Music on Monday: Desperate But Not Serious

It may have not have gained the chart success Adam Ant was used to but Desperate But Not Serious should not be neglected.

In the early ’80s, Adam Ant was not only a King of the Wild Frontier – he was king of the charts. Dog Eat Dog was his first Top 5 single in 1980 with the follow-up, Antmusic, with its irresistible burundi beat, was only held off the top spot by the re-release of John Lennon’s Imagine immediately after the Beatle’s shocking murder.

The following year, in his dandy highwayman persona, he stole his first #1 position with Stand and Deliver. It was a feat that was replicated by the title track of his Prince Charming album – proving four weeks topping the singles chart was nothing to be scared of. As if that wasn’t enough, Adam scooped the Smash Hit Readers Poll as the Most Fanciable Male Human Being Of The Year – and who are we to argue.

In 1982, he disbanded “and the Ants” and released his first solo album, Friend or Foe. The first single, Goody Two Shoes, did predictably well again giving Adam his third Number One single. The follow-up, Friend or Foe, faltered a little but still went Top Ten.

Which brings us to our chosen Music in Monday track – Desperate But Not Serious. If you are not familiar with it, a poor chart showing could be the reason. It briefly reached #33 and then disappeared without a trace. Before The Recs looks at what might have gone wrong, why not have a listen?

What works today with Desperate But Not Serious is what probably did for the song back in 1982.

The strident brass of the opening gives way to a slightly menacing guitar stomp. In fact, you could find some strong similarities in the understated guitar-and-vocal vibe with the verses of Blur‘s Song 2 some fifteen years later. 

Adam had found huge mainstream success with family-friendly personae and very accessible immediate songs that Granny could hum. His interpretations of warrior, highwayman, pirate and fairytale prince were almost cartoon-like creations, albeit ones with subtle post-Punk sensibilities.

The lyrics of Desperate suggest Adam resisting this kiddy-image and offering a more grown-up narrative about the media’s salacious interest in his sex life:

“If I were kind and adoring
How would that be?
Very boring Mister Pressman
With your penknife always asking about my sex life
And who with and how many times?”

In his biography Stand and Deliver, Adam explained: “The song lyrics reflect what I was thinking and feeling at the time, as most of my lyrics do. So the newspapers got a bit of a kicking”. He maintains that BBC children’s television would ban the song because of the lyrics quoted above – thus cutting the song off from a substantial portion of Adam’s record-buying audience. He added “that and a vampire kiss in the video”. The attempted alleyway bunk-up probably wouldn’t have helped either.

We hope you’ll enjoy Desperate But Not Serious as a rather neglected pop song that was a little edgier than the mainstream audiences were wanting from Adam Ant back in 1982. We think it has aged magnificently!

🐜The Magnetic Adam Ant 🐜