“DON’T WORRY – HE’LL soon be a hairdresser in North Finchley.” So it was that, with Malcolm McLaren’s unprophetic words as encouragement, the original Ants jettisoned their singer to form Bow Wow Wow.
Adam had to start again, which he did, in teen-sensational style. Adam & The Ants (Mark II) scored a zillion hits, from ‘Dog Eat Dog’ and ‘Prince Charming’ to ‘Stand And Deliver’ and ‘Antmusic’, and with the Kings Of The Wild Frontier and Prince Charming albums. As documented by Mike Mansfield’s video extravaganzas, Adam shifted from punk pet to pop pirate to the Children’s Variety Performance but, inevitably, the Ants went the way of all teenie idols. Mark I and II Ants are now scattered all over the place, but exactly where? ask Steve Saporito and Craig ‘Curiosity’ Rosebery of New York, USA.
Adam Ant (vocals): The former Stuart Goddard launched his solo career with ‘Goody Two Shoes’, but subsequent singles (‘Friend Or Foe’, ‘Puss’n’Boots’, ‘Strip’, ‘Apollo Nine’, ‘Vive La Rock’) and three albums sold progressively less: “It’s just changes in taste – it comes with the career. It’s longevity that counts. I’m still making records that I want, which to me is a larger degree of success.” Having appeared in Derek Jarman’s 1977 punk parable Jubilee, he started taking acting seriously by playing the title role in Entertaining Mr. Sloane in 1985 before relocating to LA.
“Eight years in the music industry is a lifetime,” he says. His acting class includes Daryl Hannah. “It’s based on work, not bollocks, of which there’s a lot out here.” After five TV movies and six feature films, he’s recently made Sunset Heat (with Dennis Hopper), played the lead in the comic The Reluctant Vampire and produced Be Bop A Lu La, a “rock’n’roll dream play” about Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. Returned to the UK and US Top 20s with ‘Room At The Top’ and the Manners And Physiques album in 1990, and is currently recording a new LP, part-produced by Chic’s Bernard Edwards, Cameo’s Larry Blackmon and ex-Ant Lee Gorman, provisionally titled Persuasion – “There are a lot of guitars, and it’s a got a rockier edge.”
Marco Pirroni (guitar): Has stayed Adam’s sidekick but has concurrently joined the Sinead O’Connor camp, playing on both her albums, co-writing ‘Jump In The River’ (the B-side of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’) and touring, “for ages, till the start of 1991. Then I went to bed for a few months…” Also produced the unreleased debut album for then Chrysalis signings Max – fronted by ex-Ant Kevin Mooney – in 1988 and co-wrote with Boys Wonder. Is currently finishing Adam’s new album and recording with an Italian singer, “whose name I can’t remember!” with Phil Manzanera producing. “I’m not what you’d call a workaholic. What motivates me is that I like doing it.”
Merrick (drums): Aka Chris Hughes, who produced Ants Mark I’s ‘Car Trouble’ single and gravitated into the band. Produced both Ant albums and ‘Goody Two Shoes’ before parting ways with Adam. Worked on several Phonogram projects, including Dalek I Love You’s debut album, a favourite of the fledgling Tears For Fears, which led to Hughes producing their first two albums. After 10 months on their third, he fell out with Orzabal: “I felt they shouldn’t be obsessed with making it better than the last, very successful, album.” His CV also includes Wang Chung, RickOcasek, Propaganda, Howard Jones and new Island signings Star Club, with whom he has also drummed (as he has for Tori Amos). Has completed an album of “computerised variations” of minimalist composer Steve Reich for Phonogram: “It’s sequenced music but organic sounding. I didn’t do it to be pretentious and unappealing.”
Terry Lee Miall(drums): Lived in California for seven years, working as a plumber, getting married, divorced, and avoiding music – “Drugs had become a problem for me. I thought that if I got back into music, would I be strong enough not to get hooked again? I’d also stopped enjoying playing because of how the Ants ended. I didn’t like the business…” Now lives in North London where he runs a sub-contracting business in property maintenance with his girlfriend, while their R&B group, The Prime Movers, plays the pub/club circuit. “I live the most boring lifestyle of all the old Ants, although I’m happy now.”
Kevin Mooney(bass): So the story goes, was sacked after breaking his bass guitar strap during the Children’s Variety performance, whereupon he decided to drop all the miming pretence and did a little war dance, at which Adam took umbrage. “Kevin has a greater sense of what the punk attitude was, at the point where Adam was getting into Diana Dors and being a celebrity” said Chris Hughes. Formed Max, who recorded an album for Chrysalis but rerecorded it when the band re-signed to ZTT. A Thousand And One Nights was delayed by a year and only released last Spring. Max subsequently split up.
Gary Tibbs(bass): Former member of The Vibrators and the 1979-’81 line-up of Roxy Music, joined in time for the Ants’ first Number 1 and “18 months of teen-mania.”
After the split, made singles with Merrick (‘Call Of The Wild’) and The Zu Zu Sharks before acting beside Roger Daltrey in Jonathan Miller’s Beggars Opera. Various sessions (Daltrey, Godley & Creme) and a US tour with Little Steven followed: “I’d wanted to form a new band, but then things came up with people I liked, so I did them.” Worked two years in theatre and TV and did odd stage musicals in Manchester before forming The Believers (“mainstream rock”) with guitarist Andy Skelton and ex-Tears For Fears drummer Manny Elias. A debut album, Extraordinary Life, was released this year by Savage Records in the USA. Currently touring with Kirsty MacColl while The Believers pick up US airplay.
THE ANTS MARK I/BOW WOW WOW
Lee Gorman (bass): Played just the one Ants show (New Year’s Eve, ’79) before Bow Wow Wow took shape. Financial complications sunk them, whereupon Annabella was ousted and the trio formed Chiefs Of Relief, whose album was only released in Germany. Says Gorman: “I didn’t want to be part of a third-rate rock band fronted by Matthew, so I left him to it,” forming Atom Age with Barbarossa (“a leather and rubber hi-NRG rhythm section that disappeared up its own arse”, says the latter). Gorman shifted to production, running LRG Studios for three years and working with Silver Bullet, Airhead, Soho, Annabella and, after a phone call “out of the blue”, on Adam’s new album. Also teamed up again with Malcolm McLaren, co-writing jingles for Nike and Coke and the theme song to the forthcoming Carry On Columbus film.
Dave Barbarossa (drums): After Atom Age, he played sessions before Norman Cook (“an old Ants fan”) asked him to join Beats International – “It was a great opportunity but Norman and I never saw eye to eye. He was more into samplers and stuff and I was into playing.” Has since formed Pimp Floyd – “hard funk rock, like a funky Led Zeppelin meets Parliament” – and is drumming for Crazy Little Trees and soul singer Delphi. He met Adam this year, “when he was going on at me like he did a decade ago, still saying the record company don’t understand him, but we had a laugh… if we’d stayed together, we could have been the next T. Rex.”
Matthew Ashman: claimed he sacked the others, carrying on with Chiefs Of Relief with ex-Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, but without success (“A&R people still say how ahead of our time we were, doing the rock’n’rap stuff before The Beastie Boys”). Played on Andy Taylor’s solo album before joining Max, who recently split. Was head-hunted by Wendy James for her solo album but fell out with producer Chris Kimsey – “She wanted to keep me in the band, but he wouldn’t have it. Poor Wendy, she can’t sing for toffee. It’s a shame ‘cos the money was good.”
Andy Warren (bass): The Ants’ first bassist, left in 1979 before joining The Monochrome Set, recording four albums before they split in 1985: “We were in danger of achieving chart success, and simply couldn’t carry the money.” Is now studying computer science, although The Monochrome Set re-formed in 1990 – “a Japanese label made us an offer we couldn’t understand” – releasing two albums, Dante’s Inferno and Jack.
© Martin Aston, Q, September 1992