For those attending a gig by a new look Adam and The Ants at High Wycombe Town Hall on Friday 23rd May 1980, memories will of a night where violence dominated and prompted the local authorities to impose a ban of ‘rock concerts’ at the town’s biggest venue – a ban that was never formally lifted and sadly signalled the end of gigs at a venue that hosted the likes of The Who, Rolling Stones, Kinks, Small Faces, Tina Turner and The Jam, as well as giving local bands the chance to play on a bigger stage as support to their peers.
The sorry tale of the Adam & The Ants gigs came just over a year since they had previously played the Town Hall. In the intervening year The Ants had undergone a major overhaul of personnel. During the early months of 1980, founder member Stuart Goddard (AKA Adam Ant) had brought in Marco Pirroni (guitar), Kevin Mooney (bass), plus two drummers, Terry Lee Miall and Chris Hughes. This had followed former Ants Manager, Malcolm McLaren, persuading former members of the band to jump ship and join his new venture, Bow Wow Wow, fronted by a then 13-year-old Annabella Lwin.
Meanwhile, a 25-year-old Adam Ant was developing the sound of his new band, recording a new track, ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ as a means of gaining record company support. This was coupled with an ‘Ants Invasion’ tour that kicked off at the Electric Ballroom, London on 22nd May 1980 but events would really ‘kick-off’ the following evening in High Wycombe.
In the two years leading up to this date, gigs at the Town Hall had regularly been disrupted by a small group of Wycombe based ‘skinheads’. This group of Neanderthals would take pleasure from creating chaos and terror at gigs and particularly during performances by bands that didn’t fit into their own small-minded stereotyped view of what a ‘punk’ band should sound and look like. And just for good measure, this was interspersed with racist chanting because presumably in their eyes it was, in modern day terms, ‘banter’.
During my research for this gig, I was excited to find an audio recording of The Adams & The Ants set. The inter song exchanges between the band (mainly Adam) and the small moronic element of the audience capture the poisonous atmosphere of the evening.
The band came on stage to the intro of music of Gary Glitter’s ‘Hello! Hello! I’m Back Again’ before opening up with ‘Physical’ and then going into the now iconic ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’. You can hear the track on the YouTube clip below but for the record, at the conclusion of the song the ‘Skinhead’ chants start up followed by a quick call for local band “Xtraverts”. Adam Ant retorts with “That was last week’s thing mate. You’ve been watching too much Tiswas. You go and stick your skinhead up your ****ing arse. We’ve got one type of person here. Ants!”
The taunts and exchanges continue with Adam Ant adding: “You don’t scare me. Just go away”, and then sarcastically adding after the following song: “My Mum would love it – nice short hair [but] we’re concerned with the future not the past.”
Then as the ‘Sieg Heil’ chants continue, the band are pushed to tipping point, shouting out: “I don’t know about skinheads but you’re just a right bunch of w**kers. If you want to say it, come down here and say it. We’ve had enough of you. We’ve had enough of it. Ant Music.”
Vague fanzine, published shortly after the gigs documents the gig from a Adam & The Ants fan perspective and I’ve included the full piece below.
Adams & The Ants – set list Town Hall, High Wycombe – 23rd May 1980
- Kings of the wild frontier
- Ants Invasion
- Beat My Guest
- Fall In
- Killer In The Home
- Press Darlings
- Car Trouble
- Fat Fun
- Plastic Surgery
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For your listening pleasure
Kings of the Wild Frontier (live audio) – High Wycombe, Town Hall
23rd May 1980