Adam Ant was an iconic musician, actor, and singer who rose to fame with Adam and the Ants during the early 1980s and into the 1990s. Most rock music lovers know Adam Ant from the hits “Goody Two Shoes,” “Ant Music,” “Desperate but not Serious,” “Stand and Deliver,” and “Room at the Top.” Adam and the Ants achieved world renown in the post Punk-rock era of the early 1980s, and their style is primarily punk mixed with Glam Rock. Anyone who lived during the 1980s is very familiar with Adam Ant’s brilliant originality of 18th century costuming, the musical innovation of double snare drums, swash-buckling dance style, and Indian-type “War Paint” across his face. The Punk Rock attitude is absolutely present in such lyrics as “Unplug the Juke Box and do us all a favor! That music’s lost its taste, so try another flavor!” or “I’m standing here, what do I see? A BIG NOTHING.” (from “Ant-music” by Adam and the Ants/Epic/Sony Music) Adam Ant’s seminal creative style even earned him a photo exhibition at a prominent London art institution during his lifetime. Quite an achievement for someone born as an only child (named Stuart Goddard), who himself attended art school in London in his formative years.
Stuart Leslie Goddard (Adam Ant) was born in London to a father who worked as a chauffeur and a mother who worked as a domestic; whose marital union ended when Goddard was age seven. Goddard later in his teen years enrolled into the Hornsey College of Art for graphic design and joined a band called Bazooka Joe. It was during this time that Goddard developed anorexia; he has been quoted as saying “I wasn’t attempting to slim; I was attempting to kill myself.” After taking an overdose of pills, Goddard was sent to a mental hospital in North London. It was upon discharge from this institution that he renamed himself Adam Ant. His first musical connections were with his mates Lester Square, Andy Warren, and Paul Flanagan, forming Adam and the Ants in 1977. The friends forged their band while attending a concert by Siouxsie and the Banshees at London’s Roxy Club.
The initial line-up changed as the band was gaining a foothold in this music industry: guitarist Lester Square was replaced with Mark Gaumont; whereas bassist Andy Warren and drummer Paul Flanagan remained. The Ants’ debut album was Dirk Wears White and was not well-received due to the use of sadomasochistic imagery. The band knew they had to rework their image, and Ant recruited the manager of the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren.
McLaren advised the group to transition from pure punk to more pop-oriented sound, as well as introducing them to flamboyant costumes. Although this was key to the Ants’ now quintessential sound and look, McLaren also convinced the musicians to leave Ant, and form a new group, Bow Wow Wow! Adam Ant called up new members: guitarist Marco Pirroni, bassist Kevin Mooney, and drummers Terry Miall and Chris Hughes (aka Merrick) to continue the band.
Adam Ant’s exemplary discography reads like this: Prince Charming (1981), Friend or Foe (1982), Strip (1983), Vive Le Rock (1985), Manners & Physique (1990), Wonderful (1995), Adam Ant is…(2013). All Music summarized Ant’s musical phases as “from post punk to glam pop to adult alternative rock.” Many rock music fans, myself GlamRock4Ever included, have wondered why is there such a gap of recordings from 1995 to 2013? There are two parts of the explanation: a) the corporate commercialization of rock music around 1995, which ended free radio and stifled all creative new music for years to come, and b) the bottom dropped out for Adam Ant in 2002. From the Guardian newspaper is this account: “In the 1980s, he had 16 hit singles and sold 15 million records, but since then has lost the battle against clinical depression.” The newspaper then goes on to describe when Ant entered a British pub in a combat jacket and cowboy hat, he was jeered and sneered at by the bar patrons (who did not recognize him). Ant was infuriated, and returned with a gun, but instead of using the weapon, picked up an old, abandoned car alternator and threw it through the plate glass window of the pub. Adam Ant was arrested, charged, and released, but then his family had him sectioned (British term for committed) into a mental hospital. You can read more in the Guardian Sept. 7, 2002.
Adam Ant’s musical career as well as his acting career are too voluminous to capture here. However, here are some highlights:
- Band signed major record deal with CBS records, recording Kings of the Wild Frontier in 1980.
- March 1982 Ant embarked on a solo career, taking Pirroni with him. Merrick went on to produce many hits for Tears for Fears.
- Several television guest appearances including, NBC, football half-time, and various variety shows.
- Live Aid appearance, although only allowed one song by Bob Geldof who thought at the time Ant was past his prime. Here is what Adam Ant said about that: “I was asked by Sir Bob to promote this concert. They had no idea they could sell it out. Knighthoods were made, Bono got it made. It was a waste of fucking time.”
- September 2006 published autobiography Stand and Deliver
- March 2011 Ant discusses on BBC Radio his Bipolar condition and the effect on his career.
- Art exhibition of Adam Ant entitled “Adam Ant: Dandy-highwayman of the Underworld” at Proud Camden art museum in London 2012.
For the latest on Adam Ant, who continues to record and tour, go to his website: