Adam & the Ants – B-side Babies – Review

Adam & the Ants

B-side Babies (Sony Legacy)
by Chris Adams

It’s no secret that a lot of great rock & roll was lost with the demise of vinyl. This holds especially true for punk rock, which was by and large 7″ oriented, and the immediate post-punk fallout, which more or less introduced the world to the obscure, immediately collectable 12″ B-side, not to mention the early ’80s flexidisc phenomenon. The majority of these didn’t make the cut in the CD revolution, and were therefore doomed to sit forgotten on the record shelves of obscurists and collectors. Or so it seemed.

Enter Sony’s “Legacy Series.” This series of albums is dedicated to unearthing lost punk/post-punk relics and pressing them into CDs, thus making them accessible to a whole new generation of fans, and relieving die-hards of the need to cling desperately to old, scratchy singles. In short, it’s a great fucking idea.

So far, the best of this series is unquestionably Adam & the AntsB-side Babies. Although Adam was written off by the “serious” London punk contingent for being too “showbiz,” he always wrote killer tunes, and his unique sense of style was immaculate, if occasionally ludicrous. To tell ya the truth, I probably never would’ve discovered the Pistols, Clash, et al, if it wasn’t for my initial love of the Ants. Musically, the Ants were unmistakable. They crossed jungle drums with Enrico Moriconne/Spaghetti Western guitars, and sang songs about pirates, American Indians, and weird sex – all sung in the greatest yodel to ever grace rock and roll. “B-side Babies” is a 16-song collection that features domestic B-sides, seven British B-sides, and one entirely unreleased track. This is a killer collection, and a must for completist obsessives. And if ya wanna turn your 13-year-old cousin on to the pleasures of punk, this should be his Christmas present.

The Psychedelic Furs were a classic post-punk band who released two stellar albums (The Psychedelic Furs and Talk Talk Talk) and a handful of really good ones between ’81-’89. Richard Butler’s smoky vocals and sardonic lyrics made him come off like a sophisticated Johnny Rotten, perfectly supplemented by the Furs’ propulsive, atmospheric rock. Sure, they were angry (the first album uses the word “stupid,” like, 56 times or something) but there was a sensuality and subtlety to their music that, in those days, was practically nonexistent. Here Came the Psychedelic Furs -B-sides and Lost Grooves is a collection of B-sides, dance remixes, and promo tracks that attempts to explore the diversities of the band. It features some excellent tracks, like “Mack the Knife” and “Birdland,” and only falters in that it seems to focus a little too heavily on dance remixes. Still, for the Furs fan, this is an indispensable recording.

Also included in the Legacy Series is The Best of 415 Records, which features songs by such early ’80s faves as Wire Train, Romeo Void, and Translator.

I can’t stress enough what a great idea Sony has with the Legacy Series. I’ve been waiting for years for someone to start re-releasing all these classic punk/post punk nuggets. Let’s hope this spearheads a general movement within the industry, so we can finally put those battered 7″ and 12″s into storage for good.