If you can’t think of ten, you don’t really love it.
1) It’s 1980, the start of a new decade. We’ve just had the punk era and some of us found it a bit scary, because not long before reading the Famous Five was the pastime of choice. The definition of edgy was watching Starsky and Hutch after the watershed when they might mention a “hooker”. The time was right for a new musical force to appear. Up until now, listening choices were very much dictated by what your parent’s taste was – The Beatles, ABBA or a bit of Neil Diamond, but for the first time youngsters of my generation had something of our own to invest in.
2) In parallel with our coming of age, it was a massive musical growth spurt for Stuart Leslie Goddard (aka Adam). He had been knocking about for a while making music with various changes of personnel, not really making much of an impact. He moved in the same circles as Malcolm McLaren, a major mover and shaker of the music scene, but the Sex Pistols manager didn’t do him too many favours, swiping most of his band members to form Bow Wow Wow. The new incarnation, Adam and the Ants, really got some traction when Adam teamed up with Marco Pirroni, their song writing partnership forming something very different indeed.
3) Firstly, the band had TWO drummers – yes two – Terry Lee Miall and Chris Hughes (aka Merrick) who went on to produce Tears For Fears. The basis of their sound was the thumping Burundi beat, originating from Africa. And this track was straight into duo drumming from the opening note.
4) “I feel beneath the white there is a redskin, suffering from centuries of taming.” It was ahead of its time really – since 1980 there has been much thought, reflection and scandal at the treatment of indigenous peoples by their land’s invaders and the impact on their way of life. You might, to use a modern term, call it cultural appropriation to dress up like a native American and sing like them, or you could view it as shining a light on an injustice with reverential language, “A new royal family, a wild nobility.” It appeals to the thought that we have a wilder side not very far from the surface and we could let it free if we got on board with the Ants.
5) The guitar line mirrors the vocal line “from centuries of taming” rather pleasingly.
6) “Ant people are the warriors. Ant Music is the banner.” You’re being invited to join Adam’s gang, complete with uniform, sound track and a mission. Straight away you want to be in on it, you want to belong to this primal gathering.
7) There’s a fabulous mid song section which is basically whooping and yelling. It’s a souped up version of a game of Cowboys and Indians, ensuring that their appeal reached across the board to boys as well as girls. Adam was super dashing in his military Hussar jacket, dancing about with his apache war stripe. It was probably the first time I had to say, “It’s all about the music, honest…”
8) At 2:25 the guitars drop and we just get the drums and the vocal. Pay attention, because Adam has got something important to say…”Down below those dandy clothes you’re just a shade too white.”
9) …*Strategically placed bass guitar*…
10) It all kicks off now as Adam wails about how we’re all too white and the double drums do double time. The double double, that’s quadruple, drums almost drown him out as he really is quite distressed about this whole being too white business. He has to be faded out in the end.
Adam and the Ants were a brief but bright star indeed – two albums in two years and a huge impact in terms of recognising the value of a fancy video in the MTV age. The New Romantics followed in their wake, but Adam and the Ants didn’t quite fit into that category, they were a precursor on a different frontier.