Stand And Deliver by Adam Ant (Sidgwick & Jackson)

STUART GODDARD attempted suicide, aged 21, in 1975. He woke up in Friern Barnet hospital and discharged himself. When he got home to his wife in Muswell Hill he told her that he was changing his name to Adam and that Stuart Goddard was dead.

It’s one thing if your family plays along with this charade, quite another if the whole world does. No one thought to check up on Adam Ant’s mental health over the next ten years.

At times, Stand & Deliver reads like a cross between Marie Lloyd and Peter Blake’s memoirs: there are brushes with orphanages, foster homes, Stanley Spencer (young Stuart had relatives in Cookham) and Paul McCartney, for whom Mrs Goddard did the laundry and Stuart got to walk the dog. He ends up at Hornsey Art School, falls in love with the erotic artist Allen Jones, bondage and his manager Malcolm McLaren – who sacks Adam from his own band. Bruised but not beaten, he convenes a new Ant band and proceeds to become a star.

And he was one of the very best, all flash and quite beautiful. Lyrically, he was strong on rock’n’roll soundbites: “Unplug the jukebox and do us all a favour/ that music’s lost its taste so try another flavour.” Before MTV, he realised that video was the new medium; the spectacle would be as important as the sound of the Eighties.

Adam Ant was the biggest pop star in Britain, with nine hits in 1981 alone. The self-styled dandy highwayman wrote singular, weird songs, spiked with odd noises and chants, crazed percussion and self-promotion. With ‘Dog Eat Dog’ and ‘Antmusic’, the Ants had appeared to be a gang and more or less everyone (Michael Jackson, Terence Stamp, Liza Minnelli) wanted in. Too soon, he went solo. ‘Goody Two Shoes’ would be his last No 1.

Adam moved to LA, dated Jamie Lee Curtis and Heather Graham, and struggled to become an actor. A role in The Equaliser was as good as it got; the last third of Stand & Deliver is a repeat cycle of hypomania, depression and failed records, each episode slightly worse than the one before – if a psychotic episode in the arms of Heather Graham sounds vaguely romantic, being arrested after brandishing a gun in a pub dressed as Clint Eastwood does not.

Stand & Deliver is sometimes trashy (exaggerating chart positions is just daft) but always riveting. It can’t, though, disguise that Stuart Goddard has never come to terms with his illness: “Like some bitchy brat I cry and kick and scream for attention… it’s terrible, disgusting.”

© Bob StanleyThe Times, 16 September 2006

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