of which he has been a life-long sufferer has increased.
The good news is that in the last 18 months or so Adam Ant has been back on the road, playing to consistently appreciative audiences. Best of all the current set draws heavily on the material from the band's early days and I suspect that for quite a high proportion of those audiences these songs will be completely new.
See what you think. from this recording at the 100 Club in London from January 2011.
Artwork is included in the download file.
So there you go, a long career in music, marked by massive success, some notable failures and a good measure of controversy, not that unlike The Stranglers. Good luck Adam!