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45 at 45: Adam And The Antz’ Young Parisians

Gallically in the UK… 

On 20th October 2023, Decca Records via Universal issued a limited edition translucent 7-inch vinyl of the first Adam And The Ants single Young Parisians b/w Lady, featuring the beautifully evocative original artwork hand drawn by Adam Ant himself. With neither sides widely available on streaming platforms before, this 45th anniversary release also marks the first time Lady has been officially released in digital form. Here’s a quick recap…

At one point in February 1981, one in eight singles bought in Britain was by Adam And The Ants. That was a pretty startling statistic for any chart-watcher, let alone the eleven year-old me who had become utterly transfixed by the insect warrior and his merrie band of ant workers that same month, chiefly thanks to a song, nay an anthem — however obliquely unfathomable — called Kings Of The Wild Frontier.

Setting a new chart record that was never surpassed in the pre-download era, Kings was one of five – five! – Ant 45s nestling inside the Top 45 that February, along with the glam stomper Antmusic and the first three Ant singles, a contrasting trio which had been helpfully reissued by Adam’s former record labels trying to cash in on the advancing Antmania about to overcome the country.

Even more of a shocker, it turned out that in the ’70s Adam Ant was a punk rocker (wonder if he knew Sheena?) who’d entered the world as plain old Stuart Goddard (gasp), and not only that, he was 26 years old (double gasp), a relatively advanced age for a “new” sensation. Having said that, he’s still four months younger than Neil Tennant, who didn’t make a dent on the charts as one half of the Pet Shop Boys until the ripe old age of 31. Across the pond in New York, Debbie Harry was even older, not achieving significant success with Blondie until she was 33.

Stuart Leslie Goddard was born in London’s Marylebone on November 3rd, 1954. He’d attended Hornsey College of Art, where it’s fair to assume he picked up his impressionist and avant-garde leanings. Goddard had been the bassist in a pub rock outfit called Bazooka Joe, who happened to the headline act when the Sex Pistols played their first gig at St Martin’s College in 1975. In a spontaneous and inspired gesture, after seeing the Pistols he immediately quit the band with a view to forming his own.

Tentatively called The B-Sides, it wasn’t until early 1977 that Adam settled on the insect moniker, first as The Ants and then Adam And The Ants. Their first appearance on vinyl was a two-tracked contribution – the coruscating if controversial coupling of Deutscher Girls with Plastic Surgery – to the 1978 soundtrack of the Derek Jarman film Jubilee, of which Adam and the band’s on-off manager Jordan starred in.

Furthermore, the eclectic, eccentric trio of seven-inchers that followed – Young Parisians/Lady, Zerox/Whip In My Valise and Cartrouble/Kick! – had been recorded with a revolving door of line-ups which saw the band styled as Adam & The Antz. It would be an understatement to say these six sides of the nascent Ant sounded nothing like Kings Of The Wild Frontier, or indeed each other. 

The Ants’s debut single was recorded not at Decca’s famed West Hampstead studios where Bowie and Rolling Stones laid down much of their sixties output, but Notting Hill’s Basing Street that would eventually become Trevor Horn’s Sarm West production hub.

Young Parisians was a charming acoustic jazz ballad and, let’s be honest, with that faux French accent sounding more than a little like Kenny Everett’s comedy character, Marcel Marceau, a deliciously camp cabaret that Adam originally hoped a certain Roxy Music man would get his mitts on, writing in the sleeve notes for the Antbox collection in 2000:

I sent the acetate to Bryan Ferry to produce. He sent it back with a little hand-written note which said “Bon Chance” – B.F. 

Looking back 45 years on, Young Parisians is still one of the most contrary debuts ever — an atypical aberration by a supposed punk/post-punk act and deliberately and defiantly chosen as a single to confuse people who dismissed Adam And The Ants as bondaged noise merchants. 

Adam later admitted that this was probably a mistake, and that its flip side, the masochistic kinky Lady, should have been the leading track. It’s tempting to wonder if the female could have done even better, because when the Ant 45 made No. 9 for two weeks that ice cold February of 1981 — thanks to the senseless murder of John Lennon the world was in backwards forwards mode with the golden oldie Imagine being replaced at the top by his ‘latest’ single, Woman. 

Lady versus Woman — now that would have been a chart battle and a half.

Steve Pafford, France

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