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Adam and the Ants: how the wild tribe revealed pop’s theatre of dreams

In our series on musicians with a formative influence on our writers, Alexis Petridis on his relationship with the band for whom ridicule was nothing to be scared of

I’ve thought about it a lot in the intervening 40 years: why Adam and the Ants? I was a prime candidate for obsessive pop fandom – nine years old, glued to Top of the Pops on a weekly basis, an early adopter of Smash Hits, already spending whatever money I had on records – but why them specifically? After all, I was spoilt for choice. It was 1980, as miraculous a year for singles as Britain has ever seen. I could have alighted on the two-tone movement, or Gary Numan, or thrown in my lot with the Jam and the burgeoning mod revival. But I didn’t: it was Adam and the Ants, the night in October they opened TOTP with Dog Eat Dog.

Maybe they were a band inadvertently designed to appeal to a nine-year-old boy: songs about pirates and Native American tribes and highwaymen, a lot of shouting, a lot of cocky lyrics about how amazing Adam and the Ants were. Maybe because glam rock was the first music I could remember – relatives’ copies of Block Buster! and My Coo-Ca-Choo; Marc Bolan’s kids TV show; seeing Wizzard on television and running screaming from the room, terrified by the sight of Roy Wood – and Adam and the Ants were ultimately a glam rock band: two drummers, like the Glitter Band; makeup; loud guitars; chanting, all of it derived from glam.

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