It began with a moment of swashbuckling destiny. But pop exhaustion spelled the end.
“You have to get a new haircut,” he said. Chris Merrick Hughes remembers Adam And The Ants.
HELLO JAN 1980
I was working with [Liverpool band] Dalek I Love You, learning the ropes in production. When I was waiting to meet the head of A&R [at Phonogram], I got chatting to Ian Tregoning, who along with his brother Max ran Do It Records. I went to see him in Camden and he played me a few bits and pieces by the then-line up of Adam And The Ants – he played cassettes through an old Ansafone – and asked me if I wanted to see if I could do anything with them. When I came back with my tape it was the week that Adam had fallen out with Malcolm McLaren: Malcolm had got the rest of the band onside and basically they said they were going to leave Adam and do Bow Wow Wow. Ian must have mentioned what I was doing there, and Adam came in and just said, “Hello. Dunno who the fuck you are but if you think you’re any good we’re ready to go, I’ve got Marco [Pirroni, guitar] in tow, let’s record.” I’d been working at Rockfield with [producer] Hugh Jones, who I’d actually been at school with, so I gave him a call and by the end of the week we’d arranged to go there and do a couple of tunes, Cartrouble and Kick, with Jon Moss playing drums. Adam knew he had to put a band together, and from day one he wanted two drummers. I’d been playing drums for years, and when Adam talked about Burundi, heavy thug drums, I knew what he was talking about because I’d got the original French field recordings. I went along to help audtiion drummers, and at one point
I sat in on one of the kits, and when we were leaving, Adam just said, “Oh fuck it why don’t you do it?” I said, Yeah! And he said, “Well, you have to get a new haircut.” I had this averagely medium length, nondescript middle-class haircut at the time, so he took me to the then-Ken market where he knew various stylists and groovers that had an idea about the look. Very early on we used to meet up in a café at Highbury & Islington before rehearsals, and one day we were there early. Adam said, “Chris, right now you have to lump all your own gear and all that, but in six months we’ll be household names.” Six months later, we were on Top Of The Pops.
GOODBYE MAR 1982
The band was fried. There came a point where we’d do a concert somewhere in Europe, fly back to do Top Of The Pops and then fly back to Sweden and do another. It was a crazy period but not unique, and there came a point when Adam needed to take time off. The last thing we did was probably a live gig on the Prince Charming Revue. It was fine, but the tour before that, when we were doing Japan, was a bit more like our performance on the Old Grey Whistle Test, doing Ants Invasion – I look at that and think, The band were pretty fine then. Since then, young kids had got into it and it was a pop sensation more than an underground Camden punk thing. Adam wanted to take it to a flamboyant, vibrant, pantomime, fantasy place, and he’d done it. I think one day he just said, “I don’t want to do this any more.” He decided to break the band up.
There’s no doubt that Terry [Lee Miall, drums] was a bit lost and upset by it, and I don’t doubt that Gary [Tibbs, bass] was disappointed too, but he came from a bigger world and had worked with Roxy Music, so he dusted himself down and carried on. Adam invited me to his club on Curzon Street and explained that he still wanted to work with me and Marco. At this point I was quite interested in getting back in the studio and recording, so I said, Sounds great. We did [Adam Ant solo debut and Number 1 hit] Goody Two Shoes in Abbey Road, and a couple more things, but Goody Two Shoes was the last thing I did that was successful. There was no acrimony. Afterwards, I went headlong into doing some Tears For Fears stuff [including 1985’s global smash Songs From The Big Chair], so the ball rolled on. Since then we’ve talked about doing something, and there have been a couple of occasions when it’s almost-sort of-possibly happened, but you know, he’s a busy guy. As told to Ian Harrison
“ADAM SAID, ‘IF YOU THINK YOU’RE ANY GOOD WE’RE READY TO GO’.”
Insect appeal: the band in late ’81 (from left) Chris Merrick Hughes, Terry Lee Miall, Adam Ant, Marco Pirroni, Gary Tibbs; (bottom) in 1980; (below) Merrick today.