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Celebrate Adam Ant!

Hey 80s Cruisers!

Happy Summer 2024! Only eight or so months to go until party again like it’s 1989, and rock out at intimate shows put on by artists who helped to define the best, most colorful era in music!

Like you, I find out the lineup for the next cruise when it’s ceremoniously unveiled on Night One of The 80s Cruise. On that first evening of the 2024 cruise, I was standing on a balcony of the Mariner of the Seas, overlooking the massive crowd gathered in the atrium below, when Adam Ant’s image flashed on the video screen. And I screamed like a teenager!

Adam Ant

Actually, I was only a tween when Adam and his Ants arrived in the US in 1981 over cable-TV’s airwaves. (The Ants would eventually make landfall in New York City by sailing up the Hudson River in a pirate ship, but that’s another story). My family lived in Weehawken, NJ, and we were one of the first families, in one of the first towns, in the first country on the planet to be wired for cable, which, on August 1, 1981, blessed us with Music Television.

Adam and the Ants were one of the earliest acts on MTV, and my introduction came in the form of the “Antmusic” music video, a snippet of which MTV wisely used in one of its earliest promos. “Antmusic,” pointed out that, as the 1970s became the 80s, bland popular music had “lost its taste,” with Ant urging listeners to “try another flavor.” MTV and Ant were in sync: It was time for a new wave.

Adam Ant had been a part of the 70s British punk scene from the jump; in fact, a fledgling Sex Pistols had opened for his band, Bazooka Joe. After that, he kicked Bazooka Joe to the curb, and formed Adam and the Ants, a punk act that dabbled in S&M imagery and produced the singles “Red Scab,” “Whip in My Valise,” and “Deutscher Girls.”

But UK punk had no legs — it was over in a flash. And Adam and the Ants weren’t heralded like the Pistols, the Clash, the Damned, the Buzzcocks. But those punk acts also made next to no money at the time. So, Adam did the unthinkable: He sold out and became a pop star.

And Ant couldn’t have picked a better time to cash in. With the advent of music video, his new, television-ready version of Adam and the Ants was able to beam their songs — “Kings of the Wild Frontier,” “Stand and Deliver,” and “Prince Charming” — and images (that iconic white stripe under the eyes!) around the world, simultaneously. Along with Gary Numan, and just ahead of the Human League (Mach 2!), Eurythmics, and Duran Duran, Adam Ant led the so-called Second British Invasion armed with 10 UK top-ten hits, which led to his biggest single as a solo act, 1983’s “Goody Two Shoes.”

A few more things to know about Adam Ant:

He lost his original Ants to Bow Wow Wow.
Malcom McLaren, the manager and promoter who’d worked with the Sex Pistols, met Ant at a party in 1979, and promptly made off with his guitarist, bassist, and drummer. Soon after, McLaren recruited 14-year-old Annabella Lwin — he found her working at a dry cleaner, singing along to the radio — and the quartet recorded the band that produced the hits “I Want Candy” and “C30 C60 C90 Go!” among others. Ant recruited more Ants, and they saw Bow Wow Wow as “an object of competition,” he told me. “We had to blow them out of the water, and I think we did.”

Ant sought, and got, the approval of a Native American group.
If a popular artist released a song in 2024 with the lyrics “I feel beneath the white there is a redskin suffering from centuries of taming,” and streaked white “war paint” across their face, you can bet it’d go viral — for the wrong reasons. But there wasn’t social media in 1980, and the culture wasn’t obsessed with political correctness. Still, when Ant received a complaint about his song (and album title) “Kings of the Wild Frontier” from a Native American society in New York, he decided to meet with them about it. “They thought it was me stereotyping Native Americans,” Ant told me when I spoke with him for my book, Mad World, An Oral History of the Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s. “I said, ‘Come and see the show, and if you think I’m using [the white stripe] in a derogatory way, I’ll take it off.” Ant says the group came to the show, “loved it, and it was alright: I got the go-ahead.”

Michael Jackson copied Ant’s style.
Jackson’s military-slash-Sergeant-Pepper jacket? He got the idea from Ant. “[Michael] phoned me up and asked where I got the jacket. It’s a hussar jacket, a theatrical costume from Germans in London. I sent him down to my friend who worked there. He said, ‘I want an Adam Ant jacket,’ and they gave him one.”

Like KISS, Ant eventually took off the makeup.
During the 80s, Ant drew sartorial inspiration from Native Americans and pirates, Napoleon and the Charge of the Light Brigade. He was a self-proclaimed dandy highwayman (a few decades later, this “Desperate, Not Serious” character turned up in a Scooby-Doo episode as a homage to Ant). But in 1995, during a time when his kind of 80s finery simply wouldn’t fly, Ant dressed down for “Wonderful,” the straight-up, black and white video for the song he wrote for his ex, the actress Heather Graham.

I can’t wait to see all the Adam Ants in the audience at his 80s Cruise shows!

Lori Majewski
Class of ‘24