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Mar 09

ADAM ANT – “Goody Two Shoes”

FT + Popular57 comments • 4,834 views

#502, 12th June 1982

Ants largely jettisoned, Adam cast around for a new angle. It was a moment in pop history when sudden changes of image and sound were respectable – even expected for some stars. Compared to today’s performers who tend to cover bandwagon-jumping with a figleaf of artistic intent, there was a refreshing honesty about this pursuit of a new look for a new season: pop and fashion were merging in a blare of colour.

Adam Ant decided on a brass section as a way to renew his impact. This was a modish choice but also a thorny one. In the early 80s horns had invaded pop to a degree rarely seen before and surely never since: they are one of the defining sounds of the era. So using them risked cliché. Initially the horn revival had been led by the likes of Dexys and the Two-Tone bands, who used their legacy in soul and ska music to add muscle and authenticity to their sound. Dexys were clearly in Adam’s mind when he put “Goody Two Shoes” together – the “pretending that you’re Al Green” line is generally interpreted as a dig at Kevin Rowland, and indeed it’s hard to work out whether the whole song is a defense of asceticism or a swipe at it.

The other wave of brass in early 80s pop had come from clubland, where harder-edged funk and latin sounds had become popular in the wake of disco. This too surfaced in the charts – Pigbag and Spandau Ballet drew on it for inspiration. So Adam needed something to differentiate himself from either scene. He found it in swing – much of the Friend Or Foe album is an invigorating and unusual mix of Burundi drumming and swing rhythms, and “Goody Two Shoes” is the most infectious example.

“Goody Two Shoes” casts Adam wholly as an entertainer – perhaps he judged that his pantomime era had driven off whichever fans had originally been attracted by his edginess and tribalism. But this repositioning came at a price. Adam himself is subdued on “Goody Two Shoes”, at least relative to those thunderous drums and jive-ready horns. His manifesto-making, previously so clear and charismatic, is confused. Worse, on this and “Friend Or Foe” itself – though they’re excellent, piledriving songs – he seems snippy and score-settling. He’s moved to songs about being Adam, from songs about how to be Adam – a crucial difference and one that surely hurt his fanbase. There were, after all, always other styles and stars to follow. But few of them had the weirdly messianic intensity and gumption of Adam in the prime of his stardom. The era of the pop ideologue and idealist was gradually slipping to its end.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    wichita lineman on 1 Apr 2009 #

    Re 24: I’m on shaky ground here, but my understanding of where jazz had gone post-war and pre-rock was into Bop, which wasn’t Pop enough, so the majority of Swing fans lost interest. The bands got smaller, the singers went solo, and so jazz either became smooth vocal gear (Frank Sinatra), sometimes Westlife-bland (Perry Como), or too complex for Joe Public to follow.

    From a purely British perspective, the noise the original Teds went for was loud, basic, percussion-heavy jazz (the Kirchin Band, Ken Mackintosh), so when R&R appeared it was what they had been waiting for – ie the same but much moreso. Plus it sounded nothing like the music their folks dug. But my knowledge of jazz is close to zero so I may be miles out!

  2. 27
    Matthew K on 2 Apr 2009 #

    Re 13 – “they started the tour relatively minor figures and ended it the biggest names in jazz, with every show a massive sell-out”, sounds just like Arcade Fire in 2004-5. Although not jazz of course.

  3. 28
    Brian on 2 Apr 2009 #

    Having a horn section in a song does not make that song a ” jazz” song. That’s like saying using a cow-bell makes it Swiss.

  4. 29
    Erithian on 2 Apr 2009 #

    Every element of this is a joy – from the brass, whether it be jazz or mariachi, to the unrelenting though not overwhelming drums, to the witty lyric (dead right, LondonLee, it’s a world away from the latest tiresome bulletins on the life of Britney and even the way Robbie went after a while). Another one of my favourites of the year, and although the rot set in from here (“Apollo 9” had a great chorus though) it’s a cracker to remember Adam by.

    Another British icon associated with this record which was on its way out… the humble “pound note, pound note”. Within a year of G2S, the pound coin was introduced, and the pound note had ceased to be issued even before Adam made his one-song appearance at Live Aid.

    If I could choose one twelve-month period of my life to relive, that period would begin during G2S’ reign at the top – it would start as I put down my pen at the end of the German end-of-year exam and went off to meet my German exchange-student girlfriend for a long weekend on the Isle of Wight (Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf” blasting from every car radio in Sandown). Later that summer I had my first summer job – working in various branches of a bookie’s in Moss Side, not exactly glamorous but still… (there was one high-roller who was Italian, sold sharp suits and was able to hop over to Madrid for the World Cup Final). And by September I was preparing for a brilliant few months to come, more on which shortly.

  5. 30
    Brian on 2 Apr 2009 #

    This was the only AA album I had in Canada . I liked the drumming in particular, reminds me also of ” I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Bow.

    I saw Adam on an episode of ” Northern Exposure ” last week. Acting as a zoned out out rocker that ended up in Sicily , Alaska instead of Italy. You really can’t trust those airline check in staff , can you ?
    It was kinda fun and he fit in to the bizarre premise of this very entertaining, in its day , show. Didn’t realize he was a thespian.

  6. 31
    AndyPandy on 2 Apr 2009 #

    Erithian at no 29. I actually remember the last time i ever had a pound not in my possession and if they lasted maybe a couple of years it fits in with you saying they stopped production in 1985 (Live Aid). It would have been in very early 1987 going by what I remember being on the video jukebox in this pub I used to go in and which had one of the very early (and dead easy) quiz machines in it. So easy in fact that for the first few weeks cleared it out every Saturday dinnertime. I tracked down a few more in other pubs and even started to get all these ridiculous fantasies about becoming a sort of ‘quiz machine hustler’ and giving up work and just playing these easy quiz machines for a living- well you could make £80 a session if you were lucky and it was on an estate or somewhere and no-one else who was winning had discovered – it quite a bit in 1986/87.But those who could beat the machine soon killed the golden goose and the winning period must have lasted all of 2 or 3 months…
    Anyway this particular pub was an estate pub and a bit rough and I used to get a bit embarrassed after a few £10 jackpots! And like I said along with the rest after a few weeks it was no longer paying out. One of these losing weeks I getting a drink and saw an old bloke at the bar with a pound note and I said i wish I’d still got one of those and he gave it for me for a pound coin…needless to say within an hour I was skint and I’d changed my last poundnote back to a coin for a final attempt on the quiz machine!
    Just about sums my life up at the time really…

  7. 32
    DV on 2 Apr 2009 #

    I’m surprised you give this a Seven, it’s very much Adam Ant on the slide.

    Interestingly, co-writer Marco Pirroni says that it is this song that keeps him in royalties cash, as it is always being used in films and TV programmes.

  8. 33
    Erithian on 3 Apr 2009 #

    AndyPandy #31 – Wikipedia says the pound coin was introduced in April 1983, the pound note ceased to be issued at the end of 1984 and was withdrawn from circulation in March 1988. In summer ’83 I was back at work in the bookie’s, and the Manchester Evening News featured a letters page special every week about how awful pound coins were, which had the effect of making me warm to them – and the day a punter handed me a rancid-looking pound note with the words “That’s been in my sock all morning”… I became a total convert to the pound coin.

    Yes, there was a “Give us a Break” quiz machine in a pub next to Woolwich Arsenal station that I was able to use as a cashpoint for a few months around ’88-89!

  9. 34
    ace inhibitor on 3 Apr 2009 #

    wichita@23, not sure about the 70s as a brass-free zone, not if we’re including saxaphone solos which were a tasteful-adult-rock signifier – ‘baker street’ springs to mind, but also its adoption by the more commercially-minded new wave (boomtown rats, hazel o’connor) to demonstrate their grown-up, mainstream rock/pop credentials. There’s a bunny-censored song coming up soon which comes very much out of this tradition rather than any latin/funk clubland. The themed request show ‘Get it On’ (Radio Scotland, 6-8pm, monday-thursday) reminded me of this a couple of days ago – it had ‘saxaphones’ as its theme, and featured rather too much of this tasteful nonsense for my liking.

    Actually the tasteful horn solo seems a different lineage (classical–expanded-palate, rather than jazz-referencing?) to that of the brass section.

    On a more personal brass-in-pop note, as a late 70s schoolboy I was briefly taught French Horn by a Mr Civil & later discovered that the French Horn solo on the Beatles ‘For no one’ was played by Alan Civil. Two french horn-playing Civils is too much of a coincidence, surely? He was about the right age as well. Possibly off topic, this.

  10. 35
    Brian on 3 Apr 2009 #

    Mr. Civil has a wiki page with photo.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Civil

  11. 36
    justfanoe on 3 Apr 2009 #

    This is by far Adam Ant’s biggest American hit and pretty much all he’s known for over here today. What a shame. By the way we’re only one away from the #1 when I was born.

  12. 37
    lonepilgrim on 3 Apr 2009 #

    We’ll get to the next #1 one day. At a time like this we just have to be patient.

  13. 38
    Tom on 3 Apr 2009 #

    Yes, sorry about the delay in transmission. Popular will be back on a regular footing this coming weekend/next week.

  14. 39
    AndyPandy on 3 Apr 2009 #

    Oh yes “Give Us A Break” I’m not sure I ever won many jackpots on those think it had got a bit more ‘competitive’ around where I used to play by then and I more than likely used to lose with a ball or 2 to pot – does anyone remember the name of the really easy first quiz machines (Quizmaster maybe?)that only had a relatively few questions and the only ones you ever got wrong after a bit were the ones that had the wrong answers!…eg one inaccuracy I eventually worked out was the question that insisted that New Order had a hit called ‘Mr Telephone Man’ and not New Edition when it obviously definitely WAS New Edition!

  15. 40
    ace inhibitor on 4 Apr 2009 #

    thanks brian@35, oddly his biography mentions nothing about teaching unpromising teenagers in southeast london comprehensives, but I guess like helping paul mccartney out it was a sideline

  16. 41
    Snif on 4 Apr 2009 #

    No 29 – “Another British icon associated with this record which was on its way out…”

    Thought you were about to mention Caroline Munro :-)

  17. 42
    lonepilgrim on 5 Apr 2009 #

    I enjoyed the discussion on the Lollards podcast – linked to Goody two shoes – about the impulse in pop to ‘keep it real’ by singing about oneself. Linking back to Lennon – whose version of his life in songs almost always seems to be overly dramatic and sententious made me wonder what precedents there were and whether they differed from that approach.
    One candidate, Jimmy Rogers: “The singing Brakeman” – a ‘pop star’ from an earlier generation – also sings about his life but does so in an unnervingly chirpy way – singing about the TB that would eventually kill him. This may reflect the fatalism that IIRC Greil Marcus identified as a defining characteristic of Country music (contrasted with a more optimistic impulse in rock).

    Reading the lyrics to GTS (for the first time) I see a kind of knowing bravado that put me in mind of the pre-fight taunts of boxers like Ali. It’s a lot more endearing than Lennon’s self pity. If they were aimed at Kevin Rowland it would have great for him to have come back with an answer record.

  18. 43
    Snif on 5 Apr 2009 #

    >>If they were aimed at Kevin Rowland it would have great for him to have come back with an answer record.

    Captain Sensible pretty much did it for him.

  19. 44
    Gavin Wright on 8 Apr 2009 #

    I’ve never really taken to ‘Goody Two Shoes’, I think it’s the way the song sounds like it’s racing itself to get to the end (and hurrying you along with it) – I have to say though that I’d never given the use of brass much thought. Several posters have already referred to the use of the sax solo in pop and I’ve often wondered when its use as a sort of signifier of soulful sophistication really fell out of fashion. It seems a very ’80s touch although I can think of at least one future Popular entry from the early ’90s with one – have they disappeared from the charts completely, and if so, when? One for later maybe.

  20. 45
    burkesworks on 13 Apr 2009 #

    AndyPandy@39; yes it was the QuizMaster, Blockbusters, and (later) The Fruit Machine type of quiz machines, manufactured by the now-defunct Coinmaster, that had a very low number of stock questions and glaring errors such as New Order doing Mr. Telephone Man. I once took £73 from a single one of those in Carmarthen in about 20 minutes…

    Those babies kept me living high on the hog through 1986 and 1987 before giving way to the Give Us A Break machines, one edition of which cost me a tenner on the final question thanks to Charlie Nicholas signing for Arsenal and thus being a wrong answer (the correct one being Aberdeen).

  21. 46
    Billy Smart on 13 Apr 2009 #

    I used to be the only person who knew that there was a hole in the bottom of the drinks machine in the green room of the Drama Department, Royal Holloway College, through which every old-style heavy 50 pence piece would fall to the floor. Whenever I was alone in that room, I’d fish a few pounds out from under it.

    It was a sad day when they replaced that machine.

  22. 47
    wildheartedoutsider on 21 Apr 2009 #

    I realise I am coming to this conversation a little late (having only just discovered this site on the back of the “Come On Eileen” discussion …oops!) but I feel the need to respond to the comments about the “pretending that you’re Al Green” line being a “dig” at Kevin Rowland. Quite the opposite, Adam Ant had declared himself a fan (he named Dexys as the Best Group of 1981 in that year’s Smash Hits Reader’s Poll!). It is clear to me that the reference in “Goody Two Shoes” is a homage rather than a dig. Adam Ant had been in the audience during Dexys’ live shows at The Old Vic in late ’81 during which Rowland used to incorporate a monologue into their cover of “Respect” about feeling like “pretending I’m Al Green when he sings “So Tired of Being Alone”…” It seems obvious that Adam found this inspiring – as he had also apparently found their use of brass.

    What has never been established (as far as I’ve seen) is quite how MUCH of the lyrical content was inspired by Rowland and Dexys. The sale of alcohol was banned at those Old Vic shows (causing quite a stir amongst journalists at the time!) and Rowland had a famously puritanical stance towards drugs at that point, so the “don’t drink, don’t smoke” element to the song may also stem from Adam’s experiences of seeing Dexys in ’81?!

    P.S. Has any other artist been both the subject of a Number One single AND the provider of a Number One single in the same year?!?

  23. 48

    I want “Goody Two Shoes” to be an answer record to (what? Searching for the YSR?) more than I have wanted anything in pop since Ut failed to become the new Mountain…

  24. 49
    wildheartedoutsider on 21 Apr 2009 #

    If you are looking for “Goody Two Shoes” to be an answer record to anything in particular, I’d try Dexys’ 1981 single “Liars A To E” which contained such lyrics as “Bad habits – you should sleep alone” and “You don’t look like me, never think like me, try smoking your own and don’t follow ME” AND “here comes his soul, get your pen and note-books ready” …which match up pretty well with Adam Ant’s lyrics like “No ones gonna tell me, Whats wrong or whats right, Or tell me who to eat with, sleep with” …and “We dont follow fashion, That would be a joke, You know were going to set them, set them, So everyone can take note, take note.”

  25. 50
    Pete on 22 Apr 2009 #

    @47: In a real sense (Ballad Of John And Yoko, Get Back) and in a tangential sense (Jealous Guy / Imagine) John Lennon has been both provider and subject of number ones in two separate years!

  26. 51
    Erithian on 22 Apr 2009 #

    and not wishing to bunny-bait, but a certain soul singer features prominently in the lyric of a 1983 number one and as a songwriter four number ones later.

  27. 52
    Billy Smart on 14 May 2009 #

    NMEWatch: 15th May 1982: Lynn Hanna awarded this a shared Single of the week with ‘House of Fun’ and ‘Cantonese Boy’ by Japan;

    “Breaking out is hard to do when you’re an almost past-perfect pop phenomenon. But those who feared for Adam’s survival after the swift shooting star of Antmania and the dismal dirge of ‘Antrap’ can be reassured that, on this evidence anyway, the story is far from finished. Estranged from his Ants apart from faithful friend Marco and loyal producer/drummer Merrick, Adam is pictured refreshingly sans paint on the cover and ‘Goody Two Shoes’ is bursting with the sort of vitality that characterised his best early Indian-era output. An inspired pirate plundering of raw, slapping rockabilly and syncopated swing, this is big, bold and brassy. Once again the Ant-warrior has proved that he’s agile enough to escape the stasis of success by his loving, mocking manipulation of pop myths: “If your heart breaks open/ so much you can’t hide/ put on a little make-up/ make sure they get your good side.”

    Also reviewed that week;

    Altered Images – Pinky Blue
    Echo & The Bunnymen – The Back Of Love
    New Order – Temptation
    UB40 – Love Is All Is All Right
    XTC – No Thugs In Our House
    Sisters Of Mercy – Body Electric

  28. 53
    Василий on 26 May 2009 #

    Да уж… Жизнь – она как вождение велосипеда. Чтобы сохранить равновесие, ты должен двигаться.

  29. 54
    MichaelH on 20 Oct 2009 #

    This is a startling record: if Adam had previously about “pop”, as Tom says, then I’d say this one is actually his “rock’n’roll” record – it’s got the same sense of breathless propulsion as the great Little Richard 45s – and if Adam’s vocal mannerisms are toned down, isn’t that because yelping and squealing over something as frenetic as this would be simply too much – it needs something calm at its centre. And credit, please, to Marco Pirroni, who is perpetually undervalued despite being crucial to some of the great pop songs of the age – he always displayed a perfect grasp of how to make the old feel new.

    What’s also important to remember is that this record was a Very Big Deal. The first solo record from the biggest star of the preceding couple of years. So big a deal that Top of the Pops built a special set for Adam – I remember him scampering back and forth between three stages in the studio. So big a deal that the song was almost immediately spoofed for an ad campaign.

    The surprise, in fact, is that an “event record” ended up being this amazingly good.

  30. 55
    Brooksie on 21 Feb 2010 #

    The dropping of the make-up for an artist whose popularity was built on image was a big mistake. Adam was handsome, but without the make-up something was missing. The tribalism that had inspired ‘Antmusic’ was lost without the war-paint. This is reinforced by the fact that two singles later ‘Desperate But Not Serious’ managed only to climb to # 33 – a massive fall from grace, and one that – had Adam kept the Ants and the make-up – would surely have been smaller. The credit on this record from what I remember was ‘Adam and the Ants’, so its release probably predates the official loss of the Ants, at least by a week or two. On another note; with hindsight Adam’s lyrics were always riddled with paranoia and / or incredible optimism, they practically scream “bipolar!” But that wasn’t really common knowledge then. It’s also worth noting that he was shredded by the press in his early years, and then betrayed by his band (and McClaren) so he was perceived as being justified in his paranoia. As for the lyrics of the song; stuff like “don’t drink / don’t smoke” was pretty much repeated ad-infinitum by Adam in interviews. There’s a lot in there that’s pretty much Adam just being Adam the way he was in interviews; sloganeering and being defensive / critical in equal measure. His paranoia started well before this single in my opinion; “They keep on trying to pin me down / why a title for your sound?” As far as I can tell, he was paranoid from the start. I agree with LondonLee (# 17) though, it was far less tiresome coming from him than the modern equivalent which seems to stem more from narcissism than honest internal dialogue expressed through music.

    Pop trivia: This song entered the top ten at # 5 the same week Madness entered at # 8, Madness then leapfrogged over Adam and spent two weeks at # 1 with Adam at # 2 before he finally got his two weeks at # 1 This was also a big deal at the time, since he was the much bigger artist. Although, I’m sure in terms of overall sales Adam ended up selling a lot more.

    I love this song, and think it’s the last gasp of the king of ’81. He had more hits, but nothing as obviously a # 1 as this. In order to have held onto the position of top dog for a bit longer, he would have needed to keep the Ants and the make-up, something he wasn’t prepared to do at that time, and without the regalia of a king, the fans loyalty swiftly switched. 12 months after this song came out Antmania seemed like a lifetime ago. Adam was no Bowie, so when he dropped his music-linked image, the fans dropped him. Whereas Bowie had something new to try after Ziggy, Adam just didn’t have enough ideas, and he was surrounded by some very young, very handsome pop stars who did have ideas.

  31. 56
    Mo0g on 12 Apr 2010 #

    This song was not about Kevin Rowland.

    The song was a pop at the music press, with whom Adam had issues with all the way through his career. He was ‘talking’ to them, and it was about him. He had none of the rock star’s traditional vices in those days, apart from sex.

    You can also see this from the video, it is the press saying “dont drink dont smoke, what do you do?” to Adam.

  32. 57
    hectorthebat on 24 Oct 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Slant (USA) – The 100 Best Singles of the 1980s (2012) 45
    Woxy.com (USA) – Modern Rock 500 Songs of All Time (combined rank 1989-2009) 315
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

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