From his cult punk rock beginnings with his band Adam and the Ants to his solo fame, Adam Ant has been considered a vanguard in the music industry. He has been known for his outlandish stage wear, including feathered headdresses and face paint, and for paving the way for bands that followed him by changing the pop music business from the inside while he was on top. He initiated the now infamous photographers’ clause that prevents the unauthorized use of his pictures, and his publishing company charged magazines twice the going rate to reprint his lyrics. Because of this, some have accused him of being a pompous rock star, while others have considered him a hero.
Adam Ant was born Stuart Leslie Goddard on November 3, 1954, in London, England. He had been an art student at the Hornsey School of Art in London before he placed a classified ad in the weekly British music paper Melody Maker in June of 1976 that read: “Beat On A Bass With The B-Sides.” A few days later he met with Andy Warren and they formed the group the BSides. For about a year they rehearsed, then recorded a punk version of “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” and promptly disbanded. The Ants made their debut not too long after that at the Roxy Club in London. Members came and went while the band made various appearances supporting other groups as well as headlining their own shows.
Things started to happen for the Ants when they appeared in the Derek Jarman movie Jubilee and were featured on the soundtrack. In January of 1978 the band made their radio debut on BBC Radio 1’s The John Peel Session, where they performed “Deutscher Girls,” “Lou,” “It Doesn’t Matter,” and “Puerto Rican.” The group signed a two-single deal with Decca Records in July after recording “Physical,” “Zerox,” and “Friends & Cleopatra” in their second performance on The John Peel Session.
They went on a short European tour in September and October, then returned to record a demo of “Kick” in mid-November. The Decca single of “Young Parisians” floundered, and the band signed to Do It Records in the beginning of 1979, just before their first major U.K. tour. The Ants made a third John Peel Session performing “Ligotage,” “Tabletalk,” “Animals & Men,” and “Never Trust a Man With Egg on His Face.” In July they released the Do It Recordings “Zerox” and “Whip in My Valise” before embarking on the “Zerox Tour.”
For the Record…
Born Stuart Leslie Goddard, November 3, 1954, in London, England. Education: Attended Hornsey School of Art, London.
Formed group the B-sides with Andy Warren, 1976; formed Adam and the Ants, 1977; performed radio debut on The John Peel Session, BBC Radio 1, 1978; signed with Decca Records, 1978; recorded debut album, Dirk Wears White Sox, 1979; embarked on solo career and released first album, Friend or Foe, 1982; performed at Live Aid concert, 1985; appeared as the first celebrity V.J. on MTV; developed and appeared in Honda Scooter television ad; appeared in films Nomads, Slam Dance, and Trust Me, and various TV shows, including The Equalizer and Tales From the Crypt.
Addresses: Home —Los Angeles, CA.
In August of 1979 Adam and the Ants recorded their debut album, Dirk Wears White Sox. In October of that year former Sex Pistols creator-manager Malcolm McLaren became the group’s manager. He introduced the band to the Burundi drums of Africa, inspiring in Adam Ant a whole new musical concept. In January of 1980 Dirk Wears White Sox hit the U.K. independent labels chart at Number One. Shortly thereafter, McLaren coaxed the Ants away from Adam’s artistic dictatorship so they could become “more autonomous” and paired them up with Anabella Lwin to form Bow Wow Wow.
Although he was left without a band, Adam Ant would not be defeated. He contacted Marco Pirroni, a guitarist whose work with the Models and Siouxsie & the Banshees he had admired. “We met in a cake shop in Covent Garden,” Adam Ant told Paul Gambaccini of Rolling Stone magazine. “By the end of the day we realized we wanted to form some kind of Rodgers and Hammerstein writing thing.” They teamed up with producer Falcon Stewart and bassist Kevin Mooney. Adam Ant, still hearing the pounding of tribal drums in his head, listened to ethnic recordings of tribal drumming and decided to recruit two percussionists, Merrick (Chris Hughes) and Terry Lee Miall, instead of one. “We couldn’t achieve the cross-rhythms we wanted with just one drummer,” Adam Ant explained to Gambaccini.
With the addition of the two drummers, the 14-date “Ants Invasion” tour began with a sold-out show. By July of 1980, the new Adam and the Ants were signed to CBS Records, and by August the CBS release Kings of the Wild Frontier broke into the U.K. charts. By the end of January of 1981, Kings of the Wild Frontier had climbed to the top of the chart. Decca reissued the “Young Parisians” single, and Do It reissued the singles “Zerox” and “Cartrouble,” all of which promptly broke into the U.K. charts.
In 1981, with the release of the Prince Charming album, Adam and the Ants embarked on their sold-out “Prince Charming Revue Tour,” which featured an Indian motif, war paint, and pirate costumes. “It’s all part of presentation,” Adam Ant explained to Gambaccini. “I just hope show biz never becomes a dirty word. I love it. I hope Americans will come [to the show] expecting entertainment, and not a heavy political message.” In January of 1982 Adam disbanded the Ants, kept Pirroni as his writing partner, and decided to go solo. Still trying to capitalize on the wondrous success of Adam and the Ants, Polydor reissued the old track “Deutscher Girls” from the Jubilee soundtrack, and Do It issued the Antmusic EP, a collection of old Do It tracks.
His first solo effort as Adam Ant, “Goody Two-Shoes,” was well received and became his first U.S. break-through hit reaching Number 12 on the U.S. chart. The album Friend or Foe was followed up by Strip, and a minor controversy surrounded the title track single. When Adam Ant refused to tone down the lyrics and the accompanying video for “Strip” at the request of BBC-TV, they blacklisted it.
Disappointed with the way things were progressing after the release of Strip, Adam Ant began to find other ways to present himself as a performer. During the hiatus, he formed an interest in acting. He played a small role in the film Nomads and then appeared in the title role in a stage production of Entertaining Mr. Sloane in Manchester, England. “That was probably the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done,” he told Ethlie Ann Vare of Billboard magazine. “I wasn’t about to get any quarter—not from the critics, not from the other actors. But I went in and rehearsed for four weeks, did a six week run, and got a favorable review.”
On July 13, 1985, Adam Ant was given the distinction of opening the U.K. segment of the worldwide Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium. He released Vive le Rock in the same month, and the reception it received was disappointing. Later that year he decided to move to the United States to pursue a career in film and TV acting. Shortly thereafter, he appeared in the motion picture Slam Dance and in an episode of the television series The Equalizer. It was then, in 1986, that CBS decided to release a compilation album called HITS, which failed to chart. The only other recording he did that year was a collaboration with Stewart Copeland on the theme song for a movie, Out of Bounds. Adam Ant stayed on his musical hiatus until 1989 when he released Manners and Physique.
Always proud of the fact that his successes have come from hard work, and ever mindful of being exploited, Adam Ant related to Caroline Sullivan of Melody Maker magazine his attitude toward alcohol and drugs, both of which he completely avoids. “When people are around me, they think I will go nuts if they drink or light up a cigarette. I don’t care. Drink your liver to a pulp, I don’t care. But if it’s drugs, if someone takes drugs around me. Why don’t they just go jump out of a window? … I’ve never done a show under the influence of anything, and so I know every show I’ve done has been a result of my labours straight. It’d be horrifying to be only as good as your drugs.” His work ethic has paid off for him in the entertainment industries. He continues to be a respected musician and songwriter, in addition to rapidly becoming a reliable “Brit” character actor for television and film.
Friend or Foe, Epic, 1982.
Strip, Epic, 1983.
Vive le Rock, Epic, 1985.
HITS, CBS, 1986.
Manners and Physique, 1989.
Antics in the Forbidden Zone, Epic, 1990.
With Adam and the Ants
Jubilee (soundtrack), Polydor, 1978.
Dirk Wears White Sox, Do It, 1979; reissued, Epic, 1983.
Kings of the Wild Frontier, Epic, 1980; reissued, 1985.
Prince Charming, Epic, 1981.
Antmusic (EP), Do It, 1982.
Peel Sessions, Strange Fruit/Dutch East India, 1991.
Dickey, Lorraine, The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Rock, Carlton Books, 1993.
Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, Billboard Books/ABC CLIO, 1991.
Robbins, Ira A., Trouser Press Record Guide 4th Edition, Collier Books, 1991.
Billboard, September 28, 1985.
Creem, March 1983; May 1984.
Melody Maker, December 8, 1979; January 12, 1980; August 30, 1980; November 21, 1982; February 10, 1990.
Rolling Stone, April 30, 1981.
Trouser Press, January 1982; March 1984.