JORDAN

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Melanie Smith
Photo Credit: Melanie Smith

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 an intimate relationship with The Sex Pistols. She was also the very first manager for 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 impactful films ever made, Derek Jarman’s ‘Jubilee.’

I was honored to have an in-depth, 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 they were inconsequential or radically high profile. 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.

I’m very happy to have this conversation with you Jordan, as I know you have many fans and followers, myself included.

J: This year has been pretty amazing actually. I’ve been overwhelmed by the people that I’ve spoken to, their perception of me and of the impact I’ve made in their lives. It’s been really touching.

I believe that you being the female face of PUNK; New York had Blondie, the rest of the world had you…I feel like you gave women equality in the music industry. What’s your take on that?

I hope so! That’s one of the lasting legacies I think. PUNK was a time I think that really equalized the sexes and it’s really very rare that you get a moment or any extended period in time where woman are equal if not superior, in fashion, 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 demurely at times, you wore pinks, pearls, fuchsia-colored face-paint, yet inside you was 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 I was allowed to live my life as an individual. I refused to be subject to authority, but also I felt compelled to be artistic inside my body and 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’s very young.

It may have been even earlier, but you’re not aware of that when you’re really young. I’ve 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 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.

Yes. I’ve toyed with it for some years. You can understand 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 middle ground really, what to keep in and what to leave out, and whether to even do it. But it’s become very obvious that people really want to hear it. I’m going to do it. It’s all on its way.

My life is kind of 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 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.

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. I’m going for a colorful, insightful, useful, helpful, funny, book.

You’re about to embark on a sold-out Question and Answer  event in London with John Robb.

J: He’s really well equipped to do it. He’s got a style that I like. He calls it ‘A Conversation’ which is really good. I’ve done a lot of things this last year in 2016. The British Library was absolutely brilliant, that whole series of talks. 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 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.

It was really sad. Put yourself in that position, one of your really good friends…’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 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.

J: 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 inspirations in life! Margot Fonteyn was a very famous ballerina, and those two people molded my life, or my mind. That’s how I see myself. I’ve got a really funny story: I’d just been on TV, when his book ‘I Am Not 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 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 hundreds 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 “Fuck off, can’t you just see I’m busy!” 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? All good people do.

You were Adam Ant’s very first manager.

Yes. It was amazing. I suppose it’s been documented. I was working at the shop at the time, and he used to send me letters, and of course he wrote this song called, ‘I Sent a Letter to Jordan.’ Myself and the shop manager didn’t know who 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 gone 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 the Kings Road. Eventually everyone just left except about five people.

You have a very long history with him.

Yeah, very long. He’s a very special bloke. He’s one of those people of all time that will always remain a friend, a true friend. It’s because of many things. Many of the links we’ve had: musically, emotionally, friendship-wise, our performances on stage together, there are 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 do with Adam because I think he’d be annoyed if he knew I’d paid.

Then you did ‘Jubilee.’

I did. You know I think it’s got better with time. It seems to more pertinent now than it was then. 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 Arts Club locally, with a professor who has actually written a few books on Derek (Jarman.) 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 three talks: one was just me, the second was the 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.

Another person I really miss is Derek Jarman, because of his insight. He knew what he was looking at, not just as an artiste. 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 metamorphosed into an incredible scripted film, and then he asked me to get some people together that I thought would be good musically. I thought Jayne (formerly Wayne) County, 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.

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 I liberated people. I think as far as trying to re-create PUNK, it’s an impossibility. The whole feeling of that came at a time in history, it was like a perfect storm really. 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.

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. I think that there are newish bands that are absolutely fucked-up. 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. It’s more of a mindset of people. I think it’s changed.
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, 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.

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, and having said that, it’s such a disappointment ….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.

You are hard-pressed to find a new band…the best one I’ve seen recently are Savages. I really enjoy their concerts. But they’re not new, if they were around at the time of Siouxsie and the Banshees they would have been right up there.  But then you can’t do a ‘Star Trek’ thing and turn back time unless you slingshot around the sun. It was born out of a perfect storm of 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 were 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?”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 there was the nucleus of the shop, 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. 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” yet if your partner doesn’t like it…it’s like cutting your arm off. I just don’t understand that.

I don’t think you should ever have to apologies for what you wear. There are too many other things in life to regret.

I would hope that people should not have to apologies for the way they look. Having said that, I cannot accept Superdry. I’m already going back on my word. There is a limit to what to what you can stand. 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 tshirt that I love. It says “I Love My Vagina.” 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 into the shop. Some were  younger than 15. That was young to walk in to a place like that. Some people came in their school uniforms. How brilliant is  that? I mean I was young, but some of them were even younger.

We had nothing like that here in New York.

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 of 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 flown before; i hate flying, I absolutely loved New York.

Well you must have had the most crazy life experiences.
Yeah, I’ve had a lot. Do you know what I feel great about, 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 were a lot of drugs and a lot of alcohol, which probably historically people don’t realize.

LTW: Well you must have had the most crazy life experiences.

On Saturday, January 21st @ 7PM, Jordan will take part in a Q&A event at HOME in Manchester: ‘Jordan in Conversation With John Robb’ followed by ‘Sad Vacation,’ a film about Sid and Nancy.

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