For the fourth year of the UK’s National Album Day, I’m quite naturally going to choose the fourth LP I ever owned, which is handy seeing as they’ve shoehorned a feminist theme on to it for 2021, and I quote: “This year will spotlight women artists and their huge contribution to music and culture through the art of the album.”
The extraordinary cover art of the album I’ve chosen — which, to give the film tie-in its fully unexpurgated official title is Jubilee: The Outrageous Soundtrack From The Motion Picture, Cert X — features an iconoclastic image of counter culture legend in the shape of Jordan (aka Pamela Rooke), one of the outrageously attired Bromley Contingent of early UK punks who performs as the character Amyl Nitrite in the picture, though on the actual record she’s credited under the pseudonym of Suzi Pinns, a fictitious opera singer even though the vocals were actually recorded by a real one, as drummer Dave Barbe told this writer
“No, Jordan didn’t sing that. It was a professional opera vocalist.”
Regarded as one of the pioneers of punk style and fashion, Malcolm McLaren protégé Jordan was instantly recognisable for her Mondrian make-up and sharply spiked beehive hairstyle, making her every much a punk icon as Siouxsie Sioux and Soo Catwoman. Whatever the provenance of the vocals, she was one sassy performer, though without Jubilee she did exist.
Take it away Eurovision queen.
Originally planned as a documentary of sorts, Jubilee is loved and loathed in equal measure though went some way to capture the angry mood of a generation in despair while horrifying others with its intense nihilism. Britain’s first punk feature film is essentially time-travelling anarchy in the UK as Queen Elizabeth I looks 400 years into the future to witness a dystopian vision of crumbling Blighty, and was said to be inspired by Derek Jarman’s strange fascination with Jordan. The filmmaker had spied the SEX shop assistant’s unconventional glamour walking though London’s Victoria Station and enthusiastically penned in his diary
“White patent boots clattering down the platform, transparent plastic miniskirt revealing a hazy pudenda. Venus T-shirt. Smudged black eye-paint, covered with a flaming blonde beehive… the face that launched a thousand tabloids… art history as makeup.”
A decade later, in 1988, the then Jordan Mooney explained: “The whole Jubilee project started off as a documentary about punk which seemed a bit passé really. And Derek Jarman behind it. Because I’d agreed to help him do the documentary he decided to cast me in the film. So I was thrown in at the deep end as Amyl Nitrate.
“Derek admitted he didn’t know much about the music scene or what was going on, so between us we went round and saw a few of the acts. Jubilee wasn’t just a showcase for bands they all got a part to act as well. So we were searching for a singer who could not only do his bit on stage but do a bit of acting as well. Adam And The Ants fitted in whether I was managing them or not.”
As David Byrne might say, and she was.
The Ants were the reason I bought my first film soundtrack in the first place. That it boasted only two tracks by the band that awakened my interest in record buying meant buying the Jubilee LP would have to wait until I’d devoured and pored over every inch of the triumvirate of Ants albums proper, namely Kings Of The Wild Frontier, Dirk Wears White Sox and Prince Charming.
It still felt weird, that de facto thing of investing your hard-won pocket money in a record where you’d never heard of the majority of the acts, and being a tribal teen — 1982 was the year I turned 13 — probably wasn’t terribly interested in hearing them either.
However, if we can get a rewind for a moment because it’s curious how, knowing what an impact David Bowie would belatedly make on me a couple of years later, my first record featuring the pioneering soundscapes of Brian Eno wasn’t Low or “Heroes“, or something by Roxy Music or U2 — it was Jubilee, where the ambient maestro closes out the album with two atmospheric instrumentals, Slow Water and Dover Beach.
When it was released in February of 1978, Jubilee acted as the debut Adam And The Ants record — the pretty pairing of Deutscher Girls and Plastic Surgery were the first Ant tracks committed to vinyl and their placement as tracks one and five an indication of not only their ironic, visceral quality but also reflecting the future dandy highwayman’s own role in the movie as the Kid.
With Deutscher Girls carrying cheeky references to the Third Reich via Dirk Bogarde’s 1974 Nazisploitation film The Night Porter (which stars the title subject of the later Dirk Wears White Sox as a former SS officer) when both tracks were paired as what would turn out to be the final Adam And The Ants single, in February 1982. Adam had moved on so much since June 1977 that the belated release must have seemed like a time capsule.
Having dominated the charts throughout in 1981, the Prince Charming incarnation of the band had played their final concert to a bevvy of screaming kids the previous month and as former record labels clamoured for cash-ins, the now Antless Adam agreed to the 45 on three conditions:
- EG/Polydor allow him to re-record the vocals to remove the controversial references, with Nazi replaced by “nasty” and Camp 49 replaced by “lover of mine”.
- The label agree to add a prefix of ‘The Original’ before Adam & The Ants on the record, to distinguish it from the band’s later pop material.
- The singer is not required to promote the record in person.
With all legalese conquered, the posthumous 45 entered the charts the last week of February 1982 at No. 20. With Adam not available to perform it on TV, BBC’s Top Of The Pops resorted to having cheesy dance troupe Zoo go through the motions in lederhosen, helping to keep the song at number thirteen for a second week, where it peaked, luckily.
Adam told John Robb of Louder than War in 2014
“That song Deutscher Girls came from the Mel Brooks film The Producers. I think you should be able to make any art form without any personality involved in it. What you write about doesn’t make you that person. Beyond that, I was interested in taboo subjects. When I was at art school, I studied people like Hans Bellmer. I studied erotic art with Peter Webb’s controversial book. I was studying pornography and art- what’s the difference? One is done for pornography, and one is done for art — what’s the fucking difference? He went around all the private collections around the world to see the works by the great masters that are never seen because they are judged to be too erotic. This was 1974 and some of it is up now. He wrote a book about then it called Erotic Art that I thought was marvellous, and that was well.”
With Plastic Surgery’s incendiary immortal opening line of “Hey, you got a face like a Labrador“ draped in a foreboding introduction that sneers and leers at the listener before kicking into overdrive nearly halfway through, the timewarp single would be regarded as one of Adam’s finest, and a nice circular thing four years after the song’s original release.
And it’s all thanks to Jordan and Jubilee.
Rule Britannia then.