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Z časopisu / From magazine 'Trouser Press' Publikováno s laskavým souhlasem Trouser Press  /  Published with kind permission of Trouser Press

 Adam Ant: Charm and Deliver   (Trouser Press č./No 69, Leden/January 1982)

Titulní stránka/Cover page     Obsah/Content     Obsah/Content


Adam bere Ameriku útokem / Adam Takes US By Storm
Napsal / By Jon Young

Možná se ti teď nelíbíme, ale jednou budeme
    — (z textu) "Don't Be Square (Be There)"

   Hrozba? Příslib? Planá chlouba? V průběhu posledního roku si Antmusic vybudovala podporu na těchto březích a nepočetné, leč vytrvalé legie amerických Antpeople, se nakonec mohou proměnit v davy.
   Jak přátelé, tak i nepřátelé se musí připravit na možnost, že Adam and the Ants tu získají obrovskou popularitu. Populární jsou už v Anglii a zabodovali i v dalších zemích po celém světě. "Podle mě to podporuje moje přesvědčení, že šoubyznys je potřeba všude na světě," poznamnává 27-letý Adam Ant (Stuart Godard) (chybně v článku bez dvojitého "d").
   Jestli bude přízrak Antmusic důvodem pro oslavy nebo fiaskem, závisí na vašich preferencích v popu a vašich předsudcích, co se týká podstaty masové kultury. Adam a jeho kámoši Anti Marco Pirroni (kytara), Terry Lee Miall (bicí), Chris Hughes aka Merrick (bicí, produkce) a Gary Tibbs (basa) hrají víceméně "bubblegum music". Kings of the Wild Frontier a nové Prince Charming jsou nacpané řízným beatem, vtipně jednoduchými melodiemi a Adamovým exhibicionistickým zpěvem. Pro vizuální efekt si kapela obléká nejrůznější nápadné kostýmy: pirátský ohoz, indiánské malování a pera, švihácké přehozy a cokoliv dalšího, co se hodí na maškarní večírek-někdy všechno najednou. Výsledkem je, že to neberete příliš vážně. Prostě si to užíváte a cítíte, že si můžete taky obléct co chcete. Adam and the Ants připomínají záblesk třpytivého roku a natahují se po publiku, které dělá narážky na naivitu punku.
   Adam se může pochlubit pěti hitovými singly v řadě v Anglii a teď frčí i v Americe. Album Kings se prý už přehouplo přes 300000 prodaných kusů, docela úctyhodných na debut. Anti už jsou tu hvězdy ve středně velkých sálech a spousta nadšených fanoušků se obléká a líčí jako kapela, někdy dokonce i líp. Jako fanoušci Kiss!

   Adam Ant nahlíží na bohatý americký trh s rozvahou zkušeného obchodníka a nikoliv s vášní vlastní jeho osobnosti. "Musíme přesvědčit naší prací," uvažuje, "a to bude velmi pozvolný proces. Myslím, že dobudeme Ameriku, protože jsem připraven tvrdě pracovat a jsem ochoten si počkat. Nepospíchám. " REO Speedwagon by to neřekli lépe.

Víc jsem zatím přeložit ještě nestihl :-(

You may not like us now but you will
        — "Don't Be Square (Be There)"

    A threat? A promise? An idle boast? Over the last year Antmusic has established a foothold on these shores, and the small but hardy legions of American Antpeople may eventually become a swarm.
   Friend and foe alike must prepare for the possibility that Adam and the Ants will achieve massive popularity here. They have already in England and a good score or so of other countries all over the globe. "For me that just goes to prove the belief I have that there's a need for show business and color everywhere in the world," remarks 27-year-old Adam Ant (Stuart Godard).
   Whether the spectre of Antmusic is to be regarded as cause for celebration or despair depends on your preferences in pop and your prejudices regarding the nature of mass culture. Adam and fellow Ants Marco Pirroni (guitar), Terry Lee Miall (drums), Chris Hughes aka Merrick (drums, producer) and Gary Tibbs (bass) play bubblegum music, more or less. Kings of the Wild Frontier and the new Prince Charming are loaded with snappy beats, ingeniously simple melodies and Adam's exhibitionist singing. For visual impact the gang dons all manner of showy costumes: pirate garb, Indian paint and feathers, highwayman capes and just about anything else suitable for a masquerade party—sometimes all at once. The implication is that you're not to take this too seriously; just have fun, and feel free to dress up yourself. Adam and the Ants recall the flash of glitter rock with a reaching out to the audience that hints at the idealism of punk.
   Boasting five consecutive smash singles in England, Adam is now having a go at America. Kings reportedly "shifted" over 300,000 units, quite respectable for a debut. The Ants already headline middle-level venues here and many of the enthusiastic fans dress up and make up just like the group, sometimes even better. Shades of Kiss!
   Adam Ant regards the plump US market with the coolness of a sharp businessman, not the passion of his persona. "We have to go through a process of proving ourselves by our work," he muses, "and it will be a very gradual process. I think we'll build in the US 'cause I'm willing to work hard; I'm willing to wait. I'm in no hurry." REO Speedwagon couldn't háve said it better.

   The Ants are in New York City for less than a week. After a handful of shows they'll move to the West Coast for a few more, then to Australia, where they're stars, and Japan, where they hope for the kind of reception Kiss and Cheap Trick got. This Friday afternoon band and crew gather in the lobby of their Manhattan hotel before motoring to the evening's venue, a Long Island concert hall. Being the star, Adam is naturally the last to appear. His blue Adidas jogging suit serves as a disguise of sorts—what does Adam wear on the street anyway?—but the braids in his hair belie the half-hearted stab at normalcy. A few nervous kids stop Adam for autographs at the main entrance and then the caravan hits the road.
   Though not yet a big star here, Adam Ant runs on a tight schedule: he's a hit with the media. In TP's case, that means he'll conduct the interview as the limo makes its way out to Long Island. The prospect of competing with noisy rush hour traffic, coupled with Adanťs fatigued and vacant expression, does not bode well.
   Never fear; this guy is a professional. Once we're rolling and the conversation begins, Adam Ant comes to life like a switched-on TV. He speaks quickly, courte-ously and articulately, not always in response to the question, but he certainly has his lines memorized cold.
   Adam is well aware that other UK sensations have met an indifferent response in the States.
   "I'm very intrigued by whaťs happened to people that were in the position I'm in right now," he says. "For instance, T. Rex came over with massive success in England and just did nothing. That happened even to bands respected in England, like Roxy Music."
   A self-styled student of the "history books of pop music," Adam has an idea why his predecessors failed. "I think iťs because they didn't make the idea simple enough for the commercial marketplace. A good designer makes it simple; a bad designér confuses it. Simplicity is an art.
   "In England you can achieve overnight success. The beginning of my success was going on Top ofthe Pops on TV. Overnight 250,000 people decided they wanted to buy our record, which suddenly made us important from a commercial point of view, and the media followed it through." A quick score is far less likely in the vast US, with its thousands of radio playlists; the States must be conquered a piece at a time.
   As he does so often, Adam muses on the importance of media attention. "People forget that even Bob Dylan was as much a product of press coverage as anything else, which doesn't negate the guy's status as a genius. Everybody in the past 20 years of pop music has been given to the public through the media. If you deny that you're very foolish. I think a lot of my colleagues in other bands won't admit that. They seem to expect audiences to believe they have some kind of divine inspiration.
   "I know I'm not a genius because I have to work too damn hard. I think the only originality I have is the way I put ideas that have taken place in history together. Lenny Bruce is the first one I heard admit that; I'm just following it up. He's a big inspiration for me." (Indeed, Adam praises Bruce throughout the interview and quotes from the comedian's routines afterwards.)
   "Any status I achieve will be the result of hard work and nothing else, so I have to be very methodical. I know my limitations. I don't ever fool myself into thinking I can sit back and let it all happen. I don't trust that."
   As for who is a genius, that is, "someone who thinks completely differently," he cites Bruce, Muhammad Ali, Mel Brooks, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder — and his own ex-manager Malcolm McLaren.
   Adam talks at length about his (mostly American) heroes, switching effortlessly from the role of star to fan. "I met Robert DeNiro the other day," he recalls, "and I was as speechless as some kid who likes Adam and the Ants and meets me." He also shows he's not just one of rock's cultural illiterates by remarking that he likes Perry Como and Frank Sinatra. "I'd be honored to meet them. Some people think I'd be far more honored to meet somebody a little more hip, Johnny Rotten or somebody like that, which I wouldn't be."
   Adam exhibits excusable pride at his acceptance by the old guard. He recalls that Bob Dylan expressed interest in Antmusic on his last visit to London. He relates how Paul McCartney's kids asked him for an autograph and various Led Zeppelin off-spring brought their parents to an Antgig. "If you cut all the crap out," Adam concludes, "there always should be respect between musicians. Iťs basically only record company and press antagonism that says everybody's gotta be better than everybody else."

   Listen to Adam Ant long enough, however, and his hostile attitudes smerge. The British music press, dreaded and hated by so many rock 'n' rollers, receives special venom. "When you start out you need as much coverage as you can get," he says, blood pressure slowly rising. "They [the music press] are in a position to take a group that looks exciting, build them up and claim the credit — and when the group makes it they hammer 'em. But I decided they were gonna have no part in it; our success was the result of going on TV and doing interviews with the national press [daily newspapers]."
   He continues with angry satisfaction. "They've called me the flavor of the month for the last 18 months, but I don't care. [Sure!—Ed.] I don't write songs for them; I write songs for the kids and myself. The press don't buy 'em anyway; they just lig 'em off the record companies." Elsewhere, Adam slips and concedes that nasty reviews can be "very hurtful."
   "The reviews of our single ["Prince Charming"] in Britain were great. They didn't have the guts to come out and say, 'I hate it,' because they might want to do an interview with me. Quite rightly. I can sell papers for them. They know that."
   Despite his obvious sensitivity, Adam also expresses confidence. He says the papers "can call me all the names under the sun and it doesn't make any difference. If they say anything false I'm gonna sue 'em. I've got very, very good lawyers and I use them a lot. I will win most of the time as well. Maybe iťs some kind of crusade for artists, if you like, 'cause I think they [the press] are assholes." Adam and Carol Burnett would probably hit it off.
   Among the successful Antsuits to date are an injunction to prevent British Decca Records from releasing old demos, and a damage action against a major daily for publishing without permission a years-old caricature Adam drew of Margaret Thatcher. "Early in my career I got taken for a ride," Adam remarks by way of explaining his fondness for lawsuits. "I'm not im-pressed by what people say. I only go by what they do."
    As for critics, he feels they "should be able to make an opinion of any artisťs work without involving personalities. If a guy doesn't like you thaťs his prerogative, but he should say why, 'cause then he's being constructive and maybe that'll help the artist to be better."

   If Adam seems unduly sour for someone so popular, consider this: Until the Ants conquered England in the latter part of 1980, he suffered years of failure and neglect. From 1976 on he was active in a London music scene that produced the Sex Pistols, Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and numerous others, but it always seemed to be Adam Ant who got the shortest shrift and the least encouragement. The Ants' recorded debut, two tracks on 1978's Jubilee soundtrack LP, was truly embarrassing. Even an official Antbiography written in 1980 acknowledges that in 1978 "the Ants were very unfashionable and used to get slagged off by the rock press with monotonous regularity.... The Ants continued to languish in relative obscurity."
    Dirk Wears White Sox, recorded in August, 1979 and released a few months later, did little to help. A grim, lyric-heavy disc, it explores alienation ("Digital Tenderness"), John Kennedy's assassination ("Catholic Day"), sexual excess ("Cleopatra") and the like, crippled by weak music and listless musicianship.
   Adam looks back on the LP as an "apprenticeship" and adds, "I was going through a very esoteric, deep, self-searching period. There were certain things that were hurting me emotionally that I just ripped out of myself. I hadn't really discovered what I wanted to say clearly; I was very confused. Iťs a very heavy album for me. I can't listen to it." In other words, Dirk was little more than a cult record.
   "When I'd done that album I realized that wasn't enough," he reflects. "I did want everybody to buy an album I'd made, so I faced up to it and got on with it."
   The catalyst in Adam's transformation from nobody to hero was Malcolm McLaren, infamous ex-manager ofthe Sex Pistols and the man behind Bow Wow Wow. Adam calls McLaren a genius, but then he'd probably call the devil a genius too. McLaren assumed management ofthe Ants in late 1979; by January 1980 he'd "stolen" Adanťs original band for his own project, Bow Wow Wow, and the head Ant was forced to start all over from scratch.
   Two years later Adam looks back on the relationship with a feeling of vindication. "I think McLaren has a big effect on everybody that meets him, 'cause he's a very clever man. I paid him about $500 a week to work for me for two months; he was well-paid for what he did. He came up with a few ideas, but there's always good ideas about; iťs much harder to make an idea into reality. He can't make his ideas reality because otherwise Bow Wow Wow would be selling the records we're selling. That isn't bitterness, thaťs a statement — a hard-core business statement.
   "He's a great one for telling you you're making it difficult for yourself, but he can't seem to do things for himself. The Sex Pistols were an accident, really, and he knows that. He didn't make any money out of it, Virgin Records did. So for somebody who tries to tell the world he's in it for the money, he's not a very good businessman."
Excuse Adam Ant for gloating a little.

   For light and lively fun, iťs hard to beat Kings of the Wild Frontier. Featuring the fab hits "Dog Eat Dog" and "Antmusic," the first LP from the current Ants cajoles rather than assaults; though Adam offers substance along with the high spirits—his grasping at innocence is bittersweet — a good time comes first. He views the difference between Dirk and Kings as comparable to "the Velvet Underground and Transformer by Lou Reed. Or listen to Jonathan Richman on the first Modern Lovers album and then listen to Rock 'n' Roll with the Modern Lovers. They're completely different varieties."
   Adam makes no bones about his craft. I'm involved in escapist entertainment. Thaťs good when you have a worldwide depression, you're going through a terrible austerity period and there's not much money about. I think it parallels what happened in Hollywood during the Great Depression. Busby Berkeley was escapist. People went to the cinema to hope. It made them feel good, and I think thaťs what Adam and the Ants do. About the only service one can offer onstage is to provide an escape from reality for kids. If you don't, you're not doing anything; thaťs not show business."
   Typically, he draws another parallel with film. "When I go see Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars I'm not thinking about business I've gotta do; I'm thinking about whaťs on the screen. The scripts are very good scripts. They may seem banal, but they're very good. If you go into it you realize there's more to it. Iťs really quite serious. Iťs like being a comedian. People think iťs dead easy to make people laugh. It isn't. Iťs very hard.
   "Same with Adam and the Ants. Some of our lyrics have got quite serious social ideals behind them, but they're personal ones and they're only opinions. I don't intend to preach."
   Lest anyone think he undervalues his work, Adam adds, 'I'm serious about what I do. If I wasn't I couldn't have a conversation about it. I'm very self-analytical because I think iťs important to know what you're saying. Thaťs why I classified the music as Antmusic, which is a very pretentious, very arrogant thing to do — but not in a negative way. We're arrogant out of necessity. If you don't classify yourself you're classified in a derogatory way by other people. They'd call it mindless tribalism and it would catch on, just like punk did.
   "I think the slogan 'Antmusic for Sex People' means nothing, but it could mean everything. I think the group is interested in making music, dressing sexy, looking pretty and young and not listening when we're told there's no fun."
   In brief, Adam Ant is anathema to those who demand meaning in their music. "I think far too many people are looking for messages and directions from artists when they should listen a bit more to the music, look at what they're wearing, and enjoy it."

   The new Prince Charming LP should solidify Adam and the Ants' position back home and establish the band further here. In effect a second album, it suffers a bit from the sophomore jinx but offers enough thrills to satisfy Antpeople. More objective observers will note the title track's soliloquy contains the line "Ridicule is nothing to be scared of." The artisťs chip-on-the-shoulder attitude sometimes in-trudes on the entertainment.
   In his metamorphosis from punk rock also-ran to king of the UK charts, Adam Ant resembles the loser in the Charles Atlas ads who develops his muscles and goes back to the beach to punish his tormentors. Adam has proven something to those who once brushed him off, just as the former weakling gets back at the guys who kicked sand in his face. You have to wonder, though, when Adam Ant will start to enjoy himself.