31 antmusic

31. Adam and the Ants, “Antmusic”

“We name our music ‘antmusic’ to prevent classification and bracketing from other people,” Adam Ant told Tom Snyder when he appeared on Tomorrow to promote the 1980 album Kings of the Wild Frontier. “I don’t think that’s pretentious considering it’s taken four years to get the sound.” Besides the stretch of time identified by the singer, Adam and the Ants had gone through quite an ordeal on the way from their first to their second album, including the collapse of the band itself. Following a first flush of minor success — and some pigeonholing that clearly caused aggravation — with their debut album, Dirk Wears White Socks, Adam and the Ants recruited Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren to help shepherd their sophomore release to life. It didn’t exactly go well, at least from the band leader’s perspective. McLaren absconded with all of Ant’s bandmates, putting them in position behind Annabella Lwin to form Bow Wow Wow. Ant was left to rebuild his band from scratch, which did have the benefit of freeing him up to pursue a different, more brashly theatrical sound and image. “Antmusic,” released as the third single from the resulting album, Kings of the Wild Frontier, served as a calling card. It also became a major hit in the band’s U.K. homeland, peaking at #2. Although Ant never tired of claiming the British press that decried his vivid showmanship, he could also acknowledge — even while in the midst of it — that he cultivated and appreciated the cult of personality around him. “I think you have to be a bit of a narcissist to do any form of entertainment,” Ant said at the time. “It is an ego situation, and it can destroy you, like Hollywood people. With respect to kids imitating me, I’m flattered, because I’ve imitated people all my life. I bought a plastic Beatle wig when I was a tiny tot.”

 

30 why

30. The Cure, “Why Can’t I Be You?”

In proper gloomy goth fashion, Robert Smith was longing to be anyone other than himself. Although the lyrics of “Why Can’t I Be You?” suggest the song is loopy paean to being wildly smitten with another, the Cure’s lead singer says the inspiration came from a far more anxious situation. “I was in the middle of a tense discussion, and these people around the table were looking at me as if I was going to make some groundbreaking revelations,” explained Smith. “And I thought to myself, “Good God, why can’t I be elsewhere? Why isn’t someone else in my place?’ I would’ve traded with anyone. I would’ve preferred to be that guy leaning at the bar than myself.” Released as the first single from the Cure’s 1987 double album, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, “Why Can’t I Be You?” required a music video. By that time, the band had locked into a productive collaboration with director Tim Pope, who joyously upended the Cure’s reputation for shadow-strewn solemnity. The band members were adorned in goofy costumes — including, quite famously, a fluffy teddy bear outfit for Smith — and instructed to bound about the set with dance moves so awkward that they suggest a world in which choreography is an as-yet-undiscovered art. “I must admit I was quite drunk,” Smith recounted. `”When we talked about the video originally with Tim Pope, we said we wanted to do some choreographed dancing. He said we’d never be able to do it. So to disguise our ragged ability at dancing in any kind of formation, we decided to dress up. There was a good reason for it at the time, but nobody can really remember what it was.” For his part, Pope was ecstatic about the results. “The Cure dancing!” he cheered. “I can’t believe I’m seeing this. They’re finished.”

 

29 pink

29. The Psychedelic Furs, “Pretty in Pink”

The Psychedelic Furs song “Pretty in Pink” invariably calls to mind the image of young Molly Ringwald in a shapeless prom dress. But adhering to what Richard Butler originally had in mind when crafting the lyrics would have required the John Hughes-penned — and Howard Deutch-directed — film of the same name to wind up with a far more restrictive rating than its original PG-13. “The idea of the song was ‘Pretty In Pink’ as a metaphor for being naked,” Butler later noted. “The song, to me, was actually about a girl who sleeps around a lot and thinks that she’s wanted and in demand and clever and beautiful, but people are talking about her behind her back. That was the idea of the song. And John Hughes, bless his late heart, took it completely literally and completely overrode the metaphor altogether!” It was evidently Ringwald who presented the song to Hughes in the first place, suggesting he use it as inspiration in crafting a screenplay for her. The raciness wasn’t the only element shaved off of the song when it made the journey from the the Psychedelic Furs album Talk Talk Talk, released in 1981, to the 1986 film that introduced the world to the teen love triangle suffered through by Andie Walsh, Blane McDonough, and Philip F. “Duckie” Dale. The powers that be felt the original recording was a little rough for a soundtrack that was hoped to duplicate the massive commercial success of the prior year’s collection of songs that backed up Hughes’s The Breakfast Club. “We re-recorded it for the film because they said there was some slightly out of tune guitar work on the original,” bassist Tim Butler said. “I could never figure it out, but that was the reasoning. Maybe the original sounded too ‘dense’ for a soundtrack.” While the new version didn’t enjoy the same enormous success as the Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark offering on the same soundtrack, it did come within a hair of becoming the first U.S. Top 40 hit for the Psychedelic Furs. The second take on “Pretty in Pink” peaked at #41 on the Billboard chart.

 

As we go along, I’ll build a YouTube playlist of all the songs in the countdown.

The hyperlinks associated with each numeric entry lead directly to the individual song on the playlist. All images nicked from Discogs.

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