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The dandy highwayman
February 20, 2012 9:12 AM   Subscribe

For the first few minutes I'm not even sure this interview should be taking place at all. The greeting is an awkward shuffle of hunched shoulders and downcast eyes; he can't look at me, and I can't hear him. His gaze averted, hands stuffed into pockets, he mumbles in haltingly reluctant whispers, as if words can cause him physical pain. The man should be talking to a doctor, I worry, not a nosy journalist. We try some small talk, but it's almost impossible to make out what he's saying – until I ask what he prefers to be called. "Adam," he says firmly, glancing up for the first time. "Adam Ant."
posted by fearfulsymmetry (49 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Adam Ant - my sister was nuts about him in the New Wave years. Truly, you have taken me some 30 odd years back in time.
posted by infini at 9:20 AM on February 20, 2012


I wasn't expecting the interviewer to be such a jerk.

A man of 58 who still cares this much should probably come across as faintly ridiculous


I hadn't expected Ant to still think of himself as a rock'n'roll star. Forged more than 30 years ago, in the heat of Top of the Pops camera lights, this self-image should by now be preposterous – and yet, in his case it seems somehow heroic.


There is an innocence – an almost monastic purity – about Ant's enduring devotion to pop

posted by chavenet at 9:28 AM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Looks more like surprise reverence than jerkiness or even snark
posted by NiteMayr at 9:31 AM on February 20, 2012


Poor guy.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:38 AM on February 20, 2012


It's not a bad interview, but it's a bit nasty to go on about the sadness of him being bald and then not even have the decency to spell his birth name right.
posted by koeselitz at 9:42 AM on February 20, 2012


I still love Adam Ant, and think he is written off too easily and under appreciated, but I didn’t think the interviewer was a jerk.

I’ve never heard of Georgina Baillie, but I thought she made up that name as an obscure nod to the Noosha Fox song.
posted by bongo_x at 9:42 AM on February 20, 2012


I had SUCH a massive crush on him when I was 14 (1982) Adam & the Ants was my favorite band and he was sooooo gorgeous. its kind of awesome that the weird age of youtube et. al. has enabled me to watch the Stand & Deliver video whenever I want (not dependent on the whims of Mtv)
posted by supermedusa at 9:53 AM on February 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


He was the first to wear mascara and eyeliner. Then came Boy George and that Marc whatsisname Tainted Love
posted by infini at 9:57 AM on February 20, 2012


I still have that crush, supermedusa. And yet can you believe that a grungekid like me was introduced to Adam via "You're Wonderful," a song which I always knew I wasn't supposed to like but which I loved dearly? Lazy days in art class, that's what that song will always mean to me.
posted by koeselitz at 9:58 AM on February 20, 2012


I'm like ..80% sure early exposure to this made me gay
posted by The Whelk at 10:07 AM on February 20, 2012 [13 favorites]


He was the first to wear mascara and eyeliner.

Whaa?
posted by jamaro at 10:09 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Little Richard beat Bowie to the eyeliner by about 20 years.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:12 AM on February 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


Cool interview but the accompanying video ... Either he's totally lost the power of his voice, or the records were way processed. Probably both.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:15 AM on February 20, 2012


I feel simultaneously young and old to have been introduced to him when I was 14 or 15 - via Nine Inch Nails of all bands. NIN's cover of Physical (You're So) was one of the bonus tracks on the Broken EP, the first track of non-silence after 92 tracks of nothingness.
posted by mysterpigg at 10:17 AM on February 20, 2012


I kind of had a sense I was pushing into ignorant error category with that first to wear bit but figured if I was wrong, I'd find out. But that's how it seemed that the New Wave artists were covered in all the Jackie and Teen Beat magazines my sister would bring home - Adam Ant's make up and ruffles.
posted by infini at 10:32 AM on February 20, 2012


Glad he seems to be pulling through. I grew up in 80's Britain and he soundtracked a significant portion of it.
posted by arcticseal at 10:34 AM on February 20, 2012


I saw him live a few months ago and he can still put on a show. Not really my kind of music, but, according to an acquaintance, he's had it hard for some years yet when he was on stage, he thrived there.

Apparently, he's also really cute with his daughter.
posted by ersatz at 10:35 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


My sister-in-law absolutely loved Adam Ant. I'll have to ask her if she remembers him at all.
posted by tommasz at 10:39 AM on February 20, 2012


I had the strangest experience with Adam Ant. I bought Kings of the Wild Frontier on my limited high schooler's budget, not really knowing what it was going to be like.

I hated it. I immediately hated it. Barely made it through the first side of the LP, didn't listen to the other side. I was sad that I had wasted my money.

The next day at school, the rhythms of Adam Ant kept running through my head. It wasn't ear-wormy - I didn't hear the music over and over. There was something so unapologetic about the whole thing. It was crap, but it was unabashed crap and it somehow paradoxically defied crappiness.

I could not wait to get home and listen to the whole thing. I can't explain what happened - I have never had such a transformation in my life. But something clicked, or fermented, or wahat, I don't know. Been a fan of Adam Ant ever since.

Have not kept track of him though. Glad to see he is alive at least, and good luck to him.
posted by Xoebe at 10:43 AM on February 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Other than "Goody Two Shoes" (which was my favorite song for the longest time), I was introduced to Adam Ant via Alice in Chains, of all bands. Their promotional video for the Tripod album included asking the members what their first record they ever bought was. Layne Staley said it was Kings of the Wild Frontier. "Good record. Just starting listening to that again..."

The video was released in '95, I think, so it was long before music was easily found on the internet. That prompted me to go on a mission to find this album. I hit up as many used record stores as I could and finally found it in Dinkytown.

I think I'm going to have to dig out a VCR and try to watch The Nona Tapes again.
posted by jillithd at 11:03 AM on February 20, 2012


Felt very similar to you, Xoebe, something strange about the whole thing... we can't play that well, we're not really trying that hard, and still we're FUCKING ROCK STARS, and these songs ROCK. Sex, attitude, how does it work? Whatever he did, he was doing it exactly right.

When he got a little better, and defined his thing a little more commercially, some of that raw magic was lost. KOTWF was the very best.

Don't Be Square (Be There)
Kings of the Wild Frontier
Antmusic
posted by Meatbomb at 11:09 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


i sort of remember him as being something that was on MTV, after it went all... MTV on itself.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 11:14 AM on February 20, 2012


"You might not like us now, but you will." Indeed.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:18 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I want to go to paris with you, and see what the french boys do"
posted by The Whelk at 11:29 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


When do we leave?
posted by infini at 11:36 AM on February 20, 2012


Oh, I adored Adam Ant back in the day. I had had girly pop star crushes before (Bay City Rollers, Shaun Cassidy, et al.), but seeing Adam Ant for the first time: Jesus, he took my breath away. I had never seen a man so beautiful -- seriously, like James Dean/Monty Clift sort of beautiful. And those first couple of Adam and the Ants albums? Fucking awesome.

I read his autobiography a few years ago, and for all his pretty blunt honesty about his upbringing and mental health issues, it felt strangely flat; with the exception of the bits dealing with the early days of punk, there was actually very little excitement or joy, in a way that seemed largely at odds with any other musician bio/autobio that I've ever read. He went on and on about how it was his goal to have hits and be famous, but for all that, there was almost nothing about the actual creative acts of writing, recording, and performing.

For all the love he clearly had for other people's music, in a funny way it felt like music for him was ultimately the vehicle by which he could achieve fame, which he wanted to acquire because he believed it would assuage the pain he carried around with him. And while I'm sure that's an equation that's at play for lots of people who want to get famous, I don't think I'd ever seen it laid out quite so bare, nor ever seen so clearly how little relationship there really is between fame and happiness.
posted by scody at 12:10 PM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why does it seem that the pop stars that are so adamantly against drugs are the ones who would most benefit from using them.
posted by three blind mice at 12:24 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I tried very hard to dislike Adam Ant in high school days. But there was something irresistible about him and his in-your-face theatrics and his pirate-gear and Western-movie flamboyance and his addictive music (especially the pre-solo stuff with the gulping yelps and the Marco Pirroni guitars and the two-drummer Burundi beats) that just screamed (to me, anyway) "Come out of the closet already, kid!"

chavenet: I wasn't expecting the interviewer to be such a jerk.

This is the Guardian. If it's some up-and-coming NME favorite, their music writers are going to be anywhere on a spectrum from faintly patronizing to downright obnoxious -- especially if it's some old fart like Adam Ant. Still, this interviewer's tone seemed to me to be a case of being startled at how much depth Mr. Ant could still have as a "faintly ridiculous" pop star from the 1980s who'd seen his best days more than one of being an outright jerk.

infini: Then came Boy George and that Marc whatsisname Tainted Love

Marc Almond. The name is Marc Almond.

Cool Papa Bell: Little Richard beat Bowie to the eyeliner by about 20 years.

And Little Richard picked up practically everything he knew, including the eyeliner, from two openly gay performers: the "tent show queen" Billy Wright and the great Esquerita.
posted by blucevalo at 12:25 PM on February 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


What a geezer. He achieved what he most wanted, despite some fairly severe mental health issues and, though the fog of bipolar disorder and pills, he still knows what really matters: his daughter and the difference between post-punk and new romantic. (He's also an ethical slut with his comment that it would be disrespectful to say how many women he slept with.) As he points out, the line between normal pop stardom and mental illness can be hard to guage and yet there he stands (and delivers), he can do no other.

Oh yes, ridicule is nothing to be scared of.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 12:29 PM on February 20, 2012


He was the first to wear mascara and eyeliner.
posted by infini at 5:57 PM on February 20


Oh dear oh dear. That's a bit embarrassing.
posted by Decani at 12:33 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


So he didn't drink and didn't smoke. I suppose his Goodie Two Shoes lyrics are about himself? Interesting.
posted by Blue Meanie at 12:42 PM on February 20, 2012


convicted of affray

new word for the day!
posted by telstar at 12:52 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I was worried when the US tour he's doing was put off to the fall. I'm really looking forward to it now.
posted by immlass at 12:56 PM on February 20, 2012


Good stuff. Nobody quite like him and his music, back then, and the music holds up VERY well. Didn't think the interviewer was being snotty or anything - seemed like an OK interview.
posted by davidmsc at 1:04 PM on February 20, 2012


I heard "Day I Met God" a year ago or so listening the Cherry Blossom Clinic w/ Terre T on WFMU... I thought it was a new band. Turns out it was censored from the American release of the first adam and the ants album. It's amazing. Seriously amazing song.
posted by nutate at 1:51 PM on February 20, 2012


Why does it seem that the pop stars that are so adamantly against drugs are the ones who would most benefit from using them.

I see what you're doing.
posted by squarehead at 1:59 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


nutate: yeah, that entire first album, Dirk Wears White Sox, is incredible -- highly recommended if you haven't heard the whole thing already. Excellent, Wire-esque post-punk art school angularity crossed with sex and blasphemy. Musically, it's probably the most interesting thing he ever did (which, of course, he dismisses because it was the least commercially successful).
posted by scody at 2:05 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


squarehead: "Why does it seem that the pop stars that are so adamantly against drugs are the ones who would most benefit from using them.

I see what you're doing.
"

OMG. How did I miss this about his name . . . I should hang up my pen.
posted by theredpen at 2:42 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I disagree; Dirk Wears White Sox is alright but nothing special, too self consciously arty and punk, while Kings of the Wild Frontier is one of the best albums of the early eighties and much more transgressive. Adam Ant rode that wave of melodious pop that was a natural response to the austerity of punk and the more minimalistic post-punk and he was one of the best.

But more importantly, he was a symbol of the breakdown of sex and gender barriers in the eighties, which the New Romantics were a sort of preppy echo off, taking camp imagery and making it more macho, making it safe for heterosexual boys to wear femininesque clothing (at a time when gay culture went all macho -- can't you see the leather shine), to play with being bi or gay. And this at a time and in a climate in which Boy George a little while later had to declare to be more interested in tea than sex not to be lynched by the tabloids. That took guts.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:47 PM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


He was the first to wear mascara and eyeliner.

Meanwhile, in the Valley of the Kings, 5,000 year old egyptian pharoah mummies are feeling hurt and slighted.
posted by elizardbits at 3:11 PM on February 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


I first saw him in the movie "Jubilee" (here's a clip and here's another one). I was struck by how gorgeous he was. And then he reappeared in this clip and he was even more beautiful. Thanks for this post.
posted by h00py at 9:54 PM on February 20, 2012


First of the New Wave artists etc etc like what MartinWisse articulated so much better than I... gah, nitpickers
posted by infini at 10:16 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Poor little puppet dancing on strings meets rancid interviewer.

Oh wait, that's called 'music journalism'.
posted by Twang at 11:53 PM on February 20, 2012


The only thing I can remember about Adam Ant was his role as the lead ghost punk in the Pierce Brosnan chiller Nomads.
posted by hoodrich at 1:27 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Adam Ant recently attended a Monster Raving Looney Party rally at a local pub and my brother had a wee next to him. I neither have, nor require, any further details.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 3:52 AM on February 21, 2012


Funny, I used to think of Adam Ant as being new wave, but when I listened to him again recently his music reminded me more of early 70s glam rock such as Gary Glitter.
posted by Summer at 4:37 AM on February 21, 2012


Love him. Despite his issues with mental illness and an awful upbringing, he's still smart and cool, and Adam Ant was always cool in what I thought to be a fairly unique way, the whole Dandy Highwayman persona borrowing from glam and punk alike but very much its own thing.

And for the record, while I'm not going to get into which album is the best, his best individual song is undoubtedly "Picasso Visits the Planet of the Apes."
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:05 AM on February 21, 2012


Funny, I used to think of Adam Ant as being new wave, but when I listened to him again recently his music reminded me more of early 70s glam rock such as Gary Glitter.

I do that sometimes. It is strange how our perception is influenced by the fashion and times. I always saw the Glitter influence, that’s one of the reasons I liked him, but other people I know didn’t. It’s the big chanting bombast and style of Gary Glitter mixed with the "let me take a simple pop song and make it weird" aesthetic of David Bowie. He just distilled them and made it his own thing.

There was a story at one time that he wrote a college paper on Gary Glitter.
posted by bongo_x at 3:41 PM on February 21, 2012


Hoodrich, I came in to post the exact same thing about Adam Ant as the lead Einwetok, the demonic Inuit trickster spirits, in Pierce Brosnan's terrific thriller film, Nomads.
Do you see them too??!?
posted by Jezebella at 5:12 PM on February 21, 2012


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