Adam and the Ants: “Antmusic”
One of the more amusing characters to arise at the beginning of the ’80s was Adam Ant. Part punk, part glam rock, and a little Elvis Presley, Adam and the Ants were eventually one of the more popular groups to come out of the latter part of the British punk movement transitioning into New Wave, coming up about the same time as Siouxsie and the Banshees and (primarily because Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren stole the original “Ants” away from Adam to help create them) Bow Wow Wow. But what rose to a peak with the poppy “Goody Two Shoes” in 1982 began with more of an edge in 1979. Banking on the thumping Burundi beats suggested to them by McLaren (prior to the band “theft”), the Ants forged a distinct style that left a lasting impression regardless of Adam Ant’s intentionally over-the-top getups.
The thing that to me always kept Adam Ant from becoming too ridiculous was that he did everything with a sense of humor — he never took what he was doing too seriously. His pirate-via-Native American getup wouldn’t have worked on anyone else, but he was able to pull it off because he did it completely tongue-in-cheek. Oh sure, he wanted you to believe in “Antmusic” (from their 1980 breakthrough album, Kings of the Wild Frontier) when he sang:
So unplug the jukebox
And do us all a favor
That music’s lost its taste
So try another flavor
But he did it only with a feigned cockiness — he wanted you to enjoy his music for what it was, not because he really believed everything else was crap, and he knew that we knew that. Really, how could he expect anyone to take lyrics like this seriously:
Don’t tread on an ant he’s done nothing to you
There might come a day
When he’s treading on you
He was in on the joke as well; he was an entertainer, pure and simple. There were never any big statements being made, just Adam Ant having a good time in the hopes that you would have a good time as well. And what is ever wrong with that?
One final note: if you want to see the origin of the Ants’ “Burundi beats,” take a look at this video — what these Burundian drummers are doing could easily have been sampled and dropped straight into an Adam and the Ants song…