Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Dandy Highwayman Turns Goody Two Shoes

Though the Ants were officially no more, Adam Ant wisely retained the services of songwriter, guitarist and creative collaborator, Marco Pirroni. The questions were asked once more, as to Ant’s capacity to repeat his phenomenal success with the Ants, as a solo artist. Initially Adam Ant also retained the same flamboyant, fantasy-oriented image, but musically, Ant and Pironni moved away from the ‘Burundi beat’ Ant’s style, in favour of more mainstream glam-tinged pop. The tongue in cheek single ‘Goody Two Shoes’, released in May of ‘82, debuted immediately on the British charts, and rocketed to #1 within a month. The song repeated the feat on the Australian charts shortly after, and spent two weeks at the peak in both countries - an auspicious beginning to the post-Ants era. ‘Goody Two Shoes’ was also the track to finally break Adam Ant Stateside (#12), though not until late ‘82. It featured on Adam Ants first ‘solo’ album, though to be fair Pirroni probably deserved equal credit, ‘Friend Or Foe’ (UK#5/US#16/OZ#60). The Pirroni produced album incorporated, at least in part, Ant and Pirroni’s fondness for tying together disparate strands of popular culture, with typical unabashed flair (there was even a cover of the Doors’ ‘Hello, I Love You’, featuring Robbie Krieger), but overall it was an altogether more ‘mainstream’ effort. The title track racked up solid sales in the U.K. (#9), but was a relative disappointment on the Australian charts (#49), and ‘Desperate But Not Serious’ (UK#33/US#66) became the first single from the ‘Ant’ empire in over two years, to miss the British top ten.

Adam Ant resurfaced in late ‘83 with the album ‘Strip’ (UK#20/US#65), but it was a relative lightweight in more ways than one. The humour infused high energy that had characterised his earlier work, fell away in favour of at times frivolous, bordering on spurious pop. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but a track like ‘Puss ‘N Boots’, which proved to be Adam Ants final top ten hit (UK#5/OZ#84), lacks the authentic punch of previous hits. In a bizarre collaboration, Phil Collins produced the title track ‘Strip’ (UK#41/US#42), and though I rate Collins highly, it seems a conceptual bridge too far, for Ant undertake such a studio alliance. Actually, the reason for the Collins’ collaboration could lie in the fact that Hugh Padgham co-produced the album (Padgham had already worked extensively with Collins and Genesis). Aside from launching the UK#13 single ‘Apollo 9’, 1984 proved to be a quiet year for the man, who just three years earlier, swept an entire nation with his own brand of ‘Ant-mania’.

For his 1985 album ‘Vive Le Rock’ (UK#42/US#131), Adam Ant enlisted the services of venerated glam-rock producer Tony Visconti (worked with Bowie, T-Rex). Ant drifted further into unfamiliar, and arguably uncomfortable territory, musically, with streams of traditional rock and roll, fused with glam, permeating throughout. But the mix proved largely unpalatable for ‘Antpeople’, and it was clear that the once mighty insect nation had gone the way of most great empires - consigned to the history books. Following an appearance at Live Aid in July ‘85, Adam Ant pretty much retired from the music biz, to focus his creative energies on a career in acting. Right hand ant, Marco Pirroni, went on to play with the well respected outfit Spear Of Destiny. With a background in theatrical endeavours, in his ‘role’ as Adam Ant, it was a natural transition for Adam Ant to go into acting. After a three month stint with the English stage production of ‘Entertaining Mr. Sloane’, he relocated to the U.S. and quickly scored guest starring roles on television series like the ‘Equalizer’ and ‘Amazing Stories’, and appeared in several motion pictures, including ‘Slam Dance’ and ‘World Gone Wild’.

In late ‘89 Ant made a call to Pirroni, with the suggestion that the pair rekindle their creative partnership, and work on recording some new material. MCA offered up a new record deal for Adam Ant, and in February 1990 the single ‘Room At The Top’ was released. Though the track couldn’t find a room at the very top of the charts, sales were solid in both the U.S. (#17) and Britain (#13). One time Prince cohort Andre Cymone came on board to produce both single, and source album ‘Manners and Physique’ (UK#19). The music was largely tailored for the contemporary late 80s/early 90s dance pop market, and Adam Ant was somewhat relegated to the support cast, rather than leading role. Rather than reigniting the glory days of ‘Antmania’, the album merely prompted a lot of people in their mid 20s to ask, “isn’t he the guy from that ‘Antmusic’ song?”. One more minor hit single followed, with ‘Can’t Set Rules About Love’ (UK#47), before Adam Ant once again retreated from the music scene, and moved back to acting. Perhaps Ant’s best known acting role of the ensuing few years was as the character Zachary Simms in the 1993 romantic comedy/vampire flick, ‘Love Bites’.

In 1993 Adam Ant once again hooked up with Pirroni for a mildly disastrous ‘comeback’ tour. Over the next year or so he made a couple of guest appearances at Nine Inch Nails’ concerts (whose neo-goth industrial rock owed something to facets of early Ant work). By 1995, the music biz was once again showing interest in some of the early 80s ‘new wave’ fare, but rather than revisit old ground, Adam Ant chose to explore new territory on his 1995 EMI album ‘Wonderful’ (UK#24). Adam Ant was now in his early 40s, and embraced the idea of being a more mature pop-rocker. Acoustic guitars now featured as heavily in the mix as electric, whilst mellow seductive vocal delivery replaced yodelling chants, and the album (recorded in the famous Abbey Road Studio No. 2) had a bit of a ‘Rubber Soul’ feel to it in parts. The title track single reached the top 40 on both sides of the Atlantic (US#39/UK#32), whilst the follow up ‘Gotta Be A Sin’ (UK#48) became Adam Ant’s last incursion into the charts.

Ant once more gravitated back into acting, and for the next few years managed to score enough roles to avoid considering life as a busboy. The early 00’s found the former Mr. Ant encountering ongoing issues with psychiatric illness, and some associated problems with the law. It was a sad fall from grace for such an iconic figure of the 80s music scene, but in recent years Stuart Goddard has recovered some lost ground. With the repackaging of much of the Adam And The Ants back catalogue, and a successful 2006 autobiography titled ‘Stand & Deliver’, Goddard was deservedly getting due recognition for his past work, and in 2008 received the prestigious Q Music Icon Award, placing him in some illustrious company (Paul McCartney, U2).


Dirtyharry said...

Thanks for sharing your information of Adam. He is a wonderful guy and is definitely one of them most underrated artist of those times.

Feel free to check out my ant related blog... The Ant Invasion.

A. FlockOfSeagulls said...

Your welcome Dirtyharry, and thanks for your comment. Will definetely check out your Ant Invasion blog soon.