479. ‘Stand and Deliver!’, by Adam & The Ants

I’ve just realised something… The eighties have finally begun. 1980 was full of stars – Blondie, Bowie, ABBA and ELO – but they were stars from the seventies. Our recent number ones have introduced us to some brand new stars, huge names of the early ‘80s: Shakin’ Stevens, Bucks Fizz and now, biggest of all, Adam Ant.

Stand and Deliver, by Adam & The Ants (their 1st of two #1s)

5 weeks, 3rd May – 7th June 1981

Punk, New-Wave and something else collide here. What that something is I couldn’t say… but it is very new and very thrilling. And very eighties. It’s frantic – there are horns, sound effects, nonsense chanting, and a band dressed as eighteenth century highwaymen… As I said in my last post, glam is back, baby!

I’m the dandy highwayman, That you’re too scared to mention, I spend my cash on looking flash, And grabbing your attention… It’s a statement of intent, this record: a war-cry to kids across the land to ditch old-folks’ fashions, to slap chunky blocks of make-up on their faces, and join the insect nation… It’s the sort of song your nan would have screwed her face to during TOTP, wondering just what was wrong with young folk these days.

There’s a bit of everything here. We go from the verses, in which Adam Ant sounds like Ray Davies trying his hand at rapping, to a Shadows-esque surf-rock solo with monkish chanting for backing. And the main hook is a killer: Stand and deliver, Your money or your life… And I mean literally a killer – it’s what Dick Turpin would have shouted back in his heyday. Meanwhile, the music video – we need more and more often to start referencing the videos for #1 singles now – sees Adam and his band holding up carriages full of uncool types clutching their lame records. Rather than robbing them, he shows how terrible they look in his foppish, handheld mirror.

It’s certainly a breath of fresh air, and there’s a feeling of a new musical order starting to assert itself. And there’s a great pop song here, underneath all the frippery (that’s a nice way to sum up the entire 1980s, to be honest). Adam and the Ants hadn’t appeared out of nowhere, though – they had been around since 1977, and had been scoring Top 10 hits for a year or so before this smash.

And a ‘smash’ it was. ‘Stand and Deliver’ entered at #1, which means the band were at the same level of popularity as The Jam and The Police. Plus its five-week run at the top is the longest of the decade so far. They were a band that burned brightly, but briefly, and they and their charismatic leader will be back with a couple more equally manic chart-toppers in pretty soon.

18 thoughts on “479. ‘Stand and Deliver!’, by Adam & The Ants

  1. I’m in two minds about Adam and the Ants. They were fun while they lasted and I think nearly everyone under the age of 30 really liked them at the time, but there was something about the whole concept that screamed ‘novelty act!’ which gave them a rather short shelf life, subject to the law of diminishing returns etc. Within a couple of years they – or rather Adam Ant, who was basically a downsized one-man band version – were/was running out of ideas. A similar thing happened about three years later to Frankie Goes To Hollywood, who were unstoppable for about a year. By the time it came to the second album, they were on a steep downward slope.

  2. I agree with the above comment…after a few times through…Adam started to feel like a novelty act. I did think this was a whole lot better than what was coming in the mid-eighties.

    Have you noticed that music videos of the eighties have this cheap…home movie quality…but music videos of the sixties and seventies look good? Videotape I guess is the main culprit I would think.

    • I wonder if it’s because earlier music videos were often just recordings of the band performing (with some exceptions, of course) whereas in the early 80s they started experimenting a bit more. I think after ‘Thriller’ the quality started improving all round

      • That one was quality. I’m thinking of Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane…hell even Whiter Shade of Pale….I agree that with the video boom…more musicians tried acting…it didn’t work in some cases…I do think they used videotape instead of film for the cost.

        But yea the performing was more realistic…of course.

      • Having watched a lot of these early music videos for recent posts, my favourite so far is ‘The Tide Is High’ – WTF is going on there? Debbie Harry and Darth Vader… And then there’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ coming soon…. I think Michael Jackson upped the game so much, and after that music videos stopped looking like high school projects

      • Jackson did do a great job on that one. Oh Tide is Hight….that is awesome! Lets confuse the hell out of people! My favorite video of all time is Tom Petty’s Don’t Come Around Here No More…I love that one.

      • Adams whole tribal rhythm schtick was a borrow from some 1971 hits that was then nicked by malcolm mclaren for bow wow wow – along with adam’s band! Adam was adored by young kids and older music fans, and when it came to fun he was top of the pop tree in 1981. It might seem he went awsy quickly but actually he was still having the occasional hit into the 90s while acting in American TV shows in between. This one topped my chart too but i opt for Antrap these days as my fave track and video. Lulu in a castle!

        BTW I did an online Battle of the bands poll between ABC and Adam records, expecting the class of ABC in peak Trevor Horn magnificence to easily overhaul Adam. Not so. There is a lot of love for Adam still out there……!

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