To celebrate Adam Ant performing all over the UK this month, KYPP respectably dedicate this post to him. Adam and his various Ants throughout the late 1970’s were featured in Ripped And Torn (the first ever interview with the band) and Kill Your Pet Puppy fanzines, both edited and largely written by Tony D.
Uploaded tonight are the first two 7″ singles by Adam And The Ants. The second single ‘Xerox’ was released on the Do It Record label from Camden, strangely the single had two different B sides. ‘Whip In My Valise’ was always the B side of the record, on label and sleeve artwork, but for some reason Do It Records pressed up 3000 copies with the track ‘Physical’ as the B side. I have uploaded both B sides as I own both the records.
Selected text below that covers some of this 1978-1979 era written by James Maw from his biography of the band printed in book form around 1981. The colour photograph of Adam Ant at Plymouth Woods and both the black and white photographs of Antpeople at Port Talbot all taken during the 1979 Xerox tour courtesy of Bradley Hall. The colour photograph of Bradley on Margate beach before Adam And The Ants performed one of the Young Parisian tour dates in 1978 is also from the collection of Bradley Hall.
If you take a Southern Region train to Victoria you will pass over one of the largest railway stations in the world. Clapham Junction. It’s a maze of old tracks and dead railway buildings, and right in the midst of it is an enormous crescent-shaped place that looks abandoned. In large letters on the side it says DECCA. It is not an inspiring recommendation for their label; rather, it expresses in brick and steel the image that most people had of the company in 1978. The Decca record company had been for some time in decline, they didn’t even have an A & R department: that worthy body of company men that actually go out and see new bands, and can always be seen at forty-five degree angles to the bar being abetted by the music press.
But in 1978 they started up a department under the leadership of two men, Mike Smith and Frank Hodges. One of their first ports of call was The Marquee where the ‘Ants’ were doing their Thursday night residency. They were immediately impressed. They thought The Ants were a more appealing version of The Banshees and, moreover that they were the absolute best of the new crop of bands. They approached The Ants manager at Megalovision, Howard Malin, and offered him the standard contract of two singles and an album. Adam was very dubious. Decca was a unknown quantity, it was run by two men both in their eighties called Bill Townsley and Sir Edward Lewis. Adam decided that they should sign but because he didn’t trust them he had a clause built into the contract which meant all the demo time would be his and he would own the tapes. Bands do not just go into a company and record one single at a time, they are made to spend a long time in the studio recording all their material as demo tapes for the company.
There were only five people in the company who liked the band, everyone else thought it a waste of time to have signed them. So Howard Malin had the idea of organizing a trip for all the Decca executives to see the band play live. This was bound to do the trick, since the concerts were electric and the audiences enthusiastic. They had a strong following at this time and Adam was often up all night replying personally to every fan letter he received. The executives were brought to see them during a gig underneath the arches in Battersea, just a few yards up the track from the cataleptic Decca building: ‘Three thousand punks crushed to death in a rush of wheelchairs leaving.’ It was a bizarre night which only increased the gulf between the young and the old. Adam decided upon the single that they would record.
The release of ‘Young Parisians’ caused quite a lot of fuss. It was hated by the press and many of the fans and associates of the band alike. The choice of their first single is a crucial decision for a band, because as soon as you are on record it can be one step further away from your fans. The friends of a band, naturally, get very excited about the first pressing, seeing their band ‘Make It’, so it becomes a kind of fulfilment of a promise. Much has been said about the release of ‘Young Parisians’ , the simple fact is this: Adam intended it to be a double A side with Lady. ‘But they did the dirty on me and they made Parisians the A side.’ Adam found the whole experience of Decca a bit strange. He found it ridiculous that every cheque and pound note had to be passed by an old man upstairs. The last band that they’d really worked with was in the sixties. He found it an archaic company in which not much happened. They wouldn’t ‘get in behind the band’. That’s partly the reason why he gave them ‘Parisians’ because he didn’t really trust them with any of his other work.
This he came to regret, the fact that he didn’t put out his strongest product at the time, because ‘Parisians’ was obviously a joke. Adam was concerned that people thought of them as a ‘four-four kind of crash, bang, wallop band’. He thought ‘Parisians’ was the last thing people expected, which was the most important thing at that stage for him. People were making their minds up about The Ants too much and too regularly. Together, ‘Parisians’ and ‘Lady’ could be called Songs for Voyeurs.
A great many of Adam’s lyrics have to do with watching or looking, or one image being copied by another, as in Xerox. This was obviously part of the legacy of having been a designer, the fascination with isolated images, or one image upon another. ‘Parisians’ is a fairly subversive song that is posing as a ballad. Voyeurism is the theme of decadence, of Berlin, of dark clubs and atmospheres. The theme of Lady is that Adam is being sexually assaulted through his eyes by an unmoving naked lady whom he has discovered by chance, in a very surreal way, in a corridor somewhere, perhaps in a dream. It’s a vision of life that is always expectant of sudden sexual encounter. It’s the type of song which is likely to be raped in the foyer of a respectable banking company. The lyrics of someone molested in the photocopying room by a very ordinary, straight-laced secretary.
In ‘Lady’ Adam is the one doing the watching. The whole plot is tantalisingly perverse. The reviewers of the music press, however were not really prepared to listen at all. Sounds printed a review which ran: ‘Laugh? I nearly split my bondage trousers. Good old Adam, he’s at last dumped all that punk outrage and gone onto punk singalongs extolling the virtues of Paris. Maybe it’s his way of conning a French promoter into bringing his band over.’
Adam had never been abroad in his life and the first place he went to was Belgium. Belgium is one of those countries that you forget about and only remember once a year when it crops up on the scoreboard of the Eurovision Song Contest and they vote like they’re giving away balloons. Just as we crack Irish jokes in England, so the French and Dutch crack Belgian jokes – the very same jokes in fact. The band went off in a VW van to play a gig in Leopoldsburg. It was very much a matter of them having to make their own entertainment. About six of the hardcore fans went with them and turned the whole thing into a riotous weekend.
Peter Vague went along, one of the strongest supporters the band has ever had. He had followed them to just about every gig, sleeping out in the snow, trying to get himself nicked so he could spend a night in the cells, anything for a bed. One night sleeping on a steaming compost heap to keep warm. Belgium hadn’t seen anything like them, this strange looking bunch of dedicated fans. Adam dedicated just about every song in the set that night to people from London. The second gig was more successful than the first. They played in an old theatre in Ninove. It was like something from a Fellini film: a decaying Grand Duchess of a theatre, where the gilded cherubs had lost half their arms in the fight with the years, the curtains were like shrouds and golden grapes had fallen like rain from the friezework – it looked as if the place had seen too many operas. The atmosphere was one of the ghosts of decadent old gentry romping with their whores up in the boxes. The stage itself was rotten, eaten up with woodworm and damp. Their electricians didn’t seem to understand electrics at all and so the band were constantly electrocuted by everything they stood on and anything they touched. By the end of the gig the audience were really moving, they began to tear down the giltwork and the curtains until the wattle and daub of the walls themselves came away. Adam watched from the stage, it was marvellous. Everyone had a great evening – and totally destroyed the theatre.
Their next gig was in Margate, which illustrates that these concerts abroad did not constitute anything so Grand as a ‘European Tour’ but more a set of one night stands in far flung venues. After another gig in England they went to Germany, playing in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn and Langensfeld. They drove in their van through the Eastern block to Berlin. Adam looked out of the windows, every sign he saw had been shot through with bullet holes by the bored East Berlin guards. They had a German driver and everyone in the band was concerned about the familiar English cliché ‘Don’t mention the war’. As they went through customs the guards eyed their strange aggressive clothes. They drove past a huge tank, sitting with it’s gun aimed at the Wall, the crew still inside. Adam began, unconsciously, to whistle Springtime for Hitler and Germany from the film The Producers which he liked and the band joined in singing the chorus. They were playing at the S036 club on the Iranianstrasse in the Turkish quarter, built right into the Berlin Wall. Their audience was very serious, they stood at a distance from their positions in the dark and observed what the young English could do. ‘They’re very posey in Berlin, very seriously minded, and they came down and viewed us.’ Berliners are very insular, living in a city cut off from the rest of their country, they’re out on their own in the middle of No Man’s Land. ‘They don’t want to be thought of as Germans, they’re Berliners.’ Despite the distance of the audience, Adam ‘got a buzz off Berlin’. It was about the time when ‘Euro Rock’ ruled, Bowie and Iggy were living in Berlin at that time. Iggy’s ‘Idiot’ album was out along with Bowie’s ‘Low’. High points for both of them. It was very different to the state of music in London, which had begun to cloy.
One of the first interviews that Adam ever gave was for an Italian book on Pop music (The first interview was courtesy of Tony D’s seminal fanzine ‘Ripped And Torn’). It was being written by Anna Maluxa, a friend of Jordan, and it included a short chapter about what was happening in London. Half the interview was spent talking about The Sex Pistols, the rest about The Ants. The result of this was that Anna was able to do a great deal of publicity for them in Italy, so, after Germany, The Ants invaded Italy. There were many political problems about staging a gig there since you have to get the ‘yes’ from each and every political party. Otherwise one or the other will mount a picket. There were problems with the tickets too, the band has to purchase their own tickets and then resell them to the audience. For these reasons Italy had become notoriously bad for rock bands. Most bands wouldn’t touch Milan – when Lou Reed played there he got bricks thrown at him. The Ants played the Modenostra Fashion Show, and strangely, in Italy, they felt most at home. The style-conscious Italians recognised the same in the band, and being warmer than the Berliners were able to show it. There were only about twenty punks there, but the whole audience were able to join in unlike in England where punk bands played almost exclusively for punk audiences. Jordan came over for the holiday and although she was no longer with the band found herself humping speakers. It was by far the happiest of their European dates.
They made their first TV appearance in Milan too, playing Young Parisians. Dave Barbe played the drums with two rolled up newspapers and had a cappuccino on one of the drums which he drunk in between mad bursts of miming to the backing track. They found the whole business nonsensical, still not knowing to this day which or what type of programme they were on. Of all the Young Europeans they’d played to, it was the Young Italians that most took to Young Parisians. Adam himself became somewhat of a hero to the punks in Italy. When they came back from Europe, Adam decided to ‘really get to work’. The band had been, up until then, very much a London band. Adam was determined that they should get away from London, and play all the major towns and all the small clubs in England.
The Young Parisians Tour was organised . Adam felt it was time for him to move home again. He got a room in a house in Earls Court, in Redcliffe Gardens. It came to be known by his friends as ‘the black hole’ since he painted the whole room black. The place had the air of an ancient Japanese monastery, the sort of place where if you moved you would be hit over the head with a lump of wood. This was the time when he was wearing his kabuki make-up and kilt, and the lighting of the shows was very clean, stark and black and white, giving the impression of a photograph. He would spend long hours in front of the mirror working out every move, and every angle he would adopt on stage. Precision was the order of the day. The clarity of things oriental. He had a grand piece of wood on the floor of his room which served as a low table. On this he displayed his small collection of oriental gadgets, a pair of folding scissors and a Japanese shaving kit. The whole room was lit from the floor like a stage. In the corner was a sink, absolutely spotless. The room was freezing. His bed was simply pieces of wood over which he had an old undermattress. One day he bought an electric fire. This caused great excitement, for Adam it was like getting a colour TV. Dennis the goldfish had left him and gone to live at Megalovision, and so the fire became one of his favourite topics of conversation. Just above the fire Adam placed his starchart. Adam circles all the bits which he felt applied to him, he put a big circle around a line which said: ‘Be wary of Scorpios, Scorpios need a lot of sex.’ All his friends found it funny because since the room was so cold you were naturally inclined to look towards the fire, and, so were continually confronted by this statement about Adam.
It was a very productive time, but the relationship with Decca was beginning to fall apart. He was recording an enormous amount for them, practically all of what was to become the ‘Dirk’ album was put down on demo tapes. The gigs were getting bigger and bigger. Although they were playing many small clubs the band had actually moved into being a much larger venue band, filling places like the Cavernons Music Machine.
By the end of 1978 there had grown up a whole new generation of ‘punks’ that weren’t really punks at all. They had missed the original energy of the early bands, and with it had missed the point. They wanted to see the ‘four-four, clash, bang, wallop’ bands which Adam and the Ants were not. Therefore there was a lot of prejudice against the band. A gig I remember particularly well was the one played at the York Pop Club in December 1978. The Pop Club operated for only one night a week, the rest of the time it was run by the Rugby Club as an old time dancing venue. It was a part time punk venue for part time punks. The Ants gig was, then, one of the rare chances for the ‘punk’ populace of York to get to see a London band. The queues to see them stretched right the way around the wall; it was raining hard and the bedraggled punks were steaming in their plastic trousers. I was standing next to a music critic, up from London, and he was remarking on how all the kids in York were two years behind the times, still dressed in bondage and sporting dog collars, ‘But perhaps they’ve come to see the right band for all that.’ This shows just the sort of attitude that the rock press still had towards Adam and the Ants at the end of 1978. They felt they were a no-hope band that were just trading on dead images. Inside, of course, out of the rain, and in the heat of the dancing it was a whole different story, and the journalist had to admit that it was indeed a very fine band playing good songs. Whether this got to the pages of his veritable organ or not is another matter. Once someone has become a whipping post and the brunt of running jokes, it’s not easy to change your opinions in print. The band were playing on a stage hopelessly too small for their act, in a club which was very much further down the market than they deserved.
The story of 1978 is one of Adam and the Ants playing awful clubs in terrible towns, getting a bad and ignorant reception from everybody except their dedicated fans and those people who were bright enough to hear good music when it was being played to them. Adam came to refer to these clubs as ‘the toilets’. Adam often felt as if the whole audience had come to interview them, standing there blankly waiting for pat answers. The jaunts abroad, the crazy TV shows, the deal with Decca, all these things were still just the side roads and back alleys and nothing to do with the main business of establishing the band in the rat race of rock. Whenever friends, like Stephanie, would visit Adam in his ‘black hole’ in Earls Court, they would invariably find him laying on his bed, sick. He was continually weak and getting depressed. Only two things would make him perk up, the mention of sex or the mention of a gig. One day he called Stephanie and asked her to come over for tea. Before she arrived he went out and bought a Battenburg cake for a treat. She walked in and saw he was lying ill. The whole room smelt of illness, of decay, of gloss paint. ‘You’ve started painting this bloody room again,’ she said. The room was half white. On the table was a Battenburg cake. Adam offered her some. Stephanie knew there was no way she could eat it, knowing how little money he had, it must have taken everything he had just to buy the cake. So Adam was forced to eat Battenburg cake alone for the rest of the week. The night that Stephanie visited he was very ill. Weakness makes you very depressed but any depression that he suffered was outweighed by his frustration. He lay on his bed and looked up at the ceiling and said: ‘I’ve done everything, Steph, that should make this happen but it’s just not happening. When are these people going to be ready for my music?’ He felt a little bitter that Jubilee had got him such a bad name. He felt he was regarded by many as just ‘a Figment of some film director’s imagination.’ He had food poisoning and really thought he was dying. He wanted to get back and be respected on the basic level that he’d always set out to be. He looked up and said ‘I’m sick of all these people telling me that I’m a star, I’m sick of all these people telling me that the Ants are “marvellous darling”, I’m sick of being told I’m a film star, I’m sick of being told that everything’ll be all right in the end, I’m sick of being told that Decca will do a good job on the single.’ And then, ‘Fuck it, I’ve got the songs, I’m going to write more songs.’
Howard Malin, the band’s manager was often away in America. Julie Stone, an Australian who had worked as a cleaner for Megalovision had effectively taken over as manager. Then the Decca deal collapsed. It was nothing to do with the band at all. The marketing department refused to put any money into the band. Mike Smith, the A&R man had to pay for the printing of the Parisians cover himself and Adam designed it. He had come back from Berlin with lots of new graphic ideas, he had visited the Banhans the Art school which had pioneered modern graphic design in the thirties. It was after Berlin that they reversed the ‘D’ and changed the ‘S’ in the Ants logo. They designed some superb posters for the tour but the company would not produce them. There were big arguments between the A & R and the marketing departments at Decca. ‘Upstairs’ they got angry and sacked the Ants artist. In the A & R department everyone was upset. ‘We all knew that Adam was going to make it. We all knew that he was absolutely stunning and superb, the majority the company thought he was a total waste of time. We felt the only way you can “break” an artist like that is to go forward, spend money, merchandise him.’ They asked Adam to come into the office, and they told him ‘look, the guys upstairs aren’t going to market you properly, we don’t want to hold you back, so off you go, contract void.’ So they tore up the contract. There was no unpleasantness. They hoped that one day they might be able to re-sign him. Shortly after the whole company collapsed, was bought out by Polygram and everyone in A & R except Tracey Bennet, lost their jobs. It was the end of their relationship with Megalovision as well, Howard was in L.A. and Julie Stone left the company to manage the band, they were at their lowest time of all.
Adam never considered giving up. He thought of going back over some of his old stuff thinking that perhaps people might be ready for that. He was working all the time, not only writing songs and gigging, but producing film scripts, hundreds of drawings, clothes designs, and writing a book. Every scrap of paper became precious, envelopes, tickets, all these could be used for drawings and collages. The book he was writing was being written over another book, between the lines in the type, and to make it even more absurd, it was written in code. And he doesn’t intend it to be published until he’s dead. He began working at a house in Notting Hill, just on the corner of Camden Hill and Holland Park Avenue, painting one of the rooms. As was often the way with these jobs it enabled him to move in. It was a few days before the end of the year. Adam had been out drinking and come home a bit worse for wear. Stephanie was there and she accused him of being ‘a drunken slob you creep!’ Drinking was not something which he did to excess often, but on this occasion he’d drunk a bottle of vodka with Kenny Banshee and was totally slugged. Stephanie was so disgusted that Adam declared, ‘I’ll never drink again’. At first she thought this was a bit of a melodramatic gesture, but it was something he stuck to. A couple of days later it was New Year’s Eve. He and Stephanie wanted to celebrate. Everywhere they went it was just drunken parties which Adam had vowed never to take part in. They got in Stephanie’s car and began to drive. They had no money for a meal. They passed people singing in the street, brandishing bottles. People were dancing in the fountains, music blaring out of doorways – the cheapest, worst music that the British people tend to play on these occasions. It began to rain, the car was stuck in a traffic jam, the sound of bagpipes was everywhere. They were very low. What could they do? They turned to each other in the car and kissed. Suddenly all the horns began blasting behind them, the traffic in front had begun to move and they were holding everybody up. They didn’t care, they finished their kiss. 1979 was going to be better.
One day Adam was on one of his rare excursions to a party and someone who worked for Do It records came up and asked him if he would like to sign to their company. Adam was, as usual, very cautious, he’d just had an offer from a music publishing company. They had offered him five thousand pounds for all his songs over ten years. If Adam had signed that he would have lost the greater part of his present income. He decided to go and see the head of Do It, Max Tregonin. They were a very small company, the only other bands they really had were Rooglator and some small pub bands. Adam felt, that this meant that he would have a greater measure of control over what they put out. He made his feelings clear to Max, saying he wanted full control, that he didn’t want any advance (the money given against future sales) but simply wages for the band. Max Tregonin was very sympathetic towards Adam’s work, and felt that Adam’s demands were sensible, so the band signed with Do It for one album and two singles in the U.K. With his wages Adam went into Woolworths and bought his first stereo. The working relationship with Do It was to be very constructive. They put the Ants into the Roundhouse Studios with Motorhead’s engineer. Max liked the quality of the demo tapes that Adam bought him and asked who produced them, ‘I did’ was the reply, so Max let Adam produce his own records. ‘He put virtually no restrictions on me at all.’ The Company were prepared to put money behind the design so that, when it came to it, Adam was able to employ two artist friends of his Wad and Clare to do the cover.
They took out full page ads in Sounds which, in the public’s mind, bought the band from the club level to the Singles and Album level. They did another John Peel Session too, recording Ligotage, Animals and Men and Never Trust a Man with Egg on His Face. They played the Lyceum and sold it out. The Lyceum is one of the largest venues in London, situated just off the Strand, it looks like the Palladium. It was a real landmark for the band to fill it with three thousand people, and then to play The Electric Ballroom and do the same again. It was a little like the situation on The Ants Invasion Tour, thousands of people flocking to the gigs yet at the same time the band was not popularly successful, still no TV coverage or decent reviews.
The day after their sell out at the Lyceum the band were off to Germany again. This time they went by train on the Trans-Europe Express, joking all the way about spies and murders. They had got into a First Class carriage by mistake, and Adam was just climbing up the wall to get into the top bunk when the train stopped and Dave and Andy pulled the curtains open to see where they were. They were somewhere in the Eastern Block and the train had stopped at a station. Dave and Andy started to giggle because on the platform people had gathered around laughing at Adam, halfway up the wall in his underpants. By the time Adam realised, the laughter had stopped, a guard was standing there with a machine-gun aimed at his backside. ‘This is it,’ thought Adam, ‘I’m never going to be seen again, I’m going to be shot in the bum!. All the others felt sure they were going to be taken off the train. Then suddenly the guard burst out laughing, and they moved off toward Berlin. Adam wore his new kilt that Wad and Clare had made for him. He began wearing the kilts during the Parisians Tour. He had been talking to Jordan one day and had been saying how he wanted something a bit more colourful. Something to break up the black leather trousers and the kilt seemed the obvious solution. It appealed to him because there’s something tribal and clannish about a kilt. He was also fascinated by the Samurai, at this time, who wore silk shirts over their trousers. Up to ‘the kilt’ his ‘look’ had been primarily leather trousers, Japanese shoes and shirts from SEX, black leather jacket, kabuki face and holding a red rose. Then, one night at The Marquee his jacket was stolen. When the jacket got stolen he moved on to shirts. There was no way he could afford another leather jacket so he just bought a couple of leather ties. It was at this time that Wad and Clare produced their famous photos of him. The audience in Berlin at the S036 Club couldn’t believe it when Adam came on with a kilt. In England people are used to kilts because of the football matches, but for the Berliners it was ‘right out of the window’ as Adam put it afterwards. After the gig everyone went over to a restaurant called The Exile, which is one of the haunts of the artists in Berlin. Adam and about twenty others walked in. On the ceiling there’s a huge painting of someone having a heart attack. Adam had a Rudolf Schwartzgogler badge on that he had made. Schwartzgogler was a ‘body artist’ that Adam admired, he had become a bit of a lesser known cult figure amongst artists since he committed suicide by castrating himself. Somebody saw this badge on him and paid for the whole meal. It was the type of eccentricity which gave Berlin a buzz for Adam.
Everyone agreed that the shows they did there were the peak of that band. Everything about the line up and the songs worked. Musically it was becoming a very satisfying time. ‘With Do It it really was just like, “Do It Yourself” records. You were just going in there and learning the skill of making a record. I worked very closely on every single element of that whole time, more or less made the records myself.’ As soon as they were back from the gigs in Berlin, Adam decided they should go on tour again, playing nearly all the places they had covered on Parisians. The Xerox Tour was practically a carbon copy of the tour before. They had established a firm following in the North and West which he wanted to keep. Dave Barbe’s wife, Mandy, had taken charge of the fan club, which had grown to two thousand, she invented the character of Brenda the Secretary and wrote to everyone under this guise. The 1978 gigs had been very ‘bitty’. This wasn’t going to happen any more. No longer would they support anybody, and if anyone supported them, they were to get better treatment than The Ants had frequently received. This was a decision Adam had taken way back in ‘77. They had supported Generation X at King’s College and had been kept waiting seven hours for a sound check, and they decided then that they would never treat a support band like that. No More. Adam went into Do It and said: ‘Right, let’s stop all this beating about the bush.’ He designed another hand out for the fans, printed off lyrics and information. He made a set of designs of what he was going to be wearing on stage.
The tour began with the release of the single Xerox / Whip In My Valise on July 6th, and then dates in Retford, Birmingham, Newport, Leeds, Edinburgh, Manchester, Bradford, York, Liverpool, Middlesborough, Jacksdale, Swansea, Exeter, Plymouth, Port Talbot, Newport and London. Seventeen dates in twenty-four days. Some of the places they played, however, were still the pits, places like Circles, Swansea and Plymouth Woods.
The worst gig of Adam’s life was the one on this tour when they played Plymouth Woods. He was wearing a new type of make-up, which was like a multi-coloured camouflage all over his face. It was the most gruesome of make-up schemes which made him look as if he’d been mining in a greasepaint factory. The ceiling was very low over the stage with great vicious-looking beams at angles. During the second number Adam’s head cracked against a beam and his head split open with a very deep cut. Adam continued to sing but the blood started to flow over his face. Everyone thought it was a stunt, all part of his shocking make-up. He turned round and looked at Andy Warren, Andy went completely white. Adam cupped his hands and they filled with blood, it would not stop, the lights were keeping the wound open. As soon as the gig was over they drove him off in the van to a little hospital in the middle of nowhere. He sat on a chair in casualty waiting for a doctor. When the doctor arrived he walked in to see a young man, covered in blood, with make-up all over his face and wearing a blue kilt. He looked at Adam and said: ‘Don’t tell me, the Martians have landed’. Adam was losing consciousness a little. He heard a nurse say, ‘What’s your name?’ and Dave Barbe replying: ‘His name is Mr Ant’ As they laid him down he could hear them all laughing. They were whispering, thinking that he couldn’t hear, but as he lay looking up at the little Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck designs on the ceiling he heard the doctor say: ‘Nurse, I think this is a bit deep, a bit nasty, and I think we’re going to have to have a local anaesthetic’ and the nurse replied: ‘We haven’t got any.’ ‘Well, Mr Ant, this is going to hurt a bit’, said the doctor. Adam thought the whole thing so bizarre that he didn’t really feel anything. He just remembers the feeling of his ears moving upwards as they stitched the top of his head together.
After that, he had had enough of the ‘toilets’ – no more clubs, no more awful venues. In future everything was to be better organised. The band went straight into the studio after the tour to record the debut album Dirk Wears White Sox. They had three weeks, strictly ten to six to record the whole thing.
The thing about ‘Dirk’ is that it sounds more like a band’s second album and ‘Kings’ more like the first. Kings of the Wild Frontier is like a manifesto, but ‘Dirk’ is an album which was really a resume of two years’ work. The band should, in all rights, have been recording its second or third album if only the companies had got themselves together in time. The reasons why the ‘Dirk’ album is like it is many and various. Adam wanted to produce a stylish album, one that had the quality of soul and funk. Most of the songs were a product of a much more consciously intellectual inspiration than the present work. Songs like The Idea are very refined and delicate and are part of the period in Adam’s life when he had a fancy for oriental gadgets and black rooms. Adam had been absorbing other influences, outside from the sphere of rock and ‘punk culture’.
In the summer of 1977 he had returned to see the degree shows at Hornsey and amongst them a performance by Jaunito Antonio Wad Whani and Clare Johnson, whom he got to know as Wad and Clare. It’s not strange that Adam should find ‘Performance Art’ stimulating and inspiring. ‘Performance Art’ is a particular discipline which has been going on in and around art schools on and off since the beginning of this century. Its big moments were the DaDaists, the Futurists and the Surrealists, all art movements which have points of reference within Adam’s lyrics and performance. There was another spate of this grey area of artistic endeavour breaking out in the midseventies and it served in some ways to re-open the channels of communication between some of the punk and some of the DaDa. The whole idea of the type of show that Wad and Clare put on was, in effect, to create an environment in which the audience and performers were more vulnerable to the images being presented than they would be to, say, a picture in a frame. ‘Performance’ is the art of atmospheres. Adam has always been a person who responds to diverse types of knowledge, things that are on the fringes, like fetishism, things of the fringe of our culture like tribalism, and things slightly out of the mainstream of traditional art like Wad and Clare’s show.
Adam went with the rest of the audience into a darkened room, they were all given candles to hold, some of them were positioned on the set which was a pure white with a canvas backdrop. In the centre of the stage was a white block and on top of that a rectangular cage curtained in white. To the music of Bach and Penderechi a tall figure entered carrying a bundle in his arms which he placed in the cage. The bundle contained a young girl who was revealed through the white curtain as the cage was lit from the inside. A lot of the images used were drawn from clown-types, harlequins and pierrots. At the end of the show, when the audience had left, Wad and Clare came out front to clear up. They saw a black bondaged figure sitting silently in the centre of the room, he was practically on the verge of tears. Wad and Clare talked to Adam about the show. He said how deeply moved he had been by it. It was for him a welcome breath of fresh air from his involvements with punk and Jubilee. He was impressed by the clean professional purity of its presentation. ‘You’ve got to get this show on the road’, he said to them, which they found amusing, and a friendship began between them, Adam frequently visiting them to discuss his visual ideas. What was born out of these meetings was a much clearer sense of style and performance for Adam, so that he was able to drop the shock tactics which were the keynote of the band in Jordan’s time and to get a more considered area of light and shadow, using less frantic energy and more drama. It was to Wad and Clare that Adam turned for the design concept of the Dirk Wears White Sox album. They used a model who had not worked as such since the fifties. She was a friend of Wad’s that he had met on leaving art school. Clare made her the taffeta dress. The cover, then, shows this mysterious lady, obviously beautiful and experienced, walking through the sleeve into the record. Adam was very pleased with the work they had done on the cover. When he got the artwork he phoned Jordan and asked her to come and see it, and he played her the tapes of the album. Jordan had once more become very important in Adam’s life, she was beginning to advise him again on the type of make-up he should wear and he was using her as a sounding board for his ideas.
They had begun ‘going out’ with each other. Jordan was still working for Malcolm and Vivienne at the shop, there were a lot of new ideas flying around, plans for a new shop and a new set of clothes completely different from SEX or SEDITIONARIES, something more romantic. Jordan frequently spoke to Malcolm about Adam, saying how she still had complete faith in him, that she was sure he would become a big success. She implied as heavily as she could that he would be a good person for Malcolm to work with. One afternoon Adam received a phone call from Vivienne Westwood inviting him to come over that evening to a wedding party for two friends of theirs, Jean-Pierre and China. Adam felt that something must be in the air. He went to the wedding, he couldn’t see Malcolm anywhere so he went over and sat down with Vivienne. As they were talking he saw Malcolm in characteristic fashion by the door, arriving late. Malcolm walked in and instantly thought that someone else was the groom, went up to the wrong person and said ‘Congratulations’. Then made straight for Adam and his first words were: ‘Hallo Adam, how’s The Ants’, then he sat down and talked to him for two and a half hours on how video was going to take over the music business. Malcolm’s interest in video was a practical one, he had been in Paris prior to his meeting with Adam, working on a mammoth video project. He had decided after the demise of The Sex Pistols, to return to his original discipline of making porn movies. He wanted to make something for children. It was to be a musical, and he had decided to produce the songs first, rather like they did with Jesus Christ Superstar, in order to raise money for the video. He was working on various sets of lyrics.
About six months prior to this Malcolm had discovered a record which he found interesting, one of the many rarities which he is continually turning up in his passion for records. Malcolm is an expert in the byways of rock. He’s one of the most exciting characters in the recent popular culture and someone who Adam has admired constantly throughout his career. The particular record that he had turned up contained the ‘Burundi beat’. Malcolm played it. Speeded up at forty-five, with an overlay of frentic guitar, he thought would make it really something. During the six months between this and meeting Adam at the wedding this musical image had become united in his mind with certain visual concepts: the Pirate, the Indian, the romantic warrior. These figures are the fathers of popular culture, they go beyond just being historical figures, having an attraction which is universal and irresistible. He thought he’d use a highwayman-type character called Louis Quatorez in the film. He’d be young kid who dresses up at night and goes out raping young girls at gunpoint. But it’s here that Malcolm’s original ideas and Adam’s songs part company. There are similarities but they are fundamentally different. Malcolm was talking to Adam more about piracy as it was associated with the pirate radio stations than he was about Blackbeard. He was more interested in technology, video and marketing songs on cassette instead of vinyl. Adam knew that the ‘balls had dropped out of the band’ as he put it. They had been on the road for two and a half years, some of the band were getting bored, new ideas were vital. Adam openly admitted: ‘It had got to a point where it had been very self-indulgent for me, I think I’d been very selfish in the way that any writer who knows what he wants is. I think that any single person, if he’s not a band-orientated person, does tend to be selfish.’
In Adam’s mind ‘Malcolm was still the man’ and if he was interested then it was a compliment to him because he hadn’t touched anybody since The Sex Pistols. He’d come out pretty unscathed from The Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, left the sinking ship, and he was still the man. The two men said goodnight and left the wedding, both noticing they had the same boots on – from Malcolm’s shop SEDITIONARIES. The next day Jordan spoke to Malcolm in the shop. ‘Why don’t you manage The Ants?’ she said. Malcolm stood there quietly, and Jordan began to tell him everything she felt about the band, using some of the phrases she’d used the very first time she’d seen them at The Man in the Moon. ‘He’s a real commodity, you could really do well with him …’ Malcolm just listened as Jordan went on and on. He gave the air of one who was being pestered. It has been said that Malcolm decided to work with Adam to get him off his back, to stop the continued pestering, but Malcolm is a wise man and knows about saleable commodities. The question in Malcolm’s mind was would Adam work on video? Malcolm never went to gigs so it was difficult for him to get to see the band. He asked to see a video. Malcolm’s whole decision to manage the band depended on this. Adam got straight on to Stephanie and asked if she would make a video of Cartrouble and Tabletalk. She agreed. Then a couple of days later Andy Warren left the band. He had simply got bored with it and could see no point in going through yet another temporary managership. ‘Andy’s Andy, he just goes and does what he wants. I’ve never been able to make him out,’ said Adam. They auditioned as soon as they could and out of thirty or so people chose Lee Gorman, went straight into rehearsal and preparing the video. Stephanie went to her ex-college tutor and persuaded him that they should make the video in his garden which was ‘nice and private’, so one afternoon The Ants turned up there to record the two tracks. Stephanie took the camera and climbed up on to the roof of the house and shot the whole thing from there. Adam wore hardly ant make-up and just a shirt and trousers. Stephanie knew as soon as she got him in her zoom that it was going to be some of the best stuff of Adam on tape, Adam was curling up his lip like Cliff Richard. Stephanie described the video after as ‘Pure sex, Adam’, avowing that he’s most sexy without his stage make-up. ‘He’s more sexy, like on the video, in his natural state, he’s Superman on stage but he’s hunky Clark Kent in the office offstage’. Stephanie felt sure that the video she had made would please McLaren and it would give him confidence enough to work with the band. As soon as it was edited Malcolm came over to watch it. She put the cassette into the machine and sat down to watch it with him and Adam. They couldn’t believe it, Malcolm sat for the entire duration of the video reading a newspaper. Stephanie was furious. It may of course been part of McLaren’s tactics in trying to shake all the old out of Adam’s act.
Adam made more videos and showed him those as well. McLaren was finally impressed with the speed with which Adam was able to work and get things together. This was what he wanted to see. They went to talk about it. He was keen to take just Adam. ‘Do you want me to manage you on your own, or just the band?’ Adam wasn’t sure, Andy had already left, and the band hadn’t really come together on the ‘Dirk’ album. ‘Well if it’s on your own it’s fifty fifty,’ said McLaren. Adam said that it wasn’t, he wanted to stick with his band. Finally they agreed he would manage the band for a month or so, and give it a complete overhaul. He insisted on a veil of secrecy and asked for a thousand pounds. Adam considered it well worth the money. Malcolm was in need of the cash at this time because he was trying to finance Vivienne’s new collection of clothes and open a shop. So, all in all it would be a very clever little grand. The only problem was that he didn’t have one. He went, with fear and trepidation to see John Curd, the head of ‘Straight Music’ who were promoting The Ants’ big London concerts. When he walked into his office, Curd didn’t even recognize him, so he had to take his courage in his hands, explain who he was and just ask him outright for the money. He said ‘yes’ but he couldn’t give it to him immediately.
Malcolm had asked for the money to be given to him when The Ants did their Electric Ballroom gig, thinking, naturally, that they would have the money then. Adam came tearing off stage that night, rushing past Jordan and Stephanie who were standing in the wings and ran to the telephone, to speak to Malcolm, ‘I couldn’t get the money, will the day after tomorrow be all right?’ The next day in the shop Malcolm told Jordan about the phone call. He wasn’t in the least worried when the money came and found it rather endearing that Adam should be so worried about it. Adam was still in awe of him.