Monday, May 23, 2016

100 Mavericks # 85 Adam Ant

Present at the first Sex Pistols gig, they were supporting Bazooka Joe, for whom he was playing bass. This was the essential game-changer in his life, as for so many of the original punks who saw the Pistols in their early days. Always prone to mental instability, perversely a handy ingredient for those drawn to the idea of Rock and Roll stardom, but an ongoing concern in his career and life from his teenage years, he nevertheless channeled his talents and energy into music and was one of the most important players in the Punk scene.

Eventually he made it absolutely massively in the early eighties upon forging a partnership with Marco Pironi, and breaking through with Adam & the Ants, previously a cult concern known mostly for fetishism, violent imagery, John Peel sessions and the general critical derision they inspired in the music press. Nevertheless, they were pretty much the hip band name to drop for a season at my secondary school, before breaking through with their first Top of the Pops performance playing Dog Eat Dog. From one week  to the next they were stars and my schoolmates frenziedly erased their name from their school bags and pencil cases and went in search of hipper concerns. Stiff Little Fingers would never let them down in the way that Adam had.

Kings of the Wild Frontier, the album from which Dog Eat Dog hailed is one of the oddest records bar none ever to top the UK charts. Grounded in old school Rock and Roll, Ennio Morricone, Duane Eddy and Johnny & the Pirates, Burundi beat with a twist of Glam (their two drummers, shades of the Glitter Band),  they were Ants dressed as Red Indians in renegade military jackets. Quite ridiculous in retrospect but actually exactly what you want at the top of your hit parade, an odd late triumph for Punk before Thatcherite perspectives drowned out the eighties charts. No end of colour, vibrancy, wit, melody and life. If only Wham! Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet had been so interesting or Sigue Sigue Sputnik had had the remotest ability to write such catchy tunes.

The Ants stayed on top in the UK for a fair while. A year and a half of Top Five singles if memory serves and a fair few that stormed straight to Number One. Adam went solo and maintained the pace, then chart positions dropped, he moved to the States and branched into acting. He's suffered since in his personal life but is back touring now and getting at least some the appreciation he deserves as one of the oddest yet most brilliant acts of self-invention in the whole history of Pop Music. And the records still sound just wonderful. Here's that first Top of the Pop performance.

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