A few years after Mick Ronson went down on Bowie on Top Of The Pops and the Bolan Boogie bongoed its way into the nation’s collective consciousness, a new breed of idol was born. Hot on the scuffed heels of post-punk, Adam Ant became the first popstar to enter my orbit and land on my record player. Well! Leapfrog the dog and brush me, daddy-o, if this wasn’t exactly what I was missing in my life! To a thumping double drummer Burundi beat, Adam and his Ants, all lip curl and collapsed Gene Vincent DAs, chanted and charmed their way through Dog Eat Dog, the rubbery electric twang almost too much for my 10 year old mind to take in. I really liked The Specials and Madness and the whole gang mentality that their music spawned in the school playground, but Adam, for me, brought on a whole new level of excitement. It was the pirate costume that swung it. That and the white nose stripe, of course. He looked liked a skeleton on the telly, all cheekbones and hollowed eyes, and while he danced his hoppy, arm swingin’, finger clickin’ jive, he stared down the barrel of the camera, directly into my living room, directly to me.
Adam And The Ants – Dog Eat Dog
By the Saturday morning I had availed myself of £3.99 worth of smash, splashed it on the counter of Walker’s at Irvine Cross in exchange for Kings Of The Wild Frontier and ran, ran! all the way home, desperate to get the first album I’d own spinning as soon as possible. I can still smell it now, freshly minted black vinyl, as it slid out of the sleeve and was transferred very carefully to the record player. I can still see the orange and yellow CBS logo spinning hypnotically. And when that Burundi beat fades in, I’m straight back to my living room in 1980, cross-legged on the floor, a bowl of Rice Krispies turning soggy while my attention was elsewhere for a couple of minutes. Life-changing stuff.
Kings Of the Wild Frontier was played so often I can still call it down from my brain and hear it whenever I fancy. I rarely need to play the actual music, it’s up there (points, taps head), burned indelibly forever. I know every adlib, every double-tracked chorus, every whistle, every solo…..every bit of it. I think my mum might too, as not long after buying it, my dad returned from work one day with a rare present – a copy of Adam’s previous album Dirk Wears White Sox. He’d bought it in Makro, of all places, on a work-related trip to the cash and carry and I’m sure it was bought partly to vary the soundtrack that my mum was exposed to from the minute I got in from school to the minute I’d gone to bed.
What none of us was prepared for was how different it sounded to Kings… The clues were there on the cover; a blurry black and white shot featuring a woman, back turned to the camera, standing under a streetlight. It looked like something from a 1940’s spy movie that my Gran might’ve enjoyed at the weekend. Within the grooves, there was nary a Burundi beat and a complete lack of pirate-themed potential. It was jerky, awkward and, to these 10 year old ears, a massive disappointment. It was still a record though, I had two albums now, and one that, even at that early age, I knew I’d ‘get’ at some point. I might even have done so too, had Adam not let out the ‘f’ word on one of the tracks and my mum, doing her best Mary Whitehouse impression, instructed me to turn it off and give it to her. With an awkward sense of shame and annoyance, I handed the album back to her, my collection reduced to one album once more. I never saw it again. Years later I found out that she’d made my poor dad take it back to Makro. God knows what he told them.
Zerox is still the killer track from the album I still don’t own. One of the Ants’ earliest singles, it’s held together by a tight ‘n taut see-sawing guitar riff that the 1992 version of Blur (Popscene! Alright!) would’ve given their right arm for.
Adam And The Ants – Zerox
Epoch-defining – ask a teenager today what a zerox machine is and see what sort of response that elicits – Zerox is punk manifesto set to music. We’ll copy your riffs, it says. “I’m never bored, I’ll steal your chords.” Unlike yer actual zerox machine, Zerox the song is timeless, an undeniable influence on all those angular guitar bands from a few years back.
Shortly after discovering Adam, I should say, my inner-self experienced a whole new thang when Debbie Harry popped up quite unexpectedly on Top Of The Pops with Blondie doing The Tide Is High. It was, I’d shortly discover, the worst single in the Blondie catalogue, as another sprint to Walker’s and back saw me add The Best Of Blondie to my thin collection, free Debbie Harry poster ‘n all. Suddenly Adam was relegated to second-best. To my dad’s relief, the Adam in full-on Prince Charming teapot pose poster was replaced by Debbie, pouting from the wall with tousled hair and an ‘Andy Warhol’s Bad’ t-shirt. Andy Warhol? Who’s that, I wondered…