Jan 09

ADAM AND THE ANTS – “Stand And Deliver”

FT + Popular127 comments • 14,176 views

#479, 9th May 1981

When it comes to pop, “style over substance” is an enduring criticism: almost as powerful as it is dumb. So often pop plays a shell game with the ideas – using style as a mask or code to make sure the right people get the substance; or using the excuse of artistry to get away with the most outrageous leaps in style. “Stand And Deliver” is a stylist’s manifesto in lyric and sound, and in the record’s worst line – “Deep meaning philosophies where only showbiz loses” – Adam buys into the binary himself and betrays a certain fretful conservatism. Why not turn philosophies into showbiz, like the rest of the New Pop was doing? (It hadn’t done the Beatles or McLaren any harm, after all)

But even as Adam sang that line he wasn’t living it: the rest of his song was busy turning showbiz into philosophy. By most accounts Adam was too uptight to fit into the New Romantic, Blitz Kid scene, but this song takes its spirit and turns it into slogans you could understand in the playground: “I spend my cash on looking flash”; “It’s kind of tough to tell a scruff the big mistake he’s making”. Adam is singing about the joy of dressing up, of let’s pretend – grabbing a look or sound and living it. The tribal double drums from his breakthrough singles stayed but the image changed, Native American chic replaced by 18th century loot: highwaymen, Georgian blades, pirates. And that fed back into the sound – instead of the unyielding Burundi patterns of “Dog Eat Dog” or “Kings Of The Wild Frontier”, the rhythms in “Stand And Deliver” are full of flourishes and gallops.

The result was intoxicating, thrilling. Already a star, and a canny, watchful star when it came to his business, Adam Ant must have known that his first new material of ’81 had a good chance of going straight in at the top. To his credit he made a record that deserved to. Later he would play the pantomime card too often, but on “Stand And Deliver” he pitches the costume drama just right – a riot of colour and a tiny hint of danger. Seeing the video I knew this record was more of an Event than anything I’d heard before.

Certainly “Stand And Deliver” is built as an event, from the horns that announce it to the savage “Yah!” that ends it. The thing that strikes me about it now is how fast it is: at a rough estimate it’s topping 140 bpm and it feels like a steeplechase, punctuated by those stick-clashing breaks and accompanied by war whoops. These cries and hollers added needed and marvellous colour to Ant tracks – the man wasn’t a great melodist or harmonist – and also reinforced the impression that being an Ant was a wonderful job, a life of brigandage and comradeship. At the climax of “Stand And Deliver”, the faux-tribal calls of his previous hits are suddenly shifted into the 18th century setting with the gloriously idiotic chant of “fa diddly qua qua!”. Not for the last time one is struck by the loyalty of the resolutely un-dandyish Marco Pirroni et al. as they sang along, but it was so worth it.

What did it mean? It meant Adam Ant had flair and balls and a sense of the absurd. It meant he was a star. The little boys understood: for me everything about “Stand And Deliver” – the music, the look – was brilliant. The moment Adam Ant crashed through the window above the banqueting hall was the moment I became quietly obsessed with pop. I have never had the confidence or dress sense to be a dandy highwayman, but if it’ll have me I’d still pledge my allegiance to the Insect Nation.



  1. 1
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 9 Jan 2009 #

    awopbop aloobop a lop bam rococo

  2. 2
    Conrad on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Adam worked very hard to realise his vision, and “Stand And Deliver” perhaps represents the pinnacle of that journey, certainly as the perfect marriage of 3 minute pop single and accompanying video. The video is everything it should be, and more. It brings the whole concept of the song – and Adam – to life. Its witty, imaginative and utterly compelling – everything great pop should be. It was an Event – absolutely. The story of Adam injuring his leg in attempting his own daredevil stunts was quickly circulating around school.

    Tom – you pick up on the gang mentality, the exuberance, the sense of wanting to be part of this band of brigands. I think that was critical to Adam’s success. While he was the undoubted star (and his partnership with Marco the foundation of the band’s T-Rex like run of hits in 81), the kids (particularly the boys) bought into Adam And the Ants as a group. The loss of his Ants left Adam alone as an increasingly absurd faux-vaudeville performer; the post-punk edge that inspired the Burundi beats or the “them or us” gang mentality of the early releases completely missing.

    But that’s for later. For now, Adam was the biggest pop star in the country.

    Is the first New Pop number 1?

  3. 3
    Billy Smart on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Tom is spot on. There’s a slight problem with writing about this song for me, as I consider the next Ant number one to be the absolute quintessance of Antism as a philosophy.

    But for my eight-year old self, this song really did sound like a riot of rhythms, slogans and poses. In actual fact, slightly too much was going on here for me to be able to take in: The sensory experiences of hearing the single and seeing the video were highly divergent ones, and I prefered the music to be anchored to the more comprehensible visual narrative and aesthetic of the video, rather than skittering off all the time into tangents, as it seemed to without the television guide-pictures.

    Adam was probably slightly more of a girls’ thing, than a boys one, the girls claiming greater allegience and understanding of the phenomena than the boys – the first time that I was aware of this happening toward a pop star.

  4. 4
    Conrad on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Billy – wasn’t it a case of the girls fancying Adam, the boys wanting to be him?

    I imagine this happened with Bowie and Bolan too – but Adam was the first pop star of my pophood that I became aware of this happening to.

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 9 Jan 2009 #

    #2 Watch. A week of ‘Stars On 45′ (the medley craze one of the overriding pop phenomena of 1981, though none of these singles quite got to the very top) followed by a whopping four weeks for Shakin’ Stevens ‘You Drive Me Crazy’. Neither are anything like as good as ‘Stand & Deliver’.

  6. 6
    Tom on 9 Jan 2009 #

    I think I and the boys I knew who loved Adam wouldn’t have used the word fancied to describe what we felt but it was surely part of it.

  7. 7
    Tom on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Though come to think of it, of all the dressy homosocial pop idols (i.e. most of ’em) Adam is one of the least androgynous seeming. I don’t think this is to do with the bodiced beauties in the vids, more that the sociality he’s evoking is very much pre-sexual: maybe just cos I was 8 when he hit big, but the Ants always seemed a playground mob to me. Of course his earlier songs were a lot more sexed-up: Dirk Wears White Sox is full of vaguely S&M stylings. And later on he tried to combine his panto pop and sexy sides on the rather embarassing “Strip”, which flopped monstrously.

  8. 8
    Billy Smart on 9 Jan 2009 #

    I know that its a song with a poor critical reputation, but I think that ‘Puss ‘N’ Boots’ is one of the most acute pop representations of hetrosexual male lust that I know.

  9. 9
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 9 Jan 2009 #

    this only just occurred to me, but the social and political philosophy behind bow wow wow (“see jungle see jungle go join yr gang YEAH city all over go apecrazy”) is cheekily descended from rousseau’s much-contested 18th-century conception of the “noble savage” (that education and civilisation spoil the natural goodness and etc of the child); adam’s — by contrast, but also by close-neighbour-evolution* – valorises 18th-century outlaws (highwaymen; pirates); figures presumably (in rousseau-esque terms) already spoiled by civilisation…

    anyway i don’t know what to make of this except to reiterate that i really like sofia coppola’s film about marie antionette

    *BWW-music and antmusic share a common root and indeed musicians

  10. 10
    Tom on 9 Jan 2009 #

    It’s complicated slightly by the fact that – dodging a bit around the Spoiler Ant-lion here – Adam also valorises aristos: the whole 18th century is a giant toybox seen through an Antian lens. (philosophy vs showbiz again!)

  11. 11
    Martin Skidmore on 9 Jan 2009 #

    I love this, but at the time, or at least at the time of the earlier big hits, I was also rather bewildered and astonished by the new Ant phenomenon. I’d seen Adam and the Ants live in, I think, 1977, at Barton Hill Youth Club in Bristol, supported by, as I recall, Jordan. They were dreadful: clumsy punk, lacking any kind of flair. It seemed almost inconceivable that they could have turned into this excitingly glamorous pop juggernaut.

  12. 12
    pink champale on 9 Jan 2009 #

    pink s – though bow wow wow’s album cover pastiched déjeuner sur l’herbe which was if anything a rejection of rousseauian ideas presenting the nude in a modern sophisticated settting instead of an idealised pastoral classsical world. (er, not that anyone saw the ancient greeks as noble savages). anyway, i suspect malcolm mclaren is not a man to let philosphical consistency get in the way of putting a naked 14 year old on a record cover.

  13. 13
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 9 Jan 2009 #

    of course the S in S&M stands for an 18th-century figure who was both aristo and outlaw, and believed in encouraging savage natural (and indeed unnatural) passions!

    adam ant is our lewis namier: discuss

  14. 14
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 9 Jan 2009 #

    i think the word “apecrazy” trumps all possible philosophical consistency! cf also eg “sexy eiffel tower”

  15. 15
    Martin Skidmore on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Has no one mentioned yet that the musical style and clothing style were Malcolm McLaren’s idea? Obviously they didn’t get far with it before he, then their manager, took basically the whole band except Adam to form Bow Wow Wow (which is why there are such strong similarities), but clearly these ideas were what made the new lineup a huge success.

  16. 16
    pink champale on 9 Jan 2009 #

    rousseau sez: home taping is killing music

  17. 17
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 9 Jan 2009 #

    15: the clothing style was surely vivienne westwood’s idea

  18. 18
    Tom on 9 Jan 2009 #

    My understanding is that MM – called in as a branding consultant! – suggested the tribal drumming and native american get-ups but the pirate and highwayman (and latterly the panto stuff) were Adam’s own extension of it.

    The beginning of Like Punk Never Happened has a great pen-portrait of Adam the washed-up punker, drinking endless cups of tea in Bromley and plotting his course to stardom.

  19. 19
    Tommy Mack on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Number 1 when I was born: a noble philosophy by which I’ve lived my life ever since. (Well, since adulthood anyway, the less said about my teens, the better…)

    Surely a number 10? An instant classic and completely unlike anything else I’ve ever heard (apart from people who’ve swiped moves from Adam since). Always loved Adam’s lyrics too, bravado, swagger, wit, but laced with hints at the paranoid narcissism that would eventually drag him down.

  20. 20
    Conrad on 9 Jan 2009 #

    #15 – the recruitment of Marco was a big step forward in the writing and arranging department. MP knew how to build hooks around Adam’s embryonic and relatively basic melodic ideas.

    they also recruited some fine musicians – people like gary tibbs had played with roxy music.

    BWW didn’t have the songs did they.

  21. 21
    Tom on 9 Jan 2009 #

    I spent a sleepless night (OK, a sleepless 5 minutes) deliberating whether this was a 9 or a 10. In the end I decided that if I was deliberating that much I should probably go for the 9. My conscience is still Adam’s though.

  22. 22
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 9 Jan 2009 #

    BWW certainly had the songs! and when they didn’t they swiped them off someone else (viz “see jungle”, which is based on some mbaqanga classic iirc)

    cassette pet, see jungle and i want candy are all very playable LPs, dodgy provence and ahem-over-the-line marketing notwithstanding

  23. 23
    Tommy Mack on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Don’t really know BWW, Gotta say, I find the original Ants’ Dirk… hard going. They definitely hit their stride once Marco, Merrick et al came on board.

    I don’t know what’s wierder; that someone would pay Malcolm McLaren for his advice about being a pop star, or that it would actually turn out to be brilliant.

  24. 24
    lonepilgrim on 9 Jan 2009 #

    I love this for it’s insouciant energy and devil-may-care attitude. It’s like a Crackerjack skit somehow made cool. For all it’s success I don’t recall too many people adopting full on regency garb on the streets – although I suspect Prince was taking notes

  25. 25
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 9 Jan 2009 #

    (anecdata: just now searching for adam ant songs in um pirate-booty form, i discovered that a LOT more of the dirk/sox era is available than its merits would support, and a lot less of the actually good stuff)

  26. 26
    Erithian on 9 Jan 2009 #

    A bit surprised to see Billy reckon Adam was more of a girls’ thing, particularly as he was eight at the time. My nephew was nine, a couple of years older than Tom, and was RIGHT into Adam and the Ants at the time. I was with him and his stepdad when the Ants appeared on a TV show, and his stepdad just went “Awww… skill!” which was the vernacular of North Wales primary school kids of the day.

    It was a new experience for me to watch someone in my family younger than me getting into a pop act in a big way. While your Durans and Spandaus will have appealed to the Blitz Kids, this version of the Ants was a treat for their kid brothers, and every boy who ever wanted to play at pirates or whatever. And yes, this was a great single – unlike so many other acts on here they did get their biggest hit with their best record.

    And they sure livened things up that year. Think how big they were in the first half of ’81 in particular – with the help of cash-in re-releases they had “Antmusic” at 2, “Young Parisiennes” at 9, “Kings of the Wild Frontier” at 2, “Zerox”, “Dirk” and “Cartrouble” lower down the chart, then this entering at number 1 (only the second act since 1973 to do so), all by the first week of May – and the parent album spending 12 weeks at number one, the longest run by an artist album of new material since “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (only the Grease and SNF soundtracks and the Carpenters’ greatest hits having had longer runs in the meantime).

  27. 27
    Conrad on 9 Jan 2009 #

    #23 – Malcolm McLaren was a visionary. “Duck Rock” is an astonishing achievement, and years ahead of its time.

    And I think his £1k’s worth of advice to Adam was about the best £1k Adam ever spent, even if MM did then sack him from his own band!

    #22 – I’ve always found BWW strident and messy, but I’m really going on the singles. Perhaps I should explore one of the albums

  28. 28
    Elsa on 9 Jan 2009 #

    I generally prefer Bow Wow Wow to Adam because they took everything further and their musicians were just plain better. But yes, BWW occasionally applied their piratic principles to real life: listen to their “Hello Hello Daddy (I’ll Sacrifice You)” followed by Gilberto Gil’s “Aquele Abraço”. Did they think no one would notice? However, Adam did have some kind of magic commercial touch at this point & did more with less vis-a-vis BWW, notably on this wonderful track.

  29. 29
    Tom on 9 Jan 2009 #

    #26 the vernacular of kids everywhere! An approving “yeah, skillFUL” or “skill” was definitely as far as my articulated popcrit of Adam went at the time.

  30. 30
    wichita lineman on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Re 19: “paranoid narcissism” really shows through on the next Adam entry….. at which point he started to irritate me (retrospectively I love it, and Ant Rap). Everything up to and including S&D is SO gleeful, more slogans per line than anyone since Chuck Berry. My own problem with S&D is its slight rhythmic resemblance to an out-of-control three-wheeled go kart. Dog Eat Dog, KOTWF and Antmusic had been so heavy and driving, Marco’s Duane Eddy guitar adding a half-speed, laid back grace to the Burundi thud. So, an 8 for me.

    A quick word for the beautiful Cartrouble which, along with Xerox, was a fixture in the 1981 Independent Chart Top 5. Powerpop? Glam punk? It’s a miraculous noise, as uplifting as Shake Some Action or September Gurls or Roadrunner. And it includes the tense, emotionally-sung line “You don’t need anything after an ice cream.” Is that a sexual reference that I don’t get? Have I been missing out all these years?

  31. 31
    Tom on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Yes “Cartrouble” is terrific – I always thought Suede lifted a lot of their sound from that record.

  32. 32
    Billy Smart on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Re #26. Oh, we boys liked Adam a lot, don’t get me wrong, but our female peers claimed that they had a deeper understanding of him than we did, i.e. they fancied him. Adam Ant must have been the first popstar that I noticed my female peers liking, Sting probably being an older sisters thing.

  33. 33
    Tommy Mack on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Cartrouble is ace. But only the single version tacked on the end of the Dirk/Sox CD, the album versh is only really good for the amazingly percussive kick drum that goes on for what seems like hours at the start.

  34. 34
    wichita lineman on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Re 31: Very Suede isn’t it? Brett A never convinced me AT ALL with his supposed sexual deviance, though, whereas Adam A seemed positively on a mission.

    I don’t want to get bogged down in catalogue number world, but I’ve never got the chronology of Cartrouble – was it released as a single after the group signed to CBS, as a cash-in?

  35. 35
    Tommy Mack on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Re: #30, yeah, Dog, KOTWF are definitely freer and wilder sounding, but S&D is just such a rollicking tune, all the sprawling elements from their early singles are kicked into something more compact and cohesive, like T Rex just when they shortened the name.

  36. 36
    Tommy Mack on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Re: #34
    Carbtrouble: not entirely sure, but I think you’re right – recorded Dirk-era then bunged out retrospectively to cash in on the new band’s fame.

  37. 37
    Tommy Mack on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Just read my typo: obv. Cartrouble, not Carbtrouble – that came later when his waistline expanded…actually, so did cartrouble, when he chucked his engine block at some drinkers in Camden (who, let’s face it, probably deserved it if the folks I’ve met drinking in Camden are anything to go by ;-) )

  38. 38
    LondonLee on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Excellent review Tom, as I was reading it I was getting the impression that this must have been an important record for you, then you confirmed it at the end.

    I must admit I did prefer Bow Wow Wow too (especially ‘Your Cassette Pet’) as they were sexier and a little less pantomime. As was said above this is a very “Crackerjack” kind of record, like some kid’s telly skit come to life.

    The production is a little bit everything-but-the-kitchen-sink for me (the stripped-down ‘Ant Music’ is more my speed) which was often the case of “event” singles releases in those days, but the sense of a runaway train the band are having a hard time keeping up with is what makes it so thrilling.

  39. 39
    will on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Nothing much to add except that for about 18 months the Ants were the most thrilling thing in British pop. And in 1981 they were simply perfect for us tweenies, the generation who might have remembered the Pistols, but were too young to really appreciate them.

  40. 40
    Mark M on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Re 9: Marie Antoinette is an ace film, one that seems to have been willfully misunderstood. Surely the most blatantly Ant-flavoured film was the now long- forgotten “Trainspotting with highwaymen” Plunkett & Macleane.

  41. 41
    ace inhibitor on 9 Jan 2009 #

    as a late arrival at popular I’ve been happily gorging for the last week (thanks tom) on (roughly) 65-73. this may have skewed my response here slightly, but… strikes me the obvious ancestor for AA & S.A.D is Benny Hill’s Ernie (the fastest milkman in the west). All the elements are there – the dressing up; the song-as-character (admittedly Benny sang in the 3rd person but the promo film made it clear that he was Ernie); the TV/film historical reference points; the spoken verses with a bit of a tune in the chorus, the galloping rhythm, er, the horses…

    Meanwhile, I thought Bow Wow Wow’s great moment was W.O.R.K – ‘Wuh! Oh Ar Kuh N O, no no my daddy don’t’ etc, dole-age gleeful celebration a million times better than ‘Young guns’ which I don’t think we’ll be discussing? and an answer record of sorts to something which we will be quite soon.

  42. 42
    ace inhibitor on 9 Jan 2009 #

    not young guns – wham rap

  43. 43
    AndyPandy on 9 Jan 2009 #

    I’d disagree that he hit Number One with his best track I thought this was far inferior to the genuinely original and exciting fusion of disparate elements that were ‘Dog Eat Dog’, ‘Antmusic’ and ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’. The previous autumn I remember the KOTWF album being played in the youth club and them it defintely was a boys and girls thing but by this stage Adam and the Ants fandom had been largely ceded to the girls. But maybe we’re talking about 2 different things here and that with kids of primary school age Adam was still very appealing to both boys and girls at this stage but that this wasn’t necessarily the case amongst slightly older boys by the ‘Stand and Deliver’ era.

    PS For anyone who hasn’t already read it Adam Ant’s autobiography is well worth getting hold off. For a humble, interesting and well told story (and which never shies away from confronting his later mental health problems in an extremely candid way) it takes some beating. I don’t think I’ve ever read an autobiography which has given me such a feeling that its subject is such a thoroughly decent and likeable person.

  44. 44
    Malice Cooper on 9 Jan 2009 #

    All the girls at school seemed to fancy Adam, those who weren’t closet lesbians in their quest to be David Sylvian anyway.

    Personally I never quite caught the craze. This was a good pop record but their cover version of Rolf Harris’s “War canoe” which followed this was very dreary. “Ant rap” was an appalling noise but great at the same time and you did get an advent calendar picture cover if you were one of the first 200,000 to buy the single.

    I would say this was by far their most commercial single and with the exception of “Dog eat dog” is probably their best.

    Record companies mercilessly dragged out their old recordings which were all fairy horrible and deserved their original chart positions. I would be surprised if many people over A-level age bought their records.

    Nobody tried to look like Adam at my school either, but a few of them have gone on to wave guns around.

    Like LondonLee I preferred Bow Wow Wow especially when Annabel told B A Robertson what she thought of his interviewing techniques.

  45. 45
    ace inhibitor on 9 Jan 2009 #

    looking like adam would have been a bit of a challenge, surely, when the look changed with every single

  46. 46
    DV on 9 Jan 2009 #

    My old flatmate said that he always reckoned that it was Fat Marco who did all the “Awwww”s on Adam Ant records. He also saw Adam & the Ants live.

    To this day, whenever I see a doorway placed high above the ground, I always wonder if it is there for Adam Ant to jump out of.

  47. 47
    Matthew on 10 Jan 2009 #

    This is marvellously Dionysian stuff, and so kid-friendly: as a 6-year-old I had no objection to music, but I needed spaceships and cowboys and dandy highwaymen to give my imagination something to latch onto, to make it a winning proposition.

    Adam was certainly fanciable, but was it a sexual thing? I had a girlfriend who wasn’t even born at the time of this record who asserts that Adam Ant was the first person she fancied, long before she even had the muddiest inklings about actual sex. I suspect it was always just as much about wanting to be him, for boys and girls alike. If popmusic doesn’t let you dress up like a fool and have hair-raising fairytale adventures then frankly I’m not sure I can see the point.

  48. 48
    lonepilgrim on 10 Jan 2009 #

    it’s only in retrospect that I realise how bizarre much of 80s pop was – in this case: let’s use african drumming, duane eddy guitars and dress up like a panto act and we’ll have a hit!
    nowadays a band like vampire weekend parades it’s african influences as evidence of how cutting edge it is – kids today, eh?

  49. 49
    Doctor Casino on 11 Jan 2009 #

    “If popmusic doesn’t let you dress up like a fool and have hair-raising fairytale adventures then frankly I’m not sure I can see the point.”

    This sums it up for me, and nails why, discovering this song at maybe age 23, it still rang true and Adam still seemed like the coolest dude on the planet. This is a 10 easily for all the reasons already discussed – it’s just a blast to listen to this! Even the “change keys to raise excitement” trick feels fresh and new, and the total cacophony of overlapping hooks at the end, carried by the straining “Staaaaaaaaand and deliver!” – this is what Tom wanted “Sugar Sugar” to be I think.

    Resurrection Watch – nobody has yet mentioned the sad 2000s-era rewrite by Adam himself, “Save The Gorilla,” but I’ll go ahead and remind everybody…

  50. 50
    Pete Baran on 11 Jan 2009 #

    Save the gorilla, only for those with strong constitution. Recorded for the Dian Fossey charity and then pulped when Marco refused to let them use it. I can see why even he baulked at the Its For Charity line.


  51. 51
    lonepilgrim on 11 Jan 2009 #

    having watched the original video on youtube – after a gap of 28 years – I can’t help noticing how much Johnny Depp as Captain Jack owes to Adam

    and apropos of nothing – how different would Stuart Goddard’s career have been if he’d been around a few years earlier as a prog outfit? – Gong meets Tolkein as: Edam and the Ents

  52. 52
    Alan on 11 Jan 2009 #

    (repeating a comment posted elsewhere)

    Cartrouble is where the Futureheads got their sound from. consciously or not – it’s eery how much it sounds like them.

  53. 53
    Matt Cibula on 12 Jan 2009 #

    This was such a Great Big Pop Thing that it even trickled down to small towns in the rural U.S. west, where we lived. My brothers and their friends painted their faces in full Adam war regalia when we went to the concert in Portland, Oregon (I didn’t because I brought my girlfriend). He did not disappoint for drama, flash, or any of the things Bis claimed to want in pop music.

  54. 54
    peter goodlaws on 14 Jan 2009 #

    I could take or leave Adam and the Ants. Certainly not top dollar imho. I do remember Adam going on TISWAS and Sally James asking him just one question, something on the lines of “could you explain the origins of the ant concept?”. Before Adam had time to answer he was “flanned”. I don’t recall him being too overjoyed.

  55. 55
    rosie on 14 Jan 2009 #

    Adam and the Ants sailed way over my head, I’m afraid. But then, this is a definite sign that at age 26 I really wasn’t the target audience for this sort of thing.

    I liked the outfits though; very becoming on a man. I craved being a New Romantic at this time but with a toddler in toe and precious little money coming in, and no generous Poor Little Rich Kid trust fund to allow me to buy the eye-stingingly expensive outfits required, there was sod all chance of me being allowed within twenty miles of Blitz!

    The chronology confuses me. Weren’t AatA past their peak by this time? I say this because when I think of them I think, not of Cambridge where I was living (and patronising Andy’s Records in Mill Road) but of the juke box in the Gardener’s Arms in Hull.

    Anyway, listening again I find Adam more agreeable than I thought at the time – recalled as sounding like jumped-up football chanting. All the same, I can’t squeeze more than a 5 for this and that’s pushing it.

  56. 56
    The Wolfmen on 15 Jan 2009 #

    The week’s most read post! Fantastico

  57. 57
    CarsmileSteve on 15 Jan 2009 #

    oh, hey marco!

    man i loved adam. shakey was cool and everthing, but adam was clearly, monumentally, more of a pop star. was it 110 weeks on the chart in 81? i know it’s around that figure. mind you, i did always have “kiss this guy” moments with the lyrics, viz, “join this instegnation” (no i do not know what an instegnation is either, but it sounded a bit like insurrection i guess), also “the way you look you’ll qualify for next year’s uninspection”. but still a 9 because there’s a better one to come…

  58. 58
    Neil B on 15 Jan 2009 #

    Re #34 : “Cartrouble” was first released as a single in early 1980. It flopped of course (except on the indie chart), but was reissued (or repromoted) a year later and made No.33.

    As for “Stand & Deliver”, I think it is by far Adam’s best No.1, though not his best single. I am a big fan of the early stuff (“Dirk…”, “Zerox” etc) but also love the Ants’ pop material eg. “Kings…”, “Antmusic”. I was a big fan when I was 9, and still think most of their hits have aged well.

  59. 59
    Bow Wow 4ever on 9 Mar 2009 #

    Hi Bow Wow just want u to know i am one of your greatest fan and i am still hoping that i will meet u some day.Bye bye

  60. 60
    Mark G on 9 Mar 2009 #

    That’s the wrong Bow Wow, mate.

  61. 61
    admin on 9 Mar 2009 #

    BTW that was link spam posted multiple times on FT. I’ve deleted most and just removed the URL link on this one.

  62. 62
    lonepilgrim on 8 Apr 2009 #

    gwen stefani/no doubt have just released a version of this toon – avaiable on youtube – and it is horrible

  63. 63
    Lex on 16 Apr 2009 #

    OK, I have just heard the original for the first time (because of the No Doubt cover) and, having not seen this post at the time, I must say that the love shown to it is deeply, deeply baffling to me. (Though Rosie’s “jumped-up football chant” diss does ring true.) As I just posted to Tom, as I was relistening to the horrid thing:

    OK, I’m listening to it again. It sounds like the “joke” bonus track on an indie album. Dude’s voice is TERRIBLE and made worse by cramming 99493364034 mannerisms into each syllable. Why is he mangling, like, every single word like that? I don’t get how that’s supposed to make me feel apart from annoyed. I can’t even hear a hook in this! It sounds like…stuff falling down the stairs, this is a total mess. Um, what are those grunts in the background? I wish those would stop. And the stupid chant it breaks into at the end? WTF.

    I also have to take issue with the comment in 47 – “If popmusic doesn’t let you dress up like a fool and have hair-raising fairytale adventures then frankly I’m not sure I can see the point” – this is absolutely not what I’ve ever looked for in pop music, if anything it’s precisely the opposite of what I want in pop, and I think it does pop (as I understand it) a huge disservice.

  64. 64
    wichita lineman on 16 Apr 2009 #

    Re 63: it does sound like stuff falling downstairs, no doubt. Not so sure about your comments on no.47. Are you really suggesting that what you look for in pop is dressing up normally and reflecting everyday life without any “hair-raising adventures”? That sounds a bit like every track bar the joke bonus on a bog standard indie album. I’m fairly certain that’s not what you meant, so I’m intrigued to know how Stand And Deliver is the antithesis of your pop ideal.

  65. 65
    Lex on 16 Apr 2009 #

    I’m not sure I have a pop ideal per se, but it’s the implied wacky clownishness which I’m mostly objecting to: how is dressing and acting like a fool meant to be a good thing? Being a figure of fun isn’t an aesthetic I’m down with. I want pop music to make me feel more than myself – harder, better, faster, stronger – but being a fool is a diminishment. It’s not something I want to feel, it makes me uncomfortable to see others deliberately doing it, and it doesn’t reveal any profundities which could mitigate that.

  66. 66
    Tom on 16 Apr 2009 #

    Ridicule is something to be scared of?

  67. 67

    old man lex: you kids, get orff my lawn!
    even older men on lex’s lawn: hee hee hee!

  68. 68
    Lex on 16 Apr 2009 #

    Not at all, but it shouldn’t be something to actively court!

  69. 69
    Tom on 16 Apr 2009 #

    Well Adam – who was by most accounts a deadly serious fellow – seemed to have the philosophy that in order to become harder, better, stronger etc. you had to RISK ridicule. Which isn’t quite the same thing as courting it.

  70. 70

    fleeing ridicule is proof that you’re frightened of it — i think there’s a strong strand of exactly this fear and this brittleness in lex’s favoured aesthetic, alongside a strand which is genuinely unafraid of being silly (or being thought silly by some)

    a ton of rap and r&b is all about dressing up and fronting, and it’s a baseline element in the whole very strange idea of SINGING AND DANCING — the energy is that you’re standing up, doing this thing which is odd and unworldly, in front of ppl who might jeer and throw fruit, and you PULL IT OFF

    different times call for different strategies to disarm the fruit-throwers, of course — but to grasp this you have to have a smidgen of historical sympathy

  71. 71
    Matt DC on 16 Apr 2009 #

    I approve wholeheartedly of actively courting the idea of looking utterly foolish and this is an enormous part of the appeal of Kate Bush, Beyonce, Bjork, Madonna, T-Pain on an elephant, everyone who has ever gone raving but in particular in the early 90s, and on a darker note Britney circa Blackout.

    The alternative is everyman Oasisblokes or tedious icy hipster ennui which doesn’t really appeal.

  72. 72
    Pete Baran on 16 Apr 2009 #

    Flirting with ridicule eh?

  73. 73
    CarsmileSteve on 16 Apr 2009 #

    yes lex, i really don’t see the difference between Adam and Sasha Fierce, Adam was very srs about what he was doing, there is no wink or nod in his pose because he wasn’t scared of ridicule (or, more precisely, because he didn’t want to show he was scared of it).

    i’m not surprised at your dislike of the music, but i can’t get my head around your dislike of the concept/popstarness of adam.

  74. 74

    the difference is about gettin yr chops in order, isn’t it? beyonce has a clear schooled mastery of performerly technique — the present-day checklist of things a profressional singer and showperson is expected to be good at

    but there was NO SUCH agreed-on checklist in 1982; adam really is winging it from the stage of the schoolplay, improvising an aesthetic into being — the thrill at the time was that he was pulling it off, actually establishing such a checklist (and, as often happens, being the first to fall foul of its establishment: he could show people where to go but wasn’t going to get there himself) (“i’m a dandy highywayMOSES”)

  75. 75
    Les Tennant on 16 Apr 2009 #

    It seems pretty clear that Adam Ant was not actually seeking ridicule himself. Sadly it did find him in the end. Save the gorillas!

  76. 76
    Lex on 16 Apr 2009 #

    To me, it’s the difference between dressing up as the court jester, and dressing up as the queen. Both are ostensibly ridiculous, but one is geared towards inspiring AWE, but the other just invites fruit-throwers. Mariah’s diva antics and Beyoncé’s alter ego and T-Pain riding an elephant may seem silly, but they’re still all about being better – better than themselves, and better than you.

    Also, all the counter-examples listed so far have a huge element of seriousness to balance the silly costume or concept or whatever – chops or emotional realness or success or whatever. Tori Amos breastfeeds a piglet, but in the name of Very Serious, Cathartic Art – which she pulls off. T-Pain has production nous which he’s turned into a serious money-making machine. Mariah says she’s eternally 12, but she’s made her name with ballads which demand serious emotional identification with her. That’s what Adam Ant lacks – I don’t see the point of his foolishness, and I don’t hear what he’s taking seriously, and nothing about ‘Stand & Deliver’ makes him better.

    I don’t think risking ridicule is necessary for greatness either – it can be done (usually not so much by risking ridicule as sidestepping it entirely), but most people just can’t pull it off, and I would include Adam Ant in that. Kanye might be a good example here – the more he risks ridicule, the worse his music gets.

  77. 77
    Matt DC on 16 Apr 2009 #

    “the present-day checklist of things a profressional singer and showperson is expected to be good at

    but there was NO SUCH agreed-on checklist in 1982”

    I’m not sure I really hold with that even though I wasn’t there at the time – eg any number of acts that spun out of Motown. Unless you hold there’s a present-day agreed on checklist even now which I don’t agree with.

    The difference I think is looking like a loon within carefully-defined parameters (Sasha Fierce) and looking like a loon fullstop and pulling it off or otherwise. I suspect a lot of music Lex likes fits into the latter category and whether or not the artist is pulling it off in his eyes comes down to plain like or dislike of the music. Elephants in room here being Michael Jackson and Prince who looked utterly shamelessly ludicrous whichever way you slice it – eg DRESSING UP LIKE ZOMBIES ffs.

  78. 78
    Matt DC on 16 Apr 2009 #

    The difference is also the same difference between wobbly 80s cardboard sets and rubber monsters and full-on 00s CGI-and-explosions.

  79. 79
    SteveM on 16 Apr 2009 #

    This seems to me exactly the same as trying to argue/reason with G3ir about music (the definitions of/the possibilities within). Exactly.

  80. 80

    matt: within different substreams there were different pre-established checklists, certainly — but there absolutely wasn’t an agreed-on dominant stream (in 1981, i mean; there was an interregnum, of two or three years, when it wasn’t clear what the dominant stream was going to be) — “agreed-on” is the point to emphasise, and this is an argument about dominance

    at the time, adam DID pull it off: now, well, you can say his shtick “doesn’t stand the test of time” (easy proof, you and lex think he’s rubbish), but such a test is a concession that undercuts exactly the value lex finds in his current beloved music — that it ISN’T aimed at seeing the blessing of history (hence why he personally is so unbothered by his lack of knowledge of pop history: it isn’t an issue to him), it’s aimed at seizing the stage and holding the audience spellbound NOW

    so what’s interesting is why such variant aesthetics — give or take the overlap, which in my opinion is more than lex can see or hear — have at different times been ones that hold people spellbound: i o’t much mind the answer “because people in the old days were rubbish, now they know better”, i think it’s a necessary delusion of the young (and dear god it was a delusion i paraded when i was young and xmas dinner was roast pterodactyl and ALL THINGS WERE GOOD) (get off MY lawn!) but it’s a delusion you can only evade the dispelling of by dying young

    (my further argument is that the “best of time” aesthetic produces deep badness in anything in its thrall — it makes for dreary, pompous art more concerned with symbols than tactile effect and content, but that’s a bit of a digression here i think)

  81. 81
    Matt DC on 16 Apr 2009 #

    Haha my dislike of him is entirely down to the music but I will defend to the death his decision to dress up like a highwayman and ponce around.

  82. 82

    i can pretend that 80 is clearer — nay, decisive — w/o the typos, can’t i? work with me ppl

  83. 83
    Lex on 16 Apr 2009 #

    Well yeah, my dislike of AA is less because he dresses like a fool than because he sounds like one, but it does seem that they’re both coming from the same place – which is why I’m objecting to Adam Ant as overall popstar package, or at least his take on it. It’s similar to why I’m annoyed by Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and La Roux nowadays – so much effort put into looking stupid, so much pretentious nonsense to justify why you’re wearing a banana outfit/not wearing pants, and – crucially – so little musical quality. Ultimately, the music of all the other artists we’ve mentioned would work with or without their costumery, which is just attractive ornamentation – w/Gaga, La Roux and Adam Ant especially, you feel that it’s all dependent on the heavily-signposted “craziness”.

    Another reason I object to the idea that risking ridicule is necessary for greatness is that it does a huge disservice to those artists who manage to be great without ever once contemplating the idea that they should look foolish and caper around – Mary J Blige, Sade and Ne-Yo come to mind.

  84. 84
    Lex on 16 Apr 2009 #

    Actually I just realised what ‘Stand & Deliver’ ACTUALLY reminds me of – it’s Kate Bush’s ‘Sat In Your Lap’ if it was somehow made really terrible and clumsy, and performed by an idiot instead of a genius.

  85. 85
    Tom on 16 Apr 2009 #

    #83 there is an element truth in this Lex but remember that this is the dawn of the video age: Adam was one of the first to really work at making image and music mesh, and this was a thrilling thing to be doing and the music ‘working with or without the costumery’ was UTTERLY not the point, indeed AGAINST the point. (This essentialist argument is basically the same as “the test of a good song is whether it sounds good on acoustic guitar” anyway).

    “the devil take your stereo and your record collection” – Adam is at least partly on Lex’s side here.

  86. 86
    Tom on 16 Apr 2009 #

    Also Lex please rush and hear “Ant Rap” ;)

  87. 87

    just because ne-yo doesn’t contemplate looking foolish doesn’t mean he doesn’t! (and sade is the world’s most boring stick-up-her-arse pop-star [who was actually pretty good] in pop history)

    if kate b is about anything, it’ about not caring if you look (or sound) silly!

    fundamentally lex is building a prison — or a stocks — for himself: when he reaches age [insert number here], VER KIDZ will come along and mercilessly mock everything he loves as irrelevant incompetent useless rubbish from the dark ages and him as a useless bypassed old grandad WHO KNOWS NOTHING just like that bewhiskered gimmer simon reynolds they’ve heard tell of, then they will play their future-music on the bus loudly and lex will be SAD bcz he hates it and what happened?

  88. 88
    SteveM on 16 Apr 2009 #

    Adam Ant neither looks (highwayman and prince costumes both 100% awesome) nor sounds like a fool (no more than any pop punk-derived vocalist) but the jester (summoned by supposedly awe-inspiring Queen) analogy does otherwise work. I think the other important point is that his music was likely to be a great deal more appealing to kids than every other artist mentioned in this argument) none of whom are really comparable because of the time distance and that they’re doing something quite different in pop.

    That suggests a lack of sophistication in his work, which would be fine as sophistication is hardly a requisite of youth-orientated pop (not that his music and ideas ever struck me as poorly produced or realised in several cases). My inclination to defend him stems largely from that plus the obvious personal attachment and memories which are as important as anything else (although granted I place more value on childhood musical memories than on the “mistakes” made in adolescence).

  89. 89
    Tom on 16 Apr 2009 #

    Yeah SteveM makes a good point in that the idea of pop appealing to children via thrill-power, in the same way a comic or a kids book or adventure cartoon might, has almost completely vanished: music aimed at the 8-10s now is imitating “young adult” fiction not adventure fiction – it’s a preview of teenagerdom (or adulthood).

  90. 90

    i am not a fan of the idea of cycles in pop culture, but i wonder if there is a kind of cycle for the return (and subsequent disappearance) of tot-pop as a value? (cf also capt.sensible and his tiswas-stylings?) (and madness, whose entire thing is a melancholic nostalgisation of themselves as kids and the passing of that world)

    what i mean is that, every now and then, a self-identified “generation” reaches a liminal collective age where it’s useful and instructive and fun to annoy their elders and contemporaries by being excited by things that remind them of the things they liked BEFORE they became grumpy horny teenagers

    there’s a lot of stuff in mid-60s pop which exhibits tot-value — then a lull, really, till the early 80s

    in-between there are peaks of the fetishisation of suave adulthood (which are often equally brittle and shortlived)

    er yes, except THERE ARE NO CYCLES IN POP, so er

  91. 91
    Tom on 16 Apr 2009 #


  92. 92

    plus there’s a whole rave sub-genre isn’t there? granpa-brain has set in so i can’t recall its name (“charlie says…”)

  93. 93
    Mark M on 16 Apr 2009 #

    What’s vaguely interesting about Lex’s position* (let it be said again that he is a GREAT BIG ROCKIST) is that it formed a major strain of ’80s pop cultural thinking – there were lots of people who indeed felt ridicule was something to be scared of, and ruled that we must all strive to be timeless and believers in craft and quality and listen mostly to Curtis and Marvin with a side order of Coltrane and to dress like Miles** circa 1958… one improbable result of this being Absolute Beginners, the movie, and another being the welcoming on to the pop scene of pompously high-minded teens like Tanita Tikaram.

    *You do know that almost everyone else ever finds Tori Amos inherently ridiculous, don’t you Lex?

    **As it happens, I am broadly in favour of most men having a go at dressing like Miles in 1958, but a) can see the cultural dangers of such a restrictive approach and b) it normally goes horribly wrong, as it did in the late ’80s, and you had 17 year olds heading out to clubs looking like estate agents.

  94. 94
    SteveM on 16 Apr 2009 #

    I think my reaction to AA at the time, as a 4 year old (that sounds so absurd every time I write it ha ha*), was immediate compulsion and the afore-mentioned thrill-power spectacle. Definitely a sense of ‘I want to be like that’ and it’s hard to imagine anyone else at that point having the same effect (it was a level up from bloody Shakey that’s for sure). Obv Jackson (was already) and would be (i think of Billie Jean as my official intro to he, but MOTWWGT) in a different league but at that young age it would be harder to appreciate just how and why (if anything there may have been a sense of feeling closer to Brit pop acts of the time which helped whereas MJ was more thrillingly foreign – but this is more something that just came thru in the videos). All of which renders much criticism of his ‘musical competence’ largely irrelevant to me at least, but does make him/this Great Pop (Art). Ah subjectivism.

    *But srsly ’82 was a strange and eventful year for lil me for v bad and wrong reasons including nearly dying in a house fire plus parents divorce. Perhaps subconsciously that all made the memory of AA’s theatrical tomfoolery an aspirational beacon (and one of the earliest of many).

  95. 95

    (i have to say — as someone currently very “busily” engaged in a big important essay on what jazz meant in the UK in the 8os [good and bad] — there is something distinctly weird and exciting about the fact that some of the most useful discussion for me to be reading as i write has been two successive adam ant threads! antscension!)

  96. 96
    lonepilgrim on 16 Apr 2009 #

    as someone who grew up with Steve Priest of Sweet wearing a WW I German helmet with lip gloss and eyeliner I found Adam Ant’s image to be quite restrained.

    I’ve just dug out some copies of The Face magazine from 1982 and PLSC is right at #80 about how wide open the debate was about what was going to be the next dominant story.
    In the September 82 issue Robert Elms tries to stake a claim for what he labelled a ‘Hard Times’ ,back-to-basics, aesthetic that abandoned the excess of the New Romantics and the zoot-suited followers of Kid Creole and others. Levi jeans and t-shirts are the preferred clothing and the musical roots cited are Gil Scott-Heron, John Coltrane, Fela Kuti and Curtis Mayfield.
    The same issue features Imagination adopting a hit-the-gym look, Kevin Rowland in Gypsy mode, Culture Club and Bananarama in bold prints and ABC in tweeds.

    Musicians have always dressed up – some more bizarrely than others – but Adam foregrounded the process as a call-to-arms to encourage his audience to leave their drab lives behind.
    And, as I think I mentioned earlier I’m pretty sure Prince nicked the regency look of the Purple Rain era from Adam.

  97. 97

    haha yes “hard times” omg i had forgotten that fad (my old copies of the face are all shelved out of easy reach): cue big fashion-shoot of cute boys in expensive ripped jeans!

  98. 98
    SteveM on 16 Apr 2009 #

    ‘hard times’ doesn’t sound too bad either! but then all of the aforementioned things seem good to me and that there was no dominant style strikes me as high-ranking exhibit wrt why it was such a good time for pop.

  99. 99
    Tom on 16 Apr 2009 #

    Weren’t the biggest benefactors of the hard times thing Wham!?

    (Sorry Bunny)

  100. 100
    Mark M on 16 Apr 2009 #

    Bob Elms, bless him… endearing on the radio and completely aggravating as a writer or worse, a TV talking head.

    The key bit in the Hard Times piece runs “Youth Culture now represents not a rebellion but a tradition, or rather a serious of traditions that date back to the advent of the teenager… How can you rebel against the generation of Coltrane or Brando or MacInnes? What we have is a heritage you can draw succour and inspiration from.”

  101. 101
    AndyPandy on 17 Apr 2009 #

    …and his (Robert Elms’s) biography started so unbelievably well (for the first hundred pages or so I thought it was nigh on perfect) and then to put no finer point on it sort of went crap.Although on the London and south-east pre-house dance underground he definitely knows his stuff. And although he hated acid house and everything after it didn’t stop him coming out with the classic description of the house/rave explosion as “the revenge of the suburban soul boy”.

    I thought the ‘Hard Times’ concept was pretty laughable though and his intoning of bad poetry before early Spandau Ballet concerts although in the latter case when I heard it on a CD it was so laughable it made me genuinely laugh!

  102. 102
    Mark M on 17 Apr 2009 #

    Re 101: Elms seems to suffer from a weird lack of perspective – they were talking about the 1970s on his radio show the other day and it was the usual “in the 70s we ate Smash and now we eat all this interesting stuff”, which is more than partially true, of course, but what he couldn’t grasp was that his trajectory – council estate to well-fed media establishment figure – was rare and personal*. I.e., some of us/our parents were eating brie and avocados in 1974 and plenty of people now (& were long before the current downturn) are living primarily on oven chips. Haven’t read his book, but it would make sense to me if it lost steam at the point where it switched from where he shared his fashion experiences with tens of thousands of other kids in outer London – and moved on where he imagines the rest of us were also writing for The Face and shacked up with pop stars…

    *This is quite common in the self-made, who like to credit sheer hard work rather than luck or skill as being the difference between themselves and those left behind, but you might expect something different in an LSE grad with intellectual interests.

  103. 103
    Mark M on 17 Apr 2009 #

    Also re 101: although the Hard Times article is frequently ridiculous, it does identify a couple of trends that would become important throughout decade: one being the look that eventually crystalised into the white T-shirt/Levis/DMs uniform; the other being, as discussed above, the sense that it was unlikely and foolish to presume that his generation was going to come up with anything better than Curtis and Coltrane, and so our best bet was to mint our versions, so all hail Terence Trent D’Arby and Courtney Pine…

  104. 104
    AndyPandy on 17 Apr 2009 #

    102: yes that’s bang on the slide into mediocrity in his book correlates more or less exactly with his accession to West End tastemaker.

    If we’re talking about lack of perspective however from a similar milieu Stuart Maconie takes some beating.In the pile of shite that is ‘Pies and Prejudice’ (my excuse for reading it being that my Lancastrian girlfriend bought it me to wind me up!)he portrays himself as this member of the North Western proletariat adrift in a sea of insufferable South-Eastern avocado scoffing snobs. Seemingly failing to comprehend that its the age old influx of ‘apirational’ newly middle-class people (including media-types like him) that give London and the south-east just the demographic he spends the whole book getting worked up about…

    And failing to see that (going on there being approximately 20 million people in the south-east)that at least 10 million of these people would see a university educated, broadsheet-reading media-type like Maconie as “a fahkin posh bastard” Wigan origins or not…

  105. 105
    Andrew F on 7 May 2009 #

    Isn’t White T-Shirt/Levis/DMs a skinhead thing poking through into fashion (that Persil ad/the Weetabix Skins that I thought I’d dreamt)?

  106. 106
    Mark M on 7 May 2009 #

    Re 105: Hmmm… That would make sense, as it involved many of the same basic elements, although the jeans were a very different cut and down the Wag we’re talking DM shoes as opposed to big boots; on the other hand, I hadn’t even mentioned the bomber jackets, which both groups shared, and braces…
    But all I can say is that it never read as skinhead, especially as it usually went with a reasonable amount of hair, on the top of the head at least, if not the back’n’sides.

  107. 107
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 7 May 2009 #

    i had a plaster model of the weetabix skinhead who looked most like swellsy — it came with a kit and paint and everything

    my sister broke it (i forget if accidentally or by way of art critique)

  108. 108
    Tim on 8 May 2009 #

    So which of:

    – small girl
    – squeaky little boy with flared nostrils and midland accent
    – lardy football fan
    – specky
    – distinguishing-featureless ur-weetaskin

    looked most like Swellsy?

  109. 109
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 8 May 2009 #

    he was called dunk

  110. 110
    Erithian on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Channel 4 Top 100 Watch: haven’t done this for a while so will catch up. In the official list of the top-selling singles in the UK in the first 50 years of the singles chart, “Stand and Deliver” was placed 83rd, apparently a mere 15,000 sales shy of a million.

  111. 111
    Brooksie on 19 Feb 2010 #

    Haven’t got much to add here. Don’t agree with the comparison to modern R & B artists with their multi-million dollar backing and their ego-as-music self-aggrandising. No, Adam doesn’t fit in the ‘slickness’ of the modern world, but I’m willing to bet if he came along today he’d have the same visceral impact that he did then, 14 year-olds would still love him, and he’d probably stand out more because of the homogenised nature of the charts of recent years. He was big back when there was stiff competition in the top ten from all types of music.

  112. 112
    Brooksie on 23 Feb 2010 #

    Oh, and this – Lex # 83:

    “w/Gaga, La Roux and Adam Ant especially, you feel that it’s all dependent on the heavily-signposted “craziness””

    Adam was nothing like them. He never dressed up to be ‘wacky’, and everything he wore came straight from history (part of his appeal), unlike the impractical clothes of the “Look at me” artists you mentioned. By lumping them together I’m really not sure you’re getting him.

    This – Lex # 84:

    “Actually I just realised what ‘Stand & Deliver’ ACTUALLY reminds me of – it’s Kate Bush’s ‘Sat In Your Lap’ if it was somehow made really terrible and clumsy, and performed by an idiot instead of a genius.”

    Except that S&D predates SIYL, and the drumming on the latter was clearly influenced by Adam and the Ants who were the breakout group of the day. And there is nothing else similar about the songs at all. In fact, I don’t really think the drums are all that similar; S&D has heavier more rhythmic drumming to the more clear-cut off-kilter drums of SIYL.

  113. 113
    Mo0g on 12 Apr 2010 #

    I think the “problem” with looking back at Adam’s image around this time, more specifically Prince Charming, is that to a casual observer it looked, well, childish. At the time however I dont think generally to adults it did, as adults then were used to the whole glam rock, and prog rock images. To kids and young adults it came like a bolt from the blue and there is no doubt his image was a big factor.
    However, were you fortunate to buy S&D, you would have found ‘Beat my Guest’ on the flip side. Had you bought Prince Charming (single) you would have found ‘Christian Dior’, Antrap had ‘Friends’ on the b-side. All these songs were re-recordings of Adam’s earlier songs, and once you listened to these your world would never quite be the same again. Kiddie pop they were most definitely not.

    On face value S&D was/is a great visceral pop song. Marco (Pirroni) once told me there are something like 17 guitar tracks, an 80’s wall of sound. Perhaps people who dont “get it” might try playing it just once more with the volume up to 11. You’ll hear something a little different to Lady Gaga. You’ll hopefully see what thousands of 40+ yr olds *still* see in the music!

  114. 114
    Tom on 12 Apr 2010 #

    I’ll do that if you turn the volume up to 11 on “Bad Romance” Mo0g ;)

  115. 115
    Colin on 22 Jun 2013 #

    The video for Stand and Deliver was directed by Mike Mansfield, famous for saying “Cue the Rollers” (or whoever) on Supersonic. The video also features a young Amanda Donohoe.

  116. 116
    hectorthebat on 9 Oct 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Woxy.com (USA) – Modern Rock 500 Songs of All Time (combined rank 1989-2009) 1151
    HarperCollins GEM (UK) – Single of the Year 1949-99 (1999)
    Wanadoo (UK) – The 20 Best Songs of the 80s
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Sounds (UK) – Singles of the Year 15

  117. 117
    Cumbrian on 19 Feb 2015 #

    I always thought I was born under the sign of Making Your Mind Up but on going to the new OCC site to see what the rest of the chart looked like when I was born, I discovered that actually I am under Stand And Deliver (probably something to do with me mixing up week ending and week commencing in the lists I have looked at). I don’t know why I feel an irrational pride in this – but I do like Stand And Deliver an awful lot more than Making Your Mind Up, so score one for me. I’ll take the smiles where I can get them.

  118. 118
    Mark M on 3 Oct 2015 #

    Maybe I should be sticking this in the 1986 round-up section, but seeing as I mentioned the film itself (#93) and quoted Robert Elms mentioning MacInnes and we discussed the birth of a particular British (London? – though see footnote) strain of retroism, I thought I’d plug my reaction to seeing Absolute Beginners on the big screen (at the NFT) here. I know that Lord S is particularly allergic to Julien Temple, for understandable reasons, but there is a lot more to enjoy in the film than I remembered.

    Not mentioned in my review is the Q&A afterwards, which featured a ranting Temple and an endearingly tearful Kensit, who had just watched the film for the first time since 1986 (she made a couple of references to ‘Chris Sullivan, who is no longer with us’ prompting audience shouts that he is alive and well. Presume she was thinking of Steve Strange*. Anyway, all very entertaining.

    *Didn’t realise that Strange and Sullivan were both Welsh.

  119. 119

    I remember Richard Cook saying that the first 20 minutes were genuinely amazing, more daring and more successful than any similar film, and then it began to fall apart. I’d tend to blame McInnes — Temple was still untested and inexperienced at this stage, and as you say, getting the project together was an impressive stunt in itself — and the book it’s based on is flimsy to the point of being unreadable today. The plot needed to be treated more the way Adam treats the archetypes of highwaymen or panto, basically just assuming everyone already knows them and barrelling through to the content he was interested in. (My dislike of Temple is as a documentarist, really: Earth Girls Are Easy is fine.)

    Also (obvious point): curse of Bowie. Quite good in Man Who Fell to Earth, where he’s an alien anxiously playing at being a human, when he doesn’t really understand humans, so his terrible acting is in character.

    I would like to see this again though. Like ZTT’s Slave to the Rhythm LP (and indeed Adam) it’s an index of how the first half of the 80s failed to sustain itself into the second half. It wasn’t for lack of ambition, it was — roughly speaking — lack of acquired craft (especially when it comes to acting).

  120. 120
    Mark M on 3 Oct 2015 #

    Re119: I read Absolute Beginners in the nasty film tie-in edition in ’86. Haven’t read it since – think I read City Of Spades in the ’90s. Remember enjoying both (a lot more, for reference, than I ever enjoyed Kerouac), but that’s a long time ago. MacInnes has definitely faded from view. I’m pretty sure that when Paolo Hewitt wrote his curious acid house novel in the mid-’90s he insisted that the hepcat narration was in homage to Sam Selvoin’s The Lonely Londoners, not MacInnes.

    I always remember the start of the film as being exciting. What worked for me at the NFT but hadn’t previously were the Ray Davies/Pimlico sequence – a Madness video on the grandest scale – and, crucially, the riot, which always seemed like the final fatal flaw before.

    The dame has one good moment in the film, where he dips confusingly out of strident mid-Atlantic into south London. He’s a weakness, though, even if I like the (style-inappropriate) theme song. Your point about better suited to playing non-humans gives him something in common with Scarlett Johansson, possibly.

  121. 121

    “a lot more than kerouac” = “a lot more than dancing barefoot on a floor scattered with lego bricks” :)

  122. 122
    Phil on 3 Oct 2015 #

    an index of how the first half of the 80s failed to sustain itself into the second half. It wasn’t for lack of ambition

    I think you can tell a lot from the sexual politics of a film – or perhaps you can just tell whether I’m going to like it or not – and AB, as I remember it, was pretty woeful on that front. (Crepe Suzette!) But to be honest I don’t remember much more of it than the “Selling Out” number, which blurs together in my mind with an awful Arena drama doc from around the same time about “the rise of the ligger”, which featured Alix Sharkey & thus in turn blurs together with Sharkey’s awful band Stimulin, who were going to be the new Kid Creole for about five minutes before everyone realised that Sharkey was actually tone deaf. (Mind you, so is Kieran Hebden from what I hear, and it hasn’t held him back.)

    So no, not for want of ambition.

  123. 123
    Tommy Mack on 3 Oct 2015 #

    Lord S @ #121: what do you dislike about Kerouac? Just that I’m reading On The Road at the moment and must say I’m quite enjoying his prose even though it is just a bloke and his shiftless womanising mates driving back and forth across America.

  124. 124
    Mark M on 3 Oct 2015 #

    Re122: Selling Out isn’t one of the better numbers in the film – it’s more than a little on the nose – but it is sung by the great Slim Gaillard, so I’m probably inclined to give it a pass.

    I’ll give you that it isn’t particularly great on women – the only unambiguously positively portrayed women are the lesbian madam/pimp Big Jill and, for her brief time on screen, Cool’s* sister. Suzette (Kensit) is weak and cries too much in her non-musical scenes, but Ann-Margret confident in the musical ones. As I argue in my review, all the characters are basically types anyway, regardless of gender, sexual inclination, ethnicity…

    *Cool being the Miles-like trumpet player/Colin’s neighbour.

  125. 125
    AMZ1981 on 3 Oct 2015 #

    Completely off topic but I can recommend Kerouac’s first novel The Town And The City. It captures American history in the years leading up to and just after WW2 and the forming of the generation who would sow the foundations for the counter culture revolution but never share in it themselves.

  126. 126
    Gareth Parker on 8 May 2021 #

    An enjoyable single from Adam and the Ants. Great fun, so I would go with 8/10.

  127. 127
    Ospero on 17 Jun 2021 #

    This is perhaps the most I’ve ever felt being a foreigner on here. All of the Brits (and one or two Americans, if I’ve seen correctly) going on and on about how important and groundbreaking and whatnot this song was, and I’m just sitting here going “okay? I’d expect to at least have heard a song this important in its full length in the wild at some point, though?” (Side note: Lex naming Katy Perry and Lady Gaga in the same breath looks hilarious from a 2021 vantage point.)

    This made it all the way to #8 in Germany and (barely) missed the year-end top 50, becoming Adam Ant’s biggest German hit with those numbers, so…yeah. Maybe this *is* some kind of hugely important milestone, but if so, it’s one exclusive to the United Kingdom (not even the US, where the man didn’t start charting until “Goody Two Shoes”). Even more than “Atomic”, this feels like a “you had to be there” moment (maybe with an “and/or be British” tacked on).

    That said, this must have felt really novel and exciting in 1981, but forty years have not done this one any favours. And I really could do without Ant’s vocal tics, thank you very much, as well as the really annoying overuse of slow-mo in the video. This grazes into a 5/10 because I’m in a good mood right now, but on the wrong day, this would get wall-punching levels of annoying really, really fast.

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