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Jan 09

ADAM AND THE ANTS – “Prince Charming”

FT + Popular73 comments • 5,270 views

#486, 19th September 1981

“Prince Charming” is the ultimate Adam Ant record, but also weirdly redundant. It’s his manifesto – a series of commandments building up to a credo that’s come to envelop Adam’s whole era: ridicule is nothing to be scared of. But almost every one of Adam’s hit singles had worked like this: the man was a walking manifesto, in slogans and looks and actions and sheer presence. There’s something too harsh, too stark about “Prince Charming”, this undiluted concentrate of Ant-iness. In the midst of Adam’s total pop triumph his punky instincts resurfaced, and the song’s forward-march insistence verges on the didactic – the crossed arms of the Prince Charming dance a pre-echo of the straight edge X.

But, as another 1981 hit put it, “there’s always force”, and force is what gets “Prince Charming” through. It’s a deeply weird, abstract pop song, its climaxes hitting not on the “ridicule” chant but on those ecstatic interlocking whoops and war cries – “Aaah-HAH-oh-ehhh-HAH!”. This is the feral, playful side of Antmusic, an implied bacchanalia quite at odds with “Respect yourself, and all of those around you.” The music is startling too – beyond the simple acoustic chords there’s little but full, doomy drumbeats and a roiling grind of guitar that’s resolved into pop by Adam’s sheer willpower as much as anything. And why not? At this moment, he IS pop, and more: the flicker of mirror-Adams at the end of the video – Clint, Alice, Peter O’Toole, then himself – shows him stake his claim as the heir of pretence and storytelling across all pop culture. Prince Charming indeed! At some point, hubris would overtake him, and ridicule would have her revenge – but this is Adam Ant in the hour before the clock strikes twelve, the master of revels.

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Comments

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  1. 51
    Tom on 28 Jan 2009 #

    #50 I agree, except it’s not really “proto” hip-hop any more on a single called “[x] Rap” in 1981! :)

  2. 52
    Conrad on 28 Jan 2009 #

    I’ve never been comfortable with the word “proto” and you’ve just seen why!

  3. 53
    Tom on 28 Jan 2009 #

    #45 having looked it up, 3 shows admirable charity!

  4. 54
    Erithian on 28 Jan 2009 #

    Like many of those above, I found this pedestrian compared to their previous records – the principle being recommended is perfectly valid, but there’s not that much on offer beyond the sloganising, and it gets very repetitive very quickly. And besides, I have an aversion to anything that stresses the wrong syllable in a lyric – the word is CHAR-ming, not char-MING!

    What this brings back to me is my one foray into student politics, such as it was – taking part in a demo in central London against threatened grant cuts (what we’d all have made of student loans, God only knows). A chance to fulfil your preconceptions of being a student (before The Young Ones revised them all) and walk around the streets being subversive. And our section of the demo invented a chant that was taken up by all, addressed to the then Education Secretary – “KEITH JOSEPH! KEITH JOSEPH! DON’T YOU EVER CUT OUR EDUCATION!”

    It was on this demo that I met the worst girlfriend I ever had. She was a bit self-consciously wacky – looked up the Riot Act of 1715 in the college library just so she could say she’d read the Riot Act, that sort of thing. When we had The Breaking Up Conversation, she made it clear I’d rung her while she was watching a good film on TV, then at the end said not to worry ‘cos she’d managed to keep up with the plot of the film anyway. No great loss…

  5. 55
    Tom on 28 Jan 2009 #

    I see your chant kept the wrong syllable stress too! Do we know if Keith Joseph was part of the Insect Nation?

  6. 56
    Billy Smart on 28 Jan 2009 #

    (Sorry, as with Soft Cell I’ve come in a bit late here) The one thing that I can add is that the way that the chants and rhythm builds and then stops dead still has quite an interesting emotional as well as spatial effect. It’s like Adam has phsyched himself up for some incredible reaction – a kiss or a punch – but no-one’s noticing.

    I can remember a letter in Melody Maker at the time that Romomania was conspicuously failing to sweep the nation in 1995 that observed “Ridicule is nothing to be scared of – Well, obviously, but neither is it something to be actively courted”

    Loved by my nine-year old self, like most of my peers here, I think that the sheer conviction of Adam’s silly philosophy still has the almost same thrilling effect on my adult self.

  7. 57
    lonepilgrim on 28 Jan 2009 #

    re 55 – I always assumed that Keith Joseph was related to the Mekon.

  8. 58
    Magic Fly on 28 Jan 2009 #

    46: Thank god I wasn’t alone. I always imagined “manchirons” to be a kind of exotic boot.

  9. 59
    Doctor Casino on 29 Jan 2009 #

    re: Popular, I have been baffled by the scores over the last many entries but have sort of resigned myself to it, and accepted that, had I been a pop-loving youth, my scores on various things from the turn of the 90s would probably be similarly inflated. (I didn’t really get into contemporary music until I was maybe 15 or 16, so we’ll have to wait for the mid-90s for all that.)

    What’s nice is that the score, as always, is a bit peripheral – I enjoy the essays for attempting to draw me into Tom’s world and his readings of the songs. Sometimes I think there’s not nearly the stuff there that he dreams up, but that’s okay – I would generally rather like songs than dislike them, so if I can adopt the reasoning, I can live a happier life.

    Prince CharmING, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to warm up to. I can’t think of what I’d change – it’s certainly slow but the whole ambience would be wrecked by speeding it up. I think it’s the repetitiousness of the song as a whole – any given stretch of it sounds GREAT but by the time it’s 2/3 over you kind of want it to be done. Obviously the structure of it requires the long lumber, but I wish there were a few more surprises along the way.

    The atonal screeching, on the other hand, is pure genius!

  10. 60
    RChappo on 29 Jan 2009 #

    The 8 year old me loved this but I think I like it even more now. It’s rather and unusual song with that echoey lurching drum pattern and the yelps etc. I’m impressed more with the overall sound of it these days. It has a catchy simple melody and is repetitive enough that it lodges in your head easily without getting annoying (for me anyway).
    It’s impossible for me to hear this without thinking back to school discos where you’d take a few of your own singles (with your name scrawled on the sleeve) and hoped that the teacher would play one. This is one of those that would always get played and I even participated in a mass Prince Charming dance line during one – I never ever dance these days. I also a big Adam & The Ants patch sewn on the back of the tracksuit top that I wore when playing for my Cub Scout football team – “Ridicule is nothing to be scared of” indeed!
    Also worth noting the B-side ‘Christian D’or’ with Adam shouting the name of bass player “Tibbs!” at one point and my parents thinking he said “Tits!”. God knows what they thought hearing songs like ‘Beat My Guest’ and ‘Lady’ emanating from my bedroom stereo.
    8/10 is spot on as far as I’m concerned.

  11. 61
    Erithian on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Great Quotes Coined While This Was Number One:
    “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for Government”
    – David Steel speaking to the Liberal Party conference at a time when the SDP/Liberal alliance looked like it could sweep to power. Didn’t quite happen though.

  12. 62
    wichita lineman on 30 Jan 2009 #

    Re 53: I gave it a bonus point for having the ugliest title of any no.1. Is it about taking Rover round the block?

    This month in 1981 also gave the world Only Fools and Horses. According to the Radio Times, scriptwriter John Sullivan… “in pursuit of his campaign to bring situation comedy into the 80’s is going to sidestep some familiar clichés. ‘I won’t make Gunga Din jokes about Indian characters. In the kind of pubs where I drink, there are people of all races and they’re not at each others throats. If there’s a fight, it’s between two drunks, not between racial antagonists’.”

    Which is pertinent to various posts on Japanese Boy, I suppose.

  13. 63
    The Lurker on 30 Jan 2009 #

    I think this is the first music video I can remember from the time it came out. It’s a great video and worth the 8 mark. The song itself doesn’t really live up the video – like Dr Casino says, it’s too repetitive and goes on too long (I have a very low repetition threshold). A 6 at best.

  14. 64
    mike on 3 Feb 2009 #

    OK, if I’d been 9 years old at the time, I’d probably have loved this. But I was 19 years old, and I had all the early singles – yea, even unto “Zerox” and “Car Trouble” – and I’d been massively excited by Adam’s pop breakthrough in late 1980/early 1981… so this just felt like an overblown, flaccid, galumphing, juvenile, neutered, sexless sell-out, and hence a continuation of the rot that had set in with “Stand And Deliver”.

    “Ant Rap” was great, though!

  15. 65
    thefatgit on 19 Oct 2009 #

    The harpsichord break in the Ant Rap vid…is it me or does Marco Perroni (I think it’s him…memory not 100%) look like ‘Orrible Harry Grout from Porridge in a pompadour wig?

  16. 66
    Brooksie on 19 Feb 2010 #

    Love this. First video I recall seeing on Top of the Pops. This one was the moment he divided the fans for good (Stand and Deliver had started it). After this it was a slow slide; Ant Rap was a hit but not a # 1 (too weird for the kids!) The Prince Charming album got a lukewarm reception at best, and was seen as a letdown. Then he dumped the Ants. Oh Adam! How did you lose your grip so fast?! Still, while this single sat at the top of the charts (its # 2 debut caused by the massive selling ‘Tainted Love’) Adam was still the leader of the pack, and this was just one of the great tracks that meant – among fierce competition – the undisputed king of 1981 was the right royal… Adam Ant.

  17. 67
    thefatgit on 28 Oct 2012 #

    The One Week One Band blog should be good this week!

  18. 68
    lonepilgrim on 29 Oct 2012 #

    I second tfg’s comment above. You can follow the blog here.

  19. 69
    weej on 30 Oct 2012 #

    Re #67/#68 – I’ve been reading each entry and am finding it a bit distressing. The writing is fantastic, but Jubilee / DWWS era Ants is one of my favourite things ever, and having it dismissed so eloquently feels like a bit like an unexpected slap in the face. I may be taking the internet too seriously, usually the solution is to stop reading, but it’s too good for that.

  20. 70
    thefatgit on 30 Oct 2012 #

    I’m left in no doubt that Mark is itching to get on to Imperial Phase Ants as quickly as possible. What I have read so far has been a real treat, as well as linking to the full-length Jubilee on YT (albeit with Spanish subtitles). Watching Jubilee reminded me it’s such a shame Wayne County isn’t around anymore.

  21. 71

    Jayne County, still going strong as far as I know?

    apologies weej, I know DWWS-era A&tA has its passionate fans and I’m not taking a pop at them at all (and am in fact expecting pushback). Part of the point I’ll be making, if I don’t get lost in the detail, is that all of us (from adam right down to little teenage me) were caught up in drawing lines, and this was very much part of the energy and excitement and value — it’s where we learnt and tested our sensibilities — but it also had a distinctly arbitrary path-dependent element, largely determined by previously selected affinities and projections. Adam’s outsiderness was and is unfair — whether imposed by Julie Burchill* or Paul Morley or me! — but this makes it a key to who he was and what he did and went on to do. I also wanted to get across the sense of barred-in** fed-upness he was surely increasingly feeling***, in 1979 especially. Morley’s attack got under Adam’s skin because he half-agrees with it (I think).

    *Though I was and am pissed off by the song “Puerto Rican”, which is pretty inexcusable, and tackling that properly soured my take a bit on the Peel stuff.

    **Or barred-out! Which is it? <– important

    ***And not just him. Post-punk was a good thing! But it didn’t bring out the full Adam, in fact I think it shuts down some of the best of him, and I’m glad he punched his way up out of it.

  22. 72
    weej on 30 Oct 2012 #

    It’s certainly true that much of what makes Adam a ‘special’ artist wasn’t allowed to emerge until he was free of the genre he’d found himself part of – but it’s still for me by far his strongest period. Bit of a contradiction, yes, and makes me feel like a bit of a party pooper when we get to the hits, but there we go.

  23. 73
    thefatgit on 30 Oct 2012 #

    #71…ha! My bad. A misheard anecdote led me to believe County was deceased. Glad to be corrected.

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