Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Man Called Adam

I've just finished Adam Ant's autobiography, and it was a profound disappointment. Kudos to him for having written it on his tod, (I can't imagine a ghost-writer being involved given how plodding and prosaic a book it is), but given the source material I have to say I expected some more fireworks. I mean, if you'd had the word "fuck" carved into your back by Jordan (no, not that one) at an early age, and then gone on to squire Jamie Lee-Curtis and Heather Graham, you'd probably have some juicy material to draw on, right? Well, you ain't gonna find it in Stand And Deliver, sad to say.

It's hard to put one's finger on exactly what's wrong with the book, but the subs didn't do the writer any favours. The little-lamented group FourBeTwo, for example, become Four By Two a couple of pages later. Adam also avers that Ant Rap reached no. 3 in the charts; on the next page he claims it reached as high as no. 4, and two pages later the damn song's back at no.3... Editor! And even my granny knows that the Sex Pistols signed to EMI first and A&M second, and not the other way round as Adam claims. But beyond pettyfogging, nit-picking inaccuracies, the main problem is that the prose is just so flat, the account of his life so mundane and so uninsightful. It's all "then I did this, next I did that, next I rerecorded my vocals for Goody Two Shoes, then I broke up with my girlfriend..". Where are the bon mots, the witty apercus? Granted, he was no great shakes as a lyricist, descending into doggerel all too often, but he clearly had an imagination, as evidenced by the snippets of his contemporaneous diaries. Unfortunately there's little imagination on display in the book. It's all a bit "This Is Your Life". My missus cleverly pointed out that this flatness is probably due to the medication he now has to take to keep his well-documented bi-polar disorder under control. It's all a bit of a shame.

Luckily, the simultaneous release of yet another Greatest Hits package manages to redress the balance somewhat. I'd heard few of the 22 tunes on Stand And Deliver: The Very Best of... since Adam's heyday, and some (like Room At The Top, his 1987 collaboration with early Prince partner Andre Cymone) not at all. Some random observations: Apollo 9, a solo single from '85 or so, turns out to be quite audacious (I don't remember enjoying it at the time); it sounds like a 21st century sea shanty. The early stuff (Cartrouble, Deutscher Girls and associated B-sides) sounds very now all of a sudden, and not a million miles from The Libertines. Both singles from the Phil Collins-produced Strip album (i.e. Puss In Boots and Strip) are dreadful, tipping over into full pantomime where he'd earlier merely hinted at it amidst the Burundi beats. The Andre Cymone-produced stuff from his solo Manners and Physique album is actually quite palatable, even if it sounds like they'd nicked the Fine Young Cannibals' drum machine; it's quite similar to what The Chiefs Of Relief were doing at the time... hmm, and didn't the Chiefs of Relief feature a couple of ex-BowWowWow hands? One other thing: my kids are going nuts for Stand and Deliver itself (the song, that is), insisting that I play it 6 times today in the car.

However, it's Ant Rap that really astonishes. Not the main part of the song, (though, as rapping goes, I've heard worse) but the last 20 seconds or so, the coda if you will. Whistles, congas, drums... holy hell, I didn't realise it at the time, but this was damn near industrial funk! Download this, chop out the last twenty seconds and loop it, and you could take it to Optimo next week and tell them it was a lost out-take from a Liquid Liquid EP. They'd definitely believe you. In case you don't, I've included the Liquid Liquid track from which Glasgow's finest club night took its name so you can compare and contrast. ACR, ESG, Liquid Liquid, Adam and the Ants!?! Whoulda thunk it?

Download Ant Rap by Adam & the Ants

Download Optimo by Liquid Liquid (both deleted Feb 2007--sorry!)

Keep Adam medicated


tinkerbell said...

yeah youre right, that end bit sounds just like his voice! i never met adam but a friend of mine who was a dancer went out with him for a while.

thats another good article, irk. tell your missus i reckon shes right about the bi-polar medication (waves at irk's missus!)

hey irk, i found one of your comments in my spam mail just now so ive posted it now, soz about that :)

irkthepurists said...

You're a total sweetie-pie. And so diligent. I'm very glad that at least one person bothers to comment (hint to the rest of yous..), though frankly, as I've said from the very beginning, I'd do this even if no one commented.

PS I promise I'll get round to e-mailing.

jon manyjars said...

I agree with you about the old Antmusic sounding fresh today: "Xerox Machine" and "Beat My Guest" have killer riffs from Marco Pirroni (who has a new band called the Wolfmen). What did Adam say about McLaren stealing his band?

irkthepurists said...

Jon, he didn't say much at all in his autobiog about the original Ants defecting to become BowWowWow, which is a shame. Not much dirt-dishing in the book. Doesn't he know that's what we proles buy biogs for? The scandal? Actually, if you do want one that tells it like it is, I'd thoroughly recommend Rupert Everett's, which I may well mention in a future post. He's a terrific writer too, for what it's worth.

As for the pre-hits Ants sounding very now, yes, I totally agree with you (and myself). In fact, I was surprised and heartened to hear on the radio last night that Client, an electro-pop duo (trio?), have covered Zerox as their new single, and it sounds terrific. More here

PS Jon, I’m still waiting to hear about the Slits show! You promised…:-)

sparkylulu said...

Thanks for that. I expected the book to be a drag. Saw Adam at Los Angeles Airport ahving a meltdown about his luggage a few years back. Sad to watch your idols go nuts.
The number of bands that cover Adam or cite him as an influence should hip you to how fresh his sound really was/is. Nine Inch Nails, Foo Fighters, are among the many, even Sugar Ray and Robbie Williams (The former's Stand and Deliver is affectionaltely true, the latter's Antmusic is a waste of energy)
But the best is a cover of "Desperate but not Serious" by a little metal band called Bombay Black. I just got it off of "Copy, right" blog and it is very very satisfactory.

irkthepurists said...

Hey, aren't you the guy from the A&W ads? Just kidding...

I will definitely go and investigate Bombay Black. I was totally unaware that Robbie Williams had covered Antmusic (how could anyone else cover this? It's like someone covering Creek Alley by The Mamas and The Papas...)

I greatly enjoyed perusing your blog(s) by the way. Hope everything goes well with the new baby...

jon manyjars said...

One of my favorite bands, Hypnolovewheel, also covered Antmusic. Coincidentally, I just finished reading Lexicon Devil, the biography of Darby Crash, who was a big fan of the Ants.

I did post about the Slits (thx for asking), but I was outdone by Andrea's critique of the Slits' NYC show, at her blog/mag Warped Reality.