Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Stand And Deliver: The Autobiography - Adam Ant


Believe it or not, children, but once upon a time Adam And The Ants were dangerous. Once there was a time when they were incredibly good, a time when they were amazingly hip.
Baptised in the fire-storm of Punk, Adam Ant was there at Year Zero, bearing witness to the Sex Pistols' d├ębut gig at St Martin's Art School then placing himself at the eye of the hurricane by becoming a regular at Malcolm McLaren's shop, the Roxy, and the Vortex. Friend of uber Punkerella and Pistols' inner circle member, Jordan, she not only managed Adam And The Ants but sang with them also. He was even there in 1977 on board the boat that sailed up the Thames past the Houses of Parliament on Jubilee night as the Pistols played God Save The Queen.

Dressed in leathers and Seditionaries, enhanced by kilt over trousers or even sometimes a Cambridge rapist mask, Adam would throw himself around the stage in a frenzy whilst the music press looked on aghast.
Adam And The Ants had an edge that went unblunted by constant criticism and consistent attacks of slander and lies from all sections of that same music press. Undaunted, they stuck to their guns and were rewarded with total loyalty from their audience who in them, Crass and the UK Subs saw the Punk flame still burning brightly.

So what went wrong?

Unlike most of their contemporaries, Adam And The Ants failed to be signed to a major label though at first this didn't really seem like a problem. Their first break came instead from being asked by director Derek Jarman to feature in his film, Jubilee, though due to it being an art-house movie and not the kind of Punk film a lot of people hoped it would be considering the cast involved, come its release there was disappointment all round.
Adam Ant persevered, believing better management of the band would be the solution and so with this in mind he ended up paying Malcolm McLaren to take him under his wing. It was probably at this point that the problems started for after a short while McLaren simply stole Adam's band to use for his own Bow Wow Wow project with Annabella Lwin taking over vocal duties.

More determined than ever to succeed, Adam linked up with ex-Siouxsie And The Banshees guitarist Marco Pirroni, forming a song-writing partnership that would lead to Burundi beats, duel drummers, spaghetti-cowboy film twanging guitar, and the song Kings Of The Wild Frontier.
A Top Of The Pops appearance led to an explosion in popularity and from there everything changed, with the Ants appealing to a whole new audience of children and their grandmothers. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but in the process Adam neglected his original audience who had shown him so much loyalty and pandered instead to the mainstream.
"The Ants could be really good," opined Mark E Smith of The Fall at the time "If only Adam would cut out this star crap." And with that the nail was hit on the head.

It's all well and good appearing on the Cannon And Ball Show with its audience of 15 million viewers but there comes a point when integrity goes out the window and then it's all just about shifting units, no different to how Heinz goes about shifting tins of baked beans. It's all consumerism and it's all show business. Then again, there's nothing wrong with a bit of consumerism because after all, we all take part in it; just as there's nothing wrong with a bit of show business. It was just that Adam was jettisoning every last vestige of integrity for the sake of success, show business, shifting units, and little else.

Around this same time, Adam was asked what he thought of those members of his audience who were also Crass fans and he replied: "I think they're pitiful. Very sordid and very dirty, and not much to do with anarchy. I really don't want to know about it."
It wasn't as if those audience members wanted Adam to be political, however, because he was never political from the start. They just wanted to see a bit of integrity and for him not to turn his back on them after all the support they'd given him over the previous years. And they certainly didn't want to see him playing the Royal Variety Show and have him bowing down to the Queen.
"We're no longer a Punk band," said Adam "We've moved on."

Stand And Deliver, Adam Ant's autobiography, makes for an interesting read due to the description of where Adam is from and for the bits of detail strewn throughout it as he relays his story. The problem with it, however, is that it often reads as though Adam is stretched out on a psychiatrist's couch like a patient trying to put his mind in order.
We now all know that Adam has been diagnosed as being bipolar but until this diagnosis is reached near the end of the book he carries within him a tightly-bound knot of frustration and this makes for some painful reading. His frustration almost leaps from the page, sucking the reader into the same whirlpool.
At one point Adam's got the whole world at his feet, he's been dating Amanda Donahoe (and a host of other beautiful women) and he's on holiday in Barbados but still he's frustrated, depressed and worried; damning Barbados as a 'tropical hell'.
"What the fuck's the matter with me?" he keeps asking himself but whatever it is, it makes him a nightmare to work with; binning off people left, right and centre for having the temerity to suggest something to him that he doesn't go along with or for daring to disagree with him. Marco Pirroni deserves his luxury penthouse flat and wealth for sticking with Adam throughout - one of the very few collaborators of Adam's that did. Marco's obviously some sort of saint.

Adam finally suffered public humiliation and ridicule from the now infamous gun-in-the-pub incident leading to newspaper headlines such as 'Adam Ant In Mental Ward - Pop Legend Cracks Up', and for his own safety, he was sectioned.
The book ends with him years later on the road to recovery, signing copies of his autobiography in Waterstone's where to his relief he finds that he's still very much loved by his old fans. And do we all still love Adam Ant? Of course we do. How could we not?

Adam Ant was once a Punk icon who became a Pop God but just like so many before him, crashed and burned. He was like Icarus flying too close to the sun but apart from memories both good and bad, what he's left us is a catalogue of some extremely good songs. How could we not love a man who once dared to kick back at the music press with the song Press Darlings? How could we not love a man who against all odds took on the world and won? How could we not love a man who once lost his soul, his mind, and his own self but then won them all back again?
He'll never truly be forgiven for betraying his original Punk audience and for bowing down to the Queen but yes... we all still love him.
John Serpico


  1. Thanks for articulating this all so well! I remember the transition didn't seem so bad at the very start - quite nice to have a band you admire get some recognition at last - but then it just went beyond the line and cringey... it became impossible to equate the band whose fans were now pre-pubescent girls buying Adam & The Ants pencil-cases in WH Smiths with the edgy art punk band I'd heard playing controversial songs like 'Puerto Rican', 'Whip In My Valise' etc. I was fortunate enough to see them on the Young Parisians tour, they came to Bishop's Stortford Triad in March 1979, playing tracks like Boil In The Bag Man, Day I Met God, Cleopatra.... and I still enjoy Dirk Wears White Sox from time to time. It's good to change, to move on indeed, but as you say, it was the way he jettisoned every last vestige of integrity for the sake of success and show business etc. that was so galling at the time. I still have a soft spot for the man for all he did early on, though - but I never want to have to sit through the video for Stand and Deliver ever again!

    1. Thanks, C. I suspect only those there at the time might understand and appreciate what I'm saying about the chasm between the old Ants and the pop version and the betrayal of the original Ants audience. Adam knows it himself and having to live with the upset (if that's not too strong a word?) he caused is the price he paid for fame and fortune. Most people (who weren't there) just wouldn't understand what the fuss is about. I'm glad you're one of those who understands.

  2. I was born 3rd November 1969 and so my appreciation for Adam & the Ants had it's beginnings when Kings of the Wild Frontier was released. Saw them on TOTP and Loved the heavy drums. I was an 'Ant' when Stand & Deliver topped the charts, was a bit dismayed when the make up changed with Prince Charming but was still a fan. AntRap was released and while I wasn't as keen on the recording I didn't mind the video. They were very theatrical and I think that was another reason kids found the Ants so attractive. Then on Saturday morning TV (Can't remember which show it was but it was aimed at the young audience) Adam was interviewed and announced that the band were splitting up and that he would be continuing as a 'Solo Ant' (What a pathetic term that was). The news didn't sit well with me and I began to lose interest from that moment on. While Adam was enjoying his fame as a Dandy Indian Pirate whatever,Deutscher Girls was released. I remember people saying to me that Adam didn't want anyone to buy it because it had been released against his wishes... Something like that. I bought it though and I Loved it. Loved the humour of the Lyric and I Loved the B-Side too. I started scouring record shops for Adam & the Antz old releases. They were hard to find. I bought some from School friends with older siblings who had bought early singles. They were scratched mostly but playable. I'd got the Dirk Album. Liked a few tracks but not all of them and then I came by the Zerox single. Everything changed then. Loved Zerox but the B-Side Whip became my all time 'fave' the moment I heard it. (Still is) I'd only just given the title to 'Lady' and now that dropped to number 2. (Used to get Sir to play Lady at our School Discos and he did... Until he heard the words then it got whipped off again. (Ha! Whipped!) Shoot forward years and arrive at today. The Internet has made it possible for people to hear the peel sessions and rare recordings like 'Punk in the supermarket and Catch a falling star (Love that) are all YouTube uploads. I think I've downloaded ever recording of everything so far but... I crave more! Adam & the Antz is all I listen to. I don't get bored. It's just a shame that my collection of music is so limited. I'd be willing to listen to other stuff but I don't believe anyone's released anything yet to qualify as competition. I know The Pistols are up there with the best of Punk but they tend to lack Adam Ant's humour. Adam Ant is very recognisable in the Lyrics he writes... When he's writing songs that satisfy himself. He's funny, and Raw and Honest and razor sharp and unrivalled in my view whenever he does this. I'm just not as keen when he sets out to write stuff that he thinks would satisfy other people... The ones who are likely to help him financially... The 'Wider Audience'. As far as I'm concerned, Fuck them! (Selfish aren't I?.. I don't care that I am... I'm off to listen to Whip in my Valise... With the verse about getting his cheekbones kicked in. If only that verse was added to the song and then re-released. I think it might just knock the old Whip off it's Number 1 pedestal.

    1. Wow. Good on you, my friend. I've always liked Press Darlings, myself, and consider it to be one of his finest moments. I hope you've seen Adam playing live? You should probably try to meet him one day. Don't be star struck by him.