ADAM AND THE ANTS - Songs And Albums

By Mark Nobes and Hannah Johnson

It's hard to believe that it's now been well over four decades since Adam and the Ants released their debut album, Dirk Wears White Sox, back in 1979, and the English new wave band's impact is still being felt today.
They formed in 1977 as a punk band called The Ants, before adopting their more familiar and distinctive post-punk, Burindi pop sound. 
It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of Adam and the Ants in the history of popular music. As one of the most original and influential bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s, they helped to define a new era in music and fashion, and boy, was it an exciting time to live through!
The Ants were certainly different from other bands of the time because they incorporated elements of fashion, theatre, and art into their music and stage shows. This new approach caught the attention of the public and the media, and soon Adam and the Ants were one of the most popular bands in the country.
The band were a pioneering force in the post-punk and new wave movements, and their unique blend of punk, camp glam and new wave influences helped to shape the sound of the 80s. The band's popularity was at its height in 1981, with hits "Stand and Deliver" and "Prince Charming", but their influence can still be heard in the music of today.
Prince Charming LP Rear Sleeve ft. Adam and the Ants

The band wearing pirate clothing on thePrince Charming LP rear sleeve

Adam Ant Fashion - The Dandy Highwayman

The band's distinctive look was a departure from the traditional punk look of the time, and their use of theatrical make-up and vintage costumes was something that had never been seen before in the world of rock music. This new look was something that kids all over the world wanted to copy, and it had a major impact on fashion and culture in the 1980s.
Adam Ant was one of the first pop stars to embrace the new romantic style, although Adam himself has always denied being a new romantic. He was obsessed with Beau Brummell, however, who had served with the 10th Royal Hussars in the 1790s as a Cornet. It was his dandy officer's uniform that caught Adam's attention, which inspired his flamboyant look.
Whether it was a pirate or a dandy highwayman, Adam Ant's look was always distinctive, donning war paint, ruffled shirts and military battle jackets, the style still inspires countless fashion copycats the world over.
The band also dressed in a similar style to Adam, although without the face paint.
Dirk Wears White Sox LP Sleeve Front - Adam And The Ants

"Young Parisians" and "Xerox"

Before working on their debut album, the Ants released two standalone singles "Young Parisians" and "Xerox", both of which failed to chart. "Xerox" was later included on a 1983 reissue of Dirk Wears White Sox. Both singles were re-released after the top five hits "Dog Eat Dog" and "Ant Music". "Young Parisians" (1980) reached No.9 in the UK singles chart and "Xerox" (1981) reached No.45. 

The original vinyl sleeve fro "Young Parisians" (1978) released by Decca

Dirk Wears White Sox (1979 Debut Album)

In the late autumn of 1979, the original line-up released their first album, Dirk Wears White Sox, which was a commercial success, reaching No.16 in the UK album charts and achieving Gold sales. Sadly, this line-up disbanded shortly after the album's release. 

Just one single was released from the album entitles "Cartrouble" which failed to chart. A re-release in 1981 reached No.33 in the UK. 

Drummer Dave Barbarossa, bassist Leigh Gorman and guitarist Matthew Ashman were persuaded to leave the band by Malcolm McLaren to form Bow Wow Wow in January 1980, which featured a similar sound, but their success was short-lived.

Nonetheless, Malcolm McLaren can be thanked for introducing Adam Ant to the distinctive Burundi tribal drum beats and chants.

The album has a raw energy which some Ant fans believe makes this their finest work. I guess, it's the most authentic Ant sound, given that it features the early line-up, and that the producer's polish hasn't interfered with the sound too much, as with subsequent albums.
Unfortunately, there were critics who seemed to give the band a hard time, more especially Paul Morley (the co-found of ZTT records), who Adam was very aggrieved with.
Kings of the Wild Frontier LP Sleeve front ft. Adam Ant

Kings of the Wild Frontier (1980 Album)

A new line-up and a new sound saw bigger commercial success for the band. Released in a year later in November 1980, the second studio album Kings Of The Wild Frontier reached No.1 in the UK album charts, achieving a Platinum sales certificate. It also achieved Gold in the U.S., and spawned three hit singles, "Dog Eat Dog" which reached no.4 in the UK charts, "Antmusic" which reached no.2, and the title track which also reached no.2.

The album received widespread critical acclaim, with high praise from virtually all of the music critics of the time. For this album, a new team was assembled, including guitarist and songwriter Marco Pirroni, who co-wrote the album with Adam, and it's arguably the band's finest work. Drummer Chris "Merrick" Hughes and bassist Kevin Mooney also played on the album.
The album definitely feels more polished than the band's debut, but without destroying the originality and energy, which makes it a very pleasurable listen.
Prince Charming LP sleeve front ft. Adam Ant

Prince Charming (1981 Album)

More success followed with the release of the final album, Prince Charming in 1981, which reached No.2 in the UK, achieving Platinum sales. This was the peak of the band's career and there were three more hit singles - "Stand & Deliver", which was No.1 for five weeks in the UK, "Prince Charming" (Also a No.1 in the UK and featuring Diana Dors in the video) and the highly unusual "Ant Rap", which reached No.3 in the UK.
Despite all three singles from the album reaching the UK top 5, many critical reviews were less than favourable, and the general consensus was that album was more style over substance and that the songs lacked a decent hook. Ian Birch from Smash Hits gave the album a rating of just 5/10.
Certainly, it feels as though we're moving into art-house territory (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), for this third and final album. It's definitely too commercial for true Ant fans, although the band did gain many new fans, who preferred the more chart-friendly approach. Nonetheless, it still has many of the hallmarks from the previous albums, albeit in a more polished presentation.
Lead single "Stand and Deliver" retains much of the original Ant sound, and there's no doubt that the title track gave us one of the quirkiest number one's of all time, although the same could be said of the follow-up Single "Prince Charming", an acoustic guitar driven delight with epic drums, in which Adam is shoving two fingers up to his critics and going for an all-out camp extravaganza in the video, swinging from a chandelier whilst singing "ridicule is nothing to be scared of".
Lacking any kind of melody, "Ant Rap" certainly divided opinion and was slated by the critics, but the insane percussion makes it one of the goofiest rap tracks ever released, and the fact that it reached No.3 makes Adam Ant a genius in my book!
Deutscher Girls vinyl single sleeve front ft. Adam Ant

Deutscher Girls

"Deutscher Girls" was the final single to be released by Adam and the Ants, although it was recorded in 1978 for the Jubilee soundtrack album - Adam Ant appears in the film as "The kid". The single was released after "Ant Rap" in 1982, purely to cash in on the success of the band. It features the line-up of drummer Dave Barbarossa, guitarist Johnny Bivouac and bassist Andy Warren. The single reached No.13 in the UK and No.14 on the Irish Singles Chart.
Adam Ant dressed in Hussar jacket on front cover of Record Mirror March 28 1981

Adam Ant of the front cover of Record Mirror March 28th 1981 and wearing his iconic Hussar military jacket and white tribal war paint.

Adam Ant's Solo Career

In March 1982, Adam and the Ants officially disbanded, and there were many reasons cited in the press for the split. However, for Adam Ant, this was certainly not the end of his musical career, and he still had plenty of petrol in  the tank, musically.
In October 1982, Adam Ant released his first solo album "Friend Or Foe", featuring the singles "Goody Two Shoes" which reached No.1 in the UK, "Friend Or Foe" (no.9) and "Desperate But Not Serious" which was a minor hit reaching no.33.

Sadly, Adam Ant then found himself on the slippery slope in terms of commercial success, when his second solo album "Strip" was released in 1983, reaching only No.20 in the UK charts. However, the single "Puss 'n' Boots" did do well and reached no.5 in the UK singles chart. 

Another album "Vive Le Rock" (released in September 1985) just failed to reach the top 40, reaching no.42. However, the single "Apollo 9" managed to reach no.13 a whole year earlier in September 1984. The one year gap between the release of this single and the album probably didn't do Adam Ant any favours, as pop music buyers are a fickle bunch! 

Adam And The Ants poster magazine from 1981
Poster magazine from 1981

Have you seen our Adam Ant T-shirts page yet?

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Here is Adam being interviewed by Sally James on the Saturday morning Kid's UK TV Show Tiswas in 1981.

Adam Ant by Aaron Rubin at The Masonic
Aaron Rubin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Adam Ant at The Masonic in 2017

Toby Mott and Adam Ant
Toby Mott and Adam Ant in 2011 - The original uploader was Chaosandvoid at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons