April 27, 1981: 36 years ago today, the first vinyl single I ever bought was released and smashed records by going straight to the top of the UK charts for five weeks. An achievement that seems commonplace now, but back in the 1980s singles rarely if ever entered in pole position.
Now an outrageously well-preserved 62, Adam Ant is a fine old English eccentric whom Edith Sitwell would have recognised.
Stand & Deliver was his band’s Adam And The Ants’ first chart-topper, a wildly busy 45 which had a dense but laugh-out-loud funny lyric and ended with a chorus of diddly-qua-qua’s. The incomparable image above is the limited edition poster sleeve I bought on the day – my very own First Day Cover, if you like (though the records soon replaced stamp collecting in my affections) – for 99p from Virgin Megastore in Central Milton Keynes.
Having saved up three whole weeks’ pocket money, that wet Monday I skipped off from Springfield School to buy S&D. The following week my classmate, Craig Margrove, had heard the chart preview BBC Radio 1 used to air on a Tuesday lunchtime, and came into the TV room and blurted out, “Steve, Stand & Deliver’s gone straight in at No.1!”.
As the Jam had been the only act to manage such a feat in the previous eight years, you could have knocked me down with a (silk or leather, or a) feather. Even Sean Smith ripping the piss out of me when I did my own funny little dance at the school disco, with a black cape and some white paint I’d bought from the art shop next door to Melson Wingate opticians that started to crack after an hour couldn’t rain on my poptastic parade.
Two days later, Thursday May 7th, Top Of The Pops premiered the breathtaking, swashbuckling video for the first time, and an insect nation of school boys and girls squealed. Even my mum was impressed, commenting on how much she liked Amanda Donohoe’s monochromatic Victorian attire.
What a song! What a video! The Mike Mansfield mini-epic even features Mark Wardel of Bowie masks fame… and he brought his Kitty along for a ride. Stand & Deliver is the only vinyl single I still own, AND it’s got the S&M-tastic Beat My Guest on the flip side. Viva Da diddly qua qua! Since I became a journalist I’ve been lucky enough to interview Adam twice, first by telephone in 2000 for Mojo magazine, and then six years ago in person at his charming mews house in Kensington.
The fine old dandy was kind enough to deface the inner poster of said 7″ with the inscription: 14/03/2011 For Steve, nice lurking with ya! Best wishes x Adam and then underneath the daggered ‘heart on his arm’ symbol with the PS (‘it says Pure Sex!’ finishing at the bottom with the anarchy symbol. He’s a one!
Looking back over the pop landscape, Adam & the Ants were easily the most experimental pin-up act since The Beatles. No one has come close since. No, really.
The fantastic five saw out the year with Prince Charming, featuring a slightly disturbing intro that sounded like a Venusian death chant, and Ant Rap, which didn’t quite predict Public Enemy, but still found room for a three-second harpsichord break. Just because they could.