Certainly personifying and symbolizing the face of “Punk” from a female point of view, “Jordan” caused a sophisticated anarchy that revolutionized equality in music for women at a time when it pretended to be a male profession. Beyond that she was, and still is a, heroine who dares to evoke the threat of imagination. Jordan defied sensibility and at the same time defined it.
Celebrated for her audacious fashion sense, her musical abilities, and her courageous and tantalizing artistic view, Jordan was privy to the most sacred Punk bands to ever emerge, including a close relationship with “The Sex Pistols”. She was also the very first manager of “Adam and the Ants”. She had a supreme role in Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s SEX boutique, and starred as the lead in one of the most impacting films of the time, Derek Jarman’s ” Jubilee”.
I was honored to have a very in-depth and compelling conversation with Jordan, rocketing from one segment of her life to another. She has lit many of the lights on many people’s pinball machines, whether those inconsequential, or radically high profiled. Those who visited the enchanted path she created, were always inspired and greatly affected. When we concluded, I felt as though I encountered a new lifelong friend.
On January Saturday, January 21st @ 7PM, Jordan will partake in Q&A, at HOMEmcr in Manchester: “Jordan in Conversation With John Robb” (tickets and details here)
Louder Than War: I’m very happy to have this conversation with you Jordan, as I know you have many fans and followers, myself included.
This year has been pretty amazing actually. I’ve been kind of overwhelmed by the people that I’ve spoken to, and their perception of me and of the impact I’ve made in their lives. It’s been really, really touching.
You have touched many lives.
A bit of girl- power maybe.
I believe that you being the female face of Punk, I mean New York had Blondie, however the rest of the world had you…I feel like you gave women an equality in the music industry. What’s your take on that?
I would hope so! That’s one of the lasting legacies I think. Punk was a time I think really equalized the sexes and it’s really very, very rare that you get a moment or any extended period in time where woman are equal, if not superior, in fashion, and in singing, and music, not just wearing fashion, but designing it…it’s really a rare thing. I would like to think that maybe I built a pathway for women.
You seemed to dress almost demure at times, you wore pinks, pearls, fuchsia colored face paint, yet inside of you were a revolution. Where did that come from?
That came from me early in in my life. Something I think I was probably born with, and was allowed to live my life as an individual. I refused to be subject by authority, but also I felt compelled to be artistic inside my body and my mind, I guess. That revolution came from deep within me at a very early age. It was something that I can go back to 6 or 7 years old, where I had a clear vision of what I wanted to be.
That was pretty young.
It’s very young. It may have been even earlier, but you’re not aware of that when you’re really young. I just got some family albums from Yorkshire when I was up there at Christmas. I’m writing my autobiography. I’m just starting actually, so I got some pictures from way back. It reminds you of the things that you wore when you were little, quite kind of out there, I wore things that were big and in your face. That was really from very early on. I brought back these little black and white photos, it evokes a lot of memories.
Everyone is waiting for that autobiography you know.
Yes. I’ve toyed with it for some years. You can understand Eileen, that in a way it’s like showing your dirty washing to everybody. If you’re going to do it, than you’ve got to do it properly. Not just make a skeleton of your life out of it. On the other hand not just do it in a sensationalist way. It’s very difficult to find that medium ground really, and what to keep in and what to leave out, and whether to even do it. But it’s became very obvious that people really want to hear it. I’m gonna do it. It’s all on its way.
So that’s good news.
Kind of my life is a closed book, as far as people for years thought of me as being very unapproachable and very above everything. Nobody’s ever asked me anything like that. It’s always been about artistic, fashion, and music based. So I could fill in a few gaps on that side of it, as well about my personal life. It’s another thing you have to think very seriously about when you’re writing a book, what to say and what not to say.
That book is sure to become a best seller.
I don’t know about that. I really want it to be funny and I want it to be everything that will keep people’s interest. I’m not going to write some date timeline…that’s been done, it’s been written. I want to make it probably more personal, but fun still.
You’re about to embark on a sold out question and answer in Manchester with John Robb.
He’s really well equipped to do it. He’s got a style that I like. He’s calls it conversation which is really good. I’ve done a lot of things this year in 2016. The British Library was absolutely brilliant, that whole series of talks. I don’t know if you’re aware but I did one on a panel about myself, but I also did a “Ramones” one with Danny Fields, and I watched a lot of the others that were put on as well. I thought it was put together really well. Also I did a British Film Institute talk. That was “The Filth and the Fury” one. I still find it hard to watch that film. It’s very, very difficult to actually see a film about somebody that you were so close to, and his optimism at the end of that film. I knew he was doomed. It was awful.
The Sid and Nancy movie affected me greatly. I can’t even begin to imagine how you must have felt, he being such a close friend to you.
It was really sad, really, really sad. Put yourself in that position, one of your really good friends dying…even “Sid and Nancy” was hard for me to watch…because although it was some sort of fiction in a way, it was still about someone that I…I couldn’t watch that for a long, long time. It took me two years until I watched it. If you were a true fan it should affect you. It was very difficult, and apart from the fact that years before he went to New York I said to him, “If you go to New York, you’re going to die, you know that”. I didn’t think it would be because of drugs, I thought it would be from violence of some sort. He was kind of quick to anger at people or to pick fights. It’s all very well doing that in North London, but doing it in New York is a little bit different. I thought he’d pick on the wrong person. I thought he’d be stabbed to death, in fact, it was my prediction. I told him that if he acted like that with a knife in New York, “you’re dead”. He just laughed it off. There were lots of casualties along the way.
I’m a bit curious about you actually, what’s your background?
I started writing for a “Star Trek” Magazine.
“Star Trek”! I’m a huge “Star Trek” fan! OMG, one of the most amazing times! Spock is one of my inspiration in life!
Me too! I met him many times.
Margot Fonteyn was a very famous Ballerina, and those two people molded my life, or my mind. That’s how I see myself.
I knew Leonard Nimoy well, we use to tour with the Star Trek Conventions. I did the trivia quiz for the fans. I wrote the “Star Trek Medical Reference Manual”.
Did you? I just thought it was amazing, the whole thing.
Spock was my first celebrity interview ever.
No! I’m so envious! I’ve got a really funny story: I’d just been on TV, when his book “I Am Spock” book came out. He did a book signing at “Forbidden Planet” in London. I had just been on TV, on “Arena”, which is a really big arts program, a really massive program. I’d just done an interview for that. I queued up around the block to buy a book and get it signed by Leonard Nimoy. Everybody was recognizing me from the TV, and I was just standing there. Then I get up to get my book signed, and I’m thinking ” I’d really like to speak to him, I’d like to give him a kiss, and thank him”. He had signed 100’s of books, I mean it was round the block, a huge amount of people….Right when I got up to him, this fan comes up to me and asks for my autograph, just as Leonard Nimoy was walking up to me…I whispered to this guy, “can’t you just see I’m busy”!
Oh no, well I hope you wound up with your autograph.
I got a kiss as well! I didn’t want to say it too loud, I didn’t want Leonard Nimoy to think I was saying it to him. Do you still love it by the way?
I do. I recently interviewed the screen writer for the new “Beyond” movie. I still love Star Trek to death.
All good people do.
Then I stopped writing to get married and divorced a couple of times, and resumed it again for the main purpose and intent of interviewing Adam Ant. It took 6 years, but I finally got it.
He’s a very special bloke.
You have a very long history with him.
Yeah, very long.
You were his very first manager.
Yes. It was amazing. I suppose it’s been documented. I was working at the shop at the time, and he use to send me letters, and of course he wrote this song, you’re probably aware, and it was called, “I Sent a Letter to Jordan”. Myself and the manager of the shop didn’t know whom these letters were from. Then we sorted it out one day that it was him. Shortly after that he asked if I’d manage him, and if I would I go to “The Man in the Moon” pub and have a look at him. It was an absolute disaster. Everything that could have went wrong, went wrong. The amps were blowing up…he turned up wearing a leather mask and he looked great, but musically everything went wrong. But I just thought I could see something absolutely brilliant in that so I said yes. Everything that was probably borrowed blew up. I have a great picture of him though with his leather trousers and his leather mask, a complete head mask. It was just stunning. It was a very small pub on Kings Road. Eventually everyone just left except about 5 people. He’s one of those people of all time that will always remain a friend, a true friend. It’s because if many things. Many of the links we’ve had, musically, emotionally, friendship wise, our performances on stage together, there’s loads of things, but not just that. We’ve never asked anything of each other. I’ve never asked him to do anything for me that I didn’t feel he’d be comfortable with. A lot of people ask me to go places, I go gigging a lot, and they say they’ll put me on a list, and I’ll say I’ve got tickets already.
I never ask to be comped even if I’m reviewing.
I do with Adam because I think he’d be annoyed if he’d knew I paid.
Then you did “Jubilee”.
I did. You know I think it’s gotten better with time. A few people have said that to me. I had to watch it a couple of times recently. I did such a good talk at an art club locally, by a professor who has actually written a few books on Derek. So he had a presentation, and I was there, and people came to do a Q and A as well. A lot of people came from London to take part. I did a series of 3 talks. One was just me, a Q and A, and the third one was the Jubilee one. I thought it would be the stickiest one to do, and it was the best. What eventually came out was the girl power of that film. The guy who was doing the talk, Niall Richardson, he’s gay and really quite camp gay. He could see that whole film through the eyes of a woman. That’s quite amazing. He did a really good presentation, which stimulated the audience, and the questions were great.
Every time I watch that movie I get something else out if it.
That’s what I find recently. It seems to more pertinent now than it was then.
I agree. It was brilliant.
Another person I really miss is Derek Jarman, because of his insight. He knew what he was looking at, not just as an artist. The fact that he filmed my ballet himself, how many true directors can do that? To pick up a camera and know what he was doing, and love every minute of it. Obviously that’s where it started. It’s just brilliant to think he filmed that. Originally he just wanted to do a documentary on Kings Road. He just asked me if I’d help. I said I would, and it just metamorphosized into an incredible scripted film, and then he asked me to get some people together that I thought would be good musically. I thought Wayne County (Jayne), would be great, Adam obviously and Toyah was already cast in the film. I just loved that freedom that he gave me. Lots of times during that film I did takes that I wasn’t happy with, and he was. I would say, ” I really want to do that again”, and he’d say, “no, I want it as it is”. He wanted some connection with reality. He actually wanted somebody like me.
What was the last time that you did something new for the first time?
That’s a really difficult question.
I think that might be your autobiography actually. You’ve never written one before.
No, I haven’t. I’m going for a colorful, insightful, useful, helpful, funny, book.
Do you plan on visiting the States in the near future, perhaps for Adam’s North American tour?
I’d love to, I really would. In ’85 did that whole tour with him in the states. It was wonderful. I visited the states several times, but to tour and go to places like Phoenix, Austin, and places like that….One of the enduring memories of that whole tour for me was Radio City Music Hall, when he played there. It’s a massive stage and I have never seen anyone manage to capture that whole venue like that. He didn’t stop. He ran and danced, and jumped, and sang the whole set. He did two encores doing it. I remember saying to him in the limo after the show, how I thought that was amazing…cause I am his biggest critic, and he still came out with something that he could have done better. He’s one of those people, you find that a lot with ballerinas, and a lot of artists. They are never happy with a performance. I just remember being amazed.
I think he’s even better now.
I agree, I’ve told him that. The thing is he’s kept things so true. You often find when people are doing gigs of records they’ve done, they tend to speed it up to get the thing going or to get it done with. He sings so true, and I can’t give him more praise for it. I know exactly what pace everyone of those songs should be, and he does it exactly right. These bands try and hack their way through tempo wise…they’re just sort of there, bashing it out. He would never do that. He just cares so much about the songs I guess. Something like “Killer in the Home”, for instance, would be easy to speed up, but then it would take all the power away.
Do you think you’ll ever play with him again?
You know I was kind of worried. There was a lot of very hardcore fans at The Roundhouse, and a lot of them threatened to put me in the stage. I said, “you can’t just do that”. I was good that I was in the VIP section, because I thought, ” I don’t know what’s gonna happen down there”. I would have liked to stay and see everyone, but I was whisked away quickly by a friend.
I wanted to ask you a 40th anniversary of Punk question if I may. From your point of view, is Punk still alive and well musically, or do you think it just remains the ideology of society?
It kind of goes back to earlier what I was saying about the fact that I think it liberated people. I think as far as trying to recreate Punk, it’s an impossibility. I think the whole feeling of that came at a time in history …it was like a perfect storm really. It was a combination of the right people being somewhere at the right time, not the right people, but the people who could make things happen. People who were able to encourage the disenchanted to be who they could be. There were so many people in all the little villages of England, but so much was weighed against them. It was against me as well. I came from, and I still am in a very small place. I’ve had a lot of trouble, a lot of shit and a lot of isolation that came from it. I really, really wanted to be isolated from everybody. It was partly me wanting to do that in order to protect friends that I thought would probably get into trouble, but I was isolated myself for a particular reason. I had very few friends who were very important and dear to me. This was at school. There were so many people like me, out and about. We were obviously feeling equally disenchanted and needing some sort of I don’t know…some sort of encouragement, some sort of feeling like you belong, and the whole sexual thing as well. Your point about women being liberated and all….I mean, what a time. I’m sure that had a knock on effect. A lot of bands came out on the music side of it. Still today there’s a lot of anarchy if you’d like on the music scene. And they’re not copying anybody. That’s so anti Punk, to copy. That’s the whole thing about Punk, you’re not indulging in nostalgia. It’s absolutely vital that you make something out of something else. You don’t just copy it. You could tell the power of it all, but it absolutely wasn’t copying anybody. As soon as you start to copy something, I always believe that you dilute it. You sort of said it, it’s more of a mind-set oh people. I think it’s changed.
I do agree.
I’m not saying about the liberation of women. I do feel really, really, really sad that there’s such an age problem if you’d like. I don’t know if it’s the same in America, but a lot of parents wear branded gear, like Superdry, and their children wear it. They all look the same, and they all look useless, mindless and powerless. Dreadful. They’re just looking for brands. They are looking for names that are really expensive as well. I would never have wanted to be seen looking like my parents, no punk hero would. Now you’re getting kids that look like their parents, and parents who dress like their kids. I really can’t get my head around it.
We have plenty of that here in the US. My own kid rebelled, they wear buns and are librarians….
Well it just goes to prove, you can’t make something out of anything. You’ve got to have that will, haven’t you? I went and did that talk at the British Museum recently with Jo Corre, about the burning. One of the first questions we were asked to do was: What is your definition of Punk”? I thought, “come on now, this isn’t a new thing”. There were artists in the 12th century who bucked every single norm that there was, and were outcasts. There’s just a short list of people that I consider to be Punk. It’s not just another phenomenon, …I’ve had a lot of 15, 16 year old girls who have stopped me and just wanted to talk about things, and they are doing their version of it now. They are not copying anybody and it does give me a lot of heart.
To me it was a great period, and musically there hasn’t been anything like it since.
You are pressed to find a band, a new band…the best one I’ve seen recently are “Savages”. I really like them. I enjoy their concerts. But they’re not new. Savages, if they were around in 1975 they would have been right up there. But then you can’t do a Star Trek thing and turn back time unless you sling shot around the sun.
Exactly. What was then was then and what is now is now.
It was born out of a perfect storm of apathy, political apathy, a time of great poverty really in England, strikes, the whole gloom and doom, at the beginning of that decade. It was born out of that and the fact that people were all thrown together in one place, which was 430 Kings Road. I don’t think that anyone would argue with that, that was the actual nucleus of it all. There was the Sex Pistols, and the other bands around at that time. People ask me some difficult questions sometimes, like if the Sex Pistols weren’t around, would it have all happened?
That’s actually a fair question.
I think it would have, because for me fashion was the first part of it. It was the main part of it. That got into the press before the Pistols were around. So that already the nucleus of the shop already, before the Pistols had started. We were living it, something I find kind of a bit abstract. I’m still the same person. I don’t think you ever stop being that person. I still have never asked anybody what they think when I put some clothes on. I’ve never, ever, asked anyone. Women always want to be bolstered or encouraged by their partners. I think “God how can you be like that”. You can see something that you want to buy because it’s “You”, it’s actually what you’re suppose to be. Yet if your partner doesn’t like it, it’s like cutting your arm off. I just don’t understand that. It’s so common.
I don’t think you should ever have to apologize for what you wear. There’s too many other things in life to regret.
That’s a legacy. I would hope that people should not have to apologize for the way they look. Having said that, I cannot except Superdry. I’m already going back on my word. There is a limit to what to what you can stand. I use to wear a pair of earrings, it was a pair of very expensive earrings. My heart was pounding when I went in to buy them. I would like to think that people feel more liberated. That would be the legacy. I don’t see people being any less shocked when they see me. I’ve got a really lovely tee shirt that I love. It says “I love my vagina”.
I love that!
People do say how lucky to me that I was born at that time. What has come to mind is the stories that people tell me, which are so numerous, about people who were so grateful when they walked in to the shop. Some were younger than 15. That was young to walk in to a place like that. Some people came in with their school uniforms. How brilliant was that? I mean I was young, but some of them were even younger.
We had nothing like that here.
Well you had that great shop Ian’s in the Village. Frankie’s shop. Frankie Savage. He was a good friend of mine. He would come over and do buying trips. He would buy stuff from Vivienne. We’d go out dancing and clubbing. I went over to New York to visit him as well. My first trip to New York was an absolute disaster. I was invited by Frankie, which was great. I got there and it was dreadful. They took one look at me at the airport and just said, ” that’s it”. I was taken to a locked room with women with machine guns. When I went to get an American Visa the woman went completely berserk. She said there was no way I was getting into New York, and that when I got to New York someone would turn me back. All the way through the flight I’m getting really, really worried. I get there and they pulled me over, they wanted to cut my shoes to pieces….it was a long story. I finally get my luggage through, and the passport man said, “Oh you look great”. Frankie was waiting for me all this time. Then Frankie tells me that he can’t possibly let his girlfriend know that he’s invited me. So guess where I ended up……I was just left in the Chelsea hotel. In the middle of the night I opened the bathroom door and it was filled with cockroaches.
Anyway that was my first New York story. And I had never, ever flown before. And I hate flying. Anyway, I loved New York, I absolutely loved it.
Well you must have had the most crazy life experiences.
Yeah, I’ve had a lot. Do you know what I feel great about it, I’ve never had silly fall outs with people. I’ve kept in contact with all the people that I wanted to keep in contact with. Those times could turn very sour if you wanted them to. Everything was very highly charged. There as a lot of drugs and a lot of alcohol, which probably historically people don’t realize. They think it was pogoing and singing, but it was a pretty heavy scene in England.
I’m excited to read your book, as I am sure the rest of the world will be as well.
All words by Eileen Shapiro. More of Eileen’s writing can be found in her author’s archive.