Adam Ant and the Glitterband

This a story of musical legends, glam rock genius, pop brilliance, a virtuoso pop star attempting a long awaited comeback and a disgraced singer who has tainted a great back catalogue and a curious and strange evening in Manchester.

We are watching the Glitterband onstage in at Satans Hollow.  It’s a strange and interesting night that twists and turns as we await the arrival of Adam Ant whose meant to be getting on stage for a couple of songs at the end of the evening.

Adam has been putting in sporadic appearances on London stages in the last few weeks. He jumped on stage with Gary Numan for a version of ‘Cars’, there was a swift appearance with Zodiac Mindwarp and then last week he appeared at the Glitterband gig in London where he played a bunch of classic old Ant songs like ‘Red Scab’ and ‘Physical’ with his own new band. At the gig Adam looked and sounded amazing and the fact that he was playing the freaky old stuff made it even better.

The clips on youtube wetted appetites and the Glitterband audience is pumped up with old bondage punks, super freaky Goths and Antfans waiting for the return of the dandy highwayman to unplug the jukebox with his sex music for one more time.

Adam Ant is the great-lost pop star. Mistakenly labelled a pantomime pop personae and dismissed by ‘serious’ critics but for those that know he is a pop genius. Those first two albums, ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’ and ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ are amazing works. ‘Dirk’ was the ultimate in zigzagging art school rock- it was tough and weird but also fantastic pop- Adam was always one of the great singers and brought his weird songs to life with a deft melodic touch. The early Ants were the heaviest and weirdest punk band of them all and for a year or so were the carriers of the original sex, style, subversion spirit of the Sex shop punk rock revolution before turning into the unlikeliest of pop stars in the early eighties. Their fans were the antfans- the freakiest, heavy duty, looking crew in the country who were a blur of studs, feathers, warpaint and Mohicans before anyone else even knew what these were. They massed from all over the country or from the London punk squats and when the Ants broke through the disconsolate Antfans split to follow the Southern Death Cult and watched shocked as Adam suddenly attracted screaming teenyboppers- there is  a great description of this tour in the amazing Vague fanzine from back in the early eighties.

Adam Ant broke though with ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ which was an amazing work- an avant-garde pop kaleidoscope. The album resulted from when Adam asked the late Malcolm Mclaren in to help with the band after the release of ‘Dirk’ he watched aghast whilst Mclaren stole the Ant-band to form Bow Wow Wow.

A desolate Adam phoned Marco and put together the new Ants and adding Malcolm’s ideas created a 3D pop soundtrack that gatecrashed the charts making most people forget just amazingly off the wall this music was.

Pop music in the early eighties was not like this.

Pop music in any decade was not like this.

Arguably even more off the wall than their debut the album was huge in the early eighties. Adam was good looking and dressed up making sure that the serious critics would always brush over his innate genius because good looking fuckers are never taken seriously in the pop cannon- re-listen to ‘Kings’ now and you will be blown away but its vision and its attractive, cinematic strangeness.

It’s because of these fantastic records that we are here- half believing that Adam may turn up and dust the venue with pop magic. We also half believe that he probably won’t turn up atall and privately hope he knows what he’s doing after his well documented battles with his bipolar condition—no-one wants him to make himself unwell.

All night everyone keeps asking me the same question ‘Is Adam coming?’ and I can’t answer because I don’t know.

Adam is not here yet and the first band on- Bad Taste Barbies mash of glam disco, transvestite clobber and over the top camp is both hilarious and quite brilliant , they are followed by Kid Vooodoo’s thrilling swamp punk blues.

The Glitterband hit the stage and sound great- they are a hotch potch of good players and ex members including John Springate on bass/vocals, Pete Phipps on drums and Eddy Spence on keyboards.  There are currently and confusingly two Glitterbands out on the circuit- the other one is key Glitter member John Rossall’s Glitterband and this one- both camps of course are not happy with each other and there is dark talk of court orders. Both line-ups, though, sound great.

It’s not like they have got enough problems trying to survive with the shadow of Gary Glitter- who took the glitter to the gutter- hanging over both of them. The disgraced former pop buffoon’s sad descent into paedophilia has tainted a great back catalogue of some brilliant singles and also tainted the Glitterband whose separate career had it’s own signpost hits in the mid seventies.

Gary Glitter was not the whole story though and his depressing and dark behaviour should never be allowed to obscure producer Mike Leander’s genius in coming up with the Glitter sound.

Born in 1941 the late Leander (who died in 1996) has one of the great unheralded careers in British pop music working at Decca and Bell records. Bell itself is a label whose very name conjures up the great days of early seventies glam whilst Leander’s own fingerprints are all over some of the classic lineage of British sixties and seventies pop like  Marianne Faithfull, Billy Fury, Marc Bolan, Joe Cocker, The Small Faces, Van Morrison, Alan Price, Peter Frampton, Keith Richards, Shirley Bassey, Lulu, Jimmy Page, Roy Orbison, Brian Jones,and Gene Pitney.

Leander’s skills as a producer/arranger saw him called in to work with Ben E. King and The Drifters as well as being the only person to work on the Beatles orchestration apart from George Martin when he arranged the strings on ‘She’s Leaving Home’ from the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band ‘album.

He was also executive producer of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar ‘and in the late 1960s wrote scores for several films.

It’s an incredible track record.

One night he was in the studio working on some David Essex sessions when the upcoming singer called in sick leaving ten hours of dead studio time. Leander got on the drum kit and started bashing out a Burundi style drumbeat getting the engineer to tape the twenty minutes of drumming. Building on the tracks with other instruments he had ‘Rock n Roll Part one and two’ in the bag. He drafted in Paul Raven who he had worked with back in the sixties recording a few singles, before Raven hooked up Jesus Christ Superstar,

re-christening him Gary Glitter who became the faintly bizarre glam superstar of the early seventies coasting to success on the back of Leander’s genius. The fact that the records now make uncomfortable listening due to Glitter’s pedophilia is sad.

Leander also later worked with the Glitter band and that distinctive drum sound is in full force tonight decorating all their best songs. The Glitterband still also have that great drone sound that the producer patented back in the early seventies and are a great fun night out romp disguising the great dark glam rock that is the beating heart of their muse.

Tonight they even have Angie Bowie singing three songs with them, her croaking Berlin cabaret voice spins the set off in an unexpected direction and as a curio from the days when pop was really mental she is fascinating to watch.

But the real special guest everyone is waiting for is still not here. Apparently he’s on a train and he’s running late. The Glitterband end their set and Adam is still not here and everyone waits on but twenty minutes after the end of the set it’s announced that he’s not coming.

No-one is angry. Most people hope that Adam is ok and understand the potential stress of playing these gigs could be having on him.

Adam is meant to be playing London at the end of April- hope he can do it- there is potential for a great romantic comeback here…

16 Responses to Adam Ant and the Glitterband

  1. anchorsholme says:

    Great Blog Rob! I was at a reunion of the Brian Londons 007 Club in Blackpool last night and one of the few old tracks to force me to the dance floor was Adam and the Ants. I loved the power of the twin drums and really miss those days when Adam was really cool! before the mainstream caught up with him. Young Parisians still makes into my top 20 tracks. The Unknown Pleasures gig @ The Factory looks like being a great night – hope to see you there.

  2. Nige Twelvetrees says:

    Being a huge Ant fan myself i read that blog with interest.I only ever got to see Adam once i was to young for the Vortex gigs;-).so went on The wonderful tour in 95 and he was Awesome.But my concern now is that he maybe coming back too soon.Also being a Numan fan as well i tried to get a ticket for the show but it was sold out:-(.So watched his performance of cars on You Tube through my fingers it’s erm pretty shambolic.When he plays the end of April i hear it’s going to be metal/Rock covers of Ant Classics can you imagine whip in my valise done in a rock/metal stylee? It is a concern to many an Ant fan as his return has been a long time coming..it’s great that he’s back on the scene again but i can’t help wonder if it’s a case of too much too soon! what with the national press watching his every move.he has nothing left to prove to the world and yet if he puts in these half hearted performances it’s only going to deminish his good name and this could very well destroy him and his fragile state of mind.NT

  3. Dave Decadent says:

    Yeah i caught the Glitter Band in Birmingham on Friday, they were fun but we all wanted to see Adam but he was a no show!! Hope he is okay tho and he can get himself together to make a go of things musically.

  4. Mondo says:

    If you haven’t checked them yet. You must lend an ear to Marco’s current band The Wolfmen. Also onboard is Chris Constantinou (was De Niro) former Ant-bassist.

    Glam-punk-pop with street-gang clang.

  5. Hi! Just wanna say I like your posting on “Adam Ant and the Glitterband”
    I think it’s interesting..
    Okay, looking forward to another great posting from you.

  6. Jaz says:

    Nice article John, it would be great to see Adam triumph over his cruel, debilitating illness. Me, I’d kill for a copy of the aborted ‘Young man rocking’ boxset that was mooted a few years ago. To hear those crucial early recordings in something better than the sonic quality offered by my flaking, crusty old cassettes really would be something.

    • johnrobb77 says:

      wow! would love to hear that!

      hope Adam is ok…he’s in a tough place but his genius is still intact…

  7. Oh how I treasured the music punishment from the decade, everything seemed to be way original than time music.

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