By Jordan Mooney with Cathi Unsworth
Published by Omnibus Press
There is a great quote on the back cover of this fine book from one of the all-time great pop stars Adam Ant: “Jordan created punk rock. She was selling it on the front line.” This is true, but Jordan Mooney has also left a huge impact on 21st century culture. In 1977 a lady who walked down the street in leather leggings was considered outrageous; now it’s so much norm that you can buy such garments in any high street store, so fair dues for that, Jordan – well done, splendid! And you have only to look at the Warrior Women of the Mad Max series, especially ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, to see the huge cultural imprint Jordan has made. (In the case of Mad Max: Fury Road, co-writer and designer Brendan McCarthy was in London during the punk era and even if it was just subconsciously, Jordan and company must have made an impression).
So unique are Jordan’s various looks that a book of photographs of her would be equally engaging. But ‘Defying Gravity’ is all about the words, and indeed it is the excellent text that truly elevates Jordan’s story. Part memoir, part history of punk, this is an erudite, honest and engrossing read. I was genuinely sorry to finish this book. Jordan Mooney is an intelligent and articulate lady and above all, very honest, a rare trait in this day and age.
One could roughly divide the book into three parts, the first being Jordan’s early years, family, and the period prior to her moving to London, which paints a vivid picture of this time (think ‘Life On Mars’, the TV series and song).
Then the second part is Jordan’s moving to London and working for and being muse to Vivienne Westwood in her shop ‘SEX’, in which Jordan became very much the public face of the shop. Tales abound of the various people Jordan knew, the infamous Malcolm McLaren (who saw himself very much as a 20th century Fagin with The Sex Pistols as his very own artful dodgers), Andy Warhol, Derek Jarman, Adam Ant, and more. We just don’t have personalities like this in our very manufactured 21st century. Jordan also managed Adam and the Ants. Really, this book serves as one of the best histories of punk you could ever hope to read. After all, Jordan was in the heart of the storm.
The final part of the book deals with Jordan’s life after punk. Some of it is harrowing such as her marriage and addiction to heroin, but her courage in dealing with it all is admirable, as is her subsequent life, not least of all her kindness to animals.
A major joy of this book is the voice Jordan gives to many people who make up her journey through life, like her family and friends including Paul Cook and Adam Ant, making for an added dimension and colour to her story. There are also very interesting sidebars and footnotes which further expand the stories herein and point the reader towards further reading: Jordan passing on her wisdom! Never undervalue wisdom, someone had to suffer to gain it.
I must also praise the extraordinary cover by Graham Humphreys: it is a thing of beauty and joy forever – such an amazing artist.
I’ll leave the last words to Jordan, which is as it should be, it is her story after all!
“I was always determined I was going to excel: at sport, at ballet and as the living work of art I fashioned myself into on my journey to, and my time at, the epicentre of punk. As Jeannie said, I never turned down a challenge, never compromised my belief in always doing something to the best of ability. I wanted to dance and I did defy gravity.”