Everything has been done before, which is why a comeback can be such an intense experience for an old fan. There is always going to be elation incomprehensible to outsiders and then the dreaded moment when ‘other people’ are discovering your idol for the first time but for all the wrong reasons.
In this case the stereotypical assumptions about comebacks go right out of the window, because the icon in question is an 80s hero. Why does that fact make this an exceptional case? It’s because the 80s never happened.
If you are still reading this article after that last sentence let me explain. I grew to manhood in the horror that was the 90s forced to bear witness to the 60s and 70s revivals which in fact haven’t really stopped coming. But where are all the 80s stuff? I loved the 80s, mainly because I was too young to understand how embarrassing it was. But to be honest I’m not embarrassed about the 80s anymore, when I start to see and hear things in the media or on the street that are SO 80s I think it’s haute cuisine.
For me, the 80s revival was kind of given a watermargin with the arrival of The Strokes, but that was ten years ago. Where are the 80s? Well, let’s disregard the 80s and consider the best of it- punk, postpunk, new wave… most of that actually started in the late 70s. The 80s was just the explosion, when everything got televised and like all trends, fashions, scenes, styles as soon as it becomes aware of itself it turns into something else. And usually something bad or just very very cheap.
Adam Ant was part of the so-called Bromley Contingent, a gang of oddballs that hanged out at clubs, bars and formed bands that numbered: Siouxise & the Banshees, The Cure, Shane MacGowan, Billy Idol… the list is impressively long. These were just the direct apostles surrounding the Sex Pistols. We all know the legends of what happened when the Sex Pistols played a single gig in Manchester for instance. When it comes to their home turf however, the acts are so many and so well-known that it is often forgotten that they were all mates.
This was ‘real punk’, that is before punk became a limited way of dressing or sounding. Adam Ant more than any other artist can boast the pedigree of punk, he began music when his band were supported by the Sex Pistols. It was the Sex Pistols first gig. But it wasn’t until ’77 until an obscure musician called Stuart Goddard was discharged from a mental hospital after a being diagnosed with Manic Depression that he took the name and the mantle of Adam Ant.
Adam Ant approached Malcolm McLaren the notorious manager of Sex Pistols, and asked him for help. McLaren responded by stealing Adam’s band to form Bow Wow Wow. Adam Ant, distraught and bandless had committed himself to a career in music and for him, there was no going back to another life. Adam Ant was about to give McLaren his own short sharp shock- he formed a band, a sound and a style that was so brilliant, so unique and so impressive that CBS signed him straight away. The album produced two instant number ones, and a string of top ten hits, he was nominated for a Grammy and won a Brits Award for Best Album.
Musically, Adam Ant was all about style to be fair. His two biggest hits Stand & Deliver and Prince Charming both enforced lyrics specifically about fashion and image. Adam Ant is creditted with fathering the New Romantic movement although he himself disavows the genre and style, affirming himself as a punk artist. After five years of mainstream success however, Adam Ant gave up music for acting only returning to music sporadically impaired in no small part suffering from his bipolar disorder. Since his initial hits of what was at the time an unprecedented moment of fanmania and rock star glory, Adam Ant has ever been an alternative artist.
Even though his music has been absent from the public ear until his comeback into the alternative scene last year, the core of Adam Ant the legend has always been the mesmerising aura of his enigmatic image. It is Adam Ant the face that has had by far the greatest and most far-reaching impact on popular culture. Frustratingly for those of us in the know, most don’t.
One of the trademarks of Adam Ant is the distinctive stripe make-up. I relish symbols and how they have their own lives, how the meanings vary with those who use and identify with the symbols, how context and circumstance forms the meaning of the symbol and vice versa. Looking at Adam Ant’s entire generation of screaming fans in 1982 no one could have predicted that in 30 years time ‘the Ant stripe’ would be the hallmark of only the most elite indie bands and fashion couture.
However and wherever the iconic face of Adam Ant has survived in the labyrinth of modern media, the name has usually been disembodied or simply gone uncredited.
The Adam Ant lyric:’An 18th century brain in a 21st century head’ is now the logo for an up and coming fashion label “Blueblack Hussar at Pimpernel”.