'THE MAGNIFICENT FIVE'
What strange response did Adam Ant trigger in the public consciousness at the end of 1980?
What caused such a wave of unrest? It was like the excitement engendered by greeting a beautiful stranger,
stepping out of his war canoe onto the sandy shores of our mind. What strange gifts did he bring? Who were these
other chaps? Why, whither and whence were the questions that sprang to our lips as we jostled around, feeling the
travellers' brightly coloured clothing, offering beads and trinkets and attempting to communicate in their strange
'You Ant people?'
'Ugh. We are wild nobility. New Royal Family. We play sex music for Ant people. You fetch money.
Buy tickets for pow wow. Heap big tour coming to town. Avoid unauthorised rip offs. See my manager.'
The impact of the Ants was total because they emerged armed with a mystique, a story to tell and a lot of
songs that all proved to have hit potential. It was all too easy to draw parallels. To some they seemed like a young, hipper
and prettier Village People. Others could hear overtones of Cliff and the Shadows, and eventually Adam himself cheerfully
acknowledged that he hadn't any original ideas to offer. But he was being modest. The Ants concept ("A whole package" as
the Village People would say) was decidedly fresh and innovative. It was a team effort with Adam at the helm.
It seemed incredible that Adam and Marco could have got such a hit formula together in the space of
six months, but they had the impetus of the Bow Wow Wow episode behind them acting as a spur. Combined with all their
artistic influences, rough and tough experience at the hands of sadomasochists and rock critics, and a boiling desire
to succeed, the result was a veritable Ant explosion, triggered by the release of their first CBS single 'Kings Of The Wild
Frontier’ in summer 1980.
The buzz about Adam seemed to spread around the media with amazing speed and by the autumn he was being
interviewed and feted almost hourly. In the meantime rehearsals for the major tour went ahead and the band made its first
appearance on BBC TVs ‘Top Of The Pops’. They performed 'Dog Eat Dog' and the result was a top ten hit, and within weeks
the bands second album Kings Of The Wild Frontier shot up to the top of the charts where it stayed for over eight months.
Their third single, 'Antmusic', also from the album was only prevented from reaching number one by the reissue of John Lennon's
classic 'Imagine', which mourned his murder in New York in December.
'Antmusic' was remixed as a single at the Matrix Studios, a tiny hideaway near the British Museum,
while 'Dog Eat Dog' was already marching up the chart. It was the same month, in October, that Adam achieved the
transition from cult hero to unashamed pop star. The Ants went to BBC TVs Lime Grove studios for ‘Top Of The Pops’
and met, in passing, the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who had been on an official visit to the BBC.
The pop establishment began to rave about the new Ant sound and Adam was particularly delighted
that his old hero Bryan Ferry expressed highly favourable comments about the 'Antmusic' single on BBC Radio's Round-table
On November 9, 1980 the band began its first tour of major venues, opening at the Royal Court Theatre,
Liverpool. By the time they got to Glasgow the ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ LP had got to number four and there was much
cause for celebration. But there was one cause for alarm when the band played at Hull College and the building caught fire
and had to be evacuated. The band ploughed on playing at such venues as West Runton Pavilion, the Top Rank, Sheffield, St.
George's Hall, Blackburn and Leeds Polytechnic. Adam had wanted to play matinees for kids, but complained that at that
stage the promoters hadn't realised his pulling power and status.
By December Ant videos were flooding the airwaves and 'Dog Eat Dog' was number four in the chart,
hotly pursued by 'Antmusic'. Adam held a press conference for his favourite kind of press, the fanzines, and also appeared
on Roundtable himself. He was to receive also the ultimate acolade, a pie in the face on ITVs Tiswas, and his appeal
for a nation of pop-hungry children was confirmed by appearances on Multi Coloured Swap Shop, which somehow seemed more
relevant than The O Id Grey Whistle Test, which was also honoured by a visit.
January 1981 was a crazy month. Adam flew to New York for his first promotional visit and was being
interviewed non-stop, with phone calls back home and to Australia, where the Ants were already a hit on such local TV shows
as the celebrated Countdown.
Ant music dominated the chart, as a horde of new fans caught up with his output and laid their hands on
anything bearing his logo. ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ was the number one album and eventually went Double Platinum,
selling in excess of 750,000. At the same time 'Antmusic' was the number two single, while older records 'Zerox',
'Car Trouble' and even the ancient Decca recording Young Parisians' from 1978 became hits.
In February the band took a controversial step by consenting to appear at the London Palladium for
the Royal Children's Variety Performance in aid of the NSPCC. They played 'Antmusic' and after the show Adam met Princess
Margaret. It was after this that bassist Kevin Mooney left the group, claiming that the Ants were heading towards the
kind of megastardom that was a million miles away from the stews of the rock 'n' roll experience. But there was no stopping
the Ants now. Said the Princess: 'Please give me your autograph.' Adam obliged.
On February 9 the band recorded their next single, 'Stand And Deliver’, at London's Townhouse Studios.
Already there were mutterings that Adam's incredible run of luck must be over, that his appeal was on the wane and that he
was bound to catch a cold and flop miserably. It was going to be like Bili Haley & The Comets all over again - too many
hits in too short a space of time. Indeed there were worries about over exposure within the Ant camp, which made the crushing
of Decca's plans to reissue their album of early demos all the more vital.
Adam needed all his reserves of energy to cope with the demands on his time. There were photo sessions,
more radio, TV and press interviews and odd spots like his appearance on Jimmy Savile's show Jim'll Fix It. This was rather
a touching episode. A young viewer, 10-year-old Gary Blackwood, had written to the BBC saying that he loved playing the drums
and his biggest ambition was to sit in with the Ants. This was duly arranged and Gary played drums alongside Terry Lee
Miall and Merrick. At the end of the show, Adam presented the bemused Gary with a snare drum.
While 'Antmusic' went to number one in Australia, Adam began work on making the 'Stand and Deliver’ video
with TV producer Mike Mansfield, which was to create a sensational new wave of Ant activity.
'Stand And Deliver' eventually went to number one after its release on May l, and confounded all those
who had predicted an early Ant demise. The combination of video and record had been devastating, as once more Adam came
up with a new look, this time his highwayman’s garb. In fact Adam was at pains to deny that his 'Stand And Deliver' image
was simply a new gimmick.
'We're not going from anything to anything else,' he told critics in April. 'We're just going to incorporate
everything I’ve done. This look is the combination of four different make-ups I've developed over the past few years.
But I'm always trying to think ahead.'
Fans were fascinated by Adam's clothes and bombarded him with requests for information about where he got
them, so they could improve their own attempts to dress up.
Adam had to explain to his adoring fans: 'Image is such a meaningless word. I don't have to dress up. I like
smart clothes and leather. I do all my own make-up, using everything from Clockwork Orange, traditional English, Japanese
Kabouki and Red Indian influences. But it has to be co-ordinated and my friend Dave Whitney helps me in that department.
We hire the clothes and we can't buy them because many of them are antiques. The make-up mostly comes from Marks & Spencer.'
Fans were most intrigued by his military jacket and he told them: 'You can't buy a jacket like it because
it is very special and rare. It was the one actually worn by David Hemmings when he played the part of an officer in the
film Charge Of The Light Brigade.'
The vexed question of clothes reached a peak when his secret wife Eve who had been working for him as
a designer clamoured for attention and recognition in a series of national newspaper articles. Adam tended to tell people
simply that: 'A girl called Eve makes the band’s shirts. She's just graduated from St. Martin's College of Art.'
Eve was still working on the stage clothes for the band’s projected world tour when the article
appeared in the Sunday People in July, revealing their marriage and complaining she had not received any money
from Adam beyond her wages as the group's designer. Shortly after they appeared Eve was sacked from the band and Adam
was said to be upset and hurt by her action in seeking publicity.
Eve had once worked as a rock musician in a band called Tralalah, when she was living in a Battersea
warehouse with singer Toyah Wilcox. Toyah and Adam rowed as both were such strong personalities and also suspected each
other of ripping off ideas. 'I don't like Adam much,' said Toyah recently. 'And when we met at ‘Top Of The Pops’, we
didn't speak to each other.'
The row came while Jubilee was being made. Eve told reporters: 'When Adam came to visit me at the
warehouse, the atmosphere became very icy and they didn't talk. Adam thought Toyah was trying to copy him.'
Another explanation for the sudden disappearance of Kevin Mooney from the band, was not so much
the Ants' appearances before royalty, but the fact that Eve Goddard had lived with Kevin for a while. She it was
who introduced him to Adam who took him into the group. Said Eve: 'I used to go to gigs and see my husband and my boyfriend
on the same stage. I wanted them both to do well.' When Eve and Kevin split up, she claimed that Adam actually fired
him from the band.
Eve planned to set up her own clothes designing and knitwear business and also threatened to create
a new look 'for another band'. The Empire of the Ants seemed to be clamouring for independence, at least in the outer
Such human reactions were inevitable. As soon as success rears its head, and especially when it comes
at such speed, there is bound to be a whiff of jealousy in the air and a human characteristic is to topple the giants
of any field, usually by attacking at the weakest point.
But if Adam came under fire, then he showed no signs of wavering in his determined onslaught. When
'Stand And Deliver' was announced, Joe Strummer of the Clash grunted, somewhat ungraciously: 'What’s he doing now -
The Milkman?' Adam found this most amusing and congratulated Mr Strummer on his sense of humour. Adam could, after all,
laugh all the way to the Building Society.
Adam announced that he was pleased with both his lyrics and the sound that had captured the hearts
and minds of so many fans. The single was from their next album and it would surprise everyone with its new direction.
He thought the video with 'Stand And Deliver' was very important.
'The lyrics were about not being intimidated by any particular fashion. The video was an Erroll Flynn
epic - with us doing all the things I like seeing in Hollywood movies in three minutes.'
The video showed Adam holding up an eighteenth-century carriage and jumping through a mullioned
window into a dinner party, much to the alarm of the guests. 'I endangered my life making that film - there was
no way I could fake it.'
Mike Mansfield who made the video with his own production company had created the legendary pop
show Supersonic at London Weekend TV during the mid-seventies.
Says Mike: 'Visually Adam is the most aware pop star I have ever worked with. He's a very visual
performer and is totally aware of the function and potential of video. A lot of people make records but have no
stage appeal. Adam is made for video and has wonderful ideas. He has Hollywood in his head and he has enormous
charisma, with a high degree of acting ability which is totally instinctive. He can tell a story with his eyes,
and when he sings a song, he acts out the story. It adds another dimension to his performance.
'When we work together on a video he comes to me with his ideas, usually on scraps of paper and in
notebooks. We work our way through them and I put them into practice. It worked very well on "Stand And Deliver"
and I like to think it helped keep him at number one for five weeks.
'Adam has unlimited enthusiasm which has grown rather than been swamped by success. In his case
success breeds success and he is in control of everything. His training as a graphic artist has helped him a lot.
He will become a modern-day Valentino. He has an amazingly photogenic face.'
Mike revealed that when Adam went crashing through the glass during "Stand And Deliver" there was
an added problem apart from plucking up the courage to make the jump.
'The glass we used was opaque. He couldn't see through it and had to jump blind, while we held the cameras
down low. He takes direction very well!'