I don’t tend to write about music. The problem is that I don’t really have much of a musical vocabulary and it’s all so subjective anyway; easier to just tell you to LISTEN TO THIS NOW and leave you to it, especially as there isn’t very much that isn’t a couple of clicks away these days.
Pop’s a different matter; pop’s a package. The music’s a major part of it, but it’s also about image and pose and theatrics. It’s about looking completely awesome on Top of the Pops, God rest its soul. I’m a sucker for a great pop act, the kind that happens when someone has a brilliant idea and totally goes for it, not the kind that’s concocted in board rooms with the latest focus group data. And so to keep me ticking along this week I’ll be banging on about three excellent pop acts, coincidentally spread across three decades. It’ll be interesting to see who springs up this decade. Today it’s…
Adam and the Ants
I worshipped Adam Ant in my early teens. An art school punk initially notable for a performance in Derek Jarman’s Jubilee (alongside Toyah and the original Jordan), it wasn’t until Malcolm McLaren nicked the first Ants line-up to form Bow Wow Wow that Adam got together with ex-Banshee Marco Pirroni, recruited two drummers and plundered a great big Restoration dressing-up box to create the real Adam and the Ants who ruled the charts in the early 1980s.
Why were they so brilliant? Adam Ant’s sheer bloody bravado was a part of it, mixing and matching disparate fashions to create a fantastic panto buccaneer style, appropriating the Burundi beat to create a massive tribal sound that he labelled AntMusic, and leaping onto the new video bandwagon to make what then looked like three-minute epics. It also helped that Adam and Marco were a fantastic songwriting team; just listen to Stand And Deliver up there, or Kings of the Wild Frontier down here:
The video looks like it was filmed for 10p in Marco’s dad’s garage, but there’s a band that already believes it’s the best in the world, with a song to prove it.
And then there’s Prince Charming. The song’s fantastic (if a little similar to Rolf Harris’s War Canoe) and the video’s pure over-the-top panto. Look:
SEE! UGLY SISTERS! MARCO’S REALISATION THAT HE LOOKS A TOTAL NOB! DIANA BLOODY DORS! It’s what the 80s were all about.
And then the band split up, Adam went solo (taking Marco along with him) and made Friend Or Foe, great stuff but a little introspective and moany about the whole being a pop star thing. He still got a number one single out of it –
– but it was downhill from there. He finally blew it by turning up at Live Aid and doing his new single instead of a greatest hits package, and that was pretty much it.
Still, he managed to turn out two awesome albums and a few merely very good ones along the way, and he’d have looked silly doing the dandy highwayman act in his 40s. He had a go at a comeback in the early 90s, again with Marco in tow, but the world didn’t want to know.
Such is pop. Tomorrow: THIS IS RADIO FREEDOM.