Adam & The Ants started off in early 1977, one of a dozen bands trying to keep up in the wake of The Sex Pistols
What turned them into a top-of-the-bill band was the bondage routines – the sadomasochist set pieces between Adam (real name Stuart Goddard) and the band’s manager Jordan, a punk ex-crony of Malcolm McLaren – and with just as much attitude.
Although the music was nothing exceptional, the stage act kept the crowd away from the bar and landed Adam (and Jordan) parts in Derek Jarman’s film, Jubilee (1978).
In it he played ‘Kid’, who sang a couple of songs, pouted a bit and eventually got killed – all good promotion for the first LP, Dirk Wears White Sox, released in 1979.
The self-produced LP’s word-heavy tunes examined sexual excess (Cleopatra), bizarre visions (Day I Met God), alienation (Digital Tenderness) and the like.
In their place, Adam teamed up with guitarist Marco Pirroni (who proved to be a significant collaborator) and recruited drummer/producer Chris Hughes (aka ‘Merrick’).
Adam recruited a new band, found himself a new image (appearing in a bizarre mix of pirate costume and Red Indian makeup) and now fronted a drum-heavy pop band, inspired by the African drummers of Burundi.
A re-recorded single of Car Trouble got Adam’s new era off the ground in the mid-80’s. Adam found his groove with Kings of the Wild Frontier. Goodbye heaviness and failure, hello hit parade.
Adam and his merry crew bounced through a delightful program of modern bubblegum. Dog Eat Dog used the pseudo-tribal drums Adam picked up from McLaren, while Antmusic shamelessly self-promoted (as did many of Adam’s early lyrics) to the accompaniment of an irresistible stop-start melody.
“We stole what we could, like magpies,” said Pirroni later. “We used ocarinas, echo chambers, textures from John Barry and Ennio Morricone soundtracks, rockabilly guitar riffs from Duane Eddy and Hank Marvin. We were even twanging rulers on desks and recording the results.”
Prince Charming was a letdown, Stand and Deliver offered more percussive entertainment (a la Dog Eat Dog) and the title track was florid melodrama, but much of the LP seemed forced, ill-tempered and silly. Adam hit rock bottom on Ant Rap, an embarrassing stab at rap filled with braggadocio.
‘Antmania’ was briefly newsworthy and, with the help of flamboyant promotional videos, sold a lot of records, especially in the UK. Between 1980 and 1982 Adam released eight singles – all hits in Britain, including three that reached the #1 spot.
After dumping all the Ants except for Marco, Adam went solo and came up with Friend or Foe, an LP with plenty of energy and variety. Adam and Marco tried a little of everything; soul, rockabilly, his usual weightless pop, all with convincingly joyful results.
Highlights included Goody Two Shoes and a version of The Doors‘ Hello, I Love You. Following that triumph, it was time for another bad album, and Strip was pathetic. Adam’s attempt to grow up was recorded at ABBA‘s state-of-the-art studio in Stockholm and featured two tracks produced by Phil Collins.
By taking a less sensational approach, Adam exposed the weakness of his melodies and the inherent silliness of his sleazoid attitudes.
Adam pulled in his horns and, with the production suss of Tony Visconti, made a big-league pop album even a mother could endure. Vive le Rock‘s spirited title track is a perfect send-up of ELO‘s Dave Edmunds phase; Rip Down likewise recalls Marc Bolan.
The songs (Razor Keen, Miss Thing) proffered Bolanesque lyrics but suffered from characterless backing. Apollo 9, a wonderfully gimmicky single (also included in an acapella version), proved that the old boy still had it, whatever it may have been. Yabba yabba ding ding, indeed . . .
Monsieur Ant spent a few years concentrating his energies on an acting career. His best role was in 1987’s stylish Slamdance, but he also appeared in Trust Me (1989) and Nomads (1986) as well as on television and in the theatre. In the meantime, his British label issued Hits, a compilation of his biggest singles.
In 1990, Adam resurfaced in Los Angeles with the confident and entertaining Manners & Physique, diving into electronic dance music without drowning in synthesized rubbish. Marco contributed to the songwriting (as did ex-Dexys Midnight Runners leader Kevin Rowland, surprisingly enough) and played guitar.
But the thrill had really gone by now, and it all went quiet until early 1995 when Adam brought his sexpot looks and downright dirty voice back with Wonderful, aiming to warm another generation of underwear.
In later years he has been plagued by depression with spells in psychiatric care. In 2002 he was arrested and sectioned when he returned to a North London pub brawl dressed as a cowboy and threatening to use the (replica) pistol he was carrying. he was placed under 12-month community rehabilitation and entered a psychiatric hospital.
In 2003 he was nabbed on suspicion of criminal damage for chucking rocks through a neighbour’s window.
Stuart “Adam” Goddard
Terry Lee Miall
Chris ‘Merrick’ Hughes