Saturday, July 15, 2006

Antmusic For Sexpeople

Back in the olden days, when I was a teen: in the pre-compact disc technology era that required what was commonly known as a "record player", I bought a lot of albums.

I still have all of them. In alphabetical order within each section (clearly, soundtracks and compilations and such must have their own separate sections).

I spent all my money on albums. Well, other than, obviously, books/clothes/makeup... I spent a lot of my money on albums. There were many albums that I wanted to buy but couldn't afford (which my parents seemed completely unable to believe, when they looked at my giant stacks of albums).

So there I was one day, reading an article in Seventeen magazine about how to be popular. The main point of the article was to be yourself. Do not pretend to be something you're not, don't follow the crowd to try to fit in. The article used listening to Adam and the Ants as an jumping-off-a-bridge type example of something foolish to try and suffer through for popularity's sake.

I had never heard of Adam and the Ants, but I figured if listening to them = suffering, they must be good. Luckily, the National Record Mart in University Mall had a copy of Kings of the Wild Frontier. Even better, it was packaged with a free advance-release copy of the next single, Stand and Deliver.

It was 1980, I was 14, and the idea of music that everyone hated combined with that picture of Adam was enough to make me spend my precious album money on a record even though I had absolutely no idea what it would sound like.

I loved it! Kings of the Wild Frontier is a great album. I managed to special order their previous album, Dirk Wears White Sox, which was only released in England on a small label. I bought every single, since most had non-lp b-sides. I bought bootlegs of live concerts.

The music had a punky edge, as well as a poetic perversity. Adam Ant formed his band in the late 70's, when punk was beginning, and they often played with the Clash, Siouxsie, the Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks.

When the album that Stand and Deliver was on was finally released, I ran out and bought it immediately. Prince Charming wasn't great. It was far less punky and raw than the older stuff, but it was pretty good. I was sure that on the next album, Adam and Marco (Marco = songwriting partner, guitarist) would get back to their real selves.

The next album was Friend or Foe. Before it actually came out, a single was released -- Goody Two Shoes. In those dark pre-internet days, when a song was released in England before America, it was absolutely un-gettable here. But I, being both a hormonal teen and a spastic Antfan, had my sources in England and was soon in possession of a cassette tape of Goody Two Shoes being played on British radio.

I could not believe the poppy sappy crappiness of that song. I cried. I no longer waited anxiously to get the Friend or Foe album, because I knew that it would suck, I knew that the pre-fame rawness of Adam's songwriting would never be seen again.

I was right -- the rest of Friend or Foe was more poppy crappiness. It was also by far the biggest commercial success, especially in America, thus cementing Adam's decline.

Still, whenever I would go see Adam live, even in the late 90's, he would perform all his old stuff, with very little of the later songs thrown in. Sometimes he didn't even play all of his "hits", which makes me wonder if he liked them very much, either.

He is working on an autobiography, which will be released this fall. He made the most money, by far, on Goody Two Shoes (it still shows up in commercials periodically, too). I wonder what he'll say about it?