Ridicule is Nothing to Be Scared of: Adam Ant, Hero in the War Against Mental Illness

Adam Ant as the Blueblack  Hussar in the 1980s. This image used in accordance with Fair Use Policy.
Adam Ant as the Blueblack Hussar in the 1980s.
This image used in accordance with Fair Use Policy.

Mental illness is misunderstood and hidden. What would happen if we embraced ourselves and one another for who we are?

Adam Ant, born Stuart Goddard in Marylebone, England, burst on the scene in 1980 as the flamboyant lead singer of Adam and the Ants. His style was quirky, with a jerky delivery and a predilection for playing heroes, dandies, and pirates. Perhaps the last performer to capture the essence of the glam rock spirit of the 1970s, he was able to use the new medium of music video to his advantage. A former film and graphic design student, he storyboarded his videos and designed much of the elaborate costuming and make-up. The result was magic: Adam Ant was well beloved by legions of fans and Antmania went down in history.  He scored 10 top ten hits in the UK from 1980 to 1983 and, in America, Ant was voted the sexiest man in the world by the viewers of MTV in addition to placing many hit songs on the US market.

What fans didn’t know at the time was that Stuart had already gone through serious brushes with anorexia and suicide in the late 1970s which had forced him to drop out of college and had rendered him incapacitated for three months. It was after this that he changed his name to Adam Ant and started building Adam and the Ants. By the time the world recognized Adam everything seemed to be going very well. Peforming gave him a way of expressing himself and dealing with his issues.

In the mid 1990s things would begin to fall apart. An album, Persuasion, was not released by MCA records as planned and was shelved permanently. He was stalked by a woman who poisoned his fish pond, tried to kill his dogs, and showed up at his home naked while screaming obscenities. He managed to keep working through this turbulence until he was arrested in 2002 for throwing a car alternator through a pub window and threatening people with an antique pistol. He was arrested again in 2003 and institutionalized for mental illness. The next few years would be a trial by fire as he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and began to learn to deal with it. The medication would stabilize his mental state, but often resulted in a lack of creativity or even motivation to work.

Public Domain Image via Pixabay
Public Domain Image via Pixabay

“In the past I’ve been a robot. It’s been an out-of-body experience. Bipolar means up and down and that’s me… Music has always been the best medication. I was on sodium valproate for seven years…. I couldn’t get to sleep and I didn’t make love for seven years. My hair fell out and I couldn’t pick up a book as I couldn’t concentrate. I didn’t write a song or pick up a guitar in that time — and piled on the weight. I might as well have been dead.”.  –Adam Ant

In the last two or three years, as he and his doctors discovered the right doses of medication and he began to be more active, Adam has returned to performing. He has also created his own record label, Blueblack Hussar Records, and is working with designers to promote a new fashion label. Just last month he released his first album in 17 years, Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter. It chronicles the journey of the Hussar, the character with a white stripe across his face in his earliest albums, through hardship and punishment. This is Adam’s own journey, with snippets from his life woven into the mix. Some question whether a man of fifty-eight should be dressing like a pirate and making quirky music videos, as if that might be a part of his illness and should be hidden away. But this is his triumph: that he is able to remain true to himself, as creative and odd as he is. The honesty, bravery, and hope behind this album is inspiring. Adam Ant is finally the hero he always wanted to be.

“mental health needs a great deal of attention. It’s the final taboo and it needs to be faced and dealt with.” –Adam Ant

Videos via KoolMix32 and adamantdotnet on Youtube.

5 thoughts on “Ridicule is Nothing to Be Scared of: Adam Ant, Hero in the War Against Mental Illness

  1. First Night Design • Rogues & Vagabonds Reply

    Three cheers to you for writing this excellent post and for Adam Ant for surviving and breaking through the ups and downs. Mental illness may not be quite as misunderstood as it once was but there’s still a long way to go. I wish my mother was alive to see some of the people who have been open about being bi-polar and charted their journeys in the years since she died (2000), particularly Adam Ant and Stephen Fry. I may have mentioned this before but my mother wrote her memoirs, The Catch of Hands, which was published by Virago and won The MIND Book of the Year award (Fay Weldon was one of the judges). I want to try and get it back into print. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Catch-Hands-Benedicta-Leigh/dp/1853811912/.

    • katmcdaniel Reply

      Thank you so much!There are many outstanding stories coming to light. I would love to read your mother’s memoirs and wish you all the best in getting it back in print. I’ll be looking for it!

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