heard on the wire

A is for…

Kings of the Wild Frontier

Adam and the Ants, who, for a brief period in the early 80s, were the biggest band in Britain. With his admiral’s jacket, white stripe the man known to his mother as Stuart Goddard became the most recognisable face in pop, while the aboriginal rhythms and whooping singalongs made him the the most bankable.

That the band ever achieved the success it did was something of a surprise, since their early recordings, while gaining the band a cult following, gave little indication of what was to come, especially as the lacklustre debut single, Young Parisians, is best forgotten.

Adam and the Ants :: Young Parisians

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But the follow-up gave some indication of Adam’s talent. Zerox may have made next to zero impression at the time but it should be regarded as a post-punk classic.

Adam and the Ants :: Zerox

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Zerox was a precursor to the Ants’ first LP, Dirk Wears White Sox. Largely ignored at the time, it’s now highly regarded. It displays a lyrical ambition that betrays the band’s art school origins and eschews punk posturing in favour of a more thoughtful blend of 70s musical styles. It’s a record that could only have been made at the time.

Adam and the Ants :: Digital Tenderness

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Adam and the Ants :: Family of Noise

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Adam and the Ants :: Tabletalk

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The LP was a minor hit, reaching number 16 in the album chart, but adamant (geddit‽) that the band would be a success, the erstwhile Mr Goddard turned to Malcolm McLaren.

But The former Sex Pistols manager’s biggest’ contribution to Adam’s career was to promptly leave, taking the other three Ants with him to form Bowwowwow. Undetered, Adam recruited former jobbing guitarist Marco Pironni, a new bass player and two drummers and adopted the new look and aboriginal rhythms that would transform his career.

Adam and the Ants :: Cartrouble

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Having re-recorded a part of the first LP’s opening track as his last single for the Do-It label, the new line-up began work on Kings of the Wild Frontier, a vibrant mix of tribal rhythms and rock ’n’ roll guitar riffs.

The LP’s title track was the first single, released in August 1980. The band’s first impression on the UK charts was slight—the single peaked at number 48—but the release of a the following single changed everything. Dog Eat Dog went to number four, at a time when having a top 10 hit meant something, and the LP topped the charts.

Adam and the Ants :: The Magnificent Five

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Adam and the Ants :: Ants Invasion

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Adam and the Ants :: Killer in the Home

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Two top two hits followed, including the re-released title track; indeed such was the band’s popularity that the no-longer-forgotten Young Parisians made number nine. As one journalist remarked at the time, the Ants could have released a record of Adam brushing his teeth and it would have gone to number one. They didn’t, but they did give away this version of YMCA with Flexipop magazine.

Adam and the Ants :: A.N.T.S.

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This phenomenal success enabled Adam to command a huge video budget for the first single from the third LP. He adopted a new highwayman persona for Stand and Deliver and the money came rolling in as the band reached number one for the first time.

Adam and the Ants :: Stand and Deliver

But while Adam’s theatricality appeared to know no bounds, the music clearly did. The new LP, Prince Charming, mostly failed to capture the energy of its predecessor. The third single, Ant Rap, was embarrassing; if only the Ants had signed off with this.

Adam and the Ants :: Prince Charming

And that was that, as far as the soldier Ants were concerned. Adam dispensed with the services of all but Pirroni for his first “solo” work, Friend or Foe, a so-so record that was followed by several in the same vein. Adam’s career, it seemed, was over, not least when his struggle with bipolar disorder led to several highly publicised incidents and spells in psychiatric care.

Thankfully that care put him on the road to a recovery that saw him return to playing live and to recording. He will never be considered one of rock ’n’ roll’s greats, but to this 14-years-old Ants fan, he will always be a star.

Adam and the Ants :: Dog Eat Dog

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Adam and the Ants :: Kings of the Wild Frontier

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Now to track down a copy of Adam and the Ants’ Peel sessions…

Honourable mentions: A is for Acid House Kings, Altered Images and Allo Darlin’.


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