Stuart Leslie Goddard. There’s a name to conjure with. A A Diddler Ulster Togs or Radiated Lodger Lusts to name but two possible anagrams. Adam Ant, however, is not an anagram, but it is the name by which posterity will remember our hero.
Now, that word, hero. On the face of it, four letters (not much scope for anagrams), and probably an overused word. However, in Adam Ant’s case, definitely applicable and supremely appropriate. Sporting stars aside, Ian Botham and Kenny Dalglish, Adam Ant was my first pop music hero.
My brother was given a model casting set for Christmas one year. I think it was Paddington Bear. So far, so relevant. However, at the same time, Adam was wearing a white line across the bridge of his nose, and if you scratched the base of a Paddington Bear you could use the resultant white powder to draw your own white line across the bridge of your nose. Wow! How cool was that?
Anyway, enough of this nonsense and back to the nitty-gritty. Conveniently enough, Adam and the Ants scored their first UK chart hit in 1980 with Kings of the Wild Frontier, which made it to the heady heights of number 48 in the UK singles chart. It kicks off with the immortal line, ‘A new royal family / A wild nobility / We are the family’ and just goes on from there. If it had perhaps been a later single it would have risen higher in the charts.
Next up was Dog Eat Dog which truly saw Adam and the Ants’ arrival. Making number 4 in the UK singles chart, this time Adam boasted that, ‘We’re gonna move real good’, and boy could he move. The ‘B’ side was Physical (You’re So) – perhaps one of the better ‘B’ sides put out in the ’80s. Antmusic was next, getting agonisingly close to number 1, in early 1981. In fact, it was only John Lennon’s Imagine that prevented this. On the face of, nonsense lyrics, but it had me spellbound, and still does…
‘Don’t tread on an ant / he’s done nothing to you
There might come a day / when he’s treading on you
… You cut off his head / legs come looking for you’
Next up were three not so hot singles (well they’re not my favourites, Lol!) – Young Parisiens (number 9), Zerox (a reissue – 45) and Cartrouble (33), before the proof of my earlier statement as the reissued Kings of the Wild Frontier made it to number 2. Another John Lennon song, Jealous Guy, performed by Roxy Music stood in the way of an Ant’s single making number 1.
Now, as we moved into the glorious Summer of 1981, Adam and the Ants scored their first UK singles chart number 1 with the magnificent, Ivor Novello winning, Stand and Deliver. What a song. There is perhaps no more iconic 1980’s song than Stand and Deliver. From the start, ‘I’m the dandy highwayman / who you’re too scared to mention…’ to the final ‘Da diddley qa qa da diddley qa qa’ refrain, it just epitomises the classic 3-minute pop song. I detect some hint of a jibe at Malcolm McLaren – he and Adam weren’t exactly the best of mates after the formation of Bow Bow Bow – but that’s another story.
As we moved towards the end of the summer, Adam and the Ants proved that they could do no wrong, as they scored their second UK singles chart number 1 with Prince Charming. In my opinion lacking that certain je ne sais quoi with which Stand and Deliver is blessed with (it seems like more of a chant), but still head and shoulders above much other pop output during that time. And of course, Diana Dors in the video.
Released towards the end of 1981, Ant Rap made its highest UK chart position of number 3 in early 1982. It is another slab of pop perfection. Show me a person of a certain age who doesn’t know the chorus, ‘I’ve got Marco, Merrick, Terry Lee / Gary Tibbs and yours truly’, and I’ll find you a four-leafed clover. It does, however, represent the high water mark for Adam and the Ants, as their last single Deutscher Girls, although charting at a respectable number 13 isn’t quite on a par with their three massive UK singles hits of 1981.
After going solo, Adam Ant had a similarly short-lived period of pop ascendancy. His first single Goody Two Shoes, written with former Ant and long time collaborator, Marco Pirroni, was a massive UK number 1 hit, even making it to number 12 in the Billboard Hot 100. This one is a cry of angst against the press (in the UK) and of course, represents the eternal paradox of the reclusive pop star. He wants to be left alone to live his life, but he has a number 1 single on his hands – go figure.
His subsequent singles, which include Friend Or Foe (UK number 9), Desperate But Not Serious (33), Puss ‘n Boots (5) and Apollo 9 (13), although decent enough pop songs just don’t have the gravitas or the impact of those monster smashes of 1981.
For me, Adam Ant is one of, if not The Pop Icon of the 1980’s music scene. In ’81, there was nothing to touch Adam and the Ants. But for John Lennon’s death, they’d surely have had two more UK number 1 hits. My biggest regret is that I wasn’t old enough to have gone to a gig. You know, I’ve seen Oasis and Blur, the biggest pop/rock phenomena of the 90’s live, and they were very good gigs (Blur had The Shirehorses as their support and Oasis gave a helping hand to the returning Manic Street Preachers). But, and there is no doubt in my mind, Adam and the Ants would have surpassed both!