Adam and the Ants were a British rock band active during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The original group, which lasted from 1977 to 1982, became notable as a cult band during the transition from the punk rock era to the post-punk and New Wave era and were noted for their high camp and overtly sexualised stage performances and use of Burundi drums. The line-up of musicians Dave Barbarossa, Matthew Ashman and Leigh Gorman – left the band in January 1980 at the suggestion of then-de facto manager Malcolm McLaren, to form the instrumentalist personnel of the controversial Bow Wow Wow.
The second incarnation of Adam and the Ants featured guitarist Marco Pirroni and drummer/record producer Chris Hughes and lasted from about February 1980 to March 1982 and achieved major commercial success in the UK as early leaders of the burgeoning UK New Romantic movement. Both versions of the band were led by singer and chief songwriter Adam Ant.
History[edit source | edit]Edit
Formation[edit source | edit]Edit
Prior to the Ants, Adam Ant (born Stuart Leslie Goddard) played bass in pub rock group Bazooka Joe, now primarily known as the band that headlined when the Sex Pistols played their first concert on 6 November 1975 at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. After witnessing this, Adam quit the band with the intention of forming his own, inspired by the Sex Pistols.
Tentatively called The B-Sides, they practised regularly over the following months, but, lacking a drummer, never managed to play a gig. Meanwhile, Adam Ant had befriended some influential figures in the burgeoning London punk scene, most notably Jordan, who worked in Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's SEX boutique shop. The Ants eventually formed in early 1977 consisting of Lester Square (guitar), Andy Warren (bass guitar) and Paul Flannagan (drums). Lester Square left to finish his course at an art school and to later form The Monochrome Set just days after the Ants played their first gig on 5 May 1977, at a bedroom in Muswell Hill. Mark Ryan replaced him on guitar and played the first formal gigs (starting with a performance at theICA in London on 10 May 1977). In early June, Flanagan was replaced with Dave Barbarossa and the resulting line-up recorded "Plastic Surgery" (along with seven other unreleased demos later dubbed the "Jubilee Demos" by bootleggers) and featured in the film Jubilee as the band of Adam's character Kid, until Ryan was replaced by Johnny Bivouac in October 1977.
Early recordings[edit source | edit]Edit
The band made their radio debut on the John Peel show with a session recorded on 23 January 1978, including the song "Lou" featuring the group's manager Jordan guesting on lead vocals (as she would regularly do on live performance of the song from mid-1977 until May 1978 when she split from the band). The following day, the Ants re-recorded "Deutscher Girls" (and overdubbed a guitar solo onto the above mentioned version of "Plastic Surgery") for the Jubilee soundtrack album, which would be released in April – the two tracks on the album being group's vinyl debut.
Touring extensively around the UK, often with Siouxsie and the Banshees, they proved to be unpopular with much of the British music press who disliked their fetishistic lyrics and imagery. In response, the group formed a strong – at times ideological – rapport with amateur punk fanzines such as Ripped And Torn which gave them more favourable coverage. The band built up a strong cult following (the early "Antpeople") but struggled to find overground success or even a record deal (apart from the two Jubilee soundtrack songs) until 1978 when they were signed to Decca.
By this time, the Ants had been through several line-up changes before eventually settling on the stable line-up of Adam Ant (vocals and guitar), Matthew Ashman (guitar), Andy Warren (bass guitar) and Dave Barbe (drums). It would be this line-up that recorded and released their first single "Young Parisians" to confused reviews and little success, along with a total of 21 demo recordings, all bar one of which was recorded at Decca's own studio in West Hampstead. Many of these and other early recordings and demos would eventually surface on bootleg records. They also recorded a further two John Peel Sessions in July 1978 and March 1979 and all three sessions were released in 2001 on The Complete Radio 1 Sessions.
Apparently unable to satisfactorily market the band, Decca let them go in early 1979, and the group, still with the same line-up but employing a lighter sound than previously (except for live shows), signed with independent label Do It Records and recorded their second single "Zerox" and debut album Dirk Wears White Sox, before Warren also left to join Square in The Monochrome Set. Ashman also temporarily left the band at this point, and Ant and Barbe recorded a set of nine demos at Solid Gold Sound Studios in London for a putative Ant solo project, using a heavily soul/funk/disco influenced sound. Do It rejected the new songs and Ashman returned to the band shortly thereafter.
Dirk Wears White Sox[edit source | edit]Edit
Late 1979 saw the release of Dirk Wears White Sox (1979, Do It Records). The title referenced Dirk Bogarde. The album was somewhat dark, with post-punk riffs and some vestiges of glam rock, as well as attempts to fuse this sound with funk and soul. Lyrically it addressed subjects such as fetishism, historical figures like Adolf Hitler, John F. Kennedy and Cleopatra as well as art history, particularly the Futurism movement. It gained a cult following rather than commercial success, leading a frustrated Adam to hire Malcolm McLaren, former manager of the Sex Pistols, in the hope of gaining more widespread recognition.
On 26 January 1980, McLaren convinced the rest of the band – then comprising guitarist Matthew Ashman, bassist Leigh Gorman (who had replaced Warren in November 1979) and drummer Dave Barbe – to leave the Ants and form Bow Wow Wow, fronted by Annabella Lwin.
Kings of the Wild Frontier[edit source | edit]Edit
During February–April 1980, a new version of the Ants was formed with Marco Pirroni (an ex-member – for short time – of Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Models, Rema Rema and Cowboys International) (guitar), Kevin Mooney (bass guitar), and two drummers, Terry Lee Miall and Chris Hughes (ex-The Blitz Brothers, future Tears For Fears producer), called also Merrick. Pirroni would become an influential member of the group, co-writing all of their new songs with Adam Ant.
While in the process of assembling the band, Ant and Pirroni re-recorded the Dirk Wears White Sox track "Cartrouble Pt.2" as a contract fulfilling single for Do It, together with future Culture Club drummer Jon Moss and with Hughes producing. The label released the single under the shorter title "Cartrouble" in March 1980 (with Moss credited as "Terry 1+2"), and it reached No. 1 on the UK Independent Singles Chart. The following month, the by-then recruited full band recorded the single "Kings Of The Wild Frontier" for prospective record companies.
Without label support, the band carried out a major UK "Ants Invasion" tour, at the end of which, they signed a major label deal with CBS Records and began recording Kings of the Wild Frontier, having first rush-released the title track as a single. That album was a hit in the United Kingdom and put the band at the forefront of the New Romantic movement. The album reached No. 1 on the UK album charts on 24 January 1981.
There were three hit singles from this LP, including "Dog Eat Dog" (reaching No. 4 on the UK singles charts in October 1980), "Antmusic" (No. 2 in January 1981 - only kept off top spot by recently murdered John Lennon), and "Kings of the Wild Frontier" (No. 2 in March 1981, previously No. 48 in August 1980). In addition, "Antmusic" made it to No. 1 in Australia for five weeks.
Decca and Do It Records both repromoted all of the band's previous output in order to cash in on the success of the album and its satellite singles. "Young Parisians" reached No. 9 in December 1980 (giving the old Ants band a posthumous UK Top 10 hit single) while the Dirk album made it to No. 17 in the album charts in February 1981. "Zerox" and "Cartrouble" also charted that month, making it to No. 33 and No. 45 respectively in the UK Singles Chart.
Prince Charming[edit source | edit]Edit
In November 1981, Adam & the Ants released Prince Charming. The band had two United Kingdom No. 1 singles: "Stand and Deliver" was a No. 1 single in the UK for 5 weeks in May 1981, followed by "Prince Charming", which topped the UK charts for 4 weeks in September 1981. "Ant Rap" reached No. 3 in January 1982.
There would be a further round of cash-in reissues of early material in early 1982, when the two Jubilee soundtrack songs were reissued in February as a 7-inch single with "Deutscher Girls" as the A Side, reaching No. 13 on the UK singles chart (giving the original Ants band a second posthumous Top 15 hit), while The Antmusic EP, a 12" EP of three unused tracks from the Dirk sessions plus a remix of 'Cartouble (Parts 1 & 2)'), was released by Do It in March, reaching No. 46.
Break-up[edit source | edit]Edit
In March 1982, feeling certain band members "lacked enthusiasm", Adam Ant disbanded the group. Newspaper articles at the time offered various explanations for the motivations behind the split. Initially Adam was quoted as saying that the split was amicable but later he was to say that "the interest just wasn't there any more. It might have been Adam and the Ants on the billboards but not on stage." In addition, it is said that Pirroni quit as he was tired of touring. A few months after the split Adam Ant launched a solo career (though he retained Marco Pirroni as co-writer), enjoying immediate success with a 3rd UK No. 1 hit single Goody Two Shoes. Some copies of the single are credited to Adam and the Ants, but only Ant & Pirroni from the band feature. Merrick, meanwhile rejoined Dalek I Love You.
Post break-up activity[edit source | edit]Edit
In 2000, Antbox a retrospective box set spanning Ant's career from the late 1970s through the 1990s, was released. The box set included 66 tracks on three CDs, and quickly sold the initial 10,000 units. In 2003 the Antbox set was re-released in a different form (with the same tracks) and sold once again with success.
2004 saw the digitally remastered re-release of the albums Dirk Wears White Sox, Kings of the Wild Frontier, and Prince Charming, with bonus material in the form of previously unreleased demo songs. These were overseen by Marco Pirroni, and Kings of the Wild Frontier and Prince Charming were remastered by Chris Hughes (a.k.a. Merrick in the band's line-up).
On 10 September 2008, The Daily Mail give-away for Prince Charming was released with the newspaper.
Legacy[edit source | edit]Edit
Adam and the Ants have had a major influence on many artists that have emerged during the band's short career, including Fat Boy Slim (Norman Cook) Robbie Williams, The Charlatans, Dirty Pretty Things, Republica, Nine Inch Nails, Suede and Elastica.
In early 1995, Adam Ant and Marco Pirroni joined Nine Inch Nails on stage to perform "Physical (You're So)", "Red Scab" and "Beat My Guest"; three songs from Adam and the Ants early catalogue. Nine Inch Nails also covered "Physical (You're So)" on their 1992 EP Broken.
An affectionate short film, featuring Nick Moran, called Ant Muzak was made in 2002 featuring Adam and the Ants visiting a supermarket late at night at the same time as Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Gary Tibbs appeared in the film as Dirk, the supermarket Manager, and naturally he wore white socks. The film is available on DVD with two similar parodies.
In April 2009, No Doubt performed a cover of "Stand and Deliver" on an episode of the American TV show Gossip Girl, and performed it at the Bamboozle music festival, New Jersey, in May 2009, although they had no plans to release the song as a single.
In 2011, CBBC Horrible Histories wrote a song called 'Dick Turpin' that was a pastiche on Adam and the Ants 'Stand and Deliver'. This has made the song popular within the younger generations.
Music videos[edit source | edit]Edit
The band seized the opportunities provided by music videos on the new MTV channel to develop a theatrical, charismatic on-screen persona. With romantic costumes and heavy make-up, the band was an early example of the New Romantic movement. Lavish videos were produced for "Stand and Deliver", "Prince Charming", and "Ant Rap". All Adam and the Ants music videos were produced and storyboarded by Adam Ant. These videos helped break the band in the United States when MTV began airing them.
Members[edit source | edit]Edit
Discography[edit source | edit]Edit
Awards[edit source | edit]Edit
|1982||Adam and the Ants||Grammy Awards: Best New Artist||Nominated|
|Kings of the Wild Frontier||BRIT Awards: Best British Album||Won|
|"Stand and Deliver"||Ivor Novello Awards: Songwriters of the Year||Won|
Trivia[edit source | edit]Edit
In the Judge Dredd Story "The Ant Man" from the British comic 2000AD (issue 640), one of the three man eating ants is called Adam.