I wrote the following piece about Jordan in the spring of 1984, after speaking at length to her and her then partner Kevin Mooney at the offices of RCA records. At that time, she was managing Kevin’s band Wide Boy Awake, my junk funk punk favourites. As ever, Jordan looked wildly brilliant – concrete grey crop, original Vietnam-era army surplus gear, red lipstick line around neck – and what is more, she talked wicked.
I had first met Jordan when she worked at Seditionaries, in 1977. I remember pausing before going in, and having a small moment of self reflection (it was that kind of shop): ‘Should I go in? Do I look good enough? Do I have enough incendiary spirit? Do I really mean it? Have I got enough spunk?’ I concluded: ‘Yeah, I think so… yeah, I do!’ and entered to encounter a serious Jordan (it was a serious business at that time after all), making plans on the phone – she looked at me and nodded what seemed like assent.
Decades later, I confessed that initial trepidation to Jordan, who I expected to say: ‘Oh, that’s silly – you needn’t have worried.’ Instead, she said: ‘You were right to worry! We… I… only wanted people in there who had the right attitude.’ An attitude she herself embodied spectacularly, luminously.
I was happy to reciprocate when she interviewed me RE background material for her and Cathi Unsworth’s book/autobiography – for which I was happy to help repay decades of inspiration by suggesting the title (from Jubilee): Defying Gravity. Her purpose was to soar and transcend. Her essence lies perhaps, to quote myself a little, in something said by the character Endora in one episode of the TV show Bewitched, ‘We are quicksilver, a fleeting shadow, a distant sound that has no boundaries through which we can’t pass. We are found in music, in a flash of colour, we live in the wind and in a sparkle of star …’
Jordan was disorderly magic, pointing out beyond the lusterlessness to a world where it’s possible to discover both meaning and adventure of various sorts.
This piece was originally published in the May 1984 edition of Zig Zag magazine – and was, I think, the first overview of her importance.
It was re-published as part of my book Punk is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night (Zer0 Books, 2017).
Jordan was also referenced in my latest post-punk pop art novel Looking for a Kiss (Sweat Drenched Press, 2021).
This new online version is in tribute after her passing – she continues to defy gravity forever.
Jordan bounds into the RCA offices smiling and looking fighting fit. Small in stature, she compensates by exuding a nervous energy that dominates the room. She’s dressed in a camouflage combat suit (original Vietnam I might add) and her hair has been chopped up into a severe 77 crop. We shake hands. Jordan is a hero.
Why? She has never really been in a band. Never starred in a smash film. Never actually stretched her talents on stage. She has dabbled in all these areas of media entertainment, and yet she is no dilettante.
What is it about her that, since the punk heyday of 1976, has demanded, if not adulation, then recognition and respect? Perhaps the answer is simply that Jordan has pushed her creative talents onto what she does best: being herself. For some people that is enough. She is a star. Her light will never be dimmed by a fickle public.
‘To start a band would have been so obvious. So bland. Very early on Malcolm McLaren advised me to project and promote my own image and that is exactly what I have done.’
But more, much more. I tell you children, some day someone will make a film about Jordan’s life…
I sent a letter on Monday
I sent a letter on Tuesday
…Oooh, I loved her
Send a letter to Jordan
— Adam and the Ants, Send A Letter To Jordan
…A video slowly flickers into life.
The scene is set on a train hurtling to London from the south coast. It is early 1976. A brash young lady sits with her legs crossed. She’s wearing high-heeled black leather shoes, rubber stockings and very little else. A middle-aged businessman sitting opposite gives her a disparaging look. At the same time he gets rather excited and has to cover his lap with a newspaper. Jordan, the original pre-punk shocker, laughs. Hypocrite!
‘I used to have so much trouble on that train to Seaford, where I used to live. People used to swear at me, abuse me, the lot. I wouldn’t take any shit though and on one occasion I threw a tourist’s camera out of the train window. He flipped! Eventually British Rail had to give me a First Class carriage to myself.’
Fast-forward… Later that day the same girl, abused, bemused and born into a world that she didn’t create, stands outside her shop, SEX (later to become Seditionaries and World’s End). In terms of style and culture, the most influential shop/meeting place ever.
I used to go down to the World’s End
I used to go to that shop
I didn’t like the clothes there
But I liked what she wore
I loved her
— Adam and the Ants, Send A Letter To Jordan
Her hair has been swept up into long silver-and-blonde-coloured spikes. She’s wearing a fluffy white mohair jumper, patent white boots and black leather belt. The camera has an eye for detail; Jordan is an original, or should I say an originator, an innovator.
A fashion report in Honey at the time reads, ‘Go down to SEX, if not for the clothes then just to see the strange girl inside.’ Punk Rock is just about to take off and Jordan, as much as the Sex Pistols, encapsulates the look and attitude: she sneers into the camera and spits in disgust.
‘I’d been dressing like that for ages so punk wasn’t a new thing for me. My mother had found me uncontrollable since the age of seven, through choice I had absolutely no friends at school — the clothes were an expression of that chaos.
‘Malcolm McLaren was always very interested in how people looked and I loved everything that SEX was about. Malcolm, Johnny Rotten and I were very close. Johnny always tells the story of how he went into SEX one day — I had on this T-shirt with a big rip right across the front and I’d put in a safety pin to cover it up. Johnny thought it was great and the safety pin thing started there and then.
‘Johnny’s like Frank Sinatra now. I saw him doing “Anarchy” on The Tube a few months ago, and it was really pathetic.’
Through a blur of semi-realised images the film winds on to a heady night later in 1976. We are looking at a musical venue somewhere in London. The Sex Pistols are on stage, playing to what is a growing cult audience. The scene is full of tension, tinged with slices of manic wildness. Jordan, unable to control herself, suddenly jumps onto the stage. She dances along with the music. The sound and the fury. In a moment of sweet abandonment, Jordan’s clothes literally fall apart (or so the camera would have you believe) leaving her naked from the waist up. Johnny Rotten ambles over and puts his arm round her shoulders.
‘76/77 was the most exciting period of my life — the adrenalin, the buzz, that is what it was all about for me. The Pistols used to really move me at that time. I just had to jump up and do things. On the other hand, the bands that came up afterwards were awful. I remember standing at the side of the stage and booing the Clash. Which is strange cos a couple of years later they became quite good. The Damned were the group that summed up everything that was wrong with punk.’
to a scene that occurs even later, in the winter of 76. The camera pans round to a television studio in Manchester. Mr Smug himself, Tony Wilson, is introducing a band, ‘And the next…’ Before he can finish, the Pistols smash in to Anarchy in the UK, and the man is stranded. It’s little bits like this that made the Pistols great. Jordan wearing an ‘Only Anarchists Are Pretty’ shirt wanders, as if by chance, onto the set. A spur, a catalyst. Chairs are thrown about, general mayhem ensues. ‘I want to beeee an-ar-chee.’
‘That was all a set-up job. We planned it, like a lot of other things; the music business is still scared by the Pistols fiasco of three signings.
‘Punk really died for me when the Pistols split up. It couldn’t have gone on — it was like an orgasm, there for a few seconds and then… pfft. My prediction for the post-punk state of affairs was that Sid would become a huge star. We were close friends, and I was absolutely shocked when he died.’
an eternity goes by, a fire has swept the land, purifying wherever its flames licked. Faster, faster. Round and around. Through a vortex the camera levels out and we’re standing staring at the stage of the Nashville, a fairly small pub/club in West Kensington where a new punk group called Adam and the Ants are playing. Halfway through their chaotic set they launch into a piercing, repetitive riff; the sign for Jordan to leap up on stage and make her contribution to the Ants legend. Wearing her Venus leotard (her favourite SEX number) she sings ‘New York coke joke.’ Sings? The noise is a wail mixed with a scream scrambled together to produce an inhuman choke/yell. In the future they will have special synthesisers whose sole function will be to reproduce that sound. The crowd go wild. And Jane Suck says, ‘Do you know what Jordan is wearing these days? Soft woollies and tweed skirt. Oh yeah! Does Seditionaries sell handbags yet? No, no, no.’ (Where are you when we need you Jane?) Adam has a guitar round his neck and joins in the choruses. Jordan jumps up and down. ‘Andy Warhol — hero.’
‘Adam used to send me love letters in the early days. I’ve still got them somewhere. He invited me down to a gig he was playing at the Man in the Moon in the King’s Road. It was awful! The PA blew up and everything went wrong, but in Adam I saw something very special. I took Adam on the Pistols boat trip, where I tried hard to get arrested. I even spat in a policeman’s face, but they weren’t having any of it. Anyway, I got involved with the band: I nurtured and pushed them. I was a manager, and yet more than a manager. I finished with Adam for a while, when he insisted on signing to Decca. I thought it was the wrong move and I was proved right.
‘The song I sang on stage with the Ants was Lou. It was great doing it, but then there was absolutely no pressure — doing it for a whole forty minutes is a different matter entirely.’
Onwards, ever onwards, the video is run fast-forward and stopped at a point only a few weeks later, in 1977. We are shown a film set where Jordan is talking to a middle-aged, balding man. He is Derek Jarman and the film they are making is Jubilee, a fantastic vision of a ‘punk-rock’ future, or ‘no future’ as the case may be. Totally over the top, totally wonderful. ‘Pleased to meet you Mr G…g…Gintz.’
Jordan plays her part. Jarman gives her some loose instructions and the film camera rolls. Dressed in a ballerina’s outfit, complete with tutu and pumps, she begins to dance elegantly if uncertainly around a raging bonfire. Heavy symbolism. Her statuesque figure cavorts around and around. A tall, thin hippy type wanders around throwing books onto the fire. Jordan pays no attention. Dance, dance, dance. This is perhaps the most bizarre scene from Jubilee as well as the most effective. Jordan whirls as the books are burnt. She doesn’t lose her concentration once. Nerves I expect.
‘Jubilee pushed me to the limits, mentally and physically. I had to dance on points on concrete — no ballerina has to do that, they’ve got supple wooden floors. My toes bled and my legs were burned by the fire. We actually got arrested that day cos Derek insisted on using real guns and the police took us away. We tried to explain that the guns had no firing pins, but I don’t think they even knew what they were. Derek Jarman is such a clever director though, he’s got a knack of leaving certain mistakes in. The amount of lines that I fluffed… but I want to keep doing that, I want to keep it raw, I never want to learn all the tricks. I still to this day get fan mail from girls mostly who’ve just seen Jubilee. They say that I’ve made a big impression on them. After I was in Jubilee I was in a play in Edinburgh, and then in a couple of films that won awards in Spain, of all places. There’s a strong possibility that I’ll be in a West End play soon called Gits. I’m looking forward to that.’
Still onwards, fast forward. Eons pass in a rapid eye movement. The times they have a changed, those who were first are now last. Oh God. And Jordan? Well, this is 1980 and the camera starts at Sloane Square and travels the length of the King’s Road, finally stopping outside that shop. Now, the ‘Clothes For Heroes’ plaque and the metal-grid/black-glass front has been replaced by some rickety wooden steps and quaint curiosity-shop windows. Ours is the best effort so far to leave the 20th century? Indeed this is World’s End.
Jordan is standing outside, her buckled foot on the step. Her brown hair cascades in curls from underneath a tricorne Napoleon hat. A girl called Annabelle is ushered past her into the shop. The time is again one of excitement, colour, change. Jordan is again at its nub, if not actually a main exponent. She is happy, we see her do a little jig-a-jig up the stairs and into the shop. We press the pause button.
‘I worked in the shop until shortly after it changed to World’s End. Not everybody can do a job that they enjoy and I loved it there, believed in the things that Malcolm and Viv were doing. Those two have split up now. I still see Malcolm, but not Viv. In fact, out of all my contemporaries and peers from 76, Malcolm is the one who’s turned out the best. That pirate look was great — I’m like a snake though, I have to shed a skin every so often. At one time, I was going to get an Arts Council grant for being a living work of art. We discussed it, but it all fell through. I’m still going to get a £1,000 hairdo done, and no I can’t tell you what it’ll be.’
We switch on the video machine again, fast-forward it a little bit, not too far — ah, just there’ll do. Adam and the Ants have, by a quirk of CBS, established themselves as the most popular group in England. The camera focuses on a typical living room, in a typical street, on a typical girl. It’s Thursday evening, it’s Top of the Pops on the TV and the daughter of the house (her name is Yvette, I think) is screaming because the Ants’ new video is being shown. Adam, in his familiar Charge of the Light Brigade jacket is tapping a cane around blindly to the beat. His old mate Jordan dances to the side. And how. ‘Ant-Mus-Ic.’
Press the pause please ’cause…
‘I got involved with Adam after Malcolm walked off with his group to form Bow Wow Wow. Once more, I took care of their look and outlook. I was their advisor and sort of entrepreneur. Kevin Mooney, who’s now my husband, and I left just after the show at the Palladium for Princess Margaret. I felt that Adam just wasn’t giving one hundred percent anymore, and I can’t work with people like that. He got the power that he was after, but he didn’t even use it. He’s not really enjoying what he’s doing nowadays — he needs criticism, I need criticism, everyone needs criticism, and he’s just not getting it from the eight-year-olds that he’s playing to. We’re still friends though, he sends me postcards every so often from New York or wherever.’
The video button is pressed, the clouds go by at the speed of an aeroplane, people walk around at the pace of speeding Keystone Cops (which incidentally they were). Slower… slower… the tape finally jumps to a sudden halt. Jordan and I find ourselves watching a video of ourselves watching a film of ourselves of a video of ourselves of STOP! The present.
Kevin Mooney is now in a group called Wide Boy Awake — ‘a red hot dance band’ who incorporate different styles of music and many levels of idea and ideal. They’re the best. They are as indicative of, and distanced from, their times as were the Pistols and the Ants from theirs. By sheer quality. They are the best. Jordan is, very simply, at their core.
‘The only reason that I’m not upset by the passing of 76/77 and the spirit that went with it is the existence of Wide Boy Awake. They hold the same excitement for me. They have that one hundred percent commitment. They believe. This group want to revert to a time when people wanted to go out and see groups and not just cos they were there, and the group want to promote a buzz, a feeling. My position within the band is the same as it was with the Ants on the two occasions, except intensified. I manage them and generally help to steer them. Kevin writes all the songs in my presence, which helps. RCA want me to do some vocals with the group, which I’d love to do. Kevin may write me a song. The group means everything to me, and I tell you, when we get the power we’re going to do something with it.’
Jordan: always a natural rebel, both in medium and in message, with a flair for self-publicity — the limelight has always been hers. But instead of being content with the glow of infamy, she has turned her talent to concrete yet uncanny effect. Always a girl of action, a participator; her power is that of a modern-day Shaman. Hers is the ability to communicate with and stimulate the ‘spirit.’ The Sex Pistols (indirectly perhaps), Adam and the Ants and Wide Boy Awake (plus associated cultures) have all felt the lasting benefits.
Jordan wrinkles her nose into an irrepressible, infectious smile. Sips a lager and calms down after what has been a rush of commentary. It has been an impressive film, an impressive life. Jordan is a hero.