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CHRIS WELCH:"Adam & The Ants"
Historie "Antů" do roku 1981 / History of "Ants" till 1981

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Kapitola 6

   ADAM VYPRÁVÍ

   Podzim 1980 bude navždy žít v paměti Adama Anta a spousty jeho přátel a podporovatelů. Byl svědkem zrodu zářivé nové hvězdy, jejíž příchod vrátil optimismus a staromódní popové nadšení zpět na scénu, která jinak sténala beznadějí, depresí a zoufalstvím.

   Rostla nezaměstnanost, inflace drtila hodnotu peněz, rasové napětí a všude kolem násilí mladých, efekt recese pronikal do každého odvětví průmyslu včetně výroby popové muziky – národ potřeboval povzbuzení, nějakou formu rozptýlení atraktivní pro muže, ženy i děti a všechny ty nešťastníky, kteří zírali na obrazovky plné zpráv o nových katastrofách.

   Těm, kdo se v práci stali nadbytečnými nebo si poprvé stoupli do fronty na dávky v nezaměstnanosti, vrátil nástup Adama s pomalovaným obličejem, domorodými rytmy a proudem hitů trochu z bezstarostné nevinnosti šedesátých let, kdy byla Anglie nabita energií, o čemž mohli někde číst nebo to sami zažili.
   Byznysmeni, kteří se chystali zastřelit při pohledu na padající křivku na grafu prodeje, odložili revolvery a s nezvyklými úsměvy sáhli po interkomu:„Slečno Perkinsová, co je to za zvláštní rámus vycházející z vašeho bezdrátového přijímače?“
   „Vy to neznáte, pane? To je Adam a Mravenci, skvělá nová beatová skupina. Já a můj Jack chodíme na tuhle muziku tancovat jako všichni z vesnice.“
   „Slečno Perkinsová, není nutné zdůrazňovat ten protivný západní přízvuk. Věděl jsem, že jste z Catfordu. Ale říkáte Adam Ant? A jeho Mravenci?“
   „Ano, pane, tím novým zvukem nadchli celý národ a všechny jejich nahrávky jsou v hitparádě. Sama jsem si koupila pár jeho desek a dokonce mám i LP desku s názvem Kings Of The Wild Frontier, která prý způsobila nějaké znepokojení mezi etnickými menšinami v Severní Americe.“
   „To neřešte, Perkinsová. Pokud začneme prodávat trika s Adamem Antem místo galvanických zinkových spektroskopů, myslím, že můžeme zachránit tuhle naši starou firmu a tisíce pracovních míst. Perkinsová, přepojte mě na sklad.“
   Mravenčí horečka bourala v průběhu října veškeré třídní rozdíly a skladba Dog Eat Dog začala svůj strmý vzestup žebříčky podpořená životně důležitým vystoupením v televizním pořadu BBC Top Of The Pops šestnáctého toho měsíce.
   Skladba Antmusic z alba byla remixována a singl se dostal do žebříčku v prosinci, zatímco Dog Eat Dog letěla do Top Five.
   Po všech těch letech snažení a paniky Adam cítil ledový klid i záchvěv vzrušení, když si uvědomil svůj vzestup a zjistil, že se začíná vyplácet jeho riskování.

   Když nahrál desku Kings Of The Wild Frontier, bylo to to poslední, co Mravencům zbylo. Sami si financovali turné na podporu nové muziky, byla to doba, kdy šlo o všechno, buď anebo…
   Zdálo se, že zpráva o tom, že Adam nakonec prorazil, se šířila médii rychlostí blesku. Pravděpodobně jedna z jeho nejsilnějších stránek v těch rozhodujících časech, byla jeho schopnost srozumitelně a inteligentně mluvit o tom, čeho chce dosáhnout, o jeho muzice. Nebyl to hloupý demagog, sprostý hulvát, ale okouzlující muž se samozřejmou upřímností a značným talentem.
   Najednou tu byl popový umělec, který měl povzbuzující optimistické představy o tom, jak má vypadat rock. Byl idolem, který bez váhání vyhlášoval jeho odpor vůči násilí, které se rozlévalo z fotbalových tribun do popových klubů, ještě předtím, než si toho začal všímat národní tisk a než se dostalo do stádia tragických výtržností. Adam si myslel, že je pro mladé důležité, aby byli hrdí sami na sebe a hledali kreativní cesty při získání práce. Zažil nihilismus punku a po dlouhou dobu viděl kolem sebe jeho důsledky. Byl jedním z mála, kdo mohl mluvit z pozice zkušenosti a autority.
   Mix domorodého rytmu a sex appealu byl osvěžující a neznamenal pro společnost žádnou hrozbu. A překvapivě byl přivítán i nemilosrdnými rockovými znalci, od kterých by se dalo čekat, že zařadí Adama mezi slabochy a zbabělce.
   Adam, oděný do plandavých kalhot a pršipláště, v jeho účinném maskování před tím, aby byl spatřen na ulici a obléhán davy, mluvil s naprostým přehledem a záblesky humoru, když jsme spolu seděli v kanceláři nahrávací společnosti CBS.
   Když byl prohlášen v roce 1981 hvězdou první velikosti, vypadal rozpačitě a znepokojeně.    „Snažím se jednat s chladnou hlavou, jak nejlíp umím, ale uvnitř cítím zvláštní napětí“, říká Adam. „Bylo to o tom být na správném místě ve správný čas. Byl jsem nadšený z úspěchu tvůrčího týmu, který jsme tvořili s Marcem, protože to bylo velice důležité. Potřeboval jsem ten jiný způsob myšlení, uvolnění a disciplínu, kterou měl Marco. Měli jsme naprosto odlišné nápady a styly. Marco hodně pomáhal ve studiu, protože on je studivě orientovaný člověk.“
   „Já jsem nesnesitelný ve studiu, děsně netrpělivý. Takže práce s Marcem byla přínosem pro nás oba. Pracovali jsme jako tým. Řekli jsme si, že to bude buď jako Rodgers & Hammerstein, nebo nic.“
   „Muzika, kterou teď děláme, je pro mě naprosto uspokojující, i když tím nechci říct, že co jsem dělal dřív, nevznikalo se stejným odhodláním. Marco a já jsme byli ovlivněni hodně odlišnými vlivy, ale u obou je v tom určitý filmový nádech. Máme rádi Johna Barryho a Linka Wraye.“
   John Barry byl britský skladatel a hudební aranžér, který měl velký vliv na rockovou scénu na konci padesátých let. Napsal hudební doprovod pro desky Adama Faitha a rovněž psal melodie pro televizní show, jako bylo Juke Box Jury, a psal i muziku pro filmy s Jamesem Bondem. Link Wray byl rocker s indiánskými kořeny z kmene Šavanů, který v roce 1958 nahrál klasiku „Rumble“ a užil si úspěšný návrat na výsluní v roce 1971. Jejich vliv je evidentní v širokoúhlém přístupu promítajícím se do Kings, ale Adam byl příliš skromný, když později tvrdil, že neměl vlastně žádné své originální nápady. Možná tam jsou vzorky toho, co ho inspirovalo z minula, ale to je případ prakticky každého interpreta ve všech oborech.
   Adam souhlasí s tvrzením, že jeho vokální projev nebyl nikým ze západních interpretů. „Namísto toho jsem v posledních dvou letech sbíral z Francie dovážená alba s domorodou muzikou. Jsou drahá a není jednoduché je sehnat, ale koupil jsem jednu desku pygmejské muziky a alba Aboriginců. Jejich muzika mě přitahuje z hlediska strukturální úrovně.“


Zbytek přeložím později.
Chapter 6

   ADAM TALKING

   The autumn of 1980 will forever live in the memory of Adam Ant and all his myriad friends and supporters. It saw the birth of a bright new star, whose arrival brought good cheer and old fashioned pop enthusiasm back to a scene otherwise groaning with despair, gloom and despondency.
   With unemployment rising fast, inflation eroding the value of what money could be earned, racial tension and youthful violence boiling over, and the effects of recession biting into every imaginable industry, including the business of making pop music, the nation was in need of a tonic, some form of distraction that was appealing to men, women, children, yea and even the halt and lame, as they gazed at their TV screens filled with news of fresh disasters.
   For those being made redundant or joining the dole queues for the first time, the arrival of Adam with painted face, tribal rhythms, and stream of hits brought back some of the carefree innocence of the sixties, when England was swinging, which they may have read about or experienced at first hand.
   Industrialists, about to shoot themselves at the sight of downward spiralling sales graph lowered their revolvers and found their mouths contorting into unaccustomed smiles, and they reached for the intercom. 'Miss Perkins, what is that strange noise emitting from your wireless receiver?'
   'Why Sir, don't you know? 'Tis Adam The Ants, a fine new beat group, they do say. Me and my Jack go a jiving to his music regularly like at the Village 'All.'
   'Really Miss Perkins, there is no need to adopt that irritating West Country accent. I happen to know you come from Catford. But Adam Ant you say. And his Ants?'
   'Yes Sir, they be sweeping the nation with their new sound, and all their records are in the hit parade. I have purchased several of his discs myself, and even own a long playing microgroove record called Kings Of The Wild Frontier which they do say has caused some concern among ethnic minorities in the North Americas.'
    'Never mind that, Perkins. If we start selling Adam Ant T-shirts instead of galvanised zinc spectroscopes, I think we can save this old company of ours and a thousand jobs. Perkins, get me the warehouse. Ant Fever cut across all barriers of class and occupation during October as 'Dog Eat Dog' began its swift climb up the charts, helped by a vitally important appearance on BBC TV's Top Of The Pops on the 16th of the month.
   ‘Antmusic', from the album, was re-mixed as a single and that entered the chart in December, while 'Dog Eat Dog' blasted its way into the Top Five.
   After all the years of struggle and panic, Adam felt an icy calmness, and a quiver of excitement, as he realised he had lift-off and the great gamble was going to work.
   When he recorded Kings Of The Wild Frontier it was all the Ants had left. They had financed their own tours to promote the new Music and it was make or break time.
   The buzz that Adam had finally cracked it seemed to sweep around the media like wildfire. Perhaps one of his greatest assets at that crucial time was his own ability to talk lucidly and intelligently about his aims and his music. This was no ranting demagogue, no leering lout, but a man with charm, obvious sincerity and considerable talent.
   And for once, here was a pop artist who had encouraging, optimistic ideas about the state of rock. He was an idol who readily announced his dislike of the trend towards violence that was already spilling over from the football terraces into pop clubs and venues, before it was noticed by the national press and eventually took the form of tragic riots. Adam thought it was important that young people took pride in themselves and sought creative ways to find enjoyment. He had seen the nihilism of punk and its effects over a long period at close quarters, and he was one of the few who could speak up from a position of experience and authority.
   His mixture of tribal rock and sex appeal was both refreshing and posed no threat to society. And surprisingly he was made welcome even by the most pitiless of rock pundits who might have been expected to put Adam among the wets and non-combatants.
   Adam, clad in baggy trousers and an old raincoat, his effective disguise against being spotted on the streets and mobbed, talked with great lucidity and flashes of humour as we sat in the CBS record company office.
   When it was suggested he'd become a star of the first magnitude in 1981, he looked embarrassed and concerned.
   'I'm trying to act as cool as I can, but inside I've got a strange feeling of nerves,' said Adam. 'It was all down to being in the right place at the right time. I was thrilled at the success for the writing team of myself and Marco because that's been very important. I just needed that other train of thought, relaxation and discipline that Marco has. We have totally different ideas and styles. In the studio Marco really helps because he is a totally studio-orientated person.'
   I'm awful in the studio, terribly inpatient. So working with Marco has been great for us both. We work as a team. We decided it was either going to be a Rodgers & Hammerstein set up, or forget it!'
   'The music we are hitting on now is the most satisfying for me to date although I wouldn't say that anything I've done before was put out with any less degree of commitment. The influences on Marco and myself are very diverse but have a kind of filmic quality. We like John Barry and Link Wray.'
   John Barry was the British-born composer and arranger who had such a big influence on the rock scene in the late fifties. He wrote the backing for Adam Faith's early records and also wrote the theme tunes for TV shows like Juke Box Jury as well as the James Bond movie theme. Link Wray was the part Shawnee Indian rocker who recorded the classic 'Rumble' in 1958 and enjoyed a comeback in interest in 1971. Traces of their work are evident in the wide screen approach that permeate Kings but Adam was being too modest when he later claimed that he had no original ideas of his own. There may have been examples to inspire him from the past, but that goes for practically every performer in every field.
   Adam agrees that vocally he has not been influenced by any Western performers. 'Instead, for the last two years I've collected French imported albums of tribal music. They're expensive and hard to get, but I bought one of Pygmy music and albums by Aborigines whose music appeals to me on a structural level.

    'They use chants, grunts and voices that come in all over the place!'
   This influence was most notable, of course, on the Ants' remarkable composition 'Dog Eat Dog' which began with a powerful drum beat that increased in volume while Adam sang unexpected whoops and cries which sounded almost comic on first hearing, until the significance of it all filtered in.
   Adam had listened a lot to Cream as a kid and admired the drumming of Ginger Baker who also has affinities for African, tribal music.
   'It was difficult to achieve that effect on a singles level because the Western ear will ignore certain things,' says Adam. 'We had to exaggerate certain rhythmic and structural things and make them very simple. The follow up single "Antmusic" had everything on it, from a structural point of view, that I wanted to put on future LPs. We used a whole range of instruments on it that were virtually home made to get the right effects.' The tracks were all recorded at Rockfield in Monmouth and the album was produced by Chris Hughes.
   'The most important thing for us was to get a SOUND. We threw out a lot of good songs that were quite exciting, just so that we could go for the right sound. We started writing all the new songs with that sound in mind and it was the hardest thing to do.'
   A solid, recognisable and distinctive sound had been the cornerstone of much classic pop before Adam 8c The Ants. The Beatles had it, and so did Phil Spector, the Carpenters, Abba, the legendary Link Wray and of course The Shadows. Adam thinks there are fewer people who can claim an original sound than have hit records.
   'We spent three years arriving at our sound, and we had to be very brutal with our own work to get it. It drove us mad being in the country when we recorded the album because we are not country people. We had to use planks of wood on "Antmusic" to get the sound we wanted, and we had to work out every beat. The same went for "Kings Of The Wild Frontier" (title track). We used two drummers because there was no way we could achieve that sound "live" without them.'
   In Autumn 1980 Adam took the concert balls of Old England by storm and again considerable thought went into the package they were presenting their fans. The Ants were determined to give value for money and a show that not only entertained but helped, by subtle means, to spread positive thoughts among the young, to counteract what the wise young Ant could already see was infecting the hearts and minds of British youth. 'It was showbiz, but not just glam and glitter.'
   Adam had already gained a remarkable following and the single 'Kings' quickly sold 40,000 without any problem. 'I had obviously accumulated 40,000 fans over the years,' says Adam, in defiance of those who had claimed his cult status had been slipping. 'When we did Top of the Pops on TV, it sold over 100,000, which was great! People say the record business is slumping, but I don't see anything wrong with it. The trouble is, while there are many new groups out there - and they send me their tapes - they have naive charm all right, but they are not commercially viable. That sort of thing comes with time, and getting the right format. You can't do it by magic. You can have a heavy producer come in or a top manager, but they don't guarantee success.
   Adam denied that he had anybody manipulating his career and his success, while he was aware that many were trying to claim some modicum of credit. 'No, its always been a clandestine thing. I've kept a very close rein on all the promotional stuff, and while the packaging looks slick, it's all been done by the band and designed by myself.'
   In recent years, packaging and merchandis¬ing have become increasingly important to the rock business. Some of the big rock shows at venues like Earls Court and Wembley began to look like Eastern Bazaars with their plethora of stands selling everything from hot dogs to T-shirts, badges, jeans, jackets, shirts, and posters. Some despise and disparage such commercialisation especially when it reaches the stage of kids being offered Peter Frampton gold watches or Elvis Presley Cadillacs. But Adam thinks that design and packaging are important and perfectly valid adjuncts to the whole pop process. Either we have pop music and accept all its offshoots, or else we ban all such activities and spend our time in contemplation and prayer (not a bad idea at that).
   'Packaging plays a very close number three to the music,' says Adam. 'For the Ants, Roxy Music were the example of a band who set a style and consistency. Marco and I have written top ten records and we don't want to go back now. At the same time we still want to be relaxed and have fun.'
   Was Adam in danger of being hoist by his own petard, if he didn't mind me bringing his petard into the conversation?
   'I dunno,' he said, hunching still further into his raincoat and allowing a blond curl, midst a sea of black hair to fall over his forehead. 'We are not interested in just being a singles band. We want every song to be a classic, and also, the way the kids are feeling now because of the recession, we want to give them some "up'' music, something that is rich and has a wild nobility.'
   There wasn't much opportunity for the average petrol pump operative to adopt the trappings of a noble savage, even if Adam could do it for them.
   'That's true’, said Adam, 'but look through and beyond the trappings. As soon as you say "warrior" you think of violence, but that's not the case. When I listened to the records of the tribes, hammering their bits of wood together, I felt a bit of a hypocrite, a white boy copping the tribal rhythms. There was nothing new in that. So I read a lot of books too, about the Zulu people and the Masai warriors, and of course the American Indians. "Dog Eat Dog" was very Zulu. You'll notice that heavy beat in the middle of the song? We had to hit drum cases about thirty times to get that sound!
   'And that's styled on Zulu warriors hitting their shields. The reason why I've used the warrior theme is because warriors are like peacocks. They have integrity and independence.
   'In their appearance they use a unique make-up which sets them aside from everybody else in the tribe. They are ABOVE violence. And I think violence is a very unfortunate and brutal thing that is creeping into music. The football terraces are moving into the concert hall.'
   Adam is aware of his role at the head of the heap of groups who fought their way out of the club scene, and he is keen to see his fellow musicians help restore a scene that at one time seemed in real danger of sinking into irreversible decline, 'I think (he situation now demands more effort from bands,’ says Adam. 'I think the kids are sick of green vinyl. They want good records and a good show. On our tours we are aware we have a very young audience. They tend to start from twelve upwards and loads of them write to me. I was getting sixty letters a week.' (Adam gets many more now, with a backlog of twenty sacks of mail considered about average.)
   'I tried to write to them all personally and from that I knew exactly what was happening.’ In the end it got too much, and Adam couldn't hope to answer every single one himself. 'A lot of the kids told me they couldn't get in to see their favourite bands. I think that's bad. There should be more opportunities for the younger ones to see bands, and I don't think there is a teeny bop market as such anymore. Kids are far more tuned into what their big brothers listen to.'
   Adam set out to play shows that the younger kids could attend at convenient hours. And he also declared war on deejays who supplied the in-between music at rock shows and assumed they knew the tastes of their audience. 'They tend to put out the music THEY like. When we were booked in during the early days, they'd say "Ah, punk band." So they'd stick on Cockney Rejects and the Angelic Upstarts and I can't STAND all those aggro and oi bands - the boot boys. I think they encourage violence. When a kid goes to his first gig he is bound to get taken in by the whole event and what's going down.' Adam counteracted the doctrine of violence long before it was exposed in the national press.
   That led to the setting up of the Ant Disco. Each Ant was invited to go into a studio for a day and record his own choice of music and then act as a bona fide Ant DJ. Their choice ranged from Dolly Parton to Marc Bolan. Adam has a big thing about the late and much loved star of Glam Rock. He admits without shame that he once asked Marc for his autograph and sent a fan letter to Bryan Ferry. He pinned the answer on his bedroom wall. Long before most of the press discovered what was happening beneath their noses, the Ant people were on the march during the months leading up to chart take-off time.
   They were his hard core of fans and, recalled Adam: 'One thing they picked up on was oil painting. Remember how American air pilots painted "Lucky Lady" on the backs of their flying jackets? Well the Ant people had beautiful paintings on their jackets and the most amazing tattoos. That's when they started coming to the gigs, specially dressed up.'
   Adam was famous for his tattoo. He has, as every Ant fan worth his formic acid knows, 'Pure Sex' emblazoned on his forearm. His secret wife, Eve, later revealed that he has another tattoo which caused him to faint when it was cut into his body with a razor blade. Hardly surprising, and it's not the sort of practice to be recommended to even the oldest and least impressionable Am Ian. Was lit a good thing that pop stars should become leaders of youth cults? Didn't they invariably do more harm than good?
   'It happens anyway and I think you do have to be careful not to preach. When a fan comes up to me wearing all the make-up, I'm as nervous as he is, and as flattered. To me it's a great compliment for someone to ask for an autograph.'
   'I suppose I am in a great position at concerts to talk a lot and make speeches, which I don't do. I just want to learn a lot of jokes, because the whole thing is supposed to be fun! But it's hard to tell jokes on stage when your heart is pounding and your throat is drying up.'
   So Adam has no policies and no politics? 'None at all.'
   Adam was adamant that he would not follow the path taken by another cult hero, Jimmy Pursey, a while back, which led to a tragic chain reaction. I’ve never really met Jimmy Pursey but I remember him down the Vortex promoting a kind of skinhead revival. Because there were no skinheads in '77 at all. Then it got promoted and it grew and I could see it happening. You reap what you sow. What's a kid gonna do if you tell him, "You've got nothing, you've got no hope." There's gonna be anger isn't there? With our group we just try to present Ant music for sex people. Everybody likes sex and I hope everybody will like Ants! My message is all in the title track of Kings Of The Wild Frontier.'
   Adam was keen to emphasise the importance of the live show in the future and is not convinced by the technologists who tell us that we shall spend all our days locked in at home watching an endless stream of flickering images on the telescreens.
   'The video disc will come and go!' he insists. 'There are two factors I shall be guided by in the future. The video disc will come and go much faster than people imagine and the only thing that will be left will be the LIVE show. And in the eighties, the big show will be the thing. And it's going to be more for the family, like American football is more for the family.'
   Adam refuses to accept the principle that the music business is like a boxing ring with the contestants slugging it out for superiority. He prefers to think of it as a coal mine with each performer carving out his own niche (or nuggets).
   'Dexy's Midnight Runners and Madness, for example, do their shows and enjoy themselves, but they are not competing within the framework of the coalmine. There's plenty of room for everybody and there's no need for a sense of competition. The] Ants started with five fans. The same five still come to see us, but hopefully there are 100,000 more now.'
   How was Ant music created and knocked into shape? Adam carries a diary around with him and he jots down ideas as he travels about the place, from a yodel to a complete set of lyrics. He firmly believes in starting a song with a strong title.
   'The title will set me off thinking about the lyrics and then I have to make sure the syllables are right. If you cram in too many words, you have to catch your breath while singing them. We're quite old fashioned on one level. I had the whole band tutored for singing lessons by Tona DeBrett. She's very good. She was introduced to me by Malcolm McLaren. She tried to teach Johnny Rotten to sing. He took her a Doors album and said he wanted to sing like Jim Morrison! She's helped me a lot. Physically there is no way I could get through an hour and thirty minutes of Ant music, and move, and entertain without using her techniques. We tape every show by the way. And it's horrible hearing all those bum notes!
   'When we were recording the album I was bent right over, holding my rib cage, and I jumped up and down.'
   This seemed a rather bizarre practice but I was sure there was some rational explanation, forthcoming.
   Sure enough Adam revealed all. 'It's a way to get adrenalin flowing. I couldn't just stand there and do a cabaret number. You have to get your diaphragm working well, or else you can do your throat in after one night. We all do exercises before we go on, pushing up and breathing out and panting.'
   Adam exposed his diaphragm and gave me a brief demonstration involving various strangled cries and stretching limbs. 'It looks RIDICULOUS,' he admits.
   All this explains and demonstrates how seriously Adam took his attack on stardom. But he told me: 'I find it totally embarrassing even to discuss stardom and how I might cope j with it. I just want to make sure that every record I put out has quality from the cover to the music. And we want to make music that appeals to everybody, whatever their age. I want our music to be properly arranged. Not many people know this, but the Sex Pistols' album was very heavily arranged. The art of arranging is not given much credit these days. We want to arrange our music down to the last second!'