Adam and the Ants - Prince Charming

Written by Jack Gillan, Birmingham, UK -
I was one of those kids at school who tried hard to look cool and enigmatic and, probably as a result of the trying, never quite achieved it with as much nonchalance as I would have liked. Nevertheless I made a habit, as did my peers, of walking the corridors in a poised manner with the latest almost-but-not-quite underground album sleeve pinned under one arm. These records signified not only musical tastes but almost even one’s place in the school pecking order. Dirk Wears White Sox had been one of my favourites, mostly because the vast majority of my peers had never heard of Adam and the Ants. I wanted to be out as desperately as I wanted to be in.

That was in 1979 and I was 15. The band was something of a cult: the transition from the punk rock era to post-punk and New Wave times was not without pain and Adam and the Ants had a certain lyrical appeal – plus they had recorded a session for the (even then) legendary John Peel’s late night radio show. They had careless and unstudied cool in spades written all over them. The album sleeve didn’t just indicate my musical preferences - they were a mark of allegiance. Then Adam and the Ants disappeared.

They came back with Kings of the Wild Frontier which was well-crafted pop music but chart success meant that I naturally shrank from them. Dirk did not make any reappearance at school. Yet imagine my horror when they followed up the Burundi-drum beats of Ant Music and Dog Eat Dog with the likes of Stand and Deliver! and Prince Charming. If Kings was about gaining commercial success, in my juvenile mind, these hugely popular hits were simply milking it. I just kept my fingers crossed that the cooler, older kids at school, around whose periphery I was allowed to orbit (because one of the sixth form girls thought I was cute and liked my flat-top haircut) would not remember the debacle of Dirk.

That girl. Her name was Liz. She was a year older and taller than me, dark glamour personified and although I fell under her spell immediately she was utterly, utterly out of my league. Yet although she could frown and pout with the best, she also had the kindest heart. Liz was instrumental in making the school a safe place for the younger kids by her policy of punkishly bullying the bully boys. Those short haired post-mod mods couldn’t bear to have a raven-haired girl in a trench coat and Doctor Martens give them a taste of their own medicine so they gave up being the tormentors and became almost human (amazing how one person can make a huge difference).

That is not so much of a digression as you may think as Liz (as well as the song) is the whole point of this, really. After the summer holiday of 1981 we all returned to school. It was my first year of sixth form (the two years we can opt to do in the UK after compulsory education then ended at 16) and it was Liz’s last before she went to university. As was the tradition, the school put on a disco in the school’s hall come theatre a few weeks in to the first term. Adam and the Ants were at Number One in the charts with Prince Charming.

The song was wildly popular with a video that even I grudgingly enjoyed, featuring an appearance by the much loved actress Diana Dors as the Fairy Godmother. And of course, there was that dance, which a lot of the students had already tried to imitate when the song had been played during the second hour of the disco. I had, of course, declined. I stood at the side with my friends, trying to look as disinterested and detached as possible. You might wonder why we even bothered to go but girls were the draw, of course – and the getting of experience with them our primary goal.

The whole thing had about half an hour to go before it ended with the compulsory slow songs (a terrifying moment because of the thought that you might get to slow dance with a girl was made almost unbearable by the inevitable inkling that you might not).

Liz and her friends made their appearance at the very moment Prince Charming was played for a second time.

She noticed me from the door through which she had made her (to my eyes) dazzling entrance, my punk angel, my new wave enchantress. She strode over to me, smiled, grabbed my hand and led me on to the dance floor. Although she wasn’t completely drunk it was obvious that she had had one or two ciders before her arrival and we proceed to dance to Prince Charming, aping the video as best we could along with the others. Alcohol had successfully removed her cool for the evening – and she did it for mine by just being her. It would have been hugely enjoyable if I hadn’t been so scared that my heart was going to explode at any moment.

When the song ended she gave me a huge hug, burying me deep in to the scent of her Opium perfume. I looked up to her (she was still taller despite the inch or two I had grown over the summer) and she smiled, kind of rolled her eyes in a what the f**k, why not kind of way and then kissed me for a long, long time.

Well, it was probably for about ten seconds but I still remember it as my first, proper, grown-up frenchie (except wasn’t it my tongue that was supposed to… oh who cares!?). Then, detaching herself with a smirk, she sauntered back to her friends and I was alone on the dance floor.

I was, of course, a hero to my friends for weeks afterwards. And I wish I could say it was the start of a long, burning and deep affair between Liz and me with meaningful glances exchanged between Biology and Double Maths. Of course, come Monday I was back to being the cute boy with the flat-top haricut and that was all.

I don’t know where Liz is now or what she does – or even if she would remember the boy in to whose life she came as such a dazzling if brief interlude - let alone the hormonal stirrings she precipitated in my youthful (thankfully non-exploded) heart. Perhaps that’s for the best. After all, I still have a blissful memory which I relive every time I hear Prince Charming!

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