Adam and the Ants : Revisiting a childhood hero


It’s 1980, and I’m eight years old. Top of the Pops is my weekly TV highlight.

Madness. The Jam. Queen. Pop queens ABBA. The killer chorus and pop sensibilities were the order of the day. Artists wrote & performed their own songs and were famous through popularity, not as a result of a vote on a TV show. (Don’t get me started.)

And then something new crossed my path. It started through mutterings in the playground. A pop star who dressed as a pirate. A dandy with a band of guitar playing men (Ants) with a completely new sound. And sure enough, on Top of the Pops, Adam and the Ants appeared to perform ‘Dog Eat Dog’, the second release (but first hit) from their album ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’. I was won over.

If ‘Kings’ was the starter, then ‘Prince Charming’ was the main course. The debut single off the new album in 1981, ‘Stand and Deliver’ saw Adam reborn as a highwayman. A million copies of Look-In were sold to get the song lyrics. Everyone was drawing a white stripe on their nose and raiding their mum’s wardrobes for colourful scarves to tuck into their trousers. It was a cultural phenomenon.

Aside from all that hullaballoo, I had a personal connection with the music. I had the gatefold ‘Prince Charming’ LP, and I played the grooves off that thing. The first track – Scorpios – is, I maintain to this day, the best opening track of any album. Ever. There’s a drum fill just over 2 minutes in (after the ‘hold, hold’ refrain) which still sends shivers down my spine.

The lyrics aren’t your typical pop nonsense either. “As the masters rot on walls and the angels eat their grapes, I watched Picasso visit the Planet of the Apes”, the confidence boosting “ridicule is nothing to be scared of” and the call to arms of “throw your safety overboard and join our insect nation”. For hours, I’d sing along with the lyrics on the LP sleeve and dream of being a dandy highwayman.

I was also a CB radio fan. I had loads of Adam and the Ant posters on my wall, but I had room for more. A CB buddy offered me his posters, and my dad walked me along to the lane where we had agreed to meet. I couldn’t believe my luck. (CB radios and Adam Ant. Never has a story been more set in the 80s.)

Live

So a few months ago, I hear that Adam and the Ants are touring. Not only that, but they will be playing in Glasgow on the weekend after my birthday. One call to my wife later and we’ve got tickets booked. (I’d seen Adam live once before, but it was in Tower Records in the early 90s, so he was plugging his American ‘Wonderful’ LP, which wasn’t true Ant music.)

The night of the gig, I was feeling a little anxious. I didn’t want to be disappointed. Our seats were high up to the right of the stage. It was a great view. The house lights dimmer, the intro music began and the crowd began to cheer.

Two drummers and three other new Ants and Adam came onto the stage to the opening rhythm of Dog Eat Dog. “We’re gonna look real good. We’re gonna dress so fine” and they did. Adam looked no older than he did in 1982. Black bandana and pirate hat, full on Ant garb, complete with scarf tucked into his belt. No pop star ever looked so stylish. I googled his age. 61. Unbelievable.

His voice was perfect. Strong, no bum notes, hitting everything perfectly. And his performance – dancing, strutting, skipping, Ant-moves – all in full. Just stunning. The guitars were spot on and the double drums were powerful and faithful to the original sound.

They performed the whole of ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’, in order, from beginning to end. Only after that did he start to talk to the audience. He joked, told stories about the songs and made fun of the lack of ballads in his set before rocking out again.

Twenty-six songs performed in all. I was in my element. The 9 year old me was buzzing as I kept realising that I was watching the Adam Ant performing. Over the years, I’ve been involved with music production for many bands and singers and I’d be lying if I said that Adam and the Ants hadn’t been a huge influence, and here they were, live!

I’ve seen many amazing gigs in my life. Watching Nick Cave, Jane’s Addiction and Nine Inch Nails side of stage was phenomenal. Having VIP tickets to Kelis in a small club in Edinburgh was cool. I’ve seen U2, Guns and Roses, Foo Fighters, Stone Roses, INXS, Killers, NERD, Primal Scream, Muse, Kings of Leon, Oasis, Michael Jackson etc. Some smaller bands have blown me away like We Are Scientists, Eagles of Death Metal, and many others.

This was as good as any other gig I’ve been to. Don’t get me wrong, I realise a lot of this was because of the emotional investment I’d made in my youth, but that’s a relevant part. It led to the experience that I had at the gig, and it was tremendous. Quite emotional, actually. I’m still buzzing from it. You get a post-gig comedown after seeing an amazing show but the tunes going round my head are keeping that at bay.

A brilliant, brilliant night that I’ll never forget. Cheers, Adam and your Ants!

8 Comments

  1. Janet humphrey
    14 June 2016
    Reply

    Saw him in Oxford last week, I was buzzing too. Thanks know you for the post, brings back happy memories

  2. Do you know what I can not even remember any of his songs, I know thats bad

  3. Emma Stuart
    15 June 2016
    Reply

    Saw him in Brum last week & still buzzing! The guy is amazing & as you say, 61 yrs old! He was my first pop crush in 1981 (just before my real loves Duran Duran) & he made me feel 14 again!

  4. 18 June 2016
    Reply

    I remember loving his songs when I was younger. Queen is still a favourite 🙂 I will have to have a listen 🙂

  5. stephanie
    19 June 2016
    Reply

    Is it bad I’ve never heard any of his music?

  6. 20 June 2016
    Reply

    I’ve never heard of any of his music but your blog posts has really made me interested in him ????

    • 20 June 2016
      Reply

      I put a smiley face but I guess the question marks replaced it for some reason.

  7. 3 July 2016
    Reply

    I had never heard of Adam and the Ants, but the concept sounds great! A pop star dressed as a pirate, I can’t see where that could go wrong. Thanks for sharing, and I’m glad it was a great show for you!

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