Prince Charming remembers
Stand & Deliver: The Autobiography
by Adam Ant
320pp, Sidgwick & Jackson, £18.99
Adam Ant tells the story of a life mapped out in chart positions in his autobiography Stand & Deliver. Fame takes its toll on the unwary, says Holly Johnson.
Sat 14 Oct 2006
This book begins with a suicide attempt by a Stuart Goddard lost in a teenage marriage and living with his in-laws. Being Stuart Goddard hadn’t been much fun, and to be honest neither was wading through the chapters of his childhood, as is so often the case with autobiographies—
There were times when being Adam Ant wasn’t much fun either. The last appearance that many will remember was his arrival in 2002 at the Old Bailey, looking less the Dandy Highwayman than a middle aged Al Capone, almost unrecognisable to his legion of fans or “Antpeople”. He pleaded not guilty, on the basis of temporary insanity, to charges of damaging property, actual bodily harm and possession of an imitation firearm arising from an incident in January 2002 when, dressed in stetson and camouflage jacket, it was alleged that he broke a window of a pub in north London, injuring one man, and threatening another with an imitation revolver. He pleaded guilty to affray and was given a 12-month community rehabilitation order.
The police caught up with him soon after. The day after this incident he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He telephoned the tabloids from the “Alice In Wonderland Ward” at the Royal Free Hospital claiming he had been abducted by the police.
He was 51 and suffering from bipolar affective disorder—
My own first memories of Adam stem from my teenage years in Liverpool, when I went to see Derek Jarman’s paean to punk, Jubilee. Named after the Queen’s 25th jubilee, it starred the style icon Jordan, a beehive blonde who came to fame working in Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s fetishist shop Sex (later Seditionaries), which made the King’s Road into a mecca for the hip young gunslingers of the day. In lesser roles were Toyah Wilcox and Adam.
The part of the book that covers this period, before he became a bona fide pop star, was for me the most interesting. The film’s subplot of Good Queen Bess travelling back and forward in time was an idea that gained momentum on the London creative scene. Westwood was soon to launch her pirate collection, and Adam says that he was asked by McLaren to model this new look but declined, preferring his own look—
Whether McLaren actually managed Adam and the Ants in a Colonel Tom Parker-type 50/50 deal or was just paid a consultancy fee for ideas to help them is unclear. Adam writes at one point: “We needed to get £1,000 for Malcolm (he was opening a new shop with Vivienne)”, which seems very odd—
Finding himself without a band, Adam approached guitarist and fellow T Rex and Roxy Music fan Marco Pirroni, who had previously played with the Models. This songwriting partnership was to spawn the big hits that made Adam and the Ants a household name, from “Dog Eat Dog” (October 1980)—
He measured out the following years of his life in chart positions, manically designing his stage shows and new looks themed to his product. A merry-go-round of promotional interviews and “puresex” with fans took its toll on his relationships (particularly the one with then drama student Amanda Donohoe), as well as on his physical and mental health. The inevitable year out of the country to avoid tax and the resultant loss of profile in his core market signaled the end of Antmania.
Being six years younger and not part of the Antpeople demographic, I had no idea that Adam had been so successful. His brand of slightly camp Englishness—
It’s incredible that Adam eventually had to be arrested and sectioned before he got a real handle on his condition. Perhaps his earning capacity and work ethic provided insulation, and rationalising his behaviour as “eccentric” to outsiders was enough to paper over the cracks. Continue »
Photographs on the internet show him at a book-signing looking more like his old self, leaner and in pirate headscarf. “Antpeople” turned up in droves, apparently. He’s hoping to record again. I can’t help thinking, though, that his drive and ambition could be easily exploited by those who care more about making money than about his welfare. He famously sang that “Ridicule is nothing to be scared of”; that may be so, but it really is best avoided.
Holly Johnson was the singer with Frankie Goes to Hollywood